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Bad Girls Club: Women of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List

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Around 500 people have appeared on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list since its inception in 1949. But only eight of those fugitives have been women. Let’s take a look at these dangerous women’s stories.

1. Ruth Eisemann-Schier

FBI authorities probably knew that it would take a doozy of a crime for a woman to break the Ten Most Wanted list’s gender barrier, and Ruth Eisemann-Schier was certainly involved in a horrific one. In 1968 Eisemann-Schier and her lover, Gary Steven Krist, kidnapped construction heiress and Emory University student Barbara Jane Mackle. The pair demanded a $500,000 ransom from Mackle’s father.

Any kidnapping is horrible enough, but Eisemann-Schier and Krist escalated the horror by burying Mackle alive in a ventilated box in the Georgia woods so she wouldn’t be found until the ransom was paid. When the pair finally received their money, Krist called the FBI with directions to where Mackle was hidden. Amazingly, Mackle was alive and in relatively good health despite spending over 80 hours underground.

Police quickly caught up with Krist, but Eisemann-Schier proved to be more elusive. On December 28, 1968 Eisemann-Schier became the first woman ever to appear on the Ten Most Wanted list, and authorities nabbed her just 79 days later. She spent four years in prison before being deported to her native Honduras.

2. Marie Dean Arrington

Less than three months after Eisemann-Schier’s arrest, the list got its second female tenant. Arrington had originally been on Florida’s death row for the murder of the secretary of a public defender who had unsuccessfully defended her two children on armed robbery charges. (Her sentence was later reduced to life in prison.)

Arrington didn’t stay in jail for too long, though. She cut through a heavy screen in a prison window and escaped in her pajamas in early 1969. She spent over two years on the lam before law enforcement finally tracked her down; the escape earned her an extra 10 years on her prison sentence.

3. Angela Yvonne Davis

On August 7, 1970, Jonathan P. Jackson stormed a courtroom in Marin County, CA, and took Judge Harold Haley and three jurors hostage in an ill-fated attempt to negotiate the freedom of “The Soledad Brothers,” three African-American prisoners who were accused of murdering a white guard at Soledad Prison earlier that year. (Jackson’s brother George was one of the three accused inmates.)

Jonathan Jackson’s brash show of force didn’t result in his brother’s freedom, but Judge Haley was fatally wounded. Investigators quickly learned that Black Panther and Communist activist Angela Davis had purchased the weapons used in Jackson’s attack, and she went on the run. The FBI eventually placed her on the Ten Most Wanted list, and on October 13, 1970, law enforcement apprehended Davis in New York City.

In 1972 Davis was acquitted on all charges related to the incident at the Marin County courthouse, and she has gone on to have a more successful career than the run-of-the-mill fugitive. She spent time on the faculty at the University of California, Santa Cruz and was the Communist Party USA’s vice-presidential candidate in 1980 and 1984.

4. Bernardine Rae Dohrn

Dohrn, a University of Chicago-educated lawyer and leader of the radical Weather Underground movement, joined the Ten Most Wanted list in 1970 as the result of her Weather-related activities, including the Days of Rage actions in October 1969. The FBI never actually caught up with Dohrn while she was on the list; she fell off of the list in 1974 after a federal judge dismissed the case against her and her fellow Weathermen.

In 1980 Dohrn and her husband, fellow Weather Underground leader William Ayers, turned themselves in to authorities. She served less than a year in jail for her various radical activities, and she has since spent time on the law faculty at Northwestern.

5 & 6. Katherine Ann Power and Susan Edith Saxe

In September 1970 radical roommates Power and Saxe took part in a complicated plot to protest the Vietnam War by arming and funding the Black Panthers. The pair and their co-conspirators were actually successful in robbing a National Guard armory, but one of their accomplices murdered Boston police officer Walter Schroeder in a subsequent bank robbery.

Power and Saxe managed to escape the authorities during the botched bank robbery, but two months later they were added to the Most Wanted list. Saxe eluded the feds for five years before eventually being arrested, but Power managed to remain on the loose for 23 years before finally surrendering in 1993. She served six years of a sentence for armed robbery and manslaughter before being paroled.

7. Donna Jean Willmott

In 1987 Willmott and Claude Daniel Marks became the first man-and-woman team to make the Most Wanted List when they earned a spot for hatching a 1985 scheme to blow up the federal prison in Leavenworth, KS, in order to spring a Puerto Rican nationalist leader. The pair made the critical blunder of buying phony explosives from an FBI informant, but they were able to evade the authorities long enough to go into hiding.

The pair managed to elude capture for over seven years, long enough for both of them to start families and settle down under aliases with their spouses in Pittsburgh. After their 1994 arrest, details emerged that showed the pair weren’t your standard terrorists. Willmott had made quite a name for herself by working tirelessly for several local AIDS charities.

8. Shauntay Henderson

Reputed Kansas City gang leader Shauntay Henderson made her first appearance on the FBI’s famed list on March 31, 2007. Authorities sought Henderson as the shooter in an execution-style murder of a Kansas City man as he sat in his truck.

Henderson’s tenure at the top of the fugitive world was a brief one, though, as authorities finally tracked her down…on March 31, 2007—the same day she first appeared on the list. (Amazingly, Henderson’s short stay on the list didn’t earn her the record for the quickest turnaround by the FBI. That dubious distinction goes to Billie Austin Bryant, a bank robber who murdered two FBI agents in January 1969. Bryant’s name went on the most-wanted list at 5 p.m. at January 8, 1969. The FBI had him in custody by 7 p.m. after Bryant accidentally trapped himself in an attic while trying to elude the authorities.)

Henderson actually only ended up serving three years for a voluntary manslaughter rap connected to the murder and regained her freedom in the spring of 2010. She quickly ran afoul of the law again; a federal grand jury indicted her on weapons charges following a September 2010 car chase with police.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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