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Sunday Poll: Support or Oppose New St. Louis County Minimum Police Standards?

Twelve of the 90 municipalities in St. Louis County don’t like the county’s new minimum police standards, see Dozen municipalities file formal challenge to St. Louis County police standards ordinance. There are 57 police departments in St. Louis County. A good topic for today’s poll.

Please vote below
Please vote below

Usually I randomize the poll but someone suggested on polls with a logical order that they be presented as such, so this week everyone will see the answers in the same order. As always, the poll closes at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

The Volkswagen Group Wanted To Be The World’s Biggest Carmaker, Cheated In Attempting To Reach Goal

I’m fascinated by Volkswagen’s emissions-rigging scheme — writing software to make diesel cars perform differently while being tested vs. driven. Why would they do this?

To make sense of it we need to go back to 2007 for the planned introduction of new Volkswagen TDI engine for the 2008 model year:

Amid the looming hordes of European luxury automakers planning a North American compression-ignition invasion in the next couple years, humble Volkswagen has announced its plans to return the Jetta TDI to the diesel dogpile in the spring of 2008. Powered by a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, and either a six-speed manual or DSG automated manual transmission, the 2008 Jetta TDI will be cleared for sale in all fifty states.

Some of the earlier diesels to make it to our shores over the next few years will only be available in 45 states; California, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont have all adopted stricter emissions regulations for diesels that bar some vehicles from entry. Using technology developed under the BlueTec cooperative formed by Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, the Jetta TDI will slip by these stricter regulations without resorting to a urea-based exhaust treatment, as many BlueTec labeled models will.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are, along with particulate emissions (soot), the biggest hurdles facing diesels in the U.S. Most BlueTec vehicles will control NOx by injecting a urea-based solution called AdBlue into the exhaust system upstream of a catalytic converter that specifically targets NOx. In that catalytic converter, the ammonia in the urea reacts with the NOx in the exhaust gas and neutralizes it into nitrogen and water.

Volkswagen’s Jetta TDI will manage without a urea injection system by using a NOx-storage catalyst. Like the particulate filters in place on this car as well as other diesels, this catalyst is basically a trap that temporarily holds the offensive emissions. Periodically, the engine will switch to an air-fuel mixture that will burn off the material in the traps.

(Car & Driver February 2007)

Delayed a year, this new 2.0 TDI didn’t debut until the 2009 model year. The previous 1.9 TDI engine was sluggish and didn’t meet newer emissions standards — Volkswagen had no 4-cylindar diesel engine for U.S. models during the 2007 & 2008 model years.

From 2005 to 2006, the Jetta TDI is powered by a 1.9-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine (TDI stands for Turbo Direct Injection) good for 100 horsepower, but a healthy 177 pounds-feet of torque. Remember, torque is a rotational force required to get a car moving, so the more torque an engine has, the quicker it can move a car either from a standing stop or when overtaking slower traffic. 2009 and newer Jettas feature an all-new 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine with VW’s “clean diesel” technology. The clean diesel features particulate filters and other devices for removing diesel soot and order from the exhaust, as well as a system for reducing emissions. The 2.0-liter TDI produces 140 horsepower and whopping 236 pounds-feet of torque. While the 1.9-liter engine can best be described as peppy, the 2.0-liter TDI is down right quick. Rocketing out of a tollbooth or merging onto the freeway is a snap for the 2.0-liter TDI, which feels more like the GTI’s 200-horsepower turbocharged gas engine than a powerplant designed for maximum mileage. (AutoTrader August 2011)

The new 2.0 TDI engine was able to meet stricter worldwide emissions standards without using an urea injection to clean the exhaust — brilliant engineering, or so we thought. Every other diesel required urea injection, which had to be refilled about every 10,000 miles. When Mercedes BlueTEC diesels run out of urea you can start it only 20 more times before refilling it (TheCarConnection).

Over the years since the new 2.0 TDI engine was introduced the automotive press raved about it, and consumers bought more and more. After all, the performance was outstanding and the real world MPG exceeded EPA estimates. As we’ve learned, their urea injection-free diesel didn’t meet emissions standards. Their “CleanDiesel” wasn’t clean at all.

Visitors to the 2011 St. Louis Auto Show check out a Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI
Visitors to the 2011 St. Louis Auto Show check out a Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI

Sales of their diesels broke records:

VW Group of America has had great success with diesels in the US recently. Vee-Dub and Audi sold 105,899 diesel-equipped models in 2013. It was the first time the group ever sold over 100,000 diesels in a year, and they accounted for 24 percent of sales. (AutoBlog)

At the Chicago Auto Show in February we saw the newest SportWagen TDI — now a Golf — with a new TDI engine.

The 2016 Golf SportWagen TDI om display at the Chicago Auto Show. The new TDI engine in this 2016 model is equipped with urea injection to clean the exhaust.
The 2016 Golf SportWagen TDI om display at the Chicago Auto Show. The new TDI engine in this 2016 model is equipped with urea injection to clean the exhaust. However, VW has decided to pull all diesels from US showrooms for 2016.

Volkswagen had a stated goal of becoming the biggest car maker in the world, and for the first six months of 2015 they were:

Volkswagen (VLKAF) sold 5.04 million vehicles from January to June, a slight dip from a year earlier. That compares to 5.02 million sold by Toyota (TM) over the same period. Group sales dropped 1.5% due to a weaker performance by its Toyota and Daihatsu brands. (CNN/Money)

Many were expecting a close race between Toyota and the Volkswagen Group for top honors for 2015, now Toyota will locket retain the crown as Volkswagen deals with the fallout. My friends who own these polluting diesels are furious they were deceived. I’m furious millions of these cars have been polluting the environment while billed as eco-friendly clean cars.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Credit Card Technology Changes Today

October 1, 2015 Crime, Economy, Featured, Retail 3 Comments
By May 2014 the Target on Hampton had these new readers with an EMV slot
By May 2014 the Target on Hampton had these new readers with an EMV slot

Our current credit & debit cards are different than they were decades ago. In the mid-80s, during high school & college, I worked at Toys “R” Us and Dillard’s. In those days we made an impression of the credit card to document the transaction, the credit card number was entered manually to get approval. Sometimes we had to call in to get an authorization number.

The magnetic strip on credit cards came later, greatly simplifying transactions.   The technology was developed in the late 60s, but it took a long time to get ir on credit cards and for retailers to be equipped to swipe cards rather than complete an embossed charge receipt. Eventually the magnetic strip became ubiquitous. Criminals also found many ways to exploit the weaknesses.

The magnetic stripe on credit cards — which fraudsters can pull credit card numbers and expiration dates from to make counterfeit cards. (NPR)

NPR continues:

Other countries moved beyond this technology years ago. The U.K., Canada and Hong Kong are already using chip-based cards, which are considered more secure. (Magnetic stripe technology is decades old.) Cards using the chip-and-PIN system have an embedded microchip. Instead of swiping the part with a magnetic stripe, you put the card into a terminal, then enter a PIN or sign your name. It’s more expensive for criminals to forge these cards, says Brian Krebs, a security journalist who writes for Krebs on Security and broke the story on the breach at Target.

Several of our cards have the new chips, called EMV:

EMV chip technology is becoming the global standard for credit card and debit card payments. Named after its original developers (Europay, MasterCard® and Visa®), this technology features payment instruments (cards, mobile phones, etc.) with embedded microprocessor chips that store and protect cardholder data. This standard has many names worldwide and may also be referred to as: “chip and PIN” or “chip and signature.” (Chase)

In 2013 local grocery chain Schnucks was breached, leading many to stolen credit card numbers. National retailers were also hacked. October 1, 2015 — today — was set as a deadline to switch to the EMV cards. However, this wasn’t a government mandate.

After an Oct. 1, 2015, deadline created by major U.S. credit card issuers MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express, the liability for card-present fraud will shift to whichever party is the least EMV-compliant in a fraudulent transaction. (CreditCards.com)

So retailers have been updating their credit card terminals to prepare for today’s deadline. Yesterday, at IKEA, the restaurant cashier put my EMV-chip card in the slot rather than swipe it. Later, at FedEx Office (aka Kinko’s) the terminal had the slot but the employee didn’t know when it would be activated. Target recently sent us new EMV RedCard debit cards — but not the RedCard credit cards we currently use.  We just got a new credit card within the last couple of weeks — it didn’t include an EMV chip. Yesterday the issuer said we’d have replacements by the end of October with EMV chips.

Some retailers, in updating their terminals, have added NFC/contactless capability.

NFC (near-field communication) allows two devices placed within a few centimeters of each other to exchange data. In order for this to work, both devices must be equipped with an NFC chip. 

In the real world, there are a essentially two ways this works. 

Two-way communication: This involves two devices that can both read and write to each other. For example, using NFC, you can touch two Android devices together to transfer data like contacts, links, or photos. 

One-way communication: Here, a powered device (like a phone, credit card reader, or commuter card terminal) reads and writes to an NFC chip. So, when you tap your commuter card on the terminal, the NFC-powered terminal subtracts money from the balance written to the card. (CNET)

My husband’s iPhone has been able to utilize this technology for payment for a year, I just got a new iPhone with this ability — ApplePay. Others include Google Pay & Samsung Pay. Confused yet?

Basically you want to avoid your cards being swiped. You want to use cards with a chip by inserting them in the chip readers. Not all retailers have to meet today’s deadline. Gas pumps, for example, have until 2017 to be updated.

If you accept credit cards you need to be working on updating ASAP, and training staff to insert EMV cards rather than swipe them. If you use plastic, be aware of the differences and how to use them, If your smartphone can make contactless payments I’d suggest using that. Samsung Pay will even work with older magnetic stripe terminals.

While we have these new EMV cards, our issuers don’t yet have the PIN number portion set up, so they’re Chip & signature for now.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Opposed To New Missouri Law Commissioning Corporate Security

September 30, 2015 Crime, Missouri, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Readers Opposed To New Missouri Law Commissioning Corporate Security

The results from the Sunday Poll:

Q: Missouri’s Public Safety Dept can now commission corporate security advisors, include arrest powers.

  1. Strongly opposed 19 [50%]
  2. TIE 4 [10.53%]
    1. Somewhat support
    2. Opposed
  3. Somewhat opposed 3 [7.89%]
  4. TIE 2 [5.26%]
    1. Support
    2. Strongly support
    3. Neutral
    4. Unsure/No Answer

Overall those opposed far outnumber supporters — 68.42% to 21.05%.

The new applies to off-duty or retired police officers that work security for corporations like Anheuser Busch, Ameren, and even Metro.

“Metrolink has officers in that have authority in Missouri and Illinois, some are St. Louis City, some are St. Louis County, some are St. Clair so they’re all cross deputized so this simplifies that process,” said Hill.

But opponents like Patricia Bynes, the Democratic committeewoman for Ferguson, say the new statute gives security guards too much power.

“When you’re a police officer you have a certain jurisdiction that you have to police in, this goes beyond that as long as you work for a corporation in this state you have those powers in the state, that’s extremely scary,” said Bynes. (KMOV)

I don’t see anything good coming from this, only bad. Hopefully I’m wrong.

— Steve Patterson

 

Parking Enforcement Officer Kept Putting A Blue Bag In A Vehicle Displaying A Fake Ticket

If you drive & park in an urban area you’ve likely received a parking ticket one time or another. So it’s no surprise that I frequently see tickets on vehicles on my trips to/from the grocery store 7 blocks East of my loft. Earlier this month I noticed the same vehicle parked in the same spot as the day before — with a ticket just like the day before. How unusual.

Thursday August 13th 11:21am, Eastbound Locust between 15th & 16th
Thursday August 13th 11:21am, Eastbound Locust between 15th & 16th

Then I noticed a Parking Enforcement car park behind it. Maybe they’re about to boot it, I thought. I go to the corner and then across the street so I can get a good view. The woman from Parking Enforcement grabbed a blue bag out of the back seat of her official vehicle and walks toward the ticketed vehicle.    I wasn’t expecting what happened next.

She opened the front door, unlocked the other doors, opened the back door and left the blue bag on the rear seat. She locks the doors at the front, returns to her official vehicle, drives off. Huh?

A Parking Enforcement Officer (PEO) takes a blue bag from her official vehicle and puts it in the backseat of the ticketed vehicle! Why? What’s in the bag? What started as a curiosity about a vehicle getting ticketed for parking in the exact same spot quickly became a curiosity about the connection between this vehicle, the PEO, and the contents of the blue bag.

Tuesday August 18 1:11pm
Tuesday August 18 1:11pm

I thought by now the ticket had to be a decoy, but I needed proof.

Monday August 24th 12:59pm
Monday August 24th 12:59pm, on the way to the grocery store
At 1:35pm I rolled back the envelope to conform the "ticket" was a blank.
At 1:35pm I rolled back the envelope to conform the “ticket” was a blank.

I’ve documented the fake ticket, but I still needed the bag drop off.

At 3:19pm I'm across the street trying not to look conspicuous -- as well as a shaved head guy in a wheelchair can.
At 3:19pm I’m across the street trying not to look conspicuous — as well as a shaved head guy in a wheelchair can.
At 3:43pm the PEO is getting  a blue bag out of her official vehicle.
At 3:43pm the PEO is getting a blue bag out of her official vehicle.
As before she walks to the other vehicle
As before she walks to the other vehicle
3:44pm she opens the driver's door
3:44pm she opens the driver’s door
With the driver's door still open she puts the blue bag in back. She closes the rear door and locked the doors from the front.
With the driver’s door still open she puts the blue bag in back. She closes the rear door and locked the doors from the front.
3:45pm she's back in her work vehicle about to pull away
3:45pm she’s back in her work vehicle about to pull away

At this point I feel I have enough to blog about my observations and report to Parking Enforcement and Treasurer Tishaura Jones.  I still have unanswered questions: Is this her vehicle? Is she dropping off her gym bag for after work?

Two days later, Wednesday last week, I go to the grocery store and the vehicle isn’t there both times I pass by the space. Five minutes later I go out in front of my building to talk to someone — they’ve left but I can see the vehicle now parked there. I go down and see it has the fake ticket under the wiper — of course it does!

A man approaches me and starts yelling at me.

“Why you fucking with my car?”

“You’d better mind your own fucking business!”

Then something about being in a wheelchair. By this point I’m leaving — I felt threatened and vulnerable. But across Locust at 16th I turned to look back and take one more photo.

Wednesday August 26th at 12:51pm, the vehicle and guy who threatened me in the distance -- he's wearing a red shirt with white shorts & cap. .
Wednesday August 26th at 12:51pm, the vehicle and guy who threatened me in the distance — he’s wearing a red shirt with white shorts & cap. .
Here's a blurry cropped view.
Here’s a blurry cropped view.

Given that I was threatened I called 911, the police looked at my photos to get the vehicle plate and city number on the parking enforcement car. They talked to the PEO supervisor.  I then emailed the head of Parking Enforcement, Tishaura Jones, and her Chief of Staff — a reply said they’d investigate.  At this point I don’t know anymore than you do.

At the very least this guy and the PEO were in cahoots with the fake ticket, but I think there’s much more to the story. When, and if, I find out I’ll let you know.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

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