US: Asian Americans warn of ‘xenophobia’ over coronavirus outbreak | AFP

As the usually bustling streets of Chinatown in Los Angeles are mostly deserted amid fears about the coronavirus outbreak, Asian Americans say they are being unfairly associated with the disease. “The thing that I am actually most concerned about is kind of the racial profiling and xenophobia that’s been happening,” says Tiffany Yu, the CEO of a disability advocacy organization. “I think there is still a lot of research that’s being done around coronavirus but the fact that people within the Asian community, people who look Asian, people who look Chinese are being identified as having the virus, I think is a little bit more concerning of a reaction that’s happening.”

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San Francisco Chinese New Year parade still a go

Organizers of the biggest Chinese New Year parade in the US say festivities will go on Saturday despite coronavirus concerns, as some in San Francisco’s Chinatown reports a decline in visitors. (Feb. 4)

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Coronavirus stokes fears and racism in Paris’s Chinatown | AFP

In Belleville, Paris’s second Chinatown, Asian restaurants, herbalists and supermarkets are all half empty because of the coronavirus. Even though the six French cases are in isolation in the hospital, fear of the epidemic is creating fears and racism.

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New York marks Chinese New Year with lion dance and firecrackers | AFP

New York’s Chinatown welcomes the Lunar New Year of the Rat on a rainy day with a lion dance, a traditional dance performance and firecrackers. IMAGES

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Views from New York Chinatown on the Wuhan virus | AFP

People in New York’s Chinatown give their take on the deadly SARS-like virus outbreak in China. The respiratory virus emerged from a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, and cases have been reported as far away as the United States.

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ShowBiz Minute: Evans, ‘Terminator,’ ‘Joker’

Robert Evans, iconic producer of “Chinatown,” dies at 89; Due to wildfires, Hollywood premiere of latest “Terminator” film is canceled; “Joker” movie stairs now popular tourist draw. (Oct. 29)

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Why Bird’s Nest Soup Is So Expensive | So Expensive

Bird’s nest soup is a delicacy in Asia made from the dissolved nests of swiftlets, a small bird native to Southeast Asia. A bowl of bird’s nest soup can cost more than $100 at some restaurants, due to growing demand and a limited number of wild birds. The soup is popular in China, where it’s believed to have healing properties. We stopped by the Oriental Garden in NYC’s Chinatown to taste it for ourselves.

Following is a transcript of the video:

Narrator: Bird nest soup. It’s a gelatinous mixture, made from, you guessed it, bird nests. You can find it on the menu at certain Chinese restaurants like at Oriental Garden, here in New York City. But it’ll cost you.

Cici: For one person it costs $32.95, and for four people it costs $128.

Abby: And that’s normal pricing?

Cici: Yeah, that’s totally normal.

Abby: Wow.

Narrator: So, what makes it so expensive? People in China have been eating bird nests for more than a thousand years. It’s believed to have near magical properties, from curing cancer to helping children grow taller.

And the main ingredient? The partially dissolved nest of a swiftlet, a small bird native to Southeast Asia. Three times a year, swiftlets build nests out of their sticky saliva on cave walls and cliff sides, where they raise their young. It’s the high cost of these saliva nests that makes bird’s nest soup so expensive.

Here in New York City’s Chinatown, for example, a couple dozen were selling for more than a thousand dollars.

Until recently, the most common way of getting the nests was by harvesting them from the wild.

Creighton: There are many dangers involved in harvesting nests from caves. They would climb up without really any safety nets or harnesses, that kind of thing, and just try and extract the nests from the cave wall, and they’d be, in some cases, many stories up.

Narrator: But for many, the risk was worth the reward.

Creighton: Harvesters would often try and collect as many nests as they could, regardless of whether they were fully formed, and they would just take them repeatedly.

Narrator: In some regions, swiftlets couldn’t compete with the rate of harvest, and so their populations plummeted. Between 1957 and 1997, the number of swiftlets declined by as much as 88% in parts of Southeast Asia, largely due to over-harvesting. And as a result, the price of bird’s nests skyrocketed.

Creighton: The price for bird nests, I would say, peaked in around the early 1990s.

Narrator: Around that time, nests were selling for up to $1,000 a pound. Adjusting for inflation, that would be around $2,000 today. Those high prices earned bird nests the title “Caviar of the East.”

And they also fueled a new industry. You could call it hospitality.

Scores of people across Southeast Asia looking to cash in on the bird nest trade started investing in swiftlet hotels.

Creighton: People just found that if there was a vacant building or, say, the upper story of a building was uninhabited, then swiftlets would make their way inside, and they would start just using the buildings as their nesting sites. Then these rumors kind of emerged over time about how much money you could make swiftlet farming really overnight.

Narrator: And they weren’t just rumors. In Myanmar, for example, swiftlet hotels can bring in at least $6,000 a year, while the average annual income is just over $1,100. And the more swiftlets you draw in, the more money you make. 

George: According to locals, in order to successfully farm for the bird’s nests, there are a few factors involved.

Factor one: The locals believe that abundance is related to charity. The more charitable and kind they are to the community, the more the birds will come to build nests in their houses.

Factor two: technology. To attract the swiftlets to build nests, the house keepers have to employ the right technology using speakers to continuously broadcast the correct frequency of the chirping swiftlets at the optimum volume.

Factor three: they believe in showing care and concern to the swiftlets. They will be careful not to harvest the nests if there are eggs in the nests.

Narrator: In the last few decades, the swiftlet farming industry has exploded. From 1998 to 2013, the estimated number of swiftlet hotels grew from 900 to 60,000 in Malaysia alone. But while this increased supply, it didn’t exactly slash the price. That’s because in the last couple of decades or so, demand has also increased.

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Why Bird’s Nest Soup Is So Expensive | So Expensive

Why Caterpillar Fungus Is So Expensive | So Expensive

Caterpillar fungus is a hybrid of a fungus that kills and lives in caterpillars. It has been used in traditional herbal medicine for many centuries but has gained popularity in recent decades. It can sell for up to 3 times its weight in gold. The high demand has driven up the price, which can be as much as about $63,000 per pound. Some towns in the Himalayas rely on collecting and selling this fungus for a living.

Following is a transcript of the video:

What would you do if a fungus invaded your body, and started consuming you from the inside? It sounds like something out of a horror film, but that’s actually what happens to a certain type of baby moth.

The fungus eats its way through the helpless moth larvae and then sprouts out of their heads like a spring daisy. But this rare hybrid, the caterpillar fungus, isn’t just totally fascinating, it’s also expensive. Sometimes selling for more than 3 times its weight in gold!

Caterpillar fungus grows in the remote Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan Mountains but that’s not the only place you can find it. Here we are in New York City’s Chinatown. And nestled among countless drawers of dried mugwort leaves and hibiscus flowers.

There it is a small pile of 50 or so pieces of dried caterpillar fungus. Here, 1 gram of it costs about $30. But even that might be considered a good deal. Vendors on eBay, for example, list a gram for up to $125. The price is so high because this hybrid creature is incredibly rare.

It shows up for only a few weeks each year in remote regions of Nepal, Tibet, India and Bhutan. And even then, the fungus can be tricky for collectors to find, hidden amidst a sea of grass. For centuries, it’s been a staple of traditional Tibetan and Chinese medicine.

Kelly Hopping: “Traditionally, it was used as a general tonic, for immune support.”

For instance, a family might add half of this to a chicken soup. And it’s even rumored that it can be used as a sort of Himalayan viagra though there’s little evidence to back it up. People also buy the fungus as a gift or use it for bribes or as a status symbol. As a result, better looking pieces fetch a higher price.

Kelly Hopping: “It’s all dependent on exactly the color of the caterpillar fungus, even the shape of its body when it died, all of these things that don’t necessarily have anything to do with medicinal value make all the difference for the economic value.”

In 2017, for example, high quality pieces sold for as much as $140,000 per kg, or about $63,000 per pound. Now, caterpillar fungus has always been pricey. But experts say its value really skyrocketed in the 1990s and 2000s because of a growing Chinese economy, and the resulting increase in disposable income. Which ultimately, helped drive a massive boom in harvest.

In the Tibet Autonomous Region, for example, collectors reportedly hauled out more than three times as much caterpillar fungus in the early 2000s, than they did in the 1980s. And now, many families depend on the cash it brings in.

In fact, experts say that up to 80% of household income in the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayas can come from selling caterpillar fungus. One district in Nepal reported collecting $4.7 million worth of caterpillar fungus in 2016. That’s 12% more than the district’s annual budget! But those profits are at risk.

Surveys indicate that annual harvests have recently declined.

Kelly Hopping: “The collectors themselves mostly attributed this to overharvesting, acknowledging that their own collection pressure was driving these declines.”

And it doesn’t help that it’s difficult to regulate the harvest.

Daniel Winkler: “All these different political units have different policy. In the end, it is really down to county level, how it’s implemented.”

Climate change is also causing problems. You see, the fungus is more abundant in areas with long, cold winters, which are increasingly hard to come by.

Daniel Winkler: “For the rural economy, if there’s a lot of loss, that would be devastating.”

MORE SO EXPENSIVE CONTENT:
Why Insulin Is So Expensive | So Expensive

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Why Caterpillar Fungus Is So Expensive | So Expensive

NYC’s Chinatown welcomes Year of the Pig

Drums, dragons and dancers paraded through New York’s Chinatown Sunday to usher in the Year of the Pig in the metropolis with the biggest population of Chinese descent of any city outside Asia. (Feb. 17)

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New Yorkers, Tourists Celebrate Chinese New Year

The annual Chinese New Year Parade took over New York City’s Chinatown on Sunday, the festivities featuring musicians and dancers in traditional garb as event-goers celebrated the Year of the Dog. (Feb. 25)

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NYC Chinatown Celebrates Year Of The Dog

New York City’s Chinatown celebrated the Lunar New Year Friday with dancing lions, cultural pageantry, and firecrackers to ward off evil spirits. This year marks the year of the dog, one of the 12 animals in the Chinese astrological chart. (Feb. 16)

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NYC Chinatown Celebrates Year Of The Dog

New York City’s Chinatown celebrated the Lunar New Year Friday with dancing lions, cultural pageantry, and firecrackers to ward off evil spirits. This year marks the year of the dog, one of the 12 animals in the Chinese astrological chart. (Feb. 16)

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AP’s commitment to independent, comprehensive journalism has deep roots. Founded in 1846, AP has covered all the major news events of the past 165 years, providing high-quality, informed reporting of everything from wars and elections to championship games and royal weddings. AP is the largest and most trusted source of independent news and information.
Today, AP employs the latest technology to collect and distribute content – we have daily uploads covering the latest and breaking news in the world of politics, sport and entertainment. Join us in a conversation about world events, the newsgathering process or whatever aspect of the news universe you find interesting or important. Subscribe: http://smarturl.it/AssociatedPress

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