Friday, May 29, 2015

Carly Fiorina steps into a pile of ... when she makes some remarks about the Chinese

Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference last summer.
NORMALLY, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina wouldn't meet the parameters to be mentioned in Views From The Edge, ... BUT, she gets our attention when she says something like this:

“I’ve been doing business in China for decades, and I will tell you that yeah, the Chinese can take a test, but what they can’t do is innovate. They’re not terribly imaginative. They’re not entrepreneurial. They don’t innovate. That’s why they’re stealing our intellectual property.”

She made those remarks in January and they went practically unnoticed until Buzzfeed released the video below in which she also seems to advocate doing away with the Department of Education.

That's not the first time Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard CEO, made disparaging remarks about the Chinese. In her new book, "Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey," she wrote:
"Proponents of Common Core argue that we must compete with the Chinese in subjects like math and science. I agree that we must compete, but we will not win by becoming more centralized and standardizedin our education methods. Although The Chinese are a gifted people, innovation an entrepreneurship are not their strong suits. Their society, as well as their educational system is too homogenized and controlled to encourage imagination an risk taking."
There goes the Chinese American vote! I guess you could argue that in contest, she was talking about the Chinese citizens of the Peoples' Republic of China, not our good ol', homegrown, born-in-the-USA, American-as-apple pie Chinese. But that doesn't take away the sting of her statements since so most Americans who don't have Asian roots don't make that distinction between Chinese Americans and Chinese from China.

It's always dangerous to use such sweeping generalities when referring to a whole country or lumping all Chinese into a single bloc. She should know better, especially if she sees herself one day dealing with China in the international scene on a whole gamut of issues beyond trade.

She seems to have a penchant for making controversial statements. When she got the Hewlett-Packard job - as an outsider and with zero experience in high tech or engineering - she made a statement saying: "I hope that we are at a point that everyone has figured out that there is not a glass ceiling.” As you might guess, the remark angered many women, especially those in the tech industry, which is under fire for its lack of racial and gender diversity. 

Fiorina's tenure at Hewlet-Packard was rocky because it was at the same time when the tech-bubble burst. As Hewlett-Packard's stock fell, she was forced out under a cloud with a $21-million severance check. Not bad for a Stanford grad majoring in medieval history and philosophy.

Five years ago she made her first foray into politics by running an unsuccessful campaign against incumbent U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

TGIF FEATURE: 10 illustrations of Asian American heroes

ILLUSTRATOR and visual artist Jessica Singh pays tribute to 10 individuals who have broken barriers, brought attention to the injustices faced by Asian American and Pacific Islanders, showcased the richness of their cultural heritage or expanded a shared vision of health and justice for all.

Some are well known, such as actress Mindy Kaling and actor George Takei and others not as well known such as Godwin Higa,  principal of Cherokee Point Elementary School in San Diego, and Jirayut Latthivongskorn, the first undocumented student accepted as a UC San Francisco (UCSF) medical student..

The artworks are commissioned by the California Endowment’s Sons & Brothers Campaign in honor of AAPI Heritage Month.

The 10 illustrations are of:

- George Takei is known for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the television series Star Trek. He is an advocate for LGBTQ rights and active in state and local politics.

- Jeremy Lin is a professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).  He is the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the league.
- Jirayut Latthivongskorn is the first undocumented student accepted as a UC San Francisco (UCSF) medical student.
- Lian Cheun is the executive director of Khmer Girls in Action, an advocacy group for youth, women, and others in the local Southeast Asian community. She is among the new commissioners, who serve as the Obama administration’s eyes and ears of the Asian American & Pacific Islander community.

- Mindy Kaling is a comedian widely known for creating and starring in the sitcom The Mindy Project, which will play out its next season on Hulu.

- Philip Vera Cruz was a Filipino American labor leader, farmworker, and leader in the Asian American civil rights movement. He was a co-founder of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, which later merged with the National Farm Workers Association to form the United Farm Workers. 
- Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye is the 28th chief justice of California. She was sworn into office on January 3, 2011, and is the first Filipina American and the second woman to serve as the state’s chief justice. 
- Godwin Higa is the principal of Cherokee Point Elementary School in San Diego. He is known for his compassion-based philosophy and elevating awareness around the effects of childhood trauma on students.
- Rob Bonta serves in the California State Assembly representing the 18th District which includes east Oakland and San Leandro. He is the first Filipino American elected to the California State Legislature.

What's really neat is all 10 artworks are in dropbox so you can download the images here  for your own personal collection.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Jindal announces formation of an exploratory committee in an expected run for U.S. president.

Gov. Bobby Jindal
REGULAR READERS of this Views From The Edge can easily get a sense of where I stand on the American political spectrum. It is no secret that I'm a little bit left of center, depending where the mythical "center" is at any moment in time and from your own political perspective.

However, I started this blog to report on Asian Americans issues and individuals so I would be remiss if I didn't mention any Asian American conservatives in the news.

So, take Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana ... PLEASE! (Sorry, I couldn't resist that one.) Last week the Indian American politician announced the start of an exploratory committee in preparation for a presidential run.

"If I run, my candidacy will be based on the idea that the American people are ready to try a dramatically different direction," Jindal said in a press release. "Not a course correction, but a dramatically different path.

"President Obama has started to redefine the American Dream, turning it into the European Nightmare. Because of this, I believe our country is in serious trouble and that the hour is late for America. Economic collapse is much closer to the door than people realize, our culture is decaying at a rapid rate, and our standing in a dangerous world is at an all-time low.

"However, the problems caused by 7 years of weak leadership and mistakes in the Obama administration can be corrected. But they won’t be fixed by just sending Republicans to Congress. It will only be fixed by a President who is willing to make hard decisions and who has the ideas to change our country's future.

"While other Republican leaders are talking about change, I've published detailed plans to repeal and replace Obamacare, rebuild America's Defenses, make America energy independent, and reform Education for our nation's children."

At first glance, Jindal seems to be the perfect GOP antidote to critics who say the Republican Party doesn't represent the views of minorities. As a Rhoades scholar, he is smart and articulate. He's Indian American and he's governor of Louisiana. He was introduced to the nation as the Republican's golden boy but since that dubious debut, he's attacked conservatives in his own party for not being conservative enough.

He's made some pretty troubling statements in his ongoing efforts to appease the far right of his party. These days, that direction is so right, its wrong. Here's a couple of examples:

On religion

In an article published in The Atlantic, he argued that people of faith must realize that they are fighting a “silent war” against the secular, liberal elite. And they must keep waging that war no matter how much of a cultural minority they become. “Our religious liberty,” he insisted, “must in no way ever be linked to the ever-changing opinions of the public." Is he saying Al Quaeda and ISIS are OK because they are defending their faith against the rest of us?

No-go zones

Talking about predominantly Muslim neighborhoods in Europe, he described: “There are neighborhoods where women don’t feel comfortable going in without veils - that is wrong, we all know there are neighborhoods where police are less likely to go into,” Jindal continues to say, referring to so-called “no-go” zones or areas that are too dangerous for non-Muslims to enter. Fox News jumped on this bit of fantasy but upon further investigation and finding no evidence of such neighborhoods, the right-wing mouthpiece has apologized for repeating this nonsense. Jindal continues to insist these areas exist to the extent that he's made the English and French governments, traditional allies of the U.S., attack him and that doesn't bode well for international relations.

There! I've done my duty in introducing the possibility of having an Asian American run for president. Note that I didn't use the hyphenated racial/political term in describing Jindal. He doesn't like the hyphen either!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

150th Ann'y: Chinese railroad workers get their due in photo exhibit and in Hell on Wheels

One of the photos shows the Chinese workers laying down tracks for the transcontinental railroad.
YOU HAVE probably seen the historic 150-year old photo when the Golden Spike was driven into the ground completing America's first transcontinental railroad line: Two trains facing each other and hordes of men congratulating each other posing for the photograph. Looking at the original black-and-white photograph closely and you would think the engineering feat was done only by the Irish.
The last few rails completing the railroad were laid down by eight Chinese railroad workers. Where are the Chinese workers in the famous historical photograph?
This month, Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a photo display opened up at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Mayor Kevin Johnson, former NBA star, welcomed a delegation from the Chinese consulate general in San Francisco to help celebrate and commemorate the 150th anniversary the transcontinental railroad and the contribution of thousands of Chinese workers who toiled, dug and blasted their way eastward over the Sierra Nevada and who worked for the Central Pacific Railroad. They eventually met up in Promontory Point, Utah with the work crews coming from the east made up mainly of the Irish and African American workers employed by the Union Pacific Railroad.
I don't know if this was planned five years ago, but this year, the 150th anniversary of the engineering feat, is also the 5th and final season of AMC's Hell On Wheels television series depicting the building of the railroad. The show will finally feature Chinese workers. Oh, the irony.
When the show first started, producers received a lot of flack about omitting the Chinese story. The producers' explanations about cost and limited budget didn't satisfy the critics but this next season, the producers hope to remedy that.
AMC's 'Hell on Wheels' focused on the Irish and African American work crews
"We have three new major characters," said the show's executive producer John Wirth in an interview with the "Calgary Herald." They are primarily coming into the story on the Central Pacific side of the story. There are two sides of the railroad and we’ve spent the last four years exploring exclusively the Union Pacific side of the railroad. 
"We have some Chinese characters and that is what is new this season. There were 15,000 Chinese workers working for the Central Pacific railroad. There were no Chinese labourers on the Union Pacific side of the railroad. But they were primarily responsible for building the California side. So we are going to meet three guys that represent three different type of characters that you would find in Chinese workforce."
Gee, thanks. 

Two of the three Chinese roles have been cast.

Byron Mann  play the role of Chang, an influential businessman and labor contractor who works for the Central Pacific. The Hong Kong-raised American actor and UCLA grad is best known for his role as Ryu in Street Fighter and Yao Fe in the TV serial Arrow.
Tzi Ma was born in Hong Kong and raised in New York City. The actor plays Tao, who comes from a village in Guangdong in Southern China, and is now “head man” for a group of Chinese railroad workers. A graduate of a British engineering school in China, his natural leadership abilities and facility with the English language make him essential to his white bosses.

The Sacramento exhibit includes 122 photos depicting the Chinese workers, their camps, stores and the engineering feats that they accomplished. Hundreds of them died laying the 690 miles of track from Sacramento through the Sierra Nevada to Utah’s Promontory Summit, a job that lasted from 1865 to 1869.
Stanford University  is putting together a bigger collection for the sake of historical accuracy with the Chinese Railroad Workers of North America ProjectBesides photos, the project will include archeological artifacts and interviews with the railroad workers' descendants.
Not a Chinese worker in sight in this famous 1869 photo of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad at Promontory Point, Utah.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day: Another Congress, another try to pass the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act

Filipino veterans who fought with Americans are still waiting for justice.
MEMORIAL DAY, 2015  -- old Filipino men who fought for America during World War II don their medals and old military caps. They stand at attention and salute the American flag that they once fought under despite a string of broken promises and disappointing denials by politicians. Many of them know there is one more battle to fight despite their aging bodies and dwindling ranks.

The latest round in the struggle for equity for the Filipino veterans of WWII began when Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii) introduced his first bill to Congress in January by keeping his promise to Filipino veterans by introducing the Filipino Veteran Family Reunification Act of 2015. 

Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) introduced a companion measure in the Senate.
UPDATE: President Obama opens the door for vets' family reunification
“I chose this bill as my first to introduce in the new Congress for two reasons,” Takai said in a statement. “First, to make good on our obligation to take care of our Filipino veterans of World War II by helping them to reunite with their children. And second, to make good on my promise to work in a bipartisan manner with my colleagues across the aisle on issues where we find common ground.”

The bill seeks to pave the way for Filipino World War II veterans to reunite with their families. In 1941, with assurances that they would receive full veteran's benefits for their service, more than 250,000 Filipino soldiers fought alongside U.S. troops during America's darkest hour.

Despite my 10 years working with the Philippine News, the most widely-read Filipino American newspaper, my father was more deeply immersed in the Filipino American community than I ever was. In the 1960s, he joined with his friends like Philippine News publisher Alex Esclamado, the UFW's Larry Itliong and Andy Imutan and other survivors of the Bataan Death March to launch the long battle for justice for their comrades who were still in the Philippines without any benefits, recognition and justice. They enlisted the aid of sympathetic lawmakers, presented their case to lawyers, the courts, and to the American public. Despite their hard work they encountered false hopes, blind alleys and rejection on Capitol Hill. 

It wasn't until 1990 when President George H. Bush signed the Filipino Veterans Equity Act, part of an immigration bill, were they able to claim a victory allowing many - but not all - of their friends to gain U.S. citizenship.

To understand the full extent of their frustration, you need to know the background that led to that moment.

After Pearl Harbor, by executive order, President Roosevelt put the Army of the Philippine Commonwealth under the command of the U.S. Armed Forces of the Far East (USAFEE). Over 250,000 Filipinos into the U.S.-led armed forces while ignoring the Japanese plea of "Asia for Asians." Filipinos fought shoulder-to-shoulder with American soldiers in the defense of the Philippines in the epic battles of Bataan & Corrigidor. The blood of Filipinos flowed with the brave U.S. defenders in the jungles of the Philippines.

The next year, Congress passed a law authorizing the naturalization of all aliens serving in United States forces. Immigration officers were sent to various war zones, but the Philippines, which by then was under Japanese occupation, was excluded. 

After the liberation of the Philippines, naturalization proceedings finally began in Manila but were soon halted. U.S. officials said the Filipino government feared a mass emigration of able-bodied men, but many Filipinos today say that was a pretext for not according citizenship and benefits to the veterans. The naturalization law expired at the end of 1946.

After the war, that promise was broken by Congress when it past the Rescission Acts, which pulled the rug out from underneath the Filipino veterans and reneged on Roosvelt's promise.

Filipino WWII veterans still fighting for equity.
When President Truman signed the ``Rescission Acts'' in 1946 he stated: ``Filipino Army veterans are nationals of the United States. They fought with gallantry and courage under the most difficult conditions during the recent conflict. Their officers were commissioned by us. Their official organization, the Army of the Philippine Commonwealth, was taken into the Armed Forces of the United States by Executive Order of President Roosevelt. That order has never been revoked or amended. I consider it a moral obligation of the United States to look after the welfare of the Filipino Army veteran.''

Its difficult not to believe that an element of racism played into the actions of Congress, especially when in 1973, Congress granted citizenship to resistance fighters from Czechoslovakia and Poland.

Congress' treatment of the Czechoslovakian and Polish veterans is inconsistent with the discrimination suffered by the Filipino veterans. No doubt both the Central European soldiers and their Filipino counterparts played important roles in their respective battlegrounds during World War II but the Filipinos should have been treated equally, if not given a leg up, since the Philippines during WWII was an American colony and they fought as U.S. nationals.
RELATED: California law review - Filipino Veterans Equity Movement 
In the late 1960s and 1970s, as Filipino Americans began realizing a need for unity and having a national voice, the one issue that united everyone was justice for the Filipino WWII vets. 

After decades of effort, President George H. Bush signed the Immigration Act of 1990, which offered citizenship to some Filipino veterans of World War II but the bill did not include their immediate families. 

Since then, a series of bills have gradually expanded the eligibility of Filipino veterans, offered compensation and benefits. One of those bills allowed the immigration of the immediate family members and "young" children but excluded the "older" children. 

By then, the WWII veterans were in their 60s and 70s so many had "older" children who were in their 30s and 40s. We need to understand that In the Filipino culture, family is paramount and the concept of "family" is the entire extended family. A nephew is treated as a son. A cousin is a brother. An uncle is seen as a second father. An elderly grandfather is accorded the utmost respect. To exclude the older children is a grave omission in the eyes of those elderly veterans.

Takai's bill and its counterpart in the Senate seeks to remedy that final injustice for the few surviving veterans who are now in their 80s and 90s.

Democratic lawmakers have introduced similar bills previously, including in 2013, but none has advanced through Congress. Two years ago, the measure was included in a comprehensive immigration bill approved by the Senate, but the GOP-controlled House killed that legislation by refusing to vote on it. The prospects of the bill advancing in a GOP-majority Congress is not given a great chance.
RELATED: Heres a video capsule about the veterans
Nevada's Rep. Joe Heck, who co-sponsored Takai's bill, added: "Like all veterans, our brave Filipino-American World War II veterans deserve to live out their years surrounded by their family members. This bill will help make that a reality by granting their children an exemption in the immigration process and expediting their path toward U.S. citizenship. It's the least we could do for these men who served alongside American troops and helped us win the war in the Pacific theater."

This Memorial Day, let's remember those surviving Filipino vets and the many, many more who have fallen while serving America and those who died before seeing justice delivered.

Friday, May 22, 2015

TGIF FEATURE: Riff-Off with the Fillharmonic, Anna Kendrick and James Corden.

IN CASE you missed it, the fantastic a cappella group Filharmonic was on the Late Late Show mid-May to back up actress/singer Anna Kendrick. Kendrick and the Filipino American group from Los Angeles just finished working on the movie Pitch Perfect 2

"We just did The Late Late Show with James Corden, which was a huge, huge gig for us, said VJ Rosales. "We got to back Anna Kendrick and James and do a riff-off battle with them. We arranged the music and gave it to them and said, 'OK, let's battle.'"

Kendrick challenged host James Corden after she heard that he was bragging that the British host was the best a cappella singer. So she gathered her co-stars and challenged Corden to a riff-off.

"It was the most amazing thing ever," says Rosales. We can forgive VJ for his hyperbole but, clearly, it was pretty cool.

The 6-member group gained fame by being among the final four groups in the television show Sing-Off in 2013. It seemed that they were having so much fun in the singing competition.

If the Filharmonic played musical instruments, they would be a boy band. Their voices are their instruments. The guys are just ... so ... darn ... cute. If their screaming fans are any indication, girls love them.

Besides Rosales, the other members of the group are Joe Caigoy, Trace Gaynor, Barry Fortgang, Jules Cruz and Niko Del Rey.

The Filharmonic's style is described as an urbanesque hip-hop sound with '90s nostalgia. The all-male group is linked through their Filipino heritage and their passion for a wide variety of performance styles including pop, a cappella, jazz, opera, theater and classical.

The Filharmonic with Pitch Perfect 2 co-star Anna Kendrick.
OK, OK, here's a bonus video of Filharmonic with Chrissie Fit.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Golden State Warriors' Asian connection

The Warriors recognize the diversity of their fan base.

As the Golden State Warriors pursue their fourth NBA championship in five years, when they play their home games during the 2019 NBA playoffs, take a close look at the gold-clad fans in Oracle Arena, home of the Oakland team. No single race dominates but there are lots of Asians: Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Asian Indians, Pakistanis, Burmese and more. 

The Warriors don't keep the demographics of it's fans but its hard not to notice that half the fans at Oracle are not white. According to the Census about 2 million Asians call the Bay Area home - perhaps the largest concentration of Asians outside of Asia, Hawaii included.

Don't think that the Warriors' management hasn't noticed the composition of their fan base. 
RELATED: NBA celebrates Chinese New Year with a special commercial
The organization started having Asian Heritage Night when Jeremy Lin was a rookie in 2010. When Lin left after one season, the Warriors continued the night and added Bollywood Night, Asian American Heritage Night, Polynesian Heritage Night and Filipino Heritage Night.

They honored Chinese New Year with a special shirt featuring the name of the Warriors in Chinese characters. Some may quibble with the design but it was historic that the team even bothered to have the shirt making them only one of two NBA teams to note the date, important in Asian cultures. (The other team was the Houston Rockets, which was the first team to mine the Asian fan base because of the popularity of center Yao Min, who is still revered as a superstar in China.)
RELATED: The Warriors secret weapon is a 10-year old Filipina American
The Golden State Warriors are also looking to the future -- at the largest market in the world, China. The team recently surpassed one million followers on Weibo. Weibo is a Chinese social media platform that combines the services of Facebook and Twitter, and is one of China’s most popular websites. Last October, the Warriors became the first NBA team to launch an official Weibo account so they will be well set when the NBA Global Games are held in Beijing and Shanghai.
Golden State Warriors
Jennifer Cabalquinto

It doesn't hurt to have Asians  in highly visible positions.

A Filipina/American, Jennifer Cabalquinto, is the team's Chief Financial Officer, perhaps the highest ranking woman in the NBA outside of owners. She has over 20 years of finance leadership experience in a variety of start-up, turnaround, and high growth business environments including Telemundo, TV stations and cruise lines.

“Do you know we have more Facebook followers from the Philippines than we do in the United States?” said CFO Cabalquinto. “It’s amazing. Of the top ten cities where our Facebook followers are based, eight of the top ten cities are in the Philippines. It’s just phenomenal.”
RELATED: Filipinos make up a third of the Warriors' Facebook fans

                                                                                                Balitang America TV

Every sports team has a hype guy to get the fans excited. For the past 11 years, for the Warriors, that's Franco Finn, aka "Freestyle Franco."

Being the hype man for this place is really a dream come true,” Franco told a reporter from Balitang America. “It’s just amazing. I’m a Golden State Warriors fan ever since I could remember and now I get to say I pass by this building and say 'Wow, do I really get almost 20,000 fans here hyped up on their feet?' It’s an amazing experience.” Franco starts by introducing the players as they come on the floor then leading the chants on the loudspeaker. "Dee-fense! Dee-fense! Dee-fense," or when star Stephen Currie is on the free-throw line, the chant changes to "MVP, MVP, MVP, ... or the iconic cheer that strikes fear in opponents, " War-riors! War-riors!" That's Franco at work.

As he says in the video, from his observation, every game should be Filipino Heritage Night because Filipinos are such devoted and knowledgeable fans. You can be sure if he sees any of his kababayan (fellow countrymen) in the seats, he'll make an effort to interact with them.

The team strengthened that tie-in with Filipino/Americans when the Warriors raised funds for victims of Typhoon Haiyan that ravaged the Philippines two years ago.

Sabrina Ellison
‘It’s super important that the Warriors are embracing the Filipino culture,” says Warriors Girls Director Sabrina Ellison, a Filipina/American.

When the dance team comes out on the floor.  Freestyle Franco goes into action, exhorting the crowd to cheer for the dancers. Among the dancers are several Asian/American Warriors Girls – Patrisha, Danielle and Clarise. 

And then there is Superfan Burmese/American Paul Wong, one of the Warriors' many loyal Asian season ticket holders. The Warriors' fans are noted through the league but Wong stood out among the fan base.

Wong etched his way into Warrior lore in 2007 when the team was making it's first playoff appearance in decades, he came up with a two-word slogan that hiked fan frenzy even higher. He printed up hundreds of "We Believe" posters with his own money and handed them out during the opening series against the Dallas Mavericks. Management took notice and the next game, printed up 20,000 yellow t-shirts emblazoned with the rallying cry.

"The team represents what the Bay Area is all about: diversity," Wong told a Mercury News reporter. "That's what makes them so popular."

San Francisco is one of the most popular destinations for tourists from Asia and for Asian investors seeking to invest in the safe and stable U.S. real estate market. Add to that, the fact that immigration from Asia has surpassed Mexico; the future remains bright for the Warriors' investment in the Asian and Asian/American markets.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Originally written in 2015, this post has been updated to include the NBA team's 2019 season.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

CATCHING UP with Baby Bou Bou: Maryland settles for $1 million to pay for medical care of child

Most of the scarring around his face has healed but the emotional trauma remains with Baby Bou Bou, who is shown with his parents, Bounkham and Alecia Phonesavanh.
A YEAR AGO Bounkham Phonesavanh, known as Baby Bou Bou, was asleep when a flash grenade blew up in his crib, nearly killing him.

Habersham County deputies threw a flash grenade during a drug raid at a home his family was visiting.

Family supporters met last week with Acting U.S. Attorney John A. Horn to seek criminal charges against the officers involved.

"You have the baby who has gone for his 11th surgery, so far and there is no one to be held accountable," said Marcus Coleman, a spokesman for the family. "This is the reason that the family is still in pursuit of justice."

A settlement of $1 million dollar had been reached between the family and the county in April of this year. One of the terms of the settlement is that the family may not sue individuals involved in maiming their son. Instead of coming from the wallets of the negligent officers, it will come strictly from the taxpayers.

Baby Bou Bou immediately after
the botched raid had to be placed
under an induced coma.
“Over the last few months the Board of County Commissioners has sought a way to bring some measure of closure to this matter while doing what is right, both for the Phonesavanh family and the law enforcement officers involved,” said a statement issued on behalf of the county. “For that reason we have reached a limited settlement with the Phonesavanhs that allows for a payment to them in exchange for protection of the officers and the county.”

On May 28, 2014, at 18 months old, the child was seriously injured when Habersham County deputies executed a no-knock warrant and threw a flash-grenade into the house.The deputies were searching for the boy's uncle in a drug case. As it turned out, the uncle was staying at another house and Baby Bou Bou and his family were visiting from Wisconsin.

Beyond the disfiguring wounds on the toddler’s face, the grenade also left a gash in his chest. As a result, Bou lost the ability to breathe on his own and was left in a medically induced coma for days after the incident. Bou was not able to go home to Wisconsin until July.

RELATED: Family struggles after flash grenade lands in baby's crib
No officers were charged for their near-deadly negligence, and the department claimed that they did not know that there were children in the home. They defended their reckless actions by saying that they couldn’t have done a thorough investigation prior to the raid because it “would have risked revealing that the officers were watching the house.”

The settlement does not mean that there can be no further litigation, but that all litigation must be directed at the county insurance policies, not individuals or the county’s general fund.

A grand jury ruled not to indict the officers involved in the botched police operation. The grand jury said that while the drug investigation for a suspected $50 drug deal was "hurried, sloppy, and unfortunately not in accordance with the best practices and policies", they found "no evidence of criminal intent or criminal negligence on the part of any law enforcement officer involved."

Since then, the county has disbanded the sheriff's SWAT team, the drug officer in charge of the raid resigned and the judge who issued the "no-Knock" warrant has retired. The Phonesavanh family has returned to Wisconsin. The story continues, see below after the video.

Channel 2's Jessica Jaglois reports
The above TV news report by Jessica Jaglois was aired last week on Channel 2 of Habersahm County, Georgia.

The family's attorney, Mawuli Davis, says he is seeking criminal charges in a federal court against the sheriff and the deputies who conducted the raid.

Baby Bou Bou, now a toddler at 2 1/2 years old, faces surgeries every two years to remove the physical scars from his injury.

Medical bills for the treatment of Bou’s injuries are expected to reach $1 million dollars over time but the emotional trauma suffered by the family will continue for a long time. It seems that Habersham County's insurance company got off lightly.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Asian Americans respond to racist comments

LAST WEEK Buzzfeed interviewed a number of Asian Americans and asked: How do you respond to racist comments? 

I assume the question was asked because May is Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Here are a few of the responses from Facebook:

If you would like to add your own response, go here.


NPR podcast subject Adnan Syed a step closer to a new trial

A MARYLAND appeals court delivered a significant victory May 18 to Adnan Syed, the young Indian American man convicted of murdering Hae Min Lee in 1999 and the subject of the hit NPR podcast Serial

Syed, the Baltimore County man convicted in 2000 of murdering Hae Min Lee, his high school girlfriend, is one step closer to a shorter sentence.

Chief Judge Peter B. Krauser of the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland ruled to allow Syed’s request for post-conviction relief to be reopened in a circuit court. 

Adnan Sayed
Previously, Syed had filed a motion for post-conviction relief on the grounds that his attorney, Christina Gutierrez, had been incompetent. That motion was denied in January 2014. However, because of the questions raised by the popular podcast—which revealed, among other things, that Gutierrez had failed to contact Asia McClain, a potential alibi witness—Syed appealed the decision.
RELATED: Serial: A boy, a girl and a radio program
Asia McClain, a classmate of Lee and Sayed, was interviewed in the radio podcast. She claims to have seen Syed at the library when he allegedly committed the murder. On Monday of this week, the appeals court ruled that the case would be “remanded” to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, which would allow additional evidence to be introduced, including the testimony of McClain.

The purpose of the remand is to give the Circuit Court the chance to “re-open the previously concluded post-conviction proceeding.” The remand could “afford the parties the opportunity to supplement the record with relevant documents and even testimony pertinent to the issues.” 

Lee was born in South Korea. She played lacrosse on her school team and was well-liked at her high school. She disappeared after school on Jan, 13, 1999, and her body was found on Feb. 9 1999. She had been strangled and left in a Baltimore park. After a six-week trial in 2000, Syed was convicted of her murder.

The 12-episode Serial, produced by journalist Sara Koenig, became a national phenomenon and was the most popular podcast of NPR. It followed the story, interviewed friends and family of Sayed. Lee's family refused to participate.

If McClain is able to convince the court that her story is true, the now-34-year-old Syed may have a chance to escape his life sentence. If his conviction is eventually overturned, the question raised by the podcast becomes even more relevant: Who killed Hae?


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Vietnamese Americans in the nail salon industry: Documentary seeks funding

THE NY Times article, The Price of Nice Nails, on the labor abuses that some of the Vietnamese immigrants have to endure working in nail salons brought renewed interest in this documentary, "Nailed It." The independent film features commentary from actress Tippi Hedren (The Birds), who has adopted the cause of the workers.
RELATED: Nailed: Asian Americans and human trafficking
The film's creators are three Vietnamese Americans with extensive resumes: 

Producer/Director/DP, Adele Free Pham is a documentary filmmaker, living in New York for more than a decade. In 2009 Parallel Adele a doc she directed on mixed Asian identity was screened at the Smithsonian, and will aired on PBS.  The Prep School Negro, a feature doc Adele edited, also screened on PBS’ America: ReFramed. In 2013 Rebirth: New Orleans, a feature documentary film she shot for PBS about the charter school takeover post Katrina premiered on Netflix. In May 2010 HBO aired Fine Threads a doc Adele directed about south Asian teenage girls growing up in Queens, NY.

Producer, Ina Adele Ray is a filmmaker with over 12 years of experience with media production and post production. She worked with Adele Pham as Producer and Editing Advisor for Parallel Adele, which will air on PBS in 2014. Her most recent accomplishments include her work for D3 Productions where she earned broadcast television credits as the “Editor” for several 30, 60, and 90 minute documentaries about various aspects of China and Chinese culture that aired on PBS & CCTV. Adele Ray has also written, produced, and edited a 13 part series for D3 Productions called Land of the Dragon that also aired on PBS. I. Adele Ray has also taught media production, media theory, and cultural studies courses at the New School, NYU, and Parsons School of Design.

Co-Producer, Kelvin Saint Pham, is the creator and producer of VietNAIL.TV, the first Vietnamese nail TV show dedicated to elevating the Vietnamese-American nail community. He has been in the nail industry for 20 years and is a well-known nail professional, salon owner, educator, and consultant. He is also owner and operator of St. K Nail Salon in Los Angeles, CA, which he founded in 1992. Kelvin has traveled the world teaching and sharing his passion for the nail industry to other nail professionals.ecent accomplishments include her work for D3 Productions where she earned broadcast television credits as the “Editor” for several 30, 60, and 90 minute documentaries about various aspects of China and Chinese culture that aired on PBS & CCTV. 

RELATED: Asian Americans and human trafficking
Unfortunately, the filmmakers haven't been able to raise enough money to finish the documentary. A Indiegogo effort reached only half the  $15,000 that was being sought. The fundraising has moved over to PayPal.

If you are interested in helping the filmmakers complete this timely documentary, go to this site.

Mindy Kaling's show picked up by Hulu; Dr. Ken's trailer

AS EXPECTED, The Mindy Project has been picked up by Hulu after being cancelled by Fox as the star, Mindy Kaling, tweeted to her fans late last week.

“Mindy has been a beloved member of the Hulu family, so this deal is a natural extension of our relationship,” said Craig Erwich, Hulu’s SVP and head of content. “With so many of her fans already catching up and tuning in to the series on Hulu, we know her millions of fans will be eager to find out what Mindy has in store for the next chapter.”

“I am thrilled ‘The Mindy Project’ has found a new home on Hulu, where so many of our fans are already watching the show. It’s such an exciting place to be,” Kaling said in a statement.

That will please fans of the show which ended its run after three seasons. So many story threads were left up in the air. Another season on Hulu will at least give closure, if not another season.

The streaming video site Hulu has been trying to become an alternative network ala Netflix by picking up some prestige shows. This last season, the popular Community sitcom was able to close out its storylines and its characters graduate from community college. 

Hulu is developing a high-profile slate of originals, including Stephen King’s “11/22/63″ Kennedy-assassination thriller from J.J. Abrams, to attract more subscriptions.

Other recent Hulu pickups include exclusive deals for Fox’s Empire,” Viacom’s South Park and CBS’s “CSI.” In addition, Hulu cut a deal with AMC Networks under which it obtained exclusive rights to The Walking Dead spinoff Fear the Walking Dead.

Meanwhile, the upcoming ABC series Dr. Ken released its first trailer. Dr. Ken stars Ken Jeong as a doctor caught in a midlife crisis having to choose between a medical practice and becoming a comedian. Hmm. Does that sound familiar? Jeong was a real-life doctor before becoming a comic actor.
RELATED: 'Bye, Mindy; hello Dr. Ken