5 immigrant women vie for Miss USA pageant title

The contestants know what they are talking about as they were all born in other countries and immigrated to the U.S. at young ages as their families pursued their versions of the American Dream. The women are now all U.S. citizens.

Five of the contestants vying for the Miss USA title have a message to immigrant girls and women watching the pageant this weekend: Set goals, work hard and don’t stay in the shadows.

The contestants know what they are talking about as they were all born in other countries and immigrated to the U.S. at young ages as their families pursued their versions of the American Dream. The women are now all U.S. citizens.
“I want them to see that anything is possible if you work hard,” said Linnette De Los Santos, who immigrated with her family from the Dominican Republic when she was 5 years old. “As Miss USA, I would love to be able to be that inspiration for our immigrant community. If I would have stopped following my dreams and working hard towards what I wanted, I wouldn’t be sitting here as Miss Florida USA or in law school ready to become an immigration attorney.”

The competition airs Sunday from Las Vegas.

De Los Santos, Miss North Dakota Raquel Wellentin, Miss Hawaii Julie Kuo, Miss Connecticut Olga Litvinenko and Miss New Jersey Chhavi Verg spoke to The Associated Press about the opportunities and challenges they’ve faced as immigrants.

Their remarks stand in stark contrast to the scandal that enveloped the pageant in 2015, when part owner and now President Donald Trump offended Hispanics when he made anti-immigrant remarks in announcing his bid for the White House. Trump co-owned The Miss Universe Organization with NBCUniversal, but the network and the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision quickly cut ties with him, refusing to air the show. Trump sued both networks, eventually settling and selling off the entire pageant to talent management company WME/IMG.

Wellentin and her family left the Philippines over safety fears when she was 2 years old. Their first taste of American life was in the small community of Enderlin, North Dakota, where she and her siblings felt isolated.

“Nobody wanted to talk to me at all. I came home one day and I asked my dad ‘Why am I so different? Why isn’t anyone talking to me?’” Wellentin said. “My dad told me, ‘You know, you are not different. You are very unique yourself. You have to be strong and really accept this negativity from other people and have it motivate you.’ I still keep that in my mind.”

Their situation improved when they moved to the larger and more diverse Fargo, North Dakota.
Wellentin, 24, who wants to be a middle school teacher after she completes a student-teaching requirement, said her experiences have taught her to not take no for an answer.

“I want to tell people that they need to make sure that they should not allow anyone to tell them that they can’t do something because only you can determine your future,” she said.

Like thousands of other immigrants, Litvinenko moved to the U.S. with her family after her mother won the lottery for a green card. She was 3 when they relocated from Ukraine a few years after the Soviet Union collapsed.

The 27-year-old business owner ventured into pageants when she could no longer play basketball after injuring a foot in high school. She won Miss Connecticut Teen on her first try but had to compete five times to reach the Miss USA competition. Her persistence, Litvinenko said, shows that every effort counts.

“I want to showcase that no matter who you are, no matter what your background is, your size or what you have done in the past, through hard work and discipline, through perseverance and determination, you really can achieve what you put your heart towards.”

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In this May 11, 2017, photo, Miss New Jersey USA Chhavi Verg, right, competes during a preliminary competition for Miss USA in Las Vegas. Very emigrated from India with her parents. Five of the contestants vying for the Miss USA title this year were born in other countries and now U.S. citizens. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Moose rescued after fall into Idaho basement

The homeowner says the basement room suffered little damage and called the moose “the most polite, gracious beast.”

Authorities say a female moose is safe after she fell through an unlatched window into the basement of an Idaho home.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports (http://bit.ly/2jzbGrm ) that the moose spent about three hours in the Hailey basement early Sunday morning.

Law enforcement officers and those from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game tried to shoo the moose upstairs beginning at about 2:30 a.m. A Fish and Game officer arrived from Twin Falls at about 5:30 a.m. and shot the moose with a tranquilizer dart.

Homeowner Julie Emerick says eight officers carried the approximately 600-pound animal up the stairs. Emerick says the moose got up and ran off about 15 minutes later.

She says the basement room suffered little damage and called the moose “the most polite, gracious beast.”

COLUMN: Ladies, you didn’t march for me

#COLUMN from Jessica Szilagyi on Saturday’s #WomensMarch

Many women marched Saturday, but many weren’t marching for me.

I’m always amazed when people can gather in such large numbers. It’s a very powerful

Photo: The Globe and Mail
Photo: The Globe and Mail

thing and shows a considerable effort and movement. Between news headlines and Facebook friends, we were all able to get a real-time view of many of these marches around the country. I watched all day and saw a grave disconnect between purposes.

First, it is very difficult to believe the march wasn’t an “anti-Trump” gathering when it happened the day after the inauguration. This is coming from someone who many most would label “anti-Trump.” None of us believe you. The narratives were blurred as some women said it was only about equal rights while others said they marched because Friday they were suddenly with fewer rights than on Thursday. Some activists said the march was in no way a partisan thing, however, several high profile speeches, i.e.Madonna and Ashley Judd, make it evident that that simply isn’t true. And don’t even get me started on some of the financial sponsors of the march. It was partisan. Full stop.

By the way, how are rights partisan? If this is about a Republican president, then why, after eight years of a Democrat president, are women not in the perfectly equal position that feminists believe we should be?

So, we’ve acknowledged that for many (not all) the march was a political resistance, can we discuss how the marches came to organize?

I will never deny that President Trump has made some distasteful, downright inappropriate comments about women, but I struggle to distinguish how some of these signs, statements, and slogans aren’t any less degrading to women. How does a sign that reads, “Eat ***** not grab it” promote equality?

I’ve spent the last 18 months blasting Trump on every word and he’s made no mention of restricting the rights of women. We will still vote, we will still own property, drive vehicles, dress as we please, work, and even protest. His daughter, Ivanka, is a successful, powerhouse entrepreneur who doesn’t seem to back down. While you may not agree with their ideologies, Trump’s cabinet and administration is plush with women in high ranking positions. I don’t think they are there to pour coffee and straighten ties.

The media is at a greater risk of losing access and rights than women are.

While I don’t necessarily consider myself a traditional “feminist” in any sense of the word, it’s not even the issues or battles they’re fighting, but how they’re battling those fights. I love my freedoms and will stand to protect them any day of the week. I’ll stand beside others to fight for their freedoms, but I will never understand what is gained from this type of “resistance.” What exactly are they resisting?

The vulgar, non-policy driven rhetoric has got to stop. The disservice you are doing to

Photo: CNN
Photo: CNN

women who have actual concerns grows by the day. The women marching for equal pay, the glass ceiling, or paid maternity leave should be ashamed of these other women. I am. We can all agree there are chauvinist men. I live in rural Georgia where some men are still behind the times. I promise you I’ve seen it. I still see it. “Be seen, not heard,” they say. But I’ve also seen women force those walls to crumble because of their hard work, their integrity, and their brilliance.

Some of that hard work, integrity, and brilliance is demonstrated here:

But if you believe you are, in fact, equal, stop isolating yourself in an activist group by gender.

There’s a gross misunderstanding between “different” and “equal.” Women are, and always will be, different from men. Whether you believe in a God who created us in His vision or a spontaneous creation followed by years of evolution, we. are. different.

How does getting free birth control paid for by someone else demonstrate that you are a strong, independent woman? How does personifying your genitals legitimize your cause? How does a generation of young girls benefit when you teach them that their bodies make more statements than their brilliant, untarnished minds?

All of the rights that are afforded to ‘man’ are applicable to women without clarification. Free speech, the Second Amendment, due process, speedy trials, voting, property rights – these rights apply to us. We are equal under our the reign of our government.

I don’t know what was accomplished yesterday. I don’t even know what they wanted to be accomplished yesterday. My hope is that many female activists gathered and connected for future work, for efforts, for organizations…not for headlines. My hope is that these women made themselves known so they can become, or stay, engaged in the political process.

But I’m engaged and I didn’t march yesterday. I don’t need a pink hat to demonstrate that I am equal. The only thing under my clothing that empowers me is my heart. My brain and my dignity do the rest. I am equal because I believe I am equal. The very fact that millions gathered around the nation, and world, Saturday without any kind of barrier is evidence of just that.

Many of you marched Saturday, but many of you didn’t march for me.

Refugees and the 2016 Election

Other countries have accepted considerably more refugees than America and even the limited number of Syrians coming to America is a source of hot contention in the presidential campaign as humanitarian impulses tangle with security worries in the debate.

THE ISSUE : The United States is the proud home of “the mother of exiles,” the Statue of Liberty. But of the millions of exiles from the Syrian war, only about 10,000 have reached U.S. shores.

Other countries are taking in more, though vast numbers of Syrians remains dispossessed. And even the limited number of Syrians coming to America is a source of hot contention in the presidential campaign as humanitarian impulses tangle with security worries in the debate.

WHERE THEY STAND

Republican Donald Trump has repeatedly called for a moratorium on accepting Syrian refugees. His position is part of a broader stance on immigrants that has ranged from a complete ban on foreign Muslim immigrants entering the United States “until we know what the hell is going on” to “extreme” vetting and an ideological test for would-be immigrants from countries and regions plagued by extremism.

Democrat Hillary Clinton has said she would expand President Barack Obama’s refugee program to accept about 65,000 Syrian refugees. This would be in addition to the tens of thousands of refugees accepted from around the world every year. Clinton said she would continue with the vetting currently in place, an effort that can take multiple years to complete.

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WHY IT MATTERS

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have sought refuge in Europe while many others wait in neighboring countries and refugee camps for the war to end or a chance to move away from the carnage. President Barack Obama pledged the U.S. would accept 10,000 Syrians this budget year, which ends Sept. 30, and achieved that number a month early. This is in addition to about 75,000 refugees from other parts of the world.

Meantime, Canada, with a little over one-tenth the population of the U.S., resettled 25,000 in four months and is processing about 19,000 more applications.

The influx of people from a region plagued by war and terrorism has some concerned about who may be coming to the United States. At issue for many people — prominent Republicans among them — has been the vetting of refugees, especially after multiple, deadly attacks in France and Belgium. They worry Islamic State militants or sympathizers will infiltrate the refugee ranks.

The Obama administration has said the vetting is thorough and involves multiple in-person interviews and checks by the intelligence community and federal law enforcement. Would-be refugees are asked for biographical details about themselves, including their relatives, friendships, social or political activities, employment and education, phone numbers, email accounts and more. They must also provide biometric information, like fingerprints. But no system is foolproof.

Two Iraqi refugees were arrested in Kentucky in 2011 on charges that they were trying to send money and weapons to groups fighting the United States in Iraq. But no Syrian refugees have been accused of plotting or carrying out attacks inside the United States.

The future of refugee processing for Syrians almost certainly hinges on the outcome of the election.

COLUMN: What would ‘Lyin’ Ryan’ Lochte do? Run away

“And his idea of leadership, after a self-serving first version about him being the only one to resist the fake cops, is to bolt Brazil and go shopping for a new wallet back home, leaving his mates behind to bear the brunt of officials’ wrath.”

To hear Ryan Lochte tell the story, at least the first time, he unflinchingly stared down the barrel of a gun during a holdup while his teammates cowered on the ground. By the time he was done with the retelling, the fake cops, the gun pointed at his head and the scene of the crime was a gas station instead of a taxi.

Now that he’s safely back in the United States, shopping and no doubt working on a third version of the story while the teammates he left behind are facing Rio officials’ wrath, he sounds a lot more stupid than brave.

Lochte has 12 medals, but barely an ounce of sense. It’s no coincidence his short-lived stab at reality TV was canceled after just eight episodes.

Anyone who watched even a few minutes of “What Would Ryan Lochte Do …?” on the E! network would have answered the question posed in the title with one or more of their own:

“Besides swim? Ummm, nothing?”

It was a series of ever-taller tales, after all, that turned a disagreement over a dented door at a gas station into an international incident.

And it’s far from over.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso said there was no robbery nor were the swimmers “victims of the crimes they claimed. … It would be noble and worthy of them to apologize.” TMZ live-streamed the event.

For all that, the gold-medal for overkill by a responsible official had already been awarded.

It went to International Olympic Committee spokesman Mario Andrada appeared at the organization’s daily press briefing and delivered a pitiful, rambling leniency plea for “Lyin’ Ryan.”

“They are magnificent athletes. Lochte is one of the best swimmers of all time,” Andrada said. “They had fun, they made a mistake, it’s part of life, life goes on, let’s go.”

All this amounts to little more than peering down the rabbit hole and normally, we’d be inclined to take Andrada’s advice and let it go.

No one was seriously hurt, even if two security guards at the gas station briefly flashed guns at Lochte and his bros, B-team swimmers Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and James Feigen, at the end of a night out partying. And if the reports are correct, whether the $53 the trio handed over was to repair the door or simply a shakedown, it’s hardly enough to justify all the hubbub.

But here’s what’s seriously wrong with the whole thing: Lochte is supposed to be the adult in the group.

He’s 32, a three-time Olympian and a veteran of the party circuit (remember reports of him swigging $800-bottle vodka during the 2012 London Games). On the other hand, Bentz is 20, Conger, 21, and Feigen, 26. They’re here to swim a leg for the relays in preliminary races so stars like Lochte can seal the deal when medals are on the line.

Of course, they’re going to follow Lochte’s lead. And his idea of leadership, after a self-serving first version about him being the only one to resist the fake cops, is to bolt Brazil and go shopping for a new wallet back home, leaving his mates behind to bear the brunt of officials’ wrath.

After a judge ordered all four of the swimmers’ passports confiscated, Conger and Bentz were pulled off a plane. Feigen, who is still in Rio, promised to cooperate with authorities.

The swimmers could still be charged with filing a false police report as well as face punishment from USA Swimming. A violation of the team’s code of conduct can draw penalties ranging from probation and a fine to suspension and expulsion.

No doubt a suspension or expulsion would get Lochte’s attention, since the moment Michael Phelps announced his own retirement, Lochte raced to the first open microphone he could find and announced he was staying. Some surprise.

Think back to in 2013, when some TV executive was so mesmerized by Lochte’s smile and his custom-made American flag dental grill that he green-lighted a show. As part of a promotional tour, he turned up on Good Day Philadelphia and stumbled so badly in a light-hearted interview that one of the hosts wound up the segment by saying, “How are they going to put together 13 weeks of programming?”

The answer: They couldn’t.

Swimming might be the only thing Lochte can do well, maybe because it’s the only thing he can do well with his mouth shut.