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Actor James Earl Jones Gave Green-Light for His Voice to be AI-Generated in “Star Wars” Properties

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What does this mean for the future of actors and AI in movies?


James Earl Jones Hangs Up His Hat

At the age of 91, actor James Earl Jones has decided to step back from his role as Darth Vader in the famous “Star Wars” trilogy, allowing Skywalker Sound to use voice archives to create AI-generated dialogue for the character in appearances moving forward.

For the prequel series on Disney+, “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Skywalker Sound hired the Ukraine-based startup Respeecher to craft the dialogue using their AI technology and Jones’s recordings from previous performances. Essentially, they take the recordings and “teach” an AI how to replicate the patterns and tone of Darth Vader that scared so many for so many years. 

AI in Hollywood

AI voices have been a point of controversy for a while. For example, “Roadrunner,” the documentary about the late Anthony Bourdain, used AI technology to replicate Bourdain’s voice, reading letters he had written during his life. This sparked backlash online from those who found it unethical to use someone’s voice posthumously. 

“Star Wars” has gone beyond generating just voices — using AI to achieve a variety of feats. In 2016’s “Rogue One,” filmmakers digitally resurrected Peter Cushing, who died in 1994, for his role as Grand Moff Tarkin. In the same movie, they used CGI to put Carrie Fisher’s face on a double. They later used the same method after she passed away.

That same CGI was also recently used to digitally de-age Mark Hamill for his role as Luke Skywalker in the Disney+ show “The Book of Boba Fett.”

It has not been confirmed if Jones will be paid for the continued use of his voice in this manner, but his family did say they were pleased with the work done on “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

See what others are saying: (Vanity Fair) (ABC News) (AV Club)

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31 Children Found Working Graveyard Shift in U.S. Meatpacking Plants

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Evidence suggests the company may have minors employed at 400 other locations.


The Complaint

The Department of Labor (DOL) recently found that a leading contractor for sanitation allegedly employed 31 minors from ages 13 to 17 for overnight cleaning of slaughterhouses and meatpacking facilities. 

Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. is under investigation for employing over 30 minors in three locations in the Midwest. The DOL claims the children were cleaning dangerous equipment with hazardous chemicals up to 6 or 7 days a week. Several of these children reported injuries, including chemical burns. 

The DOL filed a complaint with the Federal District Court of Nebraska for a nationwide injunction on Packers. According to their complaint, evidence suggests that Packers may have kids working at 400 other locations across the country. 

The court partially fulfilled the DOL’s request and ordered Packers to “immediately cease and refrain from employing oppressive child labor.”

The order also demanded Packers comply with the DOL’s investigation because the complaint included claims that Packers’ managers had been tampering with evidence – including obstructing interviews and attempting to hide or delete important documents, text messages, and incident reports. 

The Response

According to the complaint, the purpose for the nationwide injunction request is the safety of the kids while the DOL investigates.

While Wage and Hour is continuing to pour over records to identify such children, it is slow, painstaking work. Yet, the children working overnight on the kill floor of these slaughterhouses cannot wait,” it reads.

Packers denied the accusations. In a statement to NBC News, it said that it has “an absolute company-wide prohibition against the employment of anyone under the age of 18 and zero tolerance for any violation of that policy — period.”

Packers also said it was surprised by the complaint because it claims to be cooperating with the investigation by providing important documents and responses. 

A hearing has been set for Nov. 26 to decide whether the order will be dissolved, extended, or modified. 

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (NBC News) (CBS News)

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Officers Charged After Detaining Woman in Car Hit by Train, Woman Faces Charges Too

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The woman suffered nine broken ribs, a broken arm, a broken leg, a broken sternum, broken teeth, and several other injuries, her lawyer said.


Prosecutors Bring Charges

Less than two months after police in Colorado left a woman handcuffed in a patrol car parked on a railroad crossing as a freight train plowed through it, the severely injured woman has still been charged, according to a statement Monday.

In September, multiple law enforcement agencies responded to a road rage incident in Fort Lupton, where they arrested 20-year-old Yareni Rios-Gonzalez for allegedly brandishing a firearm at another driver. While they searched her vehicle, they placed her in a squad car that was parked on train tracks.

Despite being hospitalized for nearly two weeks after the incident, Rios-Gonzalez has been charged with felony menacing, the Weld County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

Her lawyer, Paul Wilkinson, told Reuters the news that she was being charged was disappointing and added that he will file a lawsuit against police for his client’s injuries and for violating her civil rights.

Two officers were also charged for their involvement in the incident. Officer Jordan Steinke, from the Fort Lupton Police Department, faces one count each of attempted manslaughter and second-degree assault, both felonies, as well as reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. Sgt. Pablo Vazquez, from the Platteville Police Department, faces five counts of reckless endangerment, one count of obstructing a highway or other passageway, one count of careless driving, and one count of parking where prohibited, all misdemeanors.

Abandoned on the Tracks

A Platteville police officer reportedly stopped Rios-Gonzalez just past the railroad tracks and parked the patrol car on the crossing.

In body camera footage obtained by 9News, she can be heard screaming from inside the vehicle, trying to get their attention as the freight train barreled toward them.

At one point, the locomotive’s horn blares audibly in the distance, but the officers either fail to hear it or ignore it.

By the time the cops notice the incoming train, there are mere seconds until impact, and they scramble away leaving the woman trapped inside.

Vazquez can be heard saying he did not know he parked on the tracks and that he was unaware another officer had placed Rios-Gonzalez in his patrol car.

Rios-Gonzalez suffered nine broken ribs, a broken arm, a broken leg, a broken sternum, broken teeth, and several other injuries, according to Wilkinson.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (CBS News) (The Colorado Sun)

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Amazon Sends Tone-Deaf Message Warning Drivers of “Four-Legged Costumers” After Dog Attack Kills Driver

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Outraged by the response, one person is organizing a “Nationwide No-Show” for Amazon.


The Statement

After an Amazon delivery driver in Missouri was killed by an apparent dog attack, the company sent a message to its drivers warning about the company’s “four-legged customers.”

The Missouri driver was found dead on a customer’s front lawn on Monday after the attack. Amazon sent its message the following day.

“We want to help ensure you aren’t surprised by our four-legged customers when on route, so be sure to check the Amazon Delivery App for the paw print icon in the ‘Delivery Notes’ indicating you should ‘be aware of a dog at this stop.,'” the message said. “If we know Fido is nearby, we’ll add the paw print to give you a heads up. As always, contact the customer to help you with the pet, or ‘Driver Support’ in the Delivery App if you can’t reach the customer.” 

It is not clear if Amazon released this statement in response to the incident the day before or if it was drafted earlier.

The Problem

This is not the first time people have taken issue with tips provided by the online retail giant. Last year, the company came under fire for their high expectations of their drivers leading them to urinate in bottles rather than take time to find a bathroom. 

One delivery driver said to Motherboard last year, “I can tell you that if I drove to find a restroom that I would be bringing back packages every night and that would eventually mean I would get infractions, which would lead to termination.”

Drivers have expressed concern that since there is no time to use the restroom, they will also not have time to wait for a customer to answer their messages and wrangle their dog. 

The message was met with distaste online and even led one user to organize a “Nationwide No-Show” for Amazon delivery drivers on Monday, Oct. 31. 

See what others are saying: (Vice) (Engadget)

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