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Opinion Northwest

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

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 4, 2014 at 11:15 AM

An unexpected activist for children in the immigration reform debate

Sonia Nazario never expected anyone to call her an immigration activist. Journalists often avoid taking sides in the issues they cover.

She won a Pulitzer Prize covering immigration and social issues for the Los Angeles Times and published Enrique’s Journey, a book about a young boy who travels on top of trains from Honduras to reach his mother in the United States.

Nazario thought she’d be done talking about child migrants by now — the first edition of her book came out in 2006.

Sonia Nazario. (Courtesy of Sonia Nazario)

Sonia Nazario. (Courtesy of Sonia Nazario)

In the past year, however, Nazario testified before Congress, delivered more than 60 speeches, wrote opinion pieces for the New York Times, and even appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to advocate for the rights of children coming to the United States from Central America. She also serves on the board of Kids in Need of Defense, a nonprofit founded by Microsoft and Angelina Jolie to recruit pro bono attorneys to represent unaccompanied children.

“I’ve covered unaccompanied minors for 15 years. I felt like I had to be a voice for these kids,” she told me while visiting Seattle Wednesday to speak at the Global Washington conference, a daylong event focused on international development and policy.


Comments | Topics: comprehensive immigration reform, Sonia Nazario, unaccompanied minors

December 3, 2014 at 6:20 AM

Are Seattle’s Ferguson protesters hurting their cause?

Protests simmering through downtown Seattle for more than a week are increasingly aggravating. Like many places around the country, local demonstrators are upset with the recent grand jury decision against indicting a Ferguson, Mo., police officer for shooting an unarmed teenager. In Seattle, protesters have snarled traffic and disrupted holiday celebrations. They’ve been the source of attacks…


Comments | Topics: Ferguson, john t. williams, Michael Brown

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 12:04 PM

Bill Cosby and the power of internet shaming

One positive result of the recent attention to Ferguson, Mo., is that the news flowing out of that city drowned out stories about rape allegations against Bill Cosby in my social media feeds.

As much as I’m tired of seeing the proliferation of Cosby’s mug on Facebook and Twitter, the attention and internet shaming people showered on the scandal could end up creating more awareness and providing a platform for victims of sexual assault.

Bill Cosby in 2013. (Victoria Will/ AP)

Bill Cosby in 2013. (Victoria Will/ AP)

As in the case of Julia Marquand, a Seattle woman who posted a photo on Twitter of a man she’s says groped her near Westlake Park, police were initially not interested in pursuing the incident until after the photo went viral.

Marquand turned to social media after getting nowhere with the authorities. The man, who turned out to be a Level 3 sex offender, was charged with assault with sexual motivation, a gross misdemeanor.

Cosby’s alleged victims have also used social media to push their messages and stories, but since the statute of limitations has passed, Cosby does not face prosecution.


Comments | Topics: Bill Cosby, Internet shaming, social media

December 1, 2014 at 12:03 PM

America must re-define when police should use deadly force

In our eye-for-an-eye culture, the threat of deadly force is all the justification police need to return it.

A bullet fragment rests on pavement after authorities shot and killed a man who they say opened fire on the Mexican Consulate, police headquarters and other downtown buildings early Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, in Austin, Texas.  (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Laura Skelding)

A bullet fragment rest on pavement after authorities shot and killed a man who they say opened fire on the Mexican Consulate, police headquarters and other downtown buildings Friday, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/ Laura Skelding)

That threat seems the pretext for Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson gunning down 18-year-old Michael Brown during an August altercation over walking in the middle of the street.

In his interview with ABC last week, Wilson – who has since resigned from the force – described Brown as a “very, very large, very powerful man.” Though the two men were about the same height, Brown’s reported 300-pound bulk dwarfed Wilson’s 210-pound frame.

When Wilson directed Brown to the sidewalk, he said Brown responded violently, landing a heavy blow to his face.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to survive another hit like that,” Wilson said.


Comments | Topics: Ferguson, Michael Brown, tamir rice

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

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