Walmart Turns Into Big Brother

Grind for December 31st, 2018
“I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We’ve created life in our own image.”

– Stephen Hawking

Not So Fast

The Headline

Trump wants to pull 50% of troops from Afghanistan

One day after announcing a full withdrawal of US troops from Syria, President Trump said he wanted to withdraw half the troops stationed in Afghanistan.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis cautioned Trump against both withdrawals before submitting his resignation letter Thursday.

Trump’s Perspective

Spending money and lives fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan is a lost cause. We’ve been there for 17 years, and the group is more powerful than ever.

Bringing our troops home is the only way to force the Afghans to start solving their own problems and stop relying on the US for support.

In addition, bringing troops home would fulfill a campaign promise and energize voters ahead of Trump’s reelection campaign.

Critics’ Perspective

Withdrawing from Syria could facilitate the reemergence of ISIS and expose the Kurds (our allies) to an attack from Turkey.

Withdrawing from Afghanistan would force the US to curtail its missions there and could enable the Taliban to launch attacks on the US.

“Like in Syria, troop withdrawal should be based on conditions on the ground,” said GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, who has made 50 visits to Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The conditions in Afghanistan – at the present moment – make American troop withdrawals a high risk strategy. If we continue on our present course, we are setting in motion the loss of all our gains and paving the way toward a second 9/11.”

Last Friday, Graham called on the Senate to hold immediate hearings on Trump’s withdrawal plans and urged the president to visit Afghanistan.

“The president needs to go to Afghanistan,” said Graham. “He hasn’t visited our troops, and he needs to do that.”

Dark Roast

The Headline

Walmart is finally doing something to address its poor customer service – and it’s not what you think

The Grind

Instead of making improvements to its hiring and training methods, Walmart is trying to improve its customer service by eavesdropping on employees.

This week, the company was awarded a patent for an audio system that listens to every sound inside its stores.

By “capturing and analyzing sounds,” the system collects data on things like job performance, queue length, and the number of plastic bags used at checkout.

As noted in the patent, the system can be used to:

— Generate job performance evaluations

— Determine which products shoppers are talking about

— Prevent theft

The Details

“Employee efficiency and performance can help decrease costs for a shopping facility as well as increase guest satisfaction,” reads the patent.

Tracking performance metrics via eavesdropping will allegedly help Walmart achieve these goals, but it could also convince customers to shop somewhere else.

“Additionally, the sound sensors can capture audio of conversations between guests and an employee stained at the terminal,” continues the patent. “The system can process the audio of the conversation to determine whether the employee stationed at the terminal is greeting guests.”

As of now, Walmart has no concrete plans to deploy the system in its stores. But the patent does prove that one of the world’s largest retailers is thinking about the future of retail security with little concern for customer or employee privacy.

Did you know… There’s a cruise ship named “The World” where residents permanently live as it travels around the globe.