Announcing the Yuri Kochiyama Fellowship

Medium.com (by Anoop Prasad):

Advancing Justice — Asian Law Caucus is excited to announce a new fellowship for formerly incarcerated Asian Pacific Islanders. Too often, the movements against prisons and deportation are out of sync and ignore the intersectional experiences of people in both systems. Advocates often make decisions without inviting formerly incarcerated people into the conversation and without consulting people who are locked up. Through the Yuri Kochiyama Fellowship, we hope to begin changing that. By centering and building leadership among directly impacted people, we hope to support a movement led by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.

Over the next several months, the first two Yuri Kochiyama Fellows will be using their experiences to advocate for changes to America’s incarceration and deportation systems. As people who have spent years in prison and immigration detention, their voices and leadership are sorely needed in the movement.

We chose to name the fellowship after Yuri Kochiyama. She was a tireless political activist who dedicated her life to social justice and human rights for almost five decades. Yuri spent two years as a young adult in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans in Arkansas during World War II. Later in life, she worked with Malcolm X, the Harlem Parents Committee, the Black Panthers, the Young Lords and other groups. Throughout her life, she supported people in prison by exchanging letters, advocating for their release, and organizing support committees.

Our first two Fellows will carry on Yuri’s legacy by using their experiences in prison and immigration detention to advocate for those still locked up. Their first advocacy project will be in support of a ballot measure that limits the ability of District Attorneys to charge children as adults. The reforms will keep thousands of children from being sent to prison for decades and from facing deportation for those crimes.

Rajeshree Roy, a 2016 Yuri Kochiyama Fellow, was arrested at the age of fifteen for a robbery. Rather than receiving services as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who was homeless, she was tried as an adult and sent to prison for fifteen years. She would later spend a year in immigration detention.

Aelam Khensamphanh, a 2016 Yuri Kochiyama Fellow, fled war in Laos and came to the United States as a refugee when he was eight-years-old. His family was resettled in Modesto, a poor community plagued with violence. Unable to speak English and without language services, he struggled in school as a child. Attempting to fit in, he joined a gang at fifteen. After a shootout with a rival gang, he was sent to prison for life at the age of seventeen. While in prison, Aelam worked with the Squires Program to intervene with at-risk youth. After serving twenty-two years in prison, he spent months in immigration detention before being released earlier this year.

Aelam and Rajeshree will be working to make sure that future generations of children will not go through the same cycle of trauma, incarceration, and deportation that they did.

Hong Kong’s first Hooters is already causing controversy

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FoodBeast/Next Shark (by Ryan General):

American restaurant chain Hooters, known for its skimpily dressed female servers is about to open its first restaurant in Hong Kong. A month before its launch, however, the sports bar that bills itself as “delightfully tacky yet unrefined” is already attracting controversy.

Set to occupy a prime location in Hong Kong’s Central district along Wyndham Street, Hooters Hong Kong will be just one of the 30 branches that Bangkok-based Destinations Resorts will be bringing to Asia on behalf of Hooters Asia.

While preparations are all well under way for the Hong Kong opening, Hooters Asia general manager Mike Warde is also fending off criticisms about the company’s image and hiring processes.

We’re a sports bar, a family-oriented, fun-loving, entertainment outlet. We have standards for our service and food,” Warde told South China Morning Post in an interview.

For Warde, the Hooters girls who he calls the chain’s “brand ambassadors” are not dressed provocatively but are simply wearing sportswear. He also denied that breast size is a factor in the company’s recruitment.

That’s a myth. That was 30 years ago,” he said while showing a photograph of Thai Hooters girls with small breasts. “The reason they don’t look flat chested is because they are wearing Wonderbras.”

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A friend of one Hong Kong applicant, however is refuting his claim. Scarlet (not her real name), an applicant herself, said her friend who applied didn’t pass because of her breast size.

Her boobs are smaller, so of course they won’t hire her,” she said.

The recruitment process has been going on for months and so far 12 Hong Kong women, one Japanese woman and two European women are being considered for the job.

Aside from normal food-serving tasks, Hooter girls are also expected to perform two-minute dance numbers at certain intervals.

They stop whatever they are doing, wherever they are, and dance every 45 minutes,” says Warde. “In Thailand guests pay them to do hula hoop and the money goes to charity. We have pom-poms and we take them to the rugby pitch to support teams.

To stay in shape, they are also required to attend three kickboxing classes per week.

We teach the girls to be a lot more respectful of themselves, have more confidence in themselves. They have a fit body and fit mind and we bring out their characters because we put them all over social media,” he added.

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They said, ‘This is the largest size’ – I think that was true. But it’s crazy that the largest size is extra small. My boobs were exploding and my ass was half showing out,” the 24-year-old said.

When I went for the uniform fitting they said I’m the only girl with boobs. They want to hire locals, but most local girls are really skinny.”

Scarlet also found the salary disappointing and realized she could earn more as a beauty therapist. The HK$15,000 ($1,932) per month offered for a five-and-a-half-day week is barely above standard.

They said I would get good tips, but in Hong Kong I don’t think the guys would pay a lot. There isn’t the tipping culture here,” Scarlet said.

Back in the U.S., the company has closed about a dozen stores in recent years, with observers saying the concept of “breastaurants” is outdated.

Warde believes that it will be a different story in Asia. “In Asia we are a new brand. And in America they’ve been closing the ones that haven’t been performing and reopening others. Over the last four years it’s growing, they are on the up again,”he said.

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In the next five years, the aggressive expansion plan of Hooters Asia will also see restaurants opening in Indonesia, Thailand, Macau, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Myanmar, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Taste the world this summer with Pretz versions of international food favorites

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RocketNews 24 (by Jamie Koide):

Kids in Japan only have about one more week left of school until summer vacation starts, while working adults are counting down the days until Obon vacation. It’s also the season where many Japanese snack makers start putting out limited summer edition flavors of your favorite snacks.

In fact, just today Glico launched a limited edition summer line of their popular Pretz series in Japan, so for those with no time or no money to travel abroad this summer vacation, you still have a chance to experience some exotic and not-so-exotic food flavors from across the ocean in the comfort of your very own home.

Pretz has been a long-selling favorite snack in Japan for many years. Not only did it later spawn the popular Pocky snack that Japan is best known for overseas, it’s been part of a number of tie-ups with famous partners, the most recent of which include current popular anime Youkai Watch and Snoopy/LINE.

Here in Japan we’re used to different Japanese-style Pretz flavors, but hitting store shelves today is Glico’s limited edition line-up of summer flavors, which include four special flavors that until now were only available as souvenirs brought back or received from each of these places abroad.

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While pineapple for Hawaii and maple for Canada seem pretty stereotypical, and mapo tofu is a popular Chinese dish that is readily available and well-liked in Japan, larb, which is actually regarded as the national dish of Laos, isn’t usually the first food that comes to mind when Japanese people think of Thai food. But apparently Glico thought this minced meat and vegetable salad dish, that’s pretty popular in the northern areas and other parts of Thailand, would sell well in stick form.

Be sure to grab all four to experience your own gourmet cruise around the world. We’re sure your tastebuds will thank us! Unfortunately you’ll have to act fast, as stock is limited and Glico only plans to sell them for until sometime around August.

Top 5 wedding destinations in Asia

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Audrey Magazine (by Pauline Yang):
While this is surely an exciting time for engaged couples, you don’t need me to tell you that it can be stressful planning a wedding. For instance, those who have close relatives in foreign countries may end up with guests who simply can’t make it because a trip to America is expensive. This is just one of the reasons many couples are now opting for a destination wedding in Asia. It can be easier for some relatives to travel to, and with the right budgeting, a wedding in Asia can even be less expensive than having a wedding in America. Sounds like a win-win!

So if you’re considering a wedding in Asia, we’re here to help! Check out our top 5 wedding destinations as well as specific locations we recommend to have the wedding of your dreams.

1. Taiwan – Lakeside Luxury

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Taiwan has become a global trendsetter in the wedding industry, inviting international couples to celebrate the beginning of a new life together on the beautiful island. Many find that they are able to have more lavish parties and photoshoots for a fraction of the price. Taiwan has proven to be a great choice for those on a budget but don’t want to compromise on their happy day.

Where in Taiwan?
One of the eight wonders of Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake is a scenic jewel in the island’s mountainous heart. The romantic lake transforms throughout the day to create different moods. In the early morning it is misty and mysterious. During the day it is a mirror of the mountains and forests that surround it. At sunset it shimmers with gold dust, and after dark, the lights of the villages and temples reflect gently across its surface. A stay at the Fleur de Chine Hotel, situated on the northern peninsula of the Sun Moon Lake, presents these magnificent views, as well as services and accommodations for an elegant outdoor wedding. Under the sun and moon, surrounded by the sky and earth, couples will surely take home sweet, unforgettable memories.

2. Indonesia – Island Dreams

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For those dreaming of a storybook wedding, Indonesia can provide dreamy backdrops and vivid imagery. With botanical gardens, intimate beaches and cliff top venues overlooking the Indian Ocean, Bali effortlessly sets the scene for romance.

Where in Indonesia?
Consider Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort for your stay and venue. The picturesque property transports guests to an otherworldly setting where postcards come to life. Pan Pacific’s grand location, luxurious facilities and excellent service was recently selected to host Miss World. Guests can play around on the award-winning Greg Norman golf course and enjoy spectacular sunsets over the Indian Ocean. The resort’s spacious coastline lawns serve as a perfect wedding location with incredible views of Tanah Lot and its iconic temple.

3. Singapore – Chic Cityscape

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If you opt for a more modern wedding in the city, Singapore is your place to go. The island country is known for its surreal city skyline. Singapore is not only considered one of the safest places to live, it is also boasted to be the food capital of the world. Sounds like a solid place for a wedding!

Where in Singapore?
Marina Bay Sands Singapore
is home to the futuristic Skypark, one of many iconic architectural buildings in Singapore. Its daring design and breathtaking rooftop decks, including the world’s largest infinity pool at 57 stories above ground, draw many couples to this contemporary resort. The Skypark’s landscaped rooftop gardens offers 360-degree views of Singapore and its offshore islands, easily becoming the most photogenic venue for couples tying the knot. World-class chefs and culinary concepts are also available to satisfy every taste.

4. Thailand – Golden Hours

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A country rich with culture and beautiful scenery, Thailand is one of the most versatile destinations for a wedding. From nature parks and beaches to Buddhist temples, there is a venue for every bride’s vision. Thailand’s prime location in the center of Asia also makes it a sensible choice for those inviting relatives from all over Asia.

Where in Thailand?
The Four Seasons Tented Camp, situated in an elephant sanctuary in the jungles of northern Thailand’s Golden Triangle, is right on the border of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. Intimate tented camps perched on private platforms receive six-star service to ensure guests have the best experience during their stay. Still not convinced? Imagine dressing in soft Thai silks while riding a gentle elephant through the bamboo jungle before your wedding ceremony. Yes, it’s just as beautiful as it sounds.

5. India – Heaven in the Hills

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There are many hidden gems in India when it comes to finding the perfect getaway. Its long history and strong cultural traditions make India a special destination to experience. For instance, the “pink city” of Jaipur is a popular choice for those interested in exploring the diversity of wedding venues available, such as ornate palaces, old mansions and private villas.

Where in India?
Nestled in the undulating Aravalli hills is the gorgeous Tree of Life Resort & Spa. This venue features 14 luxury villas built using local styles and designs to reflect Rajasthan’s long architectural history. Complete with an infinity pool at its center and private outdoor spas for each villa, this resort was created with a vision of a heaven away from the bustle of city life. Guests also have the opportunity to dine in their villa from a personalized 4-course menu that guests can design daily with the head chef’s help. Talk about an extravagant getaway!

Hooters racks up 30 new locations throughout Southeast Asia

 

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FoodBeast:

Hooters of America LLC announced that they will be opening 30 Hooters locations in Southeast Asia. The development agreement will bring to Asia 30 new restaurants over the next six years. Hooters first hit Asia with Thailand‘s opening of Hooters Phuket.

We’re guessing it found some success as now the brand intends to further expand into neighboring countries, including: Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam. Thailand will also possibly see more Hooters restaurants there as well.

Currently, the Atlanta-based franchiser has more than 430 locations in 28 countries. The majority can be found in the US.

The owl-themed restaurant is known worldwide for its chicken wings and cheesy appetizers. We hear the servers are also pretty charismatic too.

 

7 things that surprise a visitor to Laos

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RocketNews 24:

If you are visiting Laos, this is probably not your first rodeo in Asia, so I’ll skip the squat toilets and fleets of bicycles and get to seven things that this little Southeast Asian gem has to surprise even seasoned travelers.

1. How dirty the air is

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This is the one item on the list that really doesn’t have any redeeming charm, so let’s get it out of the way first. Laos is still a largely agrarian society, with little manufacturing and a whole lot of untouched jungle, so I was anticipating filling my lungs with crystal clear, if muggy, air, but instead spent most of the trip cleaning black gunk out of my mucus membranes. Even in the nature reserves of the far north, where the nearest town of any size is several hours’ drive away, the sun was almost completely obscured well into the afternoon most days.

This might be partly due to the time of year I visited, as March turns out to be when farmers burn brush off their land in preparation for planting. Throughout my travels, I often saw plots of land smoking from a controlled burn. It creates so much haze in the air that sometimes flights are grounded! Even if it is only temporary, for someone to whom air pollution is associated with heavy vehicle traffic and manufacturing, the degree of congestion in Laos was shocking.

2. The dearth of domestic products

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To be clear, I mean manufactured domestic products here. There is plenty of domestic produce, handicrafts and the like available, but the vast majority of value-added manufactured goods are imported from neighbors Thailand, China and Vietnam.

This isn’t something I normally pay attention to, but after a local trekking guide mentioned how many daily necessities have to be imported, I began looking for domestically produced goods in the shops. The only one I found during my travels was the ubiquitous (and tasty) Beerlao pictured above, itself started as a joint venture with foreign investors. The rest of shelves were a sea of Thai, Chinese characters and the odd romanized logo.

3. The stubby-legged guard mutts

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I detected something a bit different about the dogs here compared to their rangier, wilder cousins I tried to pet in neighboring SE Asian countries. For one thing, the dogs I saw in Laos were not strays. They weren’t the pampered handbag pets of Tokyo either, but each seemed to belong to a particular home or shop, and although I can’t remember ever seeing a veterinary office, I rarely saw dogs with any obvious health problems. Most seemed well-fed and properly socialized.

Surprisingly, during the day, they would sit out front and be friendly and approachable, but if you passed by the same dog after business hours, you would get an earful and possibly a solid bite if you didn’t move along fast enough. They seemed to know when they were “on duty”.

The other thing that cracked me up about dogs here is that an unlikely number of them had little stubby legs like corgis!

Look at those little things!

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4. Monks with mixed messages

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Clearly monks are deeply revered in Lao culture. Buddhism has a long and rich history in Laos and you can’t go far without running into a wat (temple), all of them completely supported by the generosity of the neighborhood. And what’s not to admire? The monks take on a ascetic lifestyle, focusing all their energies on study, prayer and community service.

For a foreigner, this image of the self-sacrificing ascetic seems quite noble, but the reality sometimes jars with the romantic image. Once, while prowling the wats of Luang Prabang, my friend and I rounded a corner to see a young monk, smoking a cigarette and shimmying to music on his very own iPod. Hardly the image of purity and self-negation!

It’s important to remember that, despite the revered place of monks in society, not everyone joins due to some higher calling. For some, it is a temporary arrangement to garner good karma for themselves or their family or to do penance for misdeeds. Most Lao men will enter the monkhood at some point in their lives, prior to a marriage or after the death of a parent, for example. For young men from poorer villages without access to schools, it can be a way to get a free education, which is why Laos has relatively high literacy rate for its level of development.

5. Children, children, everywhere!

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Everywhere I went in Laos, from remote jungle villages to the bustling streets of Luang Prabang and everywhere in between, it seemed like there were always hordes of children running hither and thither. Every lady in the market seemed to have a baby strapped to her back, every river seemed to have groups of shrieking, giggling toddlers playing in the shallows, and every road seemed to have packs of school-aged kids on their way to or from class.

Turns out this was not just my imagination. About 35% of the population of Laos is 14 years old or younger, and it has the youngest median age in all of Asia at 19.5 years (2010), far below the worldwide median of 28.4.

6. Multilingual Laos

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Laos is incredibly diverse. Ethnic Lao make up slightly more than half of the population, there are Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese minorities, and numerous “hill people” tribes, such as the Hmong, Dao, Shan, Yao and Tibetan-Burmese people. It’s almost shocking how many languages this brings into the mix. Although most of the adult population can speak Lao, it’s not the mother language for many, who grow up speaking minority languages. Add to that regional dialects and some people end up speaking one language at work, one language with a spouse, and yet another when they visit their home village! Somehow they manage without getting things too mixed up, though.

And that’s just the homegrown languages. Laos was once a French colony, so French is still widely used and also taught in schools, but since the country joined ASEAN and the WTO, English has become more common too. Talk about your linguistic melting pots!

7. You can keep your kip

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The official currency in Laos is the kip, with an exchange rate of about 8,000 kip to the US dollar at the moment. The combination of those big numbers, some similarly colored denominations and the use of Lao numbers make kip a bit unwieldy for new arrivals. But you might not even see many kip during your travels because most places accept and even prefer other currencies, in particular Thai baht, US dollars and euros! This is technically illegal, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping anyone. Even roadside fruit merchants were happy to take my baht.

This can make paying for things a confusing mishmash of currencies and exchange rates. With so many different rates to factor, it’s enough to make your head spin, but the Lao are unwaveringly honest, so there is no need to fear that you are being cheated when they make complex currency transactions faster than you can even find the right bills. In fact, many people give up on trying to follow at all and just open their wallets to let merchants take out the correct amounts. Try that anywhere else in SE Asia!

Have I missed anything you found surprising on your Laotian adventure? If so, tell us in the comments. And if you haven’t been to Laos yet, get moving! It’s a charming place I can’t recommend highly enough. Here are a few more photos to whet your appetite:

A Buddhist wat in Luang Prabang

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A friendly local “lends a hand” in mounting an elephant

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The lovely karst mountains in Nong KhiawIMG_5598

Ziplining in the jungleIMG_5491

Sunrise in the Bokeo Nature ReserveIMG_5461

 

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Rare Saola, dubbed “Asian Unicorn,” sighted for first time in 21st Century

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Ghosting through the forests of Laos and Vietnam, the saola—a large ox that looks like an antelope—eluded researchers and their cameras for nearly 14 years.

But camera traps set out by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Vietnamese government in the central Annamite Mountains in Vietnam captured grainy black and white photographs of the extremely rare mammal in September of this year, the group announced this week.

The last sighting of a saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) in the wild was in 1999 in Laos.

When our team first looked at the photos we couldn’t believe our eyes,” said Van Ngoc Thinh, Vietnam’s country director for the WWF, in a statement. “Saola are the holy grail for south-east Asian conservationists so there was a lot of excitement.”

First discovered in 1992 near the border between Laos and Vietnam, the saola was the first large mammal new to science in more than 50 years, according to a WWF statement.

The mammal is often referred to as the “Asian unicorn” because of its rarity, although it sports two pointed horns on its head rather than one.

Although its elusive nature makes for a fun nickname, it has stymied researchers’ efforts to get a handle on the animal’s basic biology and population numbers.

Some estimates place global populations at 250 to 300 animals. But these are based on interviews with villagers who have seen the animal, and on hunting trophies, according to a report in Smithsonian magazine.

Listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List, saola often end up as incidental victims to snares set by hunters looking to catch Asiatic black bears or Malayan sun bears. The bears are hunted for their bile, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Habitat fragmentation due mainly to road construction has also hammered saola populations.

The Vietnamese government has created nature preserves in the saola’s range, and banned all hunting in the mammal’s habitat in an effort to protect the animal.

Since 2011, forest guard patrols in CarBi area have removed more than 30,000 snares from this critical saola habitat and destroyed more than 600 illegal hunters’ camps,” Van Ngoc in the statement. “Confirmation of the presence of the saola in this area is a testament to the dedicated and tireless efforts of these forest guards.

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Rare Saola, dubbed “Asian Unicorn,” sighted for first time in 21st Century