• Florida cops use AI to target people for a new "enhanced scrutiny" program

    In the autumn of 2020, the Tampa Bay Times published an investigation into the Pasco County Sheriff's Department, which was openly boasting about its new Minority Report-inspired intelligence gathering program. I wrote about it then, but here's a quick summary of how it works:

    First the Sheriff's Office generates lists of people it considers likely to break the law, based on arrest histories, unspecified intelligence and arbitrary decisions by police analysts.

    Then it sends deputies to find and interrogate anyone whose name appears, often without probable cause, a search warrant or evidence of a specific crime.

    They swarm homes in the middle of the night, waking families and embarrassing people in front of their neighbors. They write tickets for missing mailbox numbers and overgrown grass, saddling residents with court dates and fines. They come again and again, making arrests for any reason they can.

    One former deputy described the directive like this: "Make their lives miserable until they move or sue."

    In just five years, Nocco's signature program has ensnared almost 1,000 people.

    […]

    As they make checks, deputies feed information back into the system, not just on the people they target, but on family members, friends and anyone else in the target's orbit.

    In the past two years alone, two of the nation's largest law enforcement agencies have scrapped similar programs following public outcries and reports documenting serious flaws.

    In Pasco, however, the initiative has expanded. Last summer, the Sheriff's Office announced plans to begin keeping tabs on people who have been repeatedly committed to psychiatric hospitals.

    That's gonna be a yikes from me.

    Now the Tampa Bay Times has obtained and published the 2-page letter that the police department sends to these "potential" criminals, informing them that they have been "enrolled" in a special program for "increased police accountability." Here's how it starts:

    Greetings,

    We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected to participate in a Prolific Offender Program run by the Pasco Sheriff's Office in cooperation with the Department of Justice Strategies for Policing Innovation Initiative. This program provides you with an opportunity to receive assistance from the Pasco Sheriff's Office and several community partners who will work with you to identify and overcome barriers that have hindered you in your life's journey. Ultimately, the goal of this program is to empower you to live a lawful, productive and fulfilled life.

    Research indicates that barriers to successful living may involve struggles with mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, finding a job, or several other challenges many people face on a daily basis. It is possible you have struggled with some of these issues. If so, please know the Pasco Sheriff's Office is committed to support you in overcoming these challenges through this program.

    You may wonder why you were enrolled in this program. You were selected as a result of an evaluation of your recent criminal behavior using an unbiased, evidence-based risk assessment designed to identify prolific offenders in our community. As a result of this designation, we will go to great efforts to encourage change in your life through enhanced support and increased accountability. 

    As the Times notes, these letters were sent to people with existing criminal histories. In other words, the police are circumventing the legal system in order to force certain people into mandatory probation programs. They also noted:

    The Times found being named a Sheriff's Office target could have serious consequences. Deputies showed up at homes at all hours of the day and night, writing tickets for violations like overgrown grass and making arrests for any reason they could find.

    It's not clear how that's supposed to help someone who's dealing with mental health or substance abuse or domestic violence or homelessness.

    Pasco Sheriff's Office letter targets residents for 'increased accountability' [Kathleen McGrory / Tampa Bay Times]

    Image via YouTube

  • Watch a wombat-sized research robot burrow into marsupial holes

    Scott Carver is a wildlife ecologist at the University of Tasmania who is perhaps best known for his Ig Nobel Prize-winning research into the physical phenomenon of wombat poop. With that mystery out of the way, he's turned to learning more about the domestic lives of these burrowing marsupials with the help of a specially-designed wombat-sized robot, known affectionately as the "wom-bot."

    As New Atlas explains:

    Wombats are primarily nocturnal animals, spending the daylight hours sleeping in burrows that they dig in the ground. They change burrows every four to 10 days, often simply moving into a different burrow that was previously dug and occupied by another wombat. It is believed that the parasitic Sarcoptes scabiei mites, which cause sarcoptic mange, may be transferred between wombats when they swap burrows in this fashion.

    Researchers from Australia's La Trobe University and University of Tasmania wanted to see how likely this was to be the case, so they developed the new robot. Known as the WomBot, the battery-powered device is 30 cm long (11.8 in), weighs 2 kg (4.4 lb) and moves on tank-like treads at a top speed of 0.15 meters per second (0.5 ft/s).

    It's also equipped with temperature and humidity sensors, along with front and rear cameras and LED lights. Live video from those cameras is relayed via an attached Ethernet cable to a human operator up top. Additionally, a gripper on the front of the robot allows data-logging sensors to be placed inside burrows and subsequently retrieved.

    Thus far, the wom-bot has been used to explore about 30 wombat burrows. Surprisingly, it's only encountered one actual wombat in that time, which was sleeping and left undisturbed. But who knows what will happen when these beasts finally meet? Will it be Godzilla vs Mecha-Godzilla, but for cube-pooping marsupials? Only time will tell.

    The Wombot and the Wombats [Marc Abrahams / Improbable Research]

    WomBot robot used to explore and analyze wombat burrows [Ben Coxworth / New Atlas]

  • "Heal Hitler" is a new video game where you try to stop genocide with psychotherapy

    It's a classic hypothetical conundrum: If you could travel backwards in time, would you kill Baby Hitler before he ever did anything wrong? Whatever Butterfly Effects might arise from the Führer's death and subsequent preservation of 6 million human lives would certainly be justified, right?

    There's no one easy answer, which is the point. But an indie game developer named Jon Aegis decided to throw another twist into the question: what if, instead of killing Baby Hitler, you just subjected Adult Hitler to Psychotherapy and resolve all the issues that made him into an evil despot?

    That's the basic plot for the new computer game Heal Hitler, which is now available on Steam. Here's the official blurb:

    POV: You are Hitler's psychologist in 1925. Diagnose his complexes by using both Jungian and Freudian psychotherapy and attempt to heal him. Succeed and avoid the war.

    The game takes place in your office, where you diagnose your new client, Mr. Hitler.He comes to you with a problem – he claims he has some anger issues.

    You will use psychoanalytic techniques to diagnose the source of his trauma, that could be triggering his anger and hate.

    The game is a classic conversation game (akin to visual-novel types), and could also be considered a "conversational walking simulator".

    You try to uncover the depths of Hitler's personality through conversation. You will be able to talk with him during 3 therapy sessions, a few months apart. Each session features 3-8 decision points, that will influence the final ending.

    Aegis, who identifies as a "centrist and a capitalist," notes in the Steam description that this is "intended as a serious game," and insists that he has "thoroughly researched" both Hitler's personal history and relationships, as well as psychological reports on his character. "The facts in the conversations are verified by multiple sources," he adds.

    Needless to say, there are some people who are less than enthused about an empathetic portrayal of one of the worst mass murderers in human history that purportedly examines the catastrophic consequences of intergenerational trauma and the dormant potential for evil that lies within all humans.

    I don't give a shit about Hitler's childhood traumas, you should be more interested in his victims.

    this is offensive and weird. and speaks to a complete lack of personal experience with the holocaust.

    I said it last time you posted this but this game is in super poor taste and is a bad idea.

    Yeahhh..interesting concept but I wouldn't put your real name on this. Public perception isn't very favorable to rehabilitation of rcists atm, nonetheless the most notorious rcist to ever exist.

    Curiously, there is very little information about game creator Jon Aegis available before the past week or so, when he started getting attention for his game announcement. Take from that what you will.

    Heal Hitler on Steam

  • For the first time ever, scientists finally crack the code for editing marsupial genes

    The MIT Technology Review reports that a team of scientists at the Riken Institute in Japan have made history by successfully bio-engineering albino possums, using CRISPR. This seems like a strange accomplishment, but as the magazine explains:

    CRISPR has been used to modify the genes of tomatoes, humans, and just about everything in between. Because of their unique reproductive biology and their relative rarity in laboratory settings, though, marsupials had eluded the CRISPR rush—until now.

    […]

    The difficulties of genetically modifying marsupials had less to do with CRISPR than with the intricacies of marsupial reproductive biology, says Hiroshi Kiyonari(link in Japanese), the lead author of the new study.

    While kangaroos and koalas are more well-known, researchers who study marsupials often use opossums in lab experiments, since they're smaller and easier to care for. Gray short-tailed opossums, the species used in the study, are related to the white-faced North American opossums, but they're smaller and don't have a pouch.

    Why possums? It's possible the scientists were moved and inspired by songwriting John Darnielle's achingly beautiful marsupial lament, "Possum By Night." Or it could be the fact that possums are often used in laboratories as models for certain human diseases, because they're the only mammals that also get things like melanoma. It also only takes about 14 days to gestate a new possum, so it's pretty short time span for seeing if your animal experimentation worked or not.

    The "albino" part is much more practical. It's the same reason scientists have previously CRISPR'd glow-in-the-dark rabbits and puppies: it makes it a lot easier to tell if you got your genomic mapping right and experimentation worked. If the scientists later decide to edit other genes, it'll also make it easier to observe the animal over the long term while comparing it to its other, non-gene-edited kind — just look for the one that looks different, and see how it's doing!

    Anyway I'm going to go re-write this Mountain Goats song to be about experiments on lab animals:

    An albino opossum proves CRISPR works for marsupials, too [Casey Crownheart / MIT Technology Review]

  • The "Sad Wolverine" meme is now a limited edition San Diego Comic-Con action figure

    There's a beautifully tragic moment in the 90s X-Men cartoon where Wolverine reclines in his bed and longingly strokes at a photograph of his beloved Jean Grey (and her beaux, Cyclops). You've probably seen it meme'd. But now, this iconic image of emotional mutant vulnerability has been immortalized a new form: a limited edition Comic Con-exclusive action figure, courtesy of Mondo Toys.

    The 1/6 scale action figure is limited to only 200. In addition to the box with Wolverine all snug in his bed, it also comes with four swappable facial expressions, several swappable hands with retracted or extended adamantium claws (and stroking), as well as a plastic mold of the little lightning-esque claw sharpening special effect from the TV show. Oh, and a glossy photo of Jean Grey and Cyclops. Plus a turkey leg for him to eat.

    But of course, you would never open the box and play with any of those accessories, would you?

    The timing of this action figure's release is particularly funny if you, like me, have been ravenously devouring the current ongoing X-comics storyline—which, among its many fantastic developments, has finally gotten Wolverine together with Cyclops and Jean Grey in a polyamorous throuple. (Yes, really)

    Mondo Shop — Comic-Con Exclusives

  • Check out "Forever Wars," a new newsletter that reimagines national security reporting

    I'm a big fan of journalist Spencer Ackerman's work as a national security reporter, hardcore punk drummer, and scholarly Magneto apologist. He was part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team at The Guardian that broke the news of the Snowden leaks, and has more recently worked as the senior national security correspondent for the Daily Beast.

    Ackerman has a new non-fiction book coming out in August titled Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump, which aspires to, well, do exactly what the title claims — draw a unified theory of the least 20 years of US foreign policy and national security, with a straight line connecting the country's 9/11 response directly to the rise of Trump and QAnon and all that jazz. Just ahead of the book's release, Ackerman has also announced that he'll leaving the Daily Beast to start his own newsletter, Forever Wars, which follows along the same themes. As he explained in an interview with Vanity Fair:

    "The war on terror is about far more than, quote, unquote, 'national security,'" he told me, which might help explain why his beat is now in quotation marks in his Twitter bio. "It sustains itself in part by how deep and deeply American its roots already are. I want to put all of that up to question and in sustained focus." The writing, Ackerman says, will "feel very much like a continuity" of the work he's done at the Daily Beast. But he wants to "let stories marinate," producing "something that reckons with a really awful reality, rather than what the provocation of the day is."

    In fact, Ackerman doesn't "really want to be responsive to the news cycle much at all," and also sees combining journalism and history as essential to the mission of "Forever Wars," a hybrid model largely missing from the current media landscape. (Ackerman's friend, The Atlantic's Adam Serwer, has stood out for injecting historical heft to the news.) And as the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks nears, Ackerman wants to avoid "a very cheap and sanitized and inaccurate and aggregate commemoration" that outlets may start rolling out. "I think this could be something of a corrective," he said, "or it could be something of a counterbalance."

    Ackerman's work has always been scathing and insightful, with prose that crackles whether he's eulogizing Donald Rumsfeld obituary or criticizing the multitudinous neoliberal failings of Beast from the X-Men. Case in point, here's Ackerman himself making the pitch for the newsletter:

    You may hear that "the 9/11 era is over" in coverage of the 20th anniversary of September 11, and again in coverage of President Biden's withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. This is false. Paired with gauzy commemorations, it's pernicious. Treating the 9/11 era as the past obscures every relevant fact about 20 years' worth of sprawling state violence. The most relevant fact is this: the 9/11 era proceeds. And with procession comes mutation.

    The War on Terror made industrial-scale digital surveillance an enduring aspect of U.S. intelligence and federal law enforcement, rendering quaint Constitutional guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures. Such surveillance lives in symbiosis with 21st century capitalism in general, and the privatized "public" square we call social media in particular. 

    […]

    The basic argument of Reign of Terror is that the 9/11 Era, an authoritarian panoply of possibilities, continues to shape the dire political and security realities we inhabit. And so the basic proposition of Forever Warsis to document the continuities, departures and permutations of the War on Terror as it enters its third decade. 

    If that sounds up your alley, check out the Forever Wars Newsletter and Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump.

    Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

  • Study: the biggest barrier to solar expansion is that you can't price gouge

    A recent study published in the scientific journal Joule, titled "Solar and wind grid system value in the United States: The effect of transmission congestion, generation profiles, and curtailment," proposes a massive predicament in renewable power: it's too cheap.

    Substantial adoption of wind and solar energy generation is essential to meet decarbonization goals. As the supply of these resources increases, the value of electricity during sunny or windy hours declines in relation to the average value of electricity. Left unchecked, this value decline might put practical limits on the expansion of wind and solar and threaten decarbonization goals.

    […]

    Policy makers, regulators, and researchers can use these results to inform decisions about which value decline mitigation strategies to pursue, choosing between technological strategies, such as energy storage or altered plant design, transmission and infrastructure strategies, and policy and regulatory strategies.

    On the surface, this sounds…largely good? Cheap, plentiful energy should be the dream, right? But as the MIT Technology Review points out:

    Unlike a natural gas plant, solar plant operators can't easily throttle electricity up and down as needed, or space generation out through the day, night and dark winter.

    […]

    Lower prices may sound great for consumers. But it presents troubling implications for the world's hopes of rapidly expanding solar capacity and meeting climate goals.

    It could become difficult to convince developers and investors to continue building ever more solar plants if they stand to make less money or even lose it.

    Essentially the problem here — the one that the paper is recognizing, rather than endorsing — is that the lower profit potentials of solar energy mean that it could get harder to incentivize the people with capital to build enough solar arrays and battery storage to handle all of that cheap renewable energy. Why invest in infrastructure that makes the world a better, cleaner place and improves everyone's quality of life, when you can invest in infrastructure that extracts value from the planet like a vampire, slowly draining the life out of everything?

    This reminds me of a few years back when the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wrote up a model bill for what they were calling the Environmental Impact Litigation Act, which was designed to fight back against the Clean Power Plan put forth by the Obama Administration, and made such ridiculous claims as:

    Creating such special [direct-to-consumer] renewable markets in the states is especially troubling and antithetical to free markets when solar power alone is given the monopoly right to sell power directly to consumers from on-site equipment. Any electricity market reforms must not designate a single energy source for a new monopoly privilege. 

    That's right, see, the sun has an unfair monopoly on solar power, which is antithetical to the market.

    They also similarly said the quiet-part-out-loud:

    Creating a special market for direct solar power sales will discourage the sale of solar power equipment to consumers while incentivizing industry to keep ownership of the equipment so that it may keep the consumers' subsidies.

    I'm no fan of ALEC, but this is certainly a reality that has come to pass with the Greenwashing Industry. Of course, ALEC is also largely backed by oil industry money, so the implication in their bill is not that direct consumer access to affordable solar energy is good, but rather, that anything that takes away from them being able to make money off of oil is bad.

    In that way, the Environmental Impact Litigation Act sort of proves the point of the recent Joule study: the biggest barrier to wide-scale solar expansion is that no one's found a way to rip enough people off to make it worth their while.

    Solar and wind grid system value in the United States: The effect of transmission congestion, generation profiles, and curtailment [Dev Millstein, Ryan Wiser, Andrew D. Mills, Mark Bolinger, Joachim Seel, Seongeun Jeong / Joule]

    The Lurking Threat To Solar Power's Growth [James Temple / MIT Technology Review]

    Image: Public Domain via Pexels

  • Check out this $2000 Super Mario Smart Watch (No, it won't help you grow on mushrooms)

    Luxury watch brand TAG Heuer have teamed up with Nintendo for a $2000 Super Mario-themed smart watch that runs on Apple's WearOS. According to Ars Technica, it's a variation on the 2020 TAG Heuer Connected, a 45mm watch with a 1.39-inch, 454×454 OLED display that has wifi, NFC, GPS, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage, along with a heart-rate sensor — the same kind of things you can find on most WearOS watches, plus all the fancy TAG Heuer hardware touches.

    So what makes it a Super Mario watch? It can't convert flowers into fireball power; it can't use mushrooms as a super-powered growth hormone (nor will it change size along with you should you consume any super-powered size-changing mushrooms along the way); it doesn't even come with a little cap n' cape to increase your jump-flight capabilities. But it is bedazzled with the same "M" logo as Mario's cap, with a mushroom, warp pipe, and star bezeled in place of the 3, 6, and 9. In that way, it's not much of an aesthetic upgrade from this $12 Super Mario watch.

    However, if you use the TAG Heuer watch as a step-counter, it plays a little animation of Mario sliding down a flagpole when you reach your step goal. And that alone might be worth 2Gs.

  • "Taika Waititi's New "Reservation Dogs" Is A Cool Indigenous Riff On Tarantino"

    Reservation Dogs is an upcoming comedy-drama from Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo that focuses on the exploits of four Indigenous teenagers as they try to escape the rural confines of Okmulgee, Oklahoma and someday make it off to California. Here's the official blurb for the show, which premieres August 9 on FX:

    "Bear Smallhill" (D'Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai) is destined to be a warrior, and a leader. The only problem is he's not a good fighter, and the gang doesn't really consider him the leader. But with the guidance of a questionable spirit guide, he just might get there. "Elora Danan" (Devery Jacobs) may be the true leader of the group. But she's so focused on getting to California, and so oblivious to her own power, that she often can't see the beauty and goodness in herself and all around her. Street-smart tough girl "Willie Jack" (Paulina Alexis) is the beating heart of the group. She's always looking out for her crew. Meanwhile, "Cheese" (Lane Factor) is the gentle, quiet ride-or-die who is so willing to go along with the group that he never stops to consider what his own dreams might be.

    One year ago, Daniel, the fifth member of the Reservation Dogs, died. Struggling to make sense of the loss, the remaining four blame their boring, small town and its ability to crush the spirit. They decide to honor Daniel by adopting his dream of getting to California as their own. To succeed, they will have to save enough money, outmaneuver the methheads at the junkyard on the edge of town, constantly dodge conspiracy-obsessed Lighthorseman "Big" (Zahn McClarnon) and survive a turf war against a much tougher rival gang, led by the enigmatic "Jackie" (Elva Guerra).

    It kind of reminds me of a more heartfelt, coming-of-age version of Scalped, the Native American noir comic book series from Jason Aaron and JM Guera, but with more Indigenous involvement. The cast and production (filmed on location in Oklahoma) are a pretty huge hallmark for Indigenous representation in media.

  • Illinois just became the first state to make it illegal for cops to lie to kids

    From NPR:

    Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed a new bill into law Thursday barring police from lying to underage kids during interrogations.

    Commonly used interrogation tactics, such as promising leniency or insinuating that incriminating evidence exists, are banned when questioning suspects younger than 18 under the new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1. 

    According to the Innocence Project, an organization focused on exonerating wrongly convicted people, those types of interrogation methods have been shown to lead to false confessions. They've also played a role in about 30% of all wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA.

    This means that — until 2021! — it was perfectly legal in every US state for police to lie to minors (which gives me flashbacks to the tragic interrogation of Brendan Dassey, as shown in Making a Murderer). As NPR notes, there are other states trying to pass bills that offer the same protections to minors, or else to outlaw deceptive police interrogation tactics entirely.

    The fact that we have to explicitly forbid police from intentionally manipulating and deceiving children speaks volumes about the underlying issues.

    Illinois Is The 1st State To Tell Police They Can't Lie To Minors In Interrogations [Jaclyn Diaz / NPR]

    Image via YouTube

  • This cool new guitar pedal literally doesn't do anything, and it costs a hundred bucks

    A "Chibson" is the unofficial name given to cheap Chinese off-brand versions of Gibson guitars. It's also the name of a US-based company that makes bizarre gag gift-style instruments like this $25,000 Han-Solo-In-Carbonite Guitar.

    Their latest offering, the limited-edition Placebo Pedal, is only slightly more practical: a $100 guitar pedal that doesn't do anything.

    After 2 years of development, the Placebo Pedal is the only effect pedal on the market that actually does what it says it does…Absolutely Nothing.

    The Placebo Pedal looks and feels just like a real pedal with its custom Chibson USA powder coat graphics and matching collector's box. It also has a working foot switch, Input/Output jacks and even functioning knobs that read "Dosage" and "FX". If you really want to get crazy you can plug it in and the light will turn on! All hand built and numbered, these prescription rockers are only avail in limited quantities. 

    For an additional $25, the company will also send you a printed circuit board that you can use to convert the Placebo Pedal into a legitimate fuzz pedal at home — "a gateway drug into the world of DIY effects building." It's a neat way to transform a gag gift into an actual cool home electronics project. I'm even tempted to try it myself!

    Placebo Pedal [Chibson USA / Daredevil Pedals]

  • Found poetry made from "I don't know who needs to hear this but…" tweets

    "I don't know who needs to hear this but…" is a popular meme format used to preface some form of advice. While the phrase was initially used in earnest—a way to build suspense and stress the importance of the advice to follow—it has mutated, as most things on the Internet do, into a source of irreverence, adding some ironic weight to a silly unsolicited non-sequitur.

    Which is why my friend, journalist and culture critic Jenna Scherer, decided to start turning the meme into Found Poetry:

    if you wanna fuck me you aren't straight…
    why wait for your boyfriend to change
    when you can just change your boyfriend?
    unclench your butt cheeks, Beloved.
    foreplay is not optional.

    PORN IS SATANIC
    god is the cheat code
    life is a battle
    today is the day
    you are much closer than you think

    I am not an electric supply company off a highway in Minnesota
    WE ARE NOT A DONUT SHOP. WE ONLY MAK COFFEE.
    this is not a thing that can exist

    I don't know who needs to hear this, but this is art.

  • McGruff the Crime Dog released an album in the 80s

    Smart Kids was the debut from the 80s Ad Council anti-drug mascot Scruff McGruff The Crime Dog. Not content with that clever commercial jingle of "Scruff, McGruff, Chicago Illinois, Six-Oh-Six-Five-Two," McGruff also decided to take a bite out of some 80s pop with let some corny-ass dads write some silly children's songs about saying no to drugs.

    Here's the track listing:

    1. Winners Don't Use
    2. No, No, No!
    3. Marijuana
    4. Inhalants
    5. Cocaine & Crack
    6. Alcohol
    7. Just Say No!
    8. Smart Kids
    9. Make Your Body Last
    10. I'll Decide on My Own
    11. I'm Glad I'm Me

    The "Inhalants" song is my favorite because it's got an almost accidental Joy Division vibe to it.

    If you want to learn more about this amazing pop culture artifact, Stitcher did a podcast all about it.

  • The Mainstream Media is actually one event production company in Chicago

    Who is the Mainstream Media? What is the Mainstream Media? This phrase is used and abused by everyone in own different ways — including by those who are most often accused of being the Mainstream Media.

    In a fantastic new article, the Columbia Journalism Review has finally cracked the code: technically, the Mainstream Media is actually just one event production LLC based in Chicago.

    Nick Bacon, a video producer in Chicago, named his company, which provides technical support for events, Mainstream Media LLC. He figured it would be good for search engine optimization. "We were just two guys working out of a back room in an apartment," Bacon said, "and we thought it was kind of funny to suggest that, like, this is where the mainstream media is." Bacon's strategy paid off; during the primaries in 2016 and 2020, with Trump tearing into the mainstream media on the campaign trail, people called, emailed, and tweeted at the business every week. Last year, a pair from South Carolina phoned him repeatedly for an hour. "They legitimately thought I was the mainstream media Donald Trump was talking about," Bacon said. He tried to explain what his business actually was; after an extended back-and-forth, they asked him to convey their anti-media message—which Bacon described as "impotent rage"—to the rest of us.

    The rest of the article also provides some fascinating reading about just how highly-individualized the implications of the phrase "mainstream media" is. Author Savannah Jacobson explores the history of the terminology, and analyzes polling data to try and understand what, exactly, various people across the country mean when they talk about the mainstream media. There is plenty of agreement on the abstract philosophical definition of "mainstream media" as immortalized in Manufacturing in Consent as a group of unofficial gatekeepers who influence and control media discourse in a way that largely favors or benefits the power structures of the status quo. But the specifics of who, exactly, qualifies as a member of this group are much more elusive.

    Unless you work for Mainstream Media, LLC in Chicago.

    Inside the Lines: What is the 'mainstream media' anyway? [Savannah Jacobson / Columbia Journalism Review]

    Image: Frederick Burr Opper / Library of Congress (Public Domain)

  • Gun manufacturer sent thousands of random cartoons to Sandy Hook families in court filing

    From NPR:

    Lawyers representing 10 Sandy Hook families in a lawsuit against Remington Arms Co. have accused the gun-maker of deliberately slowing the discovery process by filing tens of thousands of seemingly unrelated images and videos.

    Among the documents produced by Remington were more than 18,000 files depicting cartoons and emoji, along with thousands of seemingly personal photos and videos of people participating in activities such as go-karting, hunting and gender reveal parties, according to a court filing last week. Meanwhile, it says, the company has been too slow to turn over relevant emails and other company documents.

    Remington has also attempted to use their bankruptcy to escape financial penalty in the lawsuit from the parents of children who were killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting. As Reuters explained in March:

    Before seeking bankruptcy protection, Remington had been defending itself against a lawsuit brought by families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The case was put on hold as a result of the bankruptcy.

    The Connecticut Supreme Court in March 2019 ruled the families could sue Remington for wrongfully marketing the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used by the shooter, Adam Lanza. […]

    The company is now looking to wind down its affairs through its proposed plan, which is supported by its unsecured creditors' committee and lenders. But families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims, represented by Selendy & Gay, argued in a March 1 objection that the plan unfairly limits their potential recoveries to proceeds of general liability insurance policies, which they say could lead to nothing. The insurers themselves have said the families' claims may not fall under the policies' coverage and that other exclusions may apply, according to the filing.

    So it sure sounds like Remington's lawyers submitted 30,000+ irrelevant random documents just to hold off the process even more, and leave the grieving parents with even more frustration.

    Asked For Documents In Sandy Hook Shooting, A Gun-Maker Sent Thousands Of Cartoons [Becky Sullivan / NPR]

    Sandy Hook families, insurer oppose Remington bankruptcy plan [Maria Chutchian / Reuters]

    Image: Ultratone85 / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

  • South Korea new COVID protocols ban fast music in gyms

    There will be no pumped up jams until vaccinations improve.

    According to The Guardian, South Korean officials have forbidden gyms and other high-energy businesses from playing music with more than 120 beats per minute during group activities. Health officials reportedly believe that this will help to mitigate people from breathing too fast or splashing sweat on others, thus diminishing the spread of COVID-19.

    Everyone else finds this policy completely ridiculous, not to mention unenforceable, since so many people listen to their own headphones at the gym anyway. As The Guardian notes, this Draconian measure would restrict pretty much all of the most popular workout music:

    Of the current K-pop hits, BTS's Permission to Dance is 127bpm and the girl group Loona's PTT (Paint the Town) is 125bpm, but Taeyeon's Weekend is acceptable at 114bpm, as is Alcohol-Free by Twice at 96bpm.

    Nearly a million people worldwide subscribe to Spotify's gym playlist You Can Do It, but none of its opening 10 tracks are under 120bpm, with High Contrast's drum'n'bass hit Time Is Hardcore topping out at 169bpm.

    Among workout classics, Eye of the Tiger by Survivor clocks in at 108bpm – though it is perhaps best suited to strutting post-workout than actual cardio – while Kanye West's Stronger is 106bpm. A Flock of Seagulls' I Ran (So Far Away) is thoroughly unsuitable at 148bpm. At exactly 120bpm, Irene Cara's Flashdance … What a Feeling is a good option for law-abiding Koreans. But at 122bpm, Bob Marley's Is This Love – that's out.

    South Korea's new COVID regulations also limited treadmills to speeds of 3.7 miles per hour, and officially limit ping-pong matches to two people per table.

    No Permission to Dance: South Korea Covid rules enforce slower music in gyms [Ben Beaumont Thomas / The Guardian]

    Image: Republic of Korea / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)