Wednesday, October 25

The Debunker: Is Crime on the Rise?

by Ken Jennings

October is Crime Prevention Month, says the National Crime Prevention Council, and would the nonprofit that brought you McGruff the Crime Dog lie to you about crime prevention? In honor of the occasion, we've decided to shine the hard light of truth on the underbelly of the criminal underworld. As a Jeopardy! superhero, Ken Jennings doesn't fight crime—just misinformation about crime. He'll be here all month debunking felonious falsehoods and misdemeanor myths.

The Debunker: Is Crime on the Rise?

If there's one thing Americans always agree on, despite the shifting winds of politics, it's that crime in this country is increasing. Gallup has been asking Americans since 1993 if they think crime is up over the past year; in every single year except for 2001, most respondents said yes, there's more crime lately. Pew Research's most recent numbers, from late 2016, show 57 percent of voters share this gloomy perspective on crime stats. Fully 78 percent of Trump voters believed crime numbers are getting worse, which could either be a cause or effect of their candidate's frequent insistence, on the campaign trail, that crime is up.

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Wednesday, October 18

The Debunker: Did Witnesses Ignore the Murder of Kitty Genovese?

by Ken Jennings

October is Crime Prevention Month, says the National Crime Prevention Council, and would the nonprofit that brought you McGruff the Crime Dog lie to you about crime prevention? In honor of the occasion, we've decided to shine the hard light of truth on the underbelly of the criminal underworld. As a Jeopardy! superhero, Ken Jennings doesn't fight crime—just misinformation about crime. He'll be here all month debunking felonious falsehoods and misdemeanor myths.

The Debunker: Did Witnesses Ignore the Murder of Kitty Genovese?

The tragic 1964 stabbing of Queens resident Kitty Genovese would probably be completely forgotten today—there were 636 murders committed in New York City that year, after all—if not for a follow-up story printed in The New York Times on March 27, which reported that thirty-seven neighbors had witnessed the killing outside Genovese's own apartment building—and not called the police! This launched decades of study into the mysterious phenomenon that psychologists call bystander apathy, or even "the Genovese effect": the decreasing likelihood that an individual will intercede in a situation as the number of onlookers increases.

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Wednesday, October 11

The Debunker: Is the "F Word" an Acronym for "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge"?

by Ken Jennings

October is Crime Prevention Month, says the National Crime Prevention Council, and would the nonprofit that brought you McGruff the Crime Dog lie to you about crime prevention? In honor of the occasion, we've decided to shine the hard light of truth on the underbelly of the criminal underworld. As a Jeopardy! superhero, Ken Jennings doesn't fight crime—just misinformation about crime. He'll be here all month debunking felonious falsehoods and misdemeanor myths.

The Debunker: Is the "F Word" an Acronym for "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge"?

Because its history often went unwritten for reasons of propriety, the notorious "f-word" has left itself open to all kinds of crazy folk etymologies. In two common versions, the word is actually an acronym. Sometimes the word is said to come from a sign advertising that a newlywed couple's marriage in olden times had been approved by the crown: "Fornication Under Consent of the King." (Presumably when a woman sat on the throne, the word was spelled "fucq.") In another version, prisoners locked in the stocks for sexual shenanigans were placed under a sign that read "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge." Van Halen was so charmed by the transgressive power of this last acronym that they named a 1991 album and tour after it. Those naughty boys!

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Wednesday, October 04

The Debunker: Can You Alert the Police by Entering Your Bank PIN Backwards?

by Ken Jennings

October is Crime Prevention Month, says the National Crime Prevention Council, and would the nonprofit that brought you McGruff the Crime Dog lie to you about crime prevention? In honor of the occasion, we've decided to shine the hard light of truth on the underbelly of the criminal underworld. As a Jeopardy! superhero, Ken Jennings doesn't fight crime—just misinformation about crime. He'll be here all month debunking felonious falsehoods and misdemeanor myths.

The Debunker: Can You Alert the Police by Entering Your Bank PIN Backwards?

Say you're held up by a ne'er-do-well while using a bank machine, or forced by a mugger to accompany him to an ATM and withdraw the maximum from your bank account. Wouldn't it be great if you could try the thing that those chain e-mails say you can do? According to the rumor, you could enter your security number in reverse, a distress signal like flying the American flag upside-down. This would alert the police, who could swoop in and apprehend the card-confiscating scofflaw.

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