Oldest Living Veteran Credits Whiskey and Cigars…

Richard Overton of Austin, Texas is currently the oldest living WWII Veteran at 107 years of age.

H credits his longevity to whiskey and cigars!

Would that be Jim Beam, or George Dickel, sir?

 

Oldest Living Veteran Cites Whiskey, Cigars, ‘Staying Out Of Trouble’ As Key To Longevity

Richard Overton, who at 107-years-old is America’s oldest living veteran on record, was honored last week at a Veterans Day ceremony in Austin, Texas. In addition to a standing ovation, Overton received a box of cigars — a vice that he cites as a key ingredient in his recipe for longevity.

Overton takes no medicine, except for aspirin. Instead, he smokes cigars — up to 12 a day, he told Fox News this spring — and drinks whiskey with his morning coffee. The secret to living long, he told the Houston Chronicle, is “staying out of trouble.”

“I also stay busy around the yards, I trim trees, help with the horses,” he told Fox. “The driveways get dirty, so I clean them. I do something to keep myself moving. I don’t watch television.”

Overton served in the Army during World War II in Hawaii, Guam, Palau and Iwo Jima. He now lives in Austin.

On Sunday, Overton was set to be honored in Washington, D.C. by President Barack Obama as part of the White House’s Veterans Day festivities. According to KEYE TV, Overton was scheduled to have breakfast with the president and Vice President Joe Biden, and then attend a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony.

“The president wants me to come with him,” Overton said. “I’m su

rprised he called me.”

Foreign Adoption of American Children

Usually people think of Americans adopting children from other parts of the world. Increasingly…

It’s the other way around.

Seventy Dutch families who adopted U.S. kids gather for an annual Fathers Day picnic in June. The majority of the children being adopted are African American.

Overseas adoptions rise — for black American children

 Elisa van Meurs grew up with a Polish au pair, speaks fluent Dutch and English and loves horseback riding — her favorite horse is called Kiki but she also rides Pippi Longstocking, James Bond, and Robin Hood.

She plays tennis and ice hockey, and in the summer likes visiting her grandmother in the Swiss Alps.

“It’s really nice to go there because you can walk in the mountains and you can mountain bike … you can see Edelweiss sometimes,” said the 13-year-old, referring to the famous mountain flower that blooms above the tree line.

It’s a privileged life unlike that of her birth mother, a woman of African American descent from Indianapolis who had her first child at age 15. Her American family is “really nice but they don’t have a lot of money to do stuff,” said Elisa, who met her birth mother, and two siblings in 2011. “They were not so rich.”

Elisa van Meurs with her adoptive parents Bart and Heleene van Meurs on vacation in Switzerland.

While the number of international adoptions is plummeting — largely over questions surrounding the origin of children put up for adoption in developing countries — there is one nation from which parents abroad can adopt a healthy infant in a relatively short time whose family history and medical background is unclouded by doubt: The United States.

“I thought it was so strange. I’m here in Holland and they’re telling me I can get a baby” from the U.S., recalled Elisa’s father, Bart van Meurs, who originally planned to adopt from China or Colombia but held little hope of receiving an infant. “This can’t be true.” But less than 18 months later, van Meurs and his wife Heleene were at an Indiana hospital holding four-day-old Elisa.

While the typical tale of international adoption is U.S. families adopting a child from abroad, foreign families like the van Meurs adopt scores of U.S. children each year. The numbers are far lower than the thousands of overseas children adopted each year by U.S. families, but over the past decade the number of U.S. children adopted by foreign parents has been steadily rising — and almost all of the children are of African American descent like Elisa, say attorneys who facilitate international adoptions.

U.S. laws that allow birth mothers to choose the adoptive family of their children feed that growth, as some prefer to see their kids grow up in an exotic overseas locale rather than the U.S., experts say.

“A family from Indiana might talk about taking their child on vacation to Florida, to Disneyworld. A Dutch family talks about taking their child on vacation to the south of France or the Alps,” said Steven Kirsh of Kirsh & Kirsh, an Indianapolis law firm that has helped place hundreds of children with families in Europe.

Escape from racism

When Susan, a Florida resident, chose to place her son for adoption in 2006, the social worker gave her three binders with information about three prospective families. But she only needed to see the first binder of a couple from the Netherlands to make her decision. “If my mother had lived, she’d look just like (the prospective Dutch mother),” recalled the 37 year old, who asked that her last name not be used. Her own mother died when she was two months old.

Susan also wanted her son to grow up far away from the life she knew. She was a 30-year-old prostitute addicted to crack beginning a prison sentence when she learned she was pregnant. She did not know whether the child’s father was a man who raped her “for hours” or a drug dealer whom she “had done something with” one time, she said. But both men were African American, and she believed the child would face discrimination growing up in the United States.

“There’s too much prejudice over here. The white people are going to hate him because he’s half black, and the majority of black people are going to hate on him because he’s half white,” said Susan, who is Caucasian. “And then he’ll have to do extra things to prove what kind of a Negro he is, and extra things to prove what kind of a honky he is and I don’t want that. I did not want that for my kid.”

Even her own daughter, then aged 11, said “she would never accept that n***** child.”

Susan is not alone, says Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Donaldson Adoption Institute and author of “Adoption Nation.” Many birth mothers have a perception that their black or mixed-race children will not face the same race issues in the Netherlands as in the United States.

“In the United States, as much as Americans want to believe it’s not true, we are still a country where there is a least some degree of racial prejudice. The birth mothers’ perception of Holland, in particular, was that the same was not true in Holland. There’s that feeling that maybe we can escape those issues if (the child is) somewhere else.”

This past June on Father’s Day, about 70 Dutch families who have adopted children from the U.S. gathered at a park outside Amsterdam. The picnic is a time for the children to celebrate their American heritage: “The kids are dressed with a red, white and blue beret in her hair, if it’s a girl, (or) they’re wearing New York Yankees t-shirts,” said Michael Goldstein, a New York attorney who facilitated the adoptions of the picnic attendees.

Among the families were Marielle van den Biggelaar, a stay-at-home mom and her husband, Marnix, a sales manager for a women’s clothing brand, who adopted their two children, Eva, four, and two-year-old Norbert as babies from Florida and New York, respectively. “For the kids it’s really important to see that they’re not alone and that all these kids have the same history, and they’re all adopted and they’re all from the same country,” Marielle said.

“It’s really nice to see them all together and to talk to each other about experiences — with their hair and with their skin — and they’re all the same people with the same mindset, so it’s really fun for the kids and for us, as well.”

The couple encourages their children to embrace their American origins, celebrating Thanksgiving each year with other families who adopted children from the United States. “We try to tell them about their culture and about their background,” said Marielle, who decided to adopt after years of unsuccessful fertility treatment. “We would love them to (start speaking) English when they’re really young because if they want to go back (to America) and if they want to see where they’re born, it would be nice if they can speak to … their parents if they are going to meet them.”

Their children stand out in Het Gooi, a village about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Amsterdam. “They’re famous here, where we live, because it’s a really white society,” Marielle said…. (more)

 

Oscar Alert! – 12 Years a Slave

This one has the Film Critics atwitter after the Toronto Film Festival. It is a film depiction of the true story of Solomon Northup, born a free man, who was abducted and enslaved in the pre-Civil War US.  Unlike the fictitious Django – the film is based on a book on the real-life experiences of the author, Solomon Northup, by the same name. The book is the 1853 autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in Washington D.C in 1841 and sold into slavery. He worked on plantations in the state of Louisiana for 12 years before his release.

The other big plus to this one, is that it sticks to historical truth – unlike The Butler, where the Director chose to “spice up” the story, having the central character born in Georgia – instead of Virginia. Met Mr Allen at a Christmas Party at the White House in 1976. I remember him distinctly because of being introduced by a family friend ho was a chef there – and a conversation about the “honesty” and racial feelings of the various Presidents he had served under to that time with the Master chef. Now – gay people may have “gaydar” – but black folks have “racedar” – that is reading the body language and reactions of a white person they interact with. One of the things Allen said was to keep an eye on whether when then new President Carter came downstairs to greet the staff, whether he looked them in the eye while shaking hands (or even shook their hands, which Nixon would not do). He then went on to say that despite the common belief that Eisenhower hated black folks – when he shook your hand he looked you straight in the eye regardless of race. which said a lot more about the man than any Monday morning quarterbacks in the press. I broke into the conversation and asked him which did… And which didn’t. He told me a story totally confounding my then 70’s belief set.

I think back on that brief conversation and recall a quote from Martin Luther King…

Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.

I wish the movie was about that.

And unlike the movie – NO –  Ronald Reagan was no racist. Although unfortunately several of his senior staff, like Ed Meese, were sheet wearers.

TIFF 13: Did Steve McQueen’s ’12 Years a Slave’ just change the game?

TORONTO — Brad Pitt didn’t say much during the question-and-answer session that followed the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of “12 Years a Slave” on Friday night, just a short comment on why he produced and co-starred in the Steve McQueen period drama.

But, like his turn as an abolitionist-minded maverick amid a group of brutal slaveowners, Pitt spoke volumes as he stood on the stage with cast and filmmakers. “If I never get to participate in a film again,” he said, his voice trailing off as if to imply this would be enough, “this is it for me,” he finally finished.

It’s a sentiment you could imagine the lead cast members –Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o and of course Chiwetel Eijiofor, standing out amid the standouts — sharing with Pitt. And it’s a sentiment you could imagine the audience feeling. Festivals come and go; movies rise and fade. But once in a great while there’s a film that feels almost instantly, in the room, like it’s going to endure, and change plenty of things along the way. And “12 Years” offers that feeling.

Director Steve McQueen (r) and co-Lead Actor Michael Fassbender (l).

Most narrowly, that’s true on Oscar level. By 9 p.m. Friday night, just six days into September, the film had already become a top contender for various acting, writing and directing prizes, as well as the big prize. You could say that’s premature. But you probably wouldn’t if you sat in the room. (Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan certainly didn’t hold back.)

It’s equally true on a social level. “12 Years” tells the fact-based story of Solomon Northup (Eijiofor), a free man who in 1841 was kidnapped and sold into slavery, and his travails — at once horrifying and surprising, no matter how much you think you’re ready for them — when he is trafficked to a series of Southern plantations for more than a decade.

The movie has many of the hallmarks McQueen has become known for — the meticulous composition, the bold and haunting sequences — but, far more than previous films “Hunger” and“Shame,” it has a galvanizing topicality. (For more on “12 Years” and how it was made see my colleague John Horn’s excellent piece in the Sunday Times.)

It also has the kind of bracing honesty that has always been rare in Hollywood and is even rarer these days, a Hollywood where, if tough issues are taken on at all, it’s under the garb of respectful period drama or easy sentiment.

Slavery is pretty much at the top of that list of tough issues. With films like “Django Unchained” and “Lincoln,“ the subject has have become slightly less taboo in the past few years — but only slightly.“Roots” broke new ground on TV more than three decades ago, yet few have followed in its path. McQueen is finally willing to pick up the trail.

But maybe that feeling of change was most apparent because the movie went beyond its ostensible subject of race and the fight for emancipation. After the screening, several people I was sitting near began comparing the movie, favorably, to other films about race. A worthwhile comparison. But the film also evoked parallels to a more unexpected movie, “Schindler’s List.” Exactly 20 years ago that film paired impressive filmmaking with a wrenching subject, and in so doing achieved something remarkable — used cinema to change the way we view a cataclysmic period we thought we knew. “12 Years” has the  power to do the same thing.

As this movie rolls out this fall, people will talk about the questions it raises, about the evolution of race relations, about what it’s saying on the matter of slavery, whether nearly 150 years after the end of the Civil War there is resolution or closure, whether there can ever be resolution or closure.

And there will be, inevitably, a backlash, people who will question the choices McQueen made, will scrutinize whether this detail softpedals the history or that detail overplays it, whether he went too far or not far enough, whether he fetishizes too much or too little.

Mostly, people will talk about slavery in a way they haven’t before because by seeing the film they’ll experience it in a way they never have before. McQueen on Friday summed up his reason for making a movie about slavery thusly: “For me it was a no-brainer. I just wanted to see it on film. I wanted to see that history on film. It was important. It was that obvious. And that’s it,” he said, putting a period on the sentence. But the conversation is only just beginning.

BTx3 is going to see this one. This one strikes a personal chord as part of my own family fought re-enslavement after the Revolutionary War for near 50 years. While no letters or material from those family members still exist (although there are a few pictures), there is ample evidence in court documents from 1790 through 1840 which document the trail… Including 4 court cases where slavers tried to claim various members of he family were escaped slaves. A decades long struggle which by a bit more than just local legend included several killings.

The Death of America – Conservatism

This one from Author E.L. Doctorow. An apt description of what conservatives and conservative have done to America…

It wasn't a foreign enemy that destroyed America..

Unexceptionalism: A Primer

TO achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world, do the following:

PHASE ONE

If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, ignore the first sacrament of a democracy and suspend the counting of ballots in a presidential election. Appoint the candidate of your choice as president.

If you’re the newly anointed president, react to a terrorist attack by invading a nonterrorist country. Despite the loss or disablement of untold numbers of lives, manage your war so that its results will be indeterminate.

Using the state of war as justification, order secret surveillance of American citizens, data mine their phone calls and e-mail, make business, medical and public library records available to government agencies, perform illegal warrantless searches of homes and offices.

Take to torturing terrorism suspects, here or abroad, in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. Unilaterally abrogate the Convention Against Torture as well as the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. Commit to indeterminate detention without trial those you decide are enemies. For good measure, trust that legislative supporters will eventually apply this policy as well to American citizens.

Suspend progressive taxation so that the wealthiest pay less proportionately than the middle class. See to it that the wealth of the country accumulates to a small fraction of the population so that the gap between rich and poor widens exponentially.

By cutting taxes and raising wartime expenditures, deplete the national treasury so that Congress and state and municipal legislatures cut back on domestic services, ensuring that there will be less money for the education of the young, for government health programs, for the care of veterans, for the maintenance of roads and bridges, for free public libraries, and so forth.

Deregulate the banking industry so as to create a severe recession in which enormous numbers of people lose their homes and jobs.

Before you leave office add to the Supreme Court justices like the ones who awarded you the presidency.

PHASE TWO

If you’re one of the conservative majority of a refurbished Supreme Court, rule that corporations, no less than human beings, have the right under the First Amendment to express their political point of view. To come to this judgment, do not acknowledge that corporations lack the range of feelings or values that define what it is to be human. That humans can act against their own interest, whereas corporations cannot act otherwise than in their own interest. That the corporation’s only purpose is to produce wealth, regardless of social consequences.

This decision of the court will ensure tremendous infusions of corporate money into the political process and lead to the election in national and state legislatures of majorities of de facto corporate lobbyists.

PHASE THREE

Given corporate control of legislative bodies, enact laws to the benefit of corporate interests. For example, those laws sponsored by weapons manufacturers wherein people may carry concealed weapons and shoot and kill anyone by whom they feel threatened.

Give the running of state prisons over to private corporations whose profits increase with the increase in inmate populations. See to it that a majority of prisoners are African-American.

When possible, treat immigrants as criminals.

Deplete and underfinance a viable system of free public schools and give the education of children over to private for-profit corporations.

Make college education unaffordable.

Inject religious precepts into public policy so as to control women’s bodies.

Enact laws prohibiting collective bargaining. Portray trade unions as un-American.

Enact laws restricting the voting rights of possibly unruly constituencies.

Propagandize against scientific facts that would affect corporate profits. Portray global warming as a conspiracy of scientists.

Having subverted the Constitution and enervated the nation with these measures,  portray the federal government as unwieldy, bumbling and shot through with elitist liberals.  Create mental states of maladaptive populism among the citizenry to support this view.

PHASE FOUR

If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, decide that the police of any and all cities and towns and villages have the absolute authority to strip-search any person whom they, for whatever reason, put under arrest.

With this ruling, the reduction of America to unexceptionalism is complete.

Increasing Number of Latinos Identify as Native American

In some Latin American countries – being Native American is a definite negative. Discrimination, such as that experienced by Native American people in Southern Mexico is common. So historically, a lot of Hispanics have run away from their Native American background (Not unlike the disappeared black folks in Mexico). So this is interesting…

Ana María Tekina-eirú Maynard, right, dances at the 2010 Taíno Day ceremony in Puerto Rico.

Taino Festival in Puerto Rico

More Latinos identify as Native American, census shows

When Ana María Tekina-eirú Maynard filled out her census form last year, she checked the box for Latino, and for the first time, she also checked the box for Native American.

It had taken her more than 30 years — plus research and genetic testing — to discover her ties to the indigenous Taínos of Puerto Rico, to claim her identity and re-learn what she thought she knew of her history.

She’s not the only one. Since 2000, the number of Hispanics who identified themselves as Native American grew from 407,073 to 685,150, according to the 2010 census.

Some attribute the increase to immigration from parts of North and South America where there are large indigenous populations. In some cases, it’s because of recently discovered ties to native cultures.

Growing up in the Bronx, New York, and spending summers in Puerto Rico, Maynard said she had no words to identify who she was. She just felt “different.”

“It is one thing to know that you have indigenous blood,” Maynard said. “And I have always known it. I look at the faces of my mother and grandmother, and that reality is undeniable.”

But Maynard had long been taught that Taíno Indians, the indigenous people of Puerto Rico, were “gone, dead and buried” for centuries, decimated by Spaniards who arrived on the island in the 16th century.

“Why would you question what you have always been taught and what was considered as common knowledge?” she asked.

Still, 14 years ago, Maynard founded the Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance & Cultural Center in Austin, Texas, to preserve the culture of indiginous Puerto Ricans. Today, Maynard gives dance and singing classes as a volunteer at the center, in addition to her full-time job as an engineer with IBM.

Four years ago, Maynard heard about the work of Dr. Juan Carlos Martinez Cruzado, a geneticist from the University of Puerto Rico. In an island-wide genetic study, he found that at least 61.1% of those surveyed had mitochondrial DNA of indigenous origin.

Cruzado’s findings eventually cast doubt upon the notion that the Taínos of Puerto Rico had been completely extinguished but suggested that they assimilated.

“When I learned about (Cruzado’s) work, my life changed,” Maynard said. “It was an awakening that the Taíno heritage was not extinct.”

 

Japanese Americans Push Back Against Republican Jim Crow

One of the ugly episodes in our history was the treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII. America operated concentration camps, where Japanse-American citizens, guilty of nothing but their Japanese ancestry were imprisoned for the duration of WWII. Whole familes were carted off to be locked away…

So it is no surprise Japanese would be sensitive to the virulent calls to racism by Tea Bagged Republicans – this time against another group, Muslims. They have seen this slide show before…

Japanese Americans decry Rep. King’s Muslim hearings as ‘sinister’

During the chaotic days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Basim Elkarra was passing by an Islamic school in Sacramento when he did a double-take: The windows were covered with thousands of origami paper cranes – peace symbols that had been folded and donated by Japanese Americans.

Amid the anger and suspicions being aimed at Muslims at that time, the show of support “was a powerful symbol that no one will ever forget,” said Elkarra, a Muslim American community leader in California.

It was also the beginning of an unlikely bond between the two groups that has intensified as House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter T. King (R-N.Y.)prepares to launch a series of controversial hearings Thursday on radical Islam in the United States.

Spurred by memories of the World War II-era roundup and internment of 110,000 of their own people, Japanese Americans, especially on the West Coast, have been among the most vocal and passionate supporters of embattled Muslims. They’ve rallied public support against hate crimes at mosques, signed on to legal briefs opposing the indefinite detention of Muslims by the government, organized cross-cultural trips to the Manzanar internment camp memorial in California and held “Bridging Communities” workshops in Islamic schools and on college campuses. Continue reading

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