Category: Health

Andrew Lam

Two Years on, Remembering The Fukushima Disaster

By Andrew Lam, Mar 11, 2013 10:39 AM

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Two years ago the Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated the region. They seriously damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant, sending radiated fumes into the air and leaking radiation into the waters. Nearly 16,000 people were killed by the earthquake and tidal waves, and 2,600 others were missing.

The letter below, written in Vietnamese by an immigrant who was working in Fukushima as a policeman to a friend in Vietnam, was published in newspapers and circulated on the Internet a week or so after the incident. It is an extraordinary testimony to the strength and dignity of the Japanese spirit, and an interesting slice of life near the epicenter of Japan's current crisis, the Fukushima nuclear power plant. I translated and published it on New America Media two weeks after the disaster struck on March 11, 2011. It was subsequenlty translated into at least a dozen other languages and went around the globe. I am reposting it here on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of the Tohoku disaster.


How are you and your family? These last few days, everything was in chaos. When I close my eyes, I see dead bodies. When I open my eyes, I also see dead bodies. Each one of us must work 20 hours a day, yet I wish there were 48 hours in the day, so that we could continue helping and rescuing folks.

We are without water and electricity, and food rations are near zero. We barely managed to move refugees to one place before there were new orders to move them elsewhere.

I am currently in Fukushima, about 25 kilometers away from the nuclear power plant. I have so much to tell you that if I could write it all down, it would surely turn into a novel about human relationships and behaviors during times of crisis.

The other day I ran into a Vietnamese-American. His name is Toan. He is an engineer working at the Fukushima 1 nuclear plant, and he was wounded right at the beginning, when the earthquake struck. With the chaos that ensued, no one helped him communicate with his family. When I ran into him I contacted the US embassy, and I have to admit that I admire the Americans' swift action: They sent a helicopter immediately to the hospital and took him to their military base.

But the foreign students from Vietnam are not so lucky. I still haven't received news of them. If there were exact names and addresses of where they work and so on, it would be easier to discover their fate. In Japan, the police do not keep accurate residential information the way they do in Vietnam, and privacy law here makes it even more difficult to find.

I met a Japanese woman who was working with seven Vietnamese women, all here as foreign students. Their work place is only 3 kilometers from the ocean and she said that they don't really understand Japanese. When she fled, the students followed her, but when she checked back they were gone. Now she doesn't know if they managed to survive. She remembers one woman's name: Nguyen thi Huyen (or Hien).

No representatives from the Vietnamese embassy have shown up, even though on the Vietnamese Internet news sites they claim to be very concerned about Vietnamese citizens in Japan - all of it a lie.

Even us policemen are going hungry and thirsty, so can you imagine what those Vietnamese foreign students are going through? The worst things here right now are the cold, the hunger and thirst, the lack of water and electricity.

People here remain calm - their sense of dignity and proper behavior are very good - so things aren't as bad as they could be. But given another week, I can't guarantee that things won't get to a point where we can no longer provide proper protection and order. They are humans after all, and when hunger and thirst override dignity, well, they will do whatever they have to do. The government is trying to provide air supply, bringing in food and medicine, but it's like dropping a little salt into the ocean.

Brother, there are so many stories I want to tell you - so many, that I don't know how to write them all. But there was a really moving incident. It involves a little Japanese boy who taught an adult like me a lesson on how to behave like a human being. Last night, I was sent to a little grammar school to help a charity organization distribute food to the refugees. It was a long line that snaked this way and that and I saw a little boy around 9 years old. He was wearing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts.

It was getting very cold and the boy was at the very end of the line. I was worried that by the time his turn came there wouldn't be any food left. So I spoke to him.


He said he was in the middle of PE at school when the earthquake happened. His father worked nearby and was driving to the school. The boy was on the third floor balcony when he saw the tsunami sweep his father's car away. I asked him about his mother. He said his house is right by the beach and that his mother and little sister probably didn't make it. He turned his head and wiped his tears when I asked about his relatives.

The boy was shivering so I took off my police jacket and put it on him. That's when my bag of food ration fell out. I picked it up and gave it to him. "When it comes to your turn, they might run out of food. So here's my portion. I already ate. Why don't you eat it."

The boy took my food and bowed. I thought he would eat it right away, but he didn't. He took the bag of food, went up to where the line ended and put it where all the food was waiting to be distributed. I was shocked. I asked him why he didn't eat it and instead added it to the food pile. He answered: "Because I see a lot more people hungrier than I am. If I put it there, then they will distribute the food equally."

When I heard that I turned away so that people wouldn't see me cry. It was so moving -- a powerful lesson on sacrifice and giving. Who knew a 9-year-old in third grade could teach me a lesson on how to be a human being at a time of such great suffering? A society that can produce a 9-year-old who understands the concept of sacrifice for the greater good must be a great society, a great people.

It reminds me of a phrase that I once learned in school, a capitalist theory from the old man, Fuwa [Tetsuzo], chairman of the Japanese Communist Party: "If Marx comes back to life, he will have to add a phrase to his book, Capital, and that 'Communist ideology is only successful in Japan.'"

Well, a few lines to send you and your family my warm wishes. The hours of my shift have begun again.
- Ha Minh Thanh

The above letter was originally published in New America Media where Andrew Lam is one of the editors. He is the author of "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora" (Heyday Books, 2005), which won a Pen American "Beyond the Margins" award, and "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres".

His latest book, "Birds of Paradise Lost," a collection of short stories about Vietnamese immigrants struggling to rebuild their lives in the Bay Area after a painful exodus, was recently published by Red Hen Press. He has lectured and read his work widely at many universities.


Cover of Birds of Paradise Lost

Andrew Lam

Grandmother's Last Lesson -- Seeing Time As a Trick of the Mind

By Andrew Lam, Feb 21, 2013 10:40 PM

Nearing the end of her life and plagued with senility, my grandmother fell into a strange state of grace. At 95, she believed herself a young woman again living in her hometown in the Mekong Delta. One day when I visited her in her convalescent home in San Jose, California, where she lived out the remaining years of her life, I asked grandma to name the names of her four children and she looked a bit astonished: "Children?" She said in her frail, hoarse voice, "Mister, but I am only 17."

Receding from her memories are the years in America, years full of longing and grief for her lost homeland. Lost, too, mercifully, are her memories of the war and the incredible suffering it had caused her. The garden outside her window teamed with life, butterflies and bees hovering over gardenias and roses, but her vision had begun to travel far beyond its walls. In her mind, Grandmother had already gone back to a happier time, rowing her boat down the river in the old country, singing some folksongs, watching white cranes fly above the green rich rice fields, celebrating Tet with relatives and neighbors -- to an unhurried world of long ago.

My parents and aunts sighed and shook their heads whenever they visited, feeling guilty for not being able to care for her at home, sad that their mother no longer knew them. I, on the other hand, took a different attitude altogether. I saw that there was a mixed blessing in her senility and forgetfulness. After all, grandmother had, in her own way, managed to conquer time.

Years ago, when she was still lucid, Grandma bought a wooden clock carved in the S shape of the map of Vietnam from a Vietnamese store in Little Saigon in Anaheim. Above her bed, the clock ticked mournfully, a constant reminder of how long she'd spent away from her home and hearth. Sometimes she would watch that clock tick as she counted her rosary and then cried silent, bitter tears.

Indeed, America's concepts of time only helped to confuse her. She did not know why, for instance, a grandson had to leave home at 18. When I left home for college, she wept. I overheard her protesting to my mother in an incredulous voice: "How can you let him go? He 's immature at 17 and now he's 18, somehow he's mature? Not everyone is a real adult at 18 or 21 either. It's not so simple."

Once, I remember, she asked me how far Vietnam was from California. I shrugged, "Well, I guess it's about 18 hours." Hearing this, grandma, made a scowling face and snapped: "If our country is only less than a day away by your measurement, then tell me how come I've been waiting for 15 years, seven months and eight days now and I am still here in America?"

If since her exile to America at the end of the Vietnam War time had been her enemy, telling her how long she'd been away from the country of her birth, it finally lost its grip on her that last year. That year before she died, she was no longer ruled by the clock. She traveled freely most of the time to the distant past and she seemed, if not happy, then at peace.

The last time I saw her alive, we held hands. Perhaps grandma thought I was a beau from the next village come courting or a distant relative, but she blushed when I told her that she was beautiful.

"Let's hurry," she said, her eyes staring at an impossibly far away place, "we're going to be late for the celebration at the temple."

Perhaps she is there now. As for me, since she passed away I am, I must say, not as fearful of old age as I once was. When I grow old and senile, I, too, should like to forget all the sorrow and sadness in my own life. Memories of heartbreaks and great losses will be dissolved like smoke in the morning wind. Like grandma, I'll relive instead all the moments of intense happiness: walking with my first love down Bankroft Street in Berkeley at dusk; singing silly songs with my siblings on Christmas eve when we were kids; luxuriating in my mother's arms as a child after a warm bath; watching the moonrise with my cousin over the ocean on a tiny island in Thailand.

And above all, I should like to return to that windblown pine hill of Dalat, Vietnam, a plateau of forests high above the sea where I grew up. I will sit again with my best friend in fourth grade, the two of us leaning against a pine tree and looking up at the clouds drifting by, our sweaters and hair stuck with pine needles after a game of hide and seek.

It was on that same hill that I later lost my first watch, a Mickey Mouse watch which I got for my seventh birthday, Mickey's arms pointing at the hours and minutes that slowly led me away from my childhood wonders and eventually my homeland. I had cried for days afterwards, but I now think that it's apt that the watch should lie decaying somewhere on that lovely hill.

For perhaps there is something that the adult forgets and only the very young and very old could know: That time and space are an illusion, a trick of the mind...

See me then as a starry-eyed child among pine trees, staring at the shifting sky, enraptured by an impossible sense of beauty, delighting simply to be in the world.
The above essay was originally published in New America Media where Andrew Lam is one of the editors. He is the author of "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora" (Heyday Books, 2005), which won a Pen American "Beyond the Margins" award, and "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres". 2013-01-29-BirdsofParadiselostcover.jpg Cover of Birds of Paradise Lost His latest book, "Birds of Paradise Lost," a collection of short stories about Vietnamese immigrants struggling to rebuild their lives in the Bay Area after a painful exodus, was recently published by Red Hen Press. He has lectured and read his work widely at many universities.

Marisa Treviño

On World AIDS Day, Obamacare Could Be Lifeline for Latinas

By Marisa Treviño, Dec 1, 2012 10:25 AM


There was a time when AIDS was considered an automatic death threat. With no viable treatment that ensured its victims a good quality of life as they battled the disease that slowly robbed them of their physical strength, their emotional courage and their hope for a cure, the mention of AIDS always shot fear through communities who were not accustomed to speaking about sexual practices in public spaces.

Edgardo Cervano-Soto

In Soda Tax Debate, Who Endorses Health?

By Edgardo Cervano-Soto, Sep 17, 2012 2:33 PM

It is a guarantee that while watching television, a soda commercial featuring a celebrity, musician or athlete will run at least once. In fact, for many celebrities, having their likeness appear in soda commercials symbolizes the attainment of world-wide fame. Think of the Michael Jackson and Beyonce Pepsi commercials, or Coca-Cola’s commercials featuring Michael Jordan, and more recently athletes from the 2012 London Olympics.

Marisa Treviño

Latino immigrants hold dubious distinction of having the most HIV diagnoses

By Marisa Treviño, Jul 24, 2012 3:00 PM


Thirty-one years after the discovery of AIDS in the United States, the hope was that the disease would have been eradicated by now.

Stephanie Espinoza

School is Out, But Lunch is Still Being Served

By Stephanie Espinoza, Jul 3, 2012 1:58 PM

Summer is supposed to be a time when kids can break free from the rigors of school. But for some, it also means no more school lunches, which is why districts around the state are taking the initiative to make sure their kids stay well fed.

Eunice Cho

After DREAM Order, Fair Pay for Home Care Workers

By Eunice Cho, Jun 26, 2012 1:35 PM

Earlier this month, immigrant communities around the country celebrated President Obama’s announcement that undocumented immigrant youth would be granted relief from deportation and temporary work authorization.

Sarah Damian

Latino Poultry Worker Safety at Increased Risk Under USDA Proposal

By Sarah Damian, May 10, 2012 12:05 AM

Food integrity concerns regarding USDA's proposal to streamline poultry inspection under the HAACP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) – which would increase production line speeds and reduce government oversight – have been raised by consumer advocates and whistleblowers alike (including anonymous federal inspectors). Another significant, but often-overlooked, issue is the impact these proposed changes would have on the health and safety of the plant workers.

Andrew Lam

Avian Flu Crisis - A Question of When

By Andrew Lam, Jan 4, 2012 10:30 AM

 A man recently died from the Bird Flu, known as the H5N1 virus, in Shenzhen, China, raising the spector of a pandemic, given the strain is known to be deadly, with a high fatality rate somewhere above 60%. The country is now on high alert. Here's an old interview that may be useful to those wanting to know a little more about the virus.   

Q&A: Avian Flu Crisis - A Question of When

Interview with Dr. David Relman, professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University

By Andrew Lam, New America Media

The avian flu virus, H5N1, has the potential to kill millions once it learns how to jump from human to human. So far, most people who become infected have worked with live chickens. But scientists say it's a matter of time before avian flu makes the leap. The virus most recently surfaced in Indonesia, where four people have died.

Sep 22, 2005

NAM: Should we ask if avian flu will jump from animal-to-human transmission to human-to-human transmission -- or is it a question of when?

DR: It probably is a question of when, not if. This virus is progressing right down the path you would predict for a virus that will eventually become quite good at human-to-human transmission.

NAM: Is there a timeline?

DR: That's the hard thing. Some people say it could be as early as this winter. Those of a more optimistic sort say maybe two years, or five. I think the really important question is, when it acquires that capability (human-to-human transmission), what will it cost the virus? Most people think it won't be as virulent.

NAM: Since the number of people who have died so far is small, can we really speculate about the number of fatalities avian flu could cause?

DR: Right now, of the known cases of avian flu in humans, it has killed about 50 percent. The big question is, are there others out there walking the streets, sitting in their homes, eating dinner and talking to their family members who have become infected and didn't even become sick? I don't think there are many. There are some surveys out there of blood from people who are healthy to see if they have evidence of exposure to this virus, and there haven't been many episodes or incidences of that. But it's still possible.

NAM: How will it be transmitted among humans? I imagine if it is airborne, like SARS, it is going to be very contagious.

DR: Correct. It almost certainly will behave just like all the influenza viruses before it, meaning that it will be aerosol-transmitted. In fact, the current human-to-human flu viruses that we all experience each winter are more transmissible than SARS. They actually become transmitted easily through fine-particle aerosols, person to person. SARS required large droplets or even direct contact.

NAM: I was traveling in Asia near the beginning and at the end of the SARS epidemic, and the attitude regarding SARS, especially in big cities, was one of sheer panic. Yet with avian flu the attitude is 180 degrees different. In Hanoi friends said to me, "Oh, it's just farmers who get it, so just don't eat chicken now and you'll be OK."

DR: It probably reflects something about human nature. At the time you're talking about, during the height of the SARS event, there were a lot of people who were sick. There were hospitals that were shut down. There was already a fairly substantial impact on the health care system in a few major world cities.

We're not there yet with Avian flu. I think the inevitable course will be that this virus will become better at human-to-human transmission, and when it does that, SARS unfortunately may look like quite a small little blip.

NAM: What about the new vaccine being developed against avian flu?

DR: The vaccine does appear to induce what should be protective immunity in humans. That's the good news. The bad news is that even with the prototype vaccine in hand, we still don't have the production infrastructure to make enough doses quickly. If every vaccine producing factory in the world were devoted solely to the purpose of making this new influenza vaccine, at current levels of production we would only have enough for maybe 50 to 100 million doses worldwide, for a whole population that needs 10 times more doses.

NAM: Why do you think the last few diseases of concern -- SARS, avian flu and now swine flu -- all seem to originate from one particular area, either Southeast Asia or South China?

DR: For reasons that are still unclear, influenza, even yearly, seems to evolve out of the bird population of Southeast Asia. Nobody knows why. SARS seems to also have found a natural home in animal populations of China, and then moved into humans when those animals were moved about. But every continent has its sites for the origin of a new emerging infection.

NAM: But are there common conditions that promote the development and spread of such viruses?

DR: Where you see emerging infections around the globe, you see dislocations of animals, you see disease in animals because of crowding, you see displacements of humans, crowding of humans, poor sanitary conditions, poor hygiene, war, famine -- anything that perturbs what might have previously been a fine-tuned balance in nature.

NAM: Has our changing relationship with animals encouraged the rise of new diseases?

DR: There have been major changes in the way we manage animal populations. One of the most important in the more developed world is the rise of very large-scale, industrial scale livestock management, farming that involves populations of hundreds of thousands of millions of animals all packed together. It's easy to see where an infectious agent might have lived and died within a small population of animals, but now has the opportunity to move within millions very easily.

We also move animals about the globe in ways that we never ever did ten, 20 years ago. Look at monkey pox, which showed up in the United States two years ago. How did it get here? We are importing millions of exotic strains and species of animals that have no place being in North America, due to Americans' desires for exotic and unusual pets.

NAM: So basically the rise of new diseases, or a lot of them anyway, are the direct cause of our human behavior?

DR: Correct. We are at fault in many ways.

NAM: But with technology we are also quicker in defining and isolating the cause of diseases.

DR: Yes, you have to hope that on the one hand, while we're the cause of many of our own problems, we are also the potential solution.

Lam is author of "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora,"  and "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres." His third book, "Birds of Paradise" is due out in 2013.

Elisa Batista

Lack of Paid Sick Days Has Claimed Latino Lives

By Elisa Batista, Dec 13, 2011 1:57 PM

Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí. If there is something I pride myself on it is my work ethic. The importance of hard work is something that was instilled in me by my parents who sometimes worked multiple jobs each to feed our family of six.

Tammy Johnson

CA DNA Database Expansion -- The Silent Threat to Privacy

By Tammy Johnson, Dec 1, 2011 10:45 AM

According to a recent report released by Generations Ahead, an aggressive expansion of DNA databases in states across the country now includes the collection of DNA from individuals merely arrested for a felony offense, regardless of whether a trial is held or not, and whether a conviction is obtained or not. California’s Proposition 69 was part of this trend that now includes a total of 25 states. Wondering why we should care?

Kevin Weston

Nonprofit, Philanthropy and Business Leaders to Gather Oct. 12 for Bay Area Blacks in Philanthropy's "State of the Race" Conference

By Kevin Weston, Oct 10, 2011 12:00 PM

2011 Community Impact Awards to Recognize Local Black Philanthropists

SAN FRANCISCO – Nonprofit, business and philanthropy leaders will gather on October 12, 2011, for the Bay Area Blacks in Philanthropy’s “State of the Race” conference and awards reception, celebrating local black philanthropists and spotlighting solutions that can fuel employment, entrepreneurship and innovation for African Americans in the region.

Paul Kleyman

NPR News Gives Free Pass to Anti-Aging Ideologue

By Paul Kleyman, Oct 3, 2011 4:43 PM

Want to save your country from its aging decline – cut your entitlements for seniors and have more babies. Really. I’ve been hearing that refrain from international financial and investment think tanks for 20 years. And Monday’s “Morning Edition” gave unquestioned voice to the latter half of this message in a bland Lynn Neary interview on a subject that should be treated as a riptide of controversy.

I recently described a key link to the age-based attack on sovereign nations doing what they can to support their elders in “S&P’s U.S. Downgrade: What’s Age Got to Do With It?” (“In the shadows of S&P’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating is its 2010 global aging report, calling for nations to cut their health and pension budgets—or else!”) To the casual reader/listener, the connection between slashing pensions and health care for elders (“On, Wisconsin!”) and keeping women all but barefoot and pregnant might seem remote. But Neary and her budget-obsessed fellow broadcasters at NPR News are supposedly journalists charged with connecting the dots, not casual observers nodding complacently as one might over a latte at Starbuck’s.

Neary’s unanswered interview is posted on the NPR website with the header, “How Declining Birth Rates Hurt Global Economies." Here’s the lead-in: “Around the world, there are more aging people and fewer young people to take care of them. A new study about the trend suggests this demographic shift could drag down the global economy. The report is called ‘The Sustainable Demographic Dividend.’ Co-author Phillip Longman, a senior research fellow with the New America Foundation, talks to Lynn Neary about the study.”

Longman tells Neary, “The first-order effect of a decline in the birthrate tends to be positive for the economy. A society finds it has fewer children to raise and educate. That tends to free up a lot of female labor to join the formal economy. But with the next turn of the screw, things change. As fertility rates remain below replacement levels, you still have fewer children, but now your workforce is beginning to decline and you've got more and more seniors as a percentage of your population. And so around the world today we see many countries struggling with their fiscal situation largely because of the exploding cost of pensions and the relatively slow growth of their labor forces.”

Later, Longman answers her question about the solution with, “You know, we have governments like Singapore that are sponsoring speed dating events in hopes of getting up the birthrates, right.” Italy also was paying women to have more babies some years ago, at the same time it was continuing its anti-immigration policies. Now that’s been great for their economy, right Mr. Berlusconi?

NPR’s Neary made no effort to mention that Longman, while well respected as a market-oriented policy analyst, has been flogging the deficits of the old and benefits of family values on fertility at least as far back as his 1987 book, Born to Pay: The New Politics of Aging in America. A simple Google search would have turned up a string of alarmist policy articles warning of population aging – We can’t afford all these old people! — such as “Think Again: Global Aging," in Foreign Policy, November 2010. It’s cover line: “A gray tsunami is sweeping the planet -- and not just in the places you expect. How did the world get so old, so fast?”

Well, Ms. Neary, there is another viewpoint held by a long list of experts in aging and economic policy, many of them not much farther than a Social Security number’s length from the NPR studios in Washington. Sadly, one important voice on this issue, Theodore Roszak, died this summer, but his 2009 book The Making of an Elder Culture (New Society Publishers) eloquently goes into historical detail on this issue.

Like Roszak, authorities at places like Campaign for America’s Future or the Center for Economic and Policy Research, believe that after that “first-order effect,” aging societies actually become wealthier over time and more productive, as older people are able to contribute more to society and women take a greater economic and leadership role. But, of course, it doesn’t help when institutions like the U.S. Supreme Court do something like making it tougher for older workers to file anti-discrimination cases based on age, as they did two years ago.

In fairness to Longman, I have not had time to read his 44-page report thoroughly. The executive summary suggests a careful reading to discern what he’s getting at.

For instance, one summary point of the report states, “Children raised in intact, married families are more likely to acquire the human and social capital they need to become well-adjusted, productive workers.” Another notes, “Men who get and stay married work harder, work smarter, and earn more money than their unmarried peers.” Still another says, “Nations wishing to enjoy robust long-term economic growth and viable welfare states must maintain sustainable fertility rates of at least two children per woman.”

I’ll be reading to see whether Longman calls for more economic equality and ethnic/racial justice in American society. The report does, says the summary, recommend, “Countries should increase access to affordable health care and lifelong learning to strengthen the economic foundations of family life.” And it states, “Companies should use their cultural influence to get behind positive, family-friendly advertisements and public education campaigns.”

Hmm. Social equity? Corporate social engineering? What’s Longman getting at. Calling NPR News – is there a journalist in the house to help frame questions and give context?

Desmond Brown

As Poverty Rises, Wrong Time to Cut Safety Net

By Desmond Brown, Sep 16, 2011 10:47 AM

Center for American progress Action Fund

Tuesday’s U.S. Census Bureau report on poverty in the United States shows record numbers of Americans fell into poverty, more families lost access to health care, and child poverty increased dramatically between 2009 and 2010. More than 15 percent of the U.S. population or 46 million people fell below the official poverty level in 2010 — defined as a family of four with income below $22,314 in annual earnings. The real median income fell 2.3 percent to $49,445 and 50 million people went without health care coverage.

Andrew Lam

First Woman to Achieve Judo's Top Rank

By Andrew Lam, Aug 16, 2011 4:50 PM

Among judo aficionados, 98-year-old San Francisco resident Keiko Fukuda is a legend. She is the first and only woman to hold the ninth degree in the judo world. Last week, Rafu Shimpo reports, "USA Judo promoted her to 10th dan, the highest black belt level in judo.”

The subject of a documentary by Yuriko Gamo Romer to be released next year called, “Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful,” Fukuda is the last surviving student of Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), the founder of judo in Japan. For decades she fought sexism, which prevented her from rising beyond a certain rank in the judo world. When she came to San Francisco, she established a judo club for women in Noe Valley, where she still teaches.

Andrew Lam is author of "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres."

According to Rafu Shimpo, a celebration of her promotion to judo's top rank will be held during the 13th annual Fukuda International Kata Championship in October at City College of San Francisco.

Sarah Damian

Cautious Optimism on Chinese Food Whistleblower Protections

By Sarah Damian, Aug 2, 2011 12:20 PM

Whoa. A food safety whistleblower reward program … in China? The ongoing food crisis in the country has finally moved the government to compensate those who provide information on wrongdoing in the industry. The notion of paying individuals who take the bold step to expose corruption and abuse, instead of antagonizing them (which is disconcertingly common), is significant. Before we shower China with praise, however, we should consider what we know about the country’s treatment of whistleblowers.

Jonah Most

Ethnic Americans Consume Large Share of Mercury-tainted Fish

By Jonah Most, Jun 15, 2011 11:50 AM

Ethnic Americans face a high risk of mercury poisoning, but they don’t always know it. New data from a Sierra Club-commissioned study reveals that high rates of subsistence fishing among minorities contribute to high levels of mercury in the body, which can affect the nervous system, especially in unborn babies and children.

EPA Must Strengthen Smog Standards or Risk Health of Millions of Latinos

By , May 31, 2011 10:01 PM

By Adrianna Quintero and Valerie Jaffee, Natural Resources Defense Council

By 2050, one in four Americans will be Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In the last decade, the total Latino population in the U.S. grew at a rate of 43%, more than four times the rate of population growth for the nation overall. The demographics of our country are changing, and our leaders in Washington must take note. We’re watching and ready to act.

Unfortunately, while our numbers change, some things remain very much the same. This is especially true when it comes to air quality. Latinos continue to live in areas with the highest concentrations of air pollution, and intensely suffer the impacts of this pollution. So when rumors started spreading that big polluting industries might force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to delay or forego stronger limits on ozone, a precursor to smog, we had to take note.

Ozone is a gas that occurs naturally in the stratosphere, where it protects us from the sun’s UV rays. But ozone also exists in the air we breathe here at ground level, where it’s the primary component of smog. On the ground, ozone is created when pollutants (namely emissions from cars and factories) react in the presence of sunlight. Any of us who have traveled to Los Angeles are familiar with the thick grey layer.

But what you might not know is that close to 50% of all Hispanic-Americans live in counties that frequently violate ground-level ozone standards (smog standards), according to the CDC. That means millions of Latinos – our children, grandparents, brothers and sisters – are at risk of asthma, bronchitis and even death due to this dangerous air pollutant. Since so many Latinos work outside in construction and agricultural trades, Latinos are often at even greater risk of the damaging health impacts of smog. And we’re not alone. The CDC also estimates that Asian-Americans face a similar if not greater threat from smog.

Smog pollution at high levels can cause diminished lung function and inflamed airways, aggravating asthma or other lung diseases. In fact, a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the risk of dying from respiratory disease is more than three times higher in areas with the most concentrated ozone than in those with the lowest ozone concentrations.

As Latinos, we know what’s at stake when it comes to good (or too often, bad) air quality. With unemployment for Latinos still hovering near 12 percent, paying for unforeseen medical bills can be devastating. Taking days off from work to care for yourself or ill family members translates to days of lost pay and often lost jobs. For many employed in construction and agricultural trades, days off simply is not an option. To make matters worse, Latinos are hit especially hard by unexpected healthcare costs from illnesses like asthma since approximately two of every five Hispanics were classified as uninsured in both 2004 and 2008. And for our children, more smog means missed school days, setting our kids back in school and lowering their quality of life.

EPA currently limits the concentration of smog in the air to 75 parts per billion. The agency’s science advisers have unanimously recommended strengthening that standard to a range between 60 to 70 parts per billion. If we truly want to protect our health, experts believe the standard should be at the lower end of that range.

This summer, EPA is scheduled to issue standards that will strengthen protections against smog. The question is whether the Obama Administration will adopt a sufficiently strong standard to genuinely protect the most vulnerable among us—infants, children and the elderly—or bend to the will of Big Polluters who care more about profits than public health.

A truly protective standard would prevent as many as 12,000 premature deaths, 58,000 asthma attacks, and 21,000 hospital and emergency room visits per year. It would help us avoid 5,300 heart attacks and more than 2 million missed school days and 420,000 lost work days. Implementing a weaker standard for smog, just like polluting industries want, would mean more lives lost and more asthma attacks – suffering that Latinos would disproportionately bear.

This is why we are joining together to demand that EPA be permitted to do its job to protect our health, not polluter profits.

Strong standards under the Clean Air Act have improved our air quality for decades, and will lead to even cleaner air in the future for people all across the country. This is an opportunity for us to protect millions from harmful respiratory diseases, regardless of race.

Ngoc Nguyen

Nail Salons Have a Chemical Problem

By Ngoc Nguyen, May 18, 2011 2:07 PM

A new study looks at the ugly side of salon manicures and pedicures: the occupational health and safety risks of salon workers.

Aruna Lee

Oakland Health Center Holds Korean Cancer Walk

By Aruna Lee, Apr 30, 2011 8:24 AM

Korean American women are among the least likely to undergo cancer screenings like Pap tests and mammograms. An Oakland-based non-profit health organization is hoping to bring attention to this issue by holding its fourth annual Korean Cancer Walk on Saturday.