John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
For one thing, he's not happy with your iPod earbuds.
Welcome back to our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world (past editions):
WHERE WILL BLOOMBERG'S NEXT BAN HAMMER LAND?
Now that Mayor Mike Bloomberg has taken sugar-loaded gut-bombs out of the equation, with a prohibition on sodas larger than 16 ounces landing on March 12, New Yorkers once again get to play the fun game, What Will Bloomberg Ban Next?
Will it be that delicious liquified popcorn butter at movie theaters? Gas-guzzling SUVs? Or what about electricity? That stuff kills loads of people. While the mayor hasn't specifically mentioned what's on his kill list – well, aside from Styrofoam containers – there's a distant yet intriguing possibility it could have something to do with people's beloved Apple products.
That's if you believe the mayor's new campaign against headphones to be a warning shot in a future war against deafness. New York City will soon launch $250,000 media blitz across social-networking platforms to warn the wearers of earbuds about possible hearing loss, reports CBS. Researchers think that bud enthusiasts are showing signs of physical wear-and-tear, with teens and young adults reporting a 30 percent increase in hearing loss from 1988 to 2006. These devices can pound eardrums with hot jamz approaching 115 decibels; doctors believe the safe noise threshold is below 85 decibels.
The media campaign is “aimed at the iPod generation, the people who were the first to put buds directly into their ears,” reports CBS. In a statement begging for an Apple response, the news outlet interviewed an audiologist who claims that what ships with new iPods are particularly strong potential health risks. Earbuds "like the ones that come with many Apple products seem to be most damaging,” he said.
WATCHING PORN INSTEAD OF RUNNING A CITY, IN ITALY
Do potholes ever get repaired or the trash taken away in Montignoso, a coastal Italian town about 70 miles west of Florence? It's hard to believe that the enclave's overseers have time to perform such civic duties, if this dismaying report of their web-surfing habits in Life Site News can be believed.
Citing Italian media sources, Life Site claims Montignoso's municipal employees have basically spent their waking lives looking at NSFW sites on their PCs. Some of them partook in marathon-level stretches of 6 hours cruising the nasty bowels of the Internet; the problem allegedly was so widespread the mayor banned web surfing through the entire town hall.
Here's an excerpt from the story:
The Italian media have reported that some of the town’s 74 employees would sign in at 8 A.M. and immediately begin viewing pornography online, stopping only when the town hall building closed for lunch.
Mayor Narcisio Buffoni would not fully confirm those reports. Said Buffoni, “All I am prepared to say is that there has been an improper use of the internet within the council offices – that’s why there is no access to the web.”
Added Buffoni, “I am not prepared to go into the details of what the sites visited were, other than to say they were not work related and not ethical. It was restricted to a limited amount of staff, not all 74 employees.”
As dumb as scanning fetish sites at work seems, the Italians are hardly unique. According to a 2010 Nielson survey, more than 21 million American workers viewed Internet porn in one month alone. That's nearly a third of the country's adult workforce. Notes CBS: “On average, users who looked at adult websites spent about an hour and 45 minutes on the sites in March, according to Nielson.”
THE HARLEM SHAKE, IN TUNISIA AND BEYOND
Upon seeing your sixth or seventh rendition of the viral “Harlem Shake,” the natural reaction is to want to ban the infuriatingly goofy dance. But here's a warning for the world's autocratic taste arbiters: Messing with the “Shake” can provoke violent reactions.
Officials in Tunisia learned this truth the hard way in the past few weeks. After schools near the capital of Tunis banned the pelvis-thrusting dance, students responded with angry protests that got physical. According to the Agence France-Presse:
Salafist Muslims in socially divided Tunisia tried to prevent the filming of current Internet craze the "Harlem Shake" at a school on Wednesday, but were driven off after coming to blows with students.
At another school, south of the capital, the principal banned a performance there, and angry students reacted by hurling stones at police, who responded with tear gas.
Fans of the dance have drawn the ire of hardline Islamists, who are gaining their foothold in Tunisia since the 2011 Arab Spring. The country's education minister has called the “Harlem Shake” immoral, and went so far as to order an official probe into one flash mob's dancing at a Tunis-area school.
But the shakers seem to be getting the upper hand in this political dance-off. After that same education official threatened to expel students doing the “Shake,” somebody hacked the Ministry of Education's website so that the “pictures on the screen [would] move to the Harlem Shake rhythm,” reports Al Monitor. Recent reports show the craze to be spreading, with youngsters in Cairo performing the dance in front of the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood. As one YouTube commenter who viewed the Egyptian "Shake" snarks: "Next we'll be using RickRoll to promote world peace."
Top photo of a soda-ban protester in New York in 2012 courtesy of Andrew Burton of Reuters.