Archive for the ‘human trafficking’ Category

Human Trafficking Videoconference June 25

June 20th, 2014
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Learn how you can help fight human trafficking in Hawaii by attending this statewide videoconference, co-sponsored by the 808HALT coalition through the federal Rescue & Restore Campaign at Pacific Gateway Center and the University of Hawaii School of Social Work.

WHEN: Wednesday, June 25, from 11 AM until noon, followed by discussion until 1 PM.

WHY: Hawaii is a hub for human trafficking because of our geographic location. Children, young women, domestic workers and foreign laborers are flown in from all over the world. Ships and fishing boats may also be carrying exploited workers. Men from impoverished countries are promised good paying jobs on Hawaii farms, then abandoned and left to fend for themselves, while separated from their families for years. In short, human trafficking is modern day slavery.

WHERE: (seating is limited so please RSVP as soon as possible!)

UH Manoa – Kuykendall Hall, Room 204 (seating capacity: 20) is the origination site where the presentation will be held. Below are the receiving sites

UH West Oahu – Library Room B-157 (seating capacity: 30)

Kauai Community College – Learning Resource Center, Room 122 (seating capacity: 20)

UH Maui College – Ka’aike Room 105A (seating capacity: 20)

• UHMC Lahaina Education Center – Room 104 (seating capacity: 12)

UH Hilo – Media Services Room (seating capacity: 20)

For further information about the Hawaii Interactive Television System (HITS) site locations, please visit www.hawaii.edu/dl/location/.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND: anyone who provides services to victims of sex trafficking or forced labor, i.e., social workers, health providers, people in the travel and transportation industry, immigration attorneys, law enforcement. To learn more, go to www.808HALT.com and click on the YouTube link to see videos, which have been translated into different languages.

WHAT WILL BE COVERED: Experts on human trafficking will provide an overview of the problem, tell you how to recognize signs of trafficking, and what you should do if you think someone could be a victim. Real life cases and examples will be used.

Please call Maya at 851-7010 or email maya@pacificgatewaycenter.org to reserve a seat!

 

Chinatown Tour, Part 3

June 3rd, 2014
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PROGRAM ALERT: The new June episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., 7:30 PM on OC16 (channel 12/high def 1012) and will feature segments on the Hawaiian Mission Houses, Cemetery Pupu Theater, Kakaako Farmers Market/Coffee Festival, and a positive story about human trafficking victims who are rebuilding their lives in Hawaii. For details and daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch segments from past and present shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

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Before I get to the final installment of my rambling, meandering blog trip through Downtown Honolulu's past via the Honolulu Exposed Red Light Tour, I wanted to comment on recent comments the past week or two in regards to present day Chinatown. It seems we have reached a tipping point. The local media, including the Star-Advertiser, have stepped up their coverage of the homeless problem. Mayor Kirk Caldwell has publicly gone on the offensive. Residents and tourists are writing letters to the editor, or posting online responses to news articles and op-ed pieces. All of which is a good start for a call to action.

However,  I need to get some things off my chest... things that probably bug some of you out there. First, let's not quibble over political correctness when referring to homeless people. I had a friend tell me he was shopping in Chinatown, and after being accosted by a homeless woman in front of the store, he mentioned to the sales person inside that the "homeless" person was bothering passersby outside. The clerk became indignant and told him, "She's not homeless -- she's houseless. I used to be one of them!" I'm happy this clerk found a job and got off the streets, but do we really need to get into arguments about what to call them? As a recovering alcoholic, I had to admit I was a drunk who needed help before I could get better. In rehab, addicts and alkys don't sugar-coat who we are by putting nicer labels on ourselves. So let's get real about the problem of poop and piss and stink on our streets, and in our public parks.

Secondly, stop bemoaning the "lack of leadership" by the Mayor. One person can only do so much, especially if they get no help from above -- where's the Governor in all this, or the State Legislature? -- or little support from the Honolulu City Council. They cut the Mayor's funding requests on the grounds that they disagree with specific priorities outlined by Caldwell, and worry there's not enough money in the budget to cover it. Really? Have they figured out the cost of NOT taking action? Have they calculated the loss of tax revenue from businesses that are hurting because residents and visitors alike steer clear of Chinatown or Waikiki because of the swelling homeless population?

We are talking about triage. Stop the bleeding now, do what it takes to show some tangible results as quickly as possible. When a hurricane hits or your house is on fire, you don't stop and say, well, given our current financial projections, let's calculate what we can afford to do to put out the fire or house those who were displaced by the flooding. You provide for the people who are impacted, and deal with the bills later. Nobody is telling the City Council to write a blank check. But they need to get off their butts, and do something NOW instead of dickering around with numbers while people are hurting, and our image as a world-famous visitor destination continues to suffer.

Lastly, no one owns the moral high ground on this. There are a lot of well-meaning folks who write letters and post blog comments that lambaste anyone who suggests some of the homeless are just lazy bums, drunks or drug addicts, or insolent rule-breakers who refuse to cooperate with authorities. The truth is many are homeless due to unfortunate circumstances. And many get there by making bad choices. God knows, had it not been for my company's health insurance plan, I might not have gotten into rehab and I could have wound up on the streets myself. I also know there are many people who are barely making ends meet, and are one or two paychecks away (or a single medical emergency) from facing the prospects of losing their home... so if they show little patience for those who put the blame on the high cost of housing in Hawaii, cut them some slack. We're all in that same boat.

It reminds me of a book I have mentioned before called "How To Be Good" by Nick Hornby. It's about decent people who begin to question just how "good" they really are as Christians and liberal-minded progressive types. The husband, who had been a cynical, cranky newspaper columnist, meets a New Age guru of sorts, and has an epiphany: instead of merely talking the talk, why don't they walk the walk and take in the homeless? Instead of being hypocrites, who look the other way and ignore the problem, why not share your house with these poor, down-on-their-luck souls? Maybe that's all they need -- a helping hand and support from caring people like yourself. Of course, his experiment in social engineering doesn't quite pan out as planned because the homeless have a myriad of issues, just as each and every one of us do.

So ask yourself, how far would you go to help the homeless? Online petitions, Facebook/Twitter reposts, letters to the editor, a donation here or there... nothing wrong with any of that. But unless you're literally willing to open your own home to the homeless, I'd say most of us fall far short of being the models of enlightened civility we like to imagine ourselves to be. At least, I know I do.

Chinatown Tour - Part 2

May 27th, 2014
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Before I resume my story about the Honolulu Exposed Red Light Tour, I wanted to share this comment on Part 1 from reader John Reid:

I hope the folks doing the Chinatown tour can find someone who can tell them about the strip bars next to and across the street from the Hawaii Theatre back in the 1980's (Club Darling which was next door on property that is now the park, and The Harbor Lounge located across the street that is now a French restaurant). Both of these were frequented often by a couple of local motorcycle clubs and have colorful histories. In addition, there was another straight bar down a small alley next to the theatre owned by Bill Mederios called the Alley Cat. They also don't want to leave out the site of the oldest bar in Honolulu, called the Pantheon over on Nuuanu and Bill Lederer's on Hotel Street where HPD has their Chinatown office. Visitors will also be interested in learning that live sex acts were performed in the basement of a building on the short street connecting Bethel Street to the Fort Street Mall called the Theatre of Venus. The then-president of the Devils Breed Motorcycle Club and his wife performed live sex in front of large crowds of Japanese visitors who were brought down in tour buses. This one was shut down by a prude prosecutor of the City and County of Honolulu. I was the owner and operator of Club Darling and the Harbor Lounge during most of the 1980's.

Interesting, huh? The current Honolulu Exposed tour focuses more on older history, but I'm going to pass along this info to the tour owners, Carter and Clinton. When I left off in the last installment, my wife had just returned from her search for a public restroom in Chinatown, and said: "Look who's here!"

I turn and see two guys I know -- local inventor, marketing maven, serial entrepreneur Mark Bell, who I've featured on my show three times (including his adaptation of the Scooter Cooler, which has had thousands of views on the CCTV YouTube Channel); and Kenny Kaminaka (also goes by Kurt or KK) who turned his house into the ArtZone, where aerial performances, plays and other works of art/entertainment have been staged. We did a segment on him way back in 2010, and KK is planning on building ArtZone 2 now. (Note: those are two older clips that were posted before YouTube allowed high def uploads, so they're kind of blurry.) Mark and Kenny were there with Alan Arato, who has been working with local concert producer/promoter Tom Moffatt for a long time and is a well-known entertainment producer in his own right.

The reason Mark bought the tour Groupons was those three are starting their own unique tour experience called Saving Paradise (here's their Facebook link) which, from what I understand, will be an interactive experience combining actors who portray characters, fun facts about Hawaii, food and drink. In effect, they were checking out the competition. But by the end of our tour, we were all talking about working together on one thing or another. That's what I love about living here. Being on a small island, where everybody knows each other or knows somebody who knows the person you don't know, there's a lot of collaboration. As I told Clinton and Carter, to succeed in Hawaii, you need to form partnerships with like-minded people.

Getting back to the homeless situation in Chinatown, I think we need that same kind of cooperation between private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. For the past three years, through the federally-funded Rescue & Restore program, I've been involved with the 808HALT.com coalition to address human trafficking in Hawaii. I've seen what can be accomplished when stakeholders from the private and public sectors, along with NGOs (non-government organizations) are brought together to share ideas, as well as resources. Homelessness is a social problem, but it's also an economic issue that needs to be tackled head on. It takes creativity too, and thinking outside the box -- or traditional public restroom model, for that matter.

For instance, in Europe I saw pay-for toilets with attendants who made sure the facilities were clean. Their presence also deterred vandalism. Why not build restrooms, staff them with unemployed homeless people who have been living in those areas, charge small fees for use of the facilities and put that money toward housing for the attendants, who are homeless? I've seen prototypes for housing trafficking victims that converts shipping containers into decent living quarters -- could that be part of the solution? I think it's going to take a variety of approaches, and some of those will fail. But we have to do something besides complain about it.

As for the tour itself, even though I've lived here since 1985, there were a lot of stories about Downtown Honolulu I had never heard before. Just walking along, looking up at the building facades while listening to Carter's entertaining talk, I noticed details I've missed all these years while hustling around to meetings (or bars back in my drinking days). Despite the lack of restrooms and the homeless problem, it's still worth taking the trip -- if nothing else, to remind ourselves what it's like seeing Chinatown through the eyes of visitors, who drive our economy for better or worse. What I saw was great potential amid the dirty faces and littered streets. There are new restaurants, shops, businesses springing up even as older ones shut down or move out after giving up the battle against crime and constant hassling by drug dealers/addicts/mentally-ill people. Ironically, things like tours and documentaries that recall Chinatown's darker side, could rally residents to save and preserve the best parts of the past while moving forward.

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Oh, one more coincidence: my wife and I were watching Pawn Stars on the History Channel last month, and who do we see walking into the Vegas shop with an item to sell -- Mark Bell! He offered them a test piece from Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose, the mammoth wooden airplane that barely got off the ground before it was grounded for good. Asking price: $10,000. As it happens, Mark's dad worked for the famously reclusive tycoon, which is how he obtained the unusual wooden structural sample (click here for the Pawn Stars link or check out Oceanic Time Warner's entertainment on demand channel for that episode). In the end though, they only offered $200 so Mark took a walk. Still, it was cool to see him on one of the weird shows I regularly watch.

But wait, there's more! In Part 3, I'll tell you about what happened right after the tour and how the guy on this month's Hawaii Business magazine cover -- Small Business Person of the Year, Dave Erdman -- was responsible for introducing me to my wife, Isabel.

For daily viewing times and more info about my Career Changers TV show, which airs daily on OC16, please visit our website and click on the YouTube link to check out segments from past episodes.

 

Important Traffick Updates Friday

May 8th, 2014
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If you follow the news closely, you've probably noticed that human trafficking -- sex trafficking in particular -- has been getting more attention from the State Legislature and law enforcement. Not all of the media reports have been positive though because of allegations against local police (which haven't been proven in a court of law yet) and the national publicity generated by controversy over wording in a law that would seem to make it okay for cops to have sex with prostitutes as part of their investigations. There was another law proposed that was meant to protect sexually-exploited minors against criminal charges, which critics said would have inadvertently given protection to pimps and traffickers who were also minors.

I've also sat in on a presentation where Honolulu City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro argued against creating new anti-trafficking legislation, on the grounds that it would only make their jobs more difficult in enforcing laws that were already on the books. I'm not an attorney, so I can't comment on the legal arguments for or against any of the laws that were proposed or shelved, but I think the fact that there is more public discussion of trafficking issues is a good thing. It shows that people are becoming increasingly aware of this criminal enterprise that preys on children, young women, and foreign laborers.

Yet it also shows how difficult it is to stop. Because trafficking crosses international borders and involves legal gray areas of exploitation -- is it smuggling, is it a labor dispute? -- there is a need for attorneys and law enforcement to find the right words that will define what is criminal and what the penalties shall be. On Friday, May 9 from 8:30 AM to 10:30 AM the Hawaii State Bar will be doing a presentation at 1100 Alakea Street, Suite 1000, titled "Using the Law to Obtain Justice for Human Trafficking Victims."

Among the speakers will be Terence C. Coonan, JD, from the Florida State University's Center for the Advancement of Human Rights; Bow Mun Chin, Esq., Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii; and Shantae Williams of the Sussanah Wesley Community Center. It is free and open to the public. To RSVP, please call 956-9327 or email tatjana.johnson@gmail.com.

Coincidentally, there's another human trafficking workshop on Friday as well at Central Union Church from 9 AM until 4 PM. This one is sponsored by Ho'ola Napua, which was formerly Courage House (a national organization that they are no longer part of). The featured speakers are George F. Rhoades, Jr., PhD., who is a licensed clinical psychologist with a long list of credentials; and Jessica Munoz, a licensed nurse who has personally seen the devastating effects of trafficking in ER rooms where she worked. Their topic will be "The Understanding and Treatment of Sexually Trafficked Children and Young Women." It is free, and if you'd like to attend, please email info@hoolanapua.org.

I know it's short notice, so if you can't attend but would like to learn more about human trafficking in Hawaii, you can go to www.808HALT.com. I'm part of the coalition that produced videos about trafficking here, which have also been translated into other languages on the 808HALT YouTube Channel.

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For daily viewing times and info about the new May episode of Career Changers TV, visit our website (schedule subject to change for high school sports this weekend). You can also watch segments from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

New Trafficking Signs

April 3rd, 2014
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HT Notice

Since my Career Changers TV show is part of the 808HALT.com project to combat human trafficking in Hawaii, I've been tracking related State laws that were passed last year. One piece of legislation that received little attention concerns posting trafficking hotline signs in establishments that hold liquor licenses, employ nude dancers or massage therapists -- places that could be fronts for sex trafficking operations. While we fully endorsed making this info available to possible victims who are recruited to work in hostess bars, strip joints and spurious "spas" that offer more than massages, we wondered how and when the law would be implemented.

As it happens, our 808HALT meetings include people from the FBI, Homeland Security, the Coast Guard and community organizations that represent immigrant populations from countries where much of the trafficking originates. So we hear a lot of things through the coconut wireless. One tip we received was that the above "NOTICE TO EMPLOYEES" sign is starting to appear in Honolulu establishments with somewhat shady reputations. It's possible those businesses aren't doing anything illegal, but at least the women who work there now have a contact number to call if they feel they are being exploited.

However, one of the challenges our coalition has faced in getting this kind of info out to trafficking victims is many of them do not speak or read English very well. We've translated many of the 808HALT videos into different languages and have printed materials in multiple languages as well, but getting that info to the people who really need it is difficult. Law enforcement and groups like ours still largely rely on word-of-mouth -- which nowadays includes texting, cell phones and emails. So if you know of anything that seems fishy and could be human trafficking -- laborers, domestic servants, farm workers, exploited children -- please contact us through the www.808HALT.com website.

There is supposedly a $100 per day fine for employers in the establishments targeted by the new law who fail to post the trafficking hotline signs. But it's not clear to me who is actually responsible for putting up the posters, and who will be enforcing the rule. The signs list the Hawaii Department of Labor offices and phone numbers, so maybe it's their jurisdiction. Anyone out there know if police can cite business owners for failure to comply with this new law?

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The new April episode of Career Changers TV begins airing Thurs., April 3 at 7:30 PM on OC16 (channel 12/high def 1012). For more details on that, please see my last post by clicking here. You can also view video segments from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.