How Amazon’s Alexa Could Help Solve A Double Murder Case

Authorities in New Hampshire are turning to an unconventional sleuth in hopes of solving a New Hampshire double murder that took place in January 2017.

Timothy Verill is accused of first-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of Christine Sullivan, 48, and 32-year-old Jenna Pellegrini. Verill pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial

Last week, a judge ordered e-commerce giant Amazon to release any recordings taken by an Amazon Echo speaker seized by police from the murder scene. It’s unclear if the smart speaker contains any audio evidence, however, the court found probable cause recordings maintained on an Amazon server could contain “evidence of crimes committed against Ms. Sullivan, including the attack and possible removal of the body from the kitchen.”

“Accordingly, the State’s motion to search in lieu of a search warrant is granted,” reports ABC of the ruling. “The court directs to produce forthwith to the court any recordings made by an Echo smart speaker with Alexa voice command capability, FCC ID number ZWJ-0823, from the period of January 27, 2017 to January 29, 2017, as well as any information identifying cellular devices that were paired to that smart speaker during that time period.”

It adds to a growing amount of case studies citing concerns over privacy and technology, though an Amazon spokesperson told the Associated Press that the company won’t release customer information “without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us,” it’s not the first time Alexa has found herself in a sticky situation.

More than 30 million sold across the world last year and that number is expected to grow to nearly 50 million in 2018, making smart speakers the world’s fastest growing consumer technology, and it’s easy to see why. Alexa uses machine learning in real-time to assist users in everything from checking the calendar to finding the best takeout. When a person issues a voice command, Alexa records whatever was said and sends it to a cloud server that then interprets the command via Alexa Voice Services. The system then sends relevant data back to your device.

In practice, the system should only activate when triggered by a voice command, but that’s not always the case. Earlier this year, Amazon’s voice-controlled smart speaker recorded a couple’s private conversation and sent it to a person in their contact list in what Amazon called a misunderstanding. Last year, an Arkansas court similarly allowed prosecutors to use recordings captured by Amazon’s smart speaker as evidence in a murder trial (charges were ultimately dropped).

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Trevor Noah visited his grandma in South Africa, and now we’re basically in love with her.

Like him or not, no one can deny that Trevor Noah has lived a fascinating life.

If you haven’t read Trevor Noah’s memoir, “Born a Crime,” you’re missing out. The smart, witty comedian who took over Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” has lived a life few Americans his age can imagine.

Noah was born and raised in Soweto, a township of Johannesburg, South Africa, during the era of apartheid. The son of a black mother and white father, he was literally born a crime, since it was illegal for black people and white people to have sex in South Africa at that time. His book is filled with incredible stories of his upbringing, his fiercely determined mother, his experiences in “black church” and “white church,” and harrowing examples of what it meant to live under a blatantly racist system of government.

Some of the stories in his book include his grandmother, who played a big role in helping to raise him. Recently, Noah traveled to Johannesburg and took some time to chat with her and brought his camera crew with him.

One thing is clear: Noah’s “Gogo” is a 91-year-old force to be reckoned with.

“First things first,” Noah said, as he walked up to his grandmother’s house in Soweto. “Whenever you come into an African person’s house, you greet.” Then he called through the doorway, using a Zulu term for grandmother. “Gogo! Gogo! Hello, Gogo!

She invited Noah and the crew in, and the two sat down to chat. Their conversation veered from her exact age (91 years and 9 months) to Nelson Mandela (“Madiba!”) to the Flying Squads of white police officers who enforced South Africa’s racist laws.

“For young people,” said Noah, “it’s very hard to understand how scary it was to be a black person living in South Africa during that time. But everybody was scared of the police.”

His grandmother said they’d get a knock at the door at 3:00am with police telling them, “Dress up, let’s go!” just like that.

Noah pointed out that some people say since life is hard and some people don’t have jobs in South Africa that it would be better to go back to the way it was, to which his grandmother responded with a quick “No! No thank you. It wouldn’t be better … ”

Whistling and shaking her head, she said that back then black people had to work on farms with no pay. Then she explained that if you were picking potatoes and one of the people picking potatoes beside you died of exhaustion, you’d have to dig a hole, bury the deceased, and then keep on picking potatoes.

No, not better.

When Noah asked her about his role in fighting apartheid as a child, she giggled.

Gogo tells Noah that he didn’t know about apartheid growing up because he was just a kid. “You were born a crime,” she told him. “How could you fight apartheid?”

“But I told them that I was an apartheid hero, Gogo,” Noah quipped. “I wasn’t?”

She giggled, then talked about how naughty Noah had been as a child. “When you were here, oh Trevor, you gave me a tough time,” she said. When asked why, she answered, “Because you wanted to play in the street! And I knew the Flying Squad was going to take you.”

She also said kids would run away from Noah because they thought he was “white.” They had never seen a white man before—Noah’s mixed skin was the lightest skin they’d ever seen.

“I feel so special now, Gogo,” Noah joked. “To know that there was a time that I was white.” Noah then tried to get his gran to say he was a good-looking kid, to which she whistled and said, “Energetic and really naughty.”

“But mostly good-looking,” prompted Noah.

“Like hell,” she responded. “Those big bumps,” she said, pointing to her own backside, “they know my slippers.”

The whole exchange is delightful, but it also illustrates how vastly different Noah’s upbringing was to what his life is now.

Looking around his grandmother’s kitchen, it’s clear that she lives a modest life. Some have suggested after seeing the clip that Noah should do more to make life better for his family in South Africa, but he pointed out in his book that his grandmother has refused offers of financial assistance.

She told him in the video, “It’s a pity because I don’t even wish to see where you stay. Flying over the sea, like this? No, not for me.”

When he asked her if she’s ever watched his show, she said the electricity goes out too often. And also that the cable isn’t reliable.

Noah said he must get her a generator, and a fitter for the generator, and something done about the cable for her to watch his show. “I feel like I’ve been tricked into doing a lot of things for you to watch my TV show, Gogo,” he laughed. She laughed along with him.

Watch the segment here:

Trevor visits his grandma in Soweto, South Africa, to talk about his childhood, her life under apartheid, and what…

Posted by The Daily Show on Monday, December 3, 2018

(P.S. The full episode has more of Noah’s visit to South Africa and is definitely worth watching.)

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Have We Got It All Wrong About Christmas?

Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and so begins the countdown to Christmas. It’s such a festive, joyful time for so many, bringing great memories of holidays past, but it can also be a crazy, hectic time. In fact, the majority of the time it is a battle to keep the good feelings flowing while pushing away the harried rush of aggravation. Why do we fall for it every year? Have we got it all wrong about Christmas?

Recently I became aware of someone asking for financial assistance. Eager to help if I could, I decided to dig a little deeper into their personal situation. I was under the impression they were having difficulty meeting their obligations and monthly bills such as rent and utilities, but as I became better acquainted with their request for monetary support, I realized it had to do with Christmas. They were imploring of the general public for a substantial sum to buy Christmas presents for their children.

First, I’d like to say that I totally understand the desire to purchase Christmas presents for your kids. Been there, done that. I can recall a Christmas when my first daughter was a little over one year old. My husband only had part-time work, and I had just switched jobs to have less on-call time away from my baby. The switch did give me more time at home overnight and on weekends, but it had also brought a substantial pay cut. I remember my daughter getting two gifts that year from us and Santa. One was a $20 plastic kitchen we found at Dollar General, and the other was a cardboard playhouse a work friend had bought us. It hurt my heart not to be able to afford more for my child, but I knew she was young. We bought a few other cheap but thoughtful gifts for close family from Fred’s, and I tried to not feel embarrassed about our paltry presents. That year we were disappointed with the financial situation we faced, but I can say we paid all of our bills on time. Consequently, it was a wonderful Christmas, and I can’t recall anyone seeming disappointed other than myself.

When I saw this particular person’s fundraiser for Christmas for their kids I wasn’t judging them, but it did make me think about what we place value on in our world. And even though the amount they were trying to raise was 16x more than the amount I planned to spend on my own children, I didn’t conclude any kind of crass opinion on these people. In fact, I understood. I’d been there, and I had felt the same way not that long ago. I had placed much importance on buying lots of presents. I mean, it just made you feel wonderful to give to others. Wasn’t that a good thing? The old adage, “it’s better to give than receive.” That had to count for something!

Indeed, I can recall a Christmas six years ago when my husband and I once again found ourselves financially strapped. I was about to go on maternity leave, unpaid, right at the holidays. We had planned financially enough for my time off work but had not included enough for the kind of Christmas presents we wanted to buy. We didn’t want another repeat of the $20 kitchen! So we actually went and took out a loan for the holidays. And I regretted it the whole next year. Every time I paid that bill with the horrible interest rate I would tell myself, “never again!”

But the next year I utilized credit cards. Wasn’t that the same thing?

And I used them again the following year.

I mention all this to say that I wasn’t judging this family for wanting to spend a large amount of money on Christmas for their children. How could I judge someone who was doing the same thing I’ve done? The same thing most of us do? We consider Christmas a time to go all out! So whether you save up money all year, use a Christmas bonus, utilize credit cards, take out a loan, or create a GoFundMe, it all goes towards the same goal. Purchasing a ton of possessions for people you love. It’s how we show them we love them. It’s just something we do. It’s what Christmas is all about! My only question is, have we got it all wrong?

Yeah, I know, the wise men brought gifts to the Lord. And yep, I’ll agree that Jesus was the best gift of all to a fallen world. It’s a wonderful way to show love, kindness to others, and to honor the Lord by giving gifts. It’s a tradition to give presents to those you care about, to give to those in your circle, and to get super excited about all the wrapping paper and bows bundled up beautifully under the tree. I am the most excited person you’ll meet for all that stuff! But I wonder, do we have it all wrong?

Are we placing far too much importance on the materialism that’s become commonplace for the holidays?

We assume we must purchase presents for people because that’s what we do. Society has made it normal, normal to the point that we feel obligated to do so. Even if we don’t have the money. Even if our heart isn’t in it. Heck, sometimes even if we don’t like them very much. It’s just expected.

And then comes the kiddos. It’s not just a gift. It’s become a madness mountain of many gifts, towering far above the manger. We buy more than we need to, more than they need, to the point that even they are overwhelmed. So come the morning after the whole family is weighed down by the mass of items, and we go on a cleaning spree to take down the tree and erase the chaos of so much stuff! Am I right?

We buy so much that we have to do a purge to get rid of the excess. We buy so much that we’re short on finances come January, that our budgets are tight, or that our credit cards are maxed out! We buy so much that we forget why we even celebrate the holiday in the first place. Christmas has always been the season of giving, but we’re so focused on materialistic giving that we lose sight of the gifts of love.

Kindness is replaced by angry, last-minute shoppers. Joy is replaced by debt. Happiness is replaced by hurried attitudes. We’re distracted from the true reason of the season, and we replace it with shopping lists. The birth of Christ is overshadowed by our incorrect assumption that the holiday is about buying more stuff. We think we have to show love by buying presents. We forget that love is shown in so many more ways than that.

I wonder sometimes what happened to buying something special, like one thing or maybe two to bestow on the people you love? Our society has taught us that bigger is better, that the more we buy, the more we love. I think of the newborn Jesus coming with very little fanfare, to a cave in Bethlehem, laid on hay with the company of shepherds and their sheep. The greatest gift came so humbly to save us all. What must He think of the shiny show we’ve created of His Birthday?

I’m no Scrooge, don’t get me wrong. I’ll put up my tree, string lights, and sing carols with the best of them. My children won’t be sitting sadly Christmas morning holding a lump of coal. We will wrap packages and give them joyfully to the people we love. But what I refuse to do is think that’s the best part of it. I won’t fall for the trick from the devil that says the bigger the stack of presents, the better the Christmas. I won’t put myself into debt for it. I won’t drive myself crazy buying the perfect gift for absolutely everyone. I won’t think that more is better. I won’t fall into the name-brand game. I won’t worry what other people think, or try to impress anyone. I won’t make Christmas a show, a way for me to display my wealth, or a way for me to covet the wealth of someone else.

Christmas is the best time of the year, but we could enjoy it ten times better if we let go of how we think it should go, what we think is important. We could stop getting it wrong by focusing on stuff, and start getting it right by focusing on Jesus in us. That’s the gift He wants to see us give for His Birthday. The gift of His love.

I’ll finish up with one last Christmas story of financial distress for you, a story of Jesus and His love. I can remember a Christmas when I was five years old. My biological father had left us. My mother and I were in dire straits. We could hardly pay the bills, but we did have one another. We always had that. I remember we were far from family, but we had many friends from work and school. Wanting to show them our love during the holidays we got together in the kitchen and made cookies. My mom and I baked from scratch M&M cookies, we bagged them up, and we gifted them to all our friends.

Looking back I can’t imagine how my mother must have felt being unable to purchase anything for me for Christmas other than keeping the lights on and a roof over our head. But I always remember this Christmas with joy. The memory of baking cookies with my mom was wonderful, and the gift of seeing the love of others was something I’ll never forget.

I got my first bicycle that year. White and yellow with daisies on the wheels and streamers from the handlebars. I was excited for the bike, sure, but what I remember even now with joy is the look on my mom’s face and her grateful tears when we arrived [at] her work and saw the bike, a gift to me from her coworkers. I realize now that it wasn’t so much the bike that was given to us that day. It was love we were given. And that, my friends, was Christmas done right.

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North Las Vegas cops release video of fatal shooting of 11-year-old; 2 arrested

Police arrested Jarquan Tiffith, 20, and another suspect this week for their alleged involvement in a drive-by shooting.  (North Las Vegas Police Department)

Two North Las Vegas suspects tied to the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old girl inside her home have been arrested, police said during a Thursday press conference.

The two suspects – a 16-year-old, and Jarquan Tiffith, 20 – were among five men involved in the fatal shooting of Angelina Erives, Las Vegas’ Fox 5 reported, citing police.


The teen and Tiffith were booked into the Clark County Detention Center on multiple charges related to the Nov. 1 shooting.

Surveillance footage released by police showed three suspects exiting a Nissan Altima in a suburban neighborhood. Two additional suspects remained in the driver and passenger seat.

The three suspects emptied rounds into a house before running back to the car. The 11-year-old girl was killed amid the gunfire while she sat in the family kitchen. Police said last week that the gunmen had opened fire on the wrong house.

A neighbor fatally shot one the suspects – Guy Lee Banks III, 17, police said.

Police identified and arrested Erin Hines, 17, as one of the five suspects. Police have reportedly identified the fifth suspect who remains at large. His identity was not released so as to not compromise the investigation.


Police have asked anyone with information on the remaining suspect to call the North Las Vegas Police Department at (702) 633-9111.

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