News Pulse – 8/17/2011

The International Examiner August 17, 2011 Comments Off

Separated By the Killing Fields, Reunited Through Facebook

Sonan Samreth, right, reunited with William Buth earlier this summer.

Sonan Samreth, right, reunited with William Buth earlier this summer.

A moving story, reported by the Record (www.recordnet.com), featured two long-lost friends separated by the notorious killing fields of war-torn Cambodia, and who are reunited decades later in the United States through a chance encounter on Facebook.
Willam Buth and Sonan Samreth were teenage friends and classmates in Cambodia when they were separated as the Khmer Rouge forces took over the country in 1975. Each believed the other had died during Pol Pot’s regime. But both survived and eventually made their way to the U.S. Nearly forty years later, they found each other on Facebook. Setting up a Facebook account was Buth’s wife’s idea.
“I never thought about it,” said Buth, who teaches math at a high school.
“My wife thinks that this is a good idea – to share her pictures so that friends and relatives from all over the country can see.” Earlier this summer, soon after registering, Buth received a message from another Facebook user -— someone he didn’t recognize at first.
“I did not know what was going on,” he said. He ignored it. But two days later, there was another message: “I’m so sorry, but you look really familiar, like my friend since 1974. Sitha Buth.” It was a name William Buth hadn’t used in decades. The friends reunited, cried, and shared stories of their lives since the war – all thanks to a social media website.

In Suit, Housekeeper Says Buddhist Monk Enslaved Her in His Queens Home

In New York, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund has filed a complaint in Brooklyn federal court on behalf of a Korean immigrant worker against a Buddhist monk and his family members for violating federal human trafficking and labor laws.

According to the New York Times, the complaint, filed under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, Oak-Jin Oh worked for prominent Buddhist monk Soo Bok Choi and his family, who forced her to work long hours without pay and without freedom to leave their residence for twelve years.

From AALDEF’s press release: “The plaintiff, a citizen of the Republic of Korea, arrived in New York in 1998, believing that she would work for the Choi family and receive her pay as agreed. Instead, the Choi family forced her to work long hours without pay and without freedom to leave their residence for 12 years. She cooked, cleaned, and performed numerous other household chores in the Choi family’s home and Soo Bok Choi’s Buddhist temple … When she asked for her pay, the Choi family responded with threats of physical harm and death. In addition, they did not allow her any days off, deprived her of medical care, withheld her passport, and restricted her ability to make contact with anyone outside the household. She was finally able to escape the Choi household last year.”

Asia Emerges As the New West for Ambitious Americans

In the last half century Asia has ballooned from a few quaint tourist attractions into an immense continent full of opportunities for ambitious young Americans. The Asian news site, GoldSea (www.goldsea.com), described that in the 1960s, Asia was Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore. Then at the start of the 70s, Asia exploded in our consciousness as a threat to democracy and capitalism. The reality of jungle battlefield death tolls forced our minds to grope at the geography of once obscure places like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. As that war wound down mid-decade, Japan posed a baffling challenge to the American self image with their ability to out-innovate and out-produce the United States of America.

Then as we entered a new millennium secure in our supremacy at the center of a new era powered by chips and audacious imagination, Americans were hit by the dawning consciousness that our economy was completely dependent on Asia for chips, LCDs, cars, cell phones, loans, brainpower and exploding populations of affluent consumers. Nothing seems as odd to American minds as the concept that in 2011, Chinese will buy nearly twice as many cars as Americans or that GM’s rapid emergence after bankruptcy was powered by the fact that it is on track to sell more cars in China than in the U.S. and Europe combined by 2014.

Chinese are eager to buy American products and hire American workers. China recognizes that the biggest limiting factor for its own growth is the lack of trained, experienced professionals, and has launched national campaigns to encourage foreigners to study and work there. China isn’t interested in turning itself into a big closed factory town, as Japan did the article continued, but rather in building a dynamic world-class economy that will continue growing long enough to lift the other three-quarters of its 1.35 billion into the upper middle class. We’re talking about at least two more generations of vigorous growth, comparable to the growth that took place in the U.S. between 1900 and 1960 — but on a bigger scale. A similar evolution will be taking place in India, though shifted back by maybe 15 years.

The article continues, “Even now many Americans haven’t gotten used to the idea that the East is now the new West — a land of limitless opportunities. But when they do, they will awaken to a world in which ambitious young Americans can make their fortunes by following the advice of last century’s greatest newspaper editor, Horace Greeley: ‘Go west, young man!’”

“It’s Fine For Other Roles To Be Black, But Akira Must Be Asian”

The new Marvel Comic’s Spiderman character is half Black and Latino, following the death of Peter Parker.

The new Marvel Comic’s Spiderman character is half Black and Latino, following the death of Peter Parker.

An article published on the CinemaBlend website (www.cinemablend.com ) called “It’s Fine For Perry White To Be Black, But Akira Must Always Be Asian” discusses why colorblind casting works for some characters and not for others.

When M. Night Shyamalan recast the lead characters from the Asian anime “Akira” as Caucasians in the movie version, fans accused the filmmakers of racism.

“On the flipside there’s a reason no one really seems to care that Nick Fury, originally a white character in his comic book incarnation, is played by Samuel L. Jackson in Marvel’s movies,” reads the article. “And it seemed to work out just fine that Perry White will be played by Laurence Fishburne in Zack Snyder’s upcoming ‘Man of Steel’.”

Why does colorblind casting seem to work for some characters and not for others? “Here’s why Batman and Captain America will always be white guys and Akira had better stay distinctly Asian, but you should be just fine with Perry White as a black guy. Scientists have estimated that 62 percent of children in the United States will be of a minority ethnicity by 2050. But it’s not a matter of political correctness as much as it is a matter of progress. It works just fine, when creating a new character, as with this new Spider-Man. It’s only really a problem when you’re tackling an established icon. Other characters are not iconic and can therefore be flexible in who represents them.”

Also, the article mentions that physical appearance matters. It’s not just about race. “You can’t cast Robert Downey Jr. to play Conan the Barbarian for the same reason you just can’t cast Derek Luke to play Clark Kent. Pasty-white Peter Parker is an icon, an indelible part of our cultural consciousness. Akira is and always will be Asian.”

Supporting Maryland’s Filipino Migrant Teachers

In Maryland, the Department of Labor determined that the Prince George’s County Public Schools were a “willfull violator” of labor laws because they let 1,000 international teachers — the majority of whom come from the Philippines — shoulder fees that should have been the schools’. Authorities penalized the school system by demanding they pay these teachers back. However, they were also debarred from hiring foreign teachers for the next two years. Now many of the teachers are at a risk of deportation because the school system refuses to renew their visas and process their green cards due to the settlement. An online petition has been launched in support of the migrant teachers.

The Kim Sisters: A 1960s Pop Legacy

kim-sisters-400x509A rare find on the website, YouOffendMeYouOffendMyFamily.com, features the Kim Sisters from South Korea, who were a part of the legacy of Asian American musicians during the 1960s and 70s. Three sisters, Sook-ja, Mi-a, and Ai-ja, were the daughters of the famous Korean music conductor Hae-song Kim (1911 – 1950), a classical music conductor and popular composer who was captured and killed by the North Koreans during the Korean War, and Nan-Young Lee (1916 – 1967), one of Korea’s most famous singers before the World War II, best known for her 1935 nation-wide hit song, “The Tears from Mokpo.”

Their mother began performing for the US Troops in the early ’50s, just to survive and feed her seven children, and got the idea of having the sisters become a trio act. The sisters, who didn’t speak any English, learned to sing phonetically. Barely into their teens, with the encouragement and tutelage of their mother, the sisters sang an old country western tune, Hoagy Carmichael’s “Ole’ Buttermilk Sky”, on stage and soon became wildly popular. The show went well and soon the sisters were singing regularly, all the popular music and early rock’n’roll of the day. Soldiers would give them chocolate bars, which in turn they would trade in for real food on the black market, but it was enough to get by.

By 1958, they were recruited by an American manager and flown to Las Vegas, where they had a popular revue show at the Thunderbird Hotel. In 1959, they were “discovered” by Ed Sullivan and would perform 22 times on his nationally televised show over a 14-year span. The Sisters soon became very savvy and were able to bring over the rest of their siblings and had a contract with the Stardust to perform as a family revue. An oral history report from 1997 with one of the sisters and a clip showcasing the groups musical talents is available on the website: www.youoffendmeyouoffendmyfamily.com/the-kim-sisters.

AMC Drama About the Transcontinental Railroad Excludes Chinese

The AMC channel is launching an original series called “Hell on Wheels”, an epic historical drama about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad and the tent city that moved along the railroad as it was built. And although Chinese immigrant workers played a major role in building the railroad, apparently there is little mention of their contributions to the mighty, historical construction project. TV critics present at an early screening brought up this point and the show’s producers were described as being at a loss for words.

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