Monday, January 26, 2015


Rumors Swirl Around an Obama Asheville Home Purchase

Verne Sez: Why does Obama want to move to NC? I know he loves Chicago and Hawaii, and grew up in Kenya. How would Pat McCrory handle this?And why are comments not allowed on this story? What's to hide, FBI?

Rumors have begun to surface that the Obama Family have purchased an Asheville home for use after the President’s second term ends. While the White House has not confirmed the news, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to those people who have followed the President’s recent visits to Asheville.

Obama speaking during one of his Asheville visits.
Obama speaking during one of his Asheville visits.
When Obama visited Asheville in 2013, he hinted then that he and Michelle thought Asheville might be their next stop. As noted in Greybeard’s blog post about that visit, he was partial to the people and the food in the area. And that wasn’t his only trip to the NC mountains. In his 2011 campaign visit to Asheville, he spoke fondly of Asheville, as noted in another Greybeard blog. The most recent talk about the Obamas relocating to the area indicates a home already has been purchased, though again this hasn’t been confirmed. Another point of discussion is whether the home would be a permanent home or a getaway vacation home. While some pundits favor a larger city like Chicago or New York for their permanent home, others point out the peace and solitude the whole family would find in the area.
Regardless of whether it’s true, it’s great to see the fine words about Asheville. While it’s news that Obama might be becoming our neighbor, it isn’t news that the western NC mountains make a great retirement location. Greybeard Realty has known about the good value of an Asheville retirement for a long time. As to the veracity of the latest rumors, we will keep an ear to the news and keep you posted when it’s confirmed as true. And if you’ve been considering retiring up this way, it may be time to follow through. After all, chances are that an Asheville retirement has just received a Presidential endorsement.
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THE ENDOSCOPY CLINIC  -- What goes on there can literally save you life!


I went to the GI doctor this past week for an endoscopy. Stomach acid seemed  to searing my throat. It was time to get a bir worried again.

This kind of condition has  bedeviled me before. And I have felt it would be wise to get  checked out. I have also had three colonoscopies during the past ten years or so. Polyps showed up on the last one. They are like IED's in your gut, and must be excised because they can become cancerous.

Most of us have also had friends who opted to take a short cut, give the GI clinic a wide berth, and hoped for the best. Many of these paid  a big price because they feared the procedure, or didn't want to find bad news, or just didn't want to go to the trouble. I never figured that was the way to go.

During my fifteen or so years in  Wilmington, I have gone to Wilmington Gastroentrology for these procedures. I have a lot of confidence in them, and that confidence has been earned. Their clinic on Oleander Drive is spacious, modern, attractive, and features the absolute latest technology available for providing safe, efficient, procedures. The OR staff includes Board-Certified surgeon Dr. Steven D. Klein, several RNs and the anesthesiologist. There are a total of seven gastroenterologists on staff.

If it sounds like I'm making a promotional push, I am, in a sense, because I think this medical practice is exceptional. Any of you who have concerns about throat and stomach acid will want to get to know these professionals if in the Wilmington area.


What one wants to avoid at all costs is esophogeal cancer. Once it has become established, surgery may not be an option. Use of a stent can open up the esophagus, and dilation of the "swallowing tube" useful. Additionally, radiation and chemotherapy can be employed. But the metastasizing malignancy may prevent swallowing altogether, with the result that the patient eventually chokes to death.  prevents swallowing, and the patient eventually chokes to death.
Esophageal cancer occurs when cancer cells develop in the esophagus, a tube-like structure that runs from your throat to your stomach. Food goes from the mouth to the stomach through the esophagus. The cancer starts at the inner layer of the esophagus and can spread throughout the other layers of the esophagus and to other parts of the body (metastasis).
  1. The five-year survival rate of people with esophageal cancer is about 17%. However, survival rates depend on several factors, including the stage (or extent) of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. The five-yearsurvival rate of people with cancer located only in the esophagus is about 39%.
  2. As this graphic indicates, the State of North Carolina is one of the nation's hot spots for this very serious cancer.

  2. It's thought that chronic irritation of your esophagus may contribute to the DNA changes that cause esophageal cancer. Factors that cause irritation in the cells of your esophagus and increase your risk of esophageal cancer include:
    • Drinking alcohol
    • Having bile reflux
    • Having difficulty swallowing because of an esophageal sphincter that won't relax (achalasia)
    • Drinking very hot liquids
    • Eating few fruits and vegetables
    • Having gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
    • Being obese
    • Having precancerous changes in the cells of the esophagus (Barrett's esophagus)
    • Undergoing radiation treatment to the chest or upper abdomen
    • Smoking


I didn't hesitate when the Physician's Assistant to Dr. Klein told me that, after an evaluation of my case, it was decided that an endoscopy was needed to determine the risk I  was facing. For several nights in succession my throat and upper esophogeal tract seemed seared by stomach acid. It was very painful and very distressful. 

This mistreatment of your esophagus does not go unnoticed by your body, which may react by turning normal cells into malignant ones. The discomfort is bad enough. What it signals over a period of time can be much worse. 

How do doctors perform an upper GI endoscopy?

A doctor performs an upper GI endoscopy in a hospital or an outpatient center. An intravenous (IV) needle will be placed in your arm to provide a sedative. Sedatives help you stay relaxed and comfortable during the procedure. In some cases, the procedure can be performed without sedation. You will be given a liquid anesthetic to gargle or spray anesthetic on the back of your throat. The anesthetic numbs your throat and calms the gag reflex. The health care staff will monitor your vital signsExternal NIH Link and keep you as comfortable as possible. 

You’ll be asked to lie on your side on an exam table. The doctor will carefully feed the endoscope down your esophagus and into your stomach and duodenum.A small camera mounted on the endoscope will send a video image to a monitor, allowing close examination of the lining of your upper GI tract. The endoscope pumps air into your stomach and duodenum, making them easier to see.
During the upper GI endoscopy, the doctor may
  • perform a biopsy of tissue in your upper GI tract. You won’t feel the biopsy.
  • stop any bleeding.
  • perform other specialized procedures, such as dilating strictures.
​​​The procedure most often takes between 15 and 30 minutes. The endoscope does not interfere with your breathing, and many people fall asleep during the procedure. 

I came out clean as a whistle. No problems of any consequence. I can thank God and my doctor for that.

But Durrene and I know that some of the patients who sat in the waiting room did not receive the same good news. They might have been advised of serious problems which would require radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery for stent implantation, for example, to save their lives!

The trick is to find and employ the services of a good gastroenterologist at a specialized medical center like Wilmington Gastroenterology. Timing is important. Cancer won't wait. It won't be ignored. I was lucky in that no serious problems were found. I was smart in that I moved without delay. 

Please do the same, and God bless you! 
Verne Strickland, Wilmington NC

MEGA VOTE -- How Congress Is Voting -- NORTH CAROLINA EDITION & SEVENTH DISTRICT: Senator Richard Burr, Senator Thom Tillis, Rep. David Rouzer

Verne Strickland USA DOT COM 1/26/2015. 
January 26, 2015
In this MegaVote for North Carolina's 7th Congressional District:

Recent Congressional Votes
  • Senate: Keystone XL Pipeline - Climate Change
  • Senate: Keystone XL Pipeline - Climate Change
  • Senate: Keystone XL Pipeline - Energy Efficiency Standards
  • House: Gas Pipeline Permit Deadlines – Passage
  • House: Federal Abortion Funding Ban – Passage
Upcoming Congressional Bills
  • Senate: Keystone XL Pipeline
  • House: Human Trafficking Prioritization Act
  • House: LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act

Recent Senate Votes
Keystone XL Pipeline - Climate Change - Vote Rejected (50-49, 1 Not Voting)

The Senate rejected a Schatz, D-Hawaii, amendment to a bill that would immediately allow TransCanada to construct, connect, operate and maintain the pipeline and cross-border facilities known as the Keystone XL pipeline. The amendment would express the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and that human activity significantly contributes to it. By unanimous consent, the Senate agreed to raise the majority requirement for adoption of the amendment to 60 votes.

Sen. Richard Burr voted NO
Sen. Thom Tillis voted NO

Keystone XL Pipeline - Climate Change - Vote Agreed to (56-42, 2 Not Voting)

The Senate agreed to table (kill) a Sanders, I-Vt., amendment to a bill that would immediately allow TransCanada to construct, connect, operate and maintain the pipeline and cross-border facilities known as the Keystone XL pipeline. The amendment would express the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and caused by human activities. It also would urge the U.S. to overhaul its energy system away from fossil fuels and towards sustainable energy.

Sen. Richard Burr voted YES
Sen. Thom Tillis voted YES

Keystone XL Pipeline - Energy Efficiency Standards - Vote Agreed to (94-5, 1 Not Voting)

The Senate adopted a Portman, R-Ohio, amendment to a bill that would immediately allow TransCanada to construct, connect, operate and maintain the pipeline and cross-border facilities known as the Keystone XL pipeline. The amendment would would direct the General Services Administration to establish best practices regarding energy-efficiency in commercial real estate buildings, including those that house federal agencies. It would require the GSA to incorporate energy-efficiency standards into its building leasing program for federal agencies.

Sen. Richard Burr voted YES
Sen. Thom Tillis voted YES

Recent House Votes
Gas Pipeline Permit Deadlines – Passage - Vote Passed (253-169, 11 Not Voting)

The House passed a bill that would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve or deny a natural gas pipeline project within one year after receiving a completed application. Federal agencies responsible for issuing permits would have to issue a ruling within 90 days of when FERC issues its final environmental statement for the project.

Rep. David Rouzer voted YES

Federal Abortion Funding Ban – Passage - Vote Passed (242-179, 12 Not Voting)

The House passed a bill that would permanently prohibit the use of federal funds, facilities or staff to provide abortion coverage and services, except in cases of rape or incest and for saving the life of the woman. It also would prohibit individuals and small business from receiving federal subsidies and small businesses from receiving federal subsidies and tax credits under the 2010 health care overhaul to purchase plans that cover abortions.

Rep. David Rouzer voted YES

Upcoming Votes
Keystone XL Pipeline - S1

The Senate will consider a bill that would immediately allow TransCanada to construct, connect, operate and maintain the pipeline and cross-border facilities known as the Keystone XL pipeline.

Human Trafficking Prioritization Act - HR514

The House will consider a bill to prioritize the fight against human trafficking within the Department of State according to congressional intent in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 without increasing the size of the Federal Government.

LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act - HR351

The House will consider a bill to provide for expedited approval of exportation of natural gas.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Coming to a college near you Angela Davis -- 1960s communist charged with murder and kidnapping, sprung by hoodwinked jury. To speak at UNC Dubyah. But why? Why her? Damn, people!

via Verne Strickland usa dot com

By Julian March StarNewsOnline. 1/13/2015

An activist who rose to national prominence in the late 1960s is slated to speak in Wilmington as part of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
The speaker is Angela Davis, who works to combat all forms of oppression as a teacher and activist, according to her biography at the University of California Santa Cruz, where she is a professor amerita. 
The free event is slated for Tuesday, Jan. 20, at Kenan Auditorium at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
All tickets are already taken, said Todd McFadden, a UNCW instructor and director of the Upperman African American Cultural Center.
In 1969, Davis was fired from the University of California, Los Angeles, after she acknowledged being a member of the Communist Party, states an article in the New York Times. In 1970 she was connected with a notorious crime in California in which armed convicts escaped from a courtroom with hostages. Several people were killed in the escape, including a judge. The guns used in the incident were registered to Davis, who was later charged with murder, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy, according to the Times. A jury found Davis not guilty in 1972.
McFadden said the controversy associated with Davis' name has faded since then. "Martin Luther King was controversial in his day but obviously is a much more accepted figure," he said. "Things like that change."
Davis has lectured in all 50 states and is the author of nine books, so it is said.
It is also alleged that she is especially concerned with the general tendency to devote more resources and attention to the prison system than to educational institutions.
"Having helped to popularize the notion the notion of a 'prison institutional complex,' she now urges her audiences to think seriously about the future possibility of a world without prisons and to help forge a 21st century abolitionist movement." 
For more information about the talk, call the Kenan Auditorium box office at 910-962-3500.

Verne Strickland's Grading Comments

The event is free -- way over-priced
Davis was fired from University of California 
An admitted member of Communist Party
May have beat her rap -- but still a shady chick
Helped armed convicts escape from courtroom
The gentlemen were charged with murder, kidnapping and stuff
Several innocent people, including a judge, were killed
Guns used in the crime were registered to Davis
She was charged with murder, kidnapping, conspiracy
A confused jury found Davis not guilty 
UNCW's McFadden says controversy "has faded since then"
(I, for one, don't think that's true or relevant)

Davis wants people to "think seriously" about a future without prison -- a 21st century abolitionist movement. How crazy is that?

She should have been put in the slammer decades ago, and should still be there. One reason she's not is the sanitized and glamorized aura that has surrounded her Hollywood crime novel plot life and general notoriety. Communist? Helped spring armed convicts? Resulting charges of murder and kidnapping, conspiracy? Yikes. 

She was a Bonnie and Clyde type figure with no Clyde. So it is thought that she will have something relevant to say to UNCW students and other lovers of gore and sensational crimes? What's wrong with this picture?

Monday, January 12, 2015

White House: 'It's fair to say' we were wrong on Paris unity rally. (Damn sure is!)

via Verne Strickland USA DOT COM 1/12/15

White House: 'It's fair to say' we were wrong on Paris unity rally

Getty Images
The White House erred in not sending a higher profile representative to this weekend's solidarity march in France following a terrorist attack on a satirical newspaper, press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.
"It's fair to say we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there," Earnest told reporters at the White House.
"Had the circumstances been a little bit different, I think the president himself would have liked to be there," Earnest added.

 The White House said planning for the march had begun only 36 hours before the event, and that the security required for the president to visit would have been "onerous and significant."
Still, Earnest said, there should be no doubt that the administration and the American people stood in solidarity with France, nor that the United States was "committed to a strong relationship. The United States is with France and committed to the same kind of values they are."
The White House would not discuss whether it considered sending the president at any point.
Earnest said he did not know why Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris earlier Sunday for a series of high-level counterterrorism meetings, was unable to stay to attend the march. He also said he did not know what the president, who remained at the White House throughout the day, did with his time.
The administration has come under fire from media commentators and Republican lawmakers for not sending a top administration officials to join the march, in which more than 40 heads of state participated.
"Especially at a time of such great pain, people will take cues from something like that," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in an interview with CBS News.
"You recall what it felt like after 9/11 to have all these nations around the world rally to our side and take up our cause after we suffered so greatly," Rubio said. "The French are going through a similar trauma."
Earnest, asked if that criticism was fair, said that it was "certainly a free country and people have the opportunity to subject their elected officials to criticism and make it clear when they disagree with an action… taken by the administration."
Earlier Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said he planned to visit France later in this week.
"I don't think the people of France have any doubt about America's understanding of what happened, about our personal sense of loss, and our deep commitment to the people of France in this moment of trial," Kerry said.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What Comes After the Islamic State Is Defeated?


What Comes After the Islamic State Is Defeated?

What Comes After the Islamic State Is Defeated?
When American troops were about to invade Iraq in 2003 to dislodge Saddam Hussein from power, then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus told a reporter: “Tell me how this ends.” Eleven years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, thousands of U.S. troops are once again in Iraq fighting a different foe. But the same question still resonates.
President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of American forces in 2011 after failing to win a security agreement with Iraq has already been undone by Obama ordering as many as 3,100 troops to help train the Iraqi military to take on the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. But even if U.S. and Iraqi forces defeat the militant group, preventing a disintegration of Iraq along sectarian and religious lines may require a long-term presence of U.S. forces, former American officials and defense analysts say.
“You cannot get the goal you want of a stable Iraq and a permanently defeated” Islamic State, “or a son of ISIS,” without a long-term American presence, said James Jeffrey, who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010 to 2012. “Even if they’re promised the moon, only if we have a presence will the Kurds and Sunnis buy into a Baghdad that’s dominated by the Shiites and indirectly by Iran.”
Jeffrey said that moves to establish a peacekeeping or monitoring force should be led by the U.N. but backed by U.S. military power. That means a modest American force should plan on remaining in Iraq and eventually in Syria once the Islamic State is defeated, he said.
More than 2,000 American troops are helping retrain the Iraqi military to fight back against the Islamic State on the ground, even as U.S. drones and jet fighters have carried out hundreds of airstrikes, yielding some earlysuccesses by halting the militant group’s advances.
A major ground offensive against the militant group won’t be launched for several months. But experts say that in order to avoid a repeat of the American withdrawal in 2011, which allowed Iran to become a dominant power, thus marginalizing Sunnis and leading to the birth of the Islamic State, it’s time to plan for what comes after the militant group is defeated or sufficiently contained. One option gaining currency is an international force that can keep the region’s Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites at peace and prevent the breakup of Iraq along ethnic and religious lines.
For starters, Obama may have to allow American troops a deeper role in fighting the Islamic State along with Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Sunni tribes, as well as giving both those groups “some guarantee that we’d be there for the long term,” said Jeffrey, now a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Even if the Kurds and Sunni tribes fully commit to taking on the Islamic State, once the fight against the militants is over, “the Kurds and Sunnis will be open to the same temptation as before: Kurds would want to go independent and the Sunnis may make common cause with the next jihadi group,” Jeffrey said.
The United States has 2,140 troops in Iraq out of the 3,100 that Obama has authorized, according to Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. The remainder of the troops will head to Iraq in the coming weeks.
About 800 of the troops are there to protect the American Embassy in Baghdad and other U.S. personnel, while the rest are training Iraqi military forces, Warren said. A group of 320 Marines are at al-Asad air base in Iraq’s Anbar province — a stronghold of the Islamic State — and are drawing almost daily fire from the militant group, Warren told reporters Jan. 5.
Many of the Sunni tribes the United States is trying to woo now to take on the Islamic State were once critical to the so-called Anbar Awakening that helped the United States defeat al Qaeda in Iraq back in 2006. The tribes later turned on the government of Iraq’s then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — a Shiite — who refused to pay the fighters or fold them into the standing Iraqi military after the violence subsided, setting the stage for the emergence of the Islamic State.
While Iraq’s current prime minister, Haider al-Abadi — a Shiite with close ties to Iran — has, unlike his predecessor Maliki, publicly committed to running an inclusive government, in private meetings with officials he has voiced skepticism about trusting Sunni tribal leaders, according to U.S. and European officials.
Even if the militant group were defeated or just degraded, the impact of such an outcome will be limited “unless the U.S. can also work with the key factions in Iraq, and its allies, to create a stable structure for cooperation between Shiite Arab, Sunni Arab, and Kurds,” Anthony Cordesman, a national security scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an email. “It is far from clear that this is possible.”
But such political accommodation between the different groups is essential to prevent the “next millennial Islamist movement from gaining a new foothold,” Jeffrey wrote in an article published in late December on the Washington Institute’s website.
Although Iraq has allowed some autonomy to Kurds in the north, letting the country’s Sunnis enjoy similar freedoms in the Sunni Arab areas of the country “will require internal cultural change, international guarantees, and an outside monitoring force,” Jeffrey wrote.
U.S. military and State Department officials said there are currently no discussions about such a peacekeeping or monitoring force.
The Obama administration has said that as many as 60 countries are involved in the coalition against the Islamic State, including several Arab nations, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait.
Although Arab countries in the coalition see the predominantly Sunni Islamic State as a threat to their own well-being, they also “still deeply distrust the Shiite-dominated Iraqi Central Government and this tends to push it into the hands of Iran,” the Shiite power in the region, Cordesman said.
A U.N.-backed international peacekeeping force has precedent.
The international body has led such an effort in the past, with the U.N. Mission in Kosovo in 1999. The U.N. Security Council in June 1999 authorized NATO to station 50,000 troops after the end of the war to stop Serbian human rights violations and clashes between the Kosovo Liberation Army and Yugoslav forces. About 4,500 NATO troops from 30 countries currently remain in Kosovo to keep the peace.
Unlike in the Balkans in the late 1990s, the long-term presence of American troops in Iraq may produce its own backlash, said Nicholas Heras, a researcher at the Center for a New American Security.
A U.S. role “in such a peacekeeping force would likely be highly controversial, considering the baggage that the U.S. has in the Middle East region and the anger in the region toward the U.S. occupation of Iraq from the last decade,” Heras said.
Such a stabilizing force may make more sense in Syria, serving “as a guarantor of security in a post-Assad transitional period,” he said, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. There, a multinational force could oversee the “disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of militias, and prevent the return of ISIS in eastern and northern Syria, once ISIS is removed from those areas of the country,” he said.
But the Obama administration’s policy toward Syria remains so incoherent that moderate rebel forces have been weakened and extremist ones have gained the upper hand. No credible peacekeeping force is likely to control the conflicting pressures, and there’s “no clear way that anyone can as yet predict whether, much less how, these various conflicts will end,” Cordesman said.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

'A living hell' for slaves on remote South Korean islands

SINUI ISLAND, South Korea (AP) — He ran the first chance he got.
The summer sun beat down on the shallow, sea-fed fields where Kim Seong-baek was forced to work without pay, day after 18-hour day mining the big salt crystals that blossomed in the mud around him. Half-blind and in rags, Kim grabbed another slave, and the two men — both disabled — headed for the coast.
Far from Seoul, the glittering steel-and-glass capital of one of Asia's richest countries, they were now hunted men on this tiny, remote island where the enslavement of disabled salt farm workers is an open secret.
"It was a living hell," Kim said. "I thought my life was over."
Lost, they wandered past asphalt-black salt fields sparkling with a patina of thin white crust. They could feel the islanders they passed watching them. Everyone knew who belonged and who didn't.
Near a grocery, the store owner's son came out and asked what they were doing. Kim broke down, begged for help, said he'd been held against his will. The man offered to take them to the police to file a report. Instead, he called their boss, who beat Kim with a rake — and it was back to the salt fields.
"I couldn't fight back," Kim said, in a recent series of interviews with The Associated Press whose details are corroborated by court records and by lawyers, police and government officials. "The islanders are too organized, too connected."
Slavery thrives on this chain of rural islands off South Korea's rugged southwest coast, nurtured by a long history of exploitation and the demands of trying to squeeze a living from the sea.
Five times during the last decade, revelations of slavery involving the disabled have emerged, each time generating national shame and outrage. Kim's case prompted a nationwide government probe over the course of several months last year. Officials searched more than 38,000 salt, fish and agricultural farms and disabled facilities and found more than 100 workers who had received no — or only scant — pay, and more than 100 who had been reported missing by their families.
Yet little has changed on the islands, according to a months-long investigation by the AP based on court and police documents and dozens of interviews with freed slaves, salt farmers, villagers and officials.
Although 50 island farm owners and regional job brokers were indicted, no local police or officials have faced punishment — and national police say none will, despite multiple interviews showing some knew about the slaves and even stopped escape attempts.
Slavery has been so pervasive that regional judges have shown leniency toward several perpetrators. In suspending the prison sentences of two farmers, a court said that "such criminal activities were tolerated as common practice by a large number of salt farms nearby."
The AP findings shine a spotlight on the underbelly of an Asian success story. After decades of war, poverty and dictatorship, South Koreans now enjoy a vibrant democracy and media, and an entertainment industry that's the envy of the region. But amid the country's growing wealth and power, the disabled often don't fit in.
Soon after the national government's investigation, activists and police found another 63 unpaid or underpaid workers on the islands, three-quarters of whom were mentally disabled.
Yet some refused to leave the salt farms because they had nowhere else to go. Several freed disabled slaves told the AP they will return because they believe that even the salt farms are better than life on the streets or in crowded shelters. In some cases, relatives refused to take the disabled back or sent salt farmers letters confirming that they didn't need to pay the workers.
Kim's former boss, Hong Jeong-gi, didn't respond to multiple requests for comment through his lawyer, but argued in court that he didn't confine the two men. Hong is set to appear next week in court to appeal a 3½-year prison sentence.
Other villagers, including paid salt workers, say farmers do the best they can despite little help from the government, and add that only a few bad owners abuse workers. Farmers describe themselves as providing oases for the disabled and homeless.
"These are people who are neglected and mistreated, people who have nowhere to go," Hong Chi-guk, a 64-year-old salt farmer in Sinui, told the AP. "What alternative does our society have for them?"
On the night of July 4, 2012, a stranger approached Kim in a Seoul train station where he was trying to sleep; Kim had been homeless since fleeing creditors a decade earlier. The man offered him lodging for the night and promised him food, cigarettes and a "good job" in the morning.
Hours later, Kim stood in the muck of a salt farm owned by Hong, who had paid an illegal job agent the equivalent of about $700 for his new worker, according to court records.
Kim, visually disabled and described in court documents as having the social awareness of a 12-year-old, had no money, no cellphone and only the vaguest idea of where he was.
The afternoon of his first full day on the farm, Hong erupted as Kim struggled with the backbreaking work, according to the prosecutors' indictment that a judge based Hong's sentence on. The owner grabbed him from behind and flipped him onto the ground, screaming, "You moron. If I knew you'd be so bad at this, I wouldn't have brought you here."
In the next weeks, Hong punched him in the face for not cleaning floors properly. He beat him on the buttocks with a wooden plank for raking the salt in the wrong way.
"Each time I tried to ask him something, his punch came first," Kim told the AP. "He told me to use my mouth only for eating and smoking. He said I shouldn't question things and should be thankful because he fed me and gave me lodging and work."
It was just as bad for the other slave, Chae Min-sik, a tiny man whose disabilities are so severe that he struggles even with basic words.
Only a week after his first capture, Kim began to plan another escape.
"Angel Islands," the regional tourist board calls the 1,004 islands clustered in the sun-sparkling waters off South Korea's southwestern tip, because the Korean word for "1,004" sounds like the word for "angel."
Local media call them "Slave Islands."
Parts of the region have been shut out from the country's recent meteoric development. On many of the 72 inhabited islands, salt propels the economic engine, thanks to clean water, wide-open farmland and strong sunlight.
Sinan County has more than 850 salt farms that produce two-thirds of South Korea's sea salt. To make money, however, farmers need labor, lots of it and cheap. Around half of Sinui Island's 2,200 people work in salt farming, according to a county website and officials.
Even with pay, the work is hard.
Large farms in Europe can harvest salt once or twice a year with machines. But smaller Korean farms rely on daily manpower to wring salt from seawater.
Workers manage a complex network of waterways, hoses and storage areas. When the salt forms, they drain the fields, rake the salt into mounds, clean it and bag it. The process typically takes 25 days.
Sinan salt, which costs about three times more than refined salt, is coveted in South Korea, found in fancy department stores and given as wedding gifts.
"Everyone makes money from the farms," said Choi Young-shim, the owner of a fish restaurant in Mokpo, the southern port city that's the gateway to the salt islands.
Not everyone.
The second time they ran, Kim and Chae again tried to find their way to the port. But they had to pass the grocery store to get there, and again the store owner's son, identified by officials only as Yoon, rounded them up and called Hong.
After another beating, it was back to work. The few hours they weren't in the fields, they slept in a concrete storage building filled with piles of junk and large orange sacks of rice.
Kim despaired of ever escaping. Hong was an influential man, a former village head. He was linked by regular social contact and family ties with other salt farmers and villagers, some of whom volunteered to patrol the island for escaped workers.
Although Kim lived only 3 kilometers from a police station, he never thought about asking for help. He believed he'd be ignored or, worse, returned.
Kim ran again at the end of the month. Hong quickly called members of the volunteer patrol, and, again, Yoon spotted the slaves as they tried to reach the port and brought them to Hong.
Furious, the owner issued an ultimatum: Run again, and you'll get a knife in the stomach.
Hong beat Kim so badly he broke Kim's glasses, leaving him nearly blind. He worked Kim so hard the slave was too tired to think about escape, even if he hadn't been terrified to try.
"It just drove me deeper into despair," Kim said. "I never had a chance."
The exact number of people enslaved on the islands is difficult to determine for the same reasons that slavery lingers: the transient nature of the work, the remoteness of the farms and the closeness — and often hostility — of the island communities.
"It's like a game of hide-and-seek," said Park Su-in, an activist. "What we are finding is just the tip of the iceberg. It's hard to comprehend how bad it is for the disabled people who are forced to work out on these isolated islands."
Activists believe many slaves have yet to be found, as some salt farm owners sent victims away or hid them from investigators. They say others coached disabled workers about what they should say in interviews.
While island police officers were moved to different posts on the mainland as part of annual personnel changes, authorities found no collusion, according to a Mokpo police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules.
"If the recent investigation was done properly, then pretty much everyone on the island should've been taken to the police station and charged," said Kim Kang-won, another activist who participated in the recent investigation on Sinui. "The whole village knew about it. The local government office, and the police as well. It is clear negligence. And the problem hasn't been resolved yet."
Provincial police vowed to inspect farms and interview workers regularly. Choi Byung-dai, a police officer on Sinui Island when Kim was freed, expressed regret about Kim's treatment but also noted the difficulty of monitoring so many salt farms and a flood of seasonal workers.
Salt farmers blame illegal job agencies in Mokpo, which see mentally disabled workers as better bets because they're less likely to complain or run away.
"They're treated like dogs and pigs, but people in the community are used to it," said Kim Kyung-lae, a Mokpo cab driver who regularly drives local employment agents and disabled workers to the ferry port to meet with farm owners.
Others familiar with the island confirm that slavery is rampant.
A doctor who worked at the Sinui Island public health center from 2006 to 2007 said most of the workers he treated were abused or exploited.
"The police chief would tell me that I'd eventually come to understand that this was how things on the island worked," said Cho Yong-su. "For decades they'd exploited workers in this way, so they couldn't understand that this was abuse."
An outsider might cringe at what's happening on the island, said Han Bong-cheol, a pastor in Mokpo who lived on Sinui for 19 years until June. "But when you live there, many of these problems feel inevitable."
He sympathized with farmers forced to deal with disabled, incompetent workers whom he described as dirty and lazy. "They spend their leisure time eating snacks, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. They are taken once or twice a year to Mokpo so they can buy sex. It's a painful reality, but it's a pain the island has long shared as a community," Han said.
After a year and a half as a slave, Kim made one last bid for freedom.
He wrote a letter to his mother in Seoul that he never expected to be able to send, calling himself her "foolish" son.
He got a break when Hong's wife let him go alone for a haircut. Walking slowly without his glasses, he ducked into the post office and mailed the letter, which gave directions to the farm.
Kim's mother was stunned. She brought the letter to Seo Je-gong, a police captain for the Seoul Guro district. "A vanished person had suddenly reappeared," Seo, now retired, told AP.
Seo then hatched an extraordinary plan.
Because Kim's letter noted collaboration between local police and salt farm owners, Seo and another Seoul officer ran a clandestine operation without telling local officials.
Carrying fishing rods, they walked around like tourists who had come to fish and buy salt, and surreptitiously took photos of Hong's house and farm. After they watched Hong board a boat, they told Hong's wife they were Seoul police who had come to free Kim.
The officers found the slaves sitting on a mattress in the back room of a storage building with no heat or hot water. Kim wore thin, dirty clothes, slippers and socks with big holes. He looked, Seo said, like a person who had been homeless for a very long time.
Kim was frightened and baffled at first, then relieved. "I am going to live," he said.
When Seo took Kim to a local police station to give an official account, an indignant policeman asked, "Why didn't you leave this to us?"
Villagers, unaware that Kim's escorts were Seoul police, harassed him at the docks, asking where he was going. Some even called Hong.
When Kim met his mother the next day, they both wept. She stroked her son's face. "Everything is all right because you've come back alive," she says in a police video of their reunion.
Chae initially refused to leave Sinui. After Seo later found a 2008 missing person's report for Chae, police returned and rescued him. Chae, who'd spent five years as a slave, now lives in a Seoul shelter.
Hong was convicted of employing a trafficked person, aggravated confinement, habitual violence and violating labor laws. Yoon, the man who captured Kim and Chae three times, was fined $7,500. Two illegal job brokers hired by Hong to procure workers are appealing prison sentences of 2 years and 2 ½ years.
Kim, who lives in Seoul and occasionally works construction jobs, still seems amazed that his escape plan worked. He settled with Hong for about $35,000 in unpaid wages, but is furious that Hong is appealing his prison term next week. Kim will face him in court, and has been preparing for the moment.
His body aches, and he gets treatment for lingering pain in his neck, legs and spine.
"Now all I want is peace," Kim said. "I still get nightmares, still wake up in the middle of the night."
His time as a slave has even changed the way he feels about salt. He gets flustered when he talks about it, disgusted when he sees it.
"Just thinking about it makes me grind my teeth."
Foster Klug is AP's Seoul bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter at twitter/apklug

AP EXCLUSIVE: S. Korea's Exploited Salt Workers