NewsQuirks 609

Curses, Foiled Again

Clarence Stucki, 91, rigged an electrical bypass and stole electricity from Utah's Logan Light & Power company for almost 60 years. He was finally caught only because he called the utility to complain about a power outage. Workers who came to fix it spotted Stucki's handiwork and alerted power company officials.

When Dexter Mathis, 31, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for receiving stolen bank money, he persuaded Pierre Carlton, 32, to take his place at the minimum-security camp in Atlanta. After receiving tips that Mathis was selling drugs on the street, prison officials, suspecting Mathis was leaving the camp during the day, put Carlton in solitary confinement for eight months, then transferred him to a more secure prison in Jesup, Ga. With only 47 days remaining on Mathis's sentence, Carlton was transferred to a halfway house but had had enough of confinement and fled. Authorities investigating the escape discovered the deception. They arrested the real Mathis, who began serving his original sentence and faces additional charges of conspiring to defraud the United States. Carlton, meanwhile, used his time in prison to kick his drug habit and earn a high-school diploma˜although it is in Mathis's name.

When Barry Darrell Freeman, 29, forced a 20-year-old woman into a Philadelphia driveway and threatened to rape her, she suggested that Freeman make himself more comfortable by taking off his clothes. Once she saw him standing in the nude, she realized he was unarmed and ran away. Police arrested Freeman four days later after the woman spotted him on a subway train and notified authorities.

High-Fat Diet

Romanian authorities reported that a 53-year-old man in Iasi County accidentally killed his wife with lard. The lard had been the man's payment for a day's work on a farm, according to authorities, and when he found out she had eaten half of it, he pushed the rest in her mouth, causing her to suffocate.

Hormel Foods, the maker of Spam, signed a contract with General Motors to supply pork and turkey by-products to make vehicle parts. The fats will replace chemicals used to form molds for casting metal components, making the molds recyclable. "Who would have guessed," Hormel CEO Joel Johnson said, "that a food product would be used in the production of your automobile's engine block?"

Glowing Achievement

Researchers at Scotland's Edinburgh University reported they have developed a potato that glows green when it needs water. Professor Anthony Trewavas explained the scientists injected potato plants with the gene that causes certain jellyfish to glow to create the luminous spud, which he said isn't intended to be eaten. Instead, it will be planted next to commercial crops to alert farmers when the rest of the field needs watering.

Grave Matters

Grieving relatives of a Dutch man who was scheduled to be buried in Zwolle learned the day of the funeral that the burial had been canceled because all the gravediggers had been assigned to attend a training class. When the relatives complained, city officials agreed the funeral could go ahead, but only if the family paid extra. Finally, the city's undertakers backed the relatives, and the funeral proceeded on time and at no extra charge.

An Austrian website providing burial information and links to funeral directors, morticians and stonemasons has added a picture of a naked woman and a link to a dating service for lonely widows and widowers. The site, Begraebnis (German for burial), promises to find "the right way from the undertaker's up to the beginning of a new life."

Doreen Rayson of Warwickshire, England, discovered she has been tending the wrong grave for 25 years. She learned the grave she thought was her father's wasn't when her mother died and she arranged for her to be buried next to her father, who was a row over from where she had been leaving flowers all these years.

Robin Nash of Oxfordshire, England, pre-paid for a burial plot next to his mother, but while visiting the cemetery, he discovered that his former neighbor, Michael Coleman, occupied his grave. The parish council admitted giving the wrong grave number to the funeral director but said it couldn't move Coleman's body without his relatives' permission, "which was not forthcoming," Nash said, "and you can't blame them for that."

Fifteen Pages of Fame

Devoted fans of some of Britain's leading authors bid thousands of pounds to appear as characters in the writers' next books. Pete Coleman, spokesperson for the Medical Foundation, a London charity that sponsored the auction, said the largest bid was $8,952 to appear in Kathy Lette's next work. "I am a great fan of Kathy's," the bidder, Shelaine Green, said, "and would like to be somebody outrageous in her next book."

We Deliver

Inmates at Brazil's Dutra Ladeira prison have opened a pizzeria and bakery that delivers up to 140 pizzas on weekends to customers in Belo Horizonte. Thenys Chagas Pereira, a convicted drug runner who runs the Little Tutu pizzeria, said the business began to supply inmates on visiting days. Later prison officials started taking pizzas home, and people from homes nearby started ordering. Pereira explained that a partner outside the prison delivers the pizzas but said he is trying to arrange for inmates to handle some of the deliveries.

Thank You, Sir, May I Have Another?

Performance artist David Leslie opened a show in New York City in which audience members try to win $1,000 by knocking him out with their fists. "I'll be covering up," he said, "but people will have, like, 15 uninterrupted shots at me."

Akira Hareruya, 37, has published a book recounting his life as a human punching bag. After finding himself in debt for 15 million yen, the electrician said he considered bankruptcy and suicide, then decided the honorable way out of his predicament was to moonlight by standing on the street and charging passers-by 1,000 yen a minute to punch him. Two years later, nearly 8,000 people have accepted his offer. Many more have offered encouragement and wished him luck. In his book "Nagurareya" (Life as a Human Punching Bag), he tells of one encounter with Japanese gangsters, who demanded he pay them a fee to perform. "I am sorry, but I have no money. That is why I am doing this," he told them. "If you insist on my paying you 50,000 yen, you can punch me for 50 minutes."
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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