NewsQuirks 714

Curses, Foiled Again

A man who robbed a bank in Port Royal, Va., stuffed the money in his pockets, but as he fled, $100 bills fell out. When he reached his getaway car, he found he had locked the keys inside and tried to break the window with a log. When he failed, he hurled the log at a pickup truck parked nearby. The pickup's owner, Emmett Lowe, saw the incident from inside his store and confronted the man, not knowing of the robbery. After a short conversation, Lowe returned to his store, where bank tellers, who had witnessed the confrontation, called to tell him that the man had just robbed them. According to Caroline County Sheriff's Capt. Scott Moser, Lowe grabbed a gun and, joined by bystander Larry Aguilar, chased and tackled the suspect. The suspect tried to shoot them, but the hammer of his gun got caught up on his pocket. He finally got a round off but shot himself in the leg. He continued struggling, and Lowe shot him in the same leg. Police arrived and arrested Edward Butler Blaine, 61.

Remain Calm

After skepticism, ridicule and panic buying greeted the government's advice to prepare for likely terrorist chemical attacks by stockpiling duct tape and plastic sheeting to create airtight safe rooms, President Bush and Homeland Security boss Tom Ridge insisted that such measures were the best the government could come up with. "We're working overtime to protect you," Bush declared during an appearance at FBI headquarters. Ridge subsequently pointed out that duct tape and plastic sheeting are "appropriately listed as emergency supplies" to have in case of a chemical attack but acknowledged that "we do not want individuals or families to start sealing their doors or windows." A few days later, Ridge, making his third such announcement in 10 days, urged Americans, "Stash away the duct tape. Don't use it, stash it away." Instead, in case of a chemical attack, the Department of Homeland Security's advice (for now) is to run. Its website (www.ready.gov) instructs citizens subjected to a chemical attack: "Take immediate action to get away."

Just don't rush to your child's school. School administrators in the Washington, D.C., metro area told parents that, in the event of a biological or chemical attack, they would be strongly discouraged or actually prevented from picking up their children. The Washington Post reported that officials in Loudon County, Va., intend to lock down schools and post signs in Spanish and English warning that nobody will be allowed to enter or exit.

There'll Always Be an England

British police unveiled a new tactic in the war against crime: politely asking criminals to mend their ways. Inspector Geoff Miles sent personal letters to 22 persistent offenders in Wiltshire county, suggesting that the recipient "make it a priority in any New Year's resolutions you make from 2003 onwards, to cease forthwith your criminal activities." Miles said that sending the letters is an experiment that "will not do any harm," but he pointed out that he's being realistic. "These are career criminals," he added, "but we are career police officers."

Running Out of Disguises

Americans who wear Canada's red maple-leaf symbol abroad hoping that it shields them from hostility have been thwarted by Arab reaction to Canada's ban on the Lebanese-based Islamic movement Hezbollah. Anticipating violence, Raymond Baaklini, Lebanon's ambassador to Canada, said that because of the ban, "I am afraid it will be urgent for a Canadian to wear a non-Canadian T-shirt in Lebanon and the Arabic world."

Chicken Little Was Right

A 32-year-old woman was critically injured when a man fell to his death in an apparent suicide leap from a 44-story Waikiki hotel and landed on the roof of her van. James Hagar III, who heard something smash into the van behind him, said that when he saw the man's body and the dent on top of the van, he dropped his moped and headed for shelter "in case anything else fell from the sky."

Not Just Another Pretty Face

Botox shots commonly used to smooth facial wrinkles may also fight smelly armpits by paralyzing sweat glands, according to a German study. The study's author, Marc Kechmann of Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, said that volunteers rated the armpits of 16 people injected with botulinum toxin A lower in smell intensity than before the shots and more pleasant in odor quality. The armpits were also noticeably drier after the shots.

Rewriting the Rules

The government's $397 billion spending bill, which Congress approved Feb. 13, includes among its 3,000 pages a provision that lets livestock producers label meat as "organic" even if the animal has been fed partially or entirely on conventional rather than organic grain. The provision takes effect whenever the Agriculture Department confirms that available organic feed costs more than twice as much as conventional feed. The New York Times reported that Republicans added the provision on behalf of the Fieldale Farms Corp., a poultry producer in Baldwin, Ga., which has been trying since last summer to be permitted to label its chickens as organic while feeding them a mix of conventional and organic feed. A $4,000 campaign contribution to Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., apparently did the trick.

Victim's Rights

A judge in Auburn, Wash., dismissed charges of being an accomplice to reckless driving against Teresa Hedlund, 30, whom prosecutors accused of encouraging Thomas Stewart, 22, to drive recklessly while drunk, in part by videotaping a ride that ended in a crash that killed everyone in the car except her. At one point in the video, Stewart says, "Watch me driving. You gotta record this shit." Judge Patrick Burns called Hedlund's behavior "abhorrent" but said, "I think being in an automobile and having your car wrapped around a pillar and spending months in rehabilitation constitutes being a victim." He ruled that state law does not allow a victim of a crime to be charged as an accomplice.

Picky, Picky

When a man walked into a bank in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and handed the teller a note demanding "hundreds, tens, twenties from both drawers, top and bottom," the teller explained that she had only a few $20, $10 and $5 bills but could give him $600 in $1 bills. Orange County sheriff's representative Jim Amormino said the robber declined the $1 bills and settled for only the loose twenties.

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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