Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Killer pleads guilty to 'act of evil' for Kansas shooting of two Indian men

Srinivas Kuchibhotla, left, and Alok Madasani.

IT MAY NOT SEEM LIKE MUCH, but Adam W. Purinton  of Olathe, Kansas, pleaded guilty May 21 in federal court to enhanced charges of committing a hate crime for shooting Indian nationals and the man who tried to chase Purinton.
Although Purinton has already been convicted of murder in the State of Kansas, and sentenced to life in prison, his new plea in federal court speaks to his motive to killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla and wounding Alok Madasani and Ian Grillot, said FBI Kansas City Special Agent in Charge Darrin Jones. 
“By his agreement to today’s (May 21) plea, Purinton acknowledges that his actions were motived by his hatred of the victims’ race, religion, color and national origin.  This type of hatred will never be tolerated," said Jones.
A few weeks before the shooting, Purinton was sitting by himself in the bar area at Austins Bar & Grill when, coincidentally, Kuchibhotla and Madasani, both Indian/Americans, both tech workers with legal visas, happened to be having a drink on the patio.  According to court documents, upon noticing the two men, Purinton commented to a regular sitting at the bar, “Did you see the terrorists on the patio?”
On Feb. 22, last year, Purinton drove to the bar and grill and sat by himself at a table on the enclosed front patio.  Sitting at the table to his left were Ian Grillot and several other patrons.  Sitting at the table to his right were Kuchibhotla and Madasani.
At 6:40 p.m., Purinton approached Kuchibhotla and Madasani, and demanded to know where they were from and how they entered the country.  Purinton poked Kuchibhotla in the chest, called him a “terrorist” and an epithet disparaging persons of Middle Eastern descent,  and shouted, “Get out of my country!”  Ian Grillot and another patron interceded, told Purinton that he needed to leave, and escorted him out of the bar. 
Purinton drove home and retrieved one of his guns: a Taurus PT111 Millennium Pro nine-mm semi-automatic pistol. To disguise his identity, Purinton changed into a different shirt and grabbed a blue-and-white scarf.
At 7:12 p.m., Purinton returned to the restaurant.  He wrapped the scarf around his face to disguise his identity and exited his truck carrying his semi-automatic pistol.  
Purinton walked over to the enclosed front patio, opened the door, aimed his semi-automatic pistol at the two Indian/Americans, and fired eight rounds—at least four of which struck Kuchibhotla, who died from his injuries, and one of which struck Madasani, who was injured, but survived.  
Hours after the shooting, Purinton stated over the phone to a friend, and later in person to a bartender, that he had just killed some Iranians.
After shooting Kuchibhotla and Madasani, Purinton ran out, and Ian Grillot chased after him.  As Grillot caught up to him, Purinton turned around and shot Grillot, who was injured but survived. 
Purinton faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, which is the sentence that the prosecution and defense are jointly requesting. Sentencing is scheduled for July 2.
“Hate crimes are acts of evil, and the Department of Justice has prioritized their zealous prosecution,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio. “In this case, the defendant embarked on a murderous rampage with clear premeditation to kill on the basis of race, color, religion, and national origin. It was a hate crime, and he is being brought to justice. 
"While we cannot ameliorate the irreparable harm to the victims and their families, we hope that securing this guilty plea brings them some measure of closure," said Panuccio.  "And this prosecution sends a message across the nation: hate crimes will not be tolerated.”

BTS album makes history for k-Pop


FRESH OFF its sizzling performance at the Billboard Music Awards less than 10 days ago, BTS has become the first kPop group to top the U.S. album charts.
The latest rankings released just Sunday (May 27) shows the group’s "Love Yourself: Tear" ranked No. 1 based on sales of 135,000 albums in its debut week, reports Time.

Sung mostly in Korean, "Love Yourself: Tear" is also the first foreign language album to top the charts in 12 years.

The accomplishment was even noticed by South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in who tweeted his congratulations.

BTS is no stranger to the Billboard charts.

It’s previous album, "Love Yourself: Her" debuted at No. 7 last year, according to EW.


George Takei 'forgives' his accuser


AFTER ACTOR GEORGE TAKEI was accused of sexual misconducct by a male model, a lot of the actor's admirers were in a quandry.

In a new article from The ObserverScott Brunton walked back on his story when he was invited to Takei's home 1981, when Brunton alleged that he was drugged and when he awoke he was being groped by Takei.

As it turns out, a good portion of his story was made up in an effort to turn it into "a great party" story about sexual assault to impress his listeners. Brunton now says it may not have actually happened.

In the ongoing discussion of sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry and the workplace, the story about Takei attracted the attention of the media.

Besides his beloved role as Mr. Sulu in Star Trek, Takei's acitivsim on behalf of the LGBTQ  and Asian/American communities, Takei's reputation as one of Hollywood's good guys was tarnished despite his denials and protestations about Brunton's version of what happened.

Since he changed his story, Takei took to Twitter last Friday (May 25) to forgive Brunton: Takei wrote:
“As many of you know, this has been a very difficult period for myself and my husband Brad as we have dealt with the impact of these accusations, but we are happy to see that this nightmare is finally drawing to a close.
“As I stated before, I do not remember Mr. Brunton or any of the events he described from forty years ago, but I do understand that this was part of a very important national conversation that we as a society must have, painful as it might be.”
“It is in that spirit that I want folks to know, despite what he has put us through, I do not bear Mr. Brunton any ill will, and I wish him peace.”


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

John Graham gets a rose from 'The Bachelorette'

Becca Kufrin pins a rose on John Graham, an Asian American vying for her affections in 'The Bachelorette.'

I WAS WRONG. I'm happy I was wrong. Unlike other Asian American contestants on previous seasons of The Bachelorette, John survived the first elimination round.

He didn't have much screen time in the show's first episode last night (May 28), so we can't be sure exactly why the bachlorette Becca Kufrin gave John a coveted rose, an invitation to stick around. 

We were only allowed to see the initial introduction between John and Kufrin. He said, "I'm a software engineer, I made the app for Venmo." Her response? "Oh, wow."

Thanks to Busieness Insider, Rifinery29 and Popsugar, we now know a little more about the Silicon Valley dude introduced to the audience simply as John -- like his last name. He is John Graham.

He didn't exactly "create" Venmo, the money-sending app, but he was the fifth hire of the venture back in 2011. So as Silicon Valley lore, goes, he got in on the ground floor.

The show's host, Chris Harrison, alluded to Graham's Silicon Valley street cred. "Arguably the most successful guy we've ever had on the show,"

"This guy's legit," he added.
"To give you an idea of John's net worth, Braintree bought Venmo in 2012 for $26.2 million. Then, the following year, PayPal bought Braintree for $800 million," reports Popsugar. "So yeah, we can only assume that John is doing well for himself. But that hasn't stopped him from working! He's also the creator of the drawing app Teleportante, and now he is a product engineer at The Fin Exploration Company."
We know that Kufrin is familiar with Venmo. After Arie Luyendyk, Jr. broke up with Kufrin on this season's The Bachelor, sympathetic viewers started Venmoing Kufrin for to ease her broken heart. About $6000 was collected through Venmo, which Kufrin - with a matching sum from ABC - to charity.
John Graham on 'Kitchen Talk.'
Thanks to the aforementioned sources, we also learned that Graham has his own cooking series on Youtube called Kitchen Talk.
He doesn't spend much time on his Facebook page. He has two recent posts from last week but before that, his previous post was in 2015.
On his Instagram page, we see lots of pictures of the San Francisco Bay Area and Graham running, hiking and playing sports with his friends and more than a few shirtless photos revealing his abs.
To round out the apparent Renaissance man, his bio says he plays guitar and bakes a mean banana bread.
I'm rooting for John as an Asian/American bro he's - in a way - representing us. Other Asian/American men have not fare well in this "reality" competition often eliminated in the first round. 
John's recent post on Facebook is a tantalizing hint of what's to come, "I took some time off to stop and smell the roses."

Doug Baldwin disappointed and conflicted on new NFL rule on the anthem


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS wide receiver Doug Baldwin, a Filipino/American, is clearly disappointed that the NFL owners have placed restrictions on player protests during the playing of the national anthem.

"The NFL just doesn't get it," Baldwin told KIRO-AM radio, the team's flagship station in Seattle, last week. Players began kneeling or sitting during the anthem following the example of former 49er Colin Kaepernick who said he was protesting the police killings of unarmed African/Americans and an unequal justice system.

The new rule states players can stay in the locker room or out of sight if they don't wish to stand for the anthem but if they are on the field, they must stand when thehe anthem's playing. If a player kneels on the field, the club will be fined.

"I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms. But still, I think it’s good," Donald Trump said on Fox. "You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem and the NFL owners did the right thing if that’s what they’ve done.

"I think the people pushed it forward. This was not me," he continued. "This country is very smart. We have very smart people. That's something that could have been taken care of when it first started. If they are doing that there, they are doing the right thing."

"He's an idiot -- plain and simple," Baldwin said when asked about Trump during Baldwin's press conference of 2018 last week. "I respect the man because he's a human being first and foremost but he's just being more divisive which is not surprising. It is what it is but for him to say that anybody that doesn't follow his viewpoints or his constituents viewpoints should be kicked out of the country, it's not very empathetic. It's not very American-like, actually, to me. It's not very patriotic. It's not what this country was founded upon. So it's kind of ironic to me that the president of the United States is contradicting what are country is really built on."eafness or the disconnect between the NFL and its players.”

Some of the San Francisco 49ers knelt last season to protest the inequities of the justice system.

The owners' actions were not unanimous. 49ers CEO Jed York told reporters that he did not support the policy and abstained from the vote. New York Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said Jets players are free to kneel and vowed his team would not fine players if the team is penalized.

"I do not like imposing any club-specific rules," Johnson Newsday. "If somebody takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players. I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Earlier versions of this post had a typo in the headline. Instead of "convicted," it should have said "conflicted."

Sexual misconduct allegations against George Takei questioned


A REPORT published in the Observer puts into question widely disseminated allegations against actor George Takei that he assaulted his date and laced his cocktail with drugs.
Author Shane Snow, who wrote a chapter about the actor for his book Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart, looked closer at the accusations over a period of months.

The allegations by model Scott Brunton were originally reported in The Hollywood Reporter in November and then repeated by several news outlets including AsAmNews which published Takei’s strong denial.

Snow noticed that Brunton did not mention being drugged by Takei until two days after the original story from The Hollywood Reporter. He also noticed that in some media interviews, Brunton mentions being groped by Takei and in others, he does not.

Snow also pointed out that no other accusers have come forward since Brunton’s allegations, unlike other high profile allegations against Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein.

Brunton mentioned a former boyfriend, Jay Vanulk, could collaborate his story, but when Snow interviewed Vanulk, he had no such memory.

“I know that we had met George Takei, but that’s about all,” Vanulk said. He says if Brunton told him anything about Takei it wasn’t anything dramatic enough to remember. Vanulk also said he talked to Brunton’s ex-fiancee who also doesn’t remember anything about an assault.

Snow also interviewed toxicogists who cast doubt on whether Brunton’s drink was really spiked.

“The most likely cause is not drug-related,” said Lewis Nelson, the director of medical toxicology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “It sounds like postural hypotension, exacerbated by alcohol.”

Snow pressed Brunton on whether Takei had really groped him.

“You know…probably…He was clearly on his way to…to…to going somewhere.”

“So…you don’t remember him touching your genitals?”

Brunton said he did not remember any touching.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Asian Americans dominate the National Geographic Bee

Venkat Ranjan was as surprised as anybody when he guessed the right answer to win the Nagional Geographic Bee.

THE FINAL QUESTION in the National Geographic Bee was,  "Lebanon has a population most similar to which South American country?" 
Venkat Ranjan and Anoushka Buddhikot, both 13-years old, were the last two out of thousands of competitors from across the country. Venkat had no idea what the answer was. He took a whild guess: "Paraguay" he wrote down.

He was right! And with his win, he won thea $50,000 college scholarship and lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. He also won a trip (with one parent), all expenses paid, on a Lindblad expedition to the Galapagos Islands.

Venkat, of San Ramon, California, is a 13-year-old 8th-grader at Windemere Ranch Middle School, He took top honors at the 30th annual National Geographic Bee held last week at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C

Venkat Ranjan was congratulated by his family.

Fifty-four state and territory winners took part in the preliminary rounds of the 2018 National Geographic Bee tthat started Monday, May 21. 

The top 10 finishers in the preliminary rounds were all Asian/Americans. They continued answering geography questions Tuesday in the final round, which was moderated by humorist, journalist and actor Mo Rocca.

Anoushka, the second-place winner and recipient of a $25,000 college scholarship was from  Bridgewater, New Jersey, an 8th-grader at Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School. Third place and a $10,000 college scholarship went to Vishal Sareddy of Suwanee, Georgia, a 14-year-old 8th-grader at Riverwatch Middle School.
The seven other finalists, who each won $500, were Gayatri Kaimal of Tucson, Arizona; Atreya Mallanna of Lexington, Massachusetts; Sean Cheng of Stratham, New Hampshire; Jonathan Song of Apex, North Carolina; Saket Pochiraju of Lewis Center, Ohio; Ashwin Sivakumar of Portland, Oregon; and Nihar Janga of Austin, Texas.

Almost 3 million students in 10,000 schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Atlantic and Pacific territories and Department of Defense Dependents Schools took part in the 2018 National Geographic Bee.
The National Geographic Society developed the National Geographic Bee in 1989 in response to concern about the lack of geographic knowledge among young people in the United States. 
The top ten finalists of the National Geographic Bee.

Weinstein's indictment vindicates Filipina model

Ambra Gutierez suffered from depression after authorities dismissed her allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

FILIPINA/ITALIAN MODEL Ambra Gutierrez feels vindicated and relieved now that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is finally being brought to justice.

After seeing photos and TV coverage of of Weinstein walking into the NYPD’s 1st Precinct on Friday morning, Guitierrez told The New York Daily Post: “It’s like waking up from a dream and not knowing if it was true or not.”

Weinstein, 66, turned himself in to police Thursday (May 25) to face felony charges of criminal sexual misconduct and alleged rape against two women (former aspiring actress Lucia Evans and an unnamed party who is not Gutierrez). Weinstein, once one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, did not enter a plea in Manhattan Criminal Court and was freed on $1 million bail.

“All the memories are coming back,” she said. “Those three years I lost. It’s a bit of sadness and happiness at the same time. Now people believe me and I feel like those three years were worth it for anything I went through.”
RELATED: Filipina at center of allegations against Harvey Weinstein
Guitierrez, who was 22 at the time Weinstein invited her to his office, was one of the first women to bring Weinstein's abusive behavior to the attention of law enforcement. 

After meeting at a social occasion, the movie producer invited Guitierrez up to his Tribeca office where he allegedly groped her breast and tried to put his hand up her skirt.

She left distraught and went to the authorities. The NYPD persuaded her to put on a hidden microphone and meet up with Weinstein. At the meeting, he offered his apologies, essentially admitted to the sexual misconduct. As he was apologizing, he also tried to invite the model to his hotel room.

But Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. declined to prosecute Weinstein, stating there still wasn’t enough evidence.

Ambra Battaliana Guiterrez grew up in Italy.
She was allegedly silenced with a $1-million and a non-disclosure agreement from Weinstein.

“I didn’t even understand almost what I was doing with all those papers. I was really disoriented. My English was very bad,” the model told the New Yorker. She realized the gravity of the situation when she saw Weinstein’s lawyer’s hands shaking, she said.

“The moment I (signed) it, I really felt it was wrong,” she added.

She told the New Yorker that she accepted the deal after working with the NYPD to secretly record Weinstein admitting to groping her. As part of Weinstein’s payout, Gutierrez was also made to sign a statement — to be released if she ever broke the non-disclosure agreement — which stated that the behavior Weinstein to which admitted on tape never happened.

An attorney who has seen the agreement called it “the most usurious one I have seen in decades of practice,” according to New Yorker writer Ronan Farrow, who did not name the lawyer.

“I felt like I was going crazy,” Gutierrez told the New York Post. “No one believed me."

Farrow's reporting in the New Yorker on Guitierrez's experience with Weinstein opened the doors to further investigations and gave courage to other women who suffered Weinstein's advances and sexual misconduct. The New York Times published in October last year explosive allegations against Weinstein by high profile stars such as Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and Gwyneth Paltrow. Their stories led to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and a revolt against men abusing their power and influence against women.

After years of depression and dealing with an eating disorder, Gutierrez feels vindicated.

“We all did something, and we did not stop until this situation was done in the right way,” Gutierrez told The Post. “I’m thinking about [the] other victims right now, that they finally got justice for what they went through.”


Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sunday Read: FilAm U.S. Solicitor General talks about his immigrant roots

U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco.

EDITOR'S NOTE: U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco was the keynote speaker at the Department of Justice's ceremonies honoring AAPI Heritage Month last Thursday, May 14. His remarks follow:

By Noel Francisco, U.S. Solicitor General

IT IS AN HONOR to join you in marking the 40th anniversary of the federal government’s celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage.  In 1978, Congress passed and President Jimmy Carter signed a joint resolution designating a week in May as “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week,” and calling “upon the people of the United States, to observe such week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”  

The idea was a success.  And because everything in the federal government has a tendency to grow, Congress and President George H.W. Bush agreed to expand Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week into Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.  
The joint resolution observed that May was a fitting month because the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States in May 1843 and the transcontinental railroad — which was built largely by Chinese immigrants — was completed in May 1869.  Every President since then has issued a proclamation celebrating May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. 

A few weeks ago, President Trump issued a proclamation honoring the “more than 20 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who call America home” and who “have helped strengthen our communities, industries, Armed Forces, national security, and institutions of governance … [t]hrough their industriousness and love of country.”  In particular, he recognized Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian American woman to fly in space, who served courageously in the space program until the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia 15 years ago, and Susan Ahn Cuddy, the first Asian-American woman to join the United States Navy, who served as a code breaker and an aerial gunnery officer during World War II.

My Heritage

As I’m sure is true for many of you, the Asian American or Pacific Islander who inspired me most is a member of my family.  My father, Nemesio Maharice Francisco, was born and raised in the Philippines.  I’d like to tell you three stories about him—stories that will likely echo those that many of you could tell about your own families.

The first is a story of adversity.  My father was born in 1935, and grew up amidst the ravage of World War II.  At that time, the Philippines was a commonwealth, still under the formal control of the United States but transitioning toward independence.  Within hours of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Philippines was also attacked.  As a very young boy, my father was driven from his home by invading soldiers.  He once told me how, for days, he was forced to live in the remnants of a bombed out tank.  
My father’s family pooled all of their resources to send him—the youngest son—to medical school and, eventually, to the United States, where he met my mother.  That’s, of course, where my story began.  And isn’t that the story of many of us?  We came here on the shoulders of immigrants who had the courage to cross oceans in search of a better life.

The second is a story about politics — in the best sense of that word.  I remember my father and mother having an argument about a political donation that my father made to President Reagan’s re-election campaign.  My mother learned about it when my father got the perfunctory thank-you note in the mail along with the auto-penned photograph of the President.  Now, my mother had grown up in a Teamsters household, but I don’t think she was objecting to my father’s support for President Reagan.  She just couldn’t believe that he had wasted so much money on a campaign contribution.  But my father was so proud of that auto-penned photo.  And it was only many years later that I began to understand why.  It was because he had come to understand that he was an American, and he was actively participating in our democratic process.
The third story occurred shortly before my father’s death in 1989.  My father had come to this country with a group of Filipino doctors many years earlier, and he was now dying of lung cancer.  The other Filipino doctors and their families — known to me as my “aunties, uncles, and cousins” — came to say goodbye.  And what struck me was how all of my “cousins” and I looked alike.  And it wasn’t our jet black hair and brown skin.  Rather, in the fashion of the time, all of us boys had pony tails and earrings.  I don’t think our parents liked it all that much.  But what was clear was how thoroughly American all of us were, just one generation later.

To me, these three stories about my father tell a distinctly American story.  And I suspect many of you in this room could tell similar tales.  No matter what other divisions may exist in our society, these stories unite us as Americans.

Trailblazers in Public Service

All of us here are also united by our choice to work in public service, and we owe a debt of gratitude to our forebears who blazed the trail for us in this field.

I think, for example, of Herbert Choy, who was born to Korean immigrant parents in Hawaii in 1916.  As a young teenager, he worked long days at a pineapple processing plant for twelve-and-a-half cents an hour.  He dreamed of being a lawyer, even though at that time no Korean American had ever become a member of the bar.  Through his hard work, he earned admission to Harvard Law School, graduated in the spring of 1941, and became the first Korean American bar member in November of that year. 

When Pearl Harbor was attacked in December, he volunteered for the United States Army the next day.  He served six years in the JAG Corps, including deployments to Japan and Korea.  When he returned home, he went into private practice, served as Attorney General of the Hawaii Territory, and was appointed in 1971 by President Nixon to fill Hawaii’s first seat on the Ninth Circuit.  That made him the first Asian American to serve as a federal judge, a role he filled with distinction for 33 years until his death in 2004. 

One of his first law clerks was Richard Clifton, who later became the second Hawaiian to serve on the Ninth Circuit.  Judge Clifton said that Judge Choy taught him “to render judgments without being judgmental … to disagree without being disagreeable.  He understood that the law is there for the entire community and that it should be administered fairly.”  That is an inspiring legacy for us all.

Others blazed the trail into public service in different ways.  After Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans in the military were forced to surrender their weapons, and many were sent with their families to internment camps.  Eventually, President Roosevelt — against the advice of the Army — agreed to authorize one combat team of Japanese American volunteers.  “Americanism,” he said, “is a matter of the mind and heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.”  
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team went on to become, by some measures, the most decorated unit in the history of the United States military.  When the famous Lost Battalion of Texas was surrounded by enemy forces in the mountains of France, the 442nd battalion took 800 casualties to rescue them — a mission that later led the Governor of Texas to name every man in the unit any honorary Texan.  By the end of the war, the soldiers of this single battalion had earned an astonishing 21 Medals of Honor.  In 1946, a battalion that was almost never formed because of racial prejudice was personally welcomed home by President Harry Truman.

The men of the 442nd — and other Asian Pacific Americans who volunteered during the war — continued to serve, even during peace.  One member of the unit was Lieutenant Daniel Inouye, who was severely wounded taking out two enemy machine gun nests in Italy.  He had always wanted to be a surgeon, but his wounds cost him one of his arms.   He was inspired to take a different path by a fellow wounded soldier that he met in a military hospital.  That soldier told him he planned to recover, go to law school, and then run for Congress in his home state of Kansas.  Inouye did the same thing in Hawaii.  Just over a decade later, Daniel Inouye shook hands on the floor of the Senate with his fellow soldier and senator, a man named Bob Dole. 

Inspiring Progress in Public Service and the Law

Thanks to pioneers like Judge Choy and Senator Inouye, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have come a long way in American public life, and that progress continues.  It should inspire us all that America’s face to the world — our ambassador at the United Nations — is a brilliant and strong Indian American woman, Nikki Haley.  The mighty Pacific force of the United States Navy, the fleet that liberated my father in the Philippines, is now commanded by Harry Harris — the first Japanese American Admiral in the Navy.  And President Trump recently nominated Admiral Harris to serve as United States Ambassador to South Korea, where he will play a key role in the President’s effort to address the difficult issues in the Korean Peninsula.

Of particular importance to us at the Department of Justice, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made great strides in the law.  Over the past 30 years, the number of Asian American law students has quadrupled, and over the past 15 years, the number of Asian American lawyers in the United States has doubled.  And I am honored to be the first Asian American or Pacific Islander to represent the United States in the Supreme Court as the Solicitor General. 

But I am certainly not the only one to argue in the Court.  By my count, Asian American or Pacific Islander advocates presented 16 arguments at the Supreme Court this term.   I am not aware of any official statistics, but I think that is very likely a record.  One fact that should make us even prouder is that 15 of those 16 arguments were presented by current or former members of the Justice Department, including former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, former Assistant to the Solicitor General Kannon Shanmugam, former Assistant to the Solicitor General Pratik Shah, and current Assistant to the Solicitor General Fred Liu.  Other DOJ alumni advocates included the Solicitor General and Deputy Solicitor General of the District of Columbia, Todd Kim and Loren Ali-Khan, and Professor Aditya Bamzai of the University of Virginia Law School.

Asian American and Pacific Islander lawyers are also assuming more prominent roles throughout our Department.  The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia is my dear friend, Jessie Liu — the first Asian American to hold that prestigious position.  Our colleague Robert Hur, who recently served as the principal deputy to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein here at Main Justice, has succeeded the DAG as U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland.  And B.J. Pak is the first Asian American U.S. Attorney to serve in Georgia, where he leads the important office for the Northern District of Georgia.

Of even more enduring significance, there are now far more Asian American and Pacific Islander federal judges than ever before.  A decade ago, there was only one Asian American federal court of appeals judge:  Judge Atushi Wallace Tashima of the Ninth Circuit.  Today, there are eight.  Four were appointed by President Obama:  Judge Denny Chin of the Second Circuit, a former Assistant United States Attorney, Judge Jacqueline Nguyen of the Ninth Circuit, also a former Assistant United States Attorney , Judge Sri Srinivasan of the D.C. Circuit, a former Assistant and Principal Deputy Solicitor General, and Judge Raymond Chen of the Federal Circuit, a former Solicitor of the Patent and Trademark Office. 

In just over a year, President Trump has appointed another three federal court of appeals judges of Asian American or Pacific Islander descent:  Judge Amul Thapar of the Sixth Circuit, a former United States Attorney for the District of Kentucky and District Judge who was the first South Asian American to sit on an Article III court, Judge James Ho of the Fifth Circuit, a veteran of the Office of Legal Counsel and the Civil Rights Division who immigrated from Taiwan and learned to speak English by watching Sesame Street, and Judge John Nalbandian of the Sixth Circuit, a talented appellate advocate whose mother was born in a Japanese internment camp during World War II.

Our Continuing Mission

All of us can be proud of that progress, but we still have work to do.  Although Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are thriving in American society and are better represented in the institutions of government than ever before, we must continue striving to make our country a place of justice and opportunity for all.  For those of us here at the Department, that means faithfully enforcing the rule of law and ensuring that the promise of freedom that inspired our ancestors to come this country remains real for everyone who calls America home.  It also means continuing to promote diversity broadly defined, including the diversity of viewpoints.  And that doesn’t just mean tolerating the presence or views of others.  It means welcoming civil disagreement, and listening with an open mind.  

As Justice Scalia once put it, “One of the strengths of this great country, one of the reasons we really are a symbol of light and hope for the world, is the way in which people of different faiths, different races, different national origins, have come together and learned — not merely to tolerate one another, because I think that is too stingy a word for what we have achieved — but to respect and love one another.”

It’s hard to top Justice Scalia for rhetorical flourish.  So like the loyal law clerk I once was, I think I’ll let him have the last word.  Thank you for the invitation to join you in celebrating the heritage we share and the country we love.

Ancajas defeats Sultan in Fresno bout

Filipino boxer Jerwin Ancajas retained his title be defeating fellow Filipino Jonas Sultan.

ONE THING was made clear in the Saturday title match between Jerwin Ancajas and Jonas Sultan, Ancajas is not the second-coming of Manny Pacquiao.

IBF super flyweight champ Ancajas beat Sultan in a unanimous decision at the Save Mart Arena in Fresno, Calif. It was the first time two Filipinos met in a title match in 96 years. The judges scored the fight 119-109, 117-111 and 119-109 in favor of the IBF champion.

For the most part, the fight was a lackluster affair with Ancajas appearing to be content to show his boxing skills rather than to finish off his opponent. The match clearly didn't live up to the hype. Ancajas lacks the speed and aggressiveness of Pacquiao, who is mentoring the fighter.

Promoters hyped the match between the pair of Filipino boxers to attract Filipino/American fight fans. The last time two Filipno fighters met in a champion match was 93 years ago when Pancho Villa defended the world flyweight title against Clever Sencio on May 2, 1925 in Manila.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

A family reunites with grandfather who was deported

A DYING GRANDFATHER in the U.S. to visit his granddaughter for the first time is reunited with his family after abruptly being deported back to China, reports First Coast News.
Yuanjun Cui and his wife Huan Wang had entered the U.S. on a valid travel visa in December. It’s something the family says they have been doing routinely since 2009. They took a cruise with their family to the Bahamas.

When the couple returned, they were abruptly taken away by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Jacksonville, Florida and sent back to China, without the opportunity to say goodbye to their family.

“We took this trip because her dad is terminally ill with (stage 4) cancer,” Joseph McDevitt said. “They’ve already removed his stomach, he already has trouble eating. It’s not good.”

In a miraculous turn of events, the family’s attorney, Susan Pai, said the grandparents were granted humanitarian parole after returning to China. They are now with their family back in Seattle,

“I think our whole family is just extremely grateful, I know we couldn’t have done this on our own,” Joseph told KING5 at the Seattle airport. “The whole world basically came together.”

Customs officials would not elaborate about why the couple was deported in the first place. They say the burden of proof on eligibility to enter the U.S. falls on the visitor.

An immigrant advocate with American Friends Services say authorities have more discretion about admission requests at port of entry. Pedro Rios told Snopes he suspects the couple was arrested because they had applied for a green card during this visit and authorities may have feared the couple might overstay their visa.

However, the family say the grandparents had already purchased their return ticket to China and planned to leave in June.

Filipino boxers making history ... in Fresno?

Filipino boxers Jerwin Ancajas, left, and Jonas Sultan stare down each other at the weigh-in over the weekend
 at the Filipino Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

IT''S BEEN almost a century since the last time two Filipino fighters fought for a title. 
IBF super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas will defend his title against Jonas Sultan will fight for the title Saturday (May 26) in Fresno, Calif.

Their fight in Fresno State University's Save Mart Center will be the first world title bout between two Filipino fighters in 93 years (when Pancho Villa defended the world flyweight title against Clever Sencio on May 2, 1925 in Manila).

Ancajas, 29-1-1 (20), is promoted by international boxing icon Manny Pacquiao. Many are predicting that the polite and humble Ancajas may just be the fighter to step up and take over as the biggest star in Philippine boxing as Pacquiao enters the downside of his history-making career.

Ancalas is on the cusp of becoming a major star. His promoters hope the Fresno fight will give him the exposure to make that step to international fight fans

It will be Sultan's first fight in the U.S. Sultan (14-3) is ranked No. 1 by the International Boxing Federation and is coming off his biggest victory, a knockout of John Riel Casimero on Sept. 16 in Cebu, Philippines.

Before this fight was scheduled, neither fighter had ever been to Fresno. Choosing the place of the fight was no accident.

They probably didn't know of the city's existence. Organizers hope to attract some of California's estimated 3.5 million Filipinos, the bulk who live in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. Fresno sits strategically in the middle, almost equidistant from San Francisco and Los Angeles, each about a three-hour drive away.

Al Perez, a Fresno-area promoter for the event recognizes that Filipinos are big boxing fans. "They mirror the Mexican/American community in terms of their love for boxing. And, of course, having a world champion like Manny Pacquiao ups the profile with the Filipino pride that Manny has brought to the sport."

Perez told ESPN that he traveled with his adviser, Titus Verzosa, a lifetime member of the Filipino American Association of Fresno & Vicinity, on a grassroots tour to spread word about the fight at grocery stores, restaurants and in the nearby farming community of Delano, which has a sizable Filipino/American population.

With the popularity of the sport among Filipinos and Filipino/Americans, it is a wonder that aren't more fights featuring Filipino fighters. Promoters like to use the racial angle -- Filipinos vs. Latinos, Latinos vs. African/Americans, African/Americans vs. white -- to garner more fans.

Fresno doesn't have the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas, nor the history and traditon of Madison Square Garden, but the fighters are happy to be fighting in the U.S.

"This is an historical fight for every Filipino out there," said Michael Aldeguer, president and CEO of the Ala Promotions team backing Sultan. He told ESPN, "To be here in the U.S., in the boxing mecca of the world, and to showcase our fighters on the world stage, this is it. They have to be inspired to be part of history. I hope Filipinos realize that and come Saturday so they can say, 'I was there watching the first Filipino title fight in 93 years.'"

Bomb rips through Indian restaurant near Toronto

Police released this photo of the two suspects who covered their faces as they entered the restaurant.

AN INDIAN RESTAURANT was bombed in a Toronto suburb injuring 15 people attending family gatherings.

Police are seeking two suspects who left the homemade bomb before fleeing.

“There is no indication that this is a terrorism act. There is no indication that this is a hate crime at this time. We haven’t ruled anything out as we start our investigation,” said Peel Regional Police Chief Jennifer Evans.
The explosion ripped through the Bombay Bhel restaurant located in mall in Mississauga around 10:30 p.m., Thursday (May 24).

Officials said three Indian/Canadians suffered were injured by the blast. Three were wounded seriously and transported to a hospital where they were treated and released. The three hospitalized individuals were a 35-year-old Brampton man, a 48-year-old Mississauga woman, and a 62-year-old Mississauga woman.
Two male suspects fled the scene immediately after the incident. “Nothing was said by these individuals,” said Peel Regional Sergeant Matt Bertram. “It appears they just went in, dropped off this device and took off right away.”

Police described the first suspect as "male, 5’10-6 feet, stocky build, mid-20s, light skin, wearing dark blue jeans, dark zip up hoodie pulled over head, baseball cap with light grey peak, face covered with black cloth material."

The second suspect was described "as 5’9”-5’10”, fair skin, thin build, faded blue jeans, dark zip-up hoodie hood pulled over head, grey t-shirt, dark coloured skate shoes, face covered."

On Friday morning, the restaurant issued a statement on Facebook about the explosion.
“It was an extremely horrific and sad incident that happened at our Hwy 10 location yesterday evening. We want to thank you for all of your support and well wishes, especially to the families that were affected. At this time, the police are undergoing a full investigation to ensure the individuals are apprehended.”

Vikas Swarup, India’s High Commissioner to Canada, tweeted that India’s Consul General in Toronto visited the injured in the hospital. The Indian consulate in Toronto tweeted it had opened a helpline for those seeking assistance following the explosion.

Friday, May 25, 2018

AAPI Heritage Month: Google honors James Wong Howe, revolutionary with a camera

TODAY (May 25) Google honored James Wong Howe as sthe subject of their daily Doodle. Here's Google's writeup on the famous cinematographer:
Meet the cinematographer who changed films forever
The poet of the camera’, ‘an artist in film’, ‘a painter with light’: these are some of the names given to James ‘Jimmy’ Wong Howe. A pioneer, an innovator, a creator, James Wong Howe is one of the world’s greatest ever cinematographers. He worked on over 120 films between 1922 and 1974, directed two features, and won two Oscars. As well as making films, he worked on documentaries, TV, and commercials. He was even offered the job of working on the Godfather films shortly before his death. 
But Wong Howe wasn’t a likely figure, pitted for greatness from birth. A first-generation Chinese American, Wong Howe fought prejudice all his life. 
Learning the ropes
James Wong Howe was born Wong Tung Jim in Guangzhou, China on August 28, 1899. Howe’s father brought his young family to the US – what he described as the ‘mountain of gold’ – when Howe was 5 years old. 
His first home was Pascoe, Washington, where his father opened a general store and became the first Chinese merchant in the town. As a child, Howe faced vicious racism. His first schoolteacher quit as she didn't want to teach a person of Chinese descent. His second teacher changed his name to be more anglicised, which is how he became ‘James Wong Howe’. As a child, Howe was bullied by his classmates, and used to take sweets from his father’s shop to give to the other children and try to make them like him. 
He was learning how to hold his own in a world that was not built for him, that tried to hold him down at every opportunity – and learnt to persevere and prosper. This was a lesson that he would carry throughout the rest of his career.
Lights, camera, action
Wong Howe left Pascoe to become a boxer, but later moved to LA – home to the glitz and glamor of the movies – and became a bellboy in a Beverly Hills hotel. 
Then, at 17, James Wong Howe got into the film industry from the bottom. He was employed at the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation as a cleaner, but it was from here that he would forge connections with some of the greatest movie makers of his generation. From sweeping up film ends in the camera room, he eventually became an assistant cameraman – the first step in a career that would last for more than 50 years. 
James Wong Howe revolutionized filmmaking.
From chewing gum-eating canaries to roller skating cameramen
Wong Howe pioneered the wide-angle lens, low key lighting (which earned him the nickname "Low Key Howe"), and deep focus. He was also one of the first cameramen to ever use a hand-held camera. But he also had some unusual approaches to the new technology of film. 
It was Wong Howe’s creative – and sometimes unusual – thinking that made him famous. He got his accidental big break by using a visual trick to make the actress Mary Miles Minter’s light blue eyes show up dark on film. “The word went around at cocktail parties that Mary Miles Minter had imported herself an Oriental cameraman, who hid behind a velvet curtain and magically made her eyes turn dark,” Wong Howe said. “After that, I was never out of work."
While shooting a film for Cecile B. DeMille, Howe was tasked with capturing a close up of a singing canary. But they couldn't get the canary to sing. They tried all kinds of methods, like the noise of a sewing machine and a violinist, until someone realized that the bird was female and that they don’t sing at all. But with some characteristic ingenuity, Howe grabbed some chewing gum and put it in the canary's mouth. The bird’s chewing made it look like it was singing – problem solved.
Other ingenious techniques that Howe used included: shooting a boxing scene by rollerskating around the action; using the reflection of tin cans to light a scene up a hill without electric lights; shooting scenes while being pushed around in a wheelchair; and weighing down birds to make them land where he needed them to.

Google's Doodle of James Wong Howe
Against all odds
James Wong Howe became one of the best cinematographers in history – he was even the most well paid cameraman in Hollywood for a time. But he had to fight prejudice all his life to maintain his position. Like the days of bribing schoolchildren with sweets to make them like him, Howe faced prejudice both on and off the film set. 
James Wong Howe married Senora Babb in 1937 in Paris, but their marriage wasn't legally recognised until 1957 as they were an interracial couple. During World War Two, Howe had to wear a badge that said ‘I am Chinese’ as everyone thought he was Japanese. His friend James Cagney wore one too out of solidarity.
Fighting this uphill battle – even being investigated by the Un-American Activities Committee under McCarthy – makes Wong Howe’s achievements even more impressive. 
A lifetime on film
When Wong Howe began his career films were silent and in black and white. By the time he made his last film, every aspect of movie-making was different. Howe saw all of these changes, not only keeping up with the times, but also constantly innovating and pushing the form forwards. 
Film making was completely different by his death in 1976, in part thanks to James Wong Howe himself.