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11 and 15-year-old girls trafficked in Seattle

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11 and 15-year-old girls trafficked in Seattle


Police say the girls had no idea what was planned for them when they met 25-year-old Ezra Wimana online.

“The intent was that these girls were going to be engaging in prostitution,” Bellevue Police Assistant Chief Andrew Popochock said.

The girls were reported missing on January 7. Police say Wimana drove to an area near Pendleton, Oregon, picked up the girls, and drove back to Seattle and straight to Aurora Avenue, where he forced them to work as prostitutes, but when he was unsatisfied with the girls’ performance, he abandoned them.

After a call from law enforcement in Oregon, the girls were located at a home in Bellevue on January 9.  All in about 48 hours.

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Other crime news: Detectives investigating homicide in Yesler Terrace

“This goes quick. When you leave a location, you leave home, you leave that safe place that you’re in and you get into a car, you don’t know where you’re going or what’s going to happen. In 48 hours, many things can happen. In minutes many things can happen. And, in this circumstance, bad things happened,” Bellevue Police Assistant Chief Popochock said.

Following a thorough investigation, Wimana was arrested early this month.

He faces multiple charges, including two counts of trafficking, two counts of promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor, and one count of rape of a child.

Wimana is in the King County Jail, held on half a million dollars bail.

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The girls have been returned to their families in Oregon.

Assistant Chief Popochock said parents have to be diligent.

“Make sure you know what websites your child is accessing, what they’re doing online and make sure we’re educating people about when you go online the person you’re talking to may not be the person you think,” Popochock explained.

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Happy Food Is Very Quietly One of the CID’s Best New Restaurants

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Happy Food Is Very Quietly One of the CID’s Best New Restaurants


She goes by Chef Ye to her regulars, but her full name is Aifang Ye, the “Ai” being the Chinese character meaning “love.” Love is what Ye and her new restaurant Happy Food exude despite challenging circumstances: Her English is limited and she works mostly alone, operating Happy Food on a corner of the Chinatown-International District that — like many corners of downtown Seattle — struggles with visible signs of poverty and drug use.

Like Tanya Nguyen at nearby Chu Minh Tofu, Ye sometimes helps feed her unhoused neighbors. Volunteers who help with Nguyen’s food giveaways acted as translators so Eater Seattle could interview Ye in Mandarin.

The Happy Food owner hails from Taizhou, a coastal town in Zhejiang Province, about 200 miles south of Shanghai. She first learned cooking from her mother (who she describes as just an average cook), and by age 10 she had mastered the complexity of making zongzi (sticky rice dumplings wrapped with bamboo leaves). She upped her cooking game upon getting married and needing to cook for family, then brought that passion to bidding for the business to run a buffet-style cafeteria in a factory setting serving nearly 200 workers.

In 2019, Ye followed her husband and son to Las Vegas where they easily found construction work, while she became a pui yuet, or confinement nanny — someone who prepares meals and herbal medicines for new mothers, who in the Chinese tradition stay at home to recuperate 30 days after giving birth. She continued that work when she moved with her family to Bellevue in 2021 for a nicer environment with cooler weather. But soon, with desire to be independent and entrepreneurial, she jumped on an affordable opportunity to lease a less-than-desirable spot at the corner of 12th Avenue and Jackson to open Happy Food at the end of 2023.

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Save for occasional moments when her husband comes to help, Happy Food is a one-woman show: Ye greets customers with an exuberant smile, beckons them to sit, takes orders, cooks, serves, and cleans — all with little more English than “Thank you very much.”

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Fermented rice ball soup at Happy Food.
Jay Friedman

A plate of fish topped with greens and chiles.

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Fish with scallion oil at Happy Food.
Jay Friedman

Happy Food’s menu is simple and understated (think “potato chips salad” and “braised chicken leg”), making it hard for diners who don’t know Chinese characters to anticipate the dishes and to know what to order. And while Zhejiang cuisine is considered one of the eight traditional cuisines of China, that’s not the restaurant theme. Ye says that her food reflects a variety of dishes she ate in Taizhou, prepared with her own spin.

What diners can count on is that the food is delicious. The stir-fried green beans pack the punch of ya cai (a type of preserved mustard green). Fish filets float in a sauce of fragrant house-made scallion oil that finds people reaching for another portion of the self-service rice. Cabbage comes rustically stir-fried in large pieces, available “plain” or spiked with vinegar. Especially popular with Asian clientele are the braised pork intestines, cut large for extra chewiness and mixed with meaty and tender King oyster mushrooms, cooked to the desired level of spiciness.

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There’s more — not all of it on the menu. Ye will enthusiastically show other dishes she can make, many doughy delights like pumpkin mantou and dumplings made with mugwort in the wrappers and zesty pork and vegetables in the filling.

People are still learning about the place, perhaps skeptical of the location, but the regulars happily return. On a recent visit, a table of diners delighted in the food, saying that whether from Taiwan or different parts of China like Hong Kong and Shanghai, they feel at home when eating at Happy Food. The restaurant truly has a home-style vibe, the food reasonably priced and served with a warm smile.

Ye wouldn’t let Eater Seattle take a photo of her. She declined to talk about the homelessness and drug use endemic to the area. What’s most important, Ye says, is that “Anyone can come in and really enjoy the food. Having people enjoy it brings me happiness. I have passion for it.”

1043 S Jackson St, Seattle, WA

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Seattle Opera presents Malcolm X’s life

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Seattle Opera presents Malcolm X’s life


For the first time ever, Seattle Opera is presenting a mainstage production of a work by a Black composer. With a score that blends elements of jazz and swing into traditional opera, X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X (Feb. 24 – March 9) traces the civil rights leader’s life from his childhood in Lansing, Mich., to his assassination in Harlem.

The opera was the first composed by Anthony Davis, who has since created seven more — including The Central Park Five, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2020. But when X was first performed in 1985, biographical operas — much less operas about Black figures in recent history — were not commonly seen on stages. 

X went largely unperformed for decades, until a collaboration of several opera companies brought it back to life with a grand restaging that premiered at the Detroit Opera in 2022, appeared at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera in 2023 and now takes the Seattle Opera stage.

In addition to exploring the cultural and historical significance of Malcolm X, the piece reflects a vital shift in contemporary opera: an effort to bring diverse and important real-world stories to the stage.

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As soprano Leah Hawkins told Crosscut Now when we went behind the scenes during a rehearsal of X, “I don’t want [it to be] a ‘special event’ that we’re doing this Black show. It should be normal. We should see Black stories, we should see Asian stories, we should see Hispanic stories … It should be normal.”

Watch the full interview and rehearsal footage in this episode. Plus, we take a look back at 50 years of the Boldt Decision, and legislators consider a financial safety net for striking WA workers.





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Seattle weather: Mild conditions with sunbreaks on Thursday

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Seattle weather: Mild conditions with sunbreaks on Thursday


Wednesday was a gray and soggy day, but temperatures were mild today, once again warming into the lower 50s.

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Enjoy the warm-up, as we are tracking cooler temperatures for early next week. 

Overall, rainfall amounts today were generally light, but we did have a few brief, heavy downpours. Rainfall amounts ranged from just a few hundredths of an inch to more than a half inch. 

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Showers will continue through tonight into early Thursday. By Thursday afternoon, skies will turn partly cloudy and fog will form overnight and early Friday morning. 

With the additional sunshine, afternoon highs tomorrow will be warmer. Some spots will even see the upper 50s.

We continue to monitor the snowpack in the Cascades. They remain low, but a cold, wet system heading our way is forecast to bring 1-2 feet of snow to our mountains! The heaviest snowfall will be between Sunday and Tuesday. Be sure to monitor the mountain passes during that time if traveling. 

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While the mountains are picking up some much-needed snow, Sunday will be very wet in the lowlands. Snow levels will lower to near the surface and the lowlands may again see a wintry mix with some minor accumulations on grassy spots. Monday and Tuesday morning is the best time to see this. We will continue to watch this forecast closely in the coming days. 



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