Saturday, March 17, 2018

Questioning Darren Criss' identity. Asian? Filipino? White? Irish?

Darren Criss with his parents.

WHEN I FIRST READ the Vulture interview with Darren Criss,  I was deeply disappointed - heartbroken, really.

Chriss, who is currentlly starring in American Crime Story's "The Assassination of Giannini Versace," gave some controversial responses that drew the ire of some Asian Americans.

During the interview, writer E. Alex Jung asked the Filipino/American actor if being part Filipino was a factor in getting a part, Criss answered: "I always say one of my favorite things about myself is that I’m half-Filipino but I don’t look like it."


Taken by itself, that quote drew a lot of critical reaction and my first reaction was along the same line. "What? He's proud that he doesn't look Filipino?"
RELATED: Why isn't Darren Criss getting the love from the AAPI community?
"You other’d us while placing yourself in such close proximity with the whiteness you so proudly wear. Why would you do that?" said  Natalie Blardony, a Filipino/American writer in Medium.

Other quotes from the interview seemed to reinforce this point of view:
"I just look like a Caucasian guy, which is nice."
” I have the luxury of being half-white and looking more Caucasian,..."
And there is this reponse to the question, "Do you identify as Asian-American?"
"No. I think that’d be unfair. I think that’d sound like I’m reaching for the minority card on a college application. I think that would be unfair. Yeah, my mom’s Asian-American. She’s from the Philippines and came here and then married a white guy, and here I am. But maybe it’s because of the way I look. Maybe if I looked a little more pan-Asian and I was put in that box then I would be like, “Yeah, I identify as Asian-American,” but maybe because the obstacles that may come up haven’t that I don’t think about it. But that’s a really interesting question. I’ve never thought about that. For better or for worse, I guess not. But I guess I am. What do you think? Am I? On paper I guess I kind of am."
Criss felt his quote was punctuated incorrectly. He felt compelled to issue a clarification which turns the meaning of that statement 180 degrees.

And, as word of the criticism about his comments in Vulture became more widely known, Criss' fans flocked to his defense. But even his defenders said they had to lick their initial wounds.

 Perehaps the strongest defense came from Yong Chavez, entertainment reporter for The Filipino Channel. He has interviewed Criss several times and the actor always said how proud he was of his Filipino heritage.

In other parts of the Vulture interview, he repeats that he loves being part Filipino and he shows he is aware of the lack of Filipino representation in television and the movies. He explains to producer Ryan Murphy why Filipino/American actor Jon Jon Briones, who plays Cunanan's father, isn't better known in Hollywood circles.

"He’s a tried-and-true Broadway actor, man. Just because he’s not on billboards and glamour magazines doesn’t mean he’s not a working actor.” He’s like, “Well, I don’t get why I still haven’t heard of him.” I’m like, “He’s a Filipino man, dude.” There’s only so many opportunities that people can lock themselves into accepting when they’re casting shit, unless he’s playing the Thai terrorist on CSI or something. And what I hope happens is this will be a great stepping stone for him, for people to go, “Ah, he’s a good actor,” and then just cast where race isn’t a thing. 

Perhaps, Criss is one of those individuals who identifies more strongly as a Filipino/American than an Asian/American. He strikes me as a very bright person, albeit perhaps not so politically conscious. I've read other articles about him and watched him on talk shows and he's always said -- without prompting -- that he's half-Filipino. He has never described himself as half-Asian.

For someone who has been immersed in Asian Americana for so long, my initial reaction might have been overly sensitive since I expect all people with an Asian heritage to identify themselves similarly.

Although Criss can pass for white, calling that a "luxury," may be a poor word choice since, as he admits, no one has asked him about identifying as an "Asian/American" before the Vulture interview.

I invite Mr. Criss to become more aware of the culture wars going on nowadays and educate himself in the issues that affect his darker brothers and sisters. Awareness of the lack of acting roles for Filipinos is a start, but he needs to know that industry-wide struggle applies for all people of color. It is not a question of talent, but the lack of opportunities. 

Criss, who's performance in American Crime Story has been universally lauded and hopefully will result in some peer recognition come awards time, now finds himself in a unique position. With his newly found platform, Criss can help keep those doors open for entertainers who might be a few shades darker.

Documentary on Filipino adoptees airs Saturday

By Louis Chan

ANNA WAMBEKE was just six years old in the Philippines when she was forced to become mom to three younger siblings.

Her dad died of cancer and her mother’s schizophrenia worsened.

“Most of our lives as kids were pretty rough, but good at the same time,” said Wambeke, now 26. “It was a trying time, going from having everything to nothing. In short, it was the roughest, most traumatizing life event for us.”

She was adopted in 2007 along with her brother and sister, Christine and Ariel, to Chuck and Tina Wambeke, a couple who was then in their 40s from Bozeman, Montana. A third sibling, Lala, was adopted to relatives,

Wambeke’s is one of many adoptees who ended up in the state of Montana who shared their stories in the new Filipino Channel documentary, Lost and Found.

Filipinos comprise less than 1 percent of Montana’s population, not exactly a hotbed of Filipino/American culture.

“When I found out there was a community of Filipinos adopted into places like Montana, that opened up a curiosity,” said Steve Angeles, a correspondent for Balitang America, who produced the documentary.

Most of the adoptees featured in the special are in their 20s and have the hindsight of nearly a decade living with their new families. They overcame the challenges of adjusting to a new land and a new culture. The nearest Filipino market was nearly two hours away for many of these families. Yet with the help of Netflix and DVDs, the families have managed to build a sense of Filipino culture.

“It does come with cultural and identity challenges but then again their birth country didn’t give them much of a chance,” Angeles said. “They’ve lost a lot at a young age, so as long as there was a family willing to love them and care for them as their own unconditionally, then why not.”

The Wambeke children spent six years at Samaritan’s Place, an orphanage in the Philippines, before being adopted through the Summer Miracles/Sacred Portion Children’s Outreach program founded by Jan and Craig Druckenmiller. Under Philippine law, they could not be adopted by an international family until efforts to adopt them in the Philippines were exhausted.

“My life has changed dramatically, from losing everything to having it all over again with the new family,” said Anna. “If it wasn’t for my loving parents, I wouldn’t be here at all. I probably would have ended up being a mess with no direction in life, but with the compassion and support from Chuck and Tina, I no longer have to worry about taking care of my siblings or being a parent to them. Now I can enjoy being a child and a big sister more than their “mom”.

Lost and Found was shot by 2017 Northern California Emmy-award winning videographer Jeremiah Ysip. Sticking a lens into the faces of people with a very personal story to tell comes with its challenges. It was both Ysip and Angeles’ job to make the families feel comfortable enough to share a wide range of experiences ranging from painful to joyous.

“I like talk to our subjects, get to know them, allow them to get to know me, and from there I gain their trust,” said Ysip. “Once I establish a connection, from there the story unravels at its most truthful form with nothing held back. As long as I’m real with them, then they will be real with me. Trust and genuine interest in their lives allowed them to open their souls to us.”

Today Anna is the mother of two children, Benjamin, 8 months; and Evelyn, 2. She is now planning a June wedding to her boyfriend, Mateo.

“I’m thankful for the past I’ve had, it has kept my tradition, patriotism, and love for Filipino food very much in my heart. I miss my family, but having two makes my life even more blessed. I’m so thankful, now having my own kids I want to make sure that they are loved and to build a better future with them.”

Lost and Found can be seen on The Filipino Channel on Saturday, March 17 at 4:25 p.m. After that, The Filipino Channel hopes to submit it to film festivals around the country.

Friday, March 16, 2018

TGIF Feature: Alyssa Raghu Covers Ariana Grande for Her Audition - American Idol 2018 ...

Alyssa Raghu at a 'watch' party at her high school.

IN THE revival of American Idol, one Asian/American teenager stood out above the rest.
Sixteen-year old Alyssa Raghu (Raghunandan) of Orlando, Florida wowed the judges - Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan.

When Alyssa Raghu auditioned on the American Idol premiere, each of the judges were blown away. She sang a rendition of 'Almost is Never Enough' by Ariana Grande and finished her audition in tears.

“I full-body felt what you were singing,” Katy Perry said. “You’re top ten.”

"I've always thought that she was special. She was always interested in music, I just saw that spark in her and just kept pushing her in that direction," said her father, Dennis Raghunandan.

American Idol judges just kicked off their search for the next big star, so it's hard to tell how good Alyssa's competition will be. 

Watch American Idol, Sundays on ABC. 8 p.m. EST.

Interior secretary's flippant remark mars hearing on funding for WWII internment camps

Rep. Coleen Hanabusa corrects Sec. of the Interior Ryan Zinke, "But, that's OK."

HAWAII'S Rep. Coleen Hanabusa's plea for funding for the WWII internment camps almost went off the rails when Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke responded in a manner that surprised everyone in the room.

Hanabusa shared the incidentl Thursday (March 15) morning in a hearing with the interior secretary, trying to persuade him to restore around $2 million in grant funds for organizations dedicated to preserving the memory of that ugly chapter in American history.

“I sit before you the granddaughter of two internees, both of my grandfathers were interned during World War II,” Hanabusa said. “It is essential that we as a nation recognize our darkest moments so that we don’t have them repeat again.”

“My grandfather was born in Hawaii and is a citizen by birth,” Hanabusa noted during the hearing. Despite being a U.S. citizen, however, he was imprisoned in an Oahu camp called Honouliuli ― though the prisoners there used a different name: “jigokudani,” or “Hell’s Valley.”

“Are you committed to continue to grant programs that are identified, I believe, as the Japanese American Confinement Sites grants program which were funded in 2017? Will we see them funded again in 2018?” Hanabusa asked.

For reasons that remain unclear, Zinke replied, “Oh, konnichiwa,” a Japanese greeting typically used in midday

After an awkward pause, Hanabusa, who is a 4th-generation American, broke the tension with a terse, “I think it’s still ‘ohayo gozaimasu’ [good morning], but that’s OK.”

The lone Asian/American in the hearing audience reacted to Sec. Ryan Zinke's remark - jaw drop

Zinke's odd remark later drew the reaction from Hawaii's Sen. Mazie Hirono. the first U.S. senator born in Japan and the first Asian/American woman elected to the chamber.“The internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans is no laughing matter, @SecretaryZinke,” tweeted the senator.

“What you thought was a clever response to @RepHanabusa was flippant & juvenile,” Hirono wrote on Twitter.

After the brief exchange at the hearing, Zinke said funding for the grants “probably got caught up” by larger 2018 budgetary items, and vowed to work with Hanabusa on the matter.

The Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program, which Congress established to preserve sites where Japanese/Americans were detained during World War II, a time of rampant anti-Japanese sentiment. As the congresswoman mentioned, Trump’s 2019 budget proposal, unveiled in February, would eliminate funding for the program ― a move widely criticized by Asian/American activists.

“I will look at it and I will work with you on it because I think it is important,” Zinke told her.

“The JACS grant program is an important component of our country’s recognition of the egregious wrong that was done, and the need to remember and preserve that history so that it not be repeated,” stated the Japanese-American Citizens League in a letter.

Rep. Hanabusa's appeal and Ryan Zinke's odd response is the first 14 minutes.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lawyer suspected of shooting former clients

Paul Mendoza Allen


THIRTY-FOUR-YEAR OLD Paul Mendoza Allen, a Filipino/American attorney, has been arrested in Idaho March 7 after being accused of attempted murder of a Southern California elderly couple, who were also Filipino/Americans.

According to Baldwin Park,California, police Lt. Melissa Stehly, money may be a motive in the March 6 shooting that occurred in a gated residential cul-de-sac lined with two-story houses.

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports that police went to the Olive Street home after receiving calls of shots fired at 12:25 p.m. on Tuesday. The elderly couple, a woman in her eighties and a man in his late seventies, were found shot multiple times and were taken by a helicopter and an ambulance to a trauma center. The couple remain in a hospital.

Will Sabalburo, 25, the couple’s neighbor told SGVT that he saw a man walking in the morning at 10:15 a.m.

Sabalburo said the man was a “nice guy” who attends homeowner association meetings. He also said that the husband and wife are “kind of quiet.”

“I just got home from golf and saw all this madness happening,” he said.

After investigators checked different cities and followed leads, they were able to find and arrest Allen and his wife, Pauline Catibayan, in Jerome, Idaho. ABS-CBN News reports that “Local police entered his vehicle license plates into the National Crime Information center and Idaho state police located him along with his wife on Wednesday. They are now awaiting extradition.”

The shooting victims remain in critical condition despite being shot multiple times. Reports suggest that the couple were Allen’s clients at one time. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Mike Pompeo, Trump's pick for Secretary of State, alarms Muslim Americans

DONALD TRUMP's nominee for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is no stranger to the Muslim American community.

“Mike Pompeo has made a career of bigotry and hate. This announcement should concern every congress member and American who values religious freedom," said Scott Simpson, public advocacy director at Muslim Advocates.

Trump selection of Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson, who Trump fired two days ago, has set off alarm bells among Muslim/Americans

"This not a man who can be trusted in the cabinet, and we urge members of the Senate to speak up against this announcement,” said Simpson of Muslim Advocates, a civil rights organization the works to guarantee freedom and justice for all Americans.

Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today urged opposition to the nominations of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state.

"Those, like Mr. Pompeo, who have expressed Islamophobic views and have been associated with an anti-Muslim hate group, or like Ms. Haspel, who personally oversaw the torture of detainees, should have no role in our nation's government, let alone at the highest levels of policy-making," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

In 2016, then-congressman Mike Pompeo spoke at a "Legislative Briefing" for the notorious anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America. At that time, the hate group's website noted that "the next CIA Director Rep. Mike Pompeo has been a steadfast ally of ours since the day he was elected to Congress."

Pompeo, who received the ACT for America "National Security Eagle Award for 2016," also reserved the auditorium for its event and previously addressed the hate group's national conferences in 2013 and 2015.

In 2010, Pompeo defended one of his campaign staffers who posted a link to a blog that used the racial slur "turban topper" in reference to his opponent, who was of South Asian ancestry, and called President Obama an "evil muslim [sic] communist USURPER."

In 2013, following the Boston Marathon attacks, Pompeo falsely alleged that American Muslim leaders were "potentially complicit" in terrorists acts for failing to speak out.

"Silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts," said Pompeo.

As activist Anai Rhoads noted in the Huffington Post, Muslim leaders worked closely with law enforcement to thwart potential attacks, and immediately following the attack they spoke up against the act.
“The Boston attacks occurred on April 15 at approximately 2:49 p.m. The Universal Muslim Association of America spoke out against the attacks at 5:17 p.m.; the Muslim Public Affairs Council at 5:53 p.m.; the Council on American-Islamic Relations at  7:46 p.m.; the Muslim Peace Coalition 8 p.m. and the Muslim American Society Public Affairs and Engagement 10:52 p.m." Rhoads wrote. "The only organization which moderately delayed a response was the Islamic Society of North America, and that was 12:09 a.m. on April 16.”

At that time, CAIR called on Pompeo to correct his "false and irresponsible" attack on Muslim leaders and sent him a letter containing dozens of anti-terror statements of the type he incorrectly claimed Muslims had failed to make. Pompey, in a statement, said he was “not backing down.”

When Mike Pompeo was nominated to be Donald Trump's CIA Director the ACLU published this graphic.
Following the 2016 election, CAIR expressed concern about a "troubling Islamophobic trend" in then President-elect Donald Trump's recent appointments and nominations, including the appointment of Pompeo as CIA director.

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Pompeo was elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, representing Kansas state during the era of the Tea Party, the ultra-conservative branch of the Republican Party.

He ran against Democratic candidate Raj Goyle, a lifelong Kansas resident and son of Hindu-Indian immigrants.

That didn't stop Pompeo from posting a link to a blog on his campaign's Facebook page that called Goyle "just another turban topper we don't need in Congress or any political office that deals with the US Constitution, Christianity and the United States of America!"

The slur was written by Bob Pinkstaff of Wichita, a retired US military serviceman. The remarks came after Goyle "dodged" a question about his religion during a debate before the 2010 election.

Goyle called Pompeo out for sharing the blog, saying the "bigoted attack" went "beyond the rules of engagement in politics." Pompey apologized, saying it was "inadvertently posted," but the damage was one.

Corey Saylor, CAIR's former director monitoring Islamophobia, told Al Jazeera that Pompeo being appointed secretary of state is a "continuation of the troubling policies we've seen coming out of the Trump administration".

Hoda Hawa, director of policy and advocacy for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, called Pompeo a “divisive” figure whose confirmation would further erode American Muslims’ trust in their government.

“As the top diplomat for the United States, it is crucial that the Secretary of State carries out a foreign policy agenda that doesn’t marginalize American communities,” Hawa told HuffPost in an email. “Pompeo has shown, both as a Member of Congress and as the CIA Director, that his personal feelings inform his policies.”

“All Americans, especially American Muslims, need a Secretary of State that is willing to push back” against the “rising tides of anti-American sentiment and Islamophobia that is spreading overseas in response to the Trump Administration’s American First and anti-Muslim policy agenda,” said Robert McCaw, director of government affairs for CAIR.


Tina Tchen heads task force probing music industry, Grammys

Tina Tchen at her old job with Michelle and Barack Obama.

FACED WITH the perception of bias in its voting process, The Recording Academy™ is creating a  task force to examine issues of inclusion and diversity within the Academy, the broader music community and the Academy's premiere event, the Grammys.

Leading that task force will be Tina Tchen, chief of staff to former first lady Michelle Obama, who gaining the reputation as the go-to lawyer for the entertainment industry. when it comes to issues of equality and diversity.

As part of its charter, the task force will identify the various barriers and unconscious biases faced by underrepresented communities throughout the music industry and, specifically, across Recording Academy operations and policies. In an effort to determine pathways toward greater parity at every level of the organization, the task force will look specifically at Recording Academy governance, hiring and promotion practices, membership, awards, and telecast.

"The music industry faces numerous challenges—from combatting long-held biases to making sure women are represented and respected within the community," said Tchen. 

"This task force is an important initial step by the Recording Academy to demonstrate its commitment to tackling these challenges in a comprehensive way. I am honored to partner with them in this effort and look forward to working with members of the task force as we look to make the music industry a diverse and inclusive community for all."

This year's Grammy Awards was a prime example that something was amiss with the awards.

Of the eight awards presented during the telecast, only one – Best New Artist – was given to a woman, Alessia Cara; the full list of 84 categories, which included solo artists and bands, songwriting committees and liner-notes scribes, women didn't fare much better, percentage-wise.

Last month's awards show was not an aberration, as 
MonĂ¡e pointed out in a Tweet over the weekend, why have only 9.3 percent of the Grammy nominees in the past five years been women?

With a record of advocacy on behalf of women and girls, Ms. Tchen currently heads the Chicago office of the Buckley Sandler LLP law firm, where she is a partner and leader in advising companies on gender inequity, sexual harassment, and lack of diversity. 

Most recently, she played an integral role in spearheading the formation of the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, which provides legal support to victims of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse in the workplace. 

During her tenure in the White House, Tchen was the executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, established by President Barack Obama to ensure that the needs of women and girls would be accounted for in the development of all government agency policies and programs.

"In this moment, the Recording Academy can do more than reflect what currently exists; we can help lead the industry into becoming the inclusive music community we want it to be—a responsibility that the Board and I take seriously, " said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy.

"Tina Tchen is an accomplished advocate for women and impact-oriented leader versed in convening disparate stakeholders for a common purpose. In addition, the fact that she lacks business ties to the music industry ensures her objectivity as Chair. We are honored to have her at the helm, guiding the Academy and our industry toward a greater good for everyone involved."

In the coming weeks, the Recording Academy will complete the formation of its task force. With an eye toward assembling a leadership group balanced in perspective and independent of bias, the task force is set to comprise music executives, music creators, academia, and experts in diversity in entertainment. The group is expected to deliver a series of recommendations to the Recording Academy in the months ahead. 

Adoptee from Korea faces deportation

Patrick Schreiber and his wife with their adopted daughter Soo Jin.


A YOUNG WOMAN adopted at the age of 17 by her biological uncle in the United States is facing deportation, reports the Military Times.
Soo Jin was in a bad family situation in South Korea. She came to the United States on a student visa at the age of 15.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Patrick Schreiber intended to adopt his niece back then, but delayed filing the paper work because he was deployed to Afghanistan.

The courts approved the adoption when Soo Jin turned 17. The state of Kansas even issued a birth certificate recognizing Schreiber and his wife, Soo Jin, as legal guardians.

But state law doesn’t match federal law. The Department of Homeland Security rejected the application for citizenship saying the cutoff age is 16.

Soo Jin is now facing deportation when she wraps up her studies.

Schreiber is dumbfounded.

“I spent 27 years in the Army, always putting the Army ahead” of family, he said. “My greatest mistake in life is I didn’t know that [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] had their own age policy.”

The family has accepted the prospect Soo Jin may need to return to Korea. In the meantime they are telling their story in hopes that something can change before their daughter graduates. She is now 20 and a junior at the University of Kansas.

The Schreibers said they may move to Korea to remain with their daughter.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth has hard questions for CIA nominee

AFTER WATCHING men be tortured to an inch of their lives, having to face questions from U.S. Senators should be a breeze for Gina Haspel, Donald Trump's choice to replace Mike Pompeo as Central Intelligence Agency director.

Being the first woman nominated to head the CIA will be overshadowed by her role in one of the darkest chapters of the intelligence agency in the use of torture to interrogate prisoners.

"I voted against Mr. Pompeo's nomination to be CIA director because he failed to express moral opposition to torture, but Ms. Haspel has done much worse," said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill, a veteran of the Iraq conflict.

Gina Haspel
"Not only did she directly supervise the torture of detainees, but she also participated in covering it up by helping to destroy the video evidence," Duckworth said. "Her reprehensible actions should disqualify her from having the privilege of serving the American people in government ever again, but apparently this president believes they merit a promotion."

Other Senate Intelligence Committee members reacted more mildly, raising concerns over Haspel’s background but indicating they would let her explain herself in a hearing. “Senator Harris takes her role in confirming a president’s cabinet very seriously,” said a spokesman for Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA.

“She plans to critically evaluate Ms. Haspel’s full record, including troubling press reports on her involvement with torture programs.”

Republican Senator John McCain, an ardent opponent of torture, said in a statement that he expects Haspel “to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process.” He called that program “desperately misguided” and said that “any nominee for Director of the CIA must pledge without reservation to uphold” the U.S. ban on enhanced interrogation techniques. Trump has said that torture “absolutely works.”

Haspel was in charge of CIA torture for three years, starting in 2002, reports the New Yorker. She ran the R.D.I. program, Rendition, Detention and Interrogation.

She ran a black site in Thailand where prisoners were often revived for more torture, stripped, placed in coffins, slammed against walls, drugged, and endured repeated water boarding.

She also carried out the orders to destroy the tapes of the prisoners being tortured.

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, a Berlin-based NGO, has called for Haspel's arrest for her role in the torture of detainees.

Haspel spent most of her 33-year career at the CIA undercover. For her service, she was promoted to Deputy Director of the CIA early February.


CORRECTION: 8:30 a.m. March 16: Earlier versions of this blog attributed ProPublica, which reported in 2017 that Gina Haspel supervised the torture of Abu Zubaydah, has retracted its report. From the site:
The story said that Haspel, a career CIA officer who President Trump has nominated to be the next director of central intelligence, oversaw the clandestine base where Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods that are widely seen as torture. The story also said she mocked the prisoner’s suffering in a private conversation. Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them. It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended.
ProPublica writes that it made errors determining who was being referred to as “chief of base” in “declassified agency cables and CIA-reviewed books which referred to the official overseeing Zubaydah’s interrogation at a secret prison in Thailand.”

Those assertions based on ProPublica's initial reporting have been removed from the Views From the Edge.

ProPublica says its original report that Haspel was involved in the destruction of video recordings depicting Zubaydah’s torture was correct, and that she did supervise the waterboarding of a suspect who was not Zubaydah.

Man drives truck into a Sikh-owned convenience store

Chad Horsley

A FORMER reserve sheriff’s deputy in Louisiana's Livingston Parish is facing hate crime charges after telling authorities that he plowed his pickup truck into a convenience store because he thought its Sikh owners were Muslim.

Chad Horsley, 27, is accused of several recent offenses all involving a convenience store on La. 1019, according to a news release last week from the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office.

Deputies identified Horsley as the suspect and questioned him about his actions. Ard said Horsley's account did not match surveillance footage and witness statements. Horsley admitted to investigators that he purposefully caused damage to the store because he thought the owners were Muslim.

Sikhs are often mistaken as Muslims, according to the several surveys done by teh Department of Justice and confirmed by the South Asian American Leading Together (SAALT).

Harjot Singh, a nephew of the store owner who works as a cashier there, told the Advocate that attacking anyone for their religious identity isn’t acceptable.

“Even if it was Muslims, he shouldn’t have done that thing,” said Singh, who immigrated to the U.S. from India two years ago. “We’re just trying to make a living out of here, that’s all we’re doing.”

Horsley joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in 2014, but was honorably discharged in December because of liver disease, according to the New York Daily News.

Before that, starting in 2010, he served for six years as a deputy in nearby East Baton Rouge Parish in both a full-time and reserve capacity.

Stephen Horsley said his son was honorably discharged from the military in December 2017 after he was diagnosed with liver disease and needed to receive treatment. He started working for a crane operating company most recently.

Family members had noticed that Chad Horsely was more distant than usual the past few months. But his dad said they never could have predicted anything close to the recent allegations. He also noted that his son has no history of mental health diagnoses or treatment.

"I'm in shock because that's not my son," Samuel Horsley said, his voice choking up over the phone. "He's about as far from a racist as they come. I did not raise my kids that way (but) taught them to always look at people in their heart. … He wasn't in his right mind. He must've just snapped."


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Candidate wants to be Massachusetts' first Asian American in Congress

Dan Koh and his parents.

DAN KOH could very well become the first Korean American member of Congress. He's running for the Third District Congressional seat in Massachusetts.
His big test is Sept. 4 when Massachusetts holds its primary. In the primary, Koh will be running for the seat against 12 other Democrats. 
The wide open contest is the result of the retirement of the Third District's long-time representtive, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas.
"In today’s political climate, I think it is really important that the Democratic Party and people who feel really strongly that the country needs to go in a different direction than the way this president is bringing us really need to step up and try to make change," said Koh to Next Shark.
"I feel responsible for fighting for that system for generations to come for both recent immigrants and people who have been in this country for a long time and now think the cards are stacked against them,." said Koh, who is of Lebanese and Korean descent.
Koh grew up in Andover, Mass. with his parents, and his brother and sister. Most recently, Dan served as Chief of Staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, where he managed 18,000 employees and a $3 billion budget during one of the most prosperous four-year stretches in Boston’s history. Previously, He also served as Chief of Staff at the Huffington Post. He also served as an advisor to Boston Mayor Tom Menino and as an intern for Senator Ted Kennedy.
Like so many first-time candidates, Koh was inspired to throw his hat in the ring because of the policies and actions of Donald Trump.
He promises to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare and fight for an economy where everyone can earn a living wage and has the opportunity to get ahead. 
Koh holds a B.A. from Harvard College and an M.B.A from Harvard Business School, where he met his wife Amy. 
He'll be running against some pretty big names in Massachusetts politics, including: Rufus Gifford, the former U.S. ambassador to Denmark; state Sen. Barbara L’ItalienLori Trahan, the former chief of staff of the district’s former Rep. Marty Meehan; Alexandra Chandler, a former Pentagon intelligence analyst; Steve Kerrigan, the former Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.
In the Primary, he only needs to win the plurality of votes. The top vote-getter, even if he or she gets less than 50% of the vote, would run against the Republican candidate in November.
In 2015, Dan Koh proposed to his current wife, Amy, after running the Boston Marathon. Both are avid runners.

Other excerpts of the Next Shark interview touched on his ethnicity and how it impacts his candidacy and personal life:
How has your racial and ethnic background shaped your candidacy?  “My family came from two different parts of the world: Korea and Lebanon. They met in the United States, a country that was inclusive and welcoming to them, and were able to have the American Dream. Now, a Korean and Lebanese kid has a chance to be a Congressman. So, I take that very seriously. I hold the process that every person that comes to this country very close to my heart. It gives me a perspective on making sure that government creates an environment that people who have been here for many or a few generations know that the system is here to help them. I think that too often people feel like the system is rigged against them. ... 
“I grew up without a lot of Asian American role models in leadership — and that includes politics, business, and a number of different areas. That is a difficult thing for Asian Americans. From an academic perspective, Asian Americans have historically succeeded in many areas. But when you look at Fortune 500 companies or Congress or even if you look at any other areas of leadership, Asian Americans are severely underrepresented relative to their academic achievements. I think part of that is cultural but a lot of that is that Asian American families, especially parents who play a significant role in the lives of their kids, don’t see those role models there and then don’t see it as a viable path for their kids. The more Asian Americans in leadership, the more paths become viable for children who are aspiring to get involved in different sectors that aren’t typically those represented by Asian Americans. Certainly, that is something I care deeply about as an Asian American and someone who wants to see more people of color in leadership positions in general.”
Do you feel a part of a larger national movement of young people running for office?“I think young people and people of color, for a long time, have felt that they wanted to be more civically engaged and haven’t been. Especially after the 2016 election there is a real wave of people who are stepping up and are not being complacent. There is a lot of new blood that has entered the political sphere and that is really good for this country and is really exciting. More diversity in DC is always exciting and the more the better.”
Have you experienced racism and/or ageism along the campaign trail?“I think that people of color continue to face issues of racism. We are posting new ads and sometimes we get responses that are racially tinged. But that is a part of being in the public eye. I wish it weren’t happening but it’s a reminder that this exists and we have to fight against it every day. In the America that I believe in, we are an inclusive country of immigrants — that is something we have to protect and fight for. The more people see people of color in leadership positions, the rareness of it will go away, and the better we can do that.”


Monday, March 12, 2018

EDITORIAL: The U.S. government is in a hurry to deport Kansas chemist Syed Jamal

Reprinted from The Kansas City Star

March 9, 2018

THE U.S. GOVERNMENT  is determined to deport Lawrence scientist Syed Jamal back to his native Bangladesh, loaded onto a flight shackled and handcuffed.
Due process and the rule of law appear to be of lesser concern.

The Department of Homeland Security has asked the Board of Immigration Appeals to lift the stay that is keeping Jamal’s feet planted on U.S. soil, although in this case that means locked up at the Platte County jail at a cost to taxpayers of $169 a day. Now, the government wants his case expedited.

The goal appears to be to send him back to his native Bangladesh as fast as possible — even before he has the opportunity to plead his case at a March 20 hearing in the Western District of Missouri.

The government’s March 2 motion argues that Jamal’s not likely to win his appeal. And, that it is the U.S. government, not Jamal, who will be “substantially” injured if the stay isn’t lifted because the public interest is in the finality of immigration proceedings.

Jamal, the government says, “will not be irreparably harmed.”

Essentially, the government’s stand is that being sent back to Bangladesh, ripped away from your wife and three children and stripped of ties to work and community that have been forged over 30 years is a trifling matter.

That’s not how Jamal’s case is viewed by the thousands of Americans who’ve been outraged by the effort to deport him. For many, his story has offered a peak at an immigration system that many assumed was orderly and fair. Instead, they’ve been shocked by the decision-making regarding immigrants and the cruelty in the system’s lack of regard for family.

Now, the well-liked chemist has the support of some of the top legal minds in the region. The law firm of Polsinelli is on board, offering three of its top litigators and additional staff pro bono.

Most immigrants do not have that kind of leverage. They live in fear of this system without legal counsel. But even high-end legal firepower might not make a difference for Jamal.

Polsinelli’s attorneys are helping with a private bill that has been introduced in Congress by U.S. Reps. Lynn Jenkins and Emanuel Cleaver. But the Trump administration notified Congress last year that such pleas would no longer halt deportations until the bills could be addressed or allowed to die without a vote.

Rekha Sharma-Crawford, the attorney handling the bulk of the immigration work in Jamal’s case, filed a response to the government’s motion with the Board of Immigration Appeals Friday. The fear is that the board will make a decision and Sharma-Crawford will not be notified in time to make a legal counter move.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement included an additional rationale in its request to swiftly deport Jamal. His travel documents might expire.

“This isn’t who we are as a nation, Sharma-Crawford said. “The preservation of the rule of law and the preservation of due process both are under attack here.”

Indeed, if the government succeeds in quickly deporting the Kansas chemist, both Jamal and our faith in due process could be “irreparably harmed.”

Auli'i Carvalho continues to rise with new TV show

Alui'i Cravalho's character in 'Rise' auditions for a part in a high school production.

ADD ONE MORE name to the short list of AAPI actors to keep an eye on as American television continues its slow march to make the small screen look like the real America.
Auli'i Cravalho, 17, who did Moana's voice in the movie, gets to be in front of the cameraa in TV series Rise, which debuts tomorrow, Tuesday, March 13. In this NBC drama, she is a student actor, who gets to sing live and in person in a high school production of the rock musical Spring Awakening.

The series is a show within a show and follows the production of Spring Awakening from auditions, rehearsals and perhaps the actual debut of the  musical.

The trailer highlights Cravalho as Lillette Suarez, a working class student who joins the drama club. Seven other teenagers will be introduced in the group as well and each one struggles with personal problems like school pressure, unconcerned or sick parents, extra-curricular demands and underage drinking.

"It's about a normal town and normal high schoolers who rise above their particular circumstances," the Hawaii/American Cravalho told The Knockturnal. "I also get to have an incredible cast with me as well. So, not only do I get to sing, but also get to hear their great voices, too."

“There were certainly many similarities and differences between Lilette and I. She’s not one who goes looking for the spotlight certainly, and she’s one that is perhaps more of an introvert, quite unlike myself,” Cravalho told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “I think I’ve found my spot in the spotlight. But in many ways we are similar. She grows up in a single-parent household, as I have. She has big dreams but grows up in a small town.

“For me, it was on a small island. For her, it’s in a small, tiny place that also kind of resembles a small mind-set, which is something that she doesn’t want for herself but something that she’s used to other people putting on her. She works very hard and works to rise above her circumstances, so to speak.”

Rise is actually inspired from a true story of an English teacher 
Lou Volpe in Pennsylvania who helped change the lives of the kids in his high school theater group.Journalist Michael Sokolove wrote the best seller book "Drama High" from his observations of Volpe, whose students become successful in the entertainment industry.

Comparisons to Glee are unavoidable since Glee is based on the book "Drama High."

"Rise" also stars "How I Met Your Mother" actor Josh Radnor as the teacher Lou Mazzuchelli. Rosie Perez (Tracy), Damon J. Gillespie (Robbie Thorne), Ted Sutherland (Simon), Shannon Purser (Annabelle) and Joe Tippett (Coach Doug Strickland) are also in the series.

Last week, the network Monday announced the 50 recipients, chosen from 1,000 school applicants around the country, that will receive NBC’s $10,000 R.I.S.E. (Recognizing and Inspiring Student Expression) America Grants, designed to assist theater programs with production expenses, technical equipment, master classes and other needs. NBC is partnering with the non-profit Educational Theatre Foundation (ETF) on the program.

To qualify for a grant, high schools were required to have a theater program or champion of theater arts on the teaching staff, and a program endangered due to budget constraints. Each school submitted a video about its program and a 500-word essay on why it deserved the money.

Rise” debuts at 10 p.m. Tuesday, March 13, on NBC and then will move into its regular time slot of 8 p.m. Tuesdays starting March 20.

It's a Fact: Keanu Reeves did NOT praise Trump as a 'role model'

Keanu Reeves in "The Matrix."
FAKE-NEWS BLOGGERS are using and abusing Keanu Reeves' "coolness" factor.
Let's put to rest a quote being attributed to the popular Matrix actor. An online hoax purports to quote Reeves expressing full-throated support for Donald Trump, according to Punditfact, which gave a "Pants On Fire" rating to the totally fabricated post.
The item appears on the website, and contains a banner headline that reads: "For me, Trump is the symbol of a successful man and a role model for every young American, something that our nation was looking for for year. I don’t think that America will again have a leader like him."

The Chinese/Hawaiian/American actor has kept his political views to himself and hasn't interjected himself in any of the movements of the day, for or against Trump.
In fact, the only instance Punditfact found of Reeves discussing Trump publicly is when he appeared to criticize the president’s travel ban during a January 2017 question-and-answer with journalists at a red carpet event. Reeves, 54, told a journalist he believed the travel ban was "just terrible," according to a Jan. 31, 2017, Associated Press article.
As for the "role model" quote, Reeves' publicist confirmed the quote is fake.

"It is completely false," said Cheryl Maisel, of talent agency PMK-BNC. "He never made those comments nor did he ever do that interview. All manufactured."

She went on to say that the actor does not participate on any social media.

This is not the first time Reeves has been the subject of a fake quote. The nonpartisan fact-finding website previously checked a lengthy cultural critique misattributed to Reeves, which also received a Pants on Fire rating. 

Not surprisingly, that fake attribution had a Russian connection.

"I cannot be part of a world where men dress their wives as prostitutes by showing everything that should be cherished," the lengthy diatribe began. "Where there is no concept of honor and dignity, and one can only rely on those when they say ‘I promise.’ Where women do not want children, and men don’t want a family. Where the suckers believe themselves to be successful behind the wheel of their fathers’ cars, and a father who has a little bit of power is trying to prove to you that you’re a nobody."

Facebook users flagged the post as being potentially fake, as part of the social media site’s efforts to combat fake news.

Punditfact found the quote attributed to Reeves in a Russian-language video that appears to show him saying the quote (in translated captions) — but he was actually talking about a Paul Gauguin exhibit in Switzerland. 

Why are the anonymous bloggers using -- to this point -- the seemingly apolitical Keanu as a poster boy to spread their lies? Your guess is as good as mine.