(TMU) — Across the United States, rising income inequality and surging homelessness is leading cities to introduce brutal measures meant to drive out people living on the streets. From hostile architecture like unneeded bike racks to “bum-proof” benches and spikes on every surface imaginable, cities large and small are doing all they can to make life literally unlivable for the already unfortunate indigent population left desperate for a bit of rest.
But now, officials in West Palm Beach, Florida, have devised possibly the cruelest means of dissuading the homeless from sleeping on city property: a never-ending loop of obnoxious, weaponized children’s songs including the infamous Baby Shark.
Leah Rockwell, the city’s Parks and Recreation director, told the Palm Beach Post that the goal is to prevent people from sleeping outside of the glass-walled Waterfront Lake Pavilion, a lavish rental banquet facility that can rake in around $240,000 per year from events, according to the Associated Press.
Songs on the municipal playlist include such dreaded earworms as the auto-tuned abomination Raining Tacos and the infamous Baby Shark, an old campfire sing-along which became viral after South Korean company Pinkfong produced a music video of the sticky, repetitive song.
Rockwell argues that event staff and customers attending weddings, business meetings, bar mitzvahs and birthday celebrations shouldn’t have to trip over homeless people when they leave events at the pavilion, which overlooks the town’s Great Lawn.
Rockwell told the Post:
“People are paying a lot of money to use the facility. Thousands of dollars.
We want to make sure people paying this money had a facility that was clean and open and continue to use it in the future.”
The tactic brings to mind the use of blaring heavy metal music used by U.S. military interrogators to torture prisoners of war and terror suspects in Iraq’s dreaded Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan’s Baghram Air Base, and Guantanamo Bay or the 7-Eleven caught blasting a high pitched piercing sound to keep homeless people away.
In a statement emailed to CBS, a city spokesperson also confirmed that the music is being played on the Great Lawn during the day and night, but only as a “temporary measure.”
The statement read:
“Music is also played overnight on a loop by our pavilion to discourage congregating and, if appropriate, to encourage people to seek safer, more appropriate shelter through the many resources that are available.
The music volume complies with City code, and we are exploring the possibility of having set hours for the Great Lawn and pavilion.”
While the use of the music is planned as a temporary countermeasure against rough sleepers attracted to the facility’s patio, Rockwell hopes that the city will soon formalize hours for the facility to allow the police to enforce trespassing laws against houseless folks near the pavilion.
Illaya Champion told the Post that “it’s wrong” to use the music to chase people away, but he’ll sleep there regardless of the hazard, even if “it’s on and on, the same songs.”
The city’s choice of songs shows that officials have learned from the mistake committed by the City of Lake Worth, which previously attempted to drive homeless people from the town’s Cultural Plaza by blaring classical music. In that case, they ended up enjoying the classical tunes.
Man Killed by Shrapnel at Baby Shower After Gender Reveal Cannon Explodes
A 26-year-old Michigan man was killed in an explosion over the weekend after the organizers of a baby shower deployed an artillery-like device to announce whether they are having a boy or girl.
Evan Thomas Silva was struck by a blast of shrapnel after a homeowner in Genesee County ignited a device similar to a cannon during the gender reveal celebration on Saturday night, according to Michigan State Police. Upon firing off the cannon, shrapnel was sent toward three parked vehicles and a garage where guests had gathered, killing Silva.
“(It was) Similar to a signal cannon,” MSP Lt. Liz Rich told WJRT. “The cast material exploded and sent projectiles in all directions.”
The device was similar to a signal cannon used for novelty purposes, and had been purchased in an auction, police said.
“The homeowner reported it had been shot several times,” Rich said. “If there aren’t regular inspections on a device like this, the cast material can wear away.”
The cannon was designed to simply set off a bright flash accompanied by a loud noise and smoke, rather than actually firing off projectiles.
However, investigators believe that “the gun powder loaded into the device caused the cannon to fracture, resulting in shrapnel being spread in the area.”
Silva had been standing 10 to 15 feet away from the cannon before he was blasted in the chest by the shrapnel. He was immediately rushed to Hurley Medical Center, where he died.
Some shards had even been hurled as far as 25 feet away from the cannon, while other pieces of the cannon pierced the garage where the mishap took place.
The incident was under investigation by Michigan State Police. The MSP Bomb Squad, Medstar Ambuance and Gaines Township Fire Department all responded to the scene.
In recent years, gender-reveal parties have grown increasingly elaborate as expecting parents have used devises that eject confetti, balloons, and other colored objects to announce the soon-to-be-child’s sex.
Since gender reveal parties have gained popularity, they have also taken a dangerous turn as event organizers have used pyrotechnics and, in this case, artillery to make their announcement, resulting in freak accidents.
In September, a California couple’s plans to reveal their baby’s gender with blue or pink smoke set off a major wildfire that scorched thousands of acres across San Bernardino County. The couple ignited the “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” amid dry conditions and critical fire weather during a severe heat wave, according to authorities.
In 2019, a homemade explosive was detonated in Knoxville, Iowa, to reveal a baby’s gender. While the device was meant to simply spray colored powder, it instead blew up like a pipe bomb, killing 56-year-old soon-to-be-grandmother Pamela Kreimeyer.
In 2019, a plane crashed after a pilot dumped hundreds of gallons of pink water.
In April 2017, another major fire was sparked during a botched gender reveal party in Arizona. The fire eventually consumed over 45,000 acres across the state and caused over $8 million in damage over the span of a week. In 2018, a U.S. Border Patrol agent admitted he was guilty of a misdemeanor violation of U.S. Forest Service regulations for igniting the fire.
“People are very creative in the gender reveals, but remember safety is always number one,” Rich said.
Microsoft Wants to Reanimate You as a “Conversational” Chatbot After You Die
Black Mirror creator Charlie Booker made headlines earlier this year when he stated that the world was bleak enough without a new season of the infamously dark Netflix series. During the Trump and Covid years, many commentators have observed that reality seems to have matched and even outpaced the dire predictions of the world’s science fiction authors.
However, Black Mirror brought an especially sharp edge to the genre, so closely mirroring our own society’s disintegration into techno-dystopian chaos that at times it felt like a real-time satire that was a bit too on the nose.
Now, in a move that eerily invokes a number of Black Mirror plot arcs, reality seems to be trying to reclaim its monopoly on dystopia. The tech giant Microsoft has filed a patent for software that can “revive” a version of a person who has died and use that version as the basis for a conversational chatbot.
The patent describes harvesting “social data,” which includes images, voice data, emails, text messages, social media posts, written letters, user profile and behavioral data, transactional data, geo-location data and more, in order to “modify a personalized chat index in the theme of certain person’s personality. This personality may resemble anyone for whom enough social data can be found and could also be a historical figure, a fictional character, or a celebrity.
In other words, Microsoft plans to take the concept of data mining even further, imagining that even after we die it can continue to collect the digital breadcrumbs we’ve left behind online and on our computer devices. It further fancies reassembling those relics to construct lifelike character-versions of our personalities, mannerisms, and behaviors.
Obviously, not every patent leads to a finished product and many corporations, especially the Big Tech behemoths, file rafts of moonshot patents every year in the anticipation of future developments. But the very fact that Microsoft would see potential here strikes some as haunting, especially given our recent experience with the first generation of celebrity holograms.
It begs the question: would the average person want a chatbot themed off them guiding consumers through a user interface? Would consumers even want that? A chatbot themed on Elvis or Groucho Marx makes more sense, but a deceased friend or family member?
As noted by RT, Black Mirror‘s creative synergy has been oddly prescient, depicting the “social credit score” scenario before it was firmly on the public radar. There is also an episode in which a pop singer, played by Miley Cyrus, is algorithmically simulated by her record label so that when the real-life singer dies they can continue making money off her likeness forever.
Clearly, Microsoft is willing to invest in the R&D needed to explore the idea of chatbots themed off our personalities, but would such an idea fly? Even if they are able to elude the uncanny valley associated with machine simulations of humans, would the average person want to interact with a digital recreation of a dead loved one?
Federal Investigation Launched For Florida Manatee Found With ‘TRUMP’ Scraped on Its Back
While the United States remains caught in the throes of the fallout of last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol Building by pro-Trump rioters, authorities are seeking the details of a far different type of political crime far from Washington.
Last Sunday, an endangered Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) was discovered by a boat captain in the waters of the Homosassa River with the word “TRUMP” written on its back. The case of animal abuse was first reported by the Citrus County Chronicle.
The sad assault on wildlife would seem shocking until recent years, but it’s only the latest in a disturbing trend of animals being branded with the names of politicians, with a black bear in Asheville, North Carolina, also being found last year with a Trump 2020 sticker affixed to its collar.
However, officials with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are taking this latest incident very seriously and have launched a full investigation of the harassment of a federally protected marine mammal. Anyone found responsible for this latest crime could find themselves liable to pay up to $100,000 while also facing up to a year in federal prisons.
Fortunately, early reports that the word was “carved” into the manatee’s back proved to be inaccurate, so it appears that the manatee hasn’t been injured. According to a statement by USFWS quoted by the Miami Herald, “it seems the word was written in algae on the animal’s back.”
“Manatees aren’t billboards, and people shouldn’t be messing with these sensitive and imperiled animals for any reason,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), in a press release. “However, this political graffiti was put on this manatee, it’s a crime to interfere with these creatures, which are protected under multiple federal laws.”
Florida manatees enjoy a range of special protections due to their unfortunate position as a threatened and very slow-moving animal. Any interference with the gentle giants carries heavy penalties under the 1972 U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, the 1973 U.S. Endangered Species Act, and the 1978 Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act. Even President Trump himself signed into law the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act in 2019, which makes intentional acts of cruelty to animals a crime punishable by federal law that could result in seven years in prison and heavy fines.
Regardless of whether the creature sustained a serious injury, authorities are keen on bringing the vandal to justice, with the CBD offering a $5,000 reward for any information that can lead to apprehending the culprit of the crime.
“It’s heartbreaking that this manatee was subjected to this vile, criminal act,” Lopez told the Herald. “It’s clear that whoever harmed this defenseless, gentle giant is capable of doing grave violence and needs to be apprehended immediately.”
The specific animal is a West Indian manatee, which is a species known to congregate in secluded, spring-fed waters of Citrus County during this time of the year.
“This is very out of character for this community,” said Craig Cavanna, a senior federal wildlife officer and current investigating officer. “Wildlife conservation is a core value in Citrus County. That’s why it’s called the Nature Coast.”
Manatees are lovingly known as “sea cows” due to their placid, bovine disposition and penchant for munching on water grasses, weeds and algae. In addition to being the Sunshine State’s marine mammal, the manatee is also one of the most strange and charismatic aquatic creatures in the United States. Its gassy diet means that it retains a large amount of methane in its gut, which it uses to regulate its buoyancy and reach the surface easily. Whenever it wants to sink back to the depths, it simply farts to release its gas.
Such a gentle and unique creature hardly deserves to have the name of America’s outgoing president scrawled onto its skin, so anyone with information related to this incident is encouraged to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-3922 or the USFWS wildlife crime tips hotline at 1-844-397-8477 and email at [email protected]
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