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Smoothie Robot In Walmart Signals Continued Rise Of Automated Fast Food Workers

The drink is made in just 3 minutes or less from the time it’s placed.

Justin MacLachlan

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A robot that makes smoothies was showcased at a Walmart in California signaling the rise of automated workers.

The Mind Unleashed has previously reported on how automated robots were beginning to take over various different jobs, including flipping burgers with Miso Robotics’ Flippy. Now, Walmart has partially got involved in the trend. A new start-up company called, Blendidshowcased its product at the Fremont Walmart in California this week opening a kiosk, Yahoo News reported.

The stall is open seven days a week and is pitched as a way for customers to place contactless orders for a smoothie. Customers place their orders for a 12-ounce delicious drink and then an autonomous robot whips it up. What’s more, the drink is made in just 3 minutes or less from the time it’s placed.

Digital Trends recently questioned the CEO Vipin Jain about how the robot works. Jain explained that customers use an app scanning a simple QR code at the kiosk or via the Blendid app to order. If that doesn’t impress you, how about artificial intelligence that remembers your taste preferences?

“Consumers use their cell phone to order by scanning a QR code at the kiosk or via the Blendid app,” Vipin Jain, Blendid’s CEO and co-founder, told Digital Trends. “They browse our menu of smoothies made from whole fruits, and vegetables. Once they select a drink, they customize it to their personal taste and health preferences, by modifying the amount of each ingredient as desired. Then they place their order, and Blendid robot gets to work preparing their drink. Once the drink is ready, they receive a text with instructions for a contactless drink pickup. The robot serves the drink to them when they confirm the pickup.”

While a robot taking over a job like making a smoothie might seem small, the fact Walmart has an automated kiosk in one of its California stores is a larger signal of the automation trend to come.

In fact, it was previously reported by Fox News in July that, Walmart was looking to remove all cashiers and standard conveyor belt lines from its stores and is testing a pilot in one of its superstores in Fayetteville, Arkansas in the short term.

CNN previously reported that grocers – big and small chains alike – are turning to robots for performing various tasks like cleaning floors, stocking shelves, and delivering groceries to shoppers. The CV crisis could even prompt online retail warehouses like Amazon to invest more into automation technology as well.

Walmart also isn’t the first business to discuss using automation. Last year international fast-food chain McDonald’s reported they would begin employing automated fryer robots throughout their different branches across the world. Former McDonald’s USA CEO Ed Rensi told Fox Business, “It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries.” McDonald’s has also introduced touchscreen ordering kiosks to some of its stores.

Restaurant chains that are using automation include McDonalds, KFC, Panera, Wendys, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Arbys according to Business Insider.

Robots aren’t just taking over restaurants, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute indicates there are 800 million careers (or 30 percent of the global job force)—from doctors to accountants, lawyers to journalists—that will be lost to automation by 2030. The report concludes that hundreds of millions of people worldwide will have to find new jobs or learn new skills.

A report by the University of Oxford suggests we will face a robot job apocalypse predicting that 47 percent of U.S. jobs are at risk of being replaced by robots and Artificial Intelligence over the next fifteen to twenty years. However, with the current ongoing pandemic workers might find they are replaced quicker. Especially, any type of work that requires physical contact with a customer.

It shouldn’t be surprising for the reader that’s exactly what a report by A3, Association For Advancing Automation, detailed earlier this year. Stating all the ways that artificial intelligence and automation is being used in different industries to combat CV. Oxford Economics also published its own report warning that accelerating technological advances in automation, engineering, energy storage, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have the potential to reshape the world in 2020 through 2030s, displacing at least 20 million workers.

With CV as a catalyst to speed up the deployment of automated machines, we can probably safely say that number will be much more severe. It seems I am not the only one to share that opinion; a recent MarketWatch article written by Johannes Moenius, a professor of global business and the director of the Institute for Spatial Economic Analysis at the University of Redlands, agrees with this author’s conclusion stating “at least 50 million jobs could be automated in just essential industries.”

In fact, the Brookings Institution said in a report last month that “any CV-related recession is likely to bring about a spike in labor-replacing automation … Automation happens in bursts, concentrated especially in bad times such as in the wake of economic shocks, when humans become relatively more expensive as firms’ revenues rapidly decline.”

You can watch a video of Blendid in action below.

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Louisiana man who was given life sentence for stealing hedge clippers finally walks free

Elias Marat

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A man who was serving a life sentence in Louisiana for stealing hedge clippers from someone’s garage in 1997 has been granted parole after spending 23 years in prison.

Fair Wayne Bryant, 63, was facing life behind bars due to the attempted burglary conviction and his criminal record. However, the state’s draconian habitual offender laws led to Bryant’s harsh sentence.

Bryant’s life sentence became the subject of withering criticism from civil liberties advocates and the chief justice of Louisiana’s Supreme Court, who called the sentence “cruel and unusual” and a legacy of slavery and racism in the Southern state.

According to Bryant’s parole panel, Bryant’s criminal record consisted of 22 arrests and 11 convictions. The past convictions included four felonies, only one of which was for a violent crime – an attempted armed robbery of a taxi driver in 1979.

In 1997, Bryant was driving when his car stalled and he went into somebody’s garage looking for a tank of gas. At that point, he was encountered and attempted to flee on foot.

When police apprehended him, he was accused of having stolen a pair of hedge clippers that were found in his vehicle, a claim that he denied. Evidence suggested that he had, however, intended to commit theft. Bryant’s previous criminal record and the state’s harsh repeat offender laws led to him receiving a life sentence, which he tried to appeal for the next 23 years.

Two months ago, Bryant’s case appeared before the Louisiana Supreme Court, which voted 5-1 to reject the appeal. The five votes came from while male board members, while the sole dissenting vote came from Bernette J. Johnson, the state’s first Black Chief Justice, who called for a review of the case.

In her opinion, Chief Justice Johnson blasted the sentence as completely disproportionate to the crime, noting that Bryant’s sentence had already cost taxpayers $518,667.

“Harsh habitual offender laws … permit a life sentence for a Black man convicted of property crimes,” Johnson wrote. “This man’s life sentence for a failed attempt to steal a set of hedge clippers is grossly out of proportion to the crime and serves no legitimate penal purpose.”

“If he lives another 20 years, Louisiana taxpayers will have paid almost one million dollars to punish Mr. Bryant for his failed effort to steal a set of hedge clippers,” she added.

Additionally, she described his past criminal offenses as the sort of “petty theft” rooted in the “ravages of poverty or addiction.”

She also blasted the state’s notorious repeat offender law as similar to the racist Black Codes and “Pig Laws” that unjustly penalized poor Black people for crimes like stealing farm animals or being unemployed, while also treating common misdemeanors and trivial offenses as felonies. In Mississippi, “pig laws” meant that any theft of property over $10 was enhanced to grand larceny. As a result of the “pig laws,” the prison population quadrupled.

On Thursday, the Committee on Parole voted unanimously to release him by a vote of 3-0. Bryant will be required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings due to his history of drug and alcohol abuse, and he must also perform community service and adhere to a curfew.

Louisiana State University (LSU) Professor Robert Lancaster, director of the LSU Parole and Re-entry Clinic, represented Bryant during the hearing. Bryant was also assisted by Kelsey Jenkins, a third-year LSU Law student who helped Lancaster draft a memo that was submitted in support of early release.

Mr. Bryant’s sentence is an example of the flaws in Louisiana’s criminal legal system, but the Parole Committee’s decision to grant him early release shows the importance of periodic evaluation of an individual’s rehabilitation, which Mr. Bryant will continue with the support of the Louisiana Parole Project, Inc.,” wrote Jenkins.

Rights defenders such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana hailed the decision as long overdue.

“Now it is imperative that the Legislature repeal the habitual offender law that allows for these unfair sentences, and for district attorneys across the state to immediately stop seeking extreme penalties for minor offenses,” said Louisiana ACLU executive director Alanah Odoms in an emailed statement.

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Downtown Chicago transforms into Gotham City as film crews shoot for “The Batman”

Elias Marat

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Parts of downtown Chicago have transformed into Gotham City this weekend as film crews have begun shooting exterior scenes of the latest reboot of the Batman saga, titled “The Batman.”

On Thursday and Friday evening, crew members began preparing the Loop near Chicago’s Thompson Center for overnight action sequences involving motorcycles. Gotham City Police Department squad cars could also be seen driving around the Loop while tattered flyers advertising Gotham Music Festival were also visible.

The latest incarnation of the Batman franchise stars Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame in the titular role, as well as big stars like Zoe Kravitz, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Colin Farrell and Andy Serkis. The film is slated to be released in March 2022 after facing several release delays due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The production of the film also hit a snag after Pattinson was diagnosed with the virus.

Film production crews typically use fake code names for projects in hopes to not attract too much attention, and in this case filming notices posted across downtown Chicago are using the title “Vengeance” rather than The Batman.

The production crew didn’t appear to be too keen on keeping things secret, as evidenced by social media posts thanking the crew members from letting fans snap photos alongside props.

“Shout out to the Chicago crew of THE BATMAN — very kind and patient, let us take pictures and then kindly asked us to keep walking,” said Batman fan and local journalist Jake Hamilton in a tweet. “[They] still allowed us to be fans and were fun about it. There’s no city like Chicago.”

The film has primarily been filmed in London, but Chicago has served as a double for Gotham City in previous films about the Caped Crusader such as Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” (2005) and “The Dark Knight” (2008).

Fans have been eagerly analyzing every image from the production of The Batman to pick up clues about the plot points of the film.

On Friday, Twitter user Yassine shared an image from the movie’s London set that appears to indicate that the film will be connected in some way to the larger “DC Extended Universe” tying the various characters of DC Comics lore to one another. In the photo, an extra can be seen wearing a Superman costume in what appears to be a Hollywood party scene.

However, it remains unclear how The Batman will tie into the larger DC world, which includes such popular characters as Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Shazam.

The new film is rumored to focus on Bruce Wayne delving into detective work to track down a serial killer who is running loose in Gotham City. Recurring antagonists of Batman such as Penguin, Catwoman, and Riddler will be among his biggest foes while lesser villains such as the Mad Hatter and Two Face will also play small roles.

It’s also been rumored that another villain could appear in the film, but this detail remains under wraps.

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Corruption

Ex-cop who showed off nude photos of murder victim Lauren McCluskey faces no charges

Elias Marat

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Lauren McCluskey, a student at the University of Utah, was murdered by a stalker in 2018 after police officers largely ignored her pleas for help. Instead, the officers acquired nude photos of the young woman and shared them between themselves.

And now, two years later, the former University of Utah officer who disseminated explicit photos of the 21-year-old victim has been cleared of any criminal charges.

On Thursday, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office announced that former officer Miguel Dera would not be prosecuted despite the clear misconduct of him acquiring and then sharing the photos of McCluskey.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill admitted that the officer’s actions were “definitely reckless,” but no state laws exist on the books that address such offenses, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

“We realized there was no real statute we could use for this case,” Gill explained. “We’re incensed like everyone else by the behavior. It was inappropriate. But if there’s not a statute, there’s nothing we can do.”

McCluskey was shot to death in 2018 by Melvin Shawn Rowland, 38, who had been harassing and blackmailing the young student for weeks prior to her killng. Rowland took his own life hours after murdering McCluskey, according to police.

The two had briefly dated in 2018 before McCluskey ended the relationship after finding out Rowland had lied about his age and criminal past. Rowland was a convicted sex offender who proceeded to stalk and extort McCluskey.

When McCluskey reached out to campus police to end the harassment, Deras was assigned to the case. McCluskey provided the explicit photos to the officer in hopes that he would use them for the investigation.

Instead, Deras shared the photos of McCluskey with at least three of his male coworkers without any work-related reason, according to an investigation by the Utah Department of Public Safety. The DPS report also found that lewd comments were allegedly made about the images.

In the days prior to her death, McCluskey complained about campus police failing to follow up or update her, according to 911 transcripts.

While the district attorney claims that “no real statute” could have been used to pursue justice in the case, Gill all-too-conveniently waited until precisely one day after the state could have filed misdemeanor charges against the former officer for abusing evidence. However, the statute of limitations has now expired.

“We just got it so late and were limited in what options we had,” Gill said.

Family attorney Jim McConkie said that Lauren McCluskey was also abused while she was alive by the officer, who saw fit to share her photos and brag about them without her consent mere days before she was murdered.

“What Gill is saying to women with this decision is, ‘We can’t help you. Don’t come to us,’” McConkie said.

McCluskey’s parent’s, Jill and Matt McCluskey, have expressed outrage about the failure to file charges.

“Instead of helping her, Deras showed her images to other male officers and bragged about it,” the parents said. “A consequence of Gill’s decision is that women will hesitate to report extortion and harassment for fear that the private information they provide will be compromised, or even leered at, by officers for reasons unrelated to her case.”

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