The Layup Drill

Posted on September 11th, 2018 by imprentacomm

Welcome to another edition of the Layup Drill. In this edition, we take a look at the rising star of Washington football, Jordan Clarkson’s summer vacation, and a soccer star’s crucial game to determine his future.

All-American Rapp leads Dawgs Secondary

Taylor Rapp (Photo from Rapp’s Instagram)

The University of Washington football team began its 2018 season this month and has lofty expectations of a national championship. If the Huskies meet their goals, safety Taylor Rapp will be one of the big reasons why. Rapp, a pre-season Associated Press and Sports Illustrated All-American, is likely a first-round pick in the NFL and is one of the pillars of the defense.

Rapp grew up in Bellingham. His mother, who is Chinese, met his father while his dad was in Shanghai for work. The two moved to Toronto and then to Atlanta, where Rapp was born. They eventually moved to Bellingham, where Rapp and his brother were raised. His mother’s parents moved from China to live with the Rapps and helped raise him. That’s how he learned Mandarin.

But in Bellingham, the Asian population is small. He claimed that aside from his brother, he was the only Asian at his high school. He and his brother played football for Sehome High School.

Unlike most areas, Rapp’s high school did not embrace the “Friday Night Lights” of football, where the whole town comes to support the football team. Instead, Sehome football was a perennial loser and it was hard to field a football team due to the lack of interest. In addition, Rapp was taunted because of his race — he was called names and made fun of due to the shape of his eyes.

A Chinese American in the NFL is very rare. Several years ago, Ed Wang, an offensive lineman out of Virginia Tech, was drafted by the Raiders. He was the first Chinese American ever to be drafted. Wang’s career was short-lived, although he is now the president of the Chinese Arena Football League. Wang recalls not seeing another Chinese face playing with him or across the line from him. Wang’s brother also played football at Virginia Tech, but did not go on to the NFL.

As many Asian Americans that play sports these days, one of Rapp’s role models while growing up is NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin. The Harvard-educated point guard, who became a literal overnight sensation when he burst on the scene while playing for the New York Knicks, is a revered star among Asian American youths. Lin, who now plays for the Atlanta Hawks, recalls how other players would look down on him and discount his ability. Rapp believes this happens with him all the time.

At Washington, Rapp is one of the hardest hitting safeties in years. He was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year on Defense. In the Pac-12 Championship game, Rapp made two interceptions, including one for a touchdown. His play earned him MVP of the Pac 12 Championship Game.

Not only is Rapp good on the field, he is doing well academically. In 2017, he gained acceptance into the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.

Only a junior, it would be a surprise if Rapp returns for his senior year at the UW. His size and ability make him a prime candidate to play in the NFL. Some NFL talent evaluators believe he may be one of the first at his position to be drafted, and may be a first-round pick.

Jordan Clarkson reps the Philippines at Asian Games

Jordan Clarkson (Photo from Clarkson’s Instagram)

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson was honored when he was asked to be the flag bearer for the Philippines during the Asian Games opening ceremonies. Clarkson, whose mother is Filipino, played for the national team in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The Asian Games is similar to the Olympics — it is an exhibition of different sports amongst Asian countries. Like the Olympics, it occurs every four years.

The 26-year-old compared being the flag bearer to the NBA Finals he played in this past June, when the Cavaliers came up short against the Golden State Warriors.

“It was one of the happiest days I’ve had in my career, in my life,” Clarkson said in a recent interview.

Clarkson was given a one-time exemption to play with the Philippines, thanks to the NBA and the International Basketball Federation. In general, current NBA players are not allowed to play. Initially, the NBA prevented Clarkson’s participation. There was social media pressure from Filipino fans who wanted him to play.

Clarkson, who was traded to Cleveland from the Los Angeles Lakers last year, was the star for the Philippines National Basketball Team. He was a focal point for most countries that faced Team Philippines. Although Clarkson’s presence helped the team, they ended up finishing 5th in the men’s tournament and missed out on a medal. Nevertheless, Clarkson had the experience of a lifetime.

The inclusion for Clarkson to play in the Asian Games was more than just an attempt to get a good player to bolster a country’s efforts to win. Clarkson has embraced the Filipino fans who have rallied around him since he entered the NBA. When I interviewed him several years ago with the Lakers, Clarkson did not know too much about the rabid base of Filipino fans. He’s embraced them, as well as his Filipino culture. It’s a great testament to how sports can open up different worlds for people.

Win and South Korean soccer star can forgo draft

Son Heung-min (Photo from Son’s Instagram)

As Jordan Clarkson enjoyed his experience at the Asian Games, South Korean soccer player Son Heung-min faced at choice: helping his team win the gold-medal match against Japan or head to the military. Son, who plays for the English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, may be required to serve two years of mandatory service in South Korea’s military.

South Korean males must serve 21 months in the military before the age of 30. The 26-year-old cannot delay his service beyond the age of 27. However, the law also allows athletes to discount their time from service if they bring home top prizes at international sports competitions. Exemptions are given for winning any medal at the Olympics or a gold at the Asian Games. With a win against Japan, Son will be able to complete his service to the military in a relative short span with just a month of basic military training and then community service.

The draft does not discriminate even if you are a high-level athlete. UFC fighter Chan Sung Jung had to depart his career to serve in the military for two years. Jung returned to action after his two years away and won his first fight back. However, Jung was away from the sport of mixed martial arts for almost three years in the prime of his career.

Son’s fans have lobbied the South Korean government to ease the draft commitment for him. One fan went so much as to volunteer himself to serve in Son’s place. That is a very dedicated fan.

From an outsider’s perspective, the South Korean law seems to be a remnant of the Cold War to keep its country ready in the event of international or domestic conflict. It does build pride in the country, but also disrupts young people in the midst of their careers.

New generation of Asian-American women are fighting to normalize mental health treatment

Posted on September 11th, 2018 by imprentacomm

When Kristina Wong’s mother told her if anyone finds out she went to therapy she would never be able to get a job, it became crystal clear just how taboo discussions of mental health were in her family.

“That made it clear that my joy had a monetary value, and it was that shameful to go about seeking help or even talking to someone about your problems,” Wong, a third-generation Chinese-American, told “GMA.” That mentality reflects a broader sentiment within the Asian American community.

PHOTO: A still from Kristina Wong’s “Boss Lady” music video shot in Gulu, Uganda.K. Levis
A still from Kristina Wong’s “Boss Lady” music video shot in Gulu, Uganda.

While Asian-Americans have a lower reported rate of psychiatric disorders and suicide compared to Caucasians within the U.S., they are three times less likely to seek mental health help, according to the data collected by the National Latino and Asian American Study.

There are a number of reasons why, according to experts. Discussing mental health concerns is “taboo” in a variety of Asian-American communities where seeking help is stigmatized, explained Koko Nishi, a licensed psychologist on the counseling staff at San Diego State University. As a result, many Asian Americans often dismiss, deny or neglect their symptoms.

I remember my parents saying, ‘We know you need to go to therapy. We will pay for it, but we’re not comfortable talking about it at home.’

The idea that a person can be hampered by something that can’t be seen by the naked eye is unacceptable in some Asian cultures, Nishi said.

“There’s a lot of shame involved,” especially among elderly Asian-Americans who are afraid of losing face, said Wesley Mukoyama, a clinical social worker and former director for Yu Ai Kai, a senior center for Japanese-Americans.

Even though Asian-Americans, who came as immigrants and refugees and are at higher risk of depression and suicide due to trauma from their past, when they do seek help, they often report the physical symptoms that are results of psychological problems, according to Nishi.

That’s why organizations like Yu Ai Kai focus on less traditional treatments, ones that don’t require residents to directly address their feelings, Mukoyama said.

With 59 percent of all Asian-Americans born in a different country, according to Pew, language barriers, cultural stigma and lack of understanding of mental health resources are factors that contribute to the issue as well.

Many come from countries without accessible mental health care and in certain cultures some of the terms for mental health don’t even exist in the language, said Nishi.

There is a word, however, for shame in the Filipino language called “hiya.”

It’s a “particular kind of shame” when one has failed to live a “happy and harmonious life” that is in conjunction with society’s norms and expectations, Tess Paras, a Filipino-American actress and writer, told “Good Morning America.”

3 Asian-American women share their stories to combat stigma

Years ago, Paras said she was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship and was sexually assaulted, leading to depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Paras said she felt more comfortable calling friends, or a crisis hotline, than she did approaching her own parents, who emigrated from the Philippines.

PHOTO: Actress Tess Paras.Genevieve Marie
Actress Tess Paras.

“I remember my parents saying, ‘We know you need to go to therapy. We will pay for it, but we’re not comfortable talking about it at home,’” Paras recalled.

There is a deafening silence in her family surrounding the subject of mental health.

It’s a silence Emily Wu Truong also knew all too well.

Growing up, Truong, a Taiwanese-American, started to experience feelings of depression and isolation when her family moved from Arkansas to California. She wasn’t able to articulate her feelings as she was taught sharing problems will bring shame to oneself and one’s family.

Throughout the years, she continued to keep her struggles and emotions bottled up well into adulthood.

At one point, Truong said she told her family she wanted to end her life, but her family told her that she “was selfish for thinking that way.”

Truong was eventually diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and in 2013 she had a mental breakdown. After finally finding a center offering affordable therapy options, she began to work with organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Recovery International and Each Mind Matters as a public speaker to raise awareness.

PHOTO: Emily Wu Truong, speaks at a National Alliance on Mental Illness presentation at Temple City Library in Temple City, Calif.Courtesy Emily Wu Truong
Emily Wu Truong, speaks at a National Alliance on Mental Illness presentation at Temple City Library in Temple City, Calif.

For Wong, she first started feeling depressed when she was pressured to excel in Chinese school and carried guilt because she couldn’t communicate with her grandparents.

Her grandparents, who supported her family, spent all their time working in a butcher shop and raised the family to deal with things “by not talking about it,” she said.

She hid her feelings from her family for years before seeking out a therapist, all the while isolating herself from her Chinese-American community because people shunned talk about anything that might be perceived as weakness.

Shining a light on mental health in their own ways

Now as a comedian and performance artist, Wong decided to take mental health right to the stage.

In her one woman comedy show, “Wong Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which she toured for eight years, Wong explored the high rates of depression and suicide among Asian-American women.

In the show, Wong used the “dramatic arc of fiction” to point out the danger in the fictional narrative Asian American women are fed about what their lives are supposed to look like. After her character failed to save these women, she has a mental breakdown on stage.

Paras also dove into her experience with mental health, but through a different comedic vehicle – music.

After Paras ended a relationship with someone who was also going through depression, one of her writing partners from Quick and Funny Musicals suggested using her breakup as inspiration for their new music video, which had to be “Frozen”-themed.

In the video, they said they tried to make fun of certain aspects of depression “in order to have a laugh” and open up a conversation, Paras said.

“It really means a lot when I post this video then I get some Filipina teens who are experiencing this and saying ‘I needed this’ I’m not able to talk about this at home either,’” Paras recalled.

Wong recounted similar responses to her show when people who have also struggled with depression and attempts at suicide reached out to her.

“I was just like, ‘where were you when I was in high school?’ Where were any of us? Why do we have to sit on our pain and try to save face?” Wong exclaimed.

A reason why many Asian-Americans feel the need to “save face” and avoid confronting their mental illness is possibly due in part to the misperception that Asian-Americans do not have such needs, Nishi told “Good Morning America” — a fallacy fueled by the model minority myth.

It’s a myth that perpetuates the image that Asian-Americans represent the positive qualities that all immigrants or minorities should have in order to assimilate.

Having lived the unrealistic social and familial expectations, Paras is well aware of the stereotype.

“Asian America is not a monolithic thing — it’s filled with all kinds of nuanced experiences and stories that are not widely represented, and mental health is a huge part of that.”

And that’s why Truong, who often dresses head-to-toe in lime green, a color for mental health awareness, works hard to dismantle those myths.

Over the past five years, Truong has spoken in numerous venues and at events, helped facilitate mental health programs and last year pushed to establish May 10 as as Asian Pacific American Mental Health Day in Los Angeles County.

She saw this being done in other cities and by asking for recognition in her own community she hoped to shine a light on people’s struggles but more importantly their resilience.

“I want to share my story and let people know they’re not alone,” Truong said.

Through her experience working at various colleges, Nishi has seen a shift towards awareness of mental health resources among young Asian-Americans. She also noticed many students “are going against the grain of what they were taught growing up about mental wellness” and are focusing more on self-care.

Being able to talk about these issues is the first step, Paras said, as she and others like Wong and Truong continue to incorporate their stories in their creative work to bring awareness and combat stigma surrounding mental health.

“The more we talk about this issue the more we can normalize this topic the more we talk about it then it’s not such a scary topic to talk about,” Truong said.

If you or anyone you know are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741. You can reach Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada) and The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386

DOJ sides with Asian-American students in affirmative action suit against Harvard University

Posted on September 5th, 2018 by imprentacomm

The Department of Justice sided with Asian-American students and their families Thursday in a lawsuit alleging that Harvard University discriminates based on race in its admissions process. The case, Students For Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President And Fellows Of Harvard College, was brought to the District Court in Massachusetts by students and parents who believe that the prestigious university’s admissions process negatively impacts Asian-American applicants.

The families brought the lawsuit under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which “requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination.” Since Harvard receives millions in federal funding, the Justice Department weighed in with a statement of interest in the case.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement, “No American should be denied admission to school because of their race. As a recipient of taxpayer dollars, Harvard has a responsibility to conduct its admissions policy without racial discrimination by using meaningful admissions criteria that meet lawful requirements.” 

An official for the Department of Justice said that admissions officers for the university admitted in depositions that race does play a factor in admissions, though they do not explain how. The university measures the strength of applicants by giving them a subjective “personal rating.” Admissions officers weigh factors like “human qualities” and “likeability” in the rating. A review of this practice showed that Asian-Americans rate lower than white applicants, as well as other minorities.

Harvard University said in a statement that it was “deeply disappointed” with the DOJ’s decision, claiming it was “recycling the same misleading and hollow arguments that prove nothing more than the emptiness of the case against Harvard.”

“This decision is not surprising given the highly irregular investigation the DOJ has engaged in thus far, and its recent action to repeal Obama-era guidelines on the consideration of race in admissions. Harvard does not discriminate against applicants from any group, and will continue to vigorously defend the legal right of every college and university to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which the Supreme Court has consistently upheld for more than 40 years. Colleges and universities must have the freedom and flexibility to create the diverse communities that are vital to the learning experience of every student, and Harvard is proud to stand with the many organizations and individuals who are filing briefs in support of this position today.”

The Department of Justice finds that there is ample evidence to show that Harvard has had consistently diverse demographics over the past few years because it has directly controlled the racial makeup of incoming classes. According to the DOJ, the Supreme Court has found such actions to be “patently unconstitutional.”

The department also says that over the past 45 years, Harvard has never sought any alternative means to come up with a diverse group of incoming students.

The civil rights division of DOJ has filed a brief in the case in opposition to Harvard’s motion for a summary judgment. A summary judgment would allow the court to rule that the other party has no case, so the suit would not go before a jury trial. The trial in this case is scheduled for October.

A Justice Department official denied any allegation that the administration is averse to helping secure diversity in university admissions.

“The Department of Justice has the responsibility to protect the civil rights of the American people,” Sessions said. “This case is significant because the admissions policies at our colleges and universities are important and must be conducted lawfully.”

Orange County attorney’s racist Facebook rant against Asian Americans draws backlash

Posted on September 5th, 2018 by imprentacomm

An Orange County attorney’s Facebook post spurred by the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” drew major backlash.

In a now-deleted post, Christina Ignatius wrote several paragraphs targeting Asians in Orange County and reinforcing negative stereotypes.

“She’s in for a ride because we are not going to let this pass. We will not tolerate that kind of racism here in Orange County,” Sylvia Kim said.

Kim is the Orange County director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice. The post was captured in a screenshot and went viral. It was shared numerous times from the Asian American news site nextshark.com

In the viral post, the law school tutor wrote about her students.

“They keep telling me they are attending UCRA. I need to translate that into my head to deduce they are going to UCLA,” she said.

She also wrote about her former Asian classmates, again making fun of the way they spoke.

“They were raised by Tiger Moms who told them to ‘become docta,’ and then if they were not smart enough to become a doctor to ‘marry docta,'” she said.

Ignatius closed with “from one annoying thing to another, welcome the Asians!”

“I think that putting us all under the same umbrella is what has led to things like the model-minority myth, the sense that one narrative fits all and that’s absolutely not the case with our community,” Kim said.

Ignatius did not respond to phone calls or messages for comment. But in a follow-up post, she called it a joke and that she had no idea talking about stereotypes would be so provocative.

Kim is not laughing and is now starting a petition for the state bar to take action.

“Open racism such as what was demonstrated in Christina’s post actually demeans the legal profession as a whole,” she said.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice said at the very least they’d like to see the state bar launch an investigation.

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ success has Hollywood scrambling for similar Asian-centric stories

Posted on September 5th, 2018 by imprentacomm

LOS ANGELES — In the eight years that Lisa Takeuchi Cullen has been developing and writing for television, she never had a producer insist on casting an Asian American as the lead in a show.

For years, Hollywood operated under the belief that Asians couldn’t sell a movie or a TV series. That all changed earlier this month when Jon M. Chu’s “Crazy Rich Asians” debuted on the big screen, raking in $35 million in its first five days in theaters. That same week, a producer had called Cullen to pitch her a potential series.

“Usually after they explain the premise is when I jump in and say, ‘How would you feel if the leads were people of color?’” Cullen said. “This time, this producer said, ‘The only thing that’s non-negotiable is that the lead is Asian American.’”

Their exchange indicated to Cullen that the box office success of “Crazy Rich Asians,” the first major studio film to feature an all-Asian cast in 25 years, may have caused a tide to turn in Hollywood.

Although it is still too early to tell whether the historic romantic comedy has created lasting change for Asians in the industry, producers, writers, and talent agents say that studios are now scrambling to find Asian-centric stories like “Crazy Rich Asians,” which has topped the domestic box office for three consecutive weekends. Ticket sales dropped a mere 5.7 percent in its second week, and the film made $28 million this past weekend, the highest-grossing Labor Day box office in more than a decade. It’s also officially the most successful studio rom com in nine years.

Last month, Chu and the team behind “Crazy Rich Asians” began working on a sequel to their first film. “Master of None” co-creator Alan Yang started shooting “Tigertail,” a Netflix drama about a multi-generational Asian family. Ken Jeong landed a Netflix stand-up special that will also be directed by Chu. Amy Pascal’s Pascal Pictures bought the rights to “Ayesha At Last,” a romantic dramedy novel about a young Muslim girl.

And, on the same day “Crazy Rich Asians” opened in theaters, Cullen sold a pilot pitch called “’Ohana” to ABC.

“For us, one hurdle — maybe even the tallest hurdle — is getting networks to believe that audiences will show up for these stories, and I think that’s where ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ has moved the bar,” said Cullen. “In Hollywood, numbers speak. And when a movie with all Asian leads brings up $35 million in the first week, executives sit up and take notice.”

Cullen’s project, based on Kiana Davenport’s historical novel “Shark Dialogues,” will center on four hapa women who inherit their deceased grandmother’s fiercely coveted land in Hawaii. If it gets picked up as a full series, it’ll be the rare show to center non-white characters in a narrative about the island state.

“It’s really early in the season,” said Cullen, “but I’m seeing more openness.”

Albert Kim, former writer and showrunner of Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow,” said “Crazy Rich Asians” has proven helpful when he pitched a show to networks this pilot season. “Even though I was developing this year’s pitch just before the movie had come out, awareness of the movie was really high because of all the marketing and because of all the press,” he said. “So when I referenced ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ in my pitch, [the studio executives] all got it immediately.”

It was a notable contrast from last pilot season when Kim pitched a different drama series about a young Korean-American adoptee who suddenly inherits her family’s enormous fortune (not unlike “Crazy Rich Asians” main character Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who is thrust into her boyfriend’s world of over-the-top wealth).

“I had to pitch everything about this world and these characters and the tone,” Kim recalled about the process. “I think I got it across, but at the same time it would’ve been a lot easier if ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ had been out there last year. I could’ve referenced that movie, and they would’ve gotten it right away.”

The box office success of “Crazy Rich Asians” also helped Lillian Yu, who previously wrote for NBC comedy “Powerless,” sell a spec script to New Line, a studio under Warner Bros. “I think people were unsure before ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ came out whether this kind of movie could work, and everyone was really surprised that it did,” Yu said. “It opened a lot of doors for a lot of people, including me.”

Yu had begun writing “Singles Day,” a China-set romantic comedy, in February after seeing the buzz around “Crazy Rich Asians”. Yu and her agent, Max Michael — who is head of Asian business development at United Talent Agency — had anticipated that there might be a demand for Asian-centric stories if “Crazy Rich Asians” were to perform well.

Just days after the box office numbers for the highly anticipated film began rolling in, they sold Yu’s script.

“If six months, a year ago, we had taken out the same project, I don’t know that we would’ve had the success that we had with it,”said Michael, who acknowledged that studios are generally reluctant to greenlight a film that isn’t based on an existing intellectual property. When “Crazy Rich Asians” proved that it could turn a profit, Michael said, “I think we got a lot of people on their heels in terms of: ‘Maybe this is something that is worth trying. We know how to make this movie now.’”

According to Mariko Carpenter, vice president of strategic community alliances at Nielsen, brands across America are taking notice of the film’s resonance among Asian Americans. “We’re still very small in size, but what people are taking note of is not just the buying power but the influence. The success of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is that we’ve been able to create this momentum, and it really stems from us being on digital and being a digital leader,” said Carpenter, referring to the host of fans who tweeted about the film in the months leading up to the release.

As for Kim, the recent uptick in Asian-centric projects makes him optimistic for the young Asian Americans looking for work in Hollywood.

“For a large part of my career, I’ve sought out projects that could feature Asian and Asian-American characters. And for the first time, producers are calling me with projects like that,” said Kim. “And what’s incredible to me is that I actually don’t have the time to take on everything, which is great because that means there’s more than enough to go around.”

Applying to Harvard as an Asian-American

Posted on July 3rd, 2018 by imprentacomm

To the Editor:

Re “Harvard Rates Asian-Americans as Less Likable, Plaintiffs Claim” (front page, June 16):

I think I can speak for all college admissions consultants when I say that none of us were shocked by the recently released Harvard investigation, included in court documents, revealing that the university rated Asian-American applicants consistently lower on personality traits.

Helping other Asian-Americans beat the odds demands cynicism. Assume that admissions officers will view you in a certain light. So, actively combat their preconceived notions. Try football, join the musical (the cast, not the orchestra), and study 14th-century French art if you want to render your reviewer speechless with all those broken stereotypes.

I wish it weren’t so, but the overarching stereotype that all Asians are similar is rooted in partial truth, as is every bias. Is it racist of me to admit that most high-achieving Asians tend to have shared values — and play piano? Like many other Asian kids, I used to be passive and shy outside the comfort of my home.

But to conclude that Asian-Americans broadly lack desirable personality traits is despicable. Discrimination against Asian-Americans in college admissions is a classic manifestation of cultures clashing, and some people seem unduly paranoid, as if having too many Asian-American Yale students would somehow harm America. Even though we love cheeseburgers just as much as kimchi.

KENNETH XU, CHAPEL HILL, N.C.

The writer, a rising sophomore at Yale, works for its Office of Undergraduate Admissions and as a private consultant.

What is WeChat? Chinese-language app could be fueling Chinese-American conservatism

Posted on July 3rd, 2018 by imprentacomm

It’s been used to buy farm-fresh eggs and pay bills — and to quickly mobilize tens of thousands across the country to rally on behalf of a former New York City cop convicted in the accidental shooting death of an unarmed black man.

WeChat, the hugely popular social media app developed by Chinese internet company Tencent, has grown to become an indispensable tool in the lives of both Chinese citizens and first-generation Chinese-speaking immigrants in the U.S.

Image: Young man holds a smart device while using WeChat app
WeChat being used on an iPad Mini.S3studio / studioEAST/Getty Images

Part Facebook, part Twitter, part WhatsApp, WeChat helps to forge social connections among groups of people with similar interests, in everything from consumerism to politics. And it also provides its 1 billion monthly active users worldwide with news and information.

It was the political discussion on the social media app during the 2016 U.S. presidential election that caught the eye of WeChat user Zhang Chi, a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Something curious appeared to be afoot.

“I did notice a very interesting turn toward conservatism on the platform itself,” Zhang said.

MISINFORMATION AND POLARIZATION

Zhang, a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, authored a study released in April that examined misinformation and political polarization on WeChat.

As primary races for local, state and federal elections heat up across the country, it’s a phenomenon that some experts and political observers have been closely watching, especially in elections where Chinese-American voters can make a difference.

“If you look at discourse on WeChat, conservatives are winning the messaging game,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder and director of AAPI Data and a public policy professor at the University of California, Riverside.

Figures representing the prominence of articles on certain topics shared on some WeChat accounts and in English-language media and Chinese ethnic press.
Figures representing the prominence of articles on certain topics shared on some WeChat accounts and in English-language media and Chinese ethnic press.Courtesy of Chi Zhang

Zhang’s report said issues like affirmative action, unauthorized immigration and data disaggregation (the process of breaking down data by ethnic group) received a disproportionate focus on WeChat during the study period, from September to November 2017, compared to English-speaking media and ethnic media with immigrant Chinese as a target audience.

Jobs, the economy and health care garnered little attention, though coverage of the three in the Chinese ethnic press far outpaced other topics, according to the report.

While the study noted that both conservative and liberal WeChat discourse focused on race relations and what it called the “ambivalent role of Chinese Americans,” “it was the conservative narrative, invoking zero-sum calculations and the neglect of Chinese Americans by liberals, that seems to resonate more widely.”

CHINESE CONSERVATISM

It’s hard to say whether WeChat is responsible for the apparent rise in first-generation Chinese-American conservatism or whether the social media app has merely amplified its presence.

One involved Jimmy Kimmel, who came under fire for a 2013 skit in which a child suggested “killing everyone in China”could be a solution to America’s debt problem.

Another was SCA-5, an amendment in California to reinstate affirmative action in the state.

And then there was the prosecution of Peter Liang, a former New York City police officer of Chinese descent who accidentally shot and killed an unarmed black man while patrolling a housing project.

Much of this activism and discourse played out both on private WeChat groups and official accounts, to which anyone can subscribe.

“Without these events, nothing,” Wang said, adding, “Nobody would be talking about politics.”

WeChat users, like those on other social media platforms, can follow a variety of official accounts, including those for celebrities, government, media and enterprises. The Tow Center report said there were as many as 10 million.

Topics span the gamut, from recreation to leisure, food to politics. Most of the content is in Chinese.

Through a survey in August 2017 with 407 U.S.-based Chinese WeChat users, Zhang and her team identified 25 WeChat official accounts, or outlets, that respondents said were important to their understanding of politics and U.S. current events.

Many of these outlets provide a mix of gossip, information and news, while a few focus on politics.

Survey participants were recruited through Chinese organizations and Chinese-language school mailing lists. They also came from within WeChat through “snowball sampling,” a technique in which existing study subjects recruit future ones from among their acquaintances.

Zhang noted that statistics weren’t available on the number of U.S.-based WeChat users.

Her report analyzed all published content from these outlets from September to November 2017, some 3,837 articles in all. Outlets differed in quality and size, ranging from some with one writer and a small base of contributors, to others with a full-time editorial staff, according to the report.

The report found that the three right-leaning outlets during the period analyzed, between January and November 2017, published on average 384 articles per month — more than four times the amount put out by the four left-leaning ones.

Muslims, affirmative action and terrorism accounted for 57 percent of content on right-leaning accounts, compared to 47 percent on left-leaning ones, according to figures provided by Zhang.

But issues like health care, jobs and the economy took a backseat on right-leaning outlets, as opposed to what was published by their left-leaning counterparts, which had a more even distribution of topics, the study found.

SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION

The veracity of what’s being published through official WeChat accounts and private groups is a growing source of concern for some.

Just like Facebook and Twitter, WeChat can feature content that’s been distorted, exaggerated or just plain false.

One space where this can happen is in private groups. WeChat allows users to create a group chat of up to 500 members, according to the company.

“The groups are really where the articles are shared and where discussions take place,” Zhang said.

One example of misinformation cited in the study involved reports in November warning WeChat readers of an impending civil war and mass riots led by “Antifa.

Short for “anti-fascist,” Antifa is a loosely organized coalition of protesters, left-wing activists, and self-described anarchists who vow to physically confront “fascists” — meaning anyone who espouses bigoted or totalitarian views.

To be sure, an Antifa-led civil war or mass riots never happened. Moreover, a recent search on WeChat showed that some articles did in fact counter the erroneous claims and urged users not to spread unfounded reports.

But the story, translated into Chinese, nonetheless propagated far and wide on WeChat, according to the report.

If you look at discourse on WeChat, conservatives are winning the messaging game

“This case illustrates how a conspiratorial idea that was relayed all the way from the English-language far-right by way of partisan outlets on WeChat could be amplified through the replication and multiplication of diffuse outlets eager for shareable content,” the report concluded.

Another source of concern for some is whether WeChat outlets translating and packaging the news have fact-checking mechanisms in place like those at established Chinese-language media in the U.S.

“Not only do they not have fact-checking or any traditional norms of journalism governing how they operate,” Zhang said, “there’s an incentive to editorialize and make the narrative, the story, more sensational than what they found on the Internet.”

Outlets do this, she said, to make themselves stand out from the pack.

Joe Wei, managing editor of The World Journal, a U.S.-based Chinese-language newspaper, said he believes the majority of WeChat content is translated and disseminated by people in China.

He said the goal is not to give readers a better understanding of what’s happening in the U.S., but rather to expose conflict in the country, in an effort to show that China is better than the U.S.

For his part, Wang, who runs the Chinese Americans for Trump private WeChat group, said he doesn’t believe WeChat is being used to give first-generation Chinese-Americans a distorted view of U.S. politics.

“People do their own fact-checking, big time,” he said. “We’re not just going to believe a link on a website, not from a critical source, saying whatever. Everybody does their critical thinking, independent research, and we encourage people to do that so they’re immune from the fake news media.”

Wang added that they have moderators who fact-check news that is shared. Action is taken when something is found to be amiss.

“People would point out a link, saying this is fake news, it didn’t happen, it’s not real, and we would all just stop spreading,” he said.

Wei, however, expressed concern over how the content of some WeChat outlets is curated.

Speaking in Mandarin, he said right-leaning and pro-Trump groups tend to select, or cherry pick, social issues for WeChat that first-generation Chinese Americans are familiar with.

Those have included opposition toward affirmative action, allegations of Asian-American admissions quotas at Harvard University, and laws requiring that education and healthcare data only for Asian Americans be broken down by ethnicity.

But other issues, like the questionable use of force by some police officers toward black men, may get short shrift or not be covered at all, according to Wei.

The common theme that resonates for many first-generation Chinese-American immigrants is a feeling of being discriminated against or marginalized, observers note.

And that, they say, has helped galvanize support through WeChat to rally around these issues.

A NEW MEDIUM FOR THE MESSAGE

These days, fewer first-generation Chinese-American immigrants appear to be getting their news from traditional sources, like print media, Wei said.

Instead, they’re turning to WeChat and the platform’s official accounts, personal groups and “Moments” section, where users share information with their friends.

Chinese-language print media in the U.S. will likely adjust in the coming years by shifting its focus more to local news, including on-the-ground reporting about life in Chinese-American communities and the difficulties residents face, Wei said.

Established Chinese ethnic media outlets, including The World Journal, have also responded by setting up their own official WeChat accounts.

“In the last few years, we have been investing tremendously, building up a news-information platform that includes website, social media, print and electronic newspaper,” Wei said of The World Journal.

To combat misinformation on WeChat, Zhang’s report said more English-language media, government agencies and community groups should use the platform for two-way communication.

And ethnic media, the report added, can serve as “vehicles of verified information,” even as WeChat seems to have garnered a sizeable audience.

“Substantial and credible local news is more crucial than ever for immigrant groups, especially on stories and policy issues prone to misinterpretation,” the report said.

World Health Org. Urges Vietnamese to Eat Less Sugar

Posted on June 26th, 2018 by imprentacomm

Excessive sugar and salt combined with insufficient vegetable consumption is posing health risks to Vietnamese people, experts say. Photo from vtc.vn via Viet Nam News/Asia News Network

HANOI — Vietnamese people eat too much sugar and it is harming their health, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

While the WHO recommends consuming less than 25 grams of sugar per day, Vietnamese eat an average 46.5 grams daily.

The data was revealed at a workshop to release WHO recommendations on controlling sugar-sweetened beverage consumption to prevent and control non-communicable diseases, held by the Department of Preventive Medicine under the Ministry of Health in Hanoi last Friday.

An unbalanced diet of excessive sugar and salt combined with insufficient vegetable consumption and a lack of physical activity is posing health risks to Vietnamese people, especially non-communicable diseases, said Truong Dinh Dac, deputy head of the department.

According to the WHO, the consumption of sugary drinks is increasing, especially in developing countries. Sugary beverages are produced on an industrial scale with a variety of products and are loved by children. Sugar drinks can make people feel better, eat more delicious and eat more, especially the baked goods, fried.

However, many reports suggest that sugary drinks will overload energy leading to fat accumulation, metabolic disorders; Increased risk of non-communicable diseases such as overweight – obesity, hypertension and osteoporosis.

Truong Tuyet Mai, Deputy Director of the National Institute of Nutrition, said Vietnamese people consumed about 5 billion litres of sugary beverages annually.

The figure is estimated to reach more than 5 billion litres in 2018 and 11 billion litres in 2025.

In Vietnam, the prevalence of overweight people and obesity is rapidly increasing.

The ratio of overweight and obesity in adults accounts for about 25 percent of the population. The rate of obese children under 5 has increased rapidly from 0.6 per cent in 2000 to 5.3 percent in 2015.

In addition, according to the survey of the National Hospital of Endocrinology, from 2002 to 2012, the rate of people with diabetes doubled from 2.7 to 5.4 percent.

Sugary drinks are the main source of sugar in the diet, and consumption is increasing in most countries, especially in children, WHO said.

The WHO recommends a reduced intake of free sugars.

In both adults and children, the WHO recommends reducing the intake of free sugars to less than 10 per cent of total energy intake.

Jun Nakagawa, deputy head of WHO’s office in Vietnam, said that to effectively reduce excessive consumption of sugar and prevent obesity and diabetes, Vietnam should raise taxes on sugary beverages, an effective way to reduce sugar consumption.

It was important to restrict the promotion of sugary beverages, raise awareness about the harmful effects and alter the habit of consuming too many sugar-sweetened drinks, he said.

At the workshop, participants also shared experiences of some countries in the control of sugary drinks as well as using financial tools in order to reduce sugar consumption in Vietnam.

Asian Americans Post Largest Gains In Homeownership

Posted on June 26th, 2018 by imprentacomm

Asian Americans have seen the largest gains among any race in homeownership in the United States, new research shows.

recent report by Zillow Research found that the Asian homeownership rate increased 48%, from 10.1% in 1900 to 58.1% in 2016. This marks the largest jump in homeownership, compared to 23.2% among whites, 20.5% among blacks, and 5.4% among Latinos.

Overall, Asians have the second-highest ownership rate in the United States, below white households at 71.3% and above Hispanic and black households at 45.6% and 41%, respectively.

The research also found that in 2016, Asian home buyers had the most purchasing power, affording homes worth $155,000 more than the typical U.S. buyer. As a result, the Asian share of U.S. homes owned in 2016 (4.4%) was almost equivalent with their share of the U.S. population (5.6%). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 21.4 million Asian Americans in the United States, and this population is expected to grow by 79% between 2000 and 2050.

Stephen Davey, COO of Asian Americans For Equality(AAFE), an organization that helps Asian immigrants find affordable housing and navigate the home buying market, said that cultural values and an immigrant mentality could be responsible for the high rates of homeownership among Asians.

“Family cooperation as a significant factor is our clients’ success in achieving homeownership,” Davey said via email. “Family pressure to help one another, added to the traditional new-immigrant attitude that puts a premium on seeking the security of owning your own home, is a strong combination.”

However, Gary Painter, a public policy professor at the University of South California who has studied housing market demographics extensively, noted that these homeownership numbers may be skewed due to a simple math calculation.

Homeownership is calculated by dividing the number of homes owned in the numerator with the number of homes owned and not owned (rented) in the denominator. But the data is not on a per capita basis. Asian American homeownership rates may be high partially because homeownership is measured at the household level.

“Many Asian households tend to live in multigenerational households at a higher rate, and it shows up as a higher homeownership rate,” he said.

Painter’s research revealed socioeconomic factors similar to those identified by AAFE that could explain why Asian homeownership rates in the United States are the highest among the minorities. Young Asian American adults were more likely to live in households with their parents before establishing financial independence, skipping the rental stage and jumping straight to home ownership, he said.

As for the explanation for Asian homeowners’ high buying power, Davey pointed to a “desire to limit the amount of borrowed funds” among Asian communities that often leads to family cooperation and significantly higher down payments when buying a home.

Painter has also conducted research on homeownership rates within the Asian American community when households are broken down by country of immigrant origin, which vary vastly culturally and linguistically.

Specifically, the research found that differences in homeownership among Asian Americans could mostly be explained by factors such as education, income and head of household numbers. However, there was one outlier in the group—Chinese Americans.

“We found that even after controlling for what part of China you came from, or another part of Asia, there still remained a higher homeownership among Chinese than other Asian groups,” Painter said.

The explanation for this could again be a higher tendency for nuclear familial living arrangements, as well cultural influence, community financial lending practices, and investment from immigrant families back home.

Vietnam memorial: ‘We come not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them’

Posted on June 19th, 2018 by imprentacomm

ST. CLOUD — Despite the pouring rain, hundreds of people attended a ceremony Saturday afternoon to honor Americans and Vietnamese people who fought and died in the Vietnam War.

The crowd gathered by the Vietnam War Memorial at Lake George for a short program and picnic. Many wore bright red and yellow, the colors of the Vietnamese flag, and others were dressed in uniform, both Vietnamese and American.

The program, too, represented the diverse crowd, as speakers thanked those who served for their sacrifices in the name of freedom in Vietnamese and English.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is our honor to have you here today, in front of this monument to commemorate Vietnamese veterans and 58,000 U.S. Army soldiers who died for our freedom, democracy and peace,” said Nga Wynne, one of the speakers and who helped interpret the words of the Vietnamese speakers.

U.S. involvement in Vietnam began in 1954, lasting until 1975. Originally a regional conflict between the Communist north and the people in the south, the war intensified as the U.S. and the Soviet Union backed opposite sides, a flare-up of the Cold War.

It’s estimated 2 million Vietnamese people were killed, about 3 million were wounded and 12 million became refugees. About 58,000 Americans died in the war, with the U.S. spending more than $120 billion on the conflict. The U.S. withdrew from the war in 1973 and South Vietnam surrendered in 1975.

The local memorial honors the Americans killed in the war and the Vietnamese people who fought with the United States against the Communist north.

She said she and the Vietnamese veterans were there to show younger generations how to continue to honor the sacrifices of their ancestors.

“With the advice from our Vietnamese seniors, (they) encourage us to protect and to maintain the cultural tradition of the republic of Vietnam,” Wynne said.

Vietnamese soldiers fought in a war that lasted nearly 20 years, she said, some never knowing peace in their lifetimes.

“They fought one battle after the next, and the next,” Wynne said. “Some die without the hope of (burial), their remains without peaceful rest. Some were buried in the far, far land, or (remain in the) jungle forever. We are the people who are so lucky to survive during those wars and (to now) live in the country of freedom and democracy.”

Vietnam War veterans get a chance to tell their stories.

Wynne reiterated that monuments like the one at Lake George can be important places of remembrance. She shared the thoughts of senior Vietnamese veterans in a poem.

“When we die, (there’s) no need to be a tomb. With little ash we leave behind, this monument is the place to rest. With old friends, together, we fought. Yes, this monument will be the place for our republic of Vietnam veterans to meet.”

The monument was dedicated about a decade ago, adding a tribute to American and Vietnamese soldiers alongside the names of Central Minnesota soldiers who died in the war. It was created through a collaboration of Vietnamese and American soldiers.

“This is a place that forever … will be an opportunity for people to come and gather and remember that collaboration and that freedom,” said Mayor Dave Kleis. “We honor, not only on a day like today, but always, what their sacrifice means and what it means, really, to live in freedom.”

Attendees made offerings of wreaths, roses and incense at the memorial, in honor of their loved ones and many others who fought and died in the war.

Larry Davis, the president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 290, spoke about the origin and true meaning of Memorial Day.

“The observance of America’s Memorial Day was born of compassion and empathy in 1863,” he said, when the loved ones of fallen Confederate soldiers not only honored their dead, but the lives of Union soldiers.

“The true meaning of Memorial Day is to recognize the magnitude of the deeds of the men and women who held true to the notion that evil and tyranny must not prevail,” he said. “Memorial Day … (is) a day when we can rededicate ourselves to the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. But remember, we come not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them.”