Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Trump picks South Asian to tackle Medicare and Medicai

Seema Verma
By Louis Chan

A CONSULTANT who worked under Vice President-elect Mike Pence to expand Medicaid in Indiana has been nominated to run the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Seema Verma is the third Asian/American to be nominated by President-elect Donald Trump. The others are South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley who is Trump’s choice for Ambassador to the United Nations and Washington veteran Elaine Chao who will help the Department of Transportation.

“I am pleased to nominate Seema Verma to serve as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” said President-elect Trump. “She has decades of experience advising on Medicare and Medicaid policy and helping states navigate our complicated systems. Together, Chairman Price (nominated as Secretary of Health & Human Services) and Seema Verma are the dream team that will transform our healthcare system for the benefit of all Americans.”

“I am honored to be nominated by President-elect Trump,” said Verma. “I look forward to helping him tackle our nation’s daunting healthcare problems in a responsible and sustainable way.”

Verma is credited with helping Indiana implement Obamacare in 2010. Her program is said to have appealed to conservatives while meeting the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

She, along with Price, will play a major role in either eliminating or reshaping Obamacare, one of Trump's top campaign promises.

Verma also served as Vice President of Planning for the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County and as a Director with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) in Washington D.C. Ms. Verma received her Master’s degree in Public Health, with a concentration in health policy and management from Johns Hopkins University, and her Bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences from the University of Maryland.


George Takei installed into California Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame inductees, from top left, clockwise: Maria Shriver, Harrison Ford, Corita Kent, Russ Solomon,  Isabel Allende, William J. Perry, George Take and Tony Gwynn

GEORGE TAKEI, best known for his portrayal of Hiraku Sulu, helmsman for the Starship Enterprise, was among the eight people inducted into California's Hall of Fame today (Nov. 30).

“I am a proud second generation Californian, humbled to be honored by a state singular in its beauty, diversity and dynamism,” said Takei in a statement. “To be inducted to join the inspiring trail blazers in the arts, industry, academia, sports and political affairs is an honor beyond words. This is truly the Golden State.”

Besides Takei, the 10th class of California Hall of Fame inductees included: acclaimed author Isabel Allende; film icon Harrison Ford; baseball legend Tony Gwynn; distinguished artist and social justice advocate Corita Kent; former U.S. Secretary of Defense and nuclear deterrence expert William J. Perry; groundbreaking journalist and former First Lady of California Maria Shriver; and music business pioneer Russ Solomon.

Takei is the fifth Asian/American inducted into the Hall since it was first launched by Shriver and her then-husband, Gov. Arnold Swarzeneggar. Already inducted are actor and martial artist Bruce Lee, author Amy Tan, Olympic skating gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi and Dr. David Ho, who was instrumental in developing the HIV cocktail that reduces mortality from AIDS. 
Best known for his portrayal of Mr. Sulu in the acclaimed television and film series Star Trek, Takei is also a social justice activist, social media mega-power. His acting career has spanned five decades, with more than 40 feature films and hundreds of television guest-starring roles to his credit. In 2014, To Be Takei, a documentary on his life and career, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and was later released across North America.
George Takei said that his grandmother was born in Sacramento.
After receiving the medal from Gov. Jerry Brown, Takei told the audience that his grandparents farmed in the Sacramento area. “My roots go down very deep in this soil, so it is with great pride and humility that I receive this recognition,” he said.
During World War II, Takei and his family were placed behind barbed wire in U.S. internment camps along with 120,000 other Japanese/Americans. Inspired by this difficult chapter of American history, Takei developed the musical Allegiance, in which he starred alongside Lea Salonga. Allegiance’s record-breaking world premiere in San Diego in 2012 won multiple awards, and was followed by a Broadway run in 2015-2016.

Now a community activist, Takei serves as chair of the council of governors of East West Players and is a member of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national LGBT political organization. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Japanese American National Museum’s Board of Trustees; a member of the US-Japan Bridging Foundation Board of Directors; and served on the Board of the Japan-United States Friendship Commission.

Takei is also a best-selling author and a social media superstar with over 9.7 million “likes” on Facebook and 1.7 million followers on Twitter. In 2015 the YouTube series “It Takeis Two” premiered, starring Takei with his husband, Brad Takei. The couple was married at the Japanese American National Museum on Sept. 14, 2008.

The 2016 California Hall of Fame exhibit will open at 10 a.m. the following day, Dec. 1, with a display of artifacts like Ford's Indiana Jones costume from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Takei's uniform for Sulu from the 1986 film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Allende's 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom Award and six of Kent's original silk screen prints.

"California is the land of dreamers and innovators, where anything is possible,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, the California Hall of Fame’s title sponsor. “This year’s inductees are diverse pioneers who embody the Golden State’s iconic lifestyle and culture of possibility, which inspires people from all over the world to visit.”


Filipino WWII veterans' deeds and sacrifices recognized by U.S. Congress, await Obama's signature

IN THE LATE AFTERNOON of Wednesday, Nov. 30, the House passed H.R. 2737 that would award the Congressional Gold Medal for WWII Filipino veterans. The resolution now goes to the desk of President Obama where he is expected to sign it.

Earlier this summer, the Senate unanimously passed its version of the bill, authored by Sen. Mazie Hirono and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in the House. This afternoon, it also passed the House of Representatives unanimously.

“This Veterans Day, I joined Domingo (Los Banos of Kauai) aboard the USS Missouri to recount how these veterans were instrumental to our victory in the Pacific, but had to fight for decades to receive the benefits they earned. The unanimous support this bill earned in the Senate and the overwhelming backing it has in the House honors the sacrifice so many of these veterans made for our country.”
"These loyal and courageous soldiers suffered, fought, and gave up their lives alongside their American counterparts throughout the war, and have waited decades for their service to be recognized," said Gabbard.

The two Hawaiian lawmakers introduced the Filipino Veterans of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act in 2015, and have worked together toward the bill's final passage. Filipino veterans in their home state were critical in pushing the resolution along with General Antonio Taguba (Ret.), who lobbied on behalf of the veterans. 

Minutes after the bill  passed the final hurdle in the House, both Hirono and Gabbard announced the decision on their Twitter accounts.

The legislation acknowledges the more than 200,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers who responded to President Roosevelt’s call-to-duty and fought under the American flag against the Imperial Forces of Japan during World War II. 

The cause to rectify past wrongs has become a cause celebre in the Asian/American communities.

“For the hundreds of thousands of Filipino and Filipino American veterans who fought courageously for our country, we celebrate Congress’ passage of the Congressional Gold Medal Act and look forward to President Obama signing this legislation,” said National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) National Director Christopher Kang.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor bestowed by the U.S Congress.

Johanna Puno Hester, APALA National President, stated: “Our community has been waiting for over seventy years to be recognized for their service. This is a tremendous win to distinguish our community’s bravery and service in history. We are extremely thankful for the leadership of authors Senator Hirono and Representative Gabbard to see this important piece of legislation to fruition.”
"Now we can tell our veterans with pride in our hearts that this grateful nation has, at last, granted them recognition for the selfless sacrifice they endured in war, and restored their dignity and honor in service to their nation," said Taguba in a statement.

Asian art dealer pleads guilty to trafficking in Rhinoceros horns

Rhino horn, often sold as shavings, is highly prized in some traditional Asian medicinal practices.

A RESIDENT of Syosset, New York, and the owner of a business that specialized in Asian works of art, pleaded guilty Tuesday, Nov. 29, to illegally trafficking horns from endangered black rhinoceros. 

“These horns are the remains of a dead animal, and one of the world’s most iconic species that will certainly go extinct in our lifetimes if we do not stop this illegal trafficking,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden. “We expect those in the arts and auction trade to understand and obey the law, and those that do not will be investigated and prosecuted for these crimes.” 
The guilty plea by Fengyi Zhou was announced by Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 
FeZhou, 49, who has worked as an Asian art dealer for years, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William F. Kuntz II for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, New York, to a one count information charging him with wildlife trafficking in violation of the Lacey Act. 

Zhou was identified as part of “Operation Crash” – a nationwide effort led by the USFWS and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those involved in the black market trade of rhinoceros horns and other protected species.

In papers filed in federal court, Zhou admitted to purchasing as many as five uncarved rhinoceros horns from another Asian arts dealer in New York. Along with the horns, Zhou was given an “Endangered Species Bill of Sale,” from which Zhou was made aware that four of the horns were purchased in Texas and unlawfully transported to New York. Immediately after purchasing the rhinoceros horns, Zhou offered to sell and later sold the horns, to an associate who was a Chinese national residing in the People’s Republic of China for more than $130,000. 
RELATED: Smuggler of rhino horn cups sentenced
Rhino horn is highly valued and used in the traditional medicine systems of many Asian countries, from Malaysia and South Korea to India and China, to cure a variety of ailments. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the horn, which is shaved or ground into a powder and dissolved in boiling water, is used to treat fever, rheumatism, gout, and other disorders. According to the 16th century Chinese pharmacist Li Shi Chen, the horn could also cure snakebites, hallucinations, typhoid, headaches, carbuncles, vomiting, food poisoning, and “devil possession.” (However, it is not, as commonly believed, prescribed as an aphrodisiac).
“Because of the scourge of wildlife trafficking and those like Mr. Zhou who practice it, there is now a very real possibility that the rhinoceros could disappear from Africa,” said Director Ashe. “We are determined that this never happen and that we don’t leave behind for our children a world without this magnificent wild creature."

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Trump-inspired hate continues to ooze out of America's sewers

Donald Trump's campaign attracted haters.
HATE incidents, acts and crimes continue to spread across our country. There can be no doubt that the rise in these deplorable incidents is the result of the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

During his campaign, Trump aimed his hate-filled vitriol at minorities in general, but especially towards Mexicans and Muslims. Women, Asian/Americans, African/Americans, immigrants of all stripes and the LGBTQ communities were considered fair game for the bigots and mysoginists that saw Trump as their spokesman.

While not all of his supporters fall into those categories, some of his most outspoken support came from the alt-right, white nationalists, fascists and racist groups such as the KKK and people who don't believe in equality for women.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that hate incidents spiked immediately after the election. Over 700 "reports of hateful incidents of harassment around the country" in the week between Nov. 9 and Nov. 16, reads the SPLC report.

Although less in frequency compared to the first half of November, acts based on  continue to spring up, unprovoked in most cases. For victims of hate, one act is too much.

Sleeping elder attacked on subway: "A hate-filled straphanger punched a 63-year-old Asian man on a Midtown train after asking him, 'Why don’t you go back to your own country?'" authorities  told the Daily News  on Wednesday, Nov. 29.

The victim was asleep on the Manhattan-bound F train about 9:20 a.m. Tuesday when the suspect, described only as a Hispanic-looking man in his 30s, got on at the Jay St. station in Brooklyn Heights, witnesses told cops. When the victim awoke, the train was nearing the Bryant Park-42nd St. Station.

The suspect, seated next to him, made his hateful remark. Then he spit on the victim and pummeled him in the face and body before running away. The victim suffered minor injuries.


'Go back to your country!' In San Diego, New Americans Museum staff found two anti-immigrant messages scrawled near the entrance over this weekend.

Patrons found the messages Saturday morning on both walls of the entrance to the museum in Liberty Station.

One message read, "Too much immigration! Go back to your country. This one is ours!" The other message read, "Over population & crowding by immigration!"

Museum Executive Director Linda Sotelo said she was concerned about who would see the messages.

“We have young children coming through these exhibitions — children who are diverse. We have over six schools at Liberty Station," Sotelo said. "Many of our children are children of color. They’re all very diverse. For them to feel unwelcome in their own country, it’s unacceptable.”


Letter sent to California mosques threaten 'extermination:' A photocopied letter was sent to several mosques in Calfiornia over the Thanksgiving weekend saying Trump will exterminate all Muslims. 

A letter sent to a mosque in San Jose that references the election of Donald Trump says the President-elect will do to Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews, reports ABC7 News.

The letter calls Muslims “vile and filthy people” and “children of satan.”

“It was disturbing to the fact that some of our parishioners were a little bit worried,” San Jose's Evergreen Islamic Center Board President Faisal Yazadi said.

The letters were identical, according to Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He said Trump’s “irresponsible, hateful rhetoric” during his campaign has resulted in “a level of vulgarity, vile hatred and anger among many self-proclaimed Trump supporters,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

“I’m not saying (Trump) created racist people,” Ayloush said. “He normalized it. While he might say he’s not responsible, and I respect that, I remind President-elect Trump that he has a responsibility to act as a president for all Americans.”

"We urge local law enforcement authorities to work with Muslim community leaders to ensure the safety of all houses of worship," CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo said in the statement. "Our state's political and religious leaders need to speak out against the mainstreaming of Islamophobia that we are witnessing in California and nationwide."

Museum staff trains on how to respond to anti-immigrant remarks: A New York City history museum that celebrates immigration to the United States is giving its guides new training to help them deal with an increase in hostile remarks among visitors about immigrants, according to a report from the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

New York's Tenement Museum has long organized tours for small groups with the stated mission of enhancing the public's appreciation for the role immigration plays in shaping the United States' national identity.

But with elections having stirred passions nationwide over the topic of immigration and refugees, museum employees say they are confronted with an unprecedented number of negative comments by visitors about today's migrants.

The previously infrequent incidents now occur every day, museum officials say.

"People will now share stronger opinions about whether or not they think immigrants are sort of bleeding (the country), they're taking too much that other people should have, or they're taking our jobs," said Miriam Bader, the museum's director of education.

A sad scene earlier this week at a Pittsburgh mall: A man who police said was speaking with slurred speech, staggering and smelled of alcohol has been arrested for allegedly beating an Indian/American man sitting next to him in a bar, reported WTAE.

Ankur Mehta told police he was on his tablet with his ear buds on.

According to investigators, Burgess began making racial slurs and calling Mehta “a sand n**ger” and (expletive) Muslim.

“Things are different now,” Burgess is quoted as saying to Mehta. “I don’t want you sitting next to me, you people”

Mehta is not Muslim, but the incident as described by police follows a disturbing pattern of bigotry.

“We believe this is just the latest incident in a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes since the November 8 elections,” said the Council of American Islamic Relations in a statement.


Delta apologizes for outburst on airplane: Not particularly anti-AAPI but pretty offensive nontheless was this rant by a Trump supporters getting onboard a Delta flight. He wasn't provoked and knew he was being taped by a fellow passenger. Delta banned the unnamed passenger from all future flights. The airline also issued an apolgy to the passengers and gave them a free tickets for having to put up to this man's aberrant and offensive behavior.

We didn't include all the "Go-back-to-your-country" sort of taunts suffered by AAPI on campuses, at work or just walking down the street. There are too many of them to enumerate.

Women, African/Americans, Latinos and LGBTQ people have also shared their share of hate attacks. One of the most inexplicable examples is in the video below. What is it about Trump supporters that they feel that it is open season on minorities and women, toss civility out the window, and feel that it is socially OK to vent their hatred so openly and without fear or apologies.

An angry Trump supporter goes on wild racist rant inside store:  White 'Trump supporter' goes on epic racist rant at black store workers repeatedly calling one 'an animal' because they offered her a $1 bag instead of a free one.

The incident took place at Michaels department store in Chicago on Thanksgiving Eve and was recorded by shopper Jessie Grady. In her Youtube video, which gone viral, another customer is seen screaming and hurling profanities at staff

The enraged woman, who is white, repeatedly calls a black cashier 'an animal.' She later calls police to complain that she had been discriminated against by 'two black women'

The unnamed shopper declares she voted for Donald Trump, saying: "You want to kick me out because of that? And look who won!"

(AsAm News contributed to this post.)

Trump picks Elaine Chao for Secretary of Transportation

Roll Call file photo
Elaine Chao campaigned with her husband Sen. Mitch McConnel during his reelection bid to represent Kentucky.
ELAINE CHAO, who was Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush, has been named Transportation Secretary by President-elect Donald Trump, according an official with the transition.

Chao will be the second Asian/American to be added to Trump's team of advisers. Last week, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was nominated as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Chao’s parents were born in mainland China and later moved to Taiwan.  
She came to the U.S. when she was only 8-years old and didn't speak English. During the early, transition period, “it was the kindness and the helping hands of strangers, who soon became neighbors and our friends, that helped us smooth our transition,” Chao told graduates at Indiana’s DePauw University in a 2002 address.

The nominations of Chao and Haley are pending, waiting for Senate confirmation early next year, although no one thinks the nominations will be turned down.

Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel, which - of course - had nothing to do with her nomination because she has had plenty of Washington experience of her own.

At the Transportation Department, Chao would have a key role in helping Trump get an infrastructure spending bill passed through Congress and start government-backed works projects -- a role likely to be complicated by her relationship with McConnell, who will also be a critical player in any infrastructure bill negotiations.

Before being named Labor Secretary by President George W. Bush, Chao was also assistant secretary of transportation under the first President Bush, so she - unlike some of her fellow nominees such as Haley - has some experience in the subject area to which she has been named.

Chao, who served from 2001-2009 
the 24th as the Secretary of Labor, is the first Asian/American woman to be appointed to a President’s Cabinet in our nation’s history. She is the longest tenured Secretary of Labor since World War II, and the only member of President Bush’s original cabinet to have served the entire eight years of his Administration.

An immigrant who arrived in America at the age of eight speaking no English, Secretary Chao’s experience transitioning to a new country has motivated her to dedicate most of her professional life to ensuring that all people have the opportunity to build better lives.

As the first U. S. Secretary of Labor in the 21st century, Chao focused on improving the competitiveness of America’s workforce by restructuring department programs to empower workers and modernizing regulations to respond to the realities of the 21st century workplace. Under her leadership, the U.S. Department of Labor achieved record results in protecting the health, safety, wages, and retirement security of the nation’s workforce.

Secretary Chao’s career spans the public, private and non-profit sectors. As President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of America, she restored public trust and confidence in one of our nation’s premier charitable institutions after it had been tarnished by financial mismanagement and abuse. As Director of the Peace Corps, she established the first programs in the newly liberated Baltic nations and the independent states of the former Soviet Union. 

Her government service also includes serving as Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, Deputy Maritime Administrator, and White House Fellow. Prior to her government service, she was Vice President of Syndications at BankAmerica Capital Markets Group and a banker with Citicorp in New York.

Chao has held a position as a distinguished fellow at the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, in addition to conducting media appearances.

Monday, November 28, 2016

'Edge of Seventeen:' Let Hailee Steinfeld be Hailee Steinfeld

Hailee Steinfeld and Hayden Szeto in 'The Edge of Seventeen.'

BY MOST ACCOUNTS, The Edge of Seventeen is a pretty good movie. It "takes teenage movies to a higher place," says the NY Times.

Hailee Steinfeld, one of her generation's best young actresses, gives life to angst-ridden Nadine Byrd, a social outcast at her high school, someone many of us can relate to.

Edge of Seventeen, released last week, belongs in the same category of other teen classics Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. 

However, the producers missed an opportunity to make it a great movie. One little twist would have put it in a category of its own and given it a certain gravitas that it lacks right now. 

That slight change? Imagine what could be done if Nadine's absent father ,Tom, was Asian/American. The central character would be a hapa, half-Asian and half-white, what Filipina/American Hailee is in real life. Just that simple twist would have given Nadine's social isolation another nuance besides just feeling unloved. That character could have been done without changing a line, although it would have made it even better if there was a line or two about being of mixed race.
RELATED: Hailee Steinfeld signs record deal
It also would have added another layer of complexity to Nadine's relationship with the guy who really likes her, Erwin, played by promising newcomer Hayden Szeto. Unlike the other Asian character of note in teen movies, the infamous Long Duk Dong featured in Sixteen Candles, Erwin is a handsome, polite Korean/American classmate who is not your stereotypical nerd. He is also the only other character who isn't white. Despite Nadine's self-deprecating and negative view of her personal life, Erwin is infatuated with her and she, well, she doesn't see him in that light. 

A line or two about the sensitive issue of AAPI girls' and AAPI boys' relationships would have hit a nerve with a lot of Asian/Americans.

Canadian Szeto has been named People Magazine’s 2016 New Romantic Lead in in its One to Watch issue.

It is up to bankable stars like Steinfeld - and we include Vanessa Hudgens, Keanu Reeves, in this category - to look for opportunities, or create opportunities, to play the mixed race people that they are in real life. 

We already know they can play white people, or at best, racially ambiguous characters and that's how they created their fan base. However, at this stage in their careers they can afford a little risk since they have more than a little influence. Why not ask the writers and directors to play characters that are more true to their hapa-selves? More than likely, it would make the story richer and the plot would not have to be altered much, if at all.

The audiences need to see them for what they are so they can see that their screen idols can also include Asian/Americans. In our drive to have the movies reflect the reality of the United States, the racial presence they can have onscreen is even more critical in these racially sensitive days when there are people who think that America should be home to only to pigment-challenged people.

Hailee, only 19, portrays Nadine as a real teenager, not a 30-something playing a teenager. It is her best role since she was nominated for an Oscar in True Grit. There's some buzz about another nomination for her role in The Edge of Seventeen.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Walking Dead: Asians not extinct after all

'The Walking Dead' character Tara, left, meets Cyndie from Oceanside.
WELL, whaddaya know? The Asian/American population in The Walking Dead just doubled.

Up to this season, the seventh, of the Walking Dead, it was believed that Glenn Rhee played by Steven Yeun was the only Asian/American to survive the zombie apocalypse in the popular television show. With the grisley death of Glenn in the premiere of Season 7, we thought that was the end of Asian America, the last model minority and the death of all those awful Asian/American stereotypes.

Sydney Park
In the latest episode last night (Nov. 27), we are introduced to Cyndie played by Korean/American actress Sydney Park. She is a member of the secluded all-woman beachside community of Oceanside discovered by Tara (Alanna Masterson), who is part of the core band of survivors. 

Of course, we don't know yet if the character Cyndie is Asian American, but it is reassuring to see another Asian face on the show that takes place on Georgia.

Park, 19, already has 10 years of professional acting on her resume. She is probably best known for her role in Nikolodean's Instant Mom. She just signed on for a horror feature, Wish Upon but it's not unusual for TWD cast members to find work when they are not working on the series.


Unfortunately, it doesn't look like we'll see a whole lot more of Cyndie and her secret Oceanside colony. Tara leaves the beach with a vow that she wouldn't reveal its location. But, in The Walking Dead, you never really don't know what to expect.

In the second episode this season, we are introduced to The Kingdom where we meet Jerry, who appears to be King Ezekiel's right-hand man. We instantly fell in with the pun-loving character with an infectious smile portrayed by Samoan/American Cooper Andrews.

It appears that The Kingdom will play a larger role as this present story arc develops, perhaps as allies with Alexandria, where the bulk of the core group resides. 

Filipino WWII vets running out of time to be recognized

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard  of Hawaii urges passage of HR2737.
THIS IS a critical time for Filipino veterans of World War II in their quest for recognition. If 
they get the Congressional Gold Medal for their service, the act that would grant them that honor would have to be passed before Congress breaks for the holidays.

"Time is of the essence for Congress to pass this legislation and honor these courageous men with the long overdue recognition they deserve,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.

“Too long have our veterans been unrewarded for their valiant service to this country, said Johanna Puno Hester, national president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance. "This is such an important piece of legislation that would send waves to the Filipino and Filipino American communities on the significant role we’ve played (and continue to play) in American history.”

If the Filipino Veterans of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 is not approved before a new Congress convenes in January, the whole legislative process would have to start over again. In the meantime, more of the elderly veterans will pass away before they receive that honor.

“Congressional Gold Medal bills require two-thirds of the House, or at least 290 members, to sign on to the bill before it can move forward," said Gabbard." I’m happy to report ... that we’ve exceeded this with 309 co-sponsors, with colleagues representing both parties and nearly every state and territory in our nation supporting legislation to recognize these men for their service and sacrifice.” 

Last week, U.S. House of Representative Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that the House would vote on the Filipino Veterans of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 – a vote that could happen as early as Nov. 29.

The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA) urges members of the House to pass the bill and recognize our veterans who thus far been unrecognized and denied rights and privileges for their service.

APALA Executive Director Gregory A. Cendana added: “We’re calling all hands on deck. The Senate already passed the bill earlier this year, and we need to continue to pressure our representatives in the House to ensure the bill goes to President Obama. It’s time to put our foot on the gas, not step on the brakes.”

The Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 would award Filipino veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor by Congress.

Senate bill S1555, which was already passed by the Senate, and House bill HR2737 will impact veterans who fought and were assigned in the Philippine Scouts, Philippine Commonwealth Army, Philippine Constabulary, New Philippine Scouts, Recognized Guerrillas, First Filipino Infantry Regiment, 2nd Filipino Infantry Battalion (Separate), and First Reconnaissance Battalion. The bills also include US Army officers (Caucasians) who commanded in the units. 
Over 260,000 Filipinos fought to defend the U.S. in World War II. "We think there are about 16,000 to 17,000 still alive from some 260,000 who fought back in WWII," said retired Gen. Antoino Taguba, who has lobbied Congress on the bill's behalf.
To support the campaign:
  • Call members of the House Leadership to make sure our bill passes. Find contact information here:
  • Share our social media outreach on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with your network and use the hashtag #FilVets and #FilVetREP
“Despite their critical role in the Pacific, Filipino World War II veterans have never been recognized by Congress for their service," said Tulsi, who is one of the sponsors of the House bill. "We’ve waited far too long to recognize these heroes alongside units like the Tuskeegee Airmen and Hawaii’s own 442nd/100th Infantry Battalion with the Congressional Gold Medal."

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Asians in space: Michelle Yeoh cast in new Star Trek series

Michelle Yeoh joins the Star Trek family.

THE UNIVERSE made up of Trekkies, Trekkers and science fiction fans was buzzing last week when it was revealed that Michelle Yeoh was cast in the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery series. What role would she play, the captain or the First Officer? Would she have an important role or just be in the supporting cast?

Yeoh, who has made a big impression on Hollywood with her breakthrough role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is a motion picture A-lister and shouldn't be satisfied with a minor role on television.

All that excitement was tempered somewhat when we learned that that she will play Captain Han Bo, commander of the USS Shenzou (assumedly named after China's first manned spacecraft in 2003), and not even a crew member of the titular starship Discovery.

Followup articles, however by Moviefone, revealed that producer Bryan Fuller, is taking a different story-telling tack with this latest iteration of creator Gene Roddenberry's universe.

"I think we will be seeing lots of crews in the story," he said. "One of the things that is exciting for me is that we are telling a 'Star Trek' story in a modern way. We're telling a 13-chapter story in this first season. It's nice to be able to dig deep into things that would have been breezed passed if we were doing episodic and had to contain a story to an episode."

Think The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, where it takes a whole season to tell a story, jumping back and forth between a multitude of storylines. That means Yeoh's character may yet play a significant role in at least one of storylines. It seems odd that the producers' first cast announcement would be of a role unless they plan that Yeoh will play a major part in this version of Star Trek, which is supposed to take place 10 years before the original series starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

Fuller said he would follow the tradition set by the original Star Trek, that had one of the most diverse casts when it debuted in 1966 - the final cast will be diverse, racially as well as alien-wise. 
"We haven’t cast her yet, so we don’t know what level of diversity she will be, but that’s forefront in our minds. We’ll probably have a few more aliens than you typically have on the show," Fuller revealed in an interview in Entertainment.
Yet to be announced are the key roles of the captain and the first officer of the USS Discovery, The star apparently won’t be the captain but rather be a lieutenant commander,or Number One, he said. “We’ve seen six series from the captain’s point of view; to see a character from a different perspective on the starship — one who has a different dynamic relationships with a captain, with subordinates, it gave us richer context.”

Yeoh's role is something of a first for Star Trek, as although there have been women of color playing captains and admirals before, these are usually very minor roles. Yeoh also adds some more Asian representation to Trek. There have only been three Asian main characters  in the entire Star Trek franchise so far: Lt Hikaru Sulu on The Original Series, Ensign Harry Kim in Voyager, and Ensign Hoshi Sato on Enterprise.

Speaking of Sulu ...


AAPI police officer in critical condition after being struck in the head with a skateboard.

Officer Robby Chon
AN ASIAN/AMERICAN police officer is still in critical condition after being struck with a skateboard during a chase on Thanksgiving Day in a San Francisco Bay Area city.
South San Francisco police officer Robby Chon was chasing a man acting irrationally when  he ws hit in the head with a skateboard. Chon went down immediately, say witnesses. The suspect was apprehended by a second officer who arrived as backup.

Chon, a 12-year department veteran who is married with two young children, underwent emergency surgery for “traumatic head injuries” at a San Francisco hospital Thursday and is being closely monitored, police Chief Jeff Azzopardi said.

Azzopardi described the confrontation in a news conference: Chon was on patrol riding a police motorcycle in the 300 block of Grand Avenue around 2:20 p.m. when someone waved him down and told him a man was causing a disturbance at a nearby business. Witnesses said the man appeared addled and was either urinating or trying to urinate on the sidewalk.

“Several patrons reported the subject acting aggressively and irrationally,” Azzopardi said. “He immediately became confrontational.”

Chon called for backup when the man refused to obey him. He fled and Chon gave chase.

The suspect was identified as Luis Alberto Ramos-Coreas, a 28-year-old South San Francisco resident who has a long history of confrontations with the police.

“I ask that you keep our South San Francisco police officer and his family in your thoughts and prayers in this most critical time,” said Azzopardi, “as well as hope and pray for his speedy and complete recovery.”

No questions were taken after statements by Azzopardi and Mayor Mark Addiego. A GoFundMe page has been created by fellow police officers to support him and his family.

The fundraiser was started by fellow police academy classmate Chris Swinney, who is a deputy of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

"I feel a great sense of pain and sadness knowing (Chon is) fighting for his life in a hospital right now, but I will not quit on him now, or ever" wrote Swinney. "Robbie would not be happy that I started this gofundme thing, it's not the type of thing he would like because he's the most unselfish person you'd ever meet. But, he's the kind of guy you can't help but want to help, and he needs our help now."

Anyone with information about the case can contact South San Francisco police at 650-877-8900 or leave an anonymous tip at 650-952-2244.

No to Trump: 'We will not go quietly into the night'

NO! I will not give Donald Trump any slack.

It has been three weeks since that black day in November when Donald Trump surprised almost everyone in the world to upset Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The passage of time has not soften my feelings about the man.

My only solace to come out of this elections is that AAPI voters joined Latino and African/American voters and voted overwhelmingly against Trump. We - people of color - felt we had the most to lose. And now that Trump is President-elect, do we return to what we were doing, out jobs, our schools, our houses of worship and simply endure the next four years?

There has been a huge upsurge of hate crimes against people of color and immigrants. I can only assume Trump supporters feel emboldened by "their" victory that they feel they can act with impunity and take back "their" country.

In his campaign, Trump encouraged violence, won the support of white nationalists and the KKK by racist code words and proposals against Mexicans, against China and Japan, against Muslims, against Syrian refugees and against women.  He will say and do anything to advance his cause.

He lied so much and so often that the media couldn't keep up and focus on any single fabrication. No sooner would the press catch his falsehoods but before they could write about how terrible it is that another lie would pop up. An ordinary candidate would slink away from the public view in shame.

President Obama, Clinton and other Democrats say we need to give Trump a chance and the demands of the job will force him to move to the center, calm him down, force him to moderate his views. I don't believe a charlatan can change his ways so easily.

In his meetings with members of the media last week, he used the time to show a calmer side, backing off on some of his more extreme positions such as his promise to jail Clinton over her missing emails. He told the journalists that he felt he was treated unfairly. 

Respect the office, they urge us. Sorry, I can't do that.

"You worry too much," "He's no Hitler,"  we are told. Well, before Hitler became Hitler, he was a frustrated architectural student. No one foresaw that he would become one of the worst despots of the 20th Century.

Before Trump, I used to ask myself, how can a nation of basically good, educated people  allow themselves to be taken in by a maniac like Hitler. I no longer have the privilege of asking that question from afar. This last campaign has provided me the answer.

How can we rally around a man who has done so much to divide this nation, who used racism to drag out the ugliest form of bigotry from out of America's darkest corners.

If you "rally 'round" the President-elect for the sake of unity, you are saying that you accept Donald Trump as he revealed himself during the campaign, his self-centered, win-at-any-cost, bigotry-espousing, ignorant anti-science, anti-intelligence, stubborn behavior.

What have we gained from President Obama's attempts to mollify his enemies on the right? A flawed health-care system, a weaker-than-wanted climate action agreement, a still-active Guantanamo, a Wall Street still awarding multi-million dollar buyouts of its criminal CEOs. any attempt at immigration reform thwarted and the right to transform the U.S. Supreme Court blocked.

From the very outset of Obama's victory in 2008, Republicans have done everything they could to block his initiatives, even if their selfishness resulted in harm to the country.

Sorry, we've tried compromise and it didn't work. The Paul Ryan-led right wing and the extremist alt-right don't know the meaning of compromise.

I'm tired of being Linus - year after year - trusting that Lucy will hold the ball in place for me to kick; only to have her remove the ball at the last minute as I land on my backside.

Accepting Trump is allowing his truly awful positions to take root and soon we learn to tolerate them. Eventually, we take them for granted. The final step -- like the Good Germans of pre-WWII -- I fear all the Good Americans will learn to embrace Trump's ignorance and the bigotry he has unleashed.

If we take that first step of acceptance, we will allow an entire generation grow up with this environment of us-vs-them and the values of Trump become imprinted into young minds who don't know that we can do better than that. We allow our country to step backwards from all the progress that has occurred over the last 60 years. 

We cannot let this happen!

I can respect the Office of the President, but cannot respect the man who will soon be inhabiting the Oval Office. He has not shown me any reason to respect him.

It's time to stop talking about moving to Canada. It's time to stop being despondent. It's time we rise up, become more vigilant, more unafraid to speak out when we see injustice, bullying or a hate act.

I conclude with this quote from the movie Independence Day when the U.S. President addressed his fighter pilots before they attacked the aliens:

What's next? What can we do to stop falling deeper into the rabbit hole? There are people and organizations starting to meet with each other. Stay tuned.