Emil Guillermo: Sherpa fears Nepal earthquake could end climbing season on Mt. Everest
April 25, 2015 8:39 PM

Serap Jangbu Sherpa, 46, was hanging on every bit of communication from the base camp in the Himalayas -by text, online, Facebook--when I called him on Saturday.

It was like he was hanging on the side of the mountain he loved.

serapsherpa2.jpgSerap is a premier climber who has scaled Mt. Everest three times. But it's tough to be a sherpa. Now he makes his living as a mountaineering consultant at a Manhattan sports store.
 
When the news broke that a 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal, Serap, the president of the U.S. Nepal Climbing Association, knew what that would mean. 

There would be an avalanche resulting in injuries and lives lost, and maybe the loss of the climbing season itself.

"When I heard the news I was very shocked," he told me when I reached him at his home in Queens. "Oh my god. What's going on? Every year again and again. Very big shocking news."

He was hoping it wouldn't be like last April when an avalanche on the mountain killed 16 sherpa and ended the season.

By mid-morning on Saturday, the sad numbers continued to mount as the quake cut sharply through Nepal and could be felt into neighboring areas to the east and west.

Later, Nepalese officials confirmed to The New York Times that an avalanche slammed into a base camp, killing at least 10 climbers and injuring an untold number of others.

Nima Namgyal Sherpa, a tour guide also at the base camp, wrote on Facebook: "Many camps have been destroyed by the shake and wind from the avalanche," said Nima Sherpa, base camp manager for Asian Trekking.  "All the doctors here are doing our best to treat and save lives."

Still, there was optimistic talk that the trekking could resume again.

Resume again? 

Hard to believe, considering the earthquake's impact on the entire country.

And yet, for Nepal, the Himalayan expeditions are the lifeblood of the country. It is their industry, where visitors can pay as much as $100,000 each to scale Everest, with the government getting a huge percentage of that.  

Nepal issues licenses for more than 1,000 trips a year. An earthquake at a key time in the climbing season only multiplies  the devastation. 

I asked Serap Jangu Sherpa if the expeditions could just pick up and start again in spite of the quake.

"I don't think it's going to be closed," he said, but he added it would "take a little while" to  create the support systems for climbs to resume.

"There's enough time to continue," Serap Sherpa said. "It's still April, and we have a month to go...[but] now everything is gone. I'm sure it's a big mess...You need enough food and supplies. Everything."

Serap Sherpa said he lost a team member during one climb he made, and he recommended they return home.

"I decided to cancel and come back next time," he said. But he said sherpas can't always tell clients "don't go up."

"Some people want to continue because they spend a lot of money," Serap Sherpa said. "So they want to keep climbing."

Still, that's hard to see happening after last year's tragic avalanche. In protest for better conditions, sherpas shut down the mountain until their compensation and working conditions improved. 

But now an earthquake has the entire country scaling a different kind of Everest just to care for the dead and provide aid to the massive numbers of injured. 

It's hard to imagine the country back to normal when life is difficult everywhere you look.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


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Emil Guillermo: Hikaru Nakamura, No. 1 US chess player, and Chloe Portia Chik, Asian face on the Hillary video--a new Asian American identity?
April 17, 2015 3:23 PM

We're coming up quickly to Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, and once again, I'm wondering where we are with our umbrella term that expands and becomes inclusive. Or has the term become meaningless? 

We know it's a political term, but shouldn't we be feeling a little unity in the community about our umbrella phrase? Or is that old hat? 

Just this week, I talked to two fairly notable Asian Americans in their twenties, notable in that they did just make the news.

I asked them a simple question: "Do you identify as Asian American?"

Their answers surprised me.

Hikaru4.jpgHikaru Nakamura should be more famous than he is.

He could be America's Bobby Fischer, if America cared who the top-ranked and reigning U.S. Chess Champion was. 

Last Monday, Nakamura, 27, was crowned the winner of U.S. Chess Championships, a 12-player round-robin tournament of chess grandmasters, where he won $45,000. 

Just to provide some perspective, on the same weekend, 21-year old Jordan Spieth won golf's Masters tournament and took home $1.8 million.

That should give you a sense of the relative anonymity we're talking about.

Nakamura was more relieved when he won, expecting a draw, the usual outcome between great players. But in chess, it seems most games are "PTB" or "play to blunder," and Nakamura took advantage of the mistakes of defending tournament champion Gata Kamsky. It was just the edge needed to win the game and the whole tournament.

Nakamura ended up atop the leaderboard by outpointing fellow grandmasters Ray Robson, 20, and Wesley So, 22, the first time Asian Americans finished 1-2-3 at the U.S. Chess Championships.

Nakamura is a pretty soft-spoken guy, born in Japan to a Japanese father and an American mother, but raised in Manhattan.

When I talked to him during the tournament, I asked him about his Asian roots.

"I'm in a strange situation because my birth parents--my father was Japanese and my mother was American--they got divorced when I was 2. I grew up in America primarily with my mom, and she married an Indian," Nakamura told me.

And then he delivered the knockout blow.

"I don't necessarily myself feel that Asian; I consider myself more American than Asian American," Nakamura said.

But shouldn't the fact that the top three players at the tournament are Asian Americans mean something, a point of pride within the Asian American community? 

"I personally don't feel that. But to each their own," Nakamura responded. "Myself, I feel much more American. I grew up without the Asian influence. . .I grew up in America, I spent my whole life in America, I consider myself more American than anything. Asian roots, I think, have very little to do with where I am today."

It was a polite conversation. But Nakamura's attitude did strike me as one I'm seeing more and more, from especially the young.

They have a different sense of identity. 

chloe2.jpg
I came across this identity issue again when I talked to the face of the community. Well, that's essentially what she is if you've seen the Hillary Clinton campaign video mass emailed across the land announcing the Clinton presidential run.

Only 4 million or so people have seen it just on YouTube.

Who is that Asian girl on the video looking for a job?

That's Chloe Portia Chik, 20, from the San Francisco Bay Area and now a junior at NYU.

She wasn't exactly plucked out of central casting. The campaign didn't want an Asian American necessarily.

Chik told me she was contacted by a production company in New York. She didn't know they worked for the campaign. But she said they wanted a college-age person who was a Democrat and a Hillary supporter.

"And I fit the bill," said Chik in a phone conversation with me recently.

In an unscripted, three-hour session, Chik said she was interviewed for the video. But she didn't know until Sunday morning whether she'd even be in it, let alone know when it would be released. Ten minutes after an email alert was sent to her, the video went wide.

"I was in shock," she told me, though she was pleased with what she saw.

The video shows people in transition. And Chik was one of them. She was the one looking for a new job, sort of like Hillary. 

And then there was Hillary talking about transitions. 

The video wasn't bad. But It's so earnest in its textbook inclusion and diversity sensibility that one might doubt its sincerity.

A friend at Brown called Chik to say that she was Hillary's token Asian.

Har-har.

Aside from a woman who looked South Asian, Chik was the only East Asian, Chinese American.

Considering Asian Americans were strong for Hillary eight years ago, and that most Asian Americans are Democrats, Chik was the face that those supporters were looking for as the messenger from Hillary. 

Chik was our face.

So I had to ask: how did it feel to be the "It girl," at least for now, the momentary face of Asian America?

And Chik was pretty honest.

Identity wise, she does what most people do. Identify ethnically. She said proudly," I'm Chinese American."

Both her parents are Hong Kong immigrants. They split up when she was young, and Chik's mother remarried a Jewish man who would become Chik's stepfather. 

Now what about the term "Asian American"?

"I like to say that I am of Asian heritage, but I consider myself an American first and foremost," Chik told me.

She said she recognizes that she speaks Chinese at home, celebrates traditions such as Chinese New Year and weddings, and even watches Chinese TV shows. "But I don't think I would off the bat identify myself as Asian," she said. "I identify myself as an American." 

Hey, the Census lets us all self-identify. 

Still, I was interested in what is it that gets one to that place of an Asian American consciousness? Knowing the history? Feeling the pain of racism, past and present?
 
I'm not sure if we have a generational crisis or an identity crisis here.  

The two millennials I spoke to showed the thinking out there.

Now the question is about a redefining of Asian American identity and the politics for a new generation.

While Chik still seems pretty engaged in policy questions. Nakamura seems to be an obsessed chess champion and otherwise aloof.

But they sure seemed united in how they see the term "Asian American."

It didn't resonate.

Their answers made me think about my own allegiance to the term "Asian American," especially being an American-born Filipino with a Spanish last name, who in the past has been mistaken for Latino.

I've often thought that Asian American consciousness was a matter of how much you were aware of the pain of racism, past and present.

To fight back, it takes a whole set of fingers to make a fist.

But it's a different time now, one in which internal issues of generation and identity may be as critical as how we are perceived by society at large.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


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Emil Guillermo: NYPD's Patrick Cherry's Apology? Full investigation needed first
April 3, 2015 6:37 PM

The New York City cop caught on video in a racist rant, wailing on a South Asian driver, has apologized, but to me it just rings hollow.

In an exclusive interview with WNBC-TV, Patrick Cherry tells his side of the story, primarily that we didn't see the events leading up to the video that more than three million people have seen on YouTube alone.

It was a disgusting show of hate and abuse, the kind of thing that comes out of anger but is rarely captured--unless you happen to be an Uber driver with a passenger who just happens to have the presence of mind to videotape the proceedings.

That's a big lesson here. 

In this day when video makes a case, especially when it comes to discrimination, you better make sure to videotape any racist transgression you see.

You don't want to be the boy who cried, "Racism!"

Without the video taken by Sanjay Seth, these days any retelling of Cherry wailing on the driver would be accompanied by the sound of polite indifference. Yeah, racism, it's in your mind, my friend. There's no racism in the 21st century!

Of course, society was rid of all that by the second Bush presidency. And we totally eradicated all that bad stuff by the time we elected that Hussein guy--a second time.

Not.

You need the video.

Still, it's instructive to see Cherry worm his way through his WNBC interview.

Cherry said he was trying to parallel park when the Uber driver came up behind him.

The Uber driver thought Cherry was in the way. Cherry thought the Uber driver was rude. Hand gestures and yelling were traded. The Uber driver even pulled up next to Cherry and more unspecified New York vernacular phrases were exchanged. 

But when the Uber driver pulled away, Cherry said he didn't stay parked. He pursued.

Cherry said he was mad and pulled the driver over. He said the driver wouldn't give him his license and registration.

Another source of anger.

WNBC asked if the driver knew he was a police officer, Cherry said he "believed he did."

But how did Cherry identify himself? Only by the "emergency lighting" from his vehicle, he told WNBC.

Big question mark. Why didn't the plainclothes guy feel flashing lights alone would officially identify him as a cop? Why didn't he flash his badge?

And what of all those traffic codes Cherry said the driver had violated? In the WNBC interview, there's no mention of any violations. All Cherry said to the reporter was the driver was "discourteous and impolite." 

Hmm. Has Cherry seen videotape of his own "discourteous and impolite" ways? 

The kicker is that Cherry chalks up the whole incident to "one individual who got angry and yelled."

Whoa.

Reality check for Patrick Cherry. Taking responsibility and sounding like you're taking responsibility are two different things.

If that's all it was, "one individual who got angry and yelled," then we really do need to put that apology on hold. 

More than a full investigation of the entire matter by NYPD's Internal Affairs, we need to understand what instantly turned Cherry into an "angry white cop."

When asked what he'd say to people who think this is a matter of a "white cop picking on a minority 
driver?"

"Nothing to do with it," Cherry said to the reporter.

Cherry just doesn't get it. 

All he sees are the actions coming out of his parallel parking. 

But if the lowly Uber driver weren't South Asian, but instead his white boss, Police Commissioner William Bratton, do you honestly think Cherry would be making fun of his accent, while yelling and wailing at him? 

Cherry was a detective with a top-secret clearance assigned to an FBI anti-terrorism task force.

Makes one wonder whether he profiles certain folks while doing his job?

Maybe the job is getting to him. 

I know Cherry wants his badge and his gun back. And he wants to get back on the job.

But this is serious stuff. 

Most people keep all this hate inside. Rarely do we get a chance to see just how ugly it is.

To make sure it doesn't happen again, that videotape needs to be studied and understood, and a full investigation of the entire incident must be done.

Cherry's apology? It's just the first step toward a fuller, more meaningful one. Before he officially rejoins the ranks of the "good guys," Cherry needs to think a little more about what it means to be a cop--forget that; he needs to know what it means to be a respectful human being--in this diverse new world.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.



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Emil Guillermo: If you sue for discrimination like Ellen Pao, you'd better have the goods. Or be like this Uber driver with a smoking hot video.
April 1, 2015 6:37 PM

When the verdict in the Ellen Pao discrimination case came down last Friday, I didn't have a good feeling.

Individual cases of discrimination are so hard to prove. Pao had some evidence that there was an old boy's club, but the good folks at Kleiner Perkins had the typical defense.

They maligned her.
EllenPao.jpg
KP suggested Pao wasn't an exemplary worker and went after her record. Forget her Princeton and Harvard degrees. Forget her strong mentorship with senior partner John Doerr. The firm is the firm, and when you challenge the firm, you will be destroyed. 

So, of course, the KP defense would be very old school--what all the management consultants tell their clients to do. Just say Pao wasn't good enough.

That was good enough because, more to the point, her evidence wasn't good enough.

Pao had no pow. And as they say in Hawaii, from the start she was pau.

Whenever I thought I might have a discrimination claim, I was told by my attorneys that to prove discrimination, you need evidence that is beyond egregious. You need to show your cuts and bruises. And if you can't do that because you have only been verbally abused, I was advised I'd better have a diary of what I was told and what I experienced.

Even then, it's still your word versus your tormentors. And that means it will come down to whom a jury believes. 

So I never sued like Ellen Pao sued.

And she went with her best shot against KP's female attorney, who gave the company the look of being gender champions. 

Interestingly enough, the minorities on the jury were the ones most sympathetic to Pao, which made me wonder why Pao didn't go with race.


Because she lost with what she had.

It made me think that in this world where people are talking about body cams as evidence for police confrontations, is it too far-fetched to talk about body cams in abusive employment situations?

In full view, of course, so people will know their racist actions toward you will be documented.

That could force people into "good behavior" mode. Or find a more stealth way to get at you. Or just poison things altogether.

Still, cameras could go a long way toward at least letting people see what their unconscious bias, or their unintended racism, really looks like.

If only Ellen Pao had a camera on her male abusers, maybe she'd be in a little different situation. Too bad Pao was a mere Kleiner Perkins partner and not a lowly Uber driver with some tech savvy passenger.

Let me preface this by saying, I am not an Uber fan for what it's done to skirt labor and safety issues here and abroad.

In fact, I'd probably be yelling at the Uber driver myself, but not over traffic violations.

But if Uber contributes one thing to the good of humankind, it's in capturing the kind of verbal abuse meted out by an NYC police officer this week.

The cop turns out to be Patrick Cherry, a detective assigned to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. Perhaps that explains his lack of love for people of color.

What's more, the officer had top-secret security clearance.

And because of the video, he's been reassigned, faces loss of his top-secret clearance, and even suspension.

He was supposed to be a good guy.

Frankly, I saw the tape and it reminded me of every bad bullying boss I ever had.

And as a person of color in White America, I have had a lot of them.

From the very first words on the tape, the "You understand me,..." and then the swearing, it struck a chord.

It brought me back to some of my early jobs in broadcasting when I was the only Asian American or Filipino or minority employee.

I had people yelling and cursing at me, and it had nothing to do with a minor traffic violation. Just some minor work disagreement.

And then, when it was all settled, one manager actually tried to soften things up by trying to be a buddy.

How else to feel like one of the guys but to be regaled with a racist joke like, "Hey Emil, what do you call two Pilipino Pighter Pilots?"

"A pair of pliers."

That was told to me in a big city newsroom when I was 24.

So when I saw the Uber tape it took me back, especially when the detective assigned to the anti-terrorism unit talks to the South Asian driver and gets into his ethnicity, asking "How long you been in this country?"

It pained me, and I was so glad that the passenger, Sanjay Seth, who was sitting in the back, had the video rolling.

People need to see what abuse looks like.

I especially could relate to the sequence at around 1:55.

The officer, I'm sure, thought he was doing the public some good by getting as upset as he did. He was protecting us from a traffic violator!

But in doing so, he showed us the hate that exists in him, presumably when he sees a person of color from another country.

But let's say it was just an eruption because the cop was appalled by the sense of injustice committed by the Uber driver to the traffic code.

If people saw what real hate looked like, then maybe they'd know better than to let it come out of them so unconsciously.


What it took was an Uber passenger with a phone, who acted as a good citizen and knew how to document what he saw. Incidentally, this is the exact kind of situation the new streaming apps like Periscope or Meerkat would be great for. I've been on those sites, and people are obsessed with sunsets, their pets, or their fridges.

But here we have what could be those apps' highest and best calling in our democracy.

Nothing like live streaming racism to make your blood boil.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.



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Emil Guillermo: Where's Patsy Mink? Starbucks' #RaceTogether short-shrifts Asian Americans
March 24, 2015 1:25 PM

Patsy Mink was a 12-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Hawaii--the first woman of color and first Asian American woman elected to Congress in 1964. She ran for president in 1972. And for all you March Madness fans, she authored Title IX of the Higher Education Act, officially called "The Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act."
Patsy2.jpgI was honored to know Mink when I worked on Capitol Hill in the early '90s.

So why isn't she mentioned in that Starbucks-USA Today timeline of our country's race history called "Path to Progress?"

Glaring omission? Or just another stupid oversight in the clumsy initiative that should really be called "Some white guys sitting around thinking about race together?"

Diversity 2.0 it's not.  
StarbucksCup.jpg
#RaceTogether turns out to be like some phony white nostalgia capable of "Mad Men's" Don Draper, who still insists on seeing the world in black and whiter.

I know, I was initially taken by the idea, because I've been a victim of the racial "micro-aggressions" that unconsciously occur and saw nothing wrong with a little race conversation. 

But it turns out #RaceTogether is really just more race double talk.

I saw it fifteen years ago when I was part of a small corporate dinner with Starbucks officials, including Howard Schultz. There were less than 20 people. And it was practically all white--at least the people who talked and were perceived to have any real power.  I don't think Schultz even noticed me. Or will remember I was there. 

That's how much being at the table can mean. 

Maybe he thought I was a waiter.

Still, when I first heard about Schultz' #RaceTogether campaign, I was willing to give him points for earnestness. Any time corporations try to act like good citizens, I think it should be applauded. 

At first, I found the backlash to the whole campaign kick-off pretty surprising. The left and right can't get together on affirmative action, but it sure found common ground on the subject of Starbucks talking about race.

I may have wanted my race conversation venti, but most people just want their coffee regular, to go.

And now I'm jumping over to your side, you coffee grumps. 

Thank goodness Starbucks has stopped writing that darn hashtag on their cups.

If you'll recall, the whole #RaceTogether effort was timed to arrive with an insert included in last weekend's USA Today

If you saw that insert, then you know Starbucks doesn't have a clue when it comes to Diversity 2.0. 

I was astonished at how black and white it all was. 

diversitymap1960.jpg

From the cover of the eight-page insert to all its content, Starbucks and its partner USA Today are still thinking like it's 1960. And yet they know things have changed.

On page three, a full page graphic shows off USA Today's Diversity Index.

It features three maps of America under the heading, "What is the chance that the next person I meet will be different from me?  On a scale of 0-100, the chance that two random people are different by race and ethnicity."

The 1960 map is almost all white, even California. And the nations' index number is a low 20.

By 2010, the map is full of different shades of black and gray among white in America, especially California, and the index number has more than doubled to 55.

Then it shows 2060, where the national index number is 71 and the map is an explosion of all different shades. 

diversitymap2060.jpg

But it's still in black and white, the theme of the insert and the mindset of the entire campaign.

By page 4, the first faces of real people appear. Of six people pictured, there's two Latinos, three African Americans, 1 white male.

I know quotas are illegal. But not in news stories. Where's the Asian American? Native American? 

The insert also has an interesting report on an "unconscious bias experiment," in which researchers drafted a legal memo from an associate named "Thomas Meyer." The memo purposefully contained grammar and analysis errors. Then it was sent to 60 partners of different firms, but "Meyer" was identified as African American to half of the firms. The other half were told he was white.

The partners who thought he was white gave him nearly a full point difference more. Where 5 points was excellent, white Meyer got a 4.1, was found to have fewer errors (remember the memos were identical), and was told he has "potential."

The  African American Meyer got a 3.2, was found to have 4.4 more errors, and was said to need "a lot of work," or  "average at best."

Interesting. But why the name Meyer? Were the researchers listening to Lenny Kravitz CDs? 

In a Diverse 2.0 world, it would have been more revealing to have used a name such as "Lee."

Consider a world that has spawned Robert E. Lee, a white man who commanded the South, Bobby Lee, a funny Asian American comedian, and Carlos Lee, a black Hispanic retired millionaire baseball player. 

Now that's a real complex gene pool.

What kind of a reactions would any Mr. Lee get in 2015?

Another section called "True or False" tests assumptions. And Asians are mentioned in one of eight questions: "Asians recently surpassed Latinos as the fastest growing group of new immigrants to the United States." True or False.

See the answer on my blog, www.amok.com.

But the real clincher for me that Starbucks was mired in yesterday's coffee grounds was the so-called "Path to Progress," a timeline of race highlights that is incomplete at best. 

Asian American highlights are there, such as 1903's Japanese-Mexican Labor Association. 

But why mention that and exclude Cesar Chavez and Larry Itliong's Mexican-Filipino effort in the far more significant United Farm Workers struggles in the '60s?  

The Immigration Act of 1924 that ended Asian immigration to the U.S. is mentioned, as are subsequent immigration changes in 1965. 

But there's no mention of U.S. vs. Wong Kim Ark, the landmark 1898 Supreme Court case, still being used today to uphold your birthright to U.S. citizenship when born on American soil. Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1871, went to China, and then was denied re-entry to the U.S. The victory in that case is still relevant today.

The timeline mentions how the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare decided in 1970 that students cannot be denied access to education because of an inability to speak English. Great. So why not also mention Lau vs. Nichols, the 1974 case in which the Supreme Court gave a real victory to bilingual education?

Of course, the incarceration of Japanese Americans in World War II is mentioned. But nothing about Fred Korematsu's successful challenge of Executive Order 9066?

The timeline is a mixed bag of events. 1945 cites Jackie Robinson as the first black player in Major League Baseball. It even cites pop breakthroughs, such as 1979's Sugar Hill Gang and "Rapper's Delight." 

So come on, where's Patsy? 

I will grant them leaving out Connie Chung, first Asian American anchorwoman on a network evening newscast.

But leaving out Patsy Mink and putting in Vanessa Williams, the first African American Miss America? And no mention of Shirley Chisholm? 

It's a throwback to the '50s when exclusion was the accepted rule. 

If Starbucks wants to acknowledge the news of the day--Ferguson and the black/white divide accentuated by law enforcement--then it should do that the way corporations can. Open more stores there. Hire more African Americans who can't afford to buy Starbucks products. Pump money into the community so they can. 

That would be far better than making it sound like Starbucks is on some mission of inclusiveness and then conveniently leaving us all out.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


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