US Customs vows to block imports made by North Korea workers

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 7:36 PM
Updated: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 7:35 PM


            In this Aug. 31, 2017, photo, North Korean workers walk in a group to dormitories in the compound of the seafood processing factory Hunchun Pagoda in the city of Hunchun in northeastern China's Jilin province. Roughly 3,000 North Koreans are believed to work in Hunchun, a far northeast Chinese industrial hub just a few miles from the borders of both North Korea and Russia. The workers are paid a fraction of their salaries, while the rest - as much as 70 percent - is taken by North Korea’s government. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
In this Aug. 31, 2017, photo, North Korean workers walk in a group to dormitories in the compound of the seafood processing factory Hunchun Pagoda in the city of Hunchun in northeastern China's Jilin province. Roughly 3,000 North Koreans are believed to work in Hunchun, a far northeast Chinese industrial hub just a few miles from the borders of both North Korea and Russia. The workers are paid a fraction of their salaries, while the rest - as much as 70 percent - is taken by North Korea’s government. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

as well as any other goods — produced by North Korean laborers who work in China.

An Associated Press investigation tracked salmon, squid and cod processed by North Korean laborers working abroad to American stores, including Walmart and ALDI. The North Korean workers found in Chinese factories aren't allowed to leave, and receive only a fraction of their pay — most goes straight to the North Korean state. This means that American consumers buying seafood labeled "Caught in the USA, Processed in China" may inadvertently be subsidizing the government of Kim Jong Un as it builds nuclear weapons, and also supporting forced labor.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement Thursday it is reviewing the allegations and if warranted, would "pursue all enforcement actions and prohibit goods from importation as appropriate." The companies that responded also vowed to investigate ties with suppliers.

GOP Congressman Chris Smith from New Jersey, who has repeatedly called for tougher enforcement, said the Labor Department has already identified trafficking in 12 sectors of goods exported by China.

"CBP should be stopping every shipment from those sectors_and now trafficking-tainted salmon too," he said.

A White House National Security Council spokesman said Thursday the North Korean government's scheme to outsource its labor underscores why the United States has pushed for restrictions on North Korean foreign workers. The spokesman said all countries should, at a minimum, ban companies from bringing in North Korean crews, as pledged in recent United Nations sanctions.

China is among the countries that have promised to comply, already banning imports of North Korean seafood, and saying no more North Korean workers will be allowed starting next year.

"But all nations must go further and reject what is clearly a despicable practice that only serves the regime's nuclear ambitions," said the NSC spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to comment.

Walmart said its supplier has addressed the problem, although it did not specify how. Walmart and ALDI said they are committed to human rights and fair labor practices, and expect the same from their business partners.

At a time when North Korea faces sanctions on many exports, the government is sending tens of thousands of workers worldwide, bringing in revenue estimated at anywhere from $200 million to $500 million a year. That could account for a sizable portion of North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs, which South Korea says have cost more than $1 billion.

North Koreans overseas work in construction in the Gulf states, shipbuilding in Poland, logging in Russia. In Uruguay, authorities told AP, about 90 North Koreans crewed fishing boats last year.

"I am not surprised at all," said Anthony Talbott, who directs the University of Dayton's Human Rights Center. "North Korea has probably the single highest level of state-sanctioned slavery in the world, it's a major source of income for them."

Among those North Korean laborers in China, roughly 3,000 are believed to work in the northeast industrial hub of Hunchun, just a few miles from the borders of both North Korea and Russia. AP documented North Koreans in several Hunchun seafood processing plants, and tracked their supply chains to importers, including Sea-Trek Enterprises in Rhode Island, where managers said they are being inundated with phone calls from customers and suppliers since the AP story.

Sea-Trek's owners said that they hadn't visited China and were unaware of the makeup of the workers, but would immediately cease dealings with the plant until the situation is resolved.

"Sea-Trek will not purchase product from any company using forced labor," said vice president Mitch Sarnoff.

Mark Liszt, owner of Lawrence Wholesale, a national food distributor in Southern California, said it would investigate its suppliers as well.

"We're middlemen," said Liszt. "We do make a practice of trying to go and visit the plants that we buy from in person, but it's not a perfect world that we can see into every single one."

Some U.S. brands and companies had indirect ties to the North Korean laborers in Hunchun, including Chicken of the Sea, owned by Thai Union. Trade records show shipments came from a sister company of the Hunchun factory in another part of China, where Thai Union spokeswoman Whitney Small says labor standards are being met and the employees are all Chinese. Small said the sister company should not be penalized.

AP observed North Korean workers in Chinese factories building hardwood flooring, sewing garments and manufacturing electronics. Fordham University economics professor Giacomo Santangelo said he doubts it's just fish processed by North Korean workers that reaches the U.S. markets.

"Now we need to ask, how many other products imported from China are made with North Korean labor?" he said.

Top senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York said U.S. officials must keep products made by North Koreans out of the United States.

"The Administration needs to ramp up the pressure on China to crack down on trade with North Korea across the board," he said.

Ohio's Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who helped pass North Korea, Iran and Russia sanctions this summer, said corporations also have a responsibility to make sure they are abiding by UN Sanctions and U.S. laws.

However, Bucknell University political science professor Zhiqun Zhu said a sanction-based approach that cracks down on imports isn't going to solve the problem.

"It has so many loopholes," he said. "All sticks and no carrots will not make the North Korea problem disappear."

___

Read more in the series: https://www.apnews.com/tag/RepublicofKim

Donald Trump: Only modern president without pets in the White House

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 10:45 PM

WASHINGTON - MARCH 15:  U.S. President Barack Obama greets his dog Bo outside the Oval Office of the White House March 15, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Martin H. Simon-Pool/Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images
WASHINGTON - MARCH 15: U.S. President Barack Obama greets his dog Bo outside the Oval Office of the White House March 15, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Martin H. Simon-Pool/Getty Images)(Pool/Getty Images)

The Trump White House is likely to become known for many things, but cute and cuddly is apparently not one of them. Breaking from tradition, the First Family has not welcomed pets into their lair.

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"There are no plans at this time" to add animals to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Communications Director Stephanie Grisham told CNN. That would make the Trumps "the only first family in modern presidential history without a pet," CNN says.

Ivanka Trump wrote about her ex-husband's ambivalence toward her poodle, Chappy, in her memoir, Raising Trump. Chappy "had an equal dislike of Donald," she was also quoted as saying.

In recent times, dogs have been the most common furry friend at the White House. Who doesn't remember the Portuguese water dogs, Bo and Sunny, who frolicked with the Obamas, or the many mutts of the Bush presidents. George W. Bush's dog, Spot, was born at the White House, the offspring of Millie, during George H.W. Bush's administration. George W. and Laura also had terriers, Miss Beazley and Barney, famous for his "Barney Cam" videos.

But the history of First Family pets is also full of unusual sidekicks, from James Buchanan's elephants to Martin Van Buren's tiger cubs, according to CNN. Though unconfirmed, legend has it that John Quincy Adams had an alligator.

Many of these more unusual animals were gifts. First families with young children often went more traditional, taking full advantage of the benefits of living at America's most famous residence.

The Kennedy White House included a pony, horses, hamsters, dogs, parakeets, a canary, a rabbit and a cat. Pets "help create an atmosphere of the White House as a family, a lived-in place and not just a stiff museum, but a place where a family lives and plays and enjoys each other's company," the chief historian at the White House Historical Association, Ed Lengel, told CNN.

But it's not like the Trump administration is bereft of pet-lovers. Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence keep a menagerie at their nearby home at the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Their rabbit, Marlon Bundo, is a social media star with his own Instagram account. One of their longtime cats, Oreo, recently passed away but they've since added a new kitten, Hazel, who joins another feline, Pickles. The family's beloved 13-year-old beagle, Maverick, died days before the election. But an Australian shepherd puppy, Harley, has happily joined the family. 
More famous First Family pets 
• Thomas Jefferson: A mockingbird and several bear cubs.
• Woodrow Wilson: A flock of sheep and a ram, who grazed the White House lawn.
• William Taft: A Holstein cow named Pauline.
• Warren Harding: Laddie Boy, an Airedale terrier who had his own chair in the Roosevelt Room for Cabinet meetings.
• Calvin Coolidge: First Lady Grace Coolidge had an opossum and a raccoon, which she walked on a leash.
• Theodore Roosevelt: Nearly 30 pets, including his bulldog, Pete, famous for tearing the pants off the French ambassador.
• Richard Nixon: Checkers the cocker spaniel.
• Jimmy Carter: Daughter Amy had a Siamese cat named Misty Malarky Ying Yang. 
• Ronald Reagan: Rex, a King Charles spaniel.
• Bill Clinton: Socks the cat.

Vegetables sold at Walmart, Trader Joe's recalled for Listeria

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 9:43 PM

Mann Packing recalled various vegetable products over Listeria concerns. (Photo: Food and Drug Administration)
Mann Packing recalled various vegetable products over Listeria concerns. (Photo: Food and Drug Administration)

Mann Packing is voluntarily recalling various vegetable products sold at Walmart, Trader Joe's and Target over concerns of Listeria monocytogenes, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The company said “a single positive” test result in random sampling by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency sparked the decision to issue the recall notice. Listeria infection can cause fever, diarrhea, flu-like symptoms and even miscarriages.

"As an owner of this company and a mom, providing safe and healthy foods to our consumers and their families is always our top priority," Gina Nucci, director of corporate marketing, said in a release.

The recall includes Brussels sprouts, broccoli and vegetable medley products distributed throughout the United States and Canada with “best if used by” dates from Oct. 11 to 20.

Affected items include:

  • Walmart 12-oz. bags of broccoli cauliflower florets, broccoli florets and stir fry medley, 32-oz. bags of broccoli florets, 16-oz. bags of broccoli slaw, 10-ounce bags of cauliflower florets and super blend, 6/16-oz. bags of cauliflower and 2-lb. bags of vegetable medley.

  • Trader Joe's, 10-ounce bags of kohlrabi salad blend.

  • Archer Farms 12-oz. bags of broccoli slaw, broccoli cauliflower florets, broccoli medley and brussels sprouts, 9-oz. bags of shaved brussels sprouts and 10-oz. bags of cauliflower florets.

Aldi supermarkets also issued recall notices for Mann products.

Conjoined twins thriving after surgery to separate them

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 8:33 PM

Conjoined twins were separated and are thriving. (Photo: WSOCTV.com)
Conjoined twins were separated and are thriving. (Photo: WSOCTV.com)

Conjoined twins from Mooresville are thriving nearly five months after a long surgery to separate them.

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Erin and Abby DeLaney, 15-month-old girls, were attached at the top of their heads.

Their surgery, which was on June 6, took 11 hours, but it was a success. They were recently discharged from the hospital.

The family said it is grateful to the team at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Priscilla Presley parts ways with Church of Scientology, reports say

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 8:06 PM

File photo.  (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Dream Foundation)
Jesse Grant
File photo. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Dream Foundation)(Jesse Grant)

Priscilla Presley has quit the Church of Scientology, 40 years after she joined, according to the Daily Mail.

“I’ve had enough. I’m done,” Presley reportedly said.

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Presley — who initially joined the church after the death of her husband, Elvis — allegedly told friends she was leaving.

The church’s membership includes a long list of Hollywood celebrities, including John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

“Priscilla reached out to John Travolta after Elvis died in 1977, and that’s how she ended up in the church,” the source said. “She has been in it ever since, and she raised her daughter, Lisa Marie, in it.”

Lisa Marie Presley left the church in 2014, which apparently made remaining with the church a difficult task for her mother.

“They are very close as a family, and leaving the church has been a family decision,” the source claims.

In recent years, several celebs have ditched the church, including Katie Holmes and Nicole Kidman, who are both ex-wives of Tom Cruise, still a member himself. The testimonies and interviews of former member Leah Remini; one of the stars of the popular sitcom, “King of Queens,” appear to be impacting the church.