00:04' 14/06/2006 (GMT+7)

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Graham Holliday.

VietNamNet – Graham Holliday, an English guy who speaks no Vietnamese, can spend hours talking about Vietnamese food.


After almost ten years living in Vietnam, the guy now is not boastful when he says that “there are not many Vietnamese dishes that I have not tried”.


Graham blogs on www.noodlepie.com, where he introduces a variety of Vietnamese dishes. His blog is just more or less like an encyclopedia on Vietnamese food with nearly 100 dishes posted meticulously.


The blog introduces many different kinds of food ranging from the most common and simple ones like Che (sweetened porridge made of glutinous rice, bean…), Chao (rice soup), Beef Noodle in Hue style to luxurious and fussy food. These dishes were presented lively with pictures looking mouth watering for any visitors who have ever logged in.


“Why did you name it noodlepie?” “In Vietnam noodle is in so many different kinds such as Bun, Mi, Pho while pie is very common food for Westerners. Noodlepie is where western and Vietnamese foods meet, where sausages meet the noodle,” explained Graham.


Since it was first launched in April 2004, Noodlepie has attracted nearly 2,000 visitors and has twice been nominated for the Bloggies Competition, which was rated as “Oscar for personal blogs”.


Although it has just been awarded the Consolation Prize, for Graham, the most important thing is the more people know about the blog, the more popular Vietnamese food gets.


Gaining the confidence of foreign visitors is something that makes Graham happiest. Many visitors wrote that they prefer to go to places recommended in the blog to following travel magazines directions as they said, “If Graham says a place is worth seeing then it’d never be wrong.”


Sometimes he becomes a guide to provide information on what to do, to eat and where to see in Vietnam for tourists who wish to travel in Vietnam.


Writing and traveling a lot (Graham has been working also as a freelance journalist for The Guardian, Scotland Magazine, Sunday Herald, Time Magazine and so on), he chose Saigon as a place to settle down. “The reason is my wife is working here and Saigon is famed for its delicious dishes,” said Graham.


Graham’s principle is to try everything, even if they are strange foods. Luckily he has never had any problems with food poisoning.


Usually he is a very quiet man but when talking about food Graham can talk for hours without getting bored.


He just found a small restaurant where they serve Bun Mam (noodle mixed with sauces in District 10 run by a woman. He decided to send the dish to the Food Festival 2005 organized by TasteEverything.org, and won the Prize of Great Dish of TasteEverything.


Many Vietnamese people were proud that such a common food from their country was listed in prize awards together with 29 other dishes from all over the world.


Graham said it would be a great thing for Vietnam to use its various kinds of good food to advertise for the country’s tourism.


“It is difficult for Vietnam to compete with Thailand in terms of beautiful beaches and to be compared with Cambodia with all its Wats, but Vietnam has the advantage to competing with other countries in terms of food,” said Graham.


Eating on streets is a special thing of Vietnam especially traditional food, which is very Vietnamese. Using this to make a plan to advertise the tourism here would see an increase in number of tourists coming to the country.


(Source: Tuoi Tre)


Trustee who opposed Nguyen-Lam says accusations of racism are 'disgusting.'

The Orange County Register

Previous stories


WESTMINSTER – A 3-2 vote by the Westminster school board to rescind the hiring of Kimoanh Nguyen-Lam as the district's new superintendent hinged entirely on her lack of relevant experience and not on race, a trustee said Wednesday.

Jo-Ann Purcell, who cast the sole vote last month against hiring Nguyen-Lam, said she was deeply offended by allegations of racism that came during a packed, emotional meeting Tuesday night from Trustees Sergio Contreras and Blossie Marquez, who voted in favor of the hiring.

Purcell said she was concerned that Nguyen-Lam lacks experience – whether it's working hands-on in an elementary school classroom or dealing with day-to-day challenges as an assistant principal or principal.

"Saying that the three white board members voted against a minority candidate is the most disgusting, insulting, uneducated remark I've ever heard," Purcell said. "Dr. Lam is a lovely, bright lady who is very educated."

But Marquez on Wednesday repeated her contention that the vote was racist and sent a negative message to the residents of one of the most diverse cities in Orange County.

"It's a very sad day for Westminster," said Marquez, president of the school board. Nguyen-Lam, 46, is associate director at the Center for Language Minority Education and Research at Cal State Long Beach and a trustee at the Garden Grove Unified School District.

The board voted 4-1 on May 23 to hire Nguyen-Lam. But Tuesday, Trustees Jim Reed and Judy Aherns changed their positions to tilt the vote against Nguyen-Lam, who would have been the first Vietnamese-American superintendent of an Orange County school district.

Nguyen-Lam said Wednesday that she was "very disappointed, but not entirely surprised" by the decision. She said she was initially relieved to "stay out of all the mess," but that she felt bad for parents who'd counted on her arrival.

"How could three board members so easily ignore and invalidate the concerns and voices of so many people who were there (Tuesday)?" she asked.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Group questions school board's decisions.

The Orange County Register

The group announced it would hold a rally in support of Nguyen-Lam on Thursday at 6 p.m. outside the school district an hour before the regularly scheduled school board meeting.

WESTMINSTER – The school board’s hiring and firing of a respected member of the local Vietnamese community has sprouted a grassroots group that is questioning trustees' decisions and demanding answers.The informal group, which calls itself Keep our Voice, Keep KimOanh Coalition, organized its first meeting this morning outside the Westminster School District building on Cedarwood Avenue.

Attorney Daniel Do-Khanh, who heads this group, said the school board’s decision has confused community members and left them with more questions than answers.

"This was a very thorough selection process," he said. "How could (KimOanh Nguyen-Lam) be qualified one week and unqualified a week later?"

Phu Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese American Community of Southern California, said Nguyen-Lam has inspired and touched the lives of many students, especially those who cannot speak English.

On May 23, trustees voted 4-1 to hire Nguyen-Lam, but rescinded the hiring a week later in a 3-2 decision, with two board members changing their minds. They said they believed Nguyen-Lam lacked relevant experience.

Trustee James Reed said this week that he initially felt pressured by the search firm and other board members to pick Nguyen-Lam.

Nguyen-Lam, who works as associate director for the Center of Language Minority Research and Education at Cal State Long Beach, has said she will pursue legal options to try to clear her name.

She was not at today’s meeting. Do-Khanh said he was not currently her attorney.

County Supervisor Lou Correa, who spoke to the group, said he was saddened by the board’s actions and knows Nguyen-Lam is qualified for the position.

"I’m glad you’re doing this," he said. "Elected officials must answer to what happened and why."

Prague, June 12 (CTK) – The police detained four male and two female Vietnamese in Prague who allegedly traded in people and forced their female compatriots into prostitution in Prague and in southern Bohemia in end of May, Blanka Kosinova, spokeswoman for the squad for uncovering organised crime (UOOZ), told CTK today.

She said that the police found in home searches drugs, a large quantity of piratical CDs as well as a young male Vietnamese whom the gang allegedly kept for one and a half months and forced his parents to send them money for his alleged debt.

The organised group of suspects was accused of traiding in people and of procuring and all of them have been taken into custody. They face up to 12 years in prison if found guilty.

The UOOZ police had monitored the gang from last November. Six Vietnamese traders allegedly looked in their native country for girls to do auxiliary work and waitresses in restaurants in EU countries.

The interested persons had to pay 6500 dollars for the arrangement of all formalities in Vietnam. But they only got legally to Russia where they were contacted by people smugglers who took them illegally via Ukraine, Slovakia or Poland to the Czech Republic.

They used lorries as well as cars, but some had allegedly to go on foot.

The UOOZ detained at least 25 Vietnamese citizens who reached the Czech Republcc this way last August.

Kosinova said that after they crossed the Czech border, they let themselves be caught by the police and ended up in asylum facilities.

Gang members then contacted the detained girls and sent them further on to Germany or Britain or forced them into prostitution in order to repay an alleged debt arising from the cost of food, accommodation and securing of forged documents.

The police took action against the groups at the moment when they found out that the suspects are going to leave the Czech Republic forever.

The respective police action with the code name Tu Dia (Dangerous Zone). The young Vietnamese was also uncovered during the action. His alleged debt rose to 13,000 dollars. The suspects threatened to kill or sell him unless his parents pay for him, Kosinova said.

The police have also contacted their German colleagues and handed them a list of girls who may be staying in Germany.


Top Westminster School Official Resigns

Acting Supt. Lopez was forced out over district's latest controversy, a board member says.

By Seema Mehta, Times Staff Writer
June 13, 2006

Westminster School District's acting superintendent has quit, adding to a series of high-level resignations and controversies plaguing the district.

Mel Lopez declined to comment on why he resigned Friday.


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"I would rather go quietly into the night," said Lopez.

"I just came to realize this is not a place that I can be effective. That's all."

Lopez's resignation after less than two months on the job comes after the district's school board outraged some community members over its decision last month to rescind a job offer to KimOanh Nguyen-Lam, 46, who would have been the first Vietnamese American superintendent in the United States.

The board voted to hire Nguyen-Lam on May 23, then reversed the decision a week later.

This is the latest in a series of controversies at the district, which serves about 10,000 students in Westminster and parts of Huntington Beach, Garden Grove and Midway City.

Two years ago, the district nearly lost $8 million in annual state and federal funding when it balked at adopting a state-mandated antidiscrimination policy that allowed school employees and students to define their own genders.

The board approved compromise language after four months and avoided losing funding.

Teachers in the district have been working without a union contract since September and have picketed board meetings.

The district and the teachers union have been unable to agree on a pay increase, so the state will mediate contract discussions.

Lopez, whose last day will be Friday, is the fifth high-level administrator in the district to resign in a year.

The most recent superintendent, Sheri Loewenstein, announced her resignation after only 16 months.

To replace Loewenstein, the board hired International Group Inc. to find candidates.

Some school board members have reportedly been unhappy with Lopez's connection with the firm, according to board member Sergio Contreras and published reports.

Lopez said that from September 2005 to March 2006, he was a consultant for International Group, working with troubled schools in Lynwood for four days a month, earning $500 per day and mileage.

The firm told him about the opening in Westminster for an acting superintendent as it searched for a full-time superintendent.

He applied and was hired April 20, Lopez said.

Lopez has been the superintendent of school districts in Anaheim and Pacifica for a total of 16 years and has taught at Chapman University.

Lopez said he had no role in the search for a superintendent or the recommendation to hire Nguyen-Lam.

Contreras, a Nguyen-Lam supporter, said Lopez was pressured to resign by his board colleagues, who were looking for a "fall guy" in the controversy over the superintendent's position.

He did not explain how they could blame Lopez for the incident.

Many Westminster residents were outraged by the school board, which offered Nguyen-Lam the position on a 4-1 vote, then rescinded the offer 3 to 2.

"There's all kinds of finger-pointing going on now," Contreras said.

"Unfortunately, he's being used as a fall guy.

"He has absolutely nothing to do with the [hiring] process whatsoever. He was professional. Everything he did, he did it right."

School board member Jo-Ann Purcell declined to comment, and attempts to reach the three other board members were unsuccessful.

Rapper on the rise

June 14, 2006

Posted on Tue, Jun. 13, 2006

Saigon has an album due soon, a role on HBO's "Entourage" – and a mission: To avoid the one-sidedness of hip-hop, glorifying thugs and druggies.
By Dwayne Campbell
Inquirer Staff Writer
Most people know Saigon as the actor who plays the lyrically smooth, up-and-coming rapper on Entourage.

It turns out that Saigon, who goes by the same moniker on the HBO series, is simply playing himself.

How much more Saigon will appear on the show (episode two of the third season will be shown at 10 p.m. Sunday) is in the hands of HBO, but it's clear that he is becoming one of the most promising and prolific progenies of hip-hop.

Saigon's music, witty and intelligent, is straight from the rough side of Brooklyn, and the penitentiary where he served time, yet it mostly comes with a message. He's adamant he's not in the business to sing "radio jingles" or cop a quick buck and a piece of bling.

"A lot of artists and labels do it cookie cutter instead of trying something new," says Saigon, 28, during a recent appearance at a fund-raising and outreach event at Camden's Morgan Village Elementary School.

"What they say is, 'If it worked for Nelly, it'll work for Chingy, and if it worked for Chingy, it'll work for that one.' The record companies don't really care about us and our kids and what our kids hear."

Such philosophies, and, of course, his driving beats and smooth flow perfected in prison yards, have made Saigon (real name, Brian Carenard) a hot and sometimes controversial property.

Last year, Newsweek placed him on its "Who's Next 2006" list of future power brokers, alongside such notables as Harvard physics professor Lisa Randall, fashion designer Doo-Ri Chung, and Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe, the MySpace.com guys.

All this hype for a man who's had a few episodes on a funny TV show, but hasn't officially released an album yet.

Saigon's major label debut, The Greatest Story Never Told, isn't expected from Atlantic until August. He's been releasing successful mix tapes since 2002, among them The Yard Father, parts one and two; Warning Shots; and the latest, Welcome to Saigon.

The tracks on the highly anticipated work tackle subjects such as crooked preachers and the false beauty of guns and drugs – necessary words, the rapper says, to counter the wave of music that doesn't tell youth about the consequences of poor decisions. The album will bear the beats of super producer Just Blaze with cameos from Q-Tip and others.

"Depending on how much label support I get, it could do very well," Saigon says. "It's not just a bunch of 'I shot this one.' There is a lot of message in the music that I think is missing from hip-hop right now."

Musically, Saigon will do well because he appeals to both "the Talib Kweli crowd and the 50 Cent crowd," says MTV's Sway Calloway. "He has wide appeal and his music has more relevance than a lot of stuff I've heard recently… as much drama as he's gone through, he has this big conscience."

At the Camden school for a car wash to raise money for a class trip to Washington, Saigon is dressed in the typical rap uniform of boots, baggy jeans, T-shirt and a somewhat understated example of neck bling. The students gather around him, but don't release the teenage euphoria reserved for rappers in heavy rotation on radio and TV music videos.

"They don't really know me, yet," Saigon says, chuckling. "I have no videos out yet."

And they're probably too young for Entourage.

Saigon snagged the role over Young Jeezy and a few other rappers, he says, though he had no label association at the time. "For real?" is what he asked show creator Doug Ellin when he got the role.

He credits Entourage for exposing him to "a new demographic, people who probably wouldn't have known about me," a coup for a rapper/actor with no albums on store shelves.

With a rough past behind him, Saigon believes it's still important to rap about the reality of street life ("do we really know where the guns come from?" and "crackhead cookin' up a batch") but do so without seeming to endorse doing wrong.

"Hip-hop is really one-sided right now, you only hear one side about the street life," Saigon says. "You only hear the side glorifying 'I'm a hustla, I'm a gangsta,' this and that. But they don't talk about the reality of the situation that we hustle one another, we shoot one another."

But rap has a long track record of sex and violence songs that go to the top of the charts and make money.

"Most of these guys are doing what sells, and the record companies support that position," says Kevin Chiles, the Don Diva magazine chief executive officer who has known Saigon for several years. "What Saigon does is conscientious, insightful rap. The question is, is the climate ready for his kind of music?"

Hip-hop cannot sit back and wait, Saigon says, because the audience, especially children, take to heart so much of what the performers spout.

That's part of what brought him to Camden. He knows the town's not-so-pleasant recent history, he's spoken to kids at the school before and believes they can benefit from his outreach organization.

The outreach group is the social arm of Abandoned Nation, Saigon's entertainment company. In Saigon's native New York and in a few other cities, the outreach program works with nonprofits and visits schools to push reading programs and assist children with visiting their incarcerated parents.

"We realize the challenges kids face coming up in these communities," says Cherron "Che" Johnson, the Camden-born, Harvard-educated Abandoned Nation executive who accompanied Saigon to Morgan Village. Johnson's mother is a teacher at the school.

"We feel we are a little bit cooler than the teachers and can have a different kind of influence over these children's lives," Johnson adds.

For Saigon, childhood was often a battle in tough neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Upstate New York, and New Jersey. At 15, he got into an argument, shot a man, and wounded a bystander. It was his second serious brush with the law and sent him to prison for nearly seven years.

"I regret what I did even though at the time I thought this person was going to harm me," Saigon says. "When I think about it now, I say, 'Why was I walking around with a gun?' I can't say I was doing it to protect myself because I wasn't. I was walking around looking for something to happen and if something happens, I'm popping off. That's the mentality you grow up with when you hear these songs."

Saigon doesn't blame all the ills of urban youth on music, but he believes that all musicians are role models. Showing off a Scarface poster on your wall on MTV Cribs, instead of one of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X, he believes, sends the wrong message.

"If you don't want to be a role model, don't make a video, don't put yourself out there to the masses," Saigon says. "It's part of the territory. It's part of being in the music business."

Contact staff writer Dwayne Campbell at 215-854-5315 or dcampbell@p

Iraq Massacre Can't Shake Vietnamese- American Support for U.S. Troops



New America Media, News Feature, Andrew Lam, Jun 13, 2006

Editor's Note: Though many Vietnamese-Americans see parallels between My Lai and Haditha, most remain solidly behind President Bush's policy in Iraq. Andrew Lam is a New America Media editor and the author of "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora" (Heyday Books, 2005).

SAN FRANCISCO–Of all ethnic groups in America, the most conservative and pro-war is undoubtedly the Vietnamese. While San Francisco was flooded with anti-war demonstrators during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in April 2002, Vietnamese in Orange County marched to support the U.S. troops. "We Love Our Troops," was one of two signs that hung in front of Little Saigon's biggest shopping mall on Bolsa Avenue in Orange County, where the largest Vietnamese population in the United States resides. "We support President Bush" was the other.

Their points of view will not be swayed easily, many Vietnamese are now saying, even as U.S. Marines are being accused of killing 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, last November, after a roadside bomb killed one of their own. Nor do they find the parallels with My Lai — where hundreds of Vietnamese civilians were massacred by U.S. soldiers in March 1968 — compelling enough to change their opinions.

"Images of My Lai undoubtedly helped strengthen the American anti-war movement," notes Dung Ngo in the op-ed page of Nguoi Viet, the largest Vietnamese language paper in the United States. "Now, with Haditha, Americans are asking why: Why would soldiers in most respected corps of U.S. Army shoot civilians they were sent to 'liberate?'" But Ngo concludes that "while in Vietnam, people won't have that ability to ask publicly under a communist dictatorship, in the U.S., in a democracy, you can. Hadithta will be covered extensively. That's healthy."

Linda Vo, a professor of Asian American studies at U.C. Irvine, says that Haditha does have an eerie resemblance to My Lai. "It seems there's more accountability this time and I hope that this is because of what happened during the Vietnam War, that we've learned a lesson from the past." However, she doesn't think Haditha will change the minds of Vietnamese Americans who support the war.

More than 1.2 million Vietnamese reside in the United States.

This reporter's father, former Lt. Gen. Lam Quang Thi of the South Vietnamese army, says that, "Innocent people are killed in any war, conventional or unconventional. For example: the Nazi crimes in Europe and the Japanese massacre at Nanking during WWII. The difference is that it is a policy for dictatorial regimes and an accident or breakdown in discipline for Western democracies."

On the other hand, General Lam, author of a Vietnam war memoir called "The 25 Year Century," says that while his support for the war is unwavering, he's angry at the U.S. military's indiscriminate killings in Iraq. "I think it is mandatory for the U.S. generals in Iraq to clearly spell out the rules of engagement, and any violations should be severely punished."

Phu Bui, a high school teacher in East Bay and a writer for many Vietnamese American publications, agrees: "American soldiers, whether serving the country at home or abroad, have to follow codes of conduct." Vietnamese Americans won't see Haditha as a turning point in the war, Phu predicts. Vietnamese, he says, understand the consequences of losing wars. "We had long wars throughout our history."

Sympathies too are given to the U.S. soldiers involved in Haditha. "When you put a lot of stress on people who carry guns, things like this are bound to happen sooner or later," says Hao Nhien, managing editor of Nguoi Viet. "When I think of the Haditha massacre, even if everything happened the way witnesses are claiming, I still think the Marines are also victims."

Quang X. Pham, author of "A Sense of Duty" and a former lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, says that "the grunts are always under the microscope," while the media often ignores bombing from the air, which kills thousands of innocent civilians. Both My Lai and Haditha, Pham says, affect the American media and society more than the troops in the field. Pham, who flew helicopter missions in Operation Desert Storm and Mogadishu, Somalia, believes that "Haditha was an anomaly, not the norm. The troops now are not draftees and the officers are not like Lieutenant Calley [who led the killing in My Lai]."

But Pham adds that two of his Vietnam War heroes are "former helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson and his gunner Lawrence Colburn, who confronted the GIs and stopped the killing [in My Lai] at the risk of their own life."

If My Lai still haunts Americans who remember the war, for many Vietnamese who lived through that drawn-out, bloody conflict and came to America, the deaths of a few hundred Vietnamese pale in comparison to subsequent atrocities — re-education camps, forced labor in new economic zones, arrests without due process — that the North Vietnamese inflicted upon the South after the war ended. The lesson for many is that despite atrocities committed by all sides, to lose a war is far worse.

"I am in full support for our troops in Iraq," says Thuy Nguyen, who lost two family members to the Vietnam War and fled overseas when communist tanks rolled into Saigon. "We need a strong army," she says. "We need to win in Iraq, no matter what. More innocent people will die if we pull out."

Younger Vietnamese Americans, however, offer far more mixed views.
Hong Tran, 40, is a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Washington State. "I support the quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq," she writes on her Web site. "The U.S. invasion of Iraq was a mistake that cost thousands of lives, billions of dollars, and has increased regional instability."

Binh Danh, 31, an artist famous for his Vietnam War images imprinted on leaves, says that the Iraq war is "a big mess, and in the Haditha case, like My Lai, the American Marines took it out on the local people."

Danh says he is not too optimistic that incidents like Haditha will sway the conservative Vietnamese American community. "I feel that their own American nationalism plays out in these times, to be loyal to this country, to not question our government."

image by Binh Danh