NewsQuirks 657

Curses, Foiled Again

Marsha Reid, 19, was accused of stealing $900 worth of clothing from a Miami department store but managed to slip away from security guards. She was able to elude them until she decided to hide by jumping into a parked car. The car belonged to two off-duty police officers.

Best-Laid Plans

Richardo Gonzalez, 53, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., figured the best way to protect himself against muggers was to carry four homemade grenades with him. In December, he was walking along when one of the grenades exploded in his bag. According to a witness, a second grenade exploded in Gonzalez's hand, and he staggered to the dilapidated van he lives in. Police took him to the hospital, then to the Broward County Jail, where he was charged with bomb-making.

Mary Palmieri, 44, of Enfield, Conn., let two pagan friends try to relieve her pain from a hiatal hernia by conducting a Wiccan ceremony. It involved writing down Palmieri's problems, then burning the piece of paper with a candle so her troubles would go away. Instead, the candle set fire to an upstairs bedroom and burned down the house. Palmieri insisted that she is through with Wiccan rituals. "From now on," she said, "I will go to my pastor."

Italian authorities reported that Andreas Plack, 23, and his cousin Christian Kleon, 29, concocted a billion-lira ($460,000) insurance scam where Kleon cut open Plack's leg with a chain saw. To make it look like a crime, Kleon then fled the scene and threw the chain saw into a nearby river. Plack was adept at first aid, so the pair believed he would be able to stop the bleeding before calling for help. But the cut was too deep, authorities said, and his voice was so distorted by pain that when he called for an ambulance, operators couldn't understand where he was, and he bled to death. Kleon was charged with murder.

Nobel Peace Prize Candidate

Prime Minister Hun Sen reasserted his anti-vice crackdown by threatening Cambodia's rogue karaoke bars with a new weapon. "If we know of any karaoke parlor still open," Hun Sen instructed a military commander during a speech on state radio, "go to close it immediately and take tanks to knock it down."

Incendiary Devices

A 58-year-old woman in Daytona Beach, Fla., suffered serious burns when her boyfriend tried to burn an opossum in their yard. Fire Lt. Larry Morgan said the man told rescue workers he killed the opossum, then followed a neighbor's advice to burn the carcass. While fueling the flames with gasoline, he tripped, fell backward and splashed gas on the woman's right leg, which caught fire. But EVAC spokesperson Mark O'Keefe offered a different account, based on 911 tapes. He said the man initially told dispatchers that he set fire to the animal, and it chased the couple around the yard, then ran into the woman and set her leg on fire.

Can Children Sue Parents for Failing to Have an Abortion?

A Florida appeals court ruled that children have the right to sue their mothers for injuries caused by bad driving during pregnancy.

A court in Sweden ruled that a man who donated sperm for artificial insemination so a lesbian couple could have three children must pay child support of $265 per month after the couple ended their 10-year relationship.

Massachusetts's highest court ruled that children who are conceived artificially after the father's death have the same inheritance rights as other youngsters.

Barnum Was Right

Cole Bartiromo, 17, of Mission Viejo, Calif., raised more than $1 million on his website by persuading people to make risk-free bets on college and professional sporting events, guaranteeing returns of up to 2,500 percent. The high-school student assured the more than 1,000 investors whom he defrauded that he had a "team of bettors who were very good at what they did and only bet on sure things," Alexander Vasilescu, senior trial counsel for the Securities and Exchange Commission, told the New York Times. "It's fair to say that some people who invested weren't sophisticated."

Defending the Homeland

Pennsylvania authorities announced that troops will be deployed in Punxsutawney, Pa., on Feb. 2 to guard groundhog Punxsutawney Phil. Protection measures will include state police, bomb-sniffing dogs and National Guard troops. State Police spokesperson Jamie Levier said that police will hand check all backpacks, and spectators will not be permitted to drive to the groundhog site but must ride school buses. "We just never know what may pop up in these times," Levier said, "so we are getting prepared."

A heat-sensing camera that can detect liars could be used as an airport security tool, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic. In six of eight persons who lied, the high-resolution thermal-imaging camera detected a faint blushing around their eyes that the researchers said is evidence of deception. They indicated that such facial imaging could provide a quick and easy way to spot terrorists at airports and border crossings.

The Philadelphia-based Monell Chemical Senses Center said it is helping the military develop a super stink bomb, which would make people want to flee in disgust. "What they would be interested in is something to keep people out of certain areas," researcher Pamela Dalton said. "We are going for odors that every culture has experienced and the experience is negative."

Second-Amendment Follies

Bob Bowling, 32, of Willard, Ky., accidentally shot himself in the thigh, according to Kentucky State Police, while practicing his quick draw on a snowman.

Police in Murrieta, Calif., arrested William Ray Wood, 60, after they found a machine gun mounted to his Volkswagen Thing and ammunition used in AK-47 assault weapons. Wood explained that he is an avid collector of World War II items and that he and his nephew were "going shooting." A search of Wood's other car turned up five handguns and two assault rifles, one of which had a 100-round ammunition drum attached to it.

Hazards of New-Car Smell

New car interiors emit high levels of toxic chemicals for up to six months, according to an Australian study, which found levels of volatile organic compounds up to 128 times higher than recommended exposure limits. "That's much higher than the levels we've seen in new buildings, including buildings where people get sick," said Steve Brown of the CSIRO, Australia's national research organization.

Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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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