Archive for March, 2007

Supply and Demand

Regulating overseas adoptions

Published March 12, 2007

Another door may be closing on thousands of childless Americans eager to adopt from another country. The State Department has warned that it may shut down adoptions from Guatemala, where matching children with desperate foreigners is a profit-driven and largely unregulated enterprise.

Last year, Guatemala (population 12 million) was second only to China (population 1.3 billion) in the number of babies placed for adoption in the U.S. Americans took in 4,135 youngsters from Guatemala and 6,493 from China.

Foreign adoptions by U.S. families were down last year for the first time since 1992–but were up 8 percent from Guatemala. Several countries have clamped down on such adoptions because of worries about black-market babies. Beginning this year, China has said it will be much choosier about who can adopt, thanks to a decrease in the number of orphaned and abandoned children there. With few exceptions, parents must be under age 50 and married, with a high school diploma and an annual income of $30,000. Those who are obese or have a history of mental illness don’t qualify.

Would-be parents have increasingly turned to Guatemala, where waiting times are shorter and the supply of babies has ramped up to meet the demand. More than half the population lives in poverty, and some parents have been pressured by lawyers and other intermediaries to surrender their children for adoption to offer them a better life. Others are abducted or taken from their parents under false pretenses, and women have even been paid to get pregnant and give up their babies. It’s a safe bet those mothers are getting a small share of the $30,000 or more that such adoptions can bring. But it’s a lucrative business for the lawyers, baby brokers and others who facilitate the deals. The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that it generates $150 million a year.

International adoption was largely unheard of until after World War II, when American families opened their homes to thousands of European orphans. Since then, successive waves of adoption have been generated by wars, as in Korea and Vietnam, or by political and social upheaval, as with the breakup of the former Soviet Union. In the beginning, most adoptive families already had children and were motivated by humanitarian or religious goals. Today, the overwhelming majority are infertile couples or singles who long for a child.

Concerns about children being treated as a commodity led to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions, an international pact set forth in 1995. If the U.S. ratifies it this year, as expected, adoptions from Guatemala will not be allowed until that country is in compliance with the convention’s guidelines–in particular a requirement that the government serve as a clearinghouse for adoptions.

Any new barriers are enormously frustrating for folks who ache for a baby, especially if those barriers seem to make it more difficult to rescue a child from poverty. But the rules are necessary to ensure that foreign adoption is about finding parents for kids who need them–not the other way around.


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I can’t remember my first experience of getting teased about eating dog. This one baffled me because I’d never eaten dog in my life. The idea was repugnant to me for the same reasons as eating horse, cats and parakeets. I thought of these animals as pets not meant for human consumption. No one bothered to tell me why people thought I ate dogs.

Ironically, it was my best friend’s dad, the one who use to call me “rice paddy”, who told me what this dog eating business was all about. He was a nice guy, really. I use to spend the night over at their house and he was always welcoming and friendly. It was one of those nights that he told me about how Vietnamese eat dogs, monkeys, snakes, rats and all kinds of “weird things”. Of course, I totally grossed out. He grinned and asked, “Now, aren’t you glad you grew up over here?”

Life moves on and I get on with growing up but with a slightly different perspective in regards to “my people”. They are barbaric, uncivilized and backwards. Imagine people eating things like that. Could you possibly be any more disgusting? It must be because they’re poor and have nothing else to eat. Yeah, I’m glad I grew up “here”. Why wouldn’t I be? Who would want to grow up eating that nasty shit?

Flash forward almost a decade later. I’ve converted to Islam and widened my view of the world. My husband and I went to visit a friend and have dinner at their place. After dinner, the subject somehow turns to eating dog. “Come on, Sume admit it,” my friend smiles, “you’ve eaten dog, right?” Now, I don’t know if it’s just me but why are people always smiling like that when they ask me this? Friend or not, I wanted to slap that grin off her face.

“Why would I eat dog?” I asked getting a little miffed, “I grew up here.”

“You’re Vietnamese,” she said, “it’s okay.”

Okay, wtf does that mean? I’m genetically predisposed to eat dog? For those of you who may not know, some Muslims have this stigma thing going on when it comes to “man’s best friend”. They are unclean, disgusting animals where even their saliva and hair are untouchable. Not all have this attitude, but some of the people I hung out with were so disgusted by dogs, they would freak out if one rubbed up against them. To be accused of eating dog was like a serious insult.

Flash forward a few months later. I woke up early to this strange, musky smell coming from the kitchen. I could hear my husband taking a shower. Did he forget something on the stove? *sigh It was Saturday and my day to sleep in late. Irritated, I got up to check and sure enough something was boiling on the stove. As I got closer, the smell became just plain nasty. It smelled like a mixture of old tennis shoes and day-old roadkill.

The first thing I did was open the patio door. I grabbed a kitchen towel, turned off the burner and then lifted the lid. What greets me is an eyeball staring back at me that’s still attached to a head with jaw agape and a long tongue hanging out. “Jesus Christ!” I yelled as I dropped the lid, “That’s a head!” The sucker was bobbing up and down and rolling over in the pot, pausing momentarily in between to gawk at me as if I’d put it there. Later, I had the pleasure of watching my husband devour the thing’s brains, tongue and all except for those accusing eyes. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

Flash forward some five years later. I went to my visit my dad, my step-mother and their new daughter. I can’t remember the occasion but there was to be a huge family barbecue and get together. My great-aunt came down from Louisiana, my cousins were all coming, too. So we’re all sitting around talking while the food was cooking on the homemade pit-grill my uncle had constructed. My dad’s sister brought in this tray of something and started passing it around. When she got to me, I asked her what it was. “Girl, that’s hoghead cheese. You forgot?”

Honestly, I don’t ever remember having anything called “hoghead cheese”. “Please tell me the name is not literal,” I told her. “Ask your great-aunt,” she laughed. I did and my great-aunt went on to tell me of how she came upon my uncle cooking a pig head outside like some witches brew. It was a familiar story, head bobbing up and down, eyeballs looking angry, the puke-inducing smell. I politely passed on the “head” cheese. Yup, so glad I grew up among civilized people. Yes, sir.

My point by now should be obvious. This dog-eating stigma thing really makes no sense to me. I’ve read the arguments. Still for every point, I find another to negate it. Cruelty to animals? Have you seen the conditions our “food animals” live in? Ever see where veal comes from or how the hens that lay our eggs are treated? Some of the same people who scream cruelty to animals don’t think about the life that cow had before it became the burger on their plates. I’m guilty of this, too but if you’re going to scream about “cruelty to animals”, at least be consistent. Vegans are exempt from this one, btw.

Because they’re pets? I had a billy goat I named “Benji” and kept for a pet. I loved that goat. It was cute and friendly and didn’t bother anyone. He suddenly disappeared and no one seemed to know how. Years later, I found out that he’d ended up on the grill for one of my dad’s parties. My dad had not only eaten my pet but fed it to the neighbors to boot. Some people keep potbellied pigs as pets. I wonder if they get grossed out at the thought of pork chops or bacon. Man, they’re eating Wilbur.

I’m not saying that I ever would eat it. The thought makes me gag because eating dog is just not my thing. I’m not a big meat-eater anyway. What got me to thinking about all of this was a post I found on Thirstythong written by a guy who eats dog and doesn’t care what people think.   Really, why should he?  Admittedly, my stomach lurched and I cringed but I have to ask myself is it really that big a deal? More than likely, I’ll always get a little grossed out at the thought of eating dog just like I do with the thought of eating snail, eel, octopus, ostrich, camel, raw meat of any kind and a long list of other things that people eat.

It seems stupid to hate on people who do though. What’s acceptable to one culture, may be completely disgusting to another. Eating pork for most Muslims and Jews is unthinkable. The same goes for beef for some Hindus. The list goes on and on. Why is it that the dog has created such a reaction? Really, I’m curious because aspects of the debate seem to contain elements of self-righteous ethnocentrism.

This post has gone on way too long so I’ll end with this: Though I’ll probably never change my mind about chowing down on Fido, when people tease me about it I no longer get all mad and embarrassed. Why should I be? Now when people joke with me about eating dogs, I simply tell them how delicious it is and offer them recipes. The look on their face is priceless. So there.

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Feb 26,2007 by JESSICA GREGER

International adoption has become increasingly popular within the United States. Since 1992 international adoption rates have almost tripled. China and Russia are at the top of the list for nations from which Americans adopt; however, many countries have been affected by international adoption. Some of its popularity can be attributed to celebrity involvement. Julie Andrews, Angelina Jolie, Mia Farrow and Meg Ryan are only some of the many celebrities that have adopted children internationally. This may be good for those who need adoption to survive, but what about the children who have families and loving homes? They may have the misfortune of being born in a poor country without adequate water or nourishment. Shouldn’t these children be helped, too?

The process of international adoption can cost up to $40,000 and involves completing mountains of paperwork, traveling to unfamiliar lands and removing a child from his native country and natural family. Adoptions must adhere by many sets of laws as well as immigration approval. Documents such as birth certificates, financial statements, proof of citizenship, physician’s reports, letters of recommendation and proof of no criminal record are required. Nonetheless, last year alone, tens of thousands of children were adopted internationally.


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