NewsQuirks 597

Curses, Foiled Again

When a woman armed with a small BB gun tried to rob two gas stations in Slidell, La., the clerk at the first station was unfazed by the weapon and refused to open the register. At the second station, the clerk thought it was a prank and started laughing, "until," police Sgt. Rob Callahan said, "she pushed the gun closer and said, ŒGive me the money fast!'" After the woman emptied the cash register, witnesses said she drove away in a beat-up Oldsmobile with no license plate and a bumper sticker that said, "Horn broken. Watch for finger." Police quickly arrested Beverly A. Jeffords, 43, after spotting the distinctive getaway car and the bumper sticker. "It's something that just sticks in your mind," Callahan said. "It definitely helped us catch her."

More Election Follies

Florida authorities arrested Mark Bruce Richter and Steven Robert Solomon when the men tried to sell a Palm Beach County voting machine on the eBay Internet auction site shortly after the November election. The stylus used to mark punch-card ballots and one of the controversial "butterfly" ballot booklets were still attached. "They thought it would make a great memento of the elections. Problem was, it was stolen," arresting agent Michael Washam of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said, noting, "These guys were not mental giants."

When Thomas D. Logan called to say he would be unable to attend a debate of candidates for the presidency of the Philadelphia NAACP because of a family emergency, WTVE-TV propped up a life-size cardboard cutout of Logan in a chair next to the other candidates. "Mr. Logan committed to participating in this debate," news director Jim Sweeney said, "and when he didn't, well, we were prepared for that eventuality."

The town of Virgin, Utah, enacted an ordinance requiring every home to have a gun and ammunition. Noting most of Virgin's 350 residents already own firearms, Mayor Jay Lee said the initiative exempts the mentally ill, convicted felons, conscientious objectors and people who cannot afford to own a gun.

Use All You Want, We'll Make More

A shortage of human sperm in Canada is sending doctors and their patients to U.S. sperm banks in record numbers. "The stocks have decreased dramatically," said fertility specialist Roger Pierson, president of the Canadian Fertility and Adrology Society, citing new, stricter regulations that he said have caused U.S. orders from Canada to increase a hundred-fold this year alone. What's more, Canadians must pay four or five times more for U.S. semen, which often comes from for-profit clinics, than they would for domestic semen.

Felonious Food

Three armed men burst into an apartment in Charlotte, N.C., about 1:20 a.m. and demanded the three roommates hand over their cash. When the best the roommates, who are students at UNC Charlotte, could come up with was $2, plus another $200 from an ATM, the gunmen became angry at the small amount and decided to take the students' stereo, laptop computers and hunting rifles. Before they left, they ordered the roommates to strip and lay on the floor. One of the students, Jason Garvin, 24, told the Charlotte Observer afterwards that he was certain they were going to be shot. Instead the robbers opened the refrigerator and pelted them with eggs, chocolate syrup and iced-tea mix, then locked them on their balcony and fled. "I think it was taking out their frustration," Garvin said.

Fatal Footwear

When Courtney Purlette, 47, of Mocha, Guyana, became angry with his wife for wearing shoes that he did not like, he chopped off her forearms with a machete.

Butt Heads

After parents of journalism students at Northview High School in Bratt, Fla., complained that their children had to sell smoked Boston pork butts not only to raise money for the school paper and yearbook, but also to earn good grades, principal Gayle Weaver denied that sales were linked to grades. But journalism teacher Vicki Baggett, whose father smoked the butts, contradicted her, admitting sales counted for 10 percent of a student's grade. "I was told if my daughter sold 10 Boston butts, she made 100; nine of them, a 90, and so on," parent Pat Brown informed the Orlando Sentinel. "That means Mama's going to be buying her grade. I don't have time to run around pushing Boston butts."

The Escambia County Health Department settled the controversy by ordering the school to stop selling the Boston butts because their preparation violates health codes. The edict prompted Baggett to declare, "This is why public educators and great teachers are getting out of the profession."

Second-Amendment Follies

When a uniformed Los Angeles police officer showed up at a Halloween costume party at 1 a.m. to investigate complaints of noise, one of the guests, actor Anthony Dwain Lee, 39, pointed what turned out to be a fake gun at him. The officer, Tarriel Hopper, responded by drawing his service pistol and shooting Lee, whom paramedics later pronounced dead at the scene.

Old Habits Die Hard

After pursuing Fusako Shigenobu, 55, for 30 years for political hijackings, kidnappings and terrorist attacks, police finally nabbed Japan's most-wanted female fugitive in a rural western town where police noticed the distinctive way she smoked a cigarette: blowing a smoke ring when she exhaled and smoking as if puffing on a pipe. "Shigenobu must have believed that since her appearance had changed so much, we wouldn't notice," a police spokesperson told the newspaper Sankei Shimbun. "It was that little something that got her."

Zip Your Lip

When Anthony Annarino, 55, the former city tax collector of Providence, R.I., who was convicted of corruption, joked after his sentencing that he planned to spend his 2-1/2 years behind bars improving his golf game, federal authorities changed his assignment from a minimum-security prison to a medium-security one. Noting Annarino's comment "was a slap at the system that the Bureau of Prisons did not take lightly," U.S. Marshal John Leyden said golf is not allowed at Ray Brook prison near Lake Placid, N.Y., where Annarino's fellow inmates include John A. "Junior" Gotti, son of the New York crime boss.
ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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