AP Journalists Uncover Slave Trade in Southeast Asia

Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Le, Thailand. Photo by  yeowatzup
Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Le, Thailand. Photo by yeowatzup

A team of Associated Press journalists were led to a town in Southeast Asia where forced labor, slave trafficking and slavery is going strong after a year-long investigation into the fishing industry there. In Benjina, a small town in the depths of eastern Indonesia which is situated on two islands, the journalists were able to interview over 40 current as well as former slaves. Many of the slaves told the reporters that they had been forced to work on boats under dire conditions, paid nothing or very little. They described being taken onto boats for months or even years at a time under the brutal supervision of overseer captains.

Also found in Benjina were eight slaves held captive in a locked cell. The journalists were able to take video footage of the scene. In the evening, hiding in the darkness, the AP group took a small boat to come close to a trawler with slaves on board who began yelling at the journalists for help, beging them to take them home.

The journalists observed the supply chain from slave-caught fish to a refrigerated cargo ship heading for Thailand. They tracked the boat’s 15-day trip using signals sent by satellite. They met up with the vessel in Samut Sakhon, Thailand and watched as the fishy cargo was off-loaded from the boat and place into trucks during four evenings. They followed the trucks to processing plants, cold storage and the largest wholesale fish market in Thailand.

Finally the journalists established the chain from slave labor to market using US Customs documents with the names of Thai companies that sell fish to the United States. Although the food goes to other countries in Europe and Asia, the AP concentrated on the information they were able to get about specific US companies, where custom records are in the public domain.

To protect the men who were photographed, interviewed or videotaped for the story, the International Organization for Migration and Indonesian Marine Police were informed about the men. The police then took the men away from Benjina and they are now waiting for their cases to be processed. The goal is to have the men returned to their homes in Myanmar. Unfortunately there are still hundreds of other slaves still in the town and on the surrounding islands.

Suven Granted US and NZ Patents for Neurologic Drugs

Suven Life Sciences, a Hyderabad-based drug company, announced that it has received patents from the United States and New Zealand patent offices.

The valuable patents are for what are referred to as “new chemical entities” (NCEs) which they developed for the treatment of cognitive impairment which is associated with illnesses of the nervous system, specifically neuro-degenerative disorders.

The patents will be in effect until 2030 for one and 2031 for the other.

“We are very pleased by the grant of these patents to Suven for our pipeline of molecules in CNS arena that are being developed for cognitive disorders with high unmet medical need with huge market potential globally,”said Venkat Jasti, CEO of Suven.

These newly granted patents bring the total patents Suven has secured up to 20 from the US and 23 from New Zealand.

“These granted patents are exclusive intellectual property of Suven and are achieved through the internal discovery research efforts. Products out of these inventions may be out-licensed at various phases of clinical development like at Phase-I or Phase-II,” Suven said.

Gay Marriage Good for Business Says Corporate America and Beyond

Panorama of the west facade of United States Supreme Court Building at dusk in Washington, D.C., USA. Photo by Joe Ravi CC-BY-SA 3.0
Panorama of the west facade of United States Supreme Court Building at dusk in Washington, D.C., USA. Photo by Joe Ravi CC-BY-SA 3.0

Almost 400 of the world’s largest businesses, corporations, and even sports teams, banned together to present an amicus brief to the Supreme Court stating that gay marriage is ‘good for business.’

As the Supreme Court gears up to hear its major case on the constitutionality of state laws banning gay marriage, 379 companies, including such giants as Apple, Dow Chemical, Verizon and Disney presented the following statement:

“Employees with partners of the same sex should be permitted to marry if they so choose, and then should be treated identically to their married heterosexual counterparts. State laws that require otherwise impose a significant burden on us and harm our ability to attract and retain the best employees. Such laws force businesses to uphold discriminatory laws that run counter to important corporate values. In the end, economic growth suffers.”

On April 28 the SCOTUS justices will be hearing arguments for and against the ban on legalization of gay marriages in certain states. Federal courts have nullified state bans, and the court will have to decide whether the Feds have a constitutional right to uphold that nullification, or if the states alone can determine the legality of gay marriage. Today gay marriage is legal in 37 states and in the District of Columbia. One more state, Nebraska, was about to legalize when a federal appeals court got involved and stopped the process in its tracks.

Robert Benmosche, AIG CEO Dies at 70

Robert Benmosche, Chief executive officer of American International Group photo courtesy of AIG via wikipedia
Robert Benmosche, Chief executive officer of American International Group photo courtesy of AIG via wikipedia

Robert Benmosche, well-known for his role in the recovery of AIG (American Insurance Company) after its bailout by the government in 2009, died last week at the age of 70.

He took over AIG in August 2009 after the Obama administration rescued the company from collapse with a $182 billion bailout. Before stepping up to the helm of AIG Benmosche had been the chief of MetLife.

The government recruited Benmosche to lead AIG to avoid another collapse of a huge financial institution such as Lehman Brothers at the height of the financial crisis which began in 2008.

Benmosche retired in 2006 after serving as CEO of MetLife since 2000, when it went public. He moved to his villa in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and lived there until being asked to take over at AIG.

Benmosche died of lung cancer on Friday, February 28, at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

Pakistan to Hold US-Pak Business Opportunities Conference

Chundrigar Road, with 20th century architecture, in central Karachi, Pakistan
Chundrigar Road, with 20th century architecture, in central Karachi, Pakistan

Businessmen, investors and others will be gathering on February 27 for the Pak-US Business Opportunities Conference to take place in Islamabad, Pakistan. In attendance will be US ambassador Richard Olson, plus members of the American Business Council and the Pakistani Minister for Commerce, Khurram Dastgir Khan.

On the agenda of events will be a speech by the Minister for Commerce, who will explain Pakistan’s efforts to bring more foreign investment to the country as well as to increase the amount of trade outside the country.

The major goal of the conference is to introduce Pakistan to the rest of the world as a reliable business and investment partner. Included in discussions about trade will be textiles, agriculture, rice, fruit and vegetables.

There will also be discussions about creating a “US-Pakistan Joint Business Forum.” Organizers of the conference have sent invitations to over 100 American companies and businessmen. The Ministry of Commerce has high expectations that the maximum number of attendees will participate.