EverSweet and its’ Stevia connection

You know how Phillip Morris changed their name to Altair? And Blackhawk changed their name to Happy Lead & Brass Kisses? (or something like that) ANYHOW, reading some of my backlog, I saw in Food Business News’ November edition, there’s some similar name-footsie going on with a new sweetener coming to market in 2016.

This isn’t any big deal unless you’re reaaaaally watching what you’re eating, but IF you are, here’s a quick breakdown – Stevia is going all version 2.0 and running with a Reb M version of their sweetener. Pure Reb M Stevia is extracted from the Stevia leaf, but since Reb M is a steviol glycoside and it only makes up 1% of the actual Stevia leaf, Reb M strictly technically isn’t pure Stevia and isn’t classified as such.

SO here’s the footsie-newsy part – a new product to be released in 2016 is called EverSweet. EverSweet, a zero calorie sweetener, is mostly made from bio-engineered (genetically modified) baker’s yeast, BUT it has two Stevia components – Reb M and Reb D. What happens, according to the article, is that “special baker’s yeast is fed simple sugars, which are then converted into Reb M and Reb D more efficiently and in greater quantity than from a Stevia plant… after the yeast produces Reb M and D, the yeast is completely filtered out, leaving only the great-tasting, zero-calorie sweetener.”

Oh, and as a bonus, “Laws and regulations vary significantly from country to country. In some countries the EverSweet product would not be required to be labeled as G.M.O.” (AKA: the US!)

The FDA says EverSweet is GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe), but If you’re watching what you eat, be aware that EverSweet has derivatives of Stevia in the mix.

Any bets on whether that information is going to make it on the nutrition label?

The article further states that EverSweet has been in the works since 2013 as a joint investment from Cargill and Evola Holding SA, so expect there to be a big commercial hoop-a-doo behind EverSweet once 2016 comes around.

If you don’t have a problem with Stevia sweeteners, EverSweet laced products aren’t going to be anything to worry about. If you do have a problem with Stevia, watch out for EverSweet products as well.

The Food Business News article can be found here.

CISA as explained by the Joker

CISA as explained by the Joker

CISA was just signed into law on the same day the new Star Wars movie came out.

CISA was attached to the Omnibus “keep the lights on” spending bill, flew through congress and was signed by the president. Few people knew about it, and even fewer people said anything online as it was happening.

Meanwhile, the Star Wars movie has hundreds of thousands of people rage posting on social websites in a relentless and concentrated attempt to block “spoilers” from getting out.

And, once again, to everyone mad at Obama for sneaking CISA into the Omnibus bill, you do realize this was done by a Republican controlled congress, right? Both congress and/or Obama could have raised hell about CISA in the Omnibus bill and the gross loss of our online privacy. Neither did.

Welcome to the new world of no online privacy and warrant-less searches. Enjoy the movie.

Pharmaceuticals Found in Grocery Fish Fillets

One of the magazines in my massive reading pile is LCGC. (Chromatography! Long story. Don’t ask.)

ANYHOW, in a recent article, they found something particularly nasty showing up in some grocery fish fillets.

Meds.

Not meds like the fish swam up with little Tylenol pills duct-taped to their fins, but meds IN their system. Specifically, “anti-histamines and compounds used to medicate anxiety and seizures.”

While they don’t list the grocery stores they sampled these fish from, the big AHOOOOOGAH part is they have already traced where the source of the meds are coming from.

Improperly filtered waste water.

The med-laced water is coming from “wastewater treatment plants that are not commonly designed to eliminate the drugs because they are non-regulated water contaminants.”

In other words, existing waste water treatment plants are NOT set up to handle filtering out pharmaceutical particles, and are returning water to the ocean and water tables as “clean” when it really isn’t.

So, to put the AHOOOOOGAH in English…

  • Waste water treatment plants DO NOT FILTER OUT PHARMACEUTICAL MEDICAL DRUG PARTICLES because they are not listed as “water contaminants”
  • The meds are coming from people via improperly disposed of meds that are either flushed or washed away
  • Waste water full of pharmaceuticals are being piped back into the ocean, water tables and city drinking supplies
  • Medically contiminated food is already at the grocery stores
  • And, to top it off, scientists are actually worried about this and say “this study highlights the need for further investigation into emerging contaminants including non-regulated pharmaceuticals and personal care products.”

Expect this to take off once a major news outlet picks up on it. All they have to do is start with the fact that waste water treatment plants DO NOT FILTER OUT PHARMACEUTICAL MEDICAL DRUG PARTICLES and go from there! Fun!

The science and their findings are at their website here.

McDonald’s added Monster energy drinks to their menu

While going through my magazine pile this week, I saw an article on Food Business News that McDonald’s is adding energy drinks to their menu.

I was hoping Food Business News accidentally posted an early April Fool’s article, but nope. Fortune and Bloomberg confirmed it.

How on earth do you decide to add energy drinks to an already over-the-top menu? Seriously? Here’s your 600 calorie burger and 400 calorie fries… oh, hey, how about something to kick your heart up a notch to go with it?

I imagine the meeting went something like this…

 

McDonalds is seriously selling energy drinks now

The CIA announced their DDI program: an in-house bureau focused on tech

While going through my backlog of reading material, I found an article from FCW (The Business of Federal Technology) that pointed out the CIA has a “new” digital directorate that “brings together cyber, IT, and open source intel.”

Called the Directorate for Digital Innovation (DDI), it’s an in-house bureau “devoted to giving officers around the world better IT tools to do traditional cloak-and-dagger work.”

Bear in mind this is just the official announcement of the CIA’s DDI program. This little baby has been running around for some time now and is just now announcing they’re ready to go outside and play.

The CIA says their new info ops center is not “an alternative NSA” and is composed of three segments: “an open source center; a center for handling cyber threats and operations; and the agency’s IT enterprise”.

I’m sure the DDI is going to be an “active” bureau despite all the delicate phrasing in the article, but I really hope the inward-facing DDI is more than a glorified help desk and has some enforceable executive tech behind it. By enforceable executive tech, I mean getting agents up to date with modern security practices with the authority to make upgrades and training more than “suggestions” or optional “time-for-a-promotion” courses.

Exhibit A: Grand poo-bah CIA Director John Brennan was OK with using AOL for his AGENCY EMAILS and his AOL account got hacked by a script kiddie amateur.

Yeah, there’s obviously some BIG changes that need to be made internally. From waaaay up high at that.

Good luck DDI.

The article on FCW can be found here.

Hospitals all over the US now have a medical code for Squirrel Bites! (86824 W5321)

While sifting through my emails this weekend, I saw a new billing system hit all US medical offices “that classifies procedures and diseases in ways that could help public health researchers and physicians better evaluate and treat patients.”

Called the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), all US medical offices and everyone who bills Medicare and Medicaid had to switch to this format earlier this month. The new hotness added 70,000 medical codes to the existing tome that was in place already for “clarification purposes”.

Gone are the dark ages of the non-descriptive “idiot was bit by an animal” and “hold my beer redneck is wasting space in my OR” codes. The new system is very, VERY specific.

Here are a few of my favorites…

  • 86824 W5321   Bitten by squirrel
  • 86826 W5321XD Bitten by squirrel, subsequent encounter (HE’S BACK! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!)
  • 76925 T63013  Toxic effect of rattlesnake venom, assault (Aren’t all snakebites an assault?)
  • 77486 T63821  Toxic effect of contact w venomous toad, accidental (I told ‘im not to lickem! I done told ‘im!)
  • 77652 T65223  Toxic effect of tobacco cigarettes, assault (now THIS has some potential!)
  • 80829 V0191XD Pedestrian on roller-skates injured in collision with pedal cycle, unspecified whether traffic or nontraffic accident, subsequent encounter (THAT’S a specific code!)
  • 82165 V393 Occupant (driver) (passenger) of three-wheeled motor vehicle injured in unspecified nontraffic accident (the old “hold my beer” trick)

While I’m sure the codes have good intent behind them, having 91,737 line items to sift through is ridiculous. I feel bad for all the hospital staff that have to wade through this new muck “that classifies procedures and diseases in ways that could help public health researchers and physicians better evaluate and treat patients.”

What’s next? Specific goat codes? Multiple bear attack codes based on type and weight?

A link to the ICD and its’ impact is at International Business Times, the Smithsonian link, and there’s even a CDC link to download all the new codes.

Medline recalling Acetaminophen due to mislabeling with incorrect strength

I’m posting this because a lot of retail stores and Texas public schools use Medline products as their go-to for medical supplies.

In a press release by the FDA, Medline is recalling lot # 45810 of Acetaminophen tablets because their acetaminophen packages labeled as 325 mg really have 500 mg instead.

That’s epically bad.

According to the press release, “The Acetaminophen 500mg, Tab 100/BT (OTC20101) has been found to be mislabeled displaying “Acetaminophen 325mg” (OTC10101) instead of “Acetaminophen 500mg”. The Acetaminophen tablets, 500mg is incorrectly labeled as 325 mg tablets. This error is not easily identifiable by the user or prescriber. If the product is taken at the maximum labeled dose, every four hours, five doses a day, or with other medications containing acetaminophen, it may lead to liver toxicity or liver failure.”

If you’ve got a Medline 325 mg acetaminophen tablets for dispensing, triple check to see if they’re part of this recall.

“Consumers with questions regarding this recall can contact Medline Industries, Inc. by phone 866-359-1704 or recalls@medline.com Monday through Friday between the hours of 8am and 5pm CST. ”

You can also read the press release here from the FDA.

On Tuesday October 6, an epic court decision concerning online data came to pass and nobody said peep

On Tuesday October 6, one of the biggest mind-shifts in online data and technology this decade finally came to pass via an EU court ruling. This ruling will have serious repercussions for both US consumers and all US intelligence agencies, and nobody over here has said peep about it.

The headline says it all… “EU ruling means Facebook and Google can’t send data to the US”

HA!! This is wonderful! This is titanic! This is… well, kinda hard to explain.

OK, supposing you move into a new neighborhood. Walking in the door, you meet a fellow named “Bo” who lives across the street in a funny looking house.

For the most part, Bo seems friendly. He mentions he has a cousin in another far away city named “Luke” who also sounds just as friendly.

A few months into living in the city, Bo makes a copy of your house key and takes it to Luke.

Luke uses the key to open your front door to your home and takes your TV.

Luke gives your TV to Bo.

When you confront Luke, he says since he lives in another city the local laws in your town do not apply to him and he wasn’t breaking any laws in his town. Luke also says Bo gave him the key directly and said he could do whatever he wanted with whatever he found inside. Luke insists he has no idea what he was doing was wrong. You need to take it up with Bo.

When you confront Bo, he says he didn’t steal your TV and never touched your TV. Bo says he had no idea Luke was going to do what he did, and is shocked you have the nerve to accuse your neighbor of such a terrible thing. You need to take it up with Luke.

Ridiculous, right? A cheap shell game from two obvious criminals no police officer, DA or judge would let fly.

Here’s the catch – the part of Bo and Luke are being played by the US government and certain governments in the EU. They were (NOTE: probably still are) doing the exact same thing with our data.

The US gave access to overseas intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on our conversations and bypass encryptions, and then the overseas intelligence agencies told the US agencies what information they found.

Technically the US didn’t steal the information or eavesdrop on our conversations. Technically the overseas intelligence agencies didn’t break any of their own laws in the process.

Finally, with this EU court ruling, part of this “technically” foolishness was brought to a screeching stop.

This epic win for privacy and the upholding of constitutional law is all thanks to Austrian lawyer Max Schrems, who brought the lawsuit “against Facebook in 2013 for participation in US mass surveillance.”

I’m going to have to add Max Schrems to my Christmas card list. Like, forever.

Now, companies’ (and probably certain governments’) “ability to pool data from both sides of the Atlantic for analysis will be affected”.

Will this ruling actually change anything?

Maybe.

The last two paragraphs in the article are the best…

“The ruling basically says US surveillance cannot be allowed to override our fundamental rights, but US law says surveillance must override fundamental rights… The EU court is largely saying that indiscriminate gathering of data is enough to interfere with fundamental rights, and therefore you shouldn’t be able to do it.”

“US companies that obviously aided US mass surveillance may face serious legal consequences from this ruling when data protection authorities of 28 member states review their cooperation with US spy agencies”.

FEMA’s PrepareAthon – helping local communities prepare for disasters

FEMA is kicking off a new grassroots-style campaign for preparedness with a new program called “PrepareAthon”.

According to a press release, “America’s PrepareAthon! is an opportunity for individuals, organizations, and communities to prepare for specific hazards through drills, group discussions, and exercises.”

The website FEMA set up for PrepareAthon is pretty straightforward. The first section called TAKE ACTION goes over several pre-made promo kits FEMA has prepared for community organization and discussion.

The sections are…

  • Earthquake
  • Flood
  • Hurricane
  • Tornado
  • Wildfire
  • Winter Storm

Clicking on each section will take you to a detailed view, where you can download an overview of topics for the “attendees” discussion, and also a “playbook” for the “presenters”. (FEMA has also provided the materials for all sections in Spanish and Chinese as well.)

The second section of the website, titled BE COUNTED, lets you search cities for presentations already set up or planned, and the last section, titled SPREAD THE WORD, lets you download logos, promo materials, surveys and checklists for the presentation.

This is one of those things that sounds like it would be a homerun for a local police department, church, chamber of commerce, school organization or civic-minded group to set up and pitch to the community one weekend. Everything is available pre-packaged online ready to go. Just pick a topic, download, review, print and go.

The PrepareAthon campaign is also set up on Twitter @PrepareAthon and has an email address for questions at prepareathon@fema.gov if volunteers have any questions.

Why “doomsday prepping” is ridiculous

Do you know anyone who is into the whole “doomsday prep” thing? I’ve seen people I’m pretty sure are preppers loading up the flatbeds at Costco and Sams, and I’ve definitely seen the preppers on TV.

These people have the trailers, solar panels, batteries, guns, ammo and enough MREs to last several lifetimes, and even then, it’s apparently not enough for them.

Aside from the whole obsessive hording part, where they get the time and money for all this is beyond me.

The good news is that I finally found a pair of articles with great arguments on why doomsday prepping is ridiculous.

The short version – math.

The first article by Jon Stokes in the alloutdoor.com website points out that even if a “doomsday” scenario hits and takes out over two thirds of the world’s population, that’s still not going to be enough people for a “that’s all folks” kind of reset.

“Wiping out two thirds of the population would bring us back [in population numbers] to the opening decades of the 1900’s, the era of the early seasons of Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire. Neither of these two shows look anything like The Walking Dead to me.

Killing off a whopping 90% of the population would take us back [in population numbers] to 1860, the year that Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th president of the United States. I also saw the movie Lincoln, and it, too, did not look like The Walking Dead.””

Stokes’ article also goes on about how the stock market really is immortal and hunting for long-term survival is really a baaaad thing, but the main bullet point in his article is the sheer numbers of people left alive in a potential 80 / 90 / 95 percent disaster ratio.

In another article on the same alloutdoor.com website, Bill J, goes over why the idea of “hunting squirrels” (and by proxy, all other small game) isn’t going to cut it.

“Assuming that you can get a pound of game meat from an average squirrel, which is optimistic, you’re looking at about 540 calories per squirrel. That may sound like a lot, but it isn’t. If you’re planning to use squirrel for, say, only a quarter the calories of a 2,000-calorie per day diet, then you have to bag one per day per family member.

There are about five or six squirrels per acre in urban areas (about two per acre in rural areas), so with four family members to feed and a 100% success rate in killing every squirrel you see, you’re clearing out around three acres every four days in the city. And you’re not the only one trying to eat them! How long is the squirrel population really going to last in your town?”

I really do thing “doomsday prepping” is this generation’s “duck and cover”. It’s entertaining to see on TV, and it might make some people feel better, but I think this whole prepping thing is the symptom of a feeling-secure and general future-direction discontent, and not the solution to the underlying social problems at all.