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

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:

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Travis AFB main gate closed after car gains 'unauthorized access,' crashes

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 2:00 AM

The visitor's entrace to Travis  Air Force Base in California.
The visitor's entrace to Travis Air Force Base in California.(Google)

Officials at Travis Air Force Base in California say a car gained “unauthorized access” to the base’s main gate and later crashed.

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Smoke alarm recall: 500,000 Kidde detectors might not alert users to fire

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 1:42 AM

The Biggest Product Recalls in US History

Kidde recalled about 500,000 dual-sensor smoke alarms Wednesday because they pose a risk of people not being alerted to a fire in their home.

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A yellow cap left on during the manufacturing process can cover one of the two smoke sensors and compromise the smoke alarm’s ability to detect smoke.

About 452,000 devices were sold in the United States, in addition to 40,000 sold in Canada.

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This recall involves models PI2010 and PI9010 of Kidde dual-sensor (photoelectric and ionization) smoke alarms. “KIDDE” is printed on the front center of the smoke alarm. The model number and date code are printed on the back of the alarm.

The recall includes:

Model: PI9010 (DC/battery powered)Date Code: September 10, 2016 through October 13, 2017

Model: PI2010 (AC/hardwired)Date Code: September 10, 2016 through October 13, 2017

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People should remove the alarm from their wall or ceiling and look through the opening on the side of the alarm for a yellow cap. People should not attempt to take apart the alarm, open the casing, or otherwise remove the yellow cap themselves. If a yellow cap is present, people should immediately contact Kidde to receive instructions and request a free replacement smoke alarm. They should remove and discard the recalled smoke alarm only after they receive and install the replacement alarm. If no yellow cap is present, people should reinstall the smoke alarm and no further action is needed.

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The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission has received one report of the yellow protective cap being present on a smoke alarm before it was installed in a home. No reports of incidents or injuries as a result of a yellow cap being present have been reported.

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The affected smoke alarms were sold at Home Depot, Walmart and other department, home and hardware stores nationwide and online at, and other websites from September 2016 through January 2018 for between $20 and $40.

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Fake Facebook page sends city into tizzy over snakes

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 12:19 AM

(Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Carl Court/Getty Images
(Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)(Carl Court/Getty Images)

When most of northwest Georgia was preparing for severe storms, one city had to contend with the idea that snakes are lurking in sewers — or so they thought

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Calhoun Mayor Jimmy Palmer said ­the “City of Calhoun, Gordon County GA” Facebook page — where a post about snakes originated — is fake. 

“My wife saw it and actually called me,” Palmer said

The post, which has been up since 2:27 p.m. Monday, alleges a Calhoun police officer killed the “copperhead as it came out of the sewer in front of the courthouse” and urges residents to avoid the sewers, which may have more snakes. The post has garnered 19,000 reactions and more than 123,000 shares on Facebook — and it still has some panicked. 

“I’ve had comments like ‘Is it safe to walk down the street’ and those things,” Palmer said. “I don’t think the people who put it on there realize the impact.” 

The page, which has more than 12,000 followers, has been so believable that other law enforcement agencies have tagged the page or shared its posts, WSB-TV reported. Police say it’s been difficult finding the owner since the page is usually taken down before the person is caught. The page was still open just after 8 p.m. Tuesday. 

The city attorney plans to send a notice to Facebook notifying it of the fake page. The notice reads in part: “The objection is that this Facebook page impersonates and misrepresents to be the City’s official page by displaying a version of the official municipal seal and describes itself clearly as a ‘government organization.’

Fake city pages are hardly new. 

In October 2016, comedian Ben Palmer created a fake city of Atlanta Facebook page, poking fun at the city’s crime and public safety efforts. The city, however, responded to the Facebook page’s use of the trademarked Atlanta City Seal, which was used without proper authorization. Creative changes were made to the satirical page’s seal to avoid trademark conflicts. 

But while the fake city of Atlanta page is still going strong (it has more than 154,000 followers), some are hoping the fake Calhoun page is removed from Facebook. 

Calhoun resident Matt Wiley said he is happy the city is adamant about the page’s removal: “For the sake of the city, that’s not a bad move just to make sure the people are informed. If you start spreading misinformation, panic might ensue, especially if it’s an alligator or a giant snake.”

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What is Easter Monday and how is it celebrated?

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 11:34 PM

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In many places around the world, Easter Monday is a day to get outside, spend time with your family and have picnics as spring begins to blossom.  In other places, it’s traditions that, while odd, are still honored and celebrated centuries later. With deep roots in Europe, it is not widely celebrated in the United States.

So what is Easter Monday and what do people do? Here’s a quick look.

The name

In some places the day after Easter is simply called Easter Monday. In other places, it’s Bright Monday, Renewal Monday, Wet Monday, or  Dyngus Day.

It was once known as “Black Monday” and was, for a time, considered unlucky.

Who celebrates the day?

The day is a major holiday in the Eastern Orthodox community. It marks the beginning of “Bright Week” in the religion. Countries across Eastern and Western Europe, in particular, participate in Easter Monday observances.

What do they do?

In medieval England, tradition called for a man to lift a woman three times by the arms and legs. In Ireland, the day was known as the Day of Feasts. In Hungary, the tradition was for men to dunk their wife or girlfriend into water for good health, leading to the day being called Dunking Day.

In Guyana, people fly kites, which are made on Holy Saturday, the Saturday before Easter. People in the Netherlands have a festive breakfast then go hiking. Similarly, in Portugal and Italy people go to the countryside  for picnics.

In London, there is a parade in Hyde Park.

In the U.S., Easter Monday is largely ignored. The most notable celebration happens at the White House where the president sponsors the annual Easter Egg Roll.

The tradition of the egg roll dates back to the 1870s when kids in the Washington D.C. area would take their Easter eggs to Capitol Hill to roll them. Congress, moving quickly to stem the fun, soon passed a bill outlawing egg rolling at the Capitol.

President Rutherford Hayes, after being approached by a group of kids who were looking for a place to roll their eggs, issued an order that allowed egg rolling to take place on the White House grounds.

Since then, with a few exceptions, eggs have been rolled on the White House lawn.

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