Monday, April 30, 2018

Issa Rae: Educated black women should match up with Asian guys ... but not Filipinos

SCREEN CAPTURE/NATIONAL FILM SOCIETY
Before she became famous, Isa Rae was interviewed by the National Film Society,
AKA Patrick Epino and Stephen Dypiangco.
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!
Actress Issa Rae's proposal that educated black women should start dating Asian men is creating quite a stir in social media. Judging from the responses, maybe it is not so funny after all.
Talk about a delayed response!


Makeover: This is how Issa Rae looks today.
It took three years since the publication of Issa Rae's memoir, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girlbefore people started to respond to it.
"This is why I propose that black women and Asian men join forces in love, marriage and procreation," Rae wrote. "Educated black women what better intellectual match for you than an Asian man? And I'm not talking about Filipino's, they're like the Blacks of Asians. I'm talking Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, et cetera."
RELATED: Dating sucks if you're an Asian dude or a black woman
"So black women, after college, maybe it's a good idea to settle in Los Angeles or anywhere else where Koreatown is a hotspot," added the star and producer of HBO's hit, Insecure.
Here the approximately two pages that's created such a controversy.



It's not like her comments weren't discussed before. In an interview with Larry Whitmore shortly after her book was published, she was questioned about her controversial comments.
"I say that black women and Asian men are at the bottom of the dating totem pole," the Stanford grad told Wilmore at the time. "It's true—ask around. Go to Match.com, go to anywhere, and you'll see the 'least chosen' is Raquonda and Lee."


Apparently, Rae's comments hit a sore spot. Not too surprisingly, those who are just discovering Rae's satirical (or, maybe not) comments, took umbrage or came to her defense.




OH HEY! While rooting around the Internet, I found this interview with Issa Rae in her Youtube days before she was "discovered" by HBO. She was being interviewed by Filipino/American filmmakers Patrick Epino and Stephen Dypiangco, co-founders of the National Film Society. I thought you might enjoy this:

_______________________________________________________________________________

Whole Foods stirs up hornets nest by partnering with Yellow Fever restaurant





MANY PEOPLE are shaking their heads in bewilderment after Whole Foods announced it was opening a restaurant at its Long Beach, California location called Yellow Fever, reports Raw Story.

Many Asian/Americans associate yellow fever with the sexualized and passive stereotype of Asian women. White men with a passion for Asian women are often said to have “yellow fever.”

“Yellow fever” is also the name of a tropical disease spread by mosquitoes.

The grocery chain opened the restaurant in partnership with Korean/American chef Kelly Kim who founded the California eatery, reported the Daily News.

"I think it’s been silly, and I think it’s a bit funny that it’s all of a sudden a big deal,” co-founder Kim said to the Daily News.

“Yellow Fever celebrates all things Asian: the food, the culture and the people and our menu reflects that featuring cuisine from Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand and Hawaii,” said Kim,


Reaction on Twitter has mostly been negative.





Whole Foods, which was recently purchased by Amazon, has so far not commented on the controversy.

ACLU' wants to know how people are 'living with the Muslim ban'


DO YOU have a story on how Donald Trump's Muslim Ban has affected your life or your family? The ACLU wants to hear from you.


 On April 25, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, which has been in effect since December. As a result, the United States currently bans nationals of five Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — and a minuscule number of North Koreans and Venezuelans from coming to the country on most or all types of visas, even if they have spouses, children, parents, or other family members in the United States.

The ACLU invited people to share how the ban affects their lives. Stories poured in from the United States and abroad; of families separated, weddings postponed, and lives uprooted. 

Communities across the country are grappling with what it means to be Muslim in the United States, living under a president who says that “Islam hates us,” and has spun that prejudice into actual policy.

Their stories illustrate how profoundly the ban has already changed their lives — and what’s at stake at the Supreme Court. Click here to read and hear their stories or if you want to tell your own story.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Sunday Read: 28 charged in int'l opioid and money laundering scheme


FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA seemed to be an unlikely place for 
Attorney General Jeff Sessions to announce the indictments for a drug distribution and money laundering scheme but it shows the extent the opioid crisis has impacted the U.S.

One indictment involves Jian Zhang, a 38-year-old Chinese national, who faces five federal charges, including money laundering, conspiracy to distribute drugs, conspiracy to import drugs and criminal enterprise. He is believed to be the leader of the international drug smuggling ring. 

The indictment also names four additional Chinese nationals, who face charges of international money laundering, and seven Canadian and U.S. residents, who face charges of conspiracy to distribute drugs and conspiracy to import drugs.


Zhang and the four other Chinese nationals are considered fugitives, Sessions said. They are believed to be in China. Three other co-conspirators in the case have been arrested in three different states.



The investigation started in North Dakota on Jan. 3, 2015, with the overdose death in Grand Forks of 18-year-old Bailey Henke.

North Dakota emerged as the unlikely epicenter for the drug distribution ring — more than a dozen deaths examined by the Grand Forks County Coroner’s Office since 2014 have been tied to fentanyl — it’s use has been widespread throughout the region as families, law enforcement and health practitioners look to address its toxic and dangerous nature.


The three-year investigation called "Operation Denial" has charged 28 individuals involved in an international ring of  smuggling and distributing opioids and laundering money.
Na Chu, 37; Yeyou Chu, 36; Cuiying Liu, 62; and Keping Zhang, 62, all Chinese nationals, were charged by a superseding indictment returned on Jan. 18, with international money laundering conspiracy, Sessions, U.S.. announced Friday (April 27).
 Attorney Christopher C. Myers for the District of North Dakota and Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced today.
'Operation Denial'
 “Operation Denial” is an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation into the international trafficking of fentanyl and other lethal drugs, and was significantly aided by the national and international coordination led by the multi-agency Special Operations Division (S.O.D.) near Washington D.C. as part of “Operation Deadly Merchant.”
“Fentanyl and its analogues killed more Americans than any other drug in 2016, and the vast majority of it comes from China,” said Sessions.  “The defendants in this case allegedly trafficked fentanyl from China to 11 states from coast to coast.  As a result, Americans died in at least three states." 
Separate investigations by the U.S. Senate and the Associated Press detailed unchecked production in China of some of the world’s most dangerous drugs.

AP reporters found multiple sellers willing to ship carfentanil — an opioid used as an elephant tranquilizer that is so potent it has been considered a chemical weapon. The sellers used also offered advice on how to evade screening by U.S. authorities.
In a yearlong probe, Senate investigators said last January that it found that Chinese sellers, who openly market opioids such as fentanyl to U.S. buyers over the Internet, are pushing delivery through the U.S. postal system. The sellers are taking advantage of a failure by the postal service to fully implement an electronic data system that would help authorities identify suspicious shipments.

At a time of massive growth in postal shipments from China due to e-commerce, the investigators found that the U.S. postal system received the electronic data on just over a third of all international packages, making more than 300 million packages in 2017 much harder to screen.

“The Postal Service will continue to work tirelessly to address this serious societal issue,” spokesman David Partenheimer said in a statement.
Chinese authorities, as well as Canadian and Mexican authorities, are cooperating with U.S. law enforcement to curtail illegal shipments of the deadly drugs.

Additional defendants previously charged in this most recent superseding indictment with drug trafficking conspiracy include Jian Zhang, aka Hong Kong Zaron, 39, of China; Jason Joey Berry, aka Daniel Desnoyers, 35, of Quebec, Canada; Anthony Santos Gomes, aka Ant, 33, of Davie, Florida; Elizabeth Ton, aka Lisa Gomes, 26, of Davie, Florida; Xuan Cahn Nguyen, aka Jackie and Jackie Chan 38, of Quebec Canada; Marie Um, aka Angry Bird, 37, of Quebec, Canada; Vannek Um, 40, of Quebec, Canada; and Linda Van, 25, of Quebec, Canada.
In a separate indictment returned on March 22, Steven Barros Pinto, aka Yeaboy, 36, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute controlled substances and controlled substance analogues resulting in serious bodily injury and death, conspiracy to import controlled substances and controlled substance analogues into the United States resulting in serious bodily injury and death, continuing criminal enterprise, and a forfeiture allegation.
Additional defendants charged in this indictment with drug trafficking conspiracy include: Louis Felix Bell, 30, of West Palm Beach, Florida; Amanda Renee Schneider, 27, of West Palm Beach; Danny Silva Gamboa, 21, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island; Robinson Andres Gomez, aka Rob, 25, of Pineville, North Carolina; and Keveen Odair Nobre, aka Young Money, 28, of Pawtucket.
Many of the individuals remain at large. The indictments are merely accusations. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Understanding the Opioid Crisis
"There can be no doubt that this is the deadliest drug crisis in American history. Approximately 64,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses in 2016 – the highest drug death toll and the fastest increase in that death toll in American history," said Sessions.




In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates.

Increased prescription of opioid medications led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive.

In 2017 HHS declared a public health emergency and announced a 5-Point Strategy To Combat the Opioid Crisis

Devastating consequences of the opioid epidemic include increases in opioid misuse and related overdoses, as well as the rising incidence of newborns experiencing withdrawal syndrome due to opioid use and misuse during pregnancy.


Substance abuse among the AAPI community is relatively low compared to other ethnic groups. However, a 2017 study reported by the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment did point out:


  • Asians who are U.S. born with high English proficiency have higher rates of past-year drug use.
  • Acculturation, gender, ethnicity, age, depression and drinking predict Asian/American drug use.
  • Among Asian/American ethnic groups, Filipinos have the highest rates of past-year drug use.

Mirai Nagasu - from the skating rink to the dance floor

ABC
Figure skater Mirai Nagasu with her dance partner, Alan Bersten.
WELL, she got her wish. Mirai Nagasu is trading in her blades for high heels as she competes in Dancing With the Stars.

Remember when U.S. Olympic figure skater Mirai Naagasu made a joke about being on Dancing With the Stars? 

She got ripped for joking around when she failed to perform up to her best. She flubbed her triple axel in the individual free skate to help the U.S. team get a bronze medal. Her historic performance raised hope for a medal in the individual performances.


Back in February, in the heat of the Olympic competition, she failed to medal in the individual competition. She wasn't alone. All three of the U.S. women's figure skater performed below expectations. Mirai was unable to repeat the triple axel. She ended up in 10th place.

The 25-year old Southern Californian was disappointed and tired and in one interview, she quipped that the Olympics was just an audition for Dancing With the Stars “because I want to be a star.”

It looks like Mirai gets the last laugh.

“I think I’ve literally cried my way through these Olympic Games,” she tells PEOPLE in an interview one day after her final performance in Gangneung, South Korea. “It’s been an experience that I will never forget.”

This season of the popular dance competition will feature all athletes. Mirai will be competing agains the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tonya Harding, Johnny Damon and fellow Winter Olympians: snow boarder Jamie Anderson, luger Chris Mazdzer, figure skater and close fiend Adam Rippon and more

"Since it's so competitive, we're trying to hit the ground running," said Alan Bersten, Mirai's partner and dance coach. "We're not even doing a Week 1 dance, we're doing a Week 7 dance," which will be the salsa.

While Mirai admits she's a little uncomfortable on the dance floor but she is ready to be a dance champion.

"I fall all the time, but I get back up and keep going," she said.

Dancing with the Stars: Athletes premieres Monday, April 30 on ABC, 8 p.m. ET.______________________________________________________________________________

Hank Azaria: Fixing the Simpson's Apu is 'The right thing to do'



ASAM NEWS


HANK AZARIA, the voice of Apu in The Simpsons, appeared apologetic this week for his portrayal of Apu, a character of Indian descent with a stereotypical accent.
Azaria told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, “It was certainly not my intention [to cause offense with his portrayal of Apu]. I wanted to spread laughter and joy with this character and the idea that it was used to marginalize people, it’s upsetting, genuinely.”

Shortly after hearing Azaria’s comments, Hari Kondabalu, producer of the documentary, The Problem with Apu, sent a tweet praising Azaria for his remarks.

Azaria distanced himself from a recent controversial Simpson’s episode when the show’s creators seemed to be indifferent to Kondabalu’s concerns.



APU
“The idea that anyone young or old, past or present, being bullied based on Apu really makes me sad,” Azaria said, according to the BBC.

Kondabalu’s documentary sparked a wide range of reaction ranging from praise to indifference.

Kondabalu spent a great amount of time in his documentary trying to get Azaria to speak to him. At one point, Azaria seemed opened to the idea, but it never happened.

Azaria’s interview on The Late Show marks a major turning point.

Among the notable things he said:

“I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers room… including how [Apu] is voiced or not voiced.

“I’m perfectly willing and happy to step aside, or help transition it into something new.

“It not only makes sense, it just feels like the right thing to do to me.”
Azaria's apologetic response is in contrast to one of The Simpsons creators. Asked if he had any response to the criticisms raised in The Problem With Apu and after its release, Simpsons creator Matt Groening delivered a less-than-stellar answer to USA Today.
"Not really," he said. "I’m proud of what we do on the show. And I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended."
He wants the show to "speak for itself," he said. That happened already, but — much like Groening's chat with USA Today — it wasn't much of a response, but what you would expect from a white man who has no idea of the pain his racial blindness can cause.
Many fans felt let down earlier in April when the show addressed the Apu controversy head-on, sort of. It starts with the Marge character reading Lisa an old bedtime story that's been updated for a more politically correct age. Lisa isn't a fan of the changes.
"Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" As she finishes her comment, the camera pans over to a framed photo of Apu.
"Some things will be dealt with at a later date," Marge responded. "If at all," Lisa added, as both turn and look directly into the "camera."

Basically, the Simpsons' creators gave the middle finger to you "complainers."

We'll see what happens next ... if anything. And, I ain't pretendin'!

(Additional reporting by Views From the Edge to update.)
_________________________________________________________________________________

Nepalese refugees have a year to leave U.S. says Homeland Security

YOUTUBE
Nepalese refugees ordered to leave U.S.

HAVING TARGETED Cambodians, Vietnamese and Indonesians for deportation, the Department of Homeland Security is expanding its efforts towards Nepalese refugees who are in this country because their country is still reeling from a 7.8 earthquake in 2015.
DHS announced Thursday (April 26) that it will terminate temporary protected status (TPS) for Nepal in one year on June 24, 2019. At that time, approximately 9,000 TPS holders will lose their work authorization and be at risk of being swept up in ICE’s aggressive deportation raids.

“The devastating damage in Nepal and the challenges its government faces to rebuild clearly meet the definition of ‘extraordinary circumstance’ required to extend Temporary Protected Status to Nepalese nationals,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. 

“Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen’s decision to terminate Nepal’s TPS designation is another heartless example of Secretary Nielsen’s attacks on immigrants and vulnerable communities.”

Ironically, it was three years ago on April 25, that Nepal was struck by a massive earthquake. Over 9,000 people lost their lives, another 22,000 were severely injured, and nearly 3 million people were thrust into a humanitarian crisis. The damages amounted to over 50% of the country’s annual gross domestic product.

Critics assert that the DHS directive continues the Trump administration's overall effort to remove people of color from the U.S. by cutting the use of temporary protected status, a system designed to allow refugees to stay legally in the U.S. rather than send them home while their country is ravaged by crises.

Nielsen said the Nepalese with TPS status will have one year to either prepare to leave the U.S. or find other means to stay before the protections expire.

Under Trump, DHS has been aggressive in ending TPS categories for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, a majority of whom have lived in the US for upwards of 15 to 20 years and whose countries are still in dire straits. 

The department has used the same reasoning to target refugees from Haiti and El Salvador among other countries.

The justification from the administration for ending the protections has been that by law, when the conditions from the original disaster that triggered the protections have improved, they must expire. The problem is that DHS might not have all the necessary information available to make that subjective judgement.


“Three years later, over half of Nepal’s water infrastructure still requires repair and over 90 percent of those who were originally displaced by the earthquake are still living in temporary shelters," said Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif. "The failure of the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to fully analyze the perilous and unstable conditions in Nepal is irresponsible and inhumane.

“Let me be clear – this is a failure of the entire administration and is clearly a way for President Trump to hasten his mass deportation agenda at the expense of innocent lives," says Rep. Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
_______________________________________________________________________________




"This administration continues to ignore humanitarian concerns in its decision to end TPS programs. The administration has been systematically terminating TPS programs as part of a larger agenda to restrict immigration and increase deportations.," stated Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

The civil rights coalition  urges Congress to step up and pass legislation — specifically the American Promise Act of 2017 (H.R. 4253) and the SECURE Act (S. 2144) — to provide a permanent solution for all TPS recipients.”




WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono denounced the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nepalese nationals living in the United States following the devastating earthquake in April 2015 that killed more than 9,000 people and rendered thousands more displaced and homeless.
“The devastating damage in Nepal and the challenges its government faces to rebuild clearly meet the definition of ‘extraordinary circumstance’ required to extend Temporary Protected Status to Nepalese nationals,” Senator Hirono said. “Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen’s decision to terminate Nepal’s TPS designation is another heartless example of Secretary Nielsen’s attacks on immigrants and vulnerable communities.”
Last week, Senator Hirono led 23 Senators in urging Secretary Nielsen and Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan to extend Nepal’s TPS status. 


Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced its decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nepal. The decision will impact approximately 9,000 Nepalese who were granted TPS status to reside in the United States in the aftermath of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated Nepal in 2015.

Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), released the following statement:

“The Trump Administration’s decision to terminate TPS for Nepal is not only heartless, but it is a slap in the face to the 9,000 Nepali TPS recipients who are still working to rebuild their country in the aftermath of an earthquake that devastated Nepal in 2015.

“Three years later, over half of Nepal’s water infrastructure still requires repair and over 90 percent of those who were originally displaced by the earthquake are still living in temporary shelters. The failure of the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to fully analyze the perilous and unstable conditions in Nepal is irresponsible and inhumane.

“Let me be clear – this is a failure of the entire administration and is clearly a way for President Trump to hasten his mass deportation agenda at the expense of innocent lives. In Congress, I will continue to fight for a permanent legislative solution to protect TPS recipients and allow them to remain in the United States.”

LOS ANGELES — Today, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will terminate temporary protected status (TPS) for Nepal in one year on June 24, 2019. At that time, approximately 9,000 TPS holders will lose their work authorization and be at risk of being swept up in ICE’s aggressive deportation raids. 
 Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an affiliation of five civil rights organizations, issues the following statement: 
 “Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) urges the Department of Homeland Security to reconsider its decision to terminate temporary protected status (TPS) for Nepal. The government’s plan to strip TPS from Nepali immigrants is cruel and unnecessary. We encourage TPS holders to contact attorneys to see if they qualify for other types of relief. 
 TPS was granted to Nepali nationals after a deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake in 2015 caused major destruction. Nepal has not yet recovered from this earthquake as 75 percent of the infrastructure that was destroyed has yet to be rebuilt — impeding access to basic needs such as housing, health care, education, and food and water security. 
 This administration continues to ignore humanitarian concerns in its decision to end TPS programs. The administration has been systematically terminating TPS programs as part of a larger agenda to restrict immigration and increase deportations. Advancing Justice urges Congress to step up and pass legislation — specifically the American Promise Act of 2017 (H.R. 4253) and the SECURE Act (S. 2144) — to provide a permanent solution for all TPS recipients.” 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Toronto: City and a reluctant hero recovering from rampage

Constable Ken Lam, left,  at his graduation from the police academy seven years ago. In his son's honor, Lam's father, David, wore his his uniform as a former officer with the Hong Kong Police.

ASAM NEWS

A RELUCTANT HERO, grieving families -- both part of a tragic story after a man in a rental van mowed down pedestrians in Toronto.

When it was all over, ten people were dead, 13 injured in the incident on Monday (April 22).

The rampage may be over, but the grieving for all the victims, including at least three Asian families, will continue for some time.

Among those fatalities that have been identified are Soho Chung, 23; Renuka Amarasinghe, 48; and Chul Min Eddie Kang,

The police officer being hailed as a hero for arresting the suspect is Ken Lam.

The Toronto Police Officer confronted the suspect who seemed to be encouraging Lam to shoot him, but instead of firing, Lam calmed the suspect before arresting Alek Minassian, 25, without further incident.

Lam, 42,  is not being allowed to speak to media himself because as a key witness, Lam could be required to testify in court and anything he might say could be used as evidence in open court, said Toronto Police Deputy Peter Yuen 
in a Thursday (April 26) press conference.

“He wants to thank the public, and he wants the public not to call him a hero,” Yuen said. “He’s officer Ken Lam. He’s real. He’s got a badge. He’s not a hero. We all came to work to do the right thing and that’s why all of us became police officers.”

According to Newsweek, Minassian can be heard yelling “Kill me.”

Minassian warns Lam that he has a gun in his pocket, but Lam responds “I don’t care.” Lam holstered his own firearem and approaches the suspect and that’s when the suspect gives himself up by lying facedown on the ground while he is being handcuffed.

Mark Saunders, Toronto's police chief, credited the force’s high calibre of training.

“The officer did a fantastic job with respect to utilizing his ability of understanding the circumstance and environment and having a peaceful resolution at the end of the day,” he said.


Toronto victims, from left: Sohe Chung, Renuka Amarasinghe and Chul Ming Eddie Kang

According to the Star, Sohe Chung is a student at the University of Toronto.

“She’s an amazing friend and everyone did love her. Everyone is absolutely in shock,” said high school friend Cora Cianni.

Renuka Amarasinghe is a single mother of a seven year old who worked at the Toronto School District as a nutritionist.

“She (was) a very kind and generous lady. She devoted her time for the child,” said Ahangama Rathanasiri Thero of the Toronto Mahavihara Buddhist Meditation Centre in Scarborough. “She made the effort to raise that child in a good manner.”

A Go Fund Me page set up for the child has raised $282,000.

Chul Ming Eddie Kang worked at a Brazilian steak house. He was preparing to open an affiliated Peruvian restaurant.

“This was his station,” Milan Kalkan, the Copacabana general manager said Wednesday evening, on a tour of the now empty restaurant. “This was all Eddie. His passion was in the kitchen” at the makeshift memorial in the restaurant's kitchen.



Constable Lam, who immigrated to Canada with his parents from Hong Kong 40 years ago, is
 taking part in an post-traumatic care program, a mandatory program for officers who experience traumatic experiences.

Lam was in good spirits, according to Yuen, who spoke to Lam Wednesday morning, but Tuesday was a difficult one. Yuen explained he had been through a similar traumatic experience 30 years ago, and knows that there are good days and bad days and it will take a while for Lam to recover.


Yuen says that Lam expressed feeling anxiety, sleeplessness and sometimes woke up in cold sweats.

Among the things Lam is currently grappling with is whether he made the right decision and what might have happened if he had opened fire.

“I’m happy he was safe. I’m proud of him, to do a good job. Well done,” said David Lam, Ken Lam's father, who is a former Hong Kong police officer,in an interview with Canadian television network Global.
* * *
On Sunday (April 29) at 7 p.m. there will also be a #TorontoStrong vigil in Mel Lastman Square to remember the victims of the attack.

Mayor John Tory said the #TorontoStrong fund goal is $2 million to be shared with the families of the victims. As of today (April 27), the fund has raised $1.2 million with donations coming from around the world.

Those wising to contribute to the can do so here. Donations can now also be made by texting “Toronto” to 80100. After texting 80100, donors will receive a text asking them to indicate the amount they wish to donate, as well as a confirmation text.


(Views From the Edge contributed additional reporting to update the AsAm News story.)
__________________________________________________________________________________

Authorities bust ring smuggling plants to Asia

These succulents can be sold for $0 each in China and Korea.

PEOPLE SMUGGLE the weirdest things: Ivory, eels, rhino horns, elephant tusks, shark fins. The latest thing that has proven to be lucrative -- and far less dangerous to gather -- are those little green succulents that grow up and down the California coast.

California wildlife officials uncovered an smuggling operation in which thieves from Korea and China ship these little succulents to Asia where they fetch up to $50 a plant.

Known as Dudleya farinosa, the thick-leaved starburst-like light green succulents grow wild in nature, clinging to rocky landscapes. This plant is native to the coastline of Oregon and northern California, where it is commonly found on bluffs and coastal hillsides. 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says the global black market operation started after people sending packages of plants indicated "valuable things" were inside, according to NBC-TV.

"Next thing you know there's pieces of dirt coming out of the packages and they're thinking 'that's kind of weird,'" said Patrick Foy from the DFW.

Smugglers have been illegally snipping them from their rocky perches and shipping them to Asia where they are prized for their beauty.


Admired for their hardiness, they are popular in homeowner yards because they are drought tolerant. The plants burst into beauty when they bloom, erecting a tall stem and a candelabra-like cluster of yellow flowers.

Operators have been arrested along the Calfiornia coast and in Las Vegas where investigators found hundreds of the cactus-like plants in boxes in their rented vehicles.

In one such bust in northern California, wildlife officers pulled over a suspects’ van, rented at the Las Vegas airport, made arrests and seized 1,334 plants — all on their way to being shipped overseas. The suspects often speak little English.
Authorities then raided the suspects’ cabin among the redwoods and found another 1,000 of the succulents there.

"These plants are part of the ecosystem," said Emeritus director of UC Santa Cruz Arboretum Stephen McCabe. "There are butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, robber flies, all sorts of things that are associated with these."
_______________________________________________________________________