Police looking for thieves who stole 35 catalytic converters from Salem RV dealership

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TribLIVE 11 October, 2021 - 01:04pm

Comedian Damon Wayans told TMZ that the latest Dave Chappelle Netflix special, The Closer, “freed the slaves.”

“The comedians. We were slaves to PC culture,” Wayans opined in an impromptu interview, when asked about his longtime friend’s controversial stand-up offering. “As an artist, he’s Van Gogh with his ear off. He’s trying to tell us, ‘It’s okay.’ ”

“I’ve always been free,” Wayans noted, but he felt that Chappelle was saying, “all that I have, I’m not afraid to lose it for the sake of freedom of speech.”

“You can’t edit yourself,” said Wayans. “Comedians … we’re like … Mercedes makes a great car, but they gotta crash a lot of them before they perfect it.”

Asked about the backlash The Closer has received — the comedy special features several minutes of jokes about transgender people — he responded: “I can’t speak about the content of the show. But what I say is there’s a bigger conversation we need to have. Someone needs to look us in the eye and say, ‘You’re no longer free in this country. You’re not free to say what you want; you say what we want you to say. Otherwise, we will cancel you.’ That’s the discussion we need to have.”

Chappelle, said Wayans, is a “unicorn and amazing.”

In The Closer, Chappelle states, “Gender is a fact. Every human being in this room, every human being on earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on earth. That is a fact.”

In an email to employees, Ted Sarandos, the co-CEO of the streaming giant Netflix, which has presented several of Chappelle’s comedy specials, wrote: “Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate. We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line.”

“I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy, which exists to push boundaries,” Sarandos opined to staff. “Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”

GLAAD, the LGBTQ media advocacy organization, has condemned the special and issued a statement about it on Monday, writing, “Netflix has a policy that content ‘designed to incite hate or violence’ is not allowed on the platform, but we all know that anti-LGBTQ content does exactly that. While Netflix is home to groundbreaking LGBTQ stories, now is the time for Netflix execs to listen to LGBTQ employees, industry leaders, and audiences, and commit to living up to their own standards.”

The post Damon Wayans says Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special freed comedian ‘slaves’ appeared first on TheGrio.

A top Netflix executive said Dave Chappelle's special “The Closer” doesn't cross “the line on hate” and will remain on the streaming service despite fallout over the comedian's remarks about the transgender community. In an internal memo, co-CEO Ted Sarandos told managers that “some talent” may join third parties in calling for the show's removal, adding, “which we are not going to do.” Netflix declined comment on the memo, which was reported Monday by Variety.

Dave Chappelle and Netflix have come under fire for his new special in which he makes transphobic comments.

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Catalytic converter thefts arrested

WKRG 12 October, 2021 - 10:10am

Catalytic converter thefts continue to rise

KPTV.com 12 October, 2021 - 10:10am

MULTNOMAH COUNTY, Ore. (KPTV) - Leaders from Multnomah Count…

PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - It’s a quick crime that brings in quick cash.

“I would say that if the person who takes it is getting less than $500 dollars, they’re probably doing it wrong,” said Cale Pelton.

Pelton, manager of Atomic Auto in northeast Portland, is talking about catalytic converters. The part is a magnet for thieves, because it contains expensive metals inside.

“I would say that between 2020 and 2021 it increased,” said Pelton. “So far this year, we’ve done from the same time last year, about 100 more cats so far,” he said.

“They got mine,” said Emily Moore.

Moore lives in Eugene. She told FOX 12 she left her car in a hotel parking garage near PDX in late August, while visiting Disneyland with her family. But she came back from the happiest place on earth, to a not so happy sound.

“My husband went down to go pick our car up and as he was bringing it up, the noise was crazy,” said Moore. “It was like a Mack Truck semi.”

“It did not sound like my Honda Pilot and he got out of the car immediately and said someone had sawed off the catalytic converter.”

Moore said it cost her about $2,000 to fix. She told FOX 12 she also just got her car back last week, due to supply chain issues brought on by the pandemic.

“It definitely put a sour taste in our mouths for the end of our trip,” she said.

Oregon lawmakers are trying to crack down on these crimes, by passing Senate Bill 803. It’ll require scrap metal businesses to only buy converters from sellers they can verify. The bill is set to go into effect in January.

“I think it’s a great start,” said Pelton. “It will be the enforcement of the bill that becomes an issue, but it’s great that more people are learning about it and understand about catalytic converter theft.”

Pelton said once drivers understand about catalytic converter thefts, they can take steps toward protection. He recommends installing a special shield that costs around $300-$400.

“It’s the easiest solution that we’ve seen so far,” said Pelton.

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Proposed bill could curtail catalytic converter thefts

WAOW 12 October, 2021 - 10:10am

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- Twin bills in the Wisconsin state Senate and Assembly would classify catalytic converters as a "proprietary article." 

That designation would give certain protections over how they can be sold to scrap dealers, requiring sellers to give proper identification and proof it belongs to them.

Supporters say the bill would cut down on catalytic converter thefts, but some aren't confident in that correlation.

"If there's more regulations that doesn't say that the thieves, the people that are actually thieving don't follow regulations anyway," Portage County Sheriff Mike Lukas said. "It's the hardworking people that are going to have more regulations then," he added.

Lukas says Portage County has had more than 40 incidents related to catalytic converter thefts in the last year, resulting more than $40,000 in losses for car owners.

The cars that are being targeted include electric cars and diesel trucks for the precious metals in their converters.

If you think you might be at risk of getting your converter stolen, you should leave your car where you can easily keep watch. 

"We're telling people that have those types of vehicles to park them in a well lit area, somewhere that can be visible and noticeable if somebody is coming around your vehicles," Lukas said.

If you'd like to see the full contents of the proposed bill, click here.

Have any story ideas? You can send them to idinesen@waow.com 

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Increase in catalytic converter theft leads to new legislation

Wisconsin Public Radio News 12 October, 2021 - 10:10am

In this undated photo provided by the Utah Attorney General's Office, catalytic converters are shown after being seized in a recent investigation. Utah lawmakers are considering a crackdown on theft of the emission control devices from cars that are stolen for the precious metals found inside. Utah Attorney General's Office via AP Photo

One day this August, Paul Schechter went to move his Toyota Tacoma for alternate-side parking in Madison. When he started the ignition, it sounded like a jet engine roaring. He thought his muffler was shot. But when he moved his truck, he noticed a dirty rag and scrap metal on the street where it had been parked.

He sent photos to his mechanic who quickly confirmed his catalytic converter had been stolen.

A heat shield lies on the ground after thieves stole the catalytic converter from Madison resident Paul Schechter's truck in August 2021. Photo Courtesy of Paul Schechter

The mechanic replaced it for $1,000 with an aftermarket part, which he said would be less desirable for thieves. Schechter even wrote on it with a permanent marker, "This is an aftermarket, please don't steal."

But a week and a half later, it was stolen again.

Over the past six months, stories of increased catalytic converter thefts have popped up across Wisconsin — from Milwaukee and Madison to Green Bay and Chippewa Falls

But a new state law could help deter would-be thieves.

Assembly Bill 415, and the identical Senate Bill 408, would add catalytic converters to a list of "proprietary articles" whose sales are regulated by law — things like copper and aluminum conductors and wires, railroad ties, metal grave markers, manhole covers and metal beer kegs.

Under the new law, anyone selling a catalytic converter to a scrap dealer would need to be 18 years of age and would be required to show personal identification and proof of lawful ownership. Scrap dealers would be required to maintain sales records and when proof of ownership isn't provided, refuse the sale and report the incident to law enforcement within one business day.

If a scrap dealer fails to comply with the new law, they could face a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail. For a second offense, the penalty jumps to $10,000 and up to nine months in jail.

The bill was authored and introduced by state Rep. Clint Moses, R-Menomonie, in June. Moses said catalytic converter theft was a big issue on the University of Wisconsin-Stout campus, school bus companies were complaining about it and law enforcement from across the Chippewa Valley were asking him to do something.

"We had people trickling over from Minnesota, cutting catalytic converters off anytime a day, middle of the night, people are at work, people are sleeping," said Moses. "They're very brazen as far as when they'll do it."

Moses said that part of the reason thieves were coming from across the border was because Minnesota recently passed legislation cracking down on sales of catalytic converters. This, along with pleas from local law enforcement, is what motivated Moses to draft a bill for his own state.

State Sens. Kathleen Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, and Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, along with others, quickly signed on, introducing an identical bill in the Senate.

"In my district and all across the state, thefts of catalytic converters rob people of their sense of security and their mobility as they await costly repairs and live in fear of a repeat crime," said Bernier. "Law enforcement and other constituents in my district have been vocal about the need to do something."

Catalytic converters are a part of a car's exhaust system, responsible for filtering out toxins from the emissions. But without unique serial numbers, they can be difficult to trace once stolen. 

And it happens quickly. Thieves cut out the converter in under two minutes and then sell it for the precious metals it contains, such as rhodium, palladium and platinum.

As prices for these metals increased rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic, so did catalytic converter thefts across the country. According to data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, there were 3,389 reports of catalytic converter thefts in 2019 — about 282 per month. In 2020, thefts grew by 325 percent to a whopping 14,433 thefts, with 2,347 thefts in the month of December alone.

And the surge has continued. In the Madison area, there have already been more than 300 thefts this year, said Moses.

"Recently, it's just gone nuts," said Wayne Schmiedlin, owner of Wayne's Automotive in Madison.

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Schmiedlin said he has had three catalytic converters stolen from his property this year and has replaced several for his customers.

He said a catalytic converter generally sells for about $75 to $100, but some, like the Toyota Prius and other hybrid vehicles, sell for as much as $1,500 because they contain more of the precious metals.

For car owners, it costs anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 to replace a stolen converter and insurance doesn't always cover it, Schmiedlin said, adding that he thinks the new law is a good idea.

The bill has bipartisan support and is likely to pass a floor vote in both chambers, which means it could be heading to Gov. Tony Evers' desk soon.

But some worry the new law could create a mountain of paperwork for business owners and would be difficult to enforce.

Scrap dealer and auto shop owner George Boyer said the new law places the burden on small businesses. Boyer said his shop, American Auto Madison, scraps nearly 4,000 cars a year.

"I've had 1,000 converters in my possession before, you know, I might have 30 right now," said Boyer. "How to prove where they ever come from is going to be nearly impossible."

Boyer holds a Salvage dealer license from the state Department of Transportation and said he documents every sale but tracking individual parts is tough.

"You're never going to be able to make any salvage person document every converter. It's just not realistic," said Boyer.

He recommends making sure that anyone buying a catalytic converter has a proper salvage license.

But even with licensed scrap dealers, theft is still happening. Lorie Anderson, of the Madison Police Department, said rules don't always deter criminals.

"If somebody illegally obtained the catalytic converter — this is just my opinion, but I doubt that they're going to show identification," said Anderson.

And if a seller refuses to show an ID, they can walk away and face no consequences, said Anderson.

Boyer agrees. Even with regulation, there will still be an underground market, he said.

"That'd be like saying, 'Hey, do you think the sale of drugs in America is ever going to stop since we made harsher drug laws?' Criminals are criminals. There's always going to be somewhere to take something," said Boyer.

Still, Anderson said she supports the bill, even with the challenge of enforcement.

"Clearly, that's the ideal," said Anderson. "That's why we put up speed signs, so we can discourage speeding and encourage safe driving behavior, right? We can’t be everywhere to enforce that."

In the meantime, some mechanics have gotten creative to help vehicle owners protect themselves. Some are welding in bars, brackets and braces like the Cat Shield to cage in their converters. Paul Schechter's mechanic was offering Prius owners $600 cash to swap out their catalytic converter with a less-desirable aftermarket part.

Unfortunately, that didn't work for Schechter. 

Because his truck is old, Schechter didn't bother with comprehensive coverage so insurance wouldn't cover the repair and he didn't feel like shelling out another $1,000. For now, he's getting around town on his electric bike. But he does see a silver lining to the situation.

"It will be a great motivator for me to get an electric vehicle, which doesn't need a catalytic converter," said Schechter. "Just waiting on the (federal) infrastructure bill to come through for that."

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© 2021 by Wisconsin Public Radio, a service of the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Opinion | I'm tired of being the butt of Dave Chappelle's jokes

MinnPost 11 October, 2021 - 04:04pm

I don’t want Chappelle to be canceled. I want him to pull out the threads of homophobia and transphobia that run through the quilt of his otherwise brilliant work.

In middle school, I ran home after class every day out of fear of getting beaten up. The fights started as pranks at my expense and escalated to blows to my head and torso. After the end-of-day bell rang, students came together in a circle to be entertained like the audience at the comedy shows the adults watched. The fists of my harassers were the setup and my face was the bloody punchline. I learned to smile when the gags were verbal, but taking a blow to the mouth made that much harder.

The folks in my neighborhood knew that I was gay before I did. When I realized it, too, I tried to hide it by making myself as small as possible. I was the quiet, bespectacled nerd who knew the answers to questions from the teachers, but not what to say to avoid getting hammered in the hallways. I eventually came out at 15, and I’d love to say that it got better after that. But I just became an even bigger target for mockery by boys who wanted to prove how manly they were.

I emerged from the terror of those years into the world of political activism. My first tentative steps into advocacy in Houston became a confident stride as I organized rallies and marches on behalf of victims of hate crimes. I moved to Washington, D.C., to work with Human Rights Campaign to fight for LGBTQ equality at the federal level. I played a leading role in legalizing marriage equality in D.C. in 2009. I left D.C. to help win the freedom to marry nationwide.

I evolved — and so did the Black community’s opinions of gay and trans people. A majority of people of color now support civil rights for LGBTQ people, including the freedom to marry. But a majority is not everyone. And like some of those same entertainers who filled the heads of my neighbors with stereotypes and hate, newer cultural heroes continue to peddle the same stale jokes, and make LGBTQ people like me the butt of their comedy. When I listen to those comedians today, it induces flashbacks to the fear and trauma I felt as a teenager.

One of the most successful is Dave Chappelle, whose latest Netflix comedy special, “The Closer,” is in the top five most popular programs on Netflix this week. It’s his sixth for the streaming channel. He’s won five Emmy Awards and three Grammys, as well as the prestigious Mark Twain Prize.

In his new show, Chappelle quips that DaBaby, the rapper who recently made homophobic remarks, “punched the LGBTQ community right in the AIDS.” He proudly claimed to be “Team TERF,” aligning himself with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and others who deny that trans women are women. In response, Jaclyn Moore, the trans showrunner for Netflix’s “Dear White People,” declared that she wouldn’t work with the company as long as it profits from transphobia. And a trans Netflix employee tweeted that Chappelle “attacks the trans community, and the very validity of transness.” Netflix then suspended the employee.

I was once a fan of the man and his comedy. I was entranced by his searing observations on race, and because of that I overlooked his homophobic comments. I cheered his bravery when he walked away from “Chappelle’s Show” on Comedy Central in 2006, which he later said was partly out of concern that he was perpetuating racial stereotypes rather than satirizing and challenging them after he noticed a staffer laughing at him, not with him. I supported his demands that Netflix remove the same program from its lineup because he didn’t think he was being fairly compensated.

The more I watched Chappelle’s work, however, the more his constant stream of humor hostile to LGBTQ people left a sour taste in my mouth. He often hits the mark on race even as he can’t see the humanity of gay people. Instead of coming up with better jokes that don’t verbally punch queer folks, he leans into the controversy masquerading as a truth-teller. To shield himself, he declared in “The Closer,” “Any of you who have ever watched me know that I have never had a problem with transgender people. If you listen to what I’m saying, clearly, my problem has always been with white people.”

But in fact, Chappelle is playing one targeted community against another. He talks about what he sees as a difference in how America treats Black people and the gay community. “In our country,” he said, “you can shoot and kill” a Black man, “but you better not hurt a gay person’s feelings.” He’s living in a binary where all Blacks are straight and all gays are white and ignoring the existence of people like me who are both. And his comedy means there are crowds just like the students who whooped and hollered as the bullies bashed my face in school now circling to cheer him on.

I don’t want Chappelle to be canceled. I want him to pull out the threads of homophobia and transphobia that run through the quilt of his otherwise brilliant work. His once bracing wit has become calcified like a wasp in resin unable to move and sting with the times. As such, he’s giving narrow-minded people a safe space to deny the existence of trans people and make gays the focus of their taunts. There’s a difference between being the subject of a joke and being the butt of it. Dave Chappelle, who left Comedy Central when the laughing was at him instead of with him, should understand the distinction.

Michael Crawford is a freelance writer focusing on race, identity and culture.

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