Fishermen slaves going home after being tricked into human trafficking

Hundreds of men who were sold as slaves are heading back home after being sold as slaves to poach for fish for export.

A Home Coming Years in The Making
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Myat Ko Ko Lay leaves Ambon after being tricked by human traffickers a year ago. (Photo: Achmad Ibrahim, Associated press, September 8, 2015)

Dozens of Burmese men in the bustling port town of Ambon were the latest to go home, some more than a decade after being trafficked onto Thai trawlers as slaves to poach fish for export to the U.S. Grabbing one another’s hands, the men walked together towards buses last week. As they pulled away for the airport, some of those still waiting their turn to go home cheered, throwing their arms in the air.

“I’m sure my parents think I’m dead,” said Tin Lin Tun, 25, who lost contact with his family subsequent to a broker luring him to Thailand five years ago. Instead of working in construction, as promised, he was sold onto a fishing boat and taken to Indonesia. “I’m their only son. They’re going to cry so hard when they see me.”

For many, the return home is bittersweet. Parents’ collapse in tears upon seeing their sons and some men met siblings born after they left. But almost all came back empty-handed, struggle to find jobs, and feel they are yet another burden to their poor families. At least one crowd-sourcing site, set up by Anti-Slavery International, hopes to affect their progress.

Those stuck on Thai fishing boats and others who had escaped into the jungle — were the first to go home when rescues led by the Indonesian government began in early April. Since then, hundreds more have been identified and repatriated from neighboring islands. Many of those leaving recently from Ambon were handed cash payments by company officials but they said the money was a fraction of what they were owed.

“We’ve never seen a rescue on this scale before,” said Lisa Rende Taylor, an anti-trafficking expert formerly with the U.N. who now heads the anti-slavery nonprofit Project Issara. “They deserve compensation and justice.”

AP shows the rotten side of the fish business

Last year, the Associated Press tracked fish — caught by men who were savagely beaten and caged — from a slave island in eastern Indonesia to the supply chains of some of America’s biggest food sellers, such as Wal-Mart, Sysco and Kroger, and popular brands of canned pet food like Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. It can also be used as calamari at fine restaurants, as imitation crab in a sushi roll or as packages of frozen snapper relabeled with store brands that land on our dinner tables.

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Former slave Kyaw Naing held in his rusted cell as he awaits to return home. (Photo: Associated press, November 27, 2014)

A year-long investigation led the AP to the island village of Benjina, part of Indonesia’s Maluku chain about four hundred miles north of Australia. There, workers who were considered runaway risks, were padlocked behind the rusty bars of a cage.

The largest impact, by far, has been the rescue of some of the most desperate and isolated people in the world. More than two thousand men from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos have been identified or repatriated since the AP’s initial story ran, according to the International Organization for Migration and foreign ministries. The tally includes eight fishermen trafficked aboard a Thai cargo ship seized in neighboring Papua New Guinea.

Scarred for life

Tun Lin, who returned to Myanmar last week, held up his right hand: a stump with just a thumb.

He said one finger was ripped off while he tried to wrangle an unwieldy net on the deck of his boat, and the other three were crushed beyond saving. He was taken by refrigerated cargo delivery ship to Thailand, where the remaining digits were surgically removed. Four days later, he said, he was put back on a ship bound for Indonesia, where he fished for the next three years.

“There were some good captains, but there were a lot of bad ones,” the 33-year-old fisherman said, his eyes filling with tears as he described how “boat leaders” were assigned to act as enforcers, beating up fishermen who weren’t working fast enough. “When we asked for our money, they’d say they didn’t have it … but then they’d go to nightclubs, brothels, and bars, drinking expensive alcohol.”

An AP survey of almost four hundred men underscores the horrific conditions fishing slaves faced. Many described being whipped with stingray tails, deprived of food and water, and forced to work for years in the absence of pay. More than 20 percent said they were beaten, 30 percent said they saw someone else beaten, and 12 percent said they saw a person die.

Maung Soe

Maung Soe holds a copy of his forged seafarer’s book. (Photo: Associated Press, November 27, 2014)

“My colleague, Chit Oo, fell from the boat into the water,” wrote Ye Aung, 32, of Myanmar. “The captain said there was no need to search, he will float by himself later.”

Another man, 18-year-old Than Min Oo, said he was not paid and wrote simply: “Please help me.”

A study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine earlier this year, based on interviews with over one thousand trafficking survivors from different industries, found half of those returning from slavery at sea suffered from depression and around 40 percent from post-traumatic stress disorder, or anxiety. Those men were not connected to the Benjina cases.

And those returnee figures don’t tell the whole story: Hundreds more have been quietly sent home by their companies, avoiding human trafficking allegations.

How to change the possibility of future slaves

Many experts believe the most effective pressure for change can come from consumers, whose hunger for cheap seafood is helping fuel the massive labor abuses. Southeast Asia’s fishing industry is dominated by Thailand, which earns $7 billion annually in exports. The business relies on tens of thousands of poor migrant laborers, mainly from neighboring Southeast Asian countries. They’re often tricked, sold, or kidnapped and put onto boats that are commonly sent to distant foreign waters to poach fish.

Florida based South Pacific Specialties, which distributes to supermarket chains, restaurants, and food groups, received a shipping container loaded with frozen tuna from Mabiru in February. Managing partner Francisco Pinto told the AP his company had once rented out Mabiru’s facilities in Ambon, bought tuna from private artisanal fishermen, and hired its own workers for filleting and processing fish. Pinto said he has spent the past six weeks in Indonesia meeting and observing fish suppliers because American customers are increasingly demanding fair treatment for workers.

In the past month, three separate class-action lawsuits have been filed naming Mars Inc., IAMS Co., Proctor & Gamble, Nestle USA Inc., Nestle Purina Pet Care Co. and Costco, accusing them of having seafood supply chains tainted with slave labor. Ashley Klann, who happens to be a spokeswoman for the Seattle-based law firm behind several of the cases, said the litigation “came as a result of AP’s reporting.”

Regardless of the increased global attention, hundreds of thousands of men still are forced to work in the seafood industry. However, new laws have been introduced and the Obama administration is pushing exporters to clean up their labor practices. U.S. companies taking steps in order to prevent it.

“Slavery in Southeast Asia’s fishing industry is a real-life horror story,” said N.J. Rep. Chris Smith, who is currently among those sponsoring new legislation. “It’s no longer acceptable for companies to deny responsibility … not when people are kept in cages, not when people are made to work like animals for decades to pad some company’s bottom line.”

AP writer Robin McDowell contributed to this report from Yangon, Myanmar, and AP National Writer Martha Mendoza contributed from Washington, D.C., and California. Mason reported from Jakarta, Indonesia.


Austin Program Takes Kids ‘By The Hand’

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In a community that is filled with violence and crime, parents often worry about the safety of their children. With most after school programs being cut in public schools, there aren’t many choices for children to go for recreation and tutoring. One Austin non-for-profit vowed to change that and bring those activities back.
By The Hand is an after school program that helps inner city kids prosper in education while learning about God. The newly built facility located at 415 N. Laramie brings a sense of freshness to the community as it neighbors two liquor stores. In a recent interview with volunteer coordinator Darrell Gordon, 32, and team leader Akeeysha Rodgers-Williams, 40, they said their purpose is to help the kids succeed all the while building their faith and self-worth.

Twins Ask The White Sox ‘ Would You Like A Dustpan For That Sweep?’


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Photo: Google


After their second game was postponed Wednesday due to rain, the White Sox set out to beat the Minnesota Twins after a 7-2 loss Tuesday. The Sox’s starting pitcher Derek Holland took on Twins Phil Hughes in an effort to break their four-game losing streak. It seems as if after their World Series win in 2005, they’ve had a hard time getting back to becoming the champions they once were.


News Before The Game:

Theo Epstein shot down the idea of the Cubs and White Sox becoming trade partners. But with what’s been happening so far in the season involving both teams, it may not seem like such a bad idea. Maybe he’ll reconsider.


Inning 1

Let’s get ready for some baseball.

Inning 2

The first inning was difficult to watch. Two home runs left a sour taste in the mouth of the White Sox and that taste stuck with them into the second.

Inning 3

With a number of home runs within the first two innings, the Twins made the game as one-sided as a 2D drawing.

Inning 4 

The White Sox are finally on the board after three innings of a 6-0 score. It’s starting to look like a ball game again.

Inning 5

The White Sox are beginning to pick up the pace with some base hits and a home run to shorten the score gap 7-5.

Inning 6

A close game is more entertaining than what we’ve seen in the first four innings. The White Sox have switched out Holland for Anthony Swarzak, pitching against Tyler Duffey.

Inning 7

With each remaining inning, it became more apparent that the Twins battery life is at 30 percent as the White Sox are fully charged.


Inning 8

The White Sox are trying hard break their losing streak. Momentum now even between the two teams with the difference maker of one-point.

Inning 9

If you took a bottle of soda and shake it for an hour it still wouldn’t match the amount of pressure these two teams are having as we’re in the final inning with one-point still between them.


In a post-game conference, White Sox manager Rick Renteria said that he was proud of the way his guys fought through the game, even though people thought it was over in the fourth. Wrong size gloves and dropped balls he said contributed to tonight’s loss but is still happy with their effort.

“Despite the loss, I’m very proud of the way they continued to play and them service well moving forward because there’s still a lot of baseball left,” said Renteria.

He goes on to defend his choice to use David Robertson early in the game as it helped the team’s comeback. Holland felt that the loss was on him because he didn’t do enough in the game.

“I did what I needed to do to get back into the groove, but it just wasn’t quite good enough. When you don’t execute your pitches the way you should, it’s going to make this a lot harder for those guys to come back,” he said.

The White Sox now lost a total of five straight games. They prepare to play the San Diego Padres tomorrow.


Homerun By Schwarber Reminds Us Why They’re The Champs

In yesterday’s game against the Cardinals, Schwarber gave the team a case of deja vu of the World Series as his comeback seventh inning home run led the Cubs to victory 6-4.

While watching the game in the local barber shop with the Cardinals leading 4-1 for the majority of the game I thought the game was pretty much over. That thought was based on the first game they played against each other in the season opener on April 2. Maybe it was the flashback of the team losing that came to the forefront of my thoughts but still believed that they could pull it off somehow. Nonetheless, up to the plate comes Schwarber who hits it out of the park reviving the love for the team.

According to, this was the first home run from the left-fielder since 2015. Since last season, Schwarber was waiting for his chance to get back on the field and remind everyone of who he is. He missed most of the 2016 season following a knee injury and he was out for surgery.

This season there’s a feeling that he will be a big part of the team’s chances of a repeat championship.

‘Power Rangers’ Provides The Origin Fans Deserve And Hints At Sequel


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The teens discover the red power coin in an abandoned area. (Credit: Google)


Spoilers, but not too many.

In the original television series, as some may remember, there wasn’t much back story behind who the ranger’s leader Zordon was and his relationship with their enemy Rita Repulsa. In order to further explain this, they film had to change the television’s origin to answer these questions.

In the opening of the film, the rangers are on a planet that is being destroyed. The red ranger is crawling towards the yellow ranger who then hands him her power coin. As the red ranger collects the rest of the team’s coins, a green ranger carrying a staff walks towards him. It comes to be Zordon who served as the original red ranger and Rita was the green ranger who wanted more power and betrayed her team. Now with the origin of the two, this will set up the sequel based on what they’re fighting for, the ZEO crystals.

In you’re a fan of the television series then you’ll know that the ZEO crystals lead to an extension of the franchise “Power Rangers ZEO”. The series also follows the original mighty morphing series as other teens took over as rangers. The crystals, however, don’t mean we’re going to skip over the rest of the originals.

In the post credit scene, as all the rangers are back in the detention classroom, the teacher calls for the news student Tommy Oliver, who is known as the evil green ranger in the show. With these two setups, a sequel is promised for the near future.

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The film offers enough dialogue and action to unite fans young and old as soon as the teens morph into their suits. the film could have been better if they stuck to casting actors for the roles as the show did such as RJ Cyler as Zack instead of Billy but he stands out as the scientific nerd who was put into detention for blowing up his lunch box.

Nonetheless, a fun ride that will have people looking back at the old show to get more of what could be next in future films. The origin is better instead of Rita being freed from a capsule and is sending clay-made monsters to fight. It’s a film that moviegoers must Go Go see.

Power Rangers

4 stars

Runtime: 2h 4m


CPS Heading Towards Rough End to the 2016-17 School Year.


CTU President Karen Lewis at last year’s April 1 Stike. The scene can be the same if the teachers vote yes to another strike (Photo credit: WTTW)  


CPS teachers will prepare to vote next month for a possible one-day strike according to the Chicago Teachers Union. This comes weeks after the announcement that schools will close three weeks earlier on June 1 to save money.

There have been various suggestions to help fix the budget including a recent meeting with Gov. Rauner and Chance the Rapper.  Chance, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CTU, and other locals have expressed their dissatisfaction with the city’s budget crises regarding CPS funding. After an effort to help the budget with a $1 million donation from the Chicago rapper it won’t be enough to save the budget as talks of a strike looms.

In December 2016 Gov. Rauner vetoed a bill that would grant CPS a $215 million pension for funding as he said that tax dollars can’t continue to be wasted on bailouts. Mayor Emanuel was quoted in response to Rauner saying “The emperor wears no clothes.” The statement is in reference to the old children’s tale saying he is unsuitable for the job and has no clear plan.

In the beginning of the school year, teachers dodged a potential strike after negotiations for a better contract were met at the last minute.  But now with the removal of four furlough days, a possible one-day strike, and a three week early closing at the end of the school year could mean there will be no resolution in the near future.

If teachers vote to strike it will take place May 1.


‘Get Out’ Uses History Of Slave Trades To Intensify Plot.


Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Imagine going to visit your spouse’s family only to found out that you are potential property to be sold to others. Similar to the slave trades in the 1800s, the film recreates these acts to intensify the plot as Chris Washington, Daniel Kaluuya, visits his girlfriend’s family for the weekend.
In the film, Chris happens to visit on the same weekend his girlfriend Rose, Allison Williams, parents are having visitors over. However, they’re not just any visitors as the people who arrived, all of which were white, started to analyze Washington by testing his intelligence, his body and admired how cool he was. Like the trade, slave owners would analyze the slaves by checking their body and were most likely to be purchased if they were younger. This was poked at when he was noted as being 26-years-old. Slaves were then sold to the highest bidder. Rose’s father Dean, Bradley Whitford, was leading the bid with a picture of Chris on display with the guest placing their bid using bingo cards.

We are introduced to other enslaved African Americans including the housekeeper Georgina, Betty Gabriel, and the landscaper Walter, Marcus Henderson. They seem like normal obedient workers until Chris begins to have conversations with them in which Georgina begins to tear during their encounter, and Walter running away as fast as he can. They were under hypnosis thanks to Rose’s Mother Missy, Catherine Keener, who tries to trap Washington under the same spell in an effort to get him to quit smoking.

While talking to his bidder Chris asked why did the family targeted black people? Only to receive the answer that they wanted someone strong and share a common interest. What makes the film evedownload-7n more interesting is that with this kind of plot it was released during Black History Month. In a way, it brought this part of history to modern audiences to show how black people lost their own individuality during these trades and separated from their family and friends to serve their owners.

The film itself is a suspenseful thriller that is well written and features some funny moments to make light of intense scenes. Beginning to end all the elements of the film, including the brief history lesson, makes this movie a good time.

‘Get Out’

3 ½ Stars

Runtime: 1 hr 43 min

Rating: R