NewsQuirks 691

Curses, Foiled Again

Authorities in Warren County, Ohio, charged Lois English, 47, with receiving stolen property after she rented a U-Haul truck in California the year before but never returned it. A co-worker contacted police after noticing that English regularly drove the rental truck to work. "The co-worker had worked at U-Haul before or something like that," county prosecutor Tim Oliver told the Dayton Daily News. "One thing he knew is that U-Haul didn't rent vehicles out so that people could go to work every day."

Hole of Dreams

After a $170,000 facelift five years ago, officials reopened a natural pothole at Pennsylvania's Archbald Pothole State Park, hoping it would become the attraction that it had been in the early 20th century. Instead, officials admitted, the 42-foot-wide, 38-foot-deep hole has become a prime location for trash dumping, vandalism and loitering.

Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens

Hong Kong officials reported that financial problems are forcing more people to move into so-called cage rooms, which consist of a bed in an enclosure that is barely high enough to sit in. Fifty people share a kitchen and bathroom. The latest estimate is that 10,000 city residents pay $100 a month for a cage room.

What's My Line?

Brian Root, 44, makes his living entering contests that require contestants to keep their hands on an automobile. Root told the Wall Street Journal that since quitting his job as a produce manager in a health-food store in the mid-1980s, he has won or tied for first in 16 hands-on contests, collecting about $160,000 by selling the cars and trucks he claimed as prizes. Root, who lives with his mother in Mobile, Ala., attributes his success to his vegetarian diet, wearing sunglasses (they unsettle his opponents) and his sidekick, Paul Rathe, who tends to Root's needs during breaks in exchange for a cut of the winnings. "I've never really liked working, doing the 8-to-5," he said. "I knew it would give me the freedom to go to the beach." He added that his long stands--up to 225 hours--are "like a spiritual experience. Your mind goes to places it's never gone before. You see a part of yourself you never see otherwise."

Tell It Like It Is

Evangelist Orlando Bethel followed other ministers to the microphone at his wife's uncle's funeral in Loxley, Ala., but he disputed their assurances that the deceased had gone to a better place. Instead, he declared that Devan Taylor, 56, had gone to hell. He also called Taylor's 100 or so mourners "fornicators" and "whoremongers." When the microphone was abruptly disconnected, Bethel reached into his gym bag for what apparently was a bullhorn. Some thought he was going for a gun, however, and fled. Bethel's wife Glynis, who insisted that her uncle was "so mean he would toss shotgun shells into a burning fire and yell, 'Run,'" defended her husband, adding that he was dragged from the church and mobbed by "unbelievers." "The Taylor family is large," Glenita Andrews, a cousin of Taylor's, said. "Orlando and Devan had some problems."

Waste Not, Want Not

In September 1986, the cargo ship Khian Sea left Philadelphia hauling 14,855 tons of ash from one of the city's municipal trash incinerators to a manmade island in the Bahamas. Before the ship docked, however, the Bahamian government changed its mind and turned the ship away. According to the Washington Post, over the next two years, at least 11 countries on four continents also rejected the ship's cargo. The Khian Sea was able to offload 4,000 tons of the incinerator ash on a beach in Haiti before protests forced it to leave with the remaining 10,855 tons. In November 1988, the ship finally docked in Singapore, having illegally dumped the ash into the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Meanwhile, the 4,000 tons of ash in Haiti remained on the beach. Finally, in 2000, the Haitian government, the U.S. State Department, the city of Philadelphia and the New York City Trade Waste Commission worked out an agreement enabling the ash to be shipped back to the United States. Five states and the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma refused to take it, however, so it sat on a barge in Stuart, Fla., until this summer, when it was accepted by a private landfill in Upton, Pa., which is only 120 miles from where the waste's 16-year odyssey began. "It was generated by Pennsylvanians," said Dennis Buterbaugh of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, "and we feel it's only proper that it should be disposed of in Pennsylvania."

Holding a Grudge

Hava Rexha, who turned 122 in August, making her the oldest woman in Albania, said that her one regret was her marriage in 1894. She was 14 and said she was forced to marry a man who claimed to be 30 but was "about 60 and married twice before." Adding to her misery, he didn't die until 1950. "I didn't love my husband," she said 108 years after the wedding. "He was an old man."

Positive Energy

Italian priests at a church in Milan noticed that a young South American couple had become regulars and spent an hour each visit sitting in front of a Madonna statue before silently departing. The priests assumed the couple was seeking spiritual guidance until a cleaning person noticed an electrical cable behind the statue, Closer examination revealed the visitors were using the electrical outlet used to light up the Madonna to charge their cell phone. Parish priest Don Antonio Colombo said the couple would not be barred from the church, telling the Corriere della Sera newspaper that "letting them charge their mobile phone is a bit like giving them a glass of water."

No Pulitzer Prize Here

New Jersey's Trentonian newspaper published a story about a fire at a state psychiatric hospital. The story was headlined "Roasted Nuts." Copy editor Tony Persichilli apologized for the headline, which was not only insensitive, but also technically inaccurate since none of the 450 patients at the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital were injured.

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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