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3 escaped inmates kidnapped taxi driver, whose fate prompted fight between 2

escaped-inmates

escaped-inmates

(KTLA) Three Orange County inmates who escaped from jail in Santa Ana kidnapped a taxi driver at gunpoint, forcing him to stay with them for a week and eventually travel with them to San Jose, authorities said Monday.

Two of the inmates — 43-year-old Bac Duong and Hossein Nayeri, 37 — got into a physical fight over whether the taxi driver should be killed and his body buried, Orange County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Jeff Hallock said at a news conference.

Orange County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Lt. Jeff Hallock, right, says escaped inmate Bac Duong, marked “Captured,” middle, surrendered in Orange County earlier Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, during a news conference in Santa Ana, Calif. Duong told investigators he was with the other two fugitives in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday. Hallock says the other two men, Jonathan Tieu and Hossein Nayeri, may now be headed to Fresno in Central California, where there may be associates who can help them. Authorities had previously said they thought all three men were still in Southern California. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

While Nayeri and the third inmate, 20-year-old Jonathan Tieu, were away from the San Jose motel room where the group holed up, Duong left with the taxi driver. The latter two drove back to Southern California, and Duong turned himself in the next day.

The taxi driver not injured and was helping investigators, Hallock said.

“At this point, we’re viewing him as a victim of a kidnapping,” the captain said.

The activities of the fugitives following their Jan. 22 escape from Module F of the Men’s Central Jail in Santa Ana were described at an 11 a.m. news conference.

Hallock laid out a timeline that began with the three inmates’ being placed in jail custody. The escape plan had been developed over six months, beginning in July 2015, when Nayeri and Tieu were in jail, Hallock said. Duong did not arrive at the Men’s Central Jail till Dec. 5, 2015.

They escaped at 5 a.m., 15 minutes after an inmate count at the jail. They were quickly picked up by an accomplice and driven to a house in Westminster.

Then they traveled between several different homes in Westminster, Santa Ana and Huntington Beach before taking a taxi that night to a Target store in Rosemead, where they bought clothes.

About 11:30 p.m., “Duong puts a gun to the taxi driver’s ribcage and tells him he’s coming with them,” Hallock said.

It’s not clear where the four men stayed that night, but the next day, Duong stole a van listed on Craigslist in Los Angeles, and the inmates had their hairstyles changed at an El Monte hair salon, Hallock said.

For the three following nights, while the Sheriff’s Department asked for help finding the escapees, they and the taxi driver stayed at the Flamingo Inn in Rosemead.

On Tuesday, Jan. 26, after mailing a letter from Garden Grove to Tieu’s mother — as a distraction ruse — the men and the taxi driver drove to San Jose, taking both the van and the taxi, Hallock said.

The next day, while the group stayed at the Alameda Motel in San Jose, Nayeri and Duong had a physical fight over the taxi driver’s fate. Then, on Thursday, Jan. 28, Nayeri and Tieu took the van to get its windows tinted.

While they were gone, Duong and the taxi driver took the taxi back to Rosemead, where the two men spent the night.

The next day, the driver took Duong to Santa Ana, where the escapee surrendered. The driver later contacted the Sheriff’s Department.

Duong approached a family member’s automotive business and said he wanted to turn himself in. Police were called and he was taken into custody without incident.

Then, on Saturday morning, San Francisco police arrested Nayeri and Tieu. At a Whole Foods Market parking lot, a man recognized the white van investigators had described and alerted nearby officers.

As police approached, Nayeri ran on foot but was quickly captured. Tieu was found hiding inside the van.

No weapon has been recovered, and so far it does not appear that the men had more than one firearm, Hallock said, noting that many questions about the escape remain.

Hallock said no evidence points to the inmates’ having any help from sheriff’s staff, and an internal administrative investigation into the escape was ongoing.

“It’s something we’re not proud of. We’re embarrassed,” Hallock said. “We feel like we let the public down.”

The three men were being held in isolation cells and will require handcuffs, leg chains and a two-deputy escort any time they’re moved around jail, Hallock said.

“They’ve been less than cooperative,” the captain said.

One of the roughly 10 people who were detained during the manhunt — Loc Ba Nguyen — has been charged with multiple crimes, including smuggling weapons into correction facility and aiding in a prisoner’s escape, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.

Hallock could not say how Nguyen smuggled items to prisoners, saying that was under investigation. Nguyen was linked to Duong, Hallock said.

Nguyen was believed to have picked the men up, according to Hallock.

The man who spotted the van in San Francisco will be eligible for a reward, which had grown to $200,000, Hallock said.

Source : http://www.aol.com/article/2016/02/01/3-escaped-inmates-kidnapped-taxi-driver-whose-fate-prompted-fig/21306321/

 

 

How Paris united against terror: Eiffel Tower as peace symbol, la Marseillaise, free shelters & taxi


Taxi in Paris

Taxi in Paris

The city of love turned into the city of anguish after several attacks rocked central Paris on Friday night. At least 127 people died, and many more were injured. The tragedy sparked an unprecedented response, with thousands sending their prayers and condolences.
The unprecedented tragedy has shocked the world. People from around the globe sent their condolences and brought flowers to French embassies.

In solidarity against the violence, crowds of French football fans sang ‘La Marseillaise’, the French National Anthem, as they were evacuated from the Stade de France during a series of attacks that rocked Paris on November 13.

“Peace for Paris”, an illustration by the French graphic designer Jean Jullien, has been widely shared on social media in the wake of the tragedy. The iconic Eiffel Tower has become a symbol of support for people worldwide, many unable to get to grips with what happened.

One Taxi Driver’s Fight to Save His Medallion and His Family’s Future

Taxis Austin

Taxis Austin


NEW YORK—The night was teeming with city noises: the intermittent blasts of hip-hop from passing cars, the jubilant howls of young drunkards. But it was dim and quiet inside Jaswinder Singh’s taxi save for the sound of his children talking to him through FaceTime. Although they live in the same house in Long Island, he hasn’t seen his children in three days.

Seven days a week, Singh drives his yellow taxi from 2:30 in the afternoon until past 11 at night. By the time he gets home from the city, it is 2 a.m. Sometimes he doesn’t make it home until 5 in the morning. His seamed face and gray beard makes him look older than his 45 years.

When Singh wakes up his three children are often already at school. His wife hands him his lunch bag, stuffed with painkillers and a vegan meal, and off he goes again.

To stave off loneliness, Singh steals family moments during bathroom breaks or as he waits for passengers at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

As fine needles of rain scattered from a black sky during one recent respite, he texted his wife. She responded with a photo of their 6-year-old son modeling new shoes.

“So nice. So cuteeeee,” Singh wrote back to her.

Singh used to not mind the long hours of solitude. For the last 12 years, his driving had served as a worthy means to a middle-class life: He went from being a bankrupt man in Punjab, India, to becoming someone who owns a house in Long Island. His children attend school in a good neighborhood.

But of late, his efforts feel fruitless.

Ever since his driver left him for Uber 13 months ago, Singh has been pushing the boundaries of his body to save his family’s future.

Despite working seven days a week and sleeping an average of four hours a night, he is three months behind on his medallion mortgage payments. The bank can repossess his medallion at any time.

“Losing the medallion is not so bad,” he said. “The problem is losing the house.” Singh, like many medallion owners, had borrowed against his medallion to help pay for his home.

There are roughly 3,500 individual medallion owners like Singh in New York City. According to Javaid Tariq, co-founder of the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance, these medallion owners are on the verge of losing their taxies and possibly their homes.

As the taxi industry staggers to compete with Uber and other app-based ride-hailing companies, much has been written about the setbacks of Medallion Financial Corp. (which provides medallion loans) and fleet owners (those who own several medallions and lease them out in taxi garages).

But few have examined the lives of individual medallion owners like Singh, and how Uber has made the American dream more accessible for some while putting it out of reach for others.

Gateway to Middle Class
Before the mid-1930s, the New York City taxi industry was unregulated. There was no limit on the number of taxis and no standard on fares.

In 1937 the Haas Act created the medallion system, which required taxi drivers to get a special license and curbed the number of taxis in the city.

It required each taxi to have a medallion, a metal city permit affixed on the hood of a taxi. Without it, a driver is not legally allowed to pick up hailing customers from streets or airports.

(Uber is technically legal in NYC because its drivers can only pick up people who hail from apps.)

Yellow taxi drivers can rent taxi medallions from taxi garages or individual medallion owners like Singh.

Usually, taxi drivers save for many years before making a downpayment to purchase their own medallion taxis. They are considered an elite in the industry once they do. They no longer need to work for a garage and can even hire a driver to work for them. They can borrow money against the medallion and buy houses.

After five years of taxi driving, Singh saved up enough to make a downpayment for a medallion in 2008. The medallion was worth $450,000 at the time.

As the medallion’s worth went up, Singh borrowed against his medallion to pay for his house. With his mortgage, his debt grew to $840,000.

That was fine, and even typical, for some time. His driver paid him $2,000 a month to rent his medallion at night and Singh still drove full time during the day. He earned enough to make mortgage payments, save for his children’s college, and even take one day off a week.

His Oyster
Up until recently, investing in a medallion had been a safe road to the middle class. For decades, its value had grown exponentially.

In 1937, the medallion’s average worth was $2,500. By 2013, the medallion’s value reached its peak at $1.05 million.

Singh was overjoyed the day that he got his taxi license in New York. A switch flipped in his mind; for the first time since his childhood he felt that the world was his oyster.

Singh grew up in Punjab, a state in northern India with a large agriculture industry. He fancied becoming an attorney as a boy, but his family was not wealthy enough to pay for an overseas law education.

Instead he went on to start a successful export business with his brother. They sold and traded goods of all kinds—from blankets and zippers, to saws and pliers, to rice.

But when China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, the Indian economy could not compete with China’s cheap manufactured goods.

Singh’s export business, along with many others, went bankrupt.

He remembered the long lines outside the embassy, where people would wait up to eight hours a day in 90-degree weather for a chance to apply for a visa. They couldn’t get out of line to eat or use the bathroom. If they did, they’d lose their spot.

Singh’s visa application was rejected four times. But he kept trying. He’d travel 300 miles each time from Punjab to the embassy in New Delhi.

In the end, he was arranged to marry a woman in Queens, New York. But he didn’t want to marry her for the sake of leaving India.

He spent more than he could afford on phone cards, having long conversations with his potential wife.

“I had to know if she was beautiful on the inside,” he said.

He realized that she was. In 2003 they married, and he joined his life with her’s in Richmond Hill, Queens, where he became a taxi driver like his father-in-law.

His brother-in-law purchased a medallion too, and borrowed against it to purchase a second medallion.

Singh’s nephew also bought a medallion in April 2014. He wasn’t in a position to do so, but the bank offered him a 95 percent loan. At the time, he didn’t suspect that the incredible offer might have been given because the medallion was about to drop in value.

None of them guessed that by February 2015, medallions would stop selling. The value of medallions would drop to as low as $700,000.

Dream Unravels
Singh’s driver left him for Uber last September. “At first I didn’t think it was a big deal,” he said. “I’ll just find another driver.”

But drivers left for Uber in droves. At McGuinness Management Corporation, a taxi garage in Brooklyn, 50 percent of its taxis were unused, the New York Post reported this August.

It didn’t help that Singh owned a wheel-chair accessible taxi—which required twice as much gas. When the sparse number of taxi drivers had a sea of cars to choose from, they avoided the wheelchair accessible cars.

Thirteen months later, Singh is still driverless and paying $4,300 a month for his medallion mortgage. His mortgage, gas, car repairs, and insurance come to $7,000 a month.

When asked about the current situation of many individual medallion owners, Tariq looked sorrowful.

“They cannot make it. They cannot make the mortgage payments driving by themselves,” Tariq said. “Many are at risk of filing bankruptcy.”

Uber, Democratizing Taxi Driving
One can’t blame Singh’s driver for leaving. The pay and working conditions are much more attractive driving for Uber.

“I drove a yellow taxi for more than 10 years, and it was a constant struggle to make ends meet,” Samuel Nunez, a Uber driver, wrote in an op-ed in the New York post titled “Driving for Uber lets me live the American dream.”

As a yellow cab driver, Nunez earned around $30,000 a year and paid the medallion owner to use his car.

With Uber, he doesn’t need to pay a garage or medallion owner. He drives his own car.

“With Uber, I make about $60,000 a year—and right now, I’m only working three days a week,” he wrote. “We’re no longer stressed about paying the bills and are more focused on spending quality time with one another and doing what we love.”

Mamadou Bah, a Uber driver who emigrated from Guinea, told the Epoch Times a similar story.

“When driving the medallion, I had to drive 12 hours a day,” he said. “Now I can stay home two to three days, and I make more money.”

“This is my medallion right here, my $300 medallion,” he joked, patting his car.

A proposed Uber cap was put on hold in City Council in July, as the city moved forward with a traffic congestion study.

In the meantime, Uber has grown to 30,000 drivers in New York City, who compete with 50,000 yellow taxicab drivers.

The Clock Ticks
Some speculate that Uber and other ride-hailing apps such as Lyft, Gett, Via, and so forth, might be the future of taxis.

But Graham Hodges, a professor of history at Colgate University who has written a book about the social history of taxis, doesn’t think so.

“I’m not troubled the medallion has fallen in value,” he said.

Hodges used to drive a yellow cab to support himself during his five years at the City College of New York, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Hodges went on to become a distinguished Fulbright professor at Beijing University.

Since the medallion system had been an enduring gateway to the middle class throughout history, he believes it won’t lose value permanently.

“It could be a sign that the medallion is losing value,” Hodges said. “Or it could also be a sign that people are holding back and waiting to see what happens.”

But how long will it take for the medallion to rebound? Singh is running out of time.

The Seizure
Singh feels a twinge in the pit of his stomach whenever he remembers how his son doesn’t spend the dollars he receives from his grandparents.

“Someday when I save up a lot of money I will give it to you so that you can take a day off,” he recalled his son saying. But Singh felt that he had no choice but to work even harder.

In April, the bank seized his medallion.

In a fit of panic, he borrowed money from dozens of friends and family in India to come up with the $16,000 he needed to get his medallion back.

But in May 2015, the First Jersey Credit Union sent him a letter saying that since the medallion value has gone down, Singh owed the bank $177,173.

Singh needed to pay within 10 days. Otherwise, the bank would take him to court and he “was liable for legal court costs,” according to the document.

Singh managed to negotiate with the bank and put off the payments.

But by October, he was three months behind on medallion mortgage payments once again. Singh felt demoralized.

He went to the emergency room twice in September for an overwhelming bursting sensation in his stomach.

It turned out Singh has kidney stones. But his main reaction was frustration that he had to go to the hospital on a weekend, when driving was most profitable.

“I’m scared something will happen to him,” said Ruby Singh, his wife. “He’s sleeping only four to five hours. He’s losing his weight.”

Correction: An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated that Jaswinder Singh owned First Jersey Credit Union $177,173,98. He owed $177,173 and 98 cents. Epoch Times regrets the error.

Getting Over Taxis

Taxi Austin

Taxi Austin

I find Susan Crawford’s arguments in Getting Over Uber puzzling and unconvincing on a number of fronts.
First, consider the statement:
Uber drivers have a tough time making a living; they’re responsible for their own cars, fuel, benefits, maintenance, tolls, and certain insurance as well as the kickback to Uber that takes a substantial slice out of every fare they pick up…. Uber consistently squeezes its drivers as tightly as it possibly can; new drivers are paying an even higher cut to Uber than the first generation did.
Most taxicab drivers also have a tough time making a living. They aren’t responsible for their own cars, maintenance, and some insurance, but they do have to pay for their own fuel, tolls, benefits (because 87% of all taxi drivers in the US are independent contractors), and they pay a daily rental fee that is far higher than any possible slice of every fare that an Uber or Lyft driver picks up.
The charged language “kickback to Uber” is particularly loaded and inappropriate, given that the slice of a driver’s daily revenue that is taken by Uber is actually less than that taken by the typical taxicab owner, albeit in the form of a daily rental fee for the taxi rather than a percentage of every fare.
I’m not going to bother rebutting Susan’s statement:
“[Uber drivers] may or may not know where they’re going, and they may or may not be driving cars that are safe.”
given the experience that I have had (and Susan herself must have had) in taxis whose drivers don’t know where they are going, driving old rattletrap cars that wouldn’t pass an Uber or Lyft inspection.
Do the Math: Taxi vs Uber
A taxi driver typically rents his or her taxi from the owner, usually for a fee of $100 to as much as $130 a day (or, assuming the driver works 5 days a week), a total of $2000 to $2600 a month.) This is referred to as “the gate.” The driver keeps 100% of all fares and tips over that amount, but that is the cost of entry.
Now, compare Uber: you provide your own car, but you pay no daily rental fee. You keep 70–75% of every fare (Lyft gives the driver 80%, and if you’re a full time driver with Lyft, you keep 100% of every fare.) For the 25–30% share that Uber keeps to equal a $100 Gate fee for a taxicab, the driver would need to generate $400 per day in fares. That’s the equivalent of $2000/week or $100,000/year!
Given the enormous pushback when Uber claimed that some of their drivers could make as much as $100,000/year, this number seems unlikely. (felix salmon had glowing things to say last year in The Economics of “Everyone’s Private Driver.” After a scathing rebuttal from Tom Slee, Salmon wrote another, somewhat apologetic correction about having misinterpreted Uber’s projections of possible driver income.) That means that the share of the driver’s income taken by a taxi company is far greater than the amount taken by Uber.
This comparison isn’t entirely fair, because the taxi driver does not have to provide his or her own vehicle. But what does that cost?
A quick internet search shows that I could lease a 2013 Toyota Camry from Uber’s leasing affiliate for payments as low as $109/week, and Allstate told me I could insure a similar vehicle for $103/month. That works out to about $25 per day, assuming that the vehicle is driven 5 days a week. That is probably on the low side, but the point remains: it is a fraction of the cost of the daily rental that most taxi drivers pay.
There is one other simple thought experiment that you can make to understand the fallacy of Susan’s argument. And that is to ask how taxi owners make their money. They rent their cars to drivers. If the rental income they received from drivers weren’t higher than the costs of owning, insuring, and servicing the car, not to mention the cost of purchasing the medallion (which can cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars), they would be out of business.
The Path To Ownership
Using this back of the napkin math, it appears that on the cost side, being an Uber driver is a better deal than being an independent taxi driver. And while the amount that you can make as an Uber driver is a matter of considerable debate (see Felix Salmon vs Justin Singer), it is almost surely higher than the median income for taxi and limousine drivers in 2012 reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
So why don’t more taxi drivers switch? Many do. But I suspect that the reason others do not is the same reason that many low wage workers can’t get better jobs: they can’t afford to. Buying a new car of your own may be cheaper than renting a taxi by the day, but you have to have good credit to make the purchase. As is so often the case, the poor pay more because they can’t afford to pay less.
Uber recognizes this problem, and has been trying to make it easier for potential drivers to acquire their own cars. Their first foray into vehicle leasing was a disaster, with many drivers getting in over their heads with cars they couldn’t afford, paid for with leases they couldn’t get out of. Recognizing this problem, Uber has been working hard to make car leases both more affordable and more flexible.
There is one set of taxi industry players that is particularly hard hit by disruption from Uber and Lyft, and that is medallion owners. (I am particularly sympathetic to the plight of individual medallion owners, many of whom worked their way up from being drivers.) They paid a lot of money for the exclusive right to operate taxis in a particular city, without competition, allowing them to keep fares high, and they are being challenged by upstarts not just with better technology and better user experience but with a different economic theory: that if you can drive down fares sufficiently, you will increase utilization to the point where people choose on-demand transportation over the alternative of owning and driving their own car. And further, they are betting that that increased utilization will provide better income to drivers despite the lower fares. (See my previous piece, Improving Uber’s Surge Pricing, for more details.)
There is no question that there was a path to ownership of a valuable asset in the previous regime of taxi medallions that is no longer available in the Uber era, but that opportunity was available to few, and most taxicab drivers are simply low-paid independent contractors with high costs and little ability to grow their income.
Tim O’Reilly