Overfishing drives slavery on Thailand’s seafood boats: report

SAMUT SAKHON, Thailand — Urine pools under a bed where an emaciated Burmese man lies wearing only a T-shirt and a diaper. As he struggles to sit up and steady himself, he tears at his thick, dark hair in agitation. He cannot walk and doesn't remember his family or even his own name. He speaks mostly gibberish in broken Indonesian — a language he learned while working in the country as a slave aboard a Thai fishing boat. Near death from a lack of proper food, he was rescued from a tiny island in Indonesia two months ago. He is just one of countless hidden casualties from the fishing industry in Thailand, the world's third-largest seafood exporter. A report released Wednesday by the British nonprofit Environmental Justice Foundation said that overfishing and the use of illegal and undocumented trawlers have ravaged Thailand's marine ecosystems and depleted fish stocks. Boats are now catching about 85 percent less than what they brought in 50 years ago, making it "one of the most overfished regions on the planet," the report said. Shrinking fisheries in the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea have, in turn, pushed Thai fishing boats farther and farther from home. The group estimates that up to half of all fish labeled a "product of Thailand" is sourced from outside its borders — mainly in Asia, but as far away as Africa. The report, compiled from the group's own research and the work of others, explains how Thailand's vast seafood industry is almost wholly dependent on cheap migrant labor. Since few Thais are willing to take the dangerous, low-level jobs that can take them far from home, a sophisticated network of brokers and agents has emerged, regularly recruiting laborers from impoverished neighboring countries such as Myanmar and Cambodia, often through trickery and kidnapping. Men — and sometimes children as young as 13 — are sold onto boats where they typically work 18- to 20-hour days with little food and often only Continue Reading

N.J. has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws — and among the lowest gun death rates

As the nation reels over the deadliest mass shooting in recent American history, lawmakers and advocates of gun control are urging Congress to consider tightening regulations in an effort to prevent future atrocities. In New Jersey, during his two terms, Gov. Chris Christie has taken steps to loosen the state's strict gun laws and pardoned out-of-state gun owners who have been charged with gun crimes. Still, the state has some of the strongest gun laws in the nation, according to data from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The state is also among those with the lowest gun-related death rates — it ranks 45th out of 50, according to the data. Here's what makes New Jersey gun laws among the strongest: Under regulations adopted in the spring by Christie, New Jersey residents are allowed to obtain handgun carry permits if they demonstrate that they are the subjects of "serious threats."Previously, the applicants were required to show a "justifiable need," which was considered a higher bar that courts interpreted to mean "specific threats" or "previous attacks." State and federal courts have upheld the previous requirement as a reasonable and constitutional measure.   LAS VEGAS SHOOTING: North Jersey couple who saw massacre said 'the screams kept coming' GUN SILENCERS: Easing access to gun silencers is a no-go for Pascrell LAS VEGAS SHOOTING: Marilou Danley's relatives speak out In April, a month after Christie announced the new state regulations, the Democratic-controlled Legislature filed a lawsuit in an effort to block the amendment, claiming the Christie administration overstepped its authority in issuing the change. Gun rights groups that want the state's gun laws loosened, however, have argued that the previous "justifiable need" standard was Continue Reading

Readers sound off on Sheldon Silver, Vito Lopez and dirty doings in the Assembly

Brilliant Bramhall, pathetic pols Kew Gardens: Loved Bramhall’s Aug. 29 cartoon. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called the settlement in the groping involving Assemblyman Vito Lopez “legally correct and ethical.” Shades of Penn State. In New York politics, we need a bigger rug. Bill Doherty Howard Beach: Re “Silver must come clean” (editorial, Aug. 29): The only way Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver comes clean is for him to step aside. What he did was even worse than what Vito Lopez did — he covered it up. That makes him dirtier than that groper Lopez. He’s been there too long. He is a major part of the problem. R. Anderson Fairfield, Conn.: When Shelly Silver said the settlement was “legally correct and ethical” what he was thinking was, “How am I going to spin this mess to make me look good?” Edward Petitti Time for a cleaning Manhattan: It’s clearer than ever that Albany needs sweeping reform (“Albany’s short- lived ‘integrity,’ ” Bill Hammond column, Aug. 28). The change with the greatest impact would be publicly funded elections, which would reduce the influence of big donors. The Assembly and Gov. Cuomo support it, but the state Senate is opposed. Too bad the Senate majority isn’t following the lead of its party’s presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, who said the runaway cost of the presidential election “increases the potential of money having an influence in politics.” Dave Palmer, executive director, Center for Working Families Chief executive wanted Floral Park, L.I.: If America was a company you owned, and your future generations depended on it being successful, whom would you hire to run it, Romney or Obama? John Kiernan First Ladies first Hollis: I watched Ann Romney’s speech at the Republican National Convention and have one word for it — boring. Let’s face it, she’s no Continue Reading

Marijuana in Larimer: Freedom, regulation in focus

A year after retail sales of marijuana arrived in Larimer County, the industry has turned into a $1 million-per-month economic force and nascent political player. But the effect Colorado's newly legal marijuana trade has had, or will have, as a cultural force is yet to be seen.Today, Fort Collins police would like more clarity about tracking marijuana and regulations governing both recreational use and retail trade, while marijuana users hail recreational legalization as a victory for personal freedom. Meanwhile, Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson sees the post-legalization landscape as remarkable for how little seems to have really changed for the community."What surprises me is the amazing lack of change, at any difference before or after," said Johnson, who helped establish recreational marijuana rules in the county. "I think it's had very little impact on the community as a whole, and I think that's probably because it was so prevalent before."The first retail marijuana outfit in Larimer County opened its doors in early April 2014. A year later, Choice Organics' license renewal was remarkable for the lack of discussion around it.Choice Organics now has more competition — another retail operation opened in the unincorporated county and four in the city — but many say the sea change associated with Amendment 64's passage in 2012 hasn't quite come, or is too early to spot."It may not be for years until we can see an impact on our community," Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell said. "But I think it's something we should be paying close attention to."The county took an intentionally slow approach to retail marijuana, Johnson said. It capped the number of retail shops allowed in unincorporated Larimer County at two. Michael Whitley, a county planner, said he receives weekly inquiries about adding more.In the city of Fort Collins, only medical dispensaries can add retail operations. Four of the 12 medical marijuana dispensaries in the city have added Continue Reading

Readers sound off on Civic Virtue, gun laws and Joe Paterno

Keep Civic Virtue where it is Bellmore, L.I.: I work in Kew Gardens, directly across from where the Triumph of Civic Virtue statue and fountain have been prominently displayed since 1941 (“City’s stony silence,” July 25). The politicians who secretly arranged to move the statue to a Brooklyn cemetery are showing total disregard for the constituency they purportedly represent. Repair, restore and conserve this important monument — don’t relocate it to Brooklyn. Why hasn’t Ivan Mracovcic, co-chairman of Community Board 9 and president of the Richmond Hill Historical Foundation, been apprised of the relocation plan? The last politician who tried to remove Civic Virtue was former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who wanted to sell it on eBay. Weiner’s resignation shows that Civic Virtue continues to triumph over corruption and vice. Keep Civic Virtue in Kew Gardens. The allegory and symbolism work. Erika Saltzman Straight shooting Hampton Bays, L.I.: To all the anti-gun nuts blaming the NRA and pro-Second Amendment Americans for shootings like the recent one in Colorado: That’s fine — as long as you take responsibility for mass murders carried out under Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, who banned guns. Richard Robinson Fire in crowded theater Fairfield, Conn.: Some pro-gun Voicers are suggesting that if the movie theater hadn’t banned weapons, others with guns could have taken out the killer before the police arrived. So having several people shooting all at once in a dark movie theater with hundreds of people stampeding to the exits would make perfect sense. Stephen Johnson Blame the shooter Mamaroneck, N.Y.: I am sick and tired of the Daily News and other left-leaning New Yorkers blaming the NRA for this tragedy. Why are none of you people blaming the psycho who shot everyone? Does anyone actually believe this man wouldn’t have gone crazy and hurt people if gun laws were stricter? Robby Continue Reading

Have you spotted a self-driving car in Chandler or Tempe? Here’s what you should know

Southeast Valley residents may notice some new drivers on the road that don’t get road rage, don’t talk on their phones and speak in a binary language of ones and zeroes.Tempe and Chandler have become the latest hot spots in a tech trend that aims to change commutes across the globe: self-driving cars.Waymo, formerly known as the Google self-driving car project, added Chandler to its list of test cities last year. Austin; Mountain View, Calif.; and Kirkland, Wash., are the other proving grounds where Waymo tests its new cars.And local leaders are enthusiastic. Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny kicked off his annual State of the City address Jan. 31 with a video of him in a self-driving car."These automotive tech companies further diversify Chandler's robust employment base, allowing us to remain economically strong," Tibshraeny said.Late last year, Gov. Doug Ducey took a ride in one of Waymo’s cars, telling the press, “I can think of no better place to push the boundaries and test those limits than right here in Arizona.”Companies have invested in the technology for decades and it's finally gaining speed in the 21st century, but with that comes a new set of issues around liability, regulation and safety.Self-driving cars present unique regulatory and communication issues for states and cities.Chandler has been updating Waymo on road construction in the city to help the company test its vehicles under those types of circumstances, city Transportation Engineer Mike Mah said.“We’re not that involved; it's more informational,” Mah said about how the city and Waymo interact.The sharing of information is largely one-way. Tempe and Chandler police have not sought, or received, maps of where self-driving cars operate in their jurisdictions."They're kind of all over the map," Chandler spokesman Jim Phipps said.Waymo spokeswoman Lauren Barriere said the Continue Reading

The face of ‘gig’ work is increasingly female — and empowered, survey finds

Got a side gig? You’re not alone. And among those in the ranks of the on-demand, or "gig," economy are more and more women.Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, a symbolic date that shows how far into 2017 women need to work to earn what men earned in 2016. Hyperwallet, a company that manages payments for a number of gig-economy companies, released data Tuesday on women’s roles in the sharing economy.Among the findings:However, while many women have turned to gig work to supplement income, few have embraced it as a full-time job. Most are augmenting their money with either another part-time job, full-time employment or a spouse's income, the report says.So who exactly is a "gig" worker? Someone who doesn’t have a contract for long-term employment, according to one definition from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That includes independent contractors (also called freelancers or independent consultants), on-call workers, and those who work for a temp agency or contract firm.Of the women surveyed by Hyperwallet, 43% found professional freelance work through platforms like Upwork or 99designs. Driving for ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft accounted for 22% of gig work, while home-sharing services like Airbnb comprised 8%.Hyperwallet compiled the findings based on a survey of 2,000 female gig workers in the U.S.Jessica Milli, who has studied the gig economy for the non-profit Institute for Women’s Policy Research, says it’s often the flexibility aspect that draws women to these jobs.They are "frustrated with the formal labor market because they don’t have the flexibility they need to take care of their families," she said.Of the quarter of respondents who left their full-time jobs for gig work, 32% did so for more flexibility and less stress, while 28% needed more time to care for a child, parent or relative, the report said. Seventy percent of female gig workers are the primary caregivers in their homes, according to the Continue Reading

Renovate rundown housing laws: Recent N.Y.C. deaths underline urgent need for reform

On Friday night, two men died in a fire in a Brooklyn rowhouse that city officials say was an improvised boardinghouse - deaths that followed three similar tragedies in the Bronx last month. On Sunday, the city announced a crackdown on illegal hotels - one of which reportedly had 44 people living in a three-family home. It is, of course, critical to enforce the current laws when homes can become deathtraps. But let's be clear: The problem New York faces is bigger than that. With a wide range of immigrants, almost 50% of the adult population single, an economy that is still struggling to recover and others desperately seeking affordable housing, we need to recognize reality and reshape the housing laws we have. New York City should see this moment of crisis as an opportunity to develop a wider array of safe and legal types of housing to serve our 21st century population. We need to modernize our arcane laws and codes to permit new housing options to be developed. The 2010 census results suggested the problem, when it shockingly declared that only an additional 1,343 people moved to Queens between 2000 and 2010 - and that the city population overall increased by just 2.1%. There are many suggested reasons for this undercount of New Yorkers, estimated to be under by about 250,000 people and to cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars in lost federal aid. One educated guess made by Mayor Bloomberg is supported by a recent analysis by the Citizens Housing & Planning Council, a New York City housing research organization: that illegal housing types, subdivisions and sharing are so extensive in the city that it has become impossible to truly understand the population living behind our closed doors. Enforcement alone cannot solve this pervasive and dangerous issue for our city. Unlike cities such as Tokyo and San Diego, which permit innovation in housing design and living arrangements, New York City's pileup of 20th century laws and regulations keeps Continue Reading

Drowning in Law: A flood of statutes, rules and regulations is killing the American spirit

Government is broken and the economy is gasping. The reason is the same: Americans no longer feel free to roll up their sleeves and make the choices needed to fix things. Governors come to office and find that 90% of the budget is pre-committed to entitlements and mandates enacted by politicians long dead. Teachers no longer have authority to maintain order in the classroom. Legal mandates and entitlements have accumulated, like sediment in the harbor, until it is almost impossible for Americans to get anywhere without trudging through a treacherous legal swamp. Only big businesses, not small entrepreneurs, have the size (and legal staffs) to power through the legal sludge. America will thrive only so long as Americans wake up in the morning believing they can succeed by their own efforts. Innovation, not cheap labor, is the economic engine of America. The net increase in jobs since 1980, according to research at the Kauffman Foundation, is attributed solely to newly-started businesses. Unleashing these powerful human forces requires, however, an open field for individual opportunity - bounded by reliable legal structures that enforce contracts and other important social norms. Instead, the land of opportunity is more like legal quicksand. Small business owners face legal challenges at every step. Municipalities requires multiple and often nonsensical forms to do business. Labor laws expose them to legal threats by any disgruntled employee. Mandates to provide costly employment benefits impose high hurdles to hiring new employees. Well-meaning but impossibly complex laws impose requirements to prevent consumer fraud, provide disability access, prevent hiring illegal immigrants, display warnings and notices and prevent scores of other potential evils. The tax code is incomprehensible. All of this requires legal and other overhead - costing 50% more per employee for small businesses than big businesses. The sheer volume of law suffocates innovative Continue Reading


INSIDE A white concrete garage on a gritty Queens street, a mechanic cranks the arm of a hydraulic 2-ton jack, hoisting a chained engine, with its wires and hoses snipped out of a maroon 1995 Nissan sedan. The 11-year-old car would be worth no more than $5,600 with its standard factory installed equipment. But there is nothing standard about this vehicle. Chun Wing Ng is replacing the Nissan's old engine with a more powerful motor imported from Japan as part of a $10,000 overhaul that will transform Alberto Cayanan's two-door sedan into a turbo-charged speedster. "Some people like to spend their money on gambling or home entertainment systems, and some people like to spend it on their vehicles," said Ng, owner of Wing's Performance in Maspeth. His garage is one of only a handful of so-called speed shops in the city that specialize in "hooking up" Japanese compacts. The lightweight, superfast vehicles are favored by drag racers who drive streets throughout Queens, Deer Park Ave. on Long Island or Avenue P in Newark where they race for money and pride in illegal contests. Inspired by movies like "The Fast and the Furious," which helped push customized cars into the mainstream, speed junkies test the limits of their driving skills - sometimes with deadly results. Just last Sunday, a 23-year-old man was killed when he slammed his hooked-up Honda Civic into a telephone pole while drag racing another Honda on a stretch of Page Place in Maspeth, a few blocks from Wing's shop. "This is called the tuner era," explained Andy Goodman, president of the National Custom Car Association, a Hicksville, L.I.-based, sanctioning body that judges about a dozen "youth-oriented car shows" across the nation, including a July 15 event at Shea Stadium. Instead of tuning the engines of American muscle cars like Mustangs and Camaros, today's young car buffs prefer to get under the hoods of Honda Civics and CRXs, Toyota MR2s and Subaru WRXs. The Japanese cars are often Continue Reading