NewsQuirks 689

To the Rescue

Twice in June, firefighters in Washington, D.C., had to resort to borrowing ordinary garden hoses to battle house fires because their official equipment was inoperative. In the first incident, a valve on the first pumper truck to arrive on the scene did not work. In the second incident, a fire broke out in a house directly behind a firehouse, and firefighters responded on foot because their regular pumper truck was being serviced and their reserve truck was unusable because two of its valves were severely leaking. The blaze caused $50,000 worth of damage when firefighters were unable to control it because, according to Lt. Patrick Kelly, who was in command at the scene, it "had gotten so big that the garden hose was doing very little."

Slightest Provocations

Police investigating the shooting deaths of Pearle Cogswell, 66, and Eugene Cogswell, 75, in Milo, Maine, concluded that the incident was a murder-suicide resulting from an argument that began over a blueberry pie. Pearle Cogswell called a relative to report that her husband objected to her plans to give the freshly baked pie away. Later, she called police to report that she was a victim of domestic assault after her husband threw a glass of wine in her face. Stephen McCausland of the Maine Department of Public Safety said the dispute over the pie apparently escalated to the wine incident and then to the shootings. Investigators found a handgun beside Eugene Cogswell and the uneaten pie on the kitchen counter.

Denver authorities charged Michael Nunez, 30, with stabbing Corina Martinez 40 times, then stuffing her body in a trash bin because she discovered that he liked to wear women's lingerie. Martinez, 59, a security guard at the shopping mall food court where Nunez worked, found Nunez in a back room removing women's panties, pantyhose, a burgundy camisole and slip and a white nightgown with spaghetti straps that he wore to work under his regular clothing. He attacked her to make sure she wouldn't tell anyone "the secret he kept for 10 years," prosecutor Katie O'Brien said, then went back to work "making sandwiches and waiting on the public."

Authorities in Johnson County, Texas, charged Clayton Frank Stoker, 21, with fatally shooting Johnny Joslin, 20, while the two men argued over who would go to heaven and who was going to hell. Sheriff Bob Alford said that, according to a witness, the men began arguing while sitting at a table outside a trailer park after a night on the town. Stoker declared he would settle the argument. He went into a house and returned with a shotgun, loaded it and placed the barrel in his mouth. "The victim Joslin then took the gun out of Stoker's mouth, saying, 'If you have to shoot somebody, shoot me,'" Alford said, adding that the shotgun went off, hitting Joslin in the chest.

A judge in Bucks County, Pa., ruled that Daniel Strouss, 19, will stand trial for trying to kill a friend because the friend had given him a wedgie. Prosecutors said Strouss was attending a Phish concert when his friend Eric Kassoway, 19, sneaked up behind him and yanked up his underwear. Strouss, who doesn't dispute the prosecution's version of events, held a grudge for nearly a year before shooting Kassoway in the arm and leg with a 9mm gun.

Sex Is Its Own Punishment

Sex may shorten your life, according to researchers at England's University of Sheffield. "Those organisms that mate the most, and are therefore more successful in evolutionary terms, reduce their own life expectancy in the process," Dr. Michael Siva-Jothy said, explaining that mating releases a hormone that damages the immune system. Although the scientists drew their conclusions from studying mealworm beetles, they said the findings could hold true for humans.

Auto Erotica

A tryst turned fatal when two young New York City lovers were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes while having sex in the backseat of a running car they parked in a garage. Yan Wang, 23, and her boyfriend, Yen-Chun Hwang, 22, were found dead in the garage of his family's home in Queens. Because it was hot, the couple apparently left the car running so they could use the air conditioner, police said, and closed the garage door for privacy.

Newsday reported that Hwang's uncle heard the car running in the garage and found Wang in the backseat. He spotted his nephew on the garage floor, apparently having tried to crawl to safety. Hwang's family members called 911. Detectives were puzzled to find Hwang had his clothes on while Wang was nude until Hwang's mother admitted that both had been nude, but she had started trying to dress the couple to spare the families the embarrassment over the way the victims died.

When Ontario police stopped a car south of Barrie, the officer said he was "astonished" to discover that the couple was having sex while they were driving. "Both occupants of the vehicle were engaged in activities other than that normally expected of persons driving an automobile," senior constable Norm Galestzoski told The Toronto Star. "The female passenger was completely nude, and the male driver was also in a state of undress."

Galestzoski said the officer charged the 31-year-old man with driving without a license and 25-year-old woman with allowing him to drive her vehicle without a license. They then left "with a reminder from police to enjoy their extracurricular activities at home."

Believe This

When Ripley's Believe It or Not archivist Edward Meyer announced that he was holding auditions in Los Angeles for the next edition of "Ripley's Believe It or Not Encyclopedia of the Bizarre," nobody showed up. "I don't know what to say," Meyer's publicist, Kim Dower, told the Los Angeles Times. "We thought we were going to have hundreds of people. Maybe L.A. has become so bizarre that nobody realizes how bizarre they are anymore."

Not-So-Great Britain

The condom maker Condomi reported that its launch of a new extra-big version was a flop in the United Kingdom because British men were too shy to buy them. "Research shows that most men rate their penis as smaller than average, which of course is not true, and may be an illusion based on the distorted view of the genitals from above," said Glenn Wilson, a psychologist employed by Condomi to examine the issue. "Knowledge of this effect may be reassuring to many men and help raise their self-esteem."

The Condomi XXL is 200mm long, 20mm longer than its standard size, and 54mm across, 2mm wider than its other products. "We launched the XXL condom in the U.K. on the basis that there is a demand for a larger condom. In all Condomi's other markets it is selling well," Condomi's Victoria Wells said. "Unfortunately, U.K. retailers aren't as convinced as we are that British men are well-endowed, but we hope that our research, coupled with Dr. Wilson's research, will help convince them to now start selling the XXL product."

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:
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