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Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

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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.

October 23, 2014 at 12:34 PM

Bob Barker to Woodland Park Zoo elephants Bamboo and Chai: Come on down (to a sanctuary)!

When Mayor Ed Murray delivers his proposed budget Thursday evening at Seattle City Hall, he won’t be able to miss the elephant (advocates) in the room.

Members of the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants issued a press release Thursday announcing plans to pack the 5:30 p.m. meeting. They’ll “urge City Council members to withhold funding from Woodland Park Zoo until the Zoo’s two surviving elephants are retired to a sanctuary.” The mayor’s budget blueprint reportedly includes $7 million in taxpayer funding for the Woodland Park Zoo.

The Seattle Times editorial board, the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are among the institutions that have advocated for sending Bamboo and Chai to a sanctuary where they can live out their days in a warmer climate and with more space to move around. The Woodland Park Zoo’s third elephant, Watoto, was euthanized in August after she fell and could not get up. As of 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, here’s the (very unscientific) results of an Oct. 13 Opinion Northwest poll asking readers what should happen to the two remaining elephants:

(Screenshot of poll featured in Oct. 13 Opinion Northwest blog post.)

(Screenshot of poll featured in Oct. 13 Opinion Northwest blog post.)

Murray and a few council members have indicated they are ready to take another look at the plight of the zoo’s elephant exhibit. Perhaps they need another strong nudge to move faster. Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Friends co-founder and elephant advocate Alyne Fortgang emailed me a Sept. 30 letter from “The Price is Right” host and animal rights activist Bob Barker to zoo and city leaders. Here’s what that letter states:  

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Comments | Topics: bob barker, elephants, woodland park zoo

October 22, 2014 at 12:06 PM

Washington Supreme Court should not dismiss Backpage.com case

Just because no case law yet holds Backpage.com responsible for exploiting children, that does not mean the classified ad site should always be immune from liability. The fact is Backpage.com and other sites like it create an environment where pimps can easily post ads every night selling girls (and boys) for commercial sex work.  They do…

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Comments | Topics: backpage, backpage.com, national center for missing and exploited children

October 17, 2014 at 12:02 PM

King County, Washington state must remain at forefront of fight against sex trafficking and Backpage.com

Earlier this week, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg joined with community groups and seven local law-enforcement agencies to announce a new effort to crack down on the commercial sex industry by focusing on the thousands of  johns who fuel the demand for this illicit trade.

On Wednesday, Seattle Times reporter Sara Jean Green wrote about how recent stings have led to 105 arrests within three months. That same day, a new coalition that includes the Organization of Prostitution Survivors outlined plans to catch more buyers, deter them from committing crimes and help them to understand the harm their actions inflict upon vulnerable women and girls. The editorial board commended the collaborative project as a meaningful step toward saving these victims from a life of enslavement and manipulation by pimps.

A high number of sexual encounters these days are initiated online via seedy adult classifieds ads on sites such as Backpage.com. (King County reports there are at least 100 sites frequented on a daily basis by about 27,000 men countywide.)

As King County and police officers in Seattle, Kent, SeaTac, Federal Way, Bellevue and Des Moines prepare to take a tougher approach toward arresting and prosecuting more buyers, keep an eye out for potential actions from the state Supreme Court.

Next Tuesday, the justices will hear arguments for a case in which three girls are suing Backpage.com for damages after their former pimps posted their photos and advertised them for sex services online. Once they were able to escape the life,

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Comments | Topics: backpage, king county, prostitution

October 14, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Charts: Wake up and fund public health, prevention services

“When public health is effective, the public isn’t thinking about it,” says Metropolitan King County Council member Joe McDermott, head of the panel’s budget committee this year. It’s true. Prevention is not sexy. Fewer people care when the system works. However, the Ebola scare sweeping the world should be a wake-up call. Why wait for an…

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Comments | Topics: ebola, family planning, funding

October 13, 2014 at 9:54 AM

Poll: What should Woodland Park Zoo do with its two surviving elephants?

In case you missed Saturday’s editorial, The Seattle Times again called on the Woodland Park Zoo to release its elephants to a sanctuary. These creatures are loved. They are major attractions for visitors. But they are suffering where they are. Watoto’s death should force city leaders to reassess the future of the zoo’s pachyderm exhibit. Last week’s…

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Comments | Topics: elephants, watoto, woodland park zoo

October 9, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Denial won’t delay the inevitable, gay marriage is here to stay

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to deny several lower courts’ appeals to uphold state bans on same-sex marriage, effectively legalizing marriage equality in 25 states and counting. At a time when domestic violence is so common and horror stories like this murder-suicide in Indiana make me question why some people get married…

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Comments | Topics: butch otter, gay marriage, same-sex marriage

October 3, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Washington lawmakers don’t need to use Hobby Lobby ruling to drum up votes

Months after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the controversial “Hobby Lobby” ruling allowing privately held corporations to deny payment for certain types of birth control for female employees, Washington lawmakers are finding ways to fight back. This is to be expected. Washington is one of the most progressive states on protecting reproductive rights. Just weeks before election day, some Democrats are using this issue as a strategy to put them back in control of the state Senate, led by the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus since 2012.

Voters should look deeper before they take the bait.

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 2 at Bitter Lake Community Center, two blocks from a new Hobby Lobby store scheduled to open on Friday. Standing behind him, from left to right, are Democratic state Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Karen Keiser, Kevin Ranker, and David Frockt.

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 2 at Bitter Lake Community Center, two blocks from a new Hobby Lobby store scheduled to open on Friday. Standing behind him, from left to right, are Democratic state Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Karen Keiser, Kevin Ranker, and David Frockt. (Credit: Thanh Tan / The Seattle Times).

On Thursday, a group of Democratic lawmakers announced they are planning to file legislation — a “work-around” — next session to ensure employers do not deny women the full range of birth control options available to them through the Affordable Care Act. Joined by Gov. Jay Inslee, state Sens. David Frockt, Kevin Ranker, Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Karen Keiser said they are drafting a bill that would likely use the state’s anti-discrimination and Human Rights Commission rules.

The press event was staged at a community center two blocks from a Hobby Lobby store scheduled to open Friday in Seattle at 13200 Aurora Avenue North. Good to know they are doing their homework, but this was clearly also a bid to secure the women’s vote ahead of the November general election.

In a press release distributed to reporters, the Democrats warned their efforts to fight the Hobby Lobby decision might be hindered if they do not take back the majority in the upper chamber. In particular, they targeted Republican Sens. Andy Hill, Steve O’Ban and Democrat-turned-Republican candidate Mark Miloscia. If “elected or re-elected this year, it is unlikely that any progress on ensuring individual reproductive choices will be achieved,” they warned.

Again, voters should be skeptical. There’s no bill in place yet to be opposed, or supported, by members of either party.

Washington State has long supported a woman’s right to privacy and access when it comes to reproductive health care, including abortion care. Even before Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1972, this HistoryLink story explains how Washington voters passed Referendum 20 in 1970 legalizing abortion in the early months of pregnancy. In 1991, voters passed Initiative 120, which guarantees that every “individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse birth control” and abortion (with few exceptions) and the “state shall not discriminate against the exercise of these rights in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.”

If this were Texas, where I used to report on women’s health politics from AustinI’d say go all out. Fight the good fight. But it’s Washington, the friendliest state in the nation when it comes to reproductive freedom and lack of barriers to birth control and abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice America gives the state an A+ grade for choice-related laws. We don’t have lawmakers demanding transvaginal ultrasounds, slashing family planning funds or passing policies to force abortion clinic closures. Vigilance is appreciated, but state legislators’ priority during the next session must be to tackle the other urgent task of preserving the state’s fragile social safety net and funding public education.

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Comments | Topics: abortion, birth control, hobby lobby

September 30, 2014 at 6:02 AM

‘Last Days In Vietnam’ film premieres in Seattle on Friday, reopens old wounds

Growing up, my parents never revealed details about their experiences living through the Vietnam War. I knew they had survived the conflict, but I never associated them with old news footage of helicopters flying over rice paddies or combat scenes in Oliver Stone films such as “Platoon.” After having the opportunity to recently screen American Experience’s “Last Days In Vietnam,” I wish I had been more curious about my parents’ story, and those of so many other Vietnamese immigrants who fled after South Vietnam fell to communism on April 30, 1975.

I highly encourage Vietnamese immigrants and American veterans in the Seattle area to head to the Varsity Theatre in the University District to see the film, which runs for one week from Oct. 3 to Oct. 9. Directed by Rory Kennedy, the daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, this theatrical run is a chance to see the film before its national broadcast on PBS in April 2015.

Here’s the trailer:

I was in elementary school when my nerdy computer programmer father revealed he’d once been a lieutenant in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, otherwise known as the South Vietnamese military. He promised proof once my mother returned from her first visit to Vietnam in 1994. She came back with disappointing news: My dad’s family had burned his military photos after he and my mother escaped in October 1978. Under the new regime, having such images around placed the family at risk. My father had already served six months in a re-education camp, and they did not want to relive that nightmare.

Years later, a family friend gave my parents a couple of undated photos that were snapped in Vietnam (most likely after the Tet Offensive in 1968). I scanned one of them below.

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Comments | Topics: documentary film, rory kennedy, vietnam war

September 15, 2014 at 11:32 AM

Slideshow: Mayor Ed Murray walks through Seattle’s Chinatown International District

On Saturday, The Seattle Times published my editorial notebook on Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s “Find It, Fix It” community walk through Chinatown International District. Well over 100 people showed up to take a stroll through the neighborhood, pointing out their concerns along the way.

Here’s a slideshow from the event, which began at 6 p.m. last Thursday and ended around 7:30 p.m. 

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Comments | Topics: chinatown international district, ed murray, public safety

September 11, 2014 at 6:01 AM

Seattle takes bold and necessary stand for net neutrality

The online homes for the City of Seattle and Mayor Ed Murray became protest sites on Wednesday, part of the nationwide “Internet slowdown” effort to oppose proposed federal regulations that would create a two-lane highway on the Internet — fast for those companies that can afford premium prices and slow for everyone else.

As seen in the screenshot below, a buffering icon signifying slower speeds was added to the Office of the Mayor’s website. In a blog post, Murray called on the Federal Communications Commission to preserve an open Internet that is equitable.

Screenshot of Mayor Ed Murray's website on Wednesday.

Screenshot of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s website on Wednesday.

Do you agree with the mayor’s stance? The Seattle Times editorial board does, as stated in numerous editorials over the past year.

Here’s an excerpt from a July 19 editorial:

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Comments | Topics: net neutrality, Seattle

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