NewsQuirks 711

Curses, Foiled Again

Police in the Russian city of Vladimir apprehended a thief who stole a television off the shelf of an electronics store under the noses of sales clerks because he returned to demand the set's warranty, remote control, antenna and instruction manual. According to the news agency ITAR-Tass, the clerks recognized the man and called the police, who found the stolen TV set at his apartment.

Aaron Bell, 19, was convicted of robbing a Kentucky Fried Chicken store in Philadelphia where he was working. He showed up without a mask or other disguise, then tried to force his boss to open the safe at 9:15 p.m., even though Bell, as an employee, should have known it has a time lock set for 9 p.m. After he and his accomplice fled without any money, Bell showed up at the restaurant three days later to work his next shift, only to be arrested. "He was acting like nothing had happened," Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney M.K. Feeney said. "It's just like you basically have to ask yourself what was he thinking."

Prioritizing

The Los Angeles Police Department announced that it intends to ignore automated burglar alarms, explaining that they waste too much time to investigate and nine times out of 10 are false. Chief William Bratton said that the new policy would free his officers to deal with serious crime.

Austin, Texas, which proclaims itself the "live music capital of the world," is considering an ordinance to limit the hours and decibel level on the strip of music houses downtown. The measure was prompted by complaints from nearby residents.

Idea Whose Time Has Come

China's only privately owned automaker, China Geely Group, announced that it has begun production on the world's first karaoke car. The karaoke-equipped Geely Beauty Leopard goes on sale in April for $18,000.

The Truth Hurts

Fletcher Vredenburgh, 36, was forced to resign as director of New York City's Mayor's Action Center after he admitted calling New Yorkers "griping, often whining, often stupid" in an essay posted on the FightLikeApes website. In the unsigned essay written after his appointment to the $44,000-a-year job heading the center, which handles complaints about City Hall, Vredenburgh wrote, "I take painkillers, sleep a lot and think about killing every citizen and employee of New York City every minute I'm awake."

Handicapable

Australian authorities accused a blind man of lighting a device in his apartment, which contained enough hazardous material to blow up the entire building. Sydney police said that Andrew James Neems, 24, accessed bomb-making information from the Internet at a public library and had it translated into Braille. He was arrested after the device sparked a small fire in his kitchen, prompting discovery of the explosive material.

Instant Karma

After forcing another driver to stop abruptly during a road-rage incident outside Weatherford, Texas, B.J. Justin Lindin, 20, got out of his car, kicked and pounded the other car and threw a rock at the driver. While Lindin was returning to his car, Department of Public Safety investigator Roger Smith said, he was struck and killed by an oncoming car as it crested a hill. "To me, it was a big case of the brain not functioning," Peaster volunteer fire Capt. Mike Norris said. "Road rage is that way."

After quarreling with his girlfriend, Louis Rogers, 24, set fire to their 25th-floor apartment in Philadelphia's well-to-do Society Hill section, then leaped to a balcony one floor below. He set fire to that apartment as well. He jumped to the next floor, where a police officer confronted him as he hung from the balcony talking on his cellphone. He threw the phone at the officer, who tried to grab him before he slipped off the balcony and plummeted to his death. A next-door neighbor said Rogers kept loud birds, played music all night and sometimes leaned out his window and set things on fire.

Keeping Track

Police in Kenosha, Wis., arrested a man who reportedly used a Global Positioning System tracking device to stalk his girlfriend. The woman told investigators that her ex-boyfriend would just show up, no matter where she was, even in random places such as bars or on the highway. Police found the device attached under the hood of her car.

Moments after a woman in Dingwall, England, told her companion on the phone that her neighbor, Blair MacKay, was probably listening to their conversation, MacKay burst into her apartment and insisted, "I don't listen to phone conversations." A court fined MacKay, 32, $600 for invasion of privacy.

Nixon's Super-Duper Secret

Classified documents released in December revealed that in 1969 President Nixon ordered U.S. forces into a posture for nuclear conflict as part of a bluff that he hoped would scare the Soviet Union into forcing concessions from North Vietnam. The bluff, which Nixon described as part of his "madman" strategy, failed, the documents show, because the Soviets failed to react because they didn't care, might not have had that much influence over the North Vietnamese as Nixon believed or, like the rest of the world, might not have noticed.

Put on a Happy Face

After Britain's Royal Free Hospital claimed that facial transplants are now possible, thanks to microsurgery, the London Observer reported that a survey of 120 people, including doctors and nurses, found that although some would be willing to receive a face transplant, "not one would donate their face in the event of their death."

Third Time's a Charm

After Wilma Bennett, 79, was twice asked to leave a supermarket in Akron, Ohio, for complaining about having to wait in line to pay for her groceries, she complained a third time. Security guard Richard Shaver, 31, tried to escort her from the store, but Bennett smacked his face, then pulled a gun and threatened to shoot him. Believing it to be a toy gun, Shaver wrestled with the woman, who began kicking him. When police arrived, Bennett kicked at the officers and kicked the window frame of the cruiser door so hard that she bent it. The gun turned out to be a loaded .22-caliber revolver. "She's got a bad attitude," Shaver said, "but I'd never believe she'd go that far."

Compiled from the nation's press by Roland Sweet. Submit 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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