March 31, 2006

Ethnic media filling the gap

NEW OUTLETS RUSH IN TO BRING NEWS TO VALLEY'S VIETNAMESE COMMUNITY

By K. Oanh Ha
Mercury News

Three new Vietnamese-language newspapers and an online news outlet are vying to fill the void left by the closing of the Mercury News' Viet Mercury publication, underscoring the vibrancy of ethnic media even as mainstream newspapers face uncertain futures.

Two former Viet Mercury editors plan to start publishing in the next two months while the paper's former advertising manager has launched an online news portal. A third newspaper plans to offer bilingual business news.

The publications aim to nab readers of Viet Mercury, which ceased publication in November.

“The enthusiasm for replacing Viet Mercury speaks about the viability of the market,'' said Jim Nguyen, Viet Mercury's former advertising manager who founded online news site VietUSA News after leading an unsuccessful attempt to purchase the paper. The site will soon relaunch as a news portal catering to Vietnamese readers globally, Nguyen said.

Former editor De Tran and his managing editor, Hoang Xuan Nguyen, have plans for separate publications modeled after the one they ran together for almost seven years.

The proliferation of Vietnamese and other ethnic publications is in stark contrast to the challenges facing mainstream newspapers: declining readership and advertising. Knight Ridder, the nation's second-largest newspaper chain and owner of the Mercury News, agreed to be purchased by McClatchy, a sale forced by major stockholders unhappy about Knight Ridder's financial performance. McClatchy has announced it will sell the Mercury News and 11 other Knight Ridder papers.

The landscape of the ethnic press is dramatically different. About a dozen Vietnamese publications now circulate in the Bay Area. Readers of Chinese can choose from at least six dailies and Indian-Americans, at least six monthly and weekly publications.

Richer coverage

Ethnic media, including television, online and radio, reaches one-fourth of the entire U.S. population and 80 percent of adults in minority communities, according to a 2005 study by New America Media, a San Francisco-based association of ethnic publications.

“If all the mainstream media went on strike, I wouldn't miss a beat,'' said Ling-chi Wang, a prolific reader of Chinese publications who heads Asian-American studies at the University of California-Berkeley. “What I read in Chinese papers is so much richer than mainstream content . . . There's many more pages of news about Asia.''

The success of ethnic publications goes hand-in-hand with increased immigration. The Chinese-American population in Santa Clara county more than doubled between 1990 and 2004 to 134,000 while the Vietnamese-American population also doubled, to 107,000. Numbers of Indian-Americans grew nearly threefold, to 72,000. As a result, the circulation of monthly magazine India Currents increased 20 percent, to 22,000, in Northern California over the past five years.

“It's pretty competitive,'' said editor Ashok Jethanandani. “I've seen so many publications come and go.''

The ethnic press thrives on a symbiotic relationship with mom-and-pop enterprises since both predominantly serve the local immigrant communities. “Korean dry cleaners need Korean media to grow their businesses,'' said Sandy Close, founder of New America Media.

Still, ethnic press have challenges of their own. Readership drops off considerably with the second generation, according to a 2003 San Francisco State University study on ethnic media.

Mindful of that, two of the upcoming Vietnamese publications plan to offer some English content.

Leaders at the new ventures say they want to emulate Viet Mercury, which was well-received by readers for its balanced journalism and high professional standards in a community where advocacy journalism is the norm and papers are susceptible to pressures from political and business interests.

Viet Mercury was also the first local Vietnamese newspaper to attract mainstream advertisers on a large scale rather than relying on just area immigrant businesses for revenue. The new publications hope to pair that model with lower overhead that will allow them to charge less for ads.

Viet Mercury charged up to $1,000 for a full-page ad, and couldn't pull in enough high-paying advertisers. Vietnamese publications typically charge $120 for a full-page ad.

But competition is already intense, and some watchers doubt the market is large enough for many more entrants. All four of the new Vietnamese publications are currently talking to one another about combining forces.

Quality — and profit

Tran, whose VTimes publication makes its debut next month, is convinced he can deliver both quality and profit. “We'll have the same quality of Viet Mercury,'' he said. “But we'll do it for less and we'll be able to charge much less for advertising.''

Tran wants his paper to be “a bridge to connect Vietnamese-Americans to the larger community,'' he said. Viet Tribune, headed by Hoang Nguyen, will focus on culture and lifestyle, particularly on issues affecting women and seniors.

Each of the new papers is being jump-started with only a few hundred thousand dollars. They aim for circulations around 20,000, compared with Viet Mercury's 57,000. They will rely on freelancers for most content.

The small scale of those operations leave many wondering whether they can match Viet Mercury's editorial content.

“Viet Mercury raised the quality,'' said Nguyen Qui Duc, the Vietnamese-American host of KQED's Pacific Time program. “I don't know that anyone can duplicate that because no one has those resources.''

Nguyen of VietUSA News said he wants to replicate Viet Mercury's “integrity'' but said there may be limitations. “Because we had the backing and protection of the Mercury News, we were able to be bold and courageous about exposing fraud and write exposes,'' he said. “With a community newspaper that has no shield, would we be able to do those same kinds of stories?''

Tran is undeterred: “A paper that's high-quality, objective and well-designed — there's a great need for it in the community.''


Contact K. Oanh Ha at kha@mercurynews.com or (408) 278-3457.

March 31, 2006

War not yet over, says American veteran
   03/29/2006 — 21:50(GMT+7)
 

Ha Noi (VNA) – The war has never ended for the Vietnamese people, for the American veterans, and for the children who are still suffering, an American Viet Nam veteran said.

"We can see the people are injured, we can see the names of the people that died, but often we forget about the people that were poisoned by the weapon that we couldn't see. All those people who suffered are still suffering, generation after generation," Daniel J. Shea, Director of Education without Borders and member of Veterans for Peace of the state of Oregon, told VNA reporters on the sidelines of the International Conference on Agent Orange/Dioxin Victims held in Ha Noi on March 28 and 29.

According to Shea, he may have been exposed to Agent Orange in Quang Tri, or Da Nang central provinces during the war in Viet Nam. The veteran had a son who was born with congenital heart disease and other abnormalities, who died in 1981 when he was three years old.

"At that time, I wasn't concerned about applying for compensation, but I am spending the rest of my life trying to work for peace and justice in different ways," Shea said.

The veteran said his own physical health is satisfactory, but he has psychological health issues stemming from the legacy of Agent Orange. He worried about his married daughter having children and whether they may be born with abnormalities. "In Viet Nam there is evidence that it goes from generation to generation. It's a great fear for me to see whether I might have a grandchild that suffers," Shea explained.

By attending the conference, Shea said he hoped to help people in the world realise the plight of Agent Orange victims. "It's important for Viet Nam to make US chemical producers pay now and demand reparations so that we can prevent further destruction of the earth," he stressed.

Regarding the lawsuit against American chemical producers filed by Vietnamese Agent Orange victims, Shea said if more people join in solidarity with the people in Viet Nam and bring more and more people all over the world, the prospects for the suit will improve.

He affirmed that his voice and the voices of other war veterans will help raise awareness and support for the victims.–Enditem

Little Saigon, at home

March 31, 2006

Little Saigon, at home

Ann Le worried that her family's recipes would be lost, so she gathered her favorites and published a cookbook.

By Mary MacVean, Times Staff Writer
March 29, 2006
ANN Le's parents married in 1975, a week before the end of the Vietnam War and three days before they joined relatives in two boats for an uncertain future that led from South Vietnam to a Korean refugee camp, to Minnesota and finally to Southern California.

They were among the early residents of Little Saigon in Westminster, a lively culinary destination with 200 markets, bakeries and cafes in 3 square miles, Le says. The first restaurants, she says, were just dining rooms of private homes where residents served inexpensive, family-style meals.

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Growing up, Le, her brother and their parents ate Vietnamese food almost exclusively, often heading to one restaurant on Bolsa Avenue (that's no longer in business) at the end of her parents' long workdays. "I recall almost having the menu memorized," she says. "Everything was family-style."

They usually ate steamed rice, a salad platter, a meat or fish dish and a consommé. But sometimes her grandmother cooked for the family — dishes such as braised fish, chicken salad and bun rieu, a soup with crab, tomato and noodles.

Fearing those recipes would be lost because they were not written down, Le began gathering them, finally producing "The Little Saigon Cookbook" (Globe Pequot Press), published not long before her grandmother died this year.

Le, 28, is an investment banker, not a professional cook, and she says it was a challenge to write recipes that her family and friends had only passed along orally.

"I hope people modify them," she says. "That what's we do at home. Everyone has their way."

Her grandmother's way with the sweet braised dishes called kho was among Le's favorites. Especially braised catfish, cooked in a clay pot with lemon-lime or coconut soda and black and chile peppers. A nearly vegetarian version (except for the fish sauce) uses eggplant.

Le, who now lives in Silver Lake, returns often to see her family — and to shop. On a recent Sunday morning, she joined the crowd at the ABC Supermarket.

The aisles were packed, the shelves precariously crowded. In the produce section, Le surveyed the banana buds, bitter melons, fresh water chestnuts, lemongrass, small white eggplants, a dozen fresh herbs. Le put Vietnamese coriander, Thai basil and mint into her cart.

Next, condiments: The huge assortment included dozens of varieties of nuoc nam, fish sauce made from salted, dried fish, usually anchovies. Le recommends those from either Phu Quoc or Phan Thiet. The fish sauce is essential for nuoc cham, the dipping sauce Le says you'll find on every Vietnamese table; to make it, Le combines the nuoc nam with lime juice, sugar and chiles.

Among the nods to busy modern lives were little tubs of chopped frozen lemongrass — a product Le says would surely have met her grandmother's disapproval — and pre-shredded green papaya.

Le looks askance at that convenience. She uses a plastic mandoline to make the pretty, almost translucent shreds that are the main ingredient in a wonderfully fragrant salad, gói du dú, that also calls for Thai bird chile, Vietnamese coriander, Thai basil and fermented fish sauce. Le says the traditional salad is topped with a dried, spiced beef that's available in the grocery stores of Little Saigon. But she likes it with cooked shrimp — boiled or grilled.

To make a warm "shaking beef" salad (bò lúc lâc), Le marinates cubes of beef in nuoc nam, garlic and oyster sauce, "shaking" the container so the beef is coated. She quickly sautés plenty of sliced onion, then adds in the beef with all its marinade, stirring as it cooks. Then she spoons the rich-looking mixture onto tender watercress leaves, tops it with quartered tomatoes and serves it with steamed rice.

Asked what sort of rice she uses, Le laughs. She uses whatever brand her mother has gotten for free in a supermarket promotion — a sign of the fierce competition among Little Saigon supermarkets.

To round out the menu, Le makes a dish that's rarely found in restaurants: gà chiên, chicken pan-fried with mint and ginger. She combines nuoc nam, ginger, garlic, Vietnamese coriander, onion and oil and marinates the chicken in it overnight. After the chicken is cooked, she cooks the marinade briefly to turn it into a sauce.

The home-style dish couldn't be easier. The recipe for it in Le's book calls for assorted chicken parts with the skin removed, but it's even better made with all thighs, with the skin left on.

**

Green papaya salad with shrimp (Gói du dú)

Time: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: Adapted from "The Little Saigon Cookbook" by Ann Le. You can prepare this salad up to an hour before serving, but no longer or the herbs will wilt. Green papayas and Thai basil are available at Asian markets. For 3 cups julienned green papaya, use a portion of 1 small green papaya (about 2 pounds); save the remainder for another use.

1/3 pound large shrimp, cleaned, deveined

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

Juice of 1 small lime

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (nuoc nam)

1/2 fresh Thai bird chile, finely chopped ( 1/4 teaspoon chopped)

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon minced shallots

3 cups julienned green papaya

1/4 cup chopped fresh Vietnamese coriander leaves, divided

1/4 cup chopped fresh Thai basil leaves, divided

3 tablespoons finely chopped, unsalted dry-roasted peanuts

1. Heat a grill pan or grill. Place the shrimp in a bowl. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Grill until opaque in the center, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the grill, cool and slice in half lengthwise.

2. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, garlic, sugar, fish sauce and chopped chile. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved.

3. In a small skillet or saucepan, heat the oil. Fry the minced shallots until golden brown. Drain and add to the fish sauce mixture.

4. Julienne the papaya or mangoes into thin, matchstick strips 2 inches long until you have 3 cups. Place in a large serving bowl or platter. Pour the dressing all over the strips, evenly coating them. Toss with 2 tablespoons coriander and 2 tablespoons Thai basil.

5. Top the dressed papaya with cooked shrimp and garnish with the peanuts, the remaining 2 tablespoons coriander and the remaining 2 tablespoons basil.


Each serving: 214 calories; 9 grams protein; 15 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 14 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 55 mg. cholesterol; 1,083 mg. sodium.

**

Pan-fried spicy chicken with mint and ginger (Gà chiên)

Total time: 50 minutes plus 4 hours to overnight marinating

Servings: 3

Note: Adapted from "The Little Saigon Cookbook" by Ann Le. Look for Vietnamese coriander leaves and Thai bird chiles in Asian markets.

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons ground white pepper

1/2 onion, finely chopped

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh Vietnamese coriander leaves

1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

1/4 cup fish sauce (nuoc nam)

1 fresh Thai bird chile, finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

2 pounds bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (about 6 pieces)

Fresh mint and cilantro leaves to garnish

Steamed rice

1. First make the marinade. In a large bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the oil, the white pepper, onion, garlic, coriander leaves, mint leaves, ginger, fish sauce, chile, and sugar. Stir well until the sugar is dissolved.

2. Clean the chicken thighs and pat them dry. Put them in a large bowl or shallow dish and pour the marinade on top. Rub the marinade all over the chicken until each piece is evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

3. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. Wipe the marinade off the chicken and reserve marinade. Find a heavy frying pan large enough to fit the chicken pieces in one layer. Pour the remaining 5 tablespoons oil into the pan and heat over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken, skin side down.

4. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the chicken for 4 to 5 minutes until skin is golden brown. Turn over and cook the other side for about 15 minutes or until done. Test the chicken for doneness by pricking it with a fork; when the juices run clear, remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm.

5. Pour out the fat and return the pan to medium heat. Spoon in the reserved marinade and stir to bring up the brown bits on bottom of pan cooking 2 to 3 minutes. Add one-half cup water and bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for a few more minutes. Return the chicken to the pan to reheat if necessary.

6. Serve the chicken with steamed rice and garnish with fresh cilantro and mint leaves. Drizzle the pan sauce over the chicken and serve.


Each serving of two thighs: 675 calories; 42 grams protein; 8 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 52 grams fat; 11 grams saturated fat; 149 mg. cholesterol; 1992 mg. sodium.

**

Warm 'shaking beef' salad with watercress and tomatoes (Bò lúc lâc)

Total time: 40 minutes

Servings: 6

Note: Adapted from "The Little Saigon Cookbook" by Ann Le.

1 pound beef (filet or sirloin; best grade recommended)

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/4 cup fish sauce (nuoc nam)

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

2 bunches watercress, stems removed, about 5 cups

2 onions, cut in half and sliced

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

4 plum tomatoes, cut into quarters

1. Cut the beef into 1-inch cubes.

2. Prepare the marinade in a bowl or container with a lid by combining 2 tablespoons of the oil, the fish sauce, black pepper, oyster sauce, garlic and sugar. Mix well until the sugar is dissolved, then add the beef cubes. Cover the bowl or container and shake the cubes to evenly coat the meat (or you can simply stir). Leave the cover on and let the container sit for 20 minutes on the counter.

3. Clean the watercress and arrange it on a large serving platter or dish.

4. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil over high heat. When it is hot, add the onion. Sauté for just a few minutes, then throw in the beef with its marinade and toss quickly. You need to cook for only 5 minutes over low to medium heat for the meat to be medium rare; continue tossing as it cooks. Cook it longer if you prefer.

5. When the meat is cooked, turn off the burner and stir in the cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Spoon onto the watercress and top with tomato wedges. Serve family style with steamed rice.


Each serving: 248 calories; 18 grams protein; 11 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 15 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 35 mg. cholesterol; 1011 mg. sodium.

March 28, 2006

Portraits of artists painted with fingers on display
11:56' 25/03/2006 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet – Painter Bui Quang Anh is displaying portraits of artists painted with fingers at Gallery Tu Do at No 53 Ho Tung Mau, district 1 in Ho Chi Minh City.

The collection include 24 oil and acrylic paintings. According to the painter, these pictures have been made in ‘painting mediation’ which is focused on the soul of the person in the paintings.

As using figure to paint the pictures, the painter said it took him just a short time, around 5-10 minutes with maximum of 20 minutes, to complete a work.

Painter Quang Anh said apart from musician Van Cao who passed away, all other artists, from photographer Vo An Ninh who now is 100 years old, writer To Hoai, writers Nguyen Huy Thiep, poet Hoang Cam to painter Luu Cong Nhan, have been painted from life. Most of these portraits have been created since 2003. Only the portraits of writer Tao Mat and dancer Quynh Dung were made in 1970 in a realist style.

The collection also includes some paintings featuring the status of women.

Painter Bui Quang Anh was born in 1940 in Hanoi. He was painter of the Political Department under the General Department of Logistics. After the war, he became a lecturer at the Hanoi Industrial Fine Arts College and since 1986, he has specilised in paintings.

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Portrait of Photographer Vo An Ninh.

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Writer To Hoai.

 
 

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Writer Nguyen Huy Thiep.

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Painter Luu Cong Nhan.

(Source: ND)

American veterans stand for justice for Vietnamese AO victims
   03/27/2006 — 18:09(GMT+7)
 

Washington DC (VNA) – All American veterans who are expected to attend an international conference on Agent Orange (AO) and its effects on people to be held in Ha Noi on March 28-29, said they will strive for justice for AO victims in Viet Nam.

David Cline, President of Veterans for Peace, told Viet Nam News Agency reporters that he will try to seek "justice for all, especially for Vietnamese Agent Orange/Dioxin victims” at the coming meeting in Viet Nam.

Cline, who is also one of the National Coordinators of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and Co-Chairs of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign, was exposed to AO in Viet Nam's southwestern province of Tay Ninh in 1967. He is on the Veterans Administration registry of those exposed to AO, however, he has not yet experienced any symptoms.

"I believe that obtaining justice for AO victims will set a critical legal precedent that will help victims of other poisonous weapons in their fight for justice," said Joan Anne Duffy Newberry, who was exposed to AO while serving as an American military nurse at Cam Ranh Bay in Viet Nam from 1969 -1970.

Newberry said she wants to attend the AO conference to coordinate with people from other countries, so that they may work together to seek justice for all victims of Agent Orange, and "to set precedents of holding nations and corporations accountable for their actions in the hope of preventing future 'Agent Orange-type weapons' from being used."

The former military nurse is a member of Veterans for Peace, Santa Fe chapter and was the local organiser for the Agent Orange Justice Tour last fall.

She believed that her exposure to Agent Orange caused an intestinal birth deformity in her daughter's son, nearly killing him, and also caused her to develop breast cancer in 1996 and ovarian cancer in 2004. "Three other nurses with whom I served have also developed breast cancer," she added.

 “All veterans who have suffered from Agent Orange/Dioxin, American or Vietnamese, should be compensated. It’s the moral of life,” stressed  Frank Corcoran, an American veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange in Quang Nam province in 1968. He has prostate cancer and is receiving veterans disability benefits. Frank was the local Philadelphia organiser for the Agent Orange Justice Tour  in the past fall.

Meanwhile, Daniel J. Shea, another American veteran, said he may have been exposed to Agent Orange in Quang Tri, or Da Nang central provinces during the war in Viet Nam. His first  son, Casey, was born  in 1977 with a congenital heart disease, cleft palate and other stomach and groin abnormalities. Casey had heart surgery in 1981, fell into a coma for seven weeks and eventually died in his father's arms.

However, doctors did not recognise that there was links between his possible exposure to Agent Orange, Blue or  any other biological toxins to Casey's birth defects. Daniel considered he was betrayed by the denials of the effects of Agent Orange.

Daniel said he wanted to go to the conference to tell his story and heal the old wounds.-Enditem

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Website of Vietnamese folk verses
11:29' 27/03/2006 (GMT+7)

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E-cadao website.

VietNamNet – A website of Vietnamese folk verses, made by Vietnamese American writer Ha Phuong Hoai, is available as a means for overseas Vietnamese to access folk culture.

 

Phuong Hoai has collected Vietnamese folk verses since 1982. Since 2002, his website has provided an “online dictionary of Vietnamese folk culture”, including folk verses, songs, customs, and festivals.

 

Phuong Hoai said he is trying to find domestic partners who could provide him with more documents to develop the website.

 

The writer said overseas-Vietnamese people in the US are too busy earning money. Their children study at US schools, where they talk only English. Parents and children never speak Vietnamese to each other, so younger generations go further and further from their ancestral language.

 

Mr. Hoai said his website is not enough to solve the problem. It is too difficult for the children to understand, especially with metaphoric phrases and Sino-Vietnamese words. However, the website will be a helpful means for parents to show children their cultural roots. It will also provide useful documents for teachers at American Vietnamese-language schools.

 

Hoai’s website has already collected 21,000 lines of Vietnamese verses, and other 3,000 lines will soon be published. The verses are available at http://e-cadao.com, http://cadao.org, http://cadaotucngu.com, http://cadaotucngu.org, http://cadaotucngu.net

 

Readers can send feedback or comments to its author: haphuonghoai@gmail.com

ALL BETS ARE OFF

March 28, 2006

ALL BETS ARE OFF
By STEFANIE COHEN and CATHY BURKE


Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes (above) announced yesterday the arrests of 10 suspects in a gambling ring that allegedly netted million a year in illegal bets. BUSTED: Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes (above) announced yesterday the arrests of 10 suspects in a gambling ring that allegedly netted million a year in illegal bets.

 
 
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March 27, 2006$45M MOB GAMBLE RING SMASHED: DA
Investigators pulled a little March Madness on a gang of mob-linked bookies, seizing $300,000 in cash wagered on the NCAA tourney – and receipts showing an estimated $45 million annual take in illegal sports bets, the Brooklyn DA said yesterday.Ten suspects were busted: Three with ties to the Gambino crime family, and seven linked to the infamous Fukanese gang, which had a "franchise" with the Mafiosi to run their wire rooms, officials said.

Raids on Saturday hit five underground betting parlors – including one in a Chinatown funeral home – in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. The investigation is continuing, and more arrests are expected, District Attorney Charles Hynes said.

It's not the first time Hynes' investigators have targeted illegal sports betting, but this year's bust sidestepped the traditional raids conducted around football's Super Bowl, and waited until now to move in to catch the crooks more off guard, he said.

"They got used to our [Super Bowl] crackdown," Hynes said. "We were hoping to fake our friends out [by waiting until March]. Looks like we picked the right time to hit."

Hynes said investigators seized receipts at the illegal betting parlors – called wire rooms, and stripped down to a bank of phones, computers and notebooks – showing an actual annual take of $34.6 million.

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With more arrests expected, Hynes put the total annual take of the illegal betting operation closer to $45 million.

Authorities also seized the $300,000 in cash laid down on March Madness bets – money tracked down to a number of bank safe deposit boxes linked to the operation.

The 10 suspects were charged with felony promotion of gambling, and face up to three years if convicted.

Hynes noted that it appeared the mob was finally outsourcing its bookie operations.

"They are franchises – they give back a portion," he said of the Asian suspects scooped up in the raids. "They are allowed to do this" by the Gambino crime family.

But suspect Robert Lee, 24, claimed that he had no idea what was going on in his apartment at 874 57th St., Brooklyn, where investigators allege a $5 million-a-year betting operation was under way.

Also arrested there were Stephen Lunge and Wong Fat Sun.

"I didn't know what they were doing," Lee told The Post, saying he was friends with Lunge, but didn't know the other suspect.

"He told me it was work," Lee said of his friend. "Now I know." "It's the wrong place, wrong time," he said of his circumstances. "All I saw was a screen of numbers. I thought it was [Lunge's] work."

Lee also disputed authorities' claim of his roots, insisting he's not Fukanese.

"We're Cantonese," he sniffed.

Hynes, meanwhile, railed at illegal sports-betting operations as a detriment to the community, and called for their legalization, as he has in the past.

"Every time you give 100 bucks to a bookie, you run the risk of having that money come back into your neighborhood in the form of drugs, in the form of guns that kill kids, that kill cops," he said.

"There's no alternative but to have legalized sports betting."

He acknowledged that the future of wire rooms themselves seem bleak, since most sports betting is now taking place on the Internet, where it is legal.

With so few wire rooms and Gambino mobsters left, Hynes said the Mafia may have been looking to bring in the Asian gang element to help out.

All but one of the 10 arrested were released on bail.

stefanie.cohen@nypost.com