NewsQuirks 688

Curses, Foiled Again

Italian police reported that three men drilled a hole through the wall of a bank in Genoa, but after the first two men entered, the third found that he was too fat to fit. He walked around to the front door for his accomplices to let him in, but the bank's security cameras recorded him, allowing police to identify Giovanni Sollami, 54.

Police in Tulsa, Okla., chased a burglary suspect to the Arkansas River, where he jumped in to try and evade capture. His pockets were stuffed with jewelry, and he held on tightly to a duffel bag full of stolen goods that weighed nearly 50 pounds. "He got about 40 yards out and yelled for help," police representative Lucky Lamons said. "The officers took off their shirts, shoes and belts and jumped into the river. By the time they reached him, he had gone under." Rescue workers recovered the body of Edward Jerome McBride, 37, and the duffel bag containing cameras, compact discs and other items.

Double Jeopardy

Authorities in Hillsborough County, Fla., said that a pilot who died when his small plane crashed into a wooded area near Tampa was the same man who survived a helicopter crash the night before. In that crash, Michael Antinori, 30, suffered minor injuries when his experimental helicopter smashed into a house.

Wrecked Him

Authorities charged Kimberly King, 26, of Aliceville, Ala., with attacking her boyfriend and slicing off most of his buttocks. Police said the two had argued at a bar in Mississippi, then left separately. King reportedly pulled up behind the victim's vehicle on an isolated highway and, when he got out, began stabbing him with a large utility knife. When he fell, District Attorney Chris McCool said, "she got down on him and just started cutting."

Chill Out

When city councilors in Greenacres, Fla., approved construction of a new Wendy's hamburger restaurant with the stipulation that its outdoor garbage bins be air-conditioned, they were following the example of the nearby town of Lantana, where the garbage bins of a Wendy's sit inside a concrete block enclosure with a wall-mounted air conditioner. Plans for a new gas station-convenience store in Lantana also include an enclosed air-conditioned trash bin. "Lantana, we set the trend," Town Manager Mike Bornstein told the Palm Beach Post. "We're not going to let our garbage smell."

Second-Amendment Follies

After Randy Johnston, 20, shot his girlfriend Brandy Sager, 18, in Beaver Falls, Pa., he called police and explained the .22-caliber gun fired accide ntally while he was cleaning it. When emergency personnel arrived to tend to the woman's wound, Johnston grabbed the gun from the bedroom mattress to show Detective Scott Chichy how the gun had gone off, despite Chichy's orders to leave the gun alone. Johnston ejected the bullet clip from the gun and told Chichy it was safe, then pointed it at the mattress and pulled the trigger. The round remaining in the chamber fired into the mattress. Among the charges filed against Johnston was receiving stolen property since police said the gun was reported stolen from a home.

While Rep. Bob Barr, a Georgia Republican and a board member of the National Rifle Association, was inspecting an antique .38-caliber pistol at a reception in an Atlanta suburb, the weapon accidentally fired and hit a glass door. "Nobody was in any danger," said lobbyist Bruce Widener, who explained that he handed Barr the gun after removing the magazine but failing to check the chamber. "We were handling it safely, except that it was loaded."

Hard Sell

Sex on television doesn't necessarily help advertisers sell their products, according to researchers at Iowa State University. Psychologists Brad Bushman and Angelica Bonacci assigned 324 adult volunteers to watch violent, sexually explicit or neutral programs, then asked them to name products advertised during the shows, both immediately after the shows and 24 hours later. Viewers who saw the shows with no sexual content remembered the ads better. The results were the same for men and women. "One possible reason why sex and violence impair memory for commercials is because people pay attention to sex and violence, thus reducing the amount of attention they can pay to the commercials. Another possibility is that sexual and violent content prompt sexual and violent thoughts," Bushman said. "Thinking about sex and violence, instead of the commercials, could reduce commercial memory."

Victim of Habit

When a man rushed into the Azteca pastry shop in Mexico City for four straight mornings, each time threatening an employee with a knife and making off with a chocolate cake, police noted the robberies occurred promptly at 8 a.m. On the fifth day, officers simply staked out the store, and when Evaristo Perez, armed with a knife, showed up at 8 o'clock to demand his cake, they arrested him.

Cheaper Than Viagra

Drinking two beers a day can stave off impotence, according to Dr. Pavel Zemek, a researcher at the Czech Centre for Gerontology. Zemek told the newspaper Narodna that beer can have a "powerful effect" to stop the arteries becoming blocked, but, he added, "Drink too much beer in one go and the positive effects are negated."

Cause and Effect

The earlier onset of puberty among black girls in the United States can be traced to hair products marketed to black people, according to Chandra Tiwary, former chief of pediatric endocrinology at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. The products, which are sold as shampoos or treatments to deep-condition dry, brittle hair, contain small amounts of the hormone estrogen. Tiwary, whose 1998 study of four girls -- including a 14-month-old -- who developed breasts or public hair after beginning to use such products, explained that the hormone is absorbed through the skin, indicating that long-term exposure could cause premature puberty. "I believe that the frequency of sexual precocity could be reduced," Tiwary said, "simply if children do not use those hair products."

Say It Ain't So, Quasimodo

The British theater company Oddsocks Productions retitled its stage adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic 1831 novel "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" to avoid offending people with spina bifada or scoliosis of the spine. The play's new title is "The Bellringer of Notre Dame."

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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