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You are currently viewing all posts written by Thanh Tan. Thanh is a multimedia editorial writer. Prior to joining the editorial board of The Seattle Times, she was a political and general assignment reporter with local TV stations in Boise and Portland, an Emmy-winning reporter / producer / host with Idaho Public Television, and a multimedia reporter with The Texas Tribune in Austin. She has also contributed to "This American Life" and The New York Times. Born and raised in Olympia, Thanh graduated with honors from the University of Southern California. She loves food, music, politics, films, yoga, the outdoors and journalism. She lives in Capitol Hill.

December 17, 2014 at 9:35 AM

A glimpse inside Washington’s gun culture after Initiative 594

On Saturday morning, I found myself surrounded by knives, guns and ammo. Lots and lots of it.

Photo by Thanh Tan

Photo by Thanh Tan

I went with some friends to check out the first gun and knife show in Centralia since the roll-out of Initiative 594 on Dec. 4. The new law, passed overwhelmingly by a majority of voters, closes the “gun show loophole.” Under current federal law, background checks are required only for sales by licensed firearms dealers. I-594 expands those background checks to private transfers or sales, common to gun shows.

“Remember to dress Lewis County and not Seattle-USC,” my friend text messaged me beforehand. I think I blended in just fine, other than the fact I was one of only two people of color there. At the entrance of the venue, a huge sign read “NO LOADED GUNS.” Security guards at the entrance provided zip ties to help people lock guns they wanted to bring inside to trade.

Once inside, the whole thing felt like an indoor swap meet. The place had the festive mood of a holiday bazaar with a whole lot of camo colors. For about an hour, we perused aisles and aisles of rifles, shotguns, bullets, stun guns, handcrafted knives, holsters, jackets, war paraphernalia, National Rifle Association pamphlets on Second Amendment rights, and even dehydrated food for hunters. I could purchase an AR-15 assault-style rifle for $600. Or perhaps three gun cleaning kits for $90, as advertised in a sign that enticed buyers with this friendly reminder: “X-mas is coming! Best present ever! Will fit in man’s stocking!”


Comments | Topics: gun control, gun shows, gun violence

December 10, 2014 at 12:17 PM

The arrogance of Uber elsewhere hits home in Seattle

Corrected version Timing changes everything. When Uber started illegally operating  its taxi-like network in Seattle in 2013, I applauded the company’s disruptive business model because it filled a basic demand for transportation alternatives. Over the next year, the Seattle City Council and Mayor Ed Murray worked in good faith to establish a regulatory framework that allowed taxis to co-exist…


Comments | Topics: apps, rideservice, ridesharing

December 6, 2014 at 4:20 PM

How I learned it’s ridiculously easy to buy pot at Seattle medical marijuana dispensaries without a “green card”

Last summer, some friends visiting from the Southwest were full of questions about what it was like for us Washingtonians to come out of the shadows and just buy  marijuana over the counter, like civilized people. I  didn’t know, even though I voted for Initiative 502 to legalize recreational marijuana. When my friends tried to…


Comments | Topics: marijuana, pot, Seattle

December 4, 2014 at 11:30 AM

Recap: 8 things to know about Seattle, King County’s sex trafficking crisis

In case you missed Wednesday’s Google+ Hangout On Air about sex trafficking in Seattle, watch the full 43-minute video below. (To see the same video with links to related articles and resources, go to this link.)

I hosted the discussion featuring Tim Matsui, director of  “The Long Night,” King County senior deputy prosecutor Val Richey, Organization for Prostitution Survivors co-founder Noel Gomez, Seattle Against Slavery executive director Robert Beiser, and Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking executive director Mar Brettman.

The panel offered their insight on several key issues, including: the lack of data available to identify how many children are being commercially exploited, a disturbing rise in demand fueled by the Internet, the potential legalization of prostitution and ways the community can take action.

Watch “The Long Night” for free through the end of the week at

Below are excerpted quotes and takeaway points from the video chat that illustrate the complex nature of sex trafficking and potential solutions to prevent other kids from becoming victims of exploitation.

Prostitution is not a victimless crime.


Comments | Topics: Google, hangout, king county

December 2, 2014 at 4:49 AM

Replay: Video chat on sex trafficking in Seattle area

On Wednesday, The Seattle Times editorial section hosted a Google+ on-air Hangout with “The Long Night” filmmaker Tim Matsui and experts on the front line of the local battle to end child sex trafficking. For some background on the film, which streams free this week, read my Monday blog post and take a look at my recent column on the topic.

You can view the 43-minute video chat above.

Here’s the list of panelists who joined us: (Note: State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles did not appear in the hangout due to illness.)

Tim Matsui, a Seattle-based multimedia journalist and director of “The Long Night.” He spent one year between


Comments | Topics: Google, hangout, king county

December 1, 2014 at 6:03 AM

‘The Long Night’ film sheds real light on sex trafficking in Seattle, King County

How do we fix or prevent a problem if we don’t even understand its scope? That’s one of the questions that motivated me to write my most recent column on child sex trafficking.

In that piece, I mentioned Seattle journalist Tim Matsui’s film, “The Long Night.” Shot between fall 2012 and fall 2013, Matsui takes a journalistic approach to showing us what is happening to our young people on the streets. There is no judgmental narration or public shaming, as other sex trafficking films have done. Matsui does not have to tell viewers what to think or what is right and wrong. After seeing the film twice with different audiences, I can tell you viewers are moved to talk about the problem and do something. 

“I want people to have an emotional connection with the characters and to understand just how far-reaching the [sex trafficking] issue is, and how it comes from these root causes that we don’t generally think about,” he says. “Dysfunctional home life, domestic abuse, lack of education — these root causes create vulnerability that are then exploited.”

Over the next seven days, the  documentary will stream at this link for free. (After next week, streaming video of the film will only be viewable for a fee.)

Here’s a preview:

Prostitution in all forms is often perceived as a victimless crime. But once you associate sex trafficking with real people, especially children, does your perception change? Watch the film then join us here at the Opinion Northwest blog on Wednesday, Dec. 3, at 1 p.m. for a Google+ On-Air Hangout.

Matsui is scheduled to participate. We’re also working on getting other experts to share their knowledge of the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the Seattle area. Why is this happening? How many kids are affected? What can or should be done about it?

Have questions you want us to address? Send me an email at The hangout will be live, but a recording will be embedded on this site afterward. 


Comments | Topics: Documentary, king county, Seattle

November 25, 2014 at 6:04 AM

A needless attack on TVW detracts from real need for more transparency

TVW provides an important service for Washington state, airing raw video of legislative meetings and policy-oriented events that no other channel does. Not even close. Thanks to, busy people like you and journalists like me don’t have to drive all the way to the state Capitol to see what’s going on. We can view most proceedings over the air or on streaming online video —  in real time, or days, months and years later.

(Screenshot of's website)

(Screenshot of’s website)

The Olympia-based public access channel does its work on a limited budget. Equipment should have been replaced years ago, but the Legislature has failed to help. Last March, The Seattle Times editorial board highlighted TVW’s significance as an important tool to ensure government is transparent.

So I’m disappointed to read a Nov. 21 news story by The (Tacoma) News Tribune, which reports the state Senate’s top Republican and some of his caucus are not so happy with TVW. Last Thursday night, they expressed dismay over two meetings that were recorded months ago in committee hearing rooms. State Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, called these “pretend hearings, and TVW carried them with the credibility of a hearing.”

Schoesler questioned whether TVW’s decision to document those events was an “appropriate use of TVW or the Legislature.” Why? Because they featured only Democrats? Or because they featured Democrats getting the spotlight and a public airing over at least one measure — the Reproductive Parity Act — that the Republican-dominated majority would not allow a hearing on?


Comments | Topics: olympia, streaming video, transparency

November 24, 2014 at 8:45 AM

Should Woodland Park Zoo elephants go to zoo or sanctuary?

UPDATE 10:24 a.m., Dec. 3, 2014: Seattle City Council member Nick Licata responded to the editorial board’s request for his position on whether Chai and Bamboo should be sent to a zoo or sanctuary. His staff sent an email stating, “Councilmember Licata appreciates the work the Zoo has done to consider options for the elephant exhibit. He supports sending Bamboo and Chai to a qualified, safe sanctuary.”


Woodland Park Zoo officials pleasantly surprised me when they announced a plan on Wednesday to phase out the elephant exhibit. I’m sure a lot of people were ready to give them a round of applause.

Chai, a 35-year-old Asian elephant, holds a pose as she waits for a zookeeper to place hay in a box in her enclosure at the Woodland Park Zoo on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Chai, a 35-year-old Asian elephant, holds a pose as she waits for a zookeeper to place hay in a box in her enclosure at the Woodland Park Zoo on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

And then they blew it. Bamboo and Chai are likely headed to a different zoo on this list of accredited institutions by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

Bamboo, a 47-year-old Asian elephant, walks in her enclosure at the Woodland Park Zoo on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Bamboo, a 47-year-old Asian elephant, walks in her enclosure at the Woodland Park Zoo on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Seattle Times editorial board published an editorial Wednesday evening calling on Seattle leaders to give these animals a break. They have worked hard enough for decades. Let them retire and roam free somewhere.(If you want to have your say, scroll to the poll at the bottom of this post.)

Here’s an excerpt:

Details are yet to be ironed out, but the Seattle City Council — which also serves double duty as board members of the Seattle Park District — should require the zoo to retire these animals. Make no mistake: This is now an election issue for City Council races.

On Thursday, I asked each of the nine Seattle City Council members to respond to this question: Do you support the elephants going to another zoo or sanctuary?

As of Friday morning, every member of the council had responded except Nick Licata. Find out where they stand below.


Comments | Topics: elephants, Seattle City Council, woodland park zoo

November 20, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Are King County taxpayers ready to fund levy focused on early childhood?

Seattleites just voted overwhelmingly to fund universal preschool. Will King County taxpayers supplement that effort next August or October by passing the Best Starts for Kids levy? This measure being floated by King County Executive Dow Constantine would fund early childhood programs and youth services. During a phone interview this week, Constantine said details are yet…


Comments | Topics: brain development, early childhood, early learning

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