Dear John, | #FeministJohnCho

July 23, 2016
(Photo Credit: 18MillionRising / Twitter)
From the hashtag, #FeministJohnCho (Photo Credit: 18MillionRising / Twitter)

Dear John,

You don’t know me, but I’ve been with you since the very beginning.

I was organizing on-campus screenings when Justin Lin made Better Luck Tomorrow on nothing more than some shoestrings, a little spit, and a handful of maxed out credit cards. I shelled out my movie ticket money for American Pie and Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, and even gritted my teeth through the (many, many, shitty) sequels despite my being the polar opposite of these film franchises’ target demographics. I was there for you in Flashforward and Sleepy Hollow and Selfie. I have supported you for over a decade as an immensely talented actor and one of Asian America’s  break-out stars, and no one was more thrilled than I when you landed the part of Sulu in J. J. Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise; few actors deserved the opportunity more.

Asian American actors are a special bunch: to a person, you all seem to be thoughtful, reasoned, caring and politically conscious activist-actors who are deeply knowledgeable about mainstream media’s (under/mis)representation when it comes to people of colour. Perhaps it comes from the years during which you are forced to toil in acting obscurity as one of the industry’s few Asian American actors or directors, but when at last you get your “big break”, most of you use your newfound platforms to force a conversation on media diversity and better representation. I experience a moment of joyful anticipation every time I stumble across an interview with an Asian American actor, because — whether BD Wong, or Constance Wu, or Daniel Dae Kim, or Daniel Henney, or Aziz Ansari, or you — you use your respective spotlights to force a necessary conversation about Hollywood’s diversity holes. And, you all always have really great and thought-provoking things to say.

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BREAKING: Purvi Patel’s Feticide Conviction Overturned in US Appeals Court

July 22, 2016
A court sketch of Purvi Patel, who was sentenced today after a court found her guilty of feticide and child neglect in the death of her fetus.
A court sketch of Purvi Patel, who was sentenced last year after a court found her guilty of feticide and child neglect in the death of her fetus.

Purvi Patel’s feticide and child neglect convictions — which led to her 20-year jail sentence for the death of her fetus — were overturned today by an Indiana appeals court. Patel had been convicted in the apparently contradictory charges of feticide (the death of an unborn fetus) and child neglect (death due to neglect of a live infant) after the death of her mid-term fetus in 2013. This blog has been following Patel’s story since the very beginning.

Patel’s charges stem from the loss of her fetus under circumstances Patel continues to maintain were an unintended miscarriage — which occurs as often as in approximately 10-20% of pregnancies. Prosecutors, however, argued that Patel had self-induced a chemical abortion. Their evidence? Text messages between Patel and a friend where Patel expressed interest in the purchase in abortion-inducing drugs; yet, there was no concrete evidence showing that Patel ever purchased those drugs, and no drugs were found in her bloodstream at the time of her fetus’ death.

Patel’s case has alarmed women’s rights activists since 2013, because it is symptomatic of how anti-choice activists have misapplied the law and other systems designed to protect women, and instead used them to criminalize pregnant women. Patel was arrested in the death of her fetus after her emergency room doctor called authorities when she was admitted for excessive hemorrhaging, and when he subsequently went out to search for incriminating evidence of an illegal abortion. Patel was charged with feticide using laws originally written with the intention of protecting battered women from physical abuse that leads to the loss of their fetus at the hands of their batterer; that law has been used twice by prosecutors in Indiana to persecute women — and in both cases, those women have been Asian American and/or immigrant women of colour. Patel’s mistreatment by our legal system undermines any possibility of trust between women — and specifically women of colour — and the medical or justice systems in this country.

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Why This Election Matters

July 21, 2016

ItTakesRoots

By Guest Contributor: Timmy Lu (@timmyhlu)

I’ve been voting and tracking national electoral politics since I was nine, when I voted twice for Bill Clinton in 1992.

Like a lot of immigrant and refugee kids, my parents relied on me to interpret American society for them, and politics — including filling out mail-in ballots — was one part of that responsibility. I was raised under the requirement that I know — and be able to talk about — American politics.

I’ve noticed something really different about this year’s election.

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Would Donald Trump still be a Freddie Mercury fan if he knew Freddie’s life story?

July 20, 2016
Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury

By Guest Contributor: Lakshmi Gandhi (@LakshmiGandhi)

Before journalist Jarrett Hill broke the story of Melania Trump’s alleged plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s famous 2008 convention speech, it looked like one of the biggest social media moments of the night was the shock and dismay of music fans everywhere as Donald Trump entered the convention stage to the sounds of Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions.’

Reaction to Trump’s music choice was swift.

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BREAKING: US Representative Mark Takai Dies of Pancreatic Cancer at 49

July 20, 2016
US Representative Mark Takai

US Representative Mark Takai, a first-term Democratic Congressman from Hawaii, has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 49.

Takai had spent ten years as a State House Representative in Hawaii before successfully winning his Congressional seat over Republican incumbent former Rep. Charles Djou in the 2014 elections. As a congressman, Takai served on the Committee on Armed Services and on the Committee on Small Business. Takai was also a decorated Lieutenant Colonel of the Hawaii Army National Guard, and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Earlier this year, Takai announced that after he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer  in 2015, he would not be seeking reelection, choosing instead to serve out the remainder of his term until January 2017 before focusing on his battle against the disease. Today, his office issued a statement saying that the Congressman had passed of the disease. It read:

The Takai family thanks the people of Hawaii for their support during this difficult time. Information regarding a service will be available at a later time. The Takai family politely asks for the continued respect of their family’s privacy.

Cancer is the leading cause of death for Asian Americans in the aggregate, and for most Asian American ethnic subgroups. It is the second leading cause of death for Japanese American men. Pancreatic cancer is a particularly aggressive form of cancer that accounts for approximately 3% of all cancer diagnoses, and about 7% of all cancer deaths. Although pancreatic cancer incidence rates are lowest for Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders compared to other racial groups (and highest among Black patients), this type of cancer still occurs in 8.8 of every 100,000 AAPI patients. By contrast, several other forms of cancer — including stomach, liver and thyroid cancer — have unusually high incidence among the AAPI population.

Among Takai’s many legislative priorities was fighting for improved cancer research. Last year, Takai issued a statement applauding a boost in funding to the National Institutes of Health, which includes the National Cancer Institute that is devoted specifically to cancer research. Nonetheless, funding remains woefully inadequate: the National Cancer Institute has an annual budget of approximately $5 billion dollars to develop approaches to improve outcomes for the roughly 15 million people currently living in the United States with a cancer diagnosis. That calculates out to less than $340 spent by the government per cancer patient to develop new and effective treatments for this devastating and deadly disease. As a country, we can and must do better.

This post will be updated as more information on Takai’s passing becomes available.

Rest in power, Representative Takai.

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