Monday, July 31, 2017

Ann Curry returns to television

Ann Curry is back!

WE ALWAYS though that Ann Curry would return to television. She is just too good a journalist not draw interest from the networks and she has the stature to have the luxury to pick and choose.

PBS announced that the well-respected Asian/American journalist will return with a series next year called “We’ll Meet Again.”

The new project is a six-part series that reunites people who have been affected by real-life events, is her first project since leaving NBC to start her own media company.

Variety says the six-part program will feature reunions between people who have been affected by real-life events, like a Japanese/American woman who sought to find a classmate who helped her when she was a girl at the outbreak of World War II. After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese-American girl was bullied in school, but the classmate reached out to become friends with her. The girl and her family were interned during the war.

In an interview Friday (July 28), Curry said she quickly boarded the series after hearing its concept. “I had a sense of the potential depth of the stories,” she said. “What I wasn’t prepared for is how much things that happened so long ago could rise to the surface and be so powerful.”

Curry left NBC two years after her dramatic departure from Today, where she had been a long-time fixture before being unceremoniously ousted shortly after a promotion. Reportedly, the other co-host, Matt Lauer, didn't feel comfortable with the chemistry between the two. Shortly thereafter, Today's ratings plummeted and only just started to regain respectable numbers. 

At the time of exit, she may have been the most recognizable Asian/American (her mother is Japanese) in the U.S., broadcasting into people's living rooms daily.

Other stories will focus on those whose lives were impacted by the Vietnam War, 9/11, and the 1960s civil rights era, among other moments.

“This is history not the from point of view of people in charge. It is the point of view of people who have no control over these events and have to rise up to survive,” Curry said.

Curry said that the series comes at a good time, as it shows stories of empathy.

“We are in a time when people actually need to hear these stories of empathy,” she said. “We have forgotten some of this good stuff. What we find are the similarities, and they speak to the similarities in our human family.”

“I rarely watch television broadcast, unless there’s something really breaking, something that’s happening that’s really happening,” Curry said last week at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills. 

Of the state of TV journalism, she said, “I think we are in sort of the best of times and the worst of times. There has been some stunningly exemplary cases of journalism across the board, and there’s also been the opposite material that some may call journalism, but maybe we shouldn’t.”

Since leaving the high-profile position on NBC, Curry told Variety, “I’m working on things that are meaningful more consistently.I can do stories that matter more consistently. My projects are national, international. I’m working on things that I think the world needs. And to be honest with you, I hope I don’t sound too self important in saying that. But I’m trying, put it that way, to do stories that I think are needed now. And that’s actually been lovely. It’s been lovely to be inspired and to be able to direct my energies into things that matter.”

About the eye surgeries popular among Asians

PLASTIC SURGEONS are claiming that the popularity of eye surgery among Asians is not an attempt to appear more Caucasian.

About 1.43 million people had the medical procedures done in 2014. It's so prevalent that a former Korean president had the operation while he was in office.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), eyelid surgery was one of the top five cosmetic surgical procedures last year. The surgery continues to retain its popularity, not just as a solution for drooping eyelids, but also as a way for patients to tweak a facial feature and achieve the aesthetic look they desire."

Before and after eyelid surgery

According to Los Angeles plastic surgeon Peter Lee, MD, who regularly performs the operation on his patients in the growing Asian/American community in Southern California, the procedure is far from a means of cultural rejection. “

"When we describe ‘Asian double eyelid surgery,’ we are referring to creating a supratarsal fold, or a crease” explains Dr. Lee. “An antiquated term that was once used is ‘occidental eyelid surgery,’ which gives a connotation that we are trying to Westernize Asians. However, it has never been about Westernization; it’s about accentuation and enhancement to bring out the aesthetics of the eyes.”

Hmm. I'm not sure about that last statement. The standard of beauty has been dominated by Europe values for centuries, perpetuated by Europe's aggressive colonization of non-Western civilizations, countries and cultures. As the U.S. became a world power, it became the standard bearer of what is attractive through the power of popular culture.

Asian double eyelid surgery involves removing a fatty upper lid and creating a crease in Asian eyes that are absent of a fold. The procedure, which allows the eyes to appear wider, has been criticized as an attempt to westernize Asian eyes and shed cultural identity.

Others do not view the brief surgery (which lasts about an hour) as a way to appear more Caucasian, but as a permanent solution to getting bigger, brighter eyes.

The surgery, more accurately called a blepharoplasty, i
s not without consequences. 

According to recent report published in the Asian Journal of Ophthalmology,e Asian eyelid measures 7.49 millimeters, while the Caucasian eyelid measures 10 millimeters.

So when plastic surgeons use Caucasian calculations on Asian eyes, the results can be undesirable. The patients might end up with a perpetual look of surprise.  That look is correctable - with another surgery.

TV host Julie Chen admitted that she had eye surgery to change 
her appeparance.

Although the American surgeons claim that the surgery is not to attain a more western appearance, the history of eye surgery among Asians and Asian/Americans is hard to dispute.

The American surgeon who introduced the surgery to Korea, Dr. Ralph Millard, was a military surgeon stationed in South Korea 1950-53.

In a 1964 edition of the American Journal of Ophthalmology, Millard wrote that "the absence of the puerperal fold produces a passive expression which seems to epitomize the stoical and unemotional manner of the oriental." He wrote that he had the first opportunity to try the operation when "a slant-eyed Korean interpreter, speaking excellent English, came in requesting to be made into a 'round-eye.'"

Business Insider cited a 1993 study of 11 Asian/American women in the San Francisco Bay Area who received plastic surgery, ethnographer Eugenia Kaw found that patients underwent plastic surgery in order to "escape persisting racial prejudice that correlates their stereotyped genetic physical features ('small, slanty' eyes and a 'flat' nose) with negative behavioral characteristics, such as passivity, dullness, and a lack of sociability."

Certainly, 11 women don't make a trend but take a look at some of the big movie stars in the Philippines, India and even in Japan and South Korea. If they are not already of mixed raced (usually white) many of them have had the eye and/or nose surgeries to slightly alter their appearance.

K-Pop stars may be setting new standards of beauty in Korea.

Perhaps, surgeons, aware of the racial aspect of the surgeries, may just be giving their patients a reason to submit to the procedures when they claim they don't want to look "too" Caucasian.

One writer, 
Atlantic writer Zara Stone, wrote that eyelid surgery is also strongly linked to the global phenomenon of K-Pop (think "Gangnam Style" and Girls Generation).

"K-pop has created a completely new beauty aesthetic that nods to Caucasian features but doesn't replicate them," like the big eyes that are so dominant in pop culture, she says.

The big eyes, small faces, and perky noses that are hallmarks of beauty in Korea aren't natural to most Koreans, said Cultural critic Moonwon Lee in the Korean Herald.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Descendant of U.S. Founding Father is a Filipino American

Andrea Livingston sits fat the table shere the Declaration of Independence is ready to be signed or the Ancestry commercial, a recreation of the John Turnbull painting using descendants of the original signers.

A DESCENDANT of one of the Founding Fathers of the United States is an Asian/American, one more testament to the growing diversity of the nation and what an American looks like.

In the commercial aired on July 4th, a recreation of the famous painting of the historic document's signing. Andrea Diola Livingston, a Filipina/American, can be seen sitting in front of the other descendants of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

The office manager is the eighth great granddaughter of Philip Livingston, who represented of New York City and one of the signatories to that famous document.

“It’s interesting, it took me a while to really let it sink in that this is my ancestor, but as I’ve grown use to it, it’s become a thing that I’m proud of,” she says.

RELATED:'s statement on diversity

In the commercial, it is clear that the Founding Fathers and their descendants were open to interracial coupling. Among the multi-racial descendants we can see African, Latino and - in Livingston's case - Asian.

Besides promoting their service, Ancestry's commercial's underlying message is that change, openness and tolerance have always been part of what makes America unique.

Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Andrea’s military father met her Cebuana mother while they were both in Japan.

A car accident claimed the life of both her parents when she was 18 years old.

To make their commercial, tracked down the descendants of the Founding Fathers, and had them recreate the famous painting by John Trumbull.

“There’s a connection I can make to things that I didn’t know about, especially my mom’s side, because we never got the chance to really discuss in depth the family history. There were things we would talk about, but little things here and there, but there’s a lot of oral history that we didn’t talk about, so this will be a good opportunity to fill in the gaps.”

How has the discovery of one of her famous ancestors impacted her? “Since I’m child of an immigrant and being mixed, it definitely shows what we look like now,” she told Balitang. “It makes me want to dig into my personal history, these are things I didn’t know about myself.”

Through the efforts of, she was able to make connections with long-lost relatives in the Livingston side of the family. It has inspired her to try and trace her mother's ancestral family tree.

Although she commercial has the right message, said Livingston, "I think we have a long way to go. The ideas that they were creating, the ideas that they were putting into words, we still need to strive to make those ideas real.

"We are so many different people. We look so different, we are so different, but we are all the same at the same time," she says.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Mother sues United for being forced to give up her child's seat

Shirley Yamauchi and her son Taizo.

A mother who paid $1,000 for her child to be seated aboard a United flight is suing after she was forced to seat her child on her lap for the cross-country trip, reported Hawaii News Now.

Shirley Yamauchi says she had to hold her son on her lap for three and one-half hours from Boston to Houston so that a standby passenger could take her seat.

It’s “unsafe, uncomfortable and unfair,” she told HuffPost. “He was barely buckled in for nearly four hours.”

Yamauchi considered protesting further but said she was afraid of retaliation after Dr. David Dao was forcibly removed from an overbooked United flight when he refused to give up his seat.

"I thought about Dr. Dao and his incident with United, having his teeth knocked out and being dragged down the aisle," Yamauchi said. "And I didn't want that to happen to me."

Her attorney Michael Green was more blunt.

“United deserves everything we can do to them. We’ll let the people decide what to do to people that are this greedy and put lives potentially in danger,” he said to Hawaii News Now.

United says it has reached out to Yamauchi to make amends.

“We reached out to Ms. Yamauchi to apologize to her and her son, and we also refunded their tickets.”

Yamauchi who is a middle-school teacher does not dispute that saying she was brought into the United lounge and gave her free upgrades, but she called the gestures “not genuine.”

The incident happened just months after another ticketed United passenger , Dr. David Dao, was literally dragged off the flight to make room for United personnel who needed the seat.

Michiko Kakutani to step down as NYT's book reviewer

Michiko Kakutani

WITH THE power to make or break an author, New York Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani was feared and reviled as much as she was admired and praised.

Like many seasoned journalists, she opted to accept a buyout and resign from her throne as queen of the literary world. With Kakutani's departure, along with other journalists at the NYTimes, the newspaper hopes to hire a 100 younger (and lesser paid) journalists.

Without a doubt, Kakutani is one of the most widely read and influential contemporary Asian/American writers.

“No one has played a larger role in guiding readers through the country’s literary life over the past four decades than Michi,” said NYTimes Executive Editor Dean Baquet in a note to the staff.

Kakutani was born in New Haven, Connecticut on January 9, 1955 to Shizuo Kakutani, a notable Yale mathematician. 

She earned her B.A. in English literature from Yale University in 1976, then began her career as a reporter for The Washington Post. She joined Time magazine in 1977. Two years later she moved to The New York Times. 

In only four years she make the leap from a mere reporter concentrating on social issues to a one of the country's most respected literary critic. 

She was not afraid to slice and dice some of the biggest names in the literary world, not just because she deems some of their work as inadequate but because she knows they can do so much better.

The poise, flair and uncompromising integrity of Kakutani's book reviews have earned her the undying resentment of authors like Salman Rushdie, Norman Mailer and J. K. Rawlings. 

Kakutani's influence has survived 38 years of grudges because her delightfully cool discernment is able to ridicule precisely those literary foibles least likely to be challenged by lesser critics.

On Twitter, she wrote: "Thank you to readers for your kind words - i deeply appreciate. I will continue to write about culture, politics and books."

Changing demographics have frightened the dominant Euro American group and the tumult surrounding this sea change is America's greatest challenge today. With the current White House occupant stirring up his base and fighting tooth and nail against tide of change, she will have plenty to write about.

Kakutani's voice will make for some interesting reading. Read what she said about a bevy of books about Donald Trump:

"To read a stack of new and reissued books about Mr. Trump, as well as a bunch of his own works, is to be plunged into a kind of Bizarro World version of Dante’s “Inferno,” where arrogance, acquisitiveness and the sowing of discord are not sins, but attributes of leadership; a place where lies, contradictions and outrageous remarks spring up in such thickets that the sort of moral exhaustion associated with bad soap operas quickly threatens to ensue."

On a book about Hitler, Volker Ullrich’s Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939, she writes: “How did this ‘most unlikely pretender to high state office’ achieve absolute power in a once democratic country,” Kakutani asked, “and set it on a course of monstrous horror?”

It was her ability to put the novel, authobiography, or analysis in the context of today's society and the contemporary environment that made her reviews so relevant to people don't consider themselves bibliophiles and who don't consider themselves prolific readers. She will use that same skill to put her observations in her new endeavors.

I can hardly wait.

Heroic senators save healthcare for millions: Mazie Hirono, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins & John McCain

This week, the U.S. Senate's Republicans made several attempts to do away or weaken the Affordable Care Act.
UPDATED: July 29, added video of Sen. Mazie Hirono's speech.)

THERE WERE many heroes in the U.S. Senate's dramatic vote on health care that took place in the wee hours of Friday (July 28).

The 48 Democrats needed three GOP defections to keep the Republicans from repealing or weakening President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

The amendment fell, 51-49, to the consternation of the GOP majority and Trump administration. If it had passed up to 22 million people would lose their health insurance.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski stood firm against the public threats from the Trump administration that would withhold funds from Alaska initiatives. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made it clear that her vote might affect the state's energy and mining industries

Sen. Susan Collins remained consistent in her opposition to Trumpcare (which basically is no-care) because of the negative impact it would have on hundreds of thousands of her Maine constituents and the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

In the most dramatic moment, Sen. John McCain, with a scar above his left eye from an operation just a few days ago, strode down the aisle and gave a thumbs down to the so-called "skinny repeal" of Obamacare, which would have kept The Affordable Care Act but do away with some objectionable portions of it. 

McCain cast the pivotal vote because up to the time he voted, it was not clear which way he would go. Tuesday he gave a strong emotional appeal for the Senate to return to "regular order" and let the senators come up a health plan through committees, public hearings and compromise. However his vote Wednesday to open debate on the Republican proposal puzzled pundits and Congress watchers, who began thinking his vote was up for grabs.  
Hawaii's Sen. Mazie Hirono, like McCain, also left her sickbed in Honolulu to recover from cancer surgery in order to participate in this vote. Hirono said that both she and McCain are acutely aware of the advantages they have for the outstanding medical care that they received because they could afford it.

Standing before the Senate, minutes before the critical vote on the "skinny repeal," Hirono gave an emotional appeal shaming her Republican colleagues.

“Where is your compassion? Where is the care that you showed me when I was diagnosed with my illness?” she asked. “I find it hard to believe that we can sit here and vote on a bill that is going to hurt millions and millions of people in our country. We are better than that.”

She fought back tears as she recalled her family's immigrant journey from Japan to Hawaii. “And now, here I am a United States senator,” Hirono said. “I am fighting kidney cancer, and I’m just so grateful that I had health insurance so that I could concentrate on the care that I needed rather than how the heck I was going to afford the care that would probably save my life.”

It should also be mentioned the American people who for six months kept the pressure on the politicians by writing letters, calling their offices, attending their town halls to urge them to fix Obamacare or how the ACA helped them or their family. Democracy came alive.

After seven years, the Repubicans have failed to come up with a responsible option to Obamacare. The GOP might actually have to talk to Democrats in order to improve the ACA flaws that even President Obama says is needed.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

TRAVELING WHILE BROWN: This is why I don't travel to San Diego, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona

IF MY RELATIVES in San Diego wonder why I don't visit them, this video explains why. The same goes for Arizona, New Mexico or Texas.

I'm at an age now that doesn't have the patience to deal with this sort of BS. I'm not sure how I'd react if I was in this situation. Maybe have a heart attack?

The woman, Shane Parmely, who took the video is a teacher at Bell Middle School in San Diego, Calif. The incident occurred at a checkpoint on Interstate 10 west, past El Paso before Demming, New Mexico. She was just heading home when she was funneled into a checkpoint and asked her citizenship. 

Parmely is white.

Imagine what would have happened to me. I'm brown.

I know, the Border Patrol - or any other law enforcement agency is not supposed to resort to racial profiling. But in reality, we know how that works. Right?

Parmely said on her Facebook page that she saw that the only people being asked to show documentation as proof of their citizenship were nonwhites.

According to the ACLU, the border patrol does have the right to question you about your immigration status. They also have the right to detain you if they feel they have "just cause," such as refusing to answer their questions.

Shane Parmely
The Border Patrol did respond to inquiries from a TV station. "At a Border Patrol checkpoint, an agent may question a vehicle’s occupants about their citizenship, place of birth, and request document proof of immigration status, how legal status was obtained and make quick observations of what is in plain view in the interior of the vehicle," the agency argued.

"We would have no civil rights if people didn't question authority or challenge the status quo," she said in an interview with KGTV.

As a white woman, Parmely explains, she realizes she likely had the privilege of being waved through with a quick "yes, I'm a citizen."

Nonetheless, she couldn't simply tolerate the brief inconvenience because many of her non-white friends and colleagues don't have that luxury. As she told the station, "When you see something that is clearly racist, you have a choice."

While Parmely's video has gone viral, her Facebook page got trolled by some who felt she disrepected the officers, to which she responded:
I’d rather be disrespectful to officers enforcing racist law than quietly help perpetuate it. We are teachers and get disrespected all the time. Sometimes, rightfully so because we perpetuate racist policies in our schools. And I applaud students who stand up to institutional racism and disrespect people in authority who are maintaining the system. 
They never asked for my ID. They never asked my kids their names. They never asked my kids any questions BECAUSE I’m a white female. This is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than the way my Latino friends have been treated at these checkpoints.

Your logic means that you side with slave catchers, police that attacked striking workers, police that arrested, beat and force fed suffragettes, and Texas Rangers that lynched hundreds of Mexicans after the US gained Texas and Arizona.
The checkpoints were approved by the Supreme Court in 1976 and Mexican/Americans in those southern border states have become used to them.  Parsley points out that the checkpoints don't exist along the Canadian border. Through social media, the rest of the country is now getting to see what life is like for brown people.

Really, America? We have come to this? 

If you have problems viewing this, link here.

TGIF FEATURE: Darren Criss ventures into new realm by teaming up with his brother

HERE'S A double treat from Darren Criss. The Filipino/American performer does a soulful acoustic rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream" from the Broadway musical Les Miserables.

Wednesday, (July 26) Criss announced the return of Elsie Fest, an outdoor music festival celebrating stars and songs from the stage and screen, will return for its third go-round on Oct. 8 at the SummerStage in Central Park in New York. This will be the first time the event will be held in Central Park, after being staged at Coney Island in 2016 and Pier 97 in 2015. Pre-sale tickets to the show become available Aug. 1.

Earlier in 2017, Darren has been busy filming The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, in which Criss co-stars as the fashion design'er's killer, Andrew Cunanan. The 10-part series will debut in 2018.

At a point in his life where he wondered what he could tackle next, he teamed up with his older brother Chuck Criss as the pop duo Computer Games and released the Lost Boys Life project

Darren and Chuck Criss
The brothers had jammed together at their home in the San Francisco Bay Area and it seemed to be the perfect time to get back together.

Darren, who serves as the project's frontman, calls it a "total passion project," and a perfect opportunity to play music with his brother again. 

As he told Billboard: "I was really trying to figure out what I was going to do and I was trying to decide if I was going to have a band, or a pop moniker, or what the thing was gonna be to make it something new and exciting as opposed to just being myself. I was shying less and less away from just me -- I don’t really like that, I think that puts a lot of pressure on you because it’s just you, you, you."

"I was at the crossroads of what I was going to do next -- Glee was over, there’s been a festering solo record, which people have been asking me about forever," he told Billboard. "Between all the songs I’ve written and produced over the years, I wanted to start fresh. Chuck and I were writing songs, and I was like, “Why don’t we just do this together? These are both our songs.” I’ve always wanted to do something with Chuck, and life’s too short, so here we are."

Take a listen:


Trump's anti-trans tweets stir up a hornets nest

DONALD TRUMP did it again. He was able to get Americans  to shift their attention from the Russia/Trump question and his attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act with a series of tweets banning transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.
The Trump twitter twister mark a sharp reversal of recent Department of Defense (DoD) policy. In 2011, Congress repealed the infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and allowed lesbian, gay, and bisexual personnel openly to serve in the military. In 2016, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that DoD was lifting the ban on transgender service and would cover transition-related healthcare costs for service members.

The Trump tweets caught the Pentagon and the Department of Defense off guard because they seemingly came from left field. There were no plans or discussions to abandon the policy that would affect the 15,000 transgender personnel serving in the U.S. armed forces today.

In order to clear some of the confusion caused by Trump's tweets, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a written message on Thursday to military leaders:

“There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance,” Dunford said in the written message to service chiefs, commanders and senior enlisted leaders, seen by Reuters.

“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect. As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”

In his tweets, Trump justified reinstating a blanket ban on transgender service by citing the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” that inclusion would entail. Yet, a study commissioned by the DoD concluded last year that allowing transgender service members to serve openly would have “minimal impact on readiness and health care costs,” around US$2.4 million to $8.4 million in a military healthcare budget of $6.2 billion. To put this in perspective, the military spends $41.6 million on Viagra each year.

The reaction has been swift.

“President Trump’s decision to kick transgender service members out of the military reflects no understanding or appreciation for the sacrifices made by those who serve," said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., who is the first openly gay Asian elected to Congress.

"Every American who is willing to risk their life to defend our freedom deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. And any form of discrimination against the transgender community is unacceptable.

“President Trump is the commander in chief. He needs to start acting like it.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a helicopter pilot who lost her legs while fighting in Iraq, brought up the fact that Trump had never worn the uniform.

"It shows that this man is not fit to be commander in chief of the United States military," said Duckworth, who is part Chinese. "This is yet another policy coming out of this White House that is not even half-baked, at best, and if anything will be destructive to the security of our nation because it seeks to dismantle so many of the strengths of our military, including its inclusiveness."

“Sixty-nine years ago on this day, President Harry Truman took the historic step of desegregating the military and advancing the cause of equality," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., "Today, President Trump – who hasn’t served a day in the military – is taking us back.”

“Trans rights are human rights," she continued. "The Constitution promises liberty to all to define and express their identity, but my Republican colleagues are doing nothing to stop the president as he tries to shred the Constitution, tweet by tweet," 

Trump's tweets also irked politicians in his own party. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who chairs the Senate armed services committee and a veteran, said: “The president’s tweet this morning is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.”

He added: “Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military – regardless of their gender identity.”

Even GOP congressmen who earlier introduced an amendment to forbid the use of government funds to pay for sex change operations, which failed in the House, clarified that their measure was based on economics and was not against trans people from being in the military.

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., who voted for the amendment, wrote in reaction to Trump’s ban, “America needs a military comprised of patriots willing to sacrifice for this country. Any American who is physically and emotionally qualified should be allowed to serve.”


Smithsonian: First-of-its-kind AA literary festival honors Carlos Bulosan

University of Washington
Carlos Bulosan at his typewriter.
CARLOS BULOSAN is often described as an Asian American writer, or a Filipino American author. He is perhaps the most important American (no hyphen required) writer no one has ever hear of.

As a commentator and chronicler of his time, Bulosan should be on par with his contemporaries John Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald. While the former wrote about the poor whites and the latter wrote about the hypocrisy of the rich, Bulosan wrote about the poor struggles of workers of color: the farm workers, the fishermen, the cannery workers and servants.

This weekend, the Smithsonian Asian American Literature Festival hopes to change that, with a wide range of readings and interactive programs that celebrate both the legacy of Asian/American literature and contemporary writers. 

“Asian American literature has always been a crucial space for writing hidden histories and building new communities,” said Lisa Sasaki, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. “This festival is a chance to honor Asian American writing and writers and grow the next generation of literary trailblazers.”

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, the Library of Congress, the Phillips Collection and Dupont Underground will host the Asian American Literature Festival from Thursday to Saturday, July 27–29.

One of the centerpieces of the festival is a two-day reading of Carlos Bulosan's 1946 autobiographical work, America is in the Heart
The book addresses struggles of immigrants that are still relevant today. It's an apt focus for a celebration of American diversity, and perhaps an inspiration to stay hopeful for our nation and its people.

Bulosan came to the U.S. in 1930 and soon discovered the American Dream was a fragile wisp of hope. Of his experience as a migrant worker, Bulosan wrote, "I learned its a crime to be a Filipino in this country." He suffered at the hands of people who tried to run him out of town, and in one incident in California he was tied to a tree, stripped and beaten.

Despite the disappointments he encountered, he loved the idea of America.  "For Carlos Bulosan, no lifetime could be long enough in which to explain to America that no man could destroy his faith in it again," said Carlos P. Romulo in a review of Bulosan's America is in the Heart.
Featuring more than 50 prominent Asian/American poets, writers, literary scholars, graphic novelists, spoken-word artists and children’s literature authors, the festival will present an array of live performances, mentoring sessions and interactive workshops. The event will take place at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery July 27 from 11:30 a.m. to7 p.m.; at the Phillips Collection July 28 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; at Dupont Underground July 28 from 6 p.m. to11 p.m.; and at the Library of Congress July 29 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m

This first-of-its kind festival is also celebrating the release of an all Asian/American issue of Poetry magazine. Other highlights include the premiere of a short animated film by artist Matt Huynh, adapted from a forthcoming work by Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Viet Nguyen.

Featured Programs

  • A two-day long participatory reading of Carlos Bulosan’s seminal 1946 novel America Is In the Heart
  • An animated adaptation of a chapter from Viet Thanh Nguyen’s forthcoming novel The Committed (sequel to Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer) by artist Matt Huynh
  • National Book Award finalist Karen Tei Yamashita and Kimiko Hahn, president of the Poetry Society of America, will give intimate lectures on their personal journeys through Asian American literary history
  • LITERAOKE, a fun combination of literary reading and karaoke, with performances by Franny Choi, Tarfia Faizullah, Ed Lin and local Washington, D.C. poet Regie Cabico
  • Writer-scholar round-robin session for exchanging writing and scholarly interests and building new networks
  • The Asian American Literature Donation Project, which will provide donated works of Asian/American literature to local spaces of need
A complete listing of participants and programs at the festival is available at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s website.

Senators wrestle with health insurance bills.

Senators Dean Heller and Susan Collins confer on the health insurancee vote.

SENATE LEADER Mitch McConnell is throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. The latest attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act went down in flames Wednesday (July 26).

The three AAPI women senators voted against the Republican proposals.

For the second time in less than 24 hours, the U.S. Senate took another vote on providing healthcare for Americans. This time, it was an outright repeal of the ACA by taking away the funding. And what would replace it? Nothing. That would leave ACA participants - over 22 million - without health insurance.

The measure, known as as the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act, failed 45-55, with seven Republican senators voting against it, along with all Democrats and independents in the upper chamber. 

It should be noted that Sen. John McCain, who has received criticism for voting along party lines, opposed the proposal. He was joined by GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nev.), Shelley Moore Capito (W. Va.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Rob Portman (Ohio) opposed the legislation.

Heller, who drew intense criticism from his constituents when he voted to open debate on the issue, proposed an amendment to request protection of the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion was defeated Wednesday evening by a 90-10 vote. Over 138,000 Nevadans would lose their health insurance if ACA is somehow watered down or eliminated.

The language in Heller's amendment asked the conference committee not to consider cutting Medicaid or shifting costs to states, but would not have imposed any binding requirements on the committee.

On Tuesday evening, the Senate voted against the Better Care Reconciliation Act, 43-57, McConnel's replacement for the ACA with nine Republicans joining the Democrats.

On Thursday, McConnel will try again to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires by offering up the so-called "skinny repeal," which would do away with some aspects of the ACA such as the individual mandate and the rule that requires companies with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance. 

There are some in the Senate who believe this more modest reduction would have a better chance for passage. However, if Heller remains steadfast in his opposition against any Medicaid reduction, and he votes with moderates Murkowski and Collins, the three no votes would be enough to stop any efforts to weaken or do away with the ACA.  

“We are better than this as a country, and the American people deserve more from us as their representatives," said California's Sen. Kamala Harris. "This vote to consider a bill that kicks more than 20 million people off of their health care is utterly shameful, but we cannot throw up our hands when it is time to roll up our sleeves." 

Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Chicago urged people to continue calling their senators. "Now more than ever, the American people must keep speaking out and making their voices heard," she said. "And Senate Republicans must listen – to their constituents and to the most vulnerable among us like the members of the disability community who have been here day after day literally fighting for their lives. Then, I hope we can leave this partisan process behind and pursue the honest-to-goodness fixes to the Affordable Care Act that both parties can support to improve our nation’s healthcare system.”

"Any proposal Senate Republicans come up with will kick millions off of their health care and hurt the sickest, oldest and poorest in our communities," said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D- Hawaii.  She returned to the Senate floor to vote against the Republican proposals after she underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor last week.


ATTN NEVADA RESIDENTS: Keep calling or emailing Sen. Heller to register your opposition against the Republican plans to eliminate or weaken the Affordable Care Act.
Email him at:
Call him at his district offices: 702-388-6605 in Las Vegas; or 775-686-5770 in Reno; or Washington DC, 202-224-6244.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Profiles in Disapppointment - Sen. John McCain

The John McCain memorial in Hanoi

IN A RECENT TOUR of Hanoi, our tour bus cruised past a memorial commemorating McCain's imprisonment. The bus didn't stop, didn't even pause for photographs. By the time the guide announced it, we were way pass the monument to see the details. 

Sitting in the back seat of the bus, I was able to get a better look than others on the bus and managed to click a few shots of the memorial. 

I couldn't believe what I saw. The memorial was of a man being hung by his arms, head bowed. That was John McCain and the reason the senator can't raise his arms above his shoulders to this day. The torture he endured in his six years as a POW during the Vietnam War is unimaginable.

McCain's heroism and patriotism cannot be questioned. But Donald Trump ridiculed the hero during the 2016 presidential campaign. "I like people who were not captured," he said.

Sen. John McCain giving his speech Tuesday.
I have had so much respect for the man since he first ran for office. That's why I'm disappointed in the John McCain of 2017.

Senator McCain gave one of his best speeches today (July25) when he spoke in front of the Senate after the vote to open debate on the House's Trumpcare bill that would have 22 millioin people lose their health insurance.

Just days after an operation, Arizona's senator gave an emotional speech seemingly rebuking the GOP's procedure that created a health plan behind closed doors. “I. Will. Not. Vote. For. This. Bill. As it is today," he pronounced emphatically. "It's a shell of a bill right now. We all know that.”

A few hours later, he inexplicitly voted for the Republican-sponsored Better Care Reconciliation Act—the Trumpcare bill McCain said he would could not support. Fortunately, the Republicans lost that vote, 43-57, far short of the to votes needed to pass. (It would be 50-50 and then Veep Pence would break the tie as he did in the vote to open debate.)

McCain has not hesitated to criticize Trump, especially in regards to the Russia connection. He has questioned Trump's knowledge on national security issues and foreign relations. McCain has even been the target of Trump's slings when Trump rediculed the former prisoner of war's service record.

But when it comes to a vote, as in the Obamacare repeal vote, McCain has consistently followed the party line, choosing party over country.

McCain's own state is one of 31 states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA, and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is worried about tens of thousands losing their health insurance. His constituents would applaud him if McCain voted against any version of Trumpcare and instead helped the Democrats fix the flaws in the ACA.
His vote Monday to repeal the current health care law even though there is no plan to replace it, was in stark contrast to the inspirational words that he uttered earlier in the day.

McCain blasted the way Republican leaders conjured up the healthcare proposal, “coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them that it was better than nothing.

“I don’t think that’s going to work in the end, and it probably shouldn’t,” he said

“I. Will. Not. Vote. For. This. Bill." proclaimed McCain. 

The senator will have a chance to redeem himself in the coming days when Trump and the GOP try to repeal Obamacare or make it so watered down it will be doomed to fail. Words - no matter how noble or eloquent -- ring hollow and mean absolutely nothing if they are not turned into action.

UPDATED: This date was updated to clarify the Senate vote that took place Tuesday night.