New Jersey requires hotels to provide ‘panic buttons’ for cleaners

New Jersey on Tuesday became the first state to mandate that hotels provide their room cleaners with wearable “panic buttons.” The devices, which call for help, aim to protect workers from sexual harassment and other dangers.

In September, major hotel brands — including Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt — agreed to provide the buttons to their employees after hotel workers with the union Unite Here held protests across the country calling for panic buttons and other safety measures.

The law applies to hotels with 100 rooms or more, which includes all nine casino hotels in Atlantic City, and will take effect in January.

Local governments have begun taken to passing worker-protection laws where the federal government has not. In January, New Jersey said it would raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024. Last year, New Jersey’s earned sick leave law went into effect, mandating paid sick days. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, legislators have passed laws like “Fair Workweek” scheduling for service workers and “just-cause” prevention of unfair firings for parking lot workers.

— Philadelphia Inquirer

California man imprisoned in Vietnam to go on trial in late June

LOS ANGELES — An Orange County man imprisoned in Vietnam for more than 11 months is set to go on trial in late June, without access to legal counsel since his arrest, family members say.

Vietnamese authorities have been investigating Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, a father of four from Orange, for “actions” to overthrow the government, according to Mark Roberts, his brother-in-law. He said he expects government officials will appoint a lawyer for Nguyen for the trial, which is expected to start on June 24.

Nguyen “is severely disadvantaged and unable to properly defend against any accusations” because “he and his family have not even been formally advised of the actual charges or accusations against him,” Roberts said. “He has also been denied the time to properly address any alleged claims against him.”

Authorities arrested Nguyen in July while he was touring the central city of Da Nang on a visit with elderly relatives. During his confinement, he has been in good health, though only allowed to speak briefly with a representative from the U.S. Embassy once a month, according to Helen Nguyen, his wife.

An operating room nurse, she said she has spent the months during her husband’s absence juggling two hospital jobs, caring for their school-age daughters and lobbying legislators for help. She was invited to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in February to call attention to her husband’s plight.

Nguyen’s family believes his arrest “may be lumped together with Vietnamese citizens who may have previously protested groundwater contamination,” Roberts said, adding that they are hoping for a fair trial.

— Los Angeles Times

The cocaine on my nose belongs to someone else, suspect tells deputies

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Two recent drug cases in the Tampa area are unusually noteworthy — even by Florida standards.

In one, a passenger in a vehicle stopped for an alleged traffic infraction had a white, powdery substance on his nose that tested positive for cocaine, according to an item posted Monday to the Facebook page of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

Fabricio Tueros Jimenez, 20, of New Port Richey, was charged after deputies also found 250 grams of marijuana and 13 Xanax pills in a backpack, the sheriff’s office said.

“Jimenez was arrested without incident, but he attempted to tell the deputies the cocaine on his nose was not his,” the posting said.

There was no information about who Jimenez indicated the drug may have belonged to.

A picture accompanying the Facebook posting showed flecks of a white substance covering the nostrils of the person officials identified as Jimenez.

Then, in a Facebook posting Tuesday, the same sheriff’s office said it found 6 grams of methamphetamine mixed in with a man’s side order of “hot, fresh potato wedges.”

That case began with another traffic stop in which the passenger, James Simpson, was found to have an arrest warrant for drugs from Polk County, the sheriff’s office said.

The drugs were found inside a food container and Simpson was charged with possession of a controlled substance, officials said.

— Sun Sentinel

Ai Weiwei visits Assange in prison hospital

LONDON — Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a London prison hospital on Tuesday, saying that his health is “deteriorating” and urging Britain and other European nations to prevent his extradition to the United States.

Berlin-based Ai said he visited the Australian national at Belmarsh prison alongside Assange’s father on Tuesday, one day before a British court is scheduled to hold a case management hearing on a U.S. extradition request.

“He is in the prison hospital and his health is deteriorating,” Ai wrote on Twitter and Instagram.

“He is grateful for the support given to him. The UK and Europe must defend human rights and stop his extradition to the US where he faces 18 charges and up to 175 years in jail.”

The U.S. government has accused Assange, 47, of conspiring with former U.S. military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak a trove of classified material in 2010.

He has been held at the prison since police dragged him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on April 11. He had spent seven years inside the embassy to avoid arrest.

The British extradition process, which Assange opposes, is expected to take up to one year to resolve.

Last week, a Swedish court rejected a request to detain Assange in absentia on suspicion of rape, but the allegation against him remains active.

— dpa