Lamees AttarBashi, a food blogger and host of a Middle Eastern cooking show broadcast on Dubais Al Sharquiya Network, sits in her Sacramento home with a traditional Iraqi dish of roasted lamb leg with carrot rice on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. She is preparing to launch a snack company called Bashi’s Superfood Snacks.

Lamees AttarBashi, a food blogger and host of a Middle Eastern cooking show broadcast on Dubais Al Sharquiya Network, sits in her Sacramento home with a traditional Iraqi dish of roasted lamb leg with carrot rice on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. She is preparing to launch a snack company called Bashi’s Superfood Snacks.

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It is Thursday, Feb. 25, and this is The Sacramento Bee’s AAPI weekly newsletter.

Here’s a recap of the stories I’ve covered and ones I’m following:

California legislators introduced a bill Monday that would create a toll-free hotline and online reporting system for reporting hate crimes and hate incidents.

AB 557, introduced by Assembly members Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, and David Chiu, D-San Francisco, would require the California Department of Justice to create a statewide system for reporting hate crimes. The bill is being introduced in light of an increase in violence against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the Bay Area.

“Over the course of this pandemic, we have seen a horrific uptick in hate crimes targeting our API communities,” Chiu said in a joint statement with Muratsuchi. “We cannot stand idly by and allow this to continue. Having a centralized, statewide approach to tracking hate crimes within a law enforcement agency will make all of our communities in California safer.”

California legislators approved $1.4 million in state funding to help combat anti-Asian violence and racism through the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center on Monday.

Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco and chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, secured funding through the passage of AB 85, which provides $7.6 billion in additional state resources for the ongoing pandemic response. The money will be used to support Stop AAPI Hate’s research and help the organization track anti-Asian incidents, which have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law Tuesday.

“The rise in hate incidents against Asian Americans during the pandemic is alarming,” Ting said in a statement. “But, we can’t solve a problem without knowing how big it is. New state funding allows the data gathering to continue, and the research will ultimately lead us to solutions that will make all communities safer.”

Recent months have seen a spike in attacks against elderly Asian Americans, particularly in the Bay Area. In January, an elderly Thai man died in San Francisco after being violently shoved to the ground, while a 91-year-old Asian man was also assaulted in Oakland’s Chinatown.

Lamees AttarBashi is an Instagram food blogger who made her name in Dubai before moving to Sacramento four years ago.

When she’s not working on her budding snack food company, AttarBashi, 38, spends hours each day on her culinary creations for an Instagram feed full of rich, smoky and hearty recipes whose fragrance practically floats off the photos, from the flaky sticky-golden basbousa to charred eggplant boats stuffed with pomegranate molasses and browned beef.

Her dishes are mainly Middle Eastern, but her page is also scattered with the British food of her youth like Scotch eggs and scones, as well as more whimsical offerings, like cookies piped with frosted mummy faces for Halloween. But what many Sacramentans new to her page may not realize is that she’s also a TV personality, having already made a name for herself years ago in Dubai.

Now, her focus is on showing anyone who comes to her page that her recipes are nothing to be intimidated by. Like any other cuisine, learning how to cook the food simply takes a little guidance.

“My one goal is to make people not be afraid of this cuisine, or skeptical,” AttarBashi said. “I understand that feeling of a cuisine they’ve maybe never heard of or tried. I want to eliminate that (intimidation). It’s like holding their hands. It’s so easy. Just follow these simple steps. That’s my goal.”

In other news

  • Since California speaker rose to power, corporate money flowed to nonprofits tied to his wife (The Sacramento Bee)
  • Attacks on Asian Americans during pandemic renew criticism that U.S. undercounts hate crimes (The Washington Post)
  • ‘Please don’t kill me’: Family challenges Antioch police account of man’s detainment before death (The Mercury News)
  • Antioch man died after police put knee on his neck, family says (KTVU San Francisco)
  • Berkeley man arrested on suspicion of making death threats online against Asian community (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • ‘Words matter’ as Asian American leaders urge action against hate crimes (PBS NewsHour)

  • Biden to nominate Obama alum Kiran Ahuja to lead Office of Personnel Management (The Hill)

  • Mayor de Blasio says Asian Hate Crime Task Force working to combat slew of bias crimes in NYC (ABC News)

  • Three children and their grandmother died in a Texas fire after trying to stay warm during power outages. Their mom survived (CNN)

  • Opinion: She’s been in Yolo County for years. Then COVID hit — and the anti-Asian racism started (The Sacramento Bee)

This week in AAPI pop culture

Regency romance fans, rejoice: Your favorite cotton-candy Netflix binge, “Bridgerton,” has found its female lead for the second season in South Asian actress Simone Ashley.

Ashley landed the role of Kate Sharma, who goes head to head with Anthony Bridgerton, the oldest son of the titular Bridgerton family and toxic masculinity personified. The British actress made her Netflix debut on the TV show “Sex Education” as mean girl Olivia Hanan, and is of Tamil descent.

“Kate is a smart, headstrong young woman who suffers no fools — Anthony Bridgerton very much included,” Netflix tweeted in its official announcement.

“Bridgerton” follows the love lives of the eight Bridgerton siblings in Regency-era England, based on the bestselling romance novels by Julia Quinn. Each season is poised to follow the order in which her books are written, with season one focusing on Daphne Bridgerton and her main squeeze Simon, Duke of Hastings.

What sets “Bridgerton” apart from typical Regency fodder is its cast, which uses a diverse range of actors to re-imagine the early 1800s London high society as a multiracial landscape. Stories based in the Regency period often highlight exclusively white people, erasing the vast history of people of color who lived in England at the same time.

The show has become Netflix’s highest-viewed TV series since it premiered last December. With 82 million households tuning in around the world, the show has hit No. 1 in every country except Japan.

As a sucker for all things Regency and high drama, I found “Bridgerton” a wonderful escapist fantasy, although I’d recommend watching it with a critical lens. The sixth episode features a controversial sex scene with dubious consent, and what could have been a thorough explanation of the role race plays in this post-racial vision of Britain gets reduced to a few lukewarm comments.

And fair warning — “Bridgerton” has a lot of sex scenes. I’m pretty sure the two main characters spend more time out of clothes than in them in episode six. If you’ve ever thought, “What if Jane Austen, but with more people of color and hornier?” then this is the show for you.

Got a story suggestion? Please reach out to me at [email protected].

That’s it for this week’s newsletter. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

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Ashley Wong covers Sacramento’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community for The Sacramento Bee in partnership with Report for America. A graduate of University of California, Berkeley, she has written for USA Today and the East Bay Express.