Despite a change in leadership, New York City has continued to confiscate and destroy motorcycles officials have deemed illegal. Pioneered by ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio (formerly Warren Wilhelm Jr.), the practice has been continued by Eric Adams. In fact, the new mayor was so enthusiastic about the trend that the city held a press event where a bulldozer crushed over one-hundred bikes as he waved a checkered flag — effectively turning them all into garbage in a matter of seconds.
As a motorcycle enthusiast and recovering New Yorker myself, this story has been one your author has followed since the beginning as an excuse to professionally gripe about something personal. The city set out to confiscate dirt bikes and ATVs that are relatively common to see (and hear) zipping through traffic or cluttering sidewalks. De Blasio even made it one of his biggest traffic-enforcement initiatives in 2021, adding a bit of spectacle to the new vehicle bans. However, a cursory examination of the vehicles involved has shown a significant number of vehicles being destroyed are regular motorcycles that would have been legal under NYC law and all-electric scooters used by low-income commuters and restaurant delivery services.
Now that fuel prices are approaching levels you probably never thought you’d see in your lifetime, black-market gasoline has become a thing. Local reports coming out of Nevada are claiming that thieves have begun loading up trucks with stolen gas so they can sell it at a discount. Considering the average price per gallon now exceeds $5.50 for the region, it’s easy to see why some people might be willing to roll the dice and buy discounted fuel of an unknown origin.
But the most lucrative scheme is to transport stolen gas into California, where the prices exceed $6.30 across the state. Here, thieves can sell their ill-gotten petroleum at broader margins. But it takes a special kind of vehicle and a little planning not to blow the additional profit on the trip itself. Tankers aren’t exactly easy to come by and are hardly the least-suspicious way to haul around stolen fuel, so thieves are modifying trucks and vans that can pass as light-duty vehicles.
The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and a dozen related trade groups are petitioning Congress to crack down on stolen catalytic converters. The emission control devices are loaded up with valuable metals and are relatively easy to steal if you’re slim enough to get beneath a parked car and happen to have a reciprocating saw handy — making them prime targets for cash strapped criminals, especially now that material prices are on the rise.
Cities across the country have reported an increase in catalytic converter theft this year. While a majority of police departments are estimating a year-over-year increase of under 40 percent, some have said their figures are substantially larger. In March, Las Vegas Police Department estimated there were 87 percent more vehicles with hacked apart exhaust pipes in 2022. Philadelphia was even higher, reporting a staggering 172 percent increase in dismantled exhaust systems.
Over the last few weeks, there has been an influx of news articles linking Apple’s AirTag tracking devices to car theft. Apple released the coin-sized device in April as a way to help people keep tabs on their keys, luggage, any number of other personal possessions. But reports have emerged claiming that thieves are now using them to mark and track vehicles they later want to steal.
The scenario usually begins with a person who has parked their automobile in a public lot when a thief spots a model worth taking. The device is then affixed to the vehicle in an inconspicuous spot and the criminal waits until the owner is fast asleep. However, some version of the story also involves crooks targeting high-end automobiles in the hopes that it resides at a home with similarly high-end goods worth robbing. Since there are similar devices on the market, it’s odd that Apple would be singled out. But the AirTag was updated by the company to reduce the length of time the trackers would need to be away from its owner before it began to alert iPhone users who have been traveling in close proximity to the device as a way to prevent stalking attempts. This resulted in a number of them being found out before cars were stolen.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made dirt bikes public enemy number one for traffic enforcement in 2021, citing road safety, cluttered sidewalks, unwanted noise, and air pollution as his primary reasoning. He’s even released videos where the city destroyed confiscated bikes to celebrate the initiative.
“Anyone out there who has an illegal dirt bike — don’t even think about it. Because the NYPD will find it and will crush it,” Mayor de Blasio proclaimed via Twitter earlier this month. “These dirt bikes do not belong in New York City. It’s against the law. Period. Dirt bikes are dangerous.”
The focus on two-wheeled transportation comes after city leadership announced there was a growing number of shootings and robberies tied to certain types of vehicles over the spring. Local outlets also covered an incident where a small child was struck by a dirt bike and placed into critical condition last July. But the actual qualifications for what NYC considers an “illegal dirt bike” are confusing. Numerous exemptions are made for electric scooters and about half of the bikes crushed in the mayor’s video are regular motorcycles. It seems nonsensical and only gets worse when you begin to ponder the consequences of banning some of the most affordable modes of transportation available to poor New Yorkers.
The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted Nikola founder Trevor Milton over claims made to investors that could have been intentionally misleading. Though anybody tracking the story from the beginning already knows the corporate plot surrounding the company’s trucks has more holes than a deli platter comprised entirely of baby swiss.
The U.S. Department of Justice has reached a proposed civil settlement with the United Auto Workers (UAW) in the gigantic corruption case that absorbed two former presidents and a slew of union officers over the last few years. With many involved already serving the first part of their prison sentence, the UAW has reportedly agreed to hold a referendum among the rank-and-file to change the way it elects the top brass. The proposal predictably includes some court oversight designed to catch any new instances of fraud coming from inside the union but doesn’t appear to address the corporate aspect.
As a positive, it’s not assumed that the union will see a complete government takeover. Like laundry, it’s already better to separate your alleged corruption to create legal buffer zones.
The Uber test vehicle that struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, has been under public scrutiny since March of 2018. But we never heard a lot about the safety driver behind the wheel. So much attention was given to addressing whether or not the autonomous systems on the SUV should or could have seen Elaine Herzberg — and stopped the car before the tragedy occurred — that it became the overriding narrative.
But it really shouldn’t have, as some of the earliest video footage appeared to show that Uber’s safety operator had entirely tuned out of the driving experience in the moments leading up to the incident. Fortunately, Maricopa County Superior Court and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were keeping tabs while the rest of us were not. In fact, the former decided to charge Rafael Vasquez (who also goes by Rafaela) with negligent homicide late last month.
Greg Kelly, the American businessman and former Nissan board member that was arrested with ex-chairman Carlos Ghosn almost two years ago, has pleaded not guilty to the financial misconduct charges leveled against him in Japan. While he was supposed to stand trial with Mr. Ghosn, Carlos escaped his captors with the help of at least one U.S. Army Special Forces veteran and a lot of careful planning at the end of 2019. Kelly is accused of helping the former chairman hide millions of dollars in deferred compensation.
During the trial, he defended Ghosn by saying he was an outstanding automotive executive who helped save Nissan in its darkest hour. He also hinted that the firm should have done everything in its power to retain him, adding that his role was to find legal ways of keeping Ghosn from jumping ship to a rival company. While that included financial incentives, Kelly asserted during the trial that Nissan’s attorneys were always consulted before decisions were made and that no illegal actions were taken. “I informed Mr. Ghosn what could be done legally and what could not be done legally,” he told the court. “I believe the evidence will show that I did not violate the [financial] disclosure regulations.”
A criminal complaint filed this week details a very Cold War-like plot to cripple Tesla from the inside. Federal prosecutors and the automaker claim a Russian “tourist” attempted to coerce an employee of Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory to infect the company’s system with malware, and in doing so receive a payment of $1 million.
The employee reportedly turned down the offer and squealed on the so-called tourist, leading to an FBI sting operation — as well as this week’s criminal complaint.
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