Twelve mythical creatures. Five natural elements. That makes a 60 year cycle. The year of the Water Tiger 🐯 has arrived. Here's Keshia Hannam with how the Lunar Year Zodiac Signs work. Happy very Lunar New Year! 🎉 May the year of the Water Tiger bring you Joy, Health, and Prosperity.
Twelve mythical creatures. Five natural elements. That makes a 60 year cycle. The year of the Water Tiger 🐯 has arrived. Here's Keshia Hannam with how the Lunar Year Zodiac Signs work. Happy very Lunar New Year! 🎉 May the year of the Water Tiger bring you Joy, Health, and Prosperity.
Did you know Boho Chic furniture is rooted in an Asia torn apart by war? Rattan is a material indigenous to Asia, and has been utilized in South East Asia for centuries. But most Asians didn't sit on chairs, they sat on floors. European colonists influenced these pieces. Rattan can be found in tropical palm trees in countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Today, Indonesia is the world’s largest supplier, providing 80% of the world’s raw rattan. The ‘Manila Chair’ became a fad for celebrities and politicians like Cher, Diana Ross, and John F. Kennedy. Western designers have integrated many designs that look like Asian rattan furniture, without crediting the cultures they come from. Instead, “Boho-Chic” furniture and aesthetic is often categorized as “ethnic” or “tribal,” grossly generalizing and erasing their roots. And the appropriation is expensive. Rattan chairs are sold for $800 at Pottery Barn, without clear understanding of how ethically the rattan was produced and manufactured.
Colonization historically undervalued, if not rejected, traditional Eastern medicine. Today, these same practices are making billions in the West. How has skepticism and superiority impacted our relationships with Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Eastern sciences? Globally, the Ayurvedic herbs market was valued at $9.5 billion in 2020, and is anticipated to reach $21.6 billion by 2028. The acupuncture (a traditionally Chinese procedure) needles market is estimated to reach $177 million by 2026. Alternative medicine is making a resurgence, spurred by the pandemic. Western science and medicine have been regarded superior, while centuries old Eastern practices are depicted as mysterious, exotic, and even false. Today these holistic approaches to physical and mental health, including relying on herbs, spices, balance, and diet, are reemerging with force. What does it tell us about global power and control? And is it shifting?
Di Asia, KFC jauh lebih unggul daripada McDonald’s. Pelanggannya hampir dua kali lebih banyak dari pesaingnya. Tentu saja ada alasan di fenomena ini. KFC adalah pelopor di pasar fast-food Asia. Mereka membuka outlet pertamanya di Filipina pada tahun 1966. Sejak saat itu, KFC telah tersebar ke berbagai penjuru Asia. Namun, alasan KFC sukses bukan hanya karena berapa lama franchise ini bertahan, tapi KFC juga memuaskan selera orang-orang dengan menggabungkan elemen lokal dan produk andalan mereka. Sebut saja ayam briyani ala KFC di Sri Lanka, donat udang di Thailand, dan bahkan Natal di Jepang pun terasa tidak lengkap tanpa satu bucket ayam KFC Antara KFC dan McDonald’s pun tidak melulu persaingan. Mereka saling belajar dan memengaruhi perkembangan masing-masing. McDonald’s pun mulai menjual menu-menu khas Asia. Ketika popularitas KFC mulai menurun di negara asalnya, KFC tetap bersinar di pasar internasional. Kesuksesannya di Asia terjadi karena satu hal utama: menjadi pendengar yang baik.
India needs new leadership--one divorced from dangerous nationalism and dynastic politics. Modi may win re-elections in 2024, or the Gandhi family may revive themselves, but what India really needs is a new government. And an integrous, accountable leader that isn't shroud in corruption, but right now the pickings are slim. Modi, the boy who once sold tea at a railway station, stole the hearts of many and has now led India into what many have called afascist, Hindutva authoritarian state, indirectly encouraging violence towards Muslims. Rahul Gandhi, hailing from India’s unofficial ‘First Family’ (one revered for freedom, independence, and the good of the people), is now standing disgraced after numerous corruption scandals. Many have put their faith in Chief Mayawati, a Dalit woman who originates from humble beginnings, but even she has been accused of losing sight of the core values she ran on. India's 2024 Elections are fast approaching and though the options appear limited, there’s a history of manipulation and nepotism that isn’t new. The full history, here with Sanjna Selva.
What Asian horror movies have proven is that there is nothing scarier than a woman, free from her shackles, wreaking havoc on society to get justice. Why is the ghostly, vengeful woman such a prevalent trope, and how does it represent misogyny across Asian cultures? From the infamous virgin ghost, to the seductive “femme fatale” archetypes, there are consistent depictions of the vengeful female spirit throughout Asian stories. The pale, long black-haired woman in a white dress is the scariest ghost of all. While these characters might begin as victims, they become terrifying villains, making it difficult to sympathize with their pain. It’s the unfair deaths these female characters experience that turn their spirits into monsters that are feared and not souls free to rest. There is little understanding of their suffering, or even their existence, mirroring the reality of many. It’s possible this trope persists because scary stories have often been the only outlet to name the violence women face. In patriarchal societies that view women as subservient, many women die in unfair suffering: murder, death connected to sexual assault, and forced suicide. Asian horror has evolved to incorporate deeper commentaries about women’s issues over time like marital anxiety, dissociative identity disorders, and becoming a widow. But irrespective of final outcome,being abused and thus vengeful continues to be the most natural character foundation of Asian women in horror stories and films.
If you lived in Seoul and earned the average income, it would take you 19 years to buy a home in Seoul. Women still have to choose between career and family. Unemployment rates are high and job opportunities are low. Between inflation and social norms, the younger generation don’t believe that the benefits of having a child will outway the costs. And as a result,the country’s population is at risk. In fact, SK’s population is 51 million and yet, it has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. Even the government’s $37B investment in families with children couldn’t reverse the trend: the rates of both fertility and couples tying the knot are at an all time low, and the country is anxious.
In Asia, KFC rules supreme over McDonald’s, holding double the market share of their biggest competitor. But there’s a reason why. KFC is an OG in the Asian market, opening up its first store in the Philippines in 1966. Since then, it’s spread to the rest of the continent. But the reason KFC is so successful is not just how long it’s been around: KFC caters to local flavors, bringing to life cultural favorites and then combining them with their addictive staples. You can get a KFC chicken biryani in Sri Lanka, a shrimp donut in Thailand, and Christmas isn’t complete in Japan without a bucket of KFC chicken. But it’s not always beef between KFC and McDonald’s. In fact, they often influence each other’s growth. Over the years, McDonalds has come up with its own menu of Asia-specific items. And while KFC is declining in its home country, the United States, it’s crushing the international market. Its success in Asia comes down to one main thing: being good at listening.
When you walk through the #BritishMuseum or #TheMet in New York, you will come across millions of objects from around the world – many of which were looted and trafficked to the west from their places of origin in formerly colonized countries. Recently, the governments of some of these countries – like Cambodia, China, and India - have been pushing for the return of these artifacts. But repatriating stolen artifacts to their home countries is complicated and difficult. Why? Because artifacts have often changed hands many times over decades, it’s difficult to trace exactly where and whom they belong to. There are also problems when the artifacts do make it home. In some cases, items returned home are stolen again because they’re in the hands of museums that aren’t the best caretakers. And this isn’t just a problem of the past. Right now, stolen artifact trafficking is the third largest illegal activity in the world, exceeded only by drugs and weapons. WhatsApp and Facebook groups make it easy to connect with smugglers, and it’s estimated that 10 billion dollars-worth of cultural property is trafficked every year. Putting an end to this practice is still an ongoing issue - and we need to keep having these complicated discussions around stolen artifacts and how to return them to their rightful owners in the future.
While you’re trying to cope with your insane family chat on WhatsApp and Facebook, animal smugglers are creating hundreds of groups where animals are bought and sold. Facebook search any country and exotic animal and you’ll find groups dedicated to finding endangered pets in any nation. As the world’s 4th largest illegal trade after drugs, human trafficking and counterfeiting, South and South East Asia’s literal and metaphorical appetite for exotic animals and their parts amount to a 20-23 Billion Dollar industry. This harms the animals and our planet. Southeast Asia experiences the world’s fastest rate of deforestation, and an increase of illegal wildlife trafficking will only make things monumentally worse for its biodiversity. The Asian Elephant population has already declined by 50% over the past century. Hundreds of species are likely to go extinct if the trade goes on unchecked. Joy Jeong explains how animals are trafficked, and how activists are tackling the industry.
It’s easy to look at the racial dynamics of America and believe that’s not who Australia is. Yet, the Asian Australian Alliance recorded 337 hate crimes against Asian Australians over the span of a month and half. In fact, 1 in 5 Chinese Australians reported being threatened or attacked in 2020 because of their heritage. But this is happening in a vacuum. Australia has a racist past to reckon with, starting with the very structure of law. In the 1900’s, legislators passed multiple laws to stop non-white immigrants from gaining legal citizenship. These collections of racist laws that kept immigrants from gaining citizenship were called the White Australian Policy. Why? After World War II, Australia’s population was stagnant and needed new people to rebuild their country. By 1975, the Racial Discrimination Act made it illegal to discriminate against migrants based on race. Remnants of White Australian Policy are ingrained in white Australians psyche. Refugees are met with unwelcomed sentiment in political campaigns like “stop the boats,” migrant populations are given hateful and reductive names, First Nations people are disproportionately met with police brutality, and Asians are blamed for COVID. Racist and xenophobic laws in the past have influenced how white Australians act towards non-white people. Australia is a home for so many, and to be the safe and thriving multicultural it hopes to be, there is further reckoning to be done.
Anime is pop-culture. Dragon Ball Z has been translated to nearly 35 different languages. The wildly popular series One Piece aired more than 1000 episodes. Half of Netflix’s 200 million subscribers watch #anime. Anime is so popular that in 2021 the industry was valued at a whopping $24 billion and demand is only going up. However, the working conditions for the people who make our favorite anime does not match the industry’s wild success. Animators in Japan are overworked and underpaid, earning as little as $200 a month. It’s been so bad that in 2010, an animator working at A-1 Pictures, makers of Sword Art Online and Fairy Tail, committed suicide. He was overworked to death - claiming that he was working 600 hours a month. Japanese work culture is famous for overworking their employees to the point of death that that there is a word ‘かろうし’ (Karoshi). Reforming the industry is difficult. For now, fans can support the artists in various ways whether it’s donating directly to them, or informing themselves and others about the realities of the industry, and tweeting at / writing letters to company heads to demand they increase pay.
Nearly half of the world’s unsafe abortions occur in Asia. Why? Long-standing social shame has led to misinformation / a lack of information about how to get an abortion in Asia safely. Here’s Keshia Hannam on how abortion laws are different, factors that contribute to the attitudes around abortions, and the path forward. Why not make abortions legal in Asia? Because liberal abortion laws alone do not ensure safe abortions. To reduce illness and death from unsafe abortions, experts have suggested Asian countries will need to use multi-pronged approaches that solve challenges from society to law. Just because no one talks about it, doesn’t mean it doesn't happen. Sex education could be taught in school to reduce social stigma and to promote safer sex, service provision guidelines could be adopted and disseminated with women’s mental and physical wellbeing considered, providers must be trained, and governments must be committed to ensuring that safe abortions are available, just to name a few options. Check out more on: https://wgnrr.org/
Where are all the Brown football players? Given how popular soccer is on the streets of South Asia, the fanbase is not reflected on the field. It’s rare to see #Indians, #Pakistanis, #Nepalis, #Afghans or anyone else from #SouthAsia to be seen in world events like @fifaworldcup or @premierleague. Although often cited, the reason is more complex than the typically offered: “Asian parents don’t let their kids play sports professionally.’” Here’s Keshia Hannam on how football is failing South Asians at a systemic level and making football related professions inaccessible.
The Indigenous languages of Asian countries like Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos have recently become at risk of dying out. There are many reasons why languages die - most often for political, economic and cultural reasons like the Indonesian government has pushed a nationalist agenda to create a sense of identity for the country. This is important because languages are the connective tissue of traditions, cultures, and communities. Historically, Thailand’s government has forced indigenous groups to assimilate to one unified language under a nationalist agenda. However, linguistic diversity is crucial for understanding our capacity for language - linguistic diversity helps us preserve culture and it's a tool for knowledge sharing. Because a language dies out every two weeks around the world, Stephanie Tangkilisan dove into how languages die and whether there’s any way to maintain linguistic diversity before erasure.
Aung San Suu Kyi was once an icon for peace who stood against military dictatorship in Myanmar. Now, she’s a politician under trial for over a dozen corruption charges. How did this former Nobel Peace Prize Laureate fall from grace? Or is there something more to the charges against her? Suu Kyi was an icon even before she became the elected leader of Myanmar. In 2016, after 15+ years of house arrest, she was elected as State Counsellor to nurture Myanmar’s democracy. But then she went from a political prisoner to someone who imprisons those who speak truth to power. In Dec 2017, Aung San Suu Kyi arrested two Reuters investigative journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who investigated the Inn Din massacre of the Rohingyas. A genocide she was accused of downplaying. This caused international controversy, given the million Rohingya refugees who now live in Bangladesh. But even as she undergoes trials, she still has strong support. In fact, many say this is all a way to stop a civilian government from improving Myanmar. What do you think happened to Aung San Suu Kyi?
What is Ultra Fast Fashion? It’s a quicker, more exploitive way of making clothes that’s trending right now. Especially on #TikTok. Not only is it destroying the planet, but for Asian women, this method of making clothes to meet Western demand has been called modern day colonialism. Approximately 80% of garment workers are women, mostly 18-24 year olds, from countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Cambodia. The only reason clothes can be this cheap to the Western consumer, who buys sometimes thousands of dollars worth of apparel at a time, is because in Asia someone isn’t making a living wage. One of many needed reforms is for Western countries with spending power to buy less, and for policies to create safer and equitable working conditions for garment workers. We should think about how we feel about our contribution to this culture when we look back on this era of ultra fast fashion? Will we be proud of the massive consumption?
No candidate capitalized on the anti-feminist movement like Yoon Suk-yeol, who narrowly won South Korea’s most recent election to become the President (Yoon claimed 48.6% of the vote, and his opponent Lee won 47.8%). As the leader of the conservative People Power Party (PPP), his campaign appealed to men who are anxious about losing ground to women, and helped turn a fringe online community into a major political force. And there are real consequences to this: Yoon has called for the abolishment of the gender equality ministry because it focuses “too much on women’s rights and is no longer necessary.” He’s even said he would enhance punishments for false accusations of sexual violence, a move advocates for women’s rights has said will discourage women from reporting incidents. Though women are and have been fighting back since the 2016 murder of a 23-year-old woman in Gangnam neighborhood—in a random attack by a man who said “he hated women for ignoring him”—the outpouring of rage and the so-called “feminism reboot” has prompted a ‘reverse discrimination’. In a June 2021 poll, 84% of Korean men in their twenties, and 83% in their thirties, said they had experienced “serious gender-based discrimination.”
Malaysia’s ethnic minorities have always faced adversities and inequity through systemic racism that plays out in every aspect of society and the economy. Disadvantages from decades of discriminatory laws in Malaysia’s legal system have left ethnic minorities with less education, less wealth, and poorer health. This racial inequality has also led to institutional discrimination, like police bruality—nearly 55% percent of police custodial deaths are Indian. Malaysia’s racial majority continue to benefit from a policy enacted in the 70s called the New Economic Policy, putting other marginalized groups at a stark disadvantage. Here’s Sanjna Selva on how Malaysia ended up with these laws. Where does racism manifest in the country, and what can be done about it?
South and South East Asian migrant workers are the backbone of the economy for Gulf Countries. As world class events such as the #Qatar2022 #FIFA is imminently close, Asian migrant workers will be an integral part to host and participate in these events. However, 10,000 Asian migrant workers die in the Gulf states every year because of harsh labor conditions. Migrant workers account for 52% of the Arab Gulf’s entire 58 million population mostly occupying the low paying sectors like construction and domestic service. In these jobs, they often face abuse and work for long hours in conditions that put their mental and physical health at risk. So why not leave? Complicated work contracts keep and trap migrant workers in harsh labor conditions in their sponsored countries by withholding their passports. The practice is beneficial to the employer and they avoid structural labor reforms. Gulf countries must recognize that their infrastructures are made with the blood and sweat of Asian migrant workers. How did this happen? How can we save migrant workers from the South and South East Asians in harsh labor conditions?
The United States and Taliban authorities are contributing to the dire suffering of Afghanistan, disproportionately women and children. Bombings continue – particularly in places or worship, attacks on minority groups are on the rise, and 22M people are facing extreme hunger according to The World Food Program. It’s expected that a million children under the age of 5 will die within this year for hunger related reasons. President Biden’s executive order to divert half of Afghanistan’s ($7B) aid to 9/11 victim’s families has been met with criticism: a statement by 14 U.N. independent rights experts also blamed the U.S. government for making life worse for Afghan women through blocking billions of dollars that could be used to provide desperately-needed humanitarian relief to tens of millions in the country. Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar reminded Europe on Tuesday: “You spoke about Ukraine, I remember what happened less than a year ago in Afghanistan where an entire civil society was thrown under the bus by the world,” he said in response to a question asked by Norway’s foreign minister, Anniken Huitfeldt. Here’s Keshia Hannam with what has been happening since the Taliban took over and how the US contributed to, and needs to be held accountable, for the crisis in Afghanistan. Link to support: https://linktr.ee/AFBT
Sri Lanka is in its worst economic crisis and the country is facing a steep challenge to pay back its crushing 4.5B debt problem. These are debts accumulated through borrowing from foreign countries to build large scale projects to revive the economy after a natural disaster in 2004. Unable to pay off these debts, equity of these large scale projects now belong to countries like China. The country’s 22M people are facing the most painful economic downturn since the country’s independence in 1948. With no food, no fuel, or no medicine available to Sri Lankans, the people are losing confidence in their President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Protests swelled demanding the president to resign and crowds have attempted to storm the homes of government leaders. On April 19th, Police in Sri Lanka opened fire on crowds protesting at fuel shortages during the economic crisis, leaving one man dead and 11 others wounded.
The pan-Asian housing market is broken, and the dream of owning a home is increasingly out of reach for young Asians. There are two major things that contribute to the high housing prices around Asia. First, the rapid urbanization of people migrating from the country to the city. By 2030, 66% of East Asians will live in urban areas. Lastly, Foreign investors are purchasing land and building high rise buildings that cater to high income people. Cities like Hong Kong have the highest rent prices in the world, and in Taiwan housing prices are 2x more than homes in New York and London. In Singapore, the housing development board offers subsidized housing to residents, but these programs often neglect working immigrants and non-hetrosexual couples. Young people are working hard and disheartened by their limited options.
In January 2022, protests in Kazakhstan became violent in response to social inequality largely stemming the government's decision to raise gas and oil prices. During this civil unrest, the Kazakh government shut its Internet down, simultaneously shutting down its flourishing bitcoin market. What's going to happen to the crypto mining industry in Kazakstanis uncertain, even while the voices of Kazakstan's people shouts louder. This is part 2 of how Kazakhstan went from a bitcoin paradise to a miner's limbo.
Kazakhstan became the world's No.2 centre for bitcoin mining after the United States last year. WHY? Cryptocurrency mining requires massive amounts of electricity and because it's so cheap in Kazakhstan, the country saw an opportunity to capture the growing market when China outlawed crypto mining in June 2021. However, this growing market was put on hold when the Kazakh government shut its Internet down during a time of unrest. This is part 1 of how Kazakhstan went from a bitcoin paradise to a miner's limbo.
Beauty standards in Asia stem from biases based on class systems and are deeply rooted in colonization. Classist and Eurocentric beauty standards can be tools to dictate how Asians think and feel - inferior to those with lighter complexions, and thus worthy of self-hate. It’s time we decolonize beauty by celebrating all of our features (our more melanated friends, Asian eyes, body hair, and noses) and define what beauty means on our terms.
Asia has a multi-billion dollar skin lightening market and these beauty standards have lived in our culture since the beginning. Upholding these beauty standards have real life consequences from earning potential, marital prospects, and social status in Asian cultures. Here’s Keshia Hannam on where the obsession with lighter skin comes from in different regions of Asia and why are we still pursuing these Eurocentric lighter complexions?
Western sanctions on #Russia don't just affect Russia–they also have implications on neighboring Central Asian economies. Kazakhstan relies on Russian ports to export two-thirds of its oil supplies. Last year alone, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan sent 7.8 million workers to Russia. These countries depend on seasonal migration for work and remittance payments. Most Central Asian countries are profoundly dependent on Russian natural gas and those countries are vulnerable to its supply shortages. Millions of Central Asians from countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan will face unemployment and an increase in food scarcity. Energy and job security in Central Asia will be more important than ever, but reducing this dependency can't happen overnight.
Jakarta, home to over 11 million people, has been steadily sinking into the Java Sea due to the #climatecrisis. Overpopulation and the sinking capital are the main reasons President Joko Widodo has decided to relocate the country’s capital to East Kalimantan, Borneo. It’s an ambitious project that may take 20 years, and Indonesians have voiced concerns about how quickly this decision was made. What does a new capital mean for Indonesia's citizens, the environment and cash? Here’s @stephtangk with everything you need to know about this $32 billion dollar capital move.
Anti-hijab campaigns have erupted across India after a college in Karnataka told students to take off their Hijab inside classrooms. Muskan Khan, a Muslim college student from Karnataka, stood up to against her school and to a crowd of shouting Anti-Muslim slogans. She is now the face of the Muslim women's resisting the hijab ban at their school and she is surfacing important dialogue about Islamaphobia in India. This is Keshia Hannam on everything you need to know about the Muslim Women who are fighting for their right to wear their Hijabs anywhere.
South Korea is choosing a new president right now. Both have controversial backgrounds. From the Democratic Party, Lee Jae-myung, governor of Seoul province, is under fire for a massive real estate corruption scandal that happened under his watch. Yoon Seok-yeol of the conservative People Power Party, previously Korea’s chief prosecutor for high-profile corruption cases, is accused of political meddling while serving as prosecutor-general. The Korean Youths are more aware of inequity and equality than the older generation and they feel strongly that the candidates are overlooking important topics like the increase in housing prices and in unemployment. It’s the tightest race in recent Korean History and the results will be in by March 9th.
As climate temperatures rise globally, the Philippines are left with dealing the effects of climate change sooner than any other country. While countries began to pledged to combat the 2030 Climate Change Deadline, is too late for the Philippines? What role do Western countries have in all of this? Watch the full reporting by Keshia Hannam