Month: June 2015

Twin Adoptees Reunite in ‘Twinsters’ Documentary, Debuting this Summer

Monica Luhar for NBC News Asian America, Published June 18, 2015

What happens when two adoptees who live 5,000 miles apart meet each other for the first time only to realize they’re not only sisters, but identical twins separated from birth?

“Twinsters” is a documentary that follows the story of Anaïs Bordier, an adoptee and Paris-based fashion designer who came upon a startling discovery after watching a YouTube video that featured someone who looked just like her.

Overwhelmed by the physical similarities, in February 2013, Bordier contacted Samantha Futerman, the woman featured in the video. She soon found out that Futerman, an actress based in L.A., also happened to have been adopted on the same day, from Busan, South Korea. The discovery ultimately led each other to retrace their roots and uncover the possibility of being “Twinsters,” or identical twin sisters separated at birth.

The documentary “Twinsters” tells the story of Anaïs Bordier and Samantha Futerman, identical twins separated at birth through adoption from South Korea, only to be reunited 25 years later by a chance social media encounter. Twinsters

Futerman also launched a Kickstarter campaign supporting a documentary that would highlight the twins’ raw encounters via Skype, Vlogs, and in-person, from Europe to L.A.

“Twinsters” made its world premiere at SXSW 2015 in March. Since then, it made its West Coast premiere April 25 at the Asian Film Festival of Los Angeles, taking home the grand jury prize for “Best Documentary.” According to Variety, the documentary will also be screened at the AMC Empire in New York July 17, 2015, and more than 40 cities in the U.S. this summer.

In Southern California, it’ll be screened at ArcLight Hollywood, Arclight Pasadena, and other major theaters nationwide.

Related: The Search for a Birth Family Leads to Seoul and Back Again

“In 2013, I had been given an opportunity to begin a new journey in life, one that included my first connection with a living, blood relative and potential identical match. And somewhere in the pit of my gut, I desired to share my sister and my story with the world,” wrote Futerman, who co-founded Kindred: The Foundation for Adoption, shortly after her discovery.

The documentary is co-directed by Ryan Miyamoto and stars actress and adoptee Futerman, who has appeared in films like “Memoirs of a Geisha,” and “21 and Over.”


California’s Motorcycle Lane-Splitting Proposal Moves Forward

By Monica Luhar for KCET – Published May 29, 2015

A bill aiming to regulate and clear the gray area surrounding motorcycle lane-splitting could also make California the first state to formally legalize it.

Lane-splitting is when motorcyclists ride between cars during moving or stalled traffic. Although lane-splitting isn’t exactly illegal or legal in California, confusion still remains.

AB 51, introduced by assemblymembers Bill Quirk and Tom Lackey, was approved by the Assembly on Thursday and is now expected to head to the Senate, confirmed a spokesperson from the office of assemblymember Lackey.

Assemblymember Lackey told KCET via phone that there is still a lot of ambiguity when it comes to lane-splitting in California, thus causing a greater danger to both motorists and motorcyclists.
“Lane-splitting is a good thing when we have heavy traffic like we do in high population centers and Southern California. Motorcyclists are harder to see. When they are stopped in traffic, they are much more prone….[and have a] greater likelihood of suffering injuries,” Lackey explained. “I have 28 years of law enforcement experience and have seen tragic consequences of motorcyclist collisions.”

The California Highway Patrol initially created guidelines for safe lane-splitting in 2013, according to Denny Kobza, owner of the Bay Area Riders Forum and a member of the California State Motorcycle Safety Committee.

“When the guidelines came out, we saw a huge benefit… All of a sudden people were more aware that we [motorcyclists] have a right to be there. I see people making more room on the road, being more attentive,” Kobza said over the phone.

However, the CHP’s motorcycle lane-splitting guidelines have since been taken down, according to an earlier report by the LA Times. The Bay Area Riders Forum recovered the guidelines on its site here.

Kobza and the Bay Area Riders Forum, however, would like to see modifications to AB 51.

Under the current form of the bill, a motorcyclist would be able to lane-split, as long as he or she is not going 15 mph faster than the speed of traffic and only up to 50 mph.

“At this point, we are hoping to see further amendments to the bill to increase the actual speed limit to what is legal by law currently, rather than the 50 mph total that’s on the bill now,” noted Kobza.

The reason behind increasing the speed limit, he explained, is to ensure the safety of riders experienced enough to apply lane splitting and making sure they’re also able to get out of dense traffic and move to a safer spot in traffic.

Citing a UC Berkeley study on lane-splitting, Kobza agrees that it is much more “perilous for a motorcyclist to be sitting in traffic and potentially being rear ended than it is when lane splitting.”

UC Berkeley is expected to release an updated study looking at the issue of lane splitting, motorcycle speed, and accidents.

Personal Care Products Containing Microbeads Could be Off Shelves by 2020 in California

Monica Luhar for KCET – Published May 27, 2015MicrobeadsLegislation600

Plastic microbeads typically found in everyday products such as toothpaste and exfoliating scrubs could soon be swept clean from California shelves by 2020.

Last Friday, the state assembly passed legislation that would ban microbeads — small pieces of plastic containing the ingredient polyethylene — from being used in personal care products such as body wash, shampoo, and facial scrubs.

If enacted and passed, AB 888 would be the strongest microbead law in the nation, according to Sue Vang, policy analyst for Californians Against Waste, an environmental advocacy organization that sponsored the California bill.

An individual personal care product can contain as much as 350,000 microbeads, according to Vang. The tiny plastic particles are able to easily escape wastewater treatment facilities and make its way into the stomachs of fish and other animals, while polluting oceans, rivers, lakes, and other ecosystems.

“While we have much more work to do to get AB 888 through the Senate and ultimately signed by Governor Brown, the bill has the potential to become the strongest microbead legislation in the county,” a spokesperson for Assemblymember Richard Bloom, the bill’s author, wrote in an email. Biodegradable alternatives would include ground apricot shells and cocoa beans — many of which are already being used by some manufacturers, they added.
38 tons of microbeads are used by Californians annually, according to Vang. Californians Against Waste are confident AB 888 will soon become law, despite the bill’s failed attempt last year in the Senate. “Our coalition has been working hard this year to prevent that from happening again,” she said.

Companies like L’Oreal and Johnson & Johnson have declared their commitment to phasing out microbeads from its personal care products by 2017. Other companies like Target Corporation and Proctor and Gamble (which owns brands such as Crest and Oral-B), have also declared their commitment toward phasing out microbeads.

Despite those commitments, none have actually disclosed or guaranteed that they will move to a safer alternative, said Blake Kopcho, campaign manager for 5 Gyres, a nonprofit dedicated to researching and eliminating plastic pollution in oceans.

“Johnson & Johnson has come out publicly stating that the California bill is overly restrictive. So it’s true, while they’re committed to phasing out polyethylene microbeads, it’s unclear what they want to move to,” explained Kopcho, adding that many of the bans in other states — Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, for example — “all have a loophole that allows for biodegradable plastics to replace traditional microbeads polyethylene.”

A study by Kopcho’s organization found that more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are floating around in the world’s ocean. He said it found that over 90 percent of oceans were filled with microplastics that measured less than 5 millimeters.

“We can’t wrap our heads around how much plastic that is,” he explained. “When the bathtub is overflowing, the first thing to do is turn off the faucet. So we need to stop the flow of plastics into the ocean from the source.”

KCET’s news magazine “SoCal Connected” explored microbeads in an in-depth segment earlier this year. Watch it here.

AB 888 now heads to the State Senate before going to the governor.

‘Right to Try Act’ Would Make Access to Investigational Drugs Easier

Monica Luhar for KCET, Published May 27, 2015

A California bill allowing patients with life-threatening illnesses the chance to try to save their life through the use of unapproved drugs or medical devices has moved forward with bipartisan support on the Assembly floor.

The Right to Try Act, authored by assemblymember Ian Calderon, would permit a manufacturer of an investigational drug to make the option immediately accessible to eligible patients. “The bill removes barriers to accessing potentially life-saving drugs for terminally ill patients and doctors who believe an investigational drug or device could be their last hope for survival,” Calderon told KCET via email.

Investigational drugs have not yet been approved by the FDA.
AB 159 would also authorize — but not require — a health benefit plan to provide coverage for any investigational drug, biological product, or device for terminally ill patients, according to Calderon.

Under AB 159, eligibility would be dependent on written and informed consent by patients. The administering of the drug would also depend on whether a patient has a terminal illness that will likely result in death in the near future, has been unable to participate in clinical trials, and has considered other treatment options.

The bill comes in the midst of parallel discussions circling around aid in dying in California, SB 128, or the End of Life Option Act. If signed into law, SB 128 would provide mentally competent, terminally ill Californians the chance to utilize lethal prescriptions to terminate their life and alleviate discomfort and pain during their final days.

Most recently, the California Medical Association was lauded for dropping its opposition to medical aid-in-dying and becoming neutral on the controversial bill. Additionally, a lawsuit was filed May 15 on behalf of three Californians with terminal illnesses, on the grounds that the California constitution and existing law allow aid-in-dying.

AB 159 — the Right to Try Act — is similar to SB 128 in one aspect: providing end of life options for terminally ill patients.

While the FDA has implemented a program that makes investigational drugs and devices available to patients with life-threatening disease, the process can take several months for approval, Calderon said.

“The FDA announced a streamlined application process in February but the process is not yet approved and is in the public comment period,” he said. “Terminally ill patients who have exhausted all other options are unable to wait months to gain access to potentially life-saving investigational drugs and devices.”

Under the Right to Try Act, patients would have improved access to investigational treatments.

“The lengthiness of the FDA approval process delays potentially life-saving drugs from reaching the market in a timely manner,” said Calderon.

Right to Try legislation has been introduced in 22 states so far. Similar measures have passed in other states with bipartisan support.

“The terminally ill do not have the luxury of waiting — not when they have weeks or months left to live.”