NewsQuirks 690

Curses, Foiled Again

Police in Gainesville, Fla., charged David Christopher Lander, 51, with breaking into a 1994 Infiniti after they found him inside. "He was trying to hide, all scrunched down in the back seat. I guess he thought deputies couldn't see him," said Sgt. Keith Faulk of the Alachua County Sheriff's Department, explaining that the vehicle is equipped with an anti-theft device that automatically locks the doors when the car alarm is triggered. "Had he pushed the button on the driver's side door, he could have gotten out." Faulk added, "Maybe he needs a new line of work. He's not very good at what he's doing now."

Homeland Security

After suspending mail deliveries because anthrax spores were detected in 16 congressional offices last October, the U.S. Postal Service began treating all mail addressed to Congress and federal agencies with large doses of nuclear radiation. A report by the general counsel of the Office of Compliance noted that shortly after mail deliveries resumed in January, a substantial number of congressional employees experienced long-term health problems, which have been linked to the irradiated mail. The report traced some of the problems--headaches, burning eyes, itching skin and nausea--to "overdoses" of radiation and irritant chemical byproducts caused by irradiation of the mail, probably as a result of the breakdown of cellulose in the paper mail during the irradiation process.

King of Fat

The Wall Street Journal reported that Ulf Ellingsen, 51, owns Europe's largest stockpile of whale blubber, having hoarded 600 tons in colossal freezers 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle. He said that he would like to sell his blubber, but Norwegians, who prefer lean whale meat, won't touch it. He also can't sell it to Japan, where whale blubber is a delicacy and his stash would fetch around $10 million, because of the global embargo on trade in whale products. Meanwhile, he spends around $100,000 a year to store the blubber, keeping the freezers running year-round at 22 degrees below zero.

Pandering to Passion

Hoping to stop giant pandas from becoming extinct, researchers at the China Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center in Sichuan province have begun requiring all adult males to watch videos of wild and captive pandas having sex. "Through this kind of sex education," the center's director, Zhang Heming, said, "we expect to arouse the sexual instincts of giant pandas, enhance their natural mating ability and raise their reproductive capacity."

Tripped Up

When police Officer Chip Ridgeway noticed a van with three men inside parked in front of a business in Englewood, Ohio, early one morning, he slowed to investigate. The van tried to ram Ridgeway's cruiser, but swerved at the last minute and sped away. Ridgeway and other officers chased the van to a residential cul-de-sac. "The van sideswiped a tree, so the only person able to flee was the driver, Michael Ford, who took off on foot with the officers in pursuit," Detective Mike Lang said. "He only made it as far as the back yard as he had a prosthetic leg, which came off when he was running and decreased his mobility."

Great Escape

When a 27-year-old convicted murderer was sent to Germany's Waldeck prison, he was assigned to work in the prison's box-folding department. After he turned up missing, Christian Pegel of the justice ministry of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state said, "It appears he got into a box." A truck driver unwittingly transported the box out of the prison, and the inmate jumped off the vehicle unseen.

Good News, Bad News

To help commuters relax during the summertime heat and humidity, the Japanese train company Fuji Kyuko began serving its Friday night passengers all the locally brewed beer they can drink during the two-hour trip. Company representative Naotaka Nishiyama reported the trains have been "almost completely booked up," even though they have no restrooms.

Second-Amendment Follies

After a 45-year-old woman complained to the authorities about someone smashing a bottle outside her home in Ozaukee County, Wis., she told the deputies who responded that she had fired her .22-caliber handgun into the air as a warning to the occupants of the passing car. The deputies seized the weapon and took the woman to the Sheriff's Department, where she was booked. "I thought I was going there to tell my story," she said, "and then they started saying I had committed a crime." When two men robbed a sheet-metal business in Philadelphia, the workers began chasing them. One of the robbers turned and fired shots at the workers but hit his accomplice in the head. The accomplice collapsed and died, while the other robber escaped with the money. "It's a robbery that got sloppy," police Capt. Lou Campione said.

Why They Call It Dope

A 32-year-old man complained to police in Saanich, British Columbia, that someone had stolen the marijuana that he was growing at home. Officers responded and found that the thieves had left behind just enough of the marijuana to charge the victim with possession. "It's surprising," Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Peter Lane said, "what some people will report to police."

Police in Middlefield, Ohio, arrested James J. Bowers, 27, outside a bar at 3:30 a.m. after finding him asleep and snoring in his pickup truck with a bag of marijuana on his lap. When asked about the bag, Bowers told police Sgt. Mark Clark, "OK, you got me. It's mine. It's my weed," then explained he must have drifted off while "getting ready to roll a joint." Authorities charged Vivian Frazier, 32, with passing 2 grams of methamphetamine in a balloon to her new husband, Jeremy Guinther, 32, when she kissed him at the conclusion of their wedding ceremony at Indiana's Vigo County Jail. According to a police report, a guard became suspicious after noticing that inmate Guinther had a slight bulge in his cheek after the kiss. The guard ordered Guinther to open his mouth, but the inmate swallowed. Guinther was taken to the hospital, where the drug was recovered awhile later.

Nor Iron Bars a Prison Make

After authorities in Cole County, Mo., placed convicted murderer Michael Kempker II, 20, under house arrest while awaiting sentence, he notified them that he wanted to go to jail instead. According to Sheriff John Hemeyer, Kempker explained that he had had enough of his parents and wanted to leave home before the situation escalated.

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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