Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Asians and Asian Americans Living in Pittsburgh Fear Harassment and Violence


Nancy Riley-James, 42, reacts at the makeshift memorial outside Gold Spa on March 18, 2021.

By Bill Schackner

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

MAR 19, 2021 - Christina Ong, a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh, has never been harassed on the street herself, but reading about the rise of anti-Asian incidents nationally made her nervous in recent months to leave her Bloomfield apartment alone.

“I left my house maybe once every two weeks, and that really impacted my physical and mental health,” she said Thursday. 

“I generally think I am a really optimistic person and enjoy being around people, but I have these underlying worries that people are perceiving me in a certain way. I am wearing a mask, but they still can tell I’m Asian. So, is there going to be retribution?”

Even before a deadly mass shooting Tuesday in Atlanta drew public outrage, fear had been quietly building for months in cities, including Pittsburgh, where thousands of Asians and Asian Americans live, work and study on its campuses. 

Asian women say shootings point to relentless, racist tropes

Irrational rhetoric blaming them for the COVID-19 pandemic, some spread on social media, has added to what some see as a more deeply rooted bias against Asians.

The suspect in the Atlanta attacks told investigators he wanted to eliminate a source of his sexual addiction, police said. But after months of escalating incidents, some violent, it was not lost on many in the general public that six of the eight people killed in multiple massage parlor attacks were Asian women.

Agencies — from the FBI and Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, to lawmakers and advocacy groups around the country — say they are monitoring the string of incidents.

“The lethal wave of xenophobia and racism towards the [Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders] community calls the ‘Beloved Community’ to lock arms in unity to denounce these acts,” commission Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter said.

Moved by mounting incidents, Penn State University officials this month reiterated earlier assurances from school President Eric Barron to international students and others, including those of Asian descent.

“You are welcome here,” he wrote. “Your presence enriches our university and the educational experience of all of our students.”

Hundreds in Atlanta rally against hate after spa shootings

Ms. Ong, 28, whose grandparents are from China, is from Sacramento, Calif. She is studying sociology and also works as a researcher for the Asian American Pacific Islander COVID-19 project. As such, she has heard firsthand stories of Asian Americans who have been the victims of harassment. She said women are more likely than men to be harassed in the street, and blue-collar and older individuals are more visible and thus vulnerable.  

The problem is affecting behaviors as routine as grocery shopping.

“In conducting interviews with people across the country for this project, I’ve heard stories of people saying, like, ‘Yeah, well, when I’m in the grocery store, I … have to run to an aisle that’s empty because I don’t want to cough or sneeze around other people,’” Ms. Ong said. (continued)

Thursday, March 11, 2021

New Report to Expose War Industry Lobby Behind $264 Billion US Nuclear Missile 'Boondoggle'


An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska off the coast of California. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ronald Gutridge/U.S. Navy)

Progressive lawmakers are urging Biden to halt the missile program, arguing it would 'divert limited resources from higher priority needs.'

By Jake Johnson

Common Dreams

March 10, 2021 - A new report by the Federation of American Scientists set for publication next week will reportedly argue that U.S. plans to spend up to $264 billion on construction and maintenance of a new nuclear missile are mostly being fueled by intense lobbying from the powerful weapons industry, not rational or humane strategic objectives.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that there has not been a serious consideration of what role these Cold War-era weapons are supposed to play in a post-Cold War security environment," the FAS assessment of the ground-based strategic deterrent (GBSD) project will say, according to new reporting from The Guardian.

Last year, The Guardian noted, the U.S. Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $13.3 billion contract to help develop the new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) after the company and its subcontractors "spent over $119 million on lobbying in 2019 and 2020 alone and employed a total of 410 lobbyists including many former officials."

In a February memo (pdf) on the nuclear missile project, FAS noted that "despite the growing number of concerns with the program, GBSD... accelerated under the Trump administration, in an effort to make it more difficult to reverse under a Biden administration."

"Despite substantial reductions in the ICBM force over the past two decades, there has not been a serious consideration of what role these 20th century weapons are supposed to play in a 21st century deterrence environment," the group said last month. "It is still early enough in the program to change course."

The new FAS report will come as President Joe Biden faces pressure from progressive lawmakers to pause the new ICBM program. As The Guardian noted, the "Biden administration is preparing its first defense budget which may reveal its intentions towards the GBSD, which is in its early stages."

In a letter to the president last week, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) argued that "at an acquisition cost of over $100 billion and an estimated total life-cycle cost of $260 billion, a new ICBM system would divert limited resources from higher priority needs." Last July, Khanna tried to pass an amendment that would have moved $1 billion in funding from the GBSD to a pandemic preparedness fund, but his effort was quashed in a bipartisan vote by the House Armed Services Committee.

"The United States does not need to be modernizing the ICBMs," Khanna said at the time. "If there is an accidental launch of an ICBM, you can't take it back. On the other hand, you can call a submarine back, you can call an aerial bomber back."

In their letter last Wednesday, Khanna and Markey argued that "as the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons in a conflict, the United States must play a leading role in ensuring that the most destructive weapon ever created is never used again."

Kevin Martin, president of advocacy group Peace Action, wrote in an op-ed for Common Dreams last month that "there are myriad reasons" to oppose the GBSD, including "the exorbitant price tag, opportunity cost of investing our tax dollars in missiles and warheads instead of human and environmental well-being, and its contribution to a new arms race that threatens global peace and security."

"Let's choose humanity, other species who have no say over nuclear policy, and the Earth, over omnicide," Martin added.