Sherry Chen, Falsely Accused, Wins Case but still has not been Restored to Her Job

Image courtesy of NBC News.

Back in 2015, I had watched on 60 Minutes and also read with dismay Chinese American Sherry Chen’s story:

“On Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, Sherry Chen drove, as usual, to her office at the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, where she forecast flood threats along the Ohio River. She was a bit jet-lagged, having returned a few days earlier from a visit to China. But as she headed to her desk, she says, she had no reason to think it was anything other than an ordinary day. Then her boss summoned her.

Once inside his office, a back door opened and in walked six agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The agents accused Mrs. Chen, a hydrologist born in China and now a naturalized American citizen, of using a stolen password to download information about the nation’s dams and of lying about meeting with a high-ranking Chinese official.

Mrs. Chen, 59, an adoptive Midwesterner who had received awards for her government service, was now suspected of being a Chinese spy. She was arrested and led in handcuffs past her co-workers to a federal courthouse 40 miles away in Dayton, where she was told she faced 25 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

“Why,” Mr. Zeidenberg said he asked, “if she’s a spy, is she coming back from China and telling her colleagues that ‘I met this guy in China and this is what he wants to know’? Why is she telling the guy in China, ‘Here’s my boss’s phone number’? Why is she asking for a password over email? Why would you do that?”

Mr. Zeidenberg says the prosecutors listened. On March 10, the day after their meeting, they dismissed the charges.”

I actually got to meet Chen in Palo Alto where she was a guest for a talk on “A Seminar on Trade Secrets and Economic Espionage: Legal Risks in Advancing Technology between the U.S. and China.” Although I’m an American-born Taiwanese American, I have worked for two Chinese companies, so I am acutely aware of the possible discrimination against Asian Americans. In fact, I remember finding out that one of my Mom’s church friend’s siblings was Taiwanese American scientist and falsely accused spy Wen Ho Lee.

So it was with great pleasure that I had read about Chen getting back her old job that she had cherished so much:

“Yet the National Weather Service terminated her from employment doing the job she loved at its offices near Cincinnati, Ohio.

Determined to stand up and speak out, Sherry challenged the termination decision through the Merit Systems Protection Board, an administrative system meant to protect hard-working public employees such as her. On April 23, the decision was issued that ordered she be returned to her work on behalf of the public and be given backpay.

In the 118-page opinion, the judge also found:

Ms. Chen asserts that she is the “victim of a gross injustice.” After reviewing the evidence and testimony in this matter I believe Ms. Chen’s assertion is correct . . . It was, however, extremely evident by their demeanor, that both [decision-makers] were simply digging their heels in when it came time to support the decision they had made. . . . In short, [they] seemed more concerned about being right than doing the right thing. Based on the unyielding nature of their testimony, I would not have been surprised if they rejected that 2 + 2 = 4.”

The Commerce Department has planned to appeal the ruling, so she still does not have her job back.  Several Asian American organizations released this joint communique condemning the appeal.

There are legitimate cases to prosecute when it comes to Asian Americans and espionage for national or commercial means, but with the increasingly mostly economic rivalries between the United States and China, the U.S. must ensure that the proper due diligence is applied before more innocent Americans are wrongfully charged and terminated.

Tasty Presents: How [Din Tai Fung’s] Soup Dumplings Are Made

If you followed my blog posts, you know I am a fan of Din Tai Fung (DTF) and note every new opening of the restaurant in the U.S. (the latest announced restaurant will be in Portland, Oregon). Many say that DTF is “overrated,” but I don’t care. Din Tai Fung has created a Taiwanese brand that is beloved and known to those in the know for Xiaolongbao (XLB) and quality Chinese food.  So it’s not surprise that I was excited to see a Tasty video on Facebook about how Din Tai Fung makes its Xiaolongbao, or how it’s known in the West as “soup dumplings.” You get to see how DTF’s Xiaolongbao are meticulously made by hand.

What’s also interesting in the video is that the grandsons of the original founder of Din Tai Fung, Albert and Aaron Yang. I also read about the brothers recently in an industry publication (who according to the video, manage the U.S. operations of the restaurants):

“… In 1972, the store was transformed into a restaurant specializing in soup dumplings and noodles. The elegant, best-in-class dining venues have since expanded to Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Macau, mainland China, Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Dubai.

[Albert] Yang and his brother Aaron, both graduates of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, run day-to-day operations in the U.S., where they have established the company’s dominance.

When Din Tai Fung opens restaurants, diners descend on each location with wait times reaching up to two hours. In the dining room, customers are treated to a show, as dumpling masters fold hundreds of the juicy wonders in an exhibition kitchen. The hand-folded, thin-skinned dough is filled with meat, often ground pork, and gelatinized stock. The stock liquefies upon steaming, creating a juicy burst with every bite.”

 

Continue reading “Tasty Presents: How [Din Tai Fung’s] Soup Dumplings Are Made”

CAAMFEST36: Opening Night Film & Gala Red Carpet Premiere of ‘An American Story: Norman Mineta’

One of the things I have really enjoyed after having moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1999 has been attending the San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival, which is now known as CAAMFest, now its 36th year.

This year’s opening night premiere was a documentary – AN AMERICAN STORY: NORMAN MINETA – about groundbreaking elected official and civil servant, Japanese American Norman Mineta – the first Asian American elected to San Jose, California City Council, first Asian American elected to be mayor of San Jose (first Asian American mayor of any major city in the continental United States), first Asian American Congressman elected in the continental United States, first Asian American to serve as a cabinet member to serve a President (AND also both in a Democratic and Republican administration). AND first Asian American to have an airport named after him (Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport).

Prior to the documentary’s premiere, Claudine Cheng and Willie Brown presented Norman Mineta with the APA Heritage Award for Lifetime Impact:

After watching the documentary, I realized that although I had kind of known about many of Mineta’s accomplishments, seeing his story told in its totality was amazing. (This slightly differed from my experience watching a documentary about Patsy Mink, another amazing Asian American, but someone I knew nothing about until a CAAMFEST screening). Mineta is a truly ground-and-glass-ceiling-breaking Asian American that all Americans should learn about.

The San Francisco Chronicle described the documentary and Mineta as:

“His life in politics, skillfully captured by director Dianne Fukami, stands in stark contrast to the current White House occupant. As a 10-term U.S. representative from Silicon Valley, Mineta kept his ego in check while passing seminal legislation, notably a bill granting reparations to Japanese Americans like his family who were incarcerated during World War II. His motto was “If you don’t care who gets the credit, you can do many things.””

After the screening, there was a Q&A session with Norman Mineta and the filmmakers:

There’s an effort to build upon documentary and develop educational material around Norman Mineta’s story, known as The Mineta Legacy Project. This reminds me of what Fred T. Korematsu Institute is doing since its inception. And after the Q&A, there was the annual gala party, held again at San Francisco Asian Art Museum, where I had the great honor to meet and get a photo with Mineta himself:

The gala is always a festive scene at a great venue:

Din Tai Fung Expanding into Portland, Oregon

To date in the United States, you could only go to a Din Tai Fung in either California or the Greater Seattle region. Now, it looks like the restaurant brand will be expanding into Portland, Oregon:

“Often lauded as the maker of the “world’s greatest dumplings,” Taiwanese dim sum restaurant Din Tai Fung seems to be planning its first Oregon location in the Washington Square mall. Over the past months several readers have emailed Eater saying that the dumpling shop intends to open an Oregon location, and Din Tai Fung has filed a business license with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office. When Eater contacted corporate HQ, a rep didn’t deny the rumors, saying: “We decline to comment at this time. Could you check back with us in a month for updates?” No one from Washington Square has responded to multiple requests for comment.

Din Tai Fung currently has 11 locations in the United States, specifically in California and Seattle. The restaurant is known for its long wait times, polished and modern decor, and its text book xiao long bao (soup dumplings) with fillings like truffle pork and pork and crab.”

I’ve only been to Portland once (a few days after the 2016 election …) and did check out their Chinatown, which I have to say, was kind of rundown … Not to say that a Chinatown’s cuisine is any indicator of Asian cuisine in general …

But from what I have heard from others who have lived in Portland, the Chinese and Taiwanese food scene there is not the greatest. So congrats to Portland on getting a Din Tai Fung sometime in the future.

To be honest, I’m kind of surprised that Din Tai Fung is expanding into Portland when they haven’t even penetrated the East Coast. Portland is a relatively small market. But maybe Din Tai Fung wants to establish their brand on the West Coast first?

CAAMFEST 2018 – May 10-24, San Francisco & Oakland

CAAMFEST 36

One of the things that I appreciate about the San Francisco Bay Area after I moved here is the rich cultural activities in the area, and that includes the annual Asian American film festival known as CAAMFEST (known prior to 2013 as the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) – quite a mouthful). The festival is organized by the Center of Asian American Media (CAAM), which is based in San Francisco.

This year kicks off with the premiere of a documentary about Norman Mineta:

““An American Story: Norman Mineta and His Legacy” will have its world premiere Thursday night in San Francisco.

The film about the former San Jose mayor, Congressman and cabinet secretary to two U.S. presidents is the opening night film of the Center for Asian American Media film festival, known as CAAMFest. Mineta, 86, also will be honored by the city of San Francisco on opening night as part of the 40th anniversary festivities for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Mineta’s story really is a classic American tale of success, with the tragic irony that begins it: As an 11-year-old, he was interned with his family at Heart Mountain, Wyo., during World War II. (Even that story has a cinematic twist: Mineta met fellow Boy Scout and future Sen. Alan Simpson there.) In 1971, he became the first Asian-American elected mayor of a major U.S. city and served two decades in Congress, starting in 1975. He was appointed U.S. Secretary of Commerce by President Clinton in 2000 and served as Secretary of Transportation under President George W. Bush in 2001.”

I live near San Jose, and I’m often reminded about Mineta when I fly out of Mineta San Jose International Airport, which is named after him. And I’m a big fan of documentaries and recall seeing Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority at CAAMFest back in 2009 and being blown away about learning her story and surprised that I hadn’t known about her beforehand.

A big change from previous years is that the film festival is now being held in May, to coincide with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, instead of being held in February or March like it has in the past.

There are a quite a number of films to screened again this year. However, the San Francisco Chronicle has recommended the top 10 films to see this year, including (in alphabetical order):

Also, since 2013, the CAAMFEST organizers have expanded the nature of the festival beyond films to incorporate food and music programs and over time, increasingly more to convey cultural experience through the world’s most innovative Asian and Asian American artists.

This year’s festival theme – “Culture, In Every Sense”- is emphasized throughout the program with expanded music and food sections, a virtual reality project that is also produced by CAAM, and a special closing night performance by Bay Area native, Brenda Wong Aoki.

There’s even a Disoriented Comedy Show, where I’m looking forward seeing comedian Jenny Yang perform and finally meet her in person (I mostly know her for her funny videos posted on Facebook and elsewhere)!

Be sure to check out the CAAMFEST36 festival website as well as online program guide to learn about all the films and events going on.

Din Tai Fung Opens at Westfield Mall in Orange County, CA

The last time I went to a Din Tai Fung opening, it was also at a Westfield Mall – specifically the Valley Fair Mall in San Jose/Santa Clara, California. Well now, another one has opened in Orange County:

“There has been a great deal of anticipation, but Din Tai Fung, the dumpling and noodle chain that is known for its delicious food and four hour waits for a table in Orange County, has finally opened its doors at Westfield, Century City.

The restaurant officially opened on March 23 and now locals will be able to partake of their famous xiao long bao (soup dumplings), which are made fresh on the premises every day.”

A lot of people say that Din Tai Fung is overrated. I don’t care! It’s one of the few Taiwanese brands I think Americans recognize in the U.S. – or at least in California!

The Fred Yamamoto Scholarship Fund

A friend of mine, Steven Lee, who is a Palo Alto resident and involved in city government is helping to raise a scholarship fund in memory of Fred Yamamoto and provided a prepared statement:

“As a 3rd generation Chinese-American and a Palo Alto Human Relations Commissioner, I was strongly in favor of the committee’s recommendation to name a school after Fred Yamamoto, and was disappointed by both the opposition raised by certain members of my Chinese-American community as well as the decision by the school board not to name a school after Fred Yamamoto. We have to move forward, however, and I am committing myself to be part of the larger and continued discussion, which this incident exposed, that we disparately need in this community, to listen certainly, to educate and correct unconscious biases or historical prejudices when necessary, and to ultimately take action when needed to keep Palo Alto a truly safe, welcoming and inclusive community, where no one is unfairly judged by their name, ethnicity or their other identities, even when such action may be deemed “controversial” or “divisive” by those who oppose such action.”

Back in March, there was some opposition to renaming a Palo Alto middle school in his name:

“Backlash to a proposed name for a Palo Alto middle school has provoked surprise and confusion among Japanese-American residents who don’t see the connection between Fred Yamamoto, the Palo Altan who was held in Japanese internment camps and later died in combat, and Isoroku Yamamoto, the reviled marshal admiral who ordered the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Tamie Yusa-Ogawa, a Mountain View native who now lives in the Los Angeles area, called the protest “racism, plain and simple.”

“Yamamoto is an extremely common name. I understand why these people don’t want a school named after Isoroku Yamamoto, but Fred Yamamoto shouldn’t lose out just because he has the same last name,” Yusa-Ogawa, a Los Altos High School graduate, told the Post.

Several dozen parents and residents, including many from Chinese communities, spoke out against renaming Jordan or Terman middle school after Fred Yamamoto at a meeting of the school district’s Recommending School Names Committee on Monday.”

When I had heard about this, I was completely dumbfounded, but not totally surprised. I know some first generation Chinese Americans that harbor anti-Japanese feelings due to World War II. However, first and foremost, Fred Yamamoto was born-and-raised in the United States and is an American of Japanese decent – and died in combat for our country. As far as I’m concerned, Yamamoto is an American hero.

I think a lot of Asians in Asia and Asian Americans still confuse or conflate race with nationality. Fred Yamamoto was not related at all to Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. I’m sure most Americans don’t even know who Admiral Yamamoto is! My Japanese and Japanese American friends noted that Yamamoto is a very common Japanese last name.

To remember Fred Yamamoto, there’s an effort to establish a scholarship fund in his name:

“At the close of the 2017/18 School Year, we will use the donations to award and recognize a student (or students) who have demonstrated civic leadership, inclusion and service reminiscent of Fred’s spirit. (Depending on the sum raised, we might be able to keep the Scholarship active for more than one year.)

We believe this is an effort many in the community can come together to join: those who supported Fred’s nomination and those who opposed it.  For anyone who was inspired by Fred Yamamoto’s service and sacrifice and wants to work to keep his memory alive: Thank You!”

Please consider donating here:
https://www.gofundme.com/fred-m-yamamoto-scholarship-fund

Asian American Commercial Watch: Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans’s ‘Megan Is Confident’

https://youtu.be/YtcYRdabEA0

Buying a house and applying for a mortgage can be a complicated and intimidating process, but Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans is supposed to make the mortgage part easy:

“Megan may have confidence in the courtroom, but when it comes to her mortgage, she’s in a hairy situation. Luckily for her, there’s Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. It lets you apply simply and understand fully so you can mortgage confidently and get approved in minutes. Find the missing link in your mortgage by visiting http://www.RocketMortgage.com.”

Given all the paperwork and signatures I had to go through to get my mortgage and home, I really do wonder how easy Rocket Mortgage does simplify the process. Buying a house and applying for a mortgage is intimidating. I’m for anything that makes the process easier to understand.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Jimmy O. Yang

I’m a big fan of Stephen Colbert and saw that Jimmy O. Yang, of HBO Silicon Valley fame, was going to be on the show, I was curious as to learn more about him. As I’ve blogged before, I am not a big fan of his character on Silicon Valley, but I was open to learning more about him and was pleasantly surprised that he came to the U.S. at age 13 from Hong Kong, was not a model minority student, and had no idea what to do with his economics degree from UCSD, which took him five years (and he didn’t get into UCLA or USC where he wanted to go, and certainly not Yale, where the previous guest had gone). He was pretty personable and funny during the interview – his first ever on a late night talk show (though he did a stand-up act once on Arsenio Hall).

He talked to Colbert about how he got into the industry and that by coincidence, Mike Judge, one of the creators of Silicon Valley was his commencement speaker and he eventually got his break because of Judge.

Yang was on the show to promote his new book:

Here’s the promotional video he put together for the book:

Best of luck to Yang and I hope to meet him one day! You can learn more about him by checking out his website: http://www.jimmycomedy.com/

Asian American Commercial Watch: McDonald’s ‘Office Kleptos’

https://youtu.be/2eyLiLgaP1I

I can’t recall having brought my lunch to work and having it taken. However, in this McDonald’s commercial, that is the premise of this commercial:

“Check out the new $1 $2 $3 Dollar Menu if you have coworkers at your office stealing your lunch. Choose from McDonald’s menu items like the McChicken® for one dollar and top it off with any size soft drink for only a dollar!”

Paul’s lunch has been taken, so he goes off to McDonald’s to get lunch.

Except for Chicken McNuggets, I don’t go out of my way to eat at McDonald’s unless I’m pressed for time (as In & Out, you do have to wait – but can taste the difference in the burgers).

The Opposition with Jordan Klepper: Congressman Ted Lieu & The Democrats Push to Take Back the House

I don’t regularly watch The Opposition with Jordan Klepper, but I saw that one of my favorite Representative Ted Lieu was on the show recently:

“Congressman Ted Lieu makes the case for revoking Jared Kushner’s national security clearance and pushes a bill to rein in the president’s nuclear first-strike capabilities.”

Ever since Trump became President, Lieu is most known for being a hilarious Twitter troll to Trump’s tweets:

“Through his Twitter account, the Congressman has catapulted to a cultish delightfully nerdy social media stardom. Post-election, Lieu has made multiple appearances on cable television, including MSNBC and Real Time with Bill Maher.

If you’re a politics junkie who likes to follow Congresspeople on Twitter — or even if you aren’t, even if just really, really hate Donald Trump — you’ve probably liked a Lieu tweet without realizing it.

Lieu gives the platform credit for lending him access to voters he wouldn’t normally be able to reach.

“Consider that 20 years ago, a person who wanted to have a discussion with their member of Congress would have to call their office. Now people tweet at me,” Lieu said. “I can engage in multiple different conversations with people on Twitter — it’s actually a more intimate way of contacting someone.”

He’s got the fourth highest Twitter following in the House of Representatives, just under California social media powerhouses including Adam Schiff, Maxine Waters, and Nancy Pelosi.”

I follow Lieu on Twitter, and if you want to, you can too here: https://twitter.com/tedlieu

John Chiang Remains a Top Contender in Race for California State Governor

California state treasurer John Chiang was in the San Jose area supporting California assemblymember Evan Low on Sunday, March 18th, and I had a chance to catch up with him after the belated Lunar New Year fundraising dinner. The last time I saw John was when he was in town being endorsed by Evan last November.

The more recent exciting news about the race for California governor was at the California Democratic state convention, where no Democrat gained the party endorsement (the threshold is 60%) and John came in second.  According to KTLA’s CNN wire:

“The endorsement battle proved competitive in the governor’s race at at Saturday’s California Democratic party convention, where John Chiang and Gavin Newsom were locked in a close race for the party’s nod.

“After the votes were tallied, no consensus was reached for a gubernatorial candidate. Newsom received the highest percentage of votes with 39 percent, followed by Chiang with 30 percent, Delaine Eastin with 20 percent, and Villaraigosa with 9 percent.”

When I heard that news, I was happy to hear how well John did at the convention. Just a few days before, a recent poll (Thur 3/15/2018) by the Newsom campaign revealed:

“In the survey of 1,000 likely voters done by nationally recognized pollster David Binder, Newsom corrals 26 percent of the vote; Cox, 16 percent; Democratic state Treasurer John Chiang, 13 percent; former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, 12 percent, Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, 10 percent; Democratic former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, 7 percent; and former Hillary Clinton adviser Amanda Renteria, 4 percent. The survey found 12 percent of respondents were undecided.”

With less than 80 days left until the June 5th primary, there’s still some ground for John to pick up.

John discussed how the cost of housing was an issue in California (where 20% of residents live in poverty), how his stance differed from his opponents’, and how he was the first state-wide official in the United States to take on the corrupt practices of Wells Fargo.

I wish the best of luck to John with the rest of the campaign!