NewsQuirks 606

Curses, Foiled Again

After a Buffalo, N.Y., cabdriver reported three men robbed him at gunpoint, police apprehended two suspects. During their court hearing, the prosecutor asked the cabdriver to identify the men who robbed him. He pointed to the two suspects at the defendants' table. Then he pointed out a spectator in the back of the courtroom as the man who had held the gun, noting the third suspect, Antonio U. Jones, 17, was wearing the same jacket he had on the night of the robbery. Authorities took Jones into custody.

Police arrested a 26-year-old woman preparing to board a London-bound flight at Zimbabwe's international airport after they became suspicious of her large bottom. A search revealed 14 pounds of marijuana stuffed in her underwear.

Mark Vincent Hinckley, 37, a member of a federal grand jury in Denver that voted secret indictments against a suspected drug dealer, went to the dealer's office and offered to sell information about the government's case. Part of the evidence that authorities had presented to the grand jury was that the government had bugged the suspect's office. As a result, investigators overheard Hinckley's offer and arrested him.

Perfect Timing

Robert Talley suffered from a serious chest infection but told the caregivers at his London nursing home that he was determined to live long enough to read the traditional telegram from Queen Elizabeth II congratulating him on his 100th birthday. When it arrived, he opened the envelope, exclaimed, "Yes, I made it," then dropped dead.

Holier Than Thou

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Grade A Swiss cheese may now have smaller holes. Under the old standards, most of the holes had to be eleven-sixteenths to thirteen-sixteenths of an inch in diameter. The new minimum is three-eighths of an inch. The dairy industry said the new standard would prevent Swiss cheese from getting tangled in high-speed slicing machines.

Please, Mr. Postman

A 45-year-old man in Dunedin, New Zealand, admitted stealing mountains of other people's mail over the past four years, according to police, who found rooms full of rotting mail in his house. Noting the man emptied his neighbors' mailboxes into a plastic bag when he went for walks, investigators said he told them he was "lonely and liked reading other people's mail."

Lost and Found

Ronald Thomas, 38, escaped from a work crew while serving a 12-year sentence at a state prison in northwestern Oklahoma. After driving a stolen Corrections Department van 150 miles north to Garden City, Kan., he called authorities to tell them he was hopelessly lost and asked to be returned to prison. Prison officials obliged.

After a 26-year-old man held up a credit union in Vancouver, British Columbia, he jumped into a waiting taxi. Police called the taxi company, which tracked the vehicle using its global positioning system to an intersection several blocks from the bank. The man was immediately arrested in what police believe was the first use of satellite technology to find a b ank robber.

Shop Till You Drop

Researchers at Stanford University Medical School reported the anti-depressant drug citalopram (brand name Celexa) might deter compulsive buying. The disorder, which affects between 2 and 8 percent of the adult U.S. population, 90 percent of them women, is marked by a preoccupation with buying unneeded items, often leading to personal distress or financial problems. Eighty percent of the participants testing the drug "reported feeling less anxiety, less depression, less impulsiveness," said Dr. Lorrin Koran, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences who heads the ongoing study. "The women in the study reported they stopped thinking about shopping."

Inappropriate Uses for Food

The Fourth Annual Ham Rubbing, a private fund-raiser that collected $2,400 for the Myrtle Beach, S.C., fire department, consisted of women dancing on stage while having their bare breasts rubbed with a ham. The department returned the contribution after City Manager Tom Leath said, "That's not a way we need to raise money."

The center for criminological research at Oxford University reported that a shortage of firearms in Britain is forcing robbers to resort to food, particularly fruit and vegetables. The Banana Bandit, Nigel Gunn Hayward, was jailed for using the fruit as a pretend pistol when holding up three banks in the Bristol area. He was arrested at a nightclub called Joe Bananas. Ernest Coveley, the Cucumber Crook, pulled off 14 raids around London armed with a vegetable, which he ate afterwards to destroy the evidence. The most recent arrest was Anthony Newton, 57, who surrendered to authorities in December after holding up a wine shop by pushing a Twiglet, a kind of breadstick snack whose current ad campaign describes it as "hazardously knobbly," into the cashier's ribs.

Authorities in Stroudsburg, Pa., charged Frank T. Singer, 37, in connection with the bondage-related death of William Abel, 36, who gagged to death on peanut butter at a motel after being wrapped with duct-tape and handc uffed in a chair. Police found a half-empty, 5-pound container of peanut butter near the body.

Sperm in the News

Federal authorities accused reputed mobster Antonio Parlavecchio and his wife Maria, both 36, of smuggling sperm out of the Allenwood, Pa., federal prison, where he is serving time, so she could get pregnant.

The Loved One

Despite complaints by neighbors about the smell, a family in the Romanian village of Zagujeni said it refuses to bury the body of 80-year-old Viora Tuser, who died last October. Family members said they received a vision that she is to be resurrected.

Satisfaction Not Guaranteed

New Jersey dentist Kevin P. Ward agreed to give up his license after being accused of breaking his patients' bones while restraining them to work on their teeth. One of the patients was a 5-year-old boy, whose parents say had his legs broken while Ward performed a root canal on the wrong tooth.

After Heidi Dickens and Glen McNeill of West Yorkshire, England, noticed their clothes left marks on their new (1,800 pounds), light-colored leather sofa, they complained to the furniture store where they bought it. Store officials recommended the couple change their clothes. "Most clothes we wear are dark," Dickens said. "We bought the sofa because we liked how it looked." The store was unsympathetic. "We can't warn customers of all potential problems," a spokesperson said.
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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