First-Ever Tracker Of Hate Crimes Against Asian-Americans Launched

John Lu (left), Reynold Liang (center) and David Wu (right) during a news conference in Queens, N.Y., after being the victims of a hate crime in 2006. New York City council member David Weprin (second left) and John C. Liu look on.

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Adam Rountree/AP

After years of declining numbers, hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are rising exponentially. A report from the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations found that crimes targeting Asian-Americans tripled in that county between 2014 and 2015. In addition, the FBI found that the number of hate crimes against Muslim communities rose dramatically between 2014 and 2015 (67 percent). That’s the biggest increase of any other group listed in the Hate Crimes Report. However, national statistics on hate crimes against people who fall under the AAPI label are still scanty.

Two days before the inauguration, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a civil and human rights nonprofit, launched a website to rectify the issue. The website, standagainsthatred.org, documents hate incidents and crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders by tracking stories about hate incidents received from people around the country. The stories are vetted by AAJC staff and posted anonymously.

“We’ve always recognized that hate incidents have been an issue,” said AAJC Executive Director John Yang. “We realized that we really needed a better tracking tool.”

Documented hate crimes against Asian-Americans extend as far back as the 1800s, when the white supremacist group Arsonists of the Order of Caucasians murdered four Chinese men whom they blamed for taking away jobs from white workers. The men were tied up, doused with kerosene and set on fire. In 1987, a Jersey City, N.J., gang calling itself the “Dotbusters” vowed to drive Indians out of Jersey City by vandalizing Indian-owned businesses. The gang used bricks to bludgeon a young South Asian male into a coma.

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In a headline-grabbing case, two men from Queens, N.Y., were charged with a hate crime for attacking four Asian men, including one left with a possible fractured skull in a then-predominantly white neighborhood. “There’s an undercurrent of suspicion of the new immigrant — what are they doing, what are they building, what are they putting in that store?” Susan Seinfeld, the district manager of Community Board 11, told The New York Times at the time.

In recent years, law enforcement bias has also surfaced: In 2014, video footage showed a New York Police Department cruiser running over and killing 24-year-old Japanese-American student Ryo Oyamada. The court later ruled in favor of the police department, stating that the incident was unavoidable. In January of this year, a 60-year-old Chinese-American man playing Pokémon Go in his car at night was shot and killed by a security guard in Chesapeake, Va. The guard was charged with murder.

Hate crimes targeting AAPI often stem from the fact that they’re seen as the “perpetual foreigner,” said Yang. That anti-foreign sentiment has only increased under the new administration, he said. In one of the stories posted on the new AAJC website, an older white man approached an Asian-American woman in downtown San Francisco and pretended to hit her over the head with a book, yelling, “I hate your f****** race. We’re in charge of this country now.” The anonymous submission added, “He was not intoxicated.” In another entry, a Muslim teacher in Georgia was told to “hang herself” with her headscarf.

As disturbing as these stories are, they often don’t show up in national data, said Yang. Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders frequently underreport hate incidents because they feel intimidated by law enforcement or are afraid of being seen as overly sensitive. Unfortunately, their silence on the issue makes them an even more attractive target for hate crimes. Racially motivated incidents that are reported are often filed as generic offenses and don’t show up in national data about hate crimes.

AAJC plans to share data gathered from its website with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes through its Hate Map and Hatewatch blog. The center began segmenting out its hate crime numbers for Asian-Americans last December and relies on grass-roots organizations like AAJC for those data.

“We need to raise public awareness that hate incidents against AAPI are not one-off incidents. They happen in much greater numbers than we’d like to admit,” said Yang.

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Trudy Pitts On Piano Jazz

Organist, arranger, composer, teacher and singer Trudy Pitts (1932 – 2010) earned a reputation not only for her technical prowess, but also for her ability to convey a wide range of emotions through her playing. Her formal training was classical: She studied piano at Juilliard and Temple University, but came to jazz by way of the organ. In this 1992 episode of Piano Jazz, Pitts’ sensitive touch is apparent when she solos on “A Child Is Born.” Then she and host Marian McPartland create a memorable “Mood Indigo.”

Originally broadcast in 1992.

Set List
  • “Stolen Moments” (Nelson)
  • Medley: “Jesus Loves The Little Children”/”Jesus Loves Me” (Woolston, Root/Warner)
  • “When You Wish Upon A Star” (Harline, Washington)
  • “This Time The Dream’s On Me” (Arlen)
  • “Anicia” (Pitts)
  • “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” (McHugh, Fields)
  • “A Child Is Born” (Jones)
  • “Mood Indigo” (Ellington)

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Trump's Sons Heading To Dubai As Business Interests Continue To Expand Overseas

A flag flies on a green lined with villas at the Trump International Golf Club, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The 18-hole golf course in Dubai bearing Donald Trump’s name exemplifies the questions surrounding his international business interests.

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Kamran Jebreili/AP

Although President Trump has stepped back from daily management of the Trump Organization, his businesses continue to expand, often in foreign countries.

On Saturday, Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Jr. will be in the United Arab Emirates, helping cut the ribbon for the new Trump International Golf Club, according to Kim Benza, a spokesperson for the Trump Organization.

The 18-hole golf course, in the works since 2013, is part of a larger project that will include 100 luxury villas in the desert just outside Dubai. The website touts “a world-class golf course, exceeding all expectations. And the clubhouse contains “enough gold to suit even the most exacting Dubai resident,” says the Gulf News, which toured the facility.

President Trump’s sons Eric (left) and Donald Jr., pictured at a 2015 campaign event, are overseeing resorts still underway in places such as the Philippines and Indonesia.

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Cheryl Senter/AP

The golf course is one of two Trump resort projects in Dubai. Behind both is the Dubai-based company Damac Properties, run by billionaire Hussain Sajwani, a Trump business partner for almost a decade.

In the week before his inauguration, Trump claimed that he turned down a $2 billion deal by Damac Properties to develop yet another golf course in Dubai because he didn’t “want to take advantage of something.”

Trump has been criticized for not divesting his family business. While he has moved his holdings into a revocable trust, he has not given up ownership and the trustees are his sons.

Eric and Donald Jr. are overseeing resorts still underway in places such as the Philippines and Indonesia. Trump Hotels also is planning a major expansion of luxury properties in the United States, as well as opening up a line of moderately priced hotels called Scion.

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Those expansions not only raise ethical questions about conflicts between Trump’s role as president and as business owner but are generating concerns about costs to the U.S. taxpayers. The Trump sons get Secret Service protection, and their foreign business trips can be enormously expensive for their protective service, according to The Washington Post.

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Authors And Illustrators Of Color Accounted For 22 Percent Of Children's Books

In 2016, people of color were the protagonists in 22 percent of children’s literature.

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stevecoleimages/Getty Images/Vetta via iStock

Two decades ago only about 9 percent of children’s books published in the U.S. were about people of color. Things have changed since then, but not by much.

On Wednesday, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Education School revealed that in 2016, it counted 427 books written or illustrated by people of color, and 736 books about people of color out of about 3,400 books they analyzed. That adds up to 22 percent of children’s books.

The CCBC tracks how many books are published by and about people of color every year. Since 1994, they’ve had categories for black, Latino, Native American and Asian Pacific Americans, who make up a combined 38 percent of the population.

The Center started keeping track prompted by requests from teachers who had mostly students of color but couldn’t find books to reflect their experiences. “And in some cases, they were looking for books that didn’t exist,” said director Kathleen Horning. She says that the reluctance to tell stories about people of color is something that you see across multiple fields, from television to the Academy Awards to publishing. “There’s no problem with publishing five or six books in a season about bunnies,” Horning said. “But if we’re talking about books about black boys?”

Stacey Barney, a senior editor at Penguin Putnam Young Readers, said that one of the most important things about literature — particularly literature consumed by children and young adults — is that it helps young people learn to look beyond their own personal experiences. “You can grow up and think, ‘Oh, well everybody must get up and watch cartoons and eat cereal and go to school and that’s just what life is.'”

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She said young readers aren’t really familiar with experiences outside their own. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York, a very diverse city. “But still I was unaware until I started reading books that prompted me to look outside of my experience…Books that are about black people or about Muslims or about Asians can also find a home and be loved by people who are not of that culture.”

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Scott Pruitt Confirmed To Lead Environmental Protection Agency

Scott Pruitt has been confirmed by the Senate to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been confirmed as the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency Pruitt has long criticized.

The Senate approved Pruitt on a 52-46 vote on Friday afternoon, with two Democrats — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — voting for his nomination. Republican Susan Collins of Maine voted no.

The vote came after a failed Democratic attempt to delay the confirmation proceedings until after a new batch of documents from Pruitt’s state office are made public under court order. Those emails will be released beginning next week.

Pruitt has come under fire for coordinating closely with energy companies in his attempts to scale back and block federal environmental regulations. The New York Times reported that at times, Pruitt had simply copied and pasted suggested language from an energy company onto state letterhead, and then sent it to the EPA.

Pruitt will almost certainly take the EPA in a drastically new direction.

The agency aggressively drafted and enforced new environmental rules during the Obama administration, tightening federal standards for vehicle emissions, water quality and pollution at power plants. Pruitt is expected to slow or reverse much of that, scaling back regulations and deferring to states on environmental enforcement.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt led legal challenge after legal challenge against EPA regulations, even describing himself in his official biography as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”

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Pruitt argued during his confirmation hearing that he wasn’t against environmental quality standards — he just thinks that they are better enforced on the state level. “The states are not mere vessels of federal will,” Pruitt testified. “They don’t exist simply to carry out federal dictates from Washington, D.C. There are substantive requirements, obligations, authority, jurisdiction granted to the states under our environmental statutes. That needs to be respected.”

That’s a view shared by many Republicans. But former Bush administration EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told NPR she’s worried Pruitt’s skepticism goes too far for him to be an effective head of the agency. “He seems to have a level of distrust that is unusual coming into an agency, because it doesn’t necessarily bode well for good relations with the career staff that are there, with whom you have to work and you need to get things done,” she said.

Whitman also questioned Pruitt’s belief in climate change. While Pruitt did tell senators during his confirmation hearing that “science tells us that the climate is changing and human activity in some manner impacts that change,” he said “the extent of that [human] impact is subject to continuing debate and dialogue.”

Regardless of Pruitt’s personal beliefs on climate change, he’s expected to dismantle the EPA’s main rule aimed at lowering the United States’ carbon footprint: the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

The rule would lower carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by about 30 percent over the coming decades, and is the linchpin of the United States’ plan to meet its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Clean Power Plan is currently held up in federal court. President Trump campaigned on reversing it, and Pruitt was among the state attorneys general who sued to block the regulation from ever taking effect.

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Germany bans talking doll Cayla, citing security risk

A talking doll named Cayla has been banned by German authorities because the software inside her could be hacked, posing a security risk and allowing personal data to be revealed.

The Federal Network Agency recommended that parents who bought the doll for their children destroy it.

“The Cayla doll is banned in Germany,” agency head Jochen Homann said. “This is also about protecting the weakest members of society.”

The software in the doll — created by the U.S. company Genesis Toys — allows a child to have a conversation with the doll.

But this carried a risk of espionage and could compromise privacy, Homann said in a statement.

Researcher Stefan Hessel, who had examined the toy and alerted the agency, said hackers could use an unsecure bluetooth device embedded in it to listen and talk to the child playing with it.

“In a test, I was able to hack the toy even through several walls. It lacks any security features,” Hessel told the German website Netzpolitik.org.

The German distributer, Vivid GmbH, could not be reached for comment.

Surveillance is a sensitive issue in Germany where East Germany’s Stasi secret police and the Nazi era Gestapo kept a close watch on the population.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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