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Archive for February, 2008

nazimos0902_468x196.jpgAfter posting yesterday on Chinese-made choking hazards in the shape of toys in really, really, really bad taste, this story out of Britain provides another.

British Olympic chiefs are to force athletes to sign a contract promising not to speak out about China’s appalling human rights record – or face being banned from travelling to Beijing.

… The controversial clause has been inserted into athletes’ contracts for the first time and forbids them from making any political comment about countries staging the Olympic Games.

What the hell is it with China and the huge and hugely disturbing and disgusting pass it’s getting, especially around this whole Olympics hoo-haa?

The upcoming games … and can we remember that this is what it’s about — GAMES? … should be providing an opportunity for the world to focus on the host country, and not through filters but with the glaring light of global attention thrown in every representation of the often ugly face of real-life China that can be taken in by the hundreds of thousands of people traipsing through the place this summer.

The Chinese government signed on for this sort of inspection at the time they begged, borrowed and pleaded to get the games to run, swim, dive, shoot and so on on Chinese soil, and if those doing the running, swimming, diving, etc. happen to notice some of that soil as it collects under their fingernails while in the process of cheerfully competing under the banner of good sportsmanship, or whatever, they damned well should be able to talk about it.

Or whatever else they want to talk about, for that matter.

Since when does an ability to move quickly disqualify one from developing opinions, along with muscles, and speaking out?

Apparently, for British athletes, since the 1930s when the photo above was taken, the year the British soccer … okay, ‘football’ … team did the Fuehrer’s High Five … the Nazi salute … and were so shamefully captured on film doing so.

Personally, I have been a supporter of the movement to boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympics and have wished a large proportion of participants would simply opt out and make a big deal of exactly why China does not deserve the implied respect the games convey.

I was very pleased to see just minutes ago that Steven Speilberg has bowed out of his role as artistic advisor … his stated reason is Darfur, just one of the human rights issues China should be forced to account for … and hope others will do the same, and publicly, as the games draw near.

(Interestingly, his withdrawal comes on the heels of the British “gag order”, so this step may backfire. One can hope … )

I do understand how difficult it would be for an athlete to just say no to what must be a lifelong dream, but these games, the competition, the ceremonies, the venues, and the medals that will come from victories, are tainted.

They are tainted with the waste of opportunity to force change, the whorish rolling over of those who should be standing and pointing fingers and demanding China play by rules of better-worldsmanship, the pandering to money interests with advertising dollars, the good-ole-boy, slap on the back, wink-wink-nudge-nudge cronyism that is spinning the world down to a place where rich and poor are so far removed from each other that neither seems human in the eyes of the other.

An article in the CSM called “The Olympics in China: a moment for pride – and world scrutiny”, gives a look at how important it is to the Chinese to come through the games unscathed:

An unprecedented opportunity to shine in the international spotlight for an intense three weeks. The Chinese government is treating the Games as a symbolic end to 150 years of humiliation by outside powers and a confirmation of its status as a global power to be reckoned with.

But the problem is China should be scathed and scathed badly in ways that illustrate just why 150 years of humiliation was deserved and why its status as a global power needs to be carefully monitored. Carte blanche has not been earned.

And as for the Brits … well, gagging their own athletes is about as spineless and unhelpful a move as can be imagined under these circumstance, but since it’s not the first time it’s happened, it didn’t take much imagination to come up with it.

If only Monty Python were still around to take the piss out of this mess, or if Sid Vicious and the rest of the Sex Pistols could do a rousing rendition of something appropriately irreverent.

It would be good to give the Chinese something to choke on for a change.

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Path Cra toy?>The Internet was out all day today, so I’m far behind on way too much work and playing catch-up (ketchup?) tonight.

Had a meeting in town today … so at least had something constructive to do with the time I would have been working … and also needed to do some shopping, as a friend’s little boy is turning three this weekend and we have a birthday party to attend.

Shopping for gifts here is always an adventure, as options are always both limited and a bit on the wacky side. Plus, you never can tell which shop might have what, as a place with motor oil in the window might also sell dolls where somewhere that displays faded boxes of toys may have nothing but plumbing supplies.

The first place I stopped had nothing appropriate, but while on my way to another place that has proven fruitful in the past, I needed to pop into what we’d call a grocery store to pick up some diapers for Cj. Lo and behold, toys were presented near the entrance, so I did some perusal of offerings.

And just LOOK at what I found!

No, this is not what the soon-to-be-three-year-old is getting, but could I pass this up? As blog fodder alone it’s worth the SR 71/- (Seventy-one Seychelles Rupees) it cost me.

Made in China … where else? … I’m thinking the box is actually suppose to read “car” not “cra”, but the spelling error is nothing compared to the ultimate wrongness of the product itself.

Of course, I’m coming to this from an American prospective, and I’m sure people from other cultures are certain to have a far different reaction, but how this made it to Seychelles can only be chalked up to the likelihood that it was cheap and easy to ship.

There were a couple of more on the shelves, so if anyone is interested in the gifts that hit the height of tacky covered in sprinkles of bad taste, perhaps I could do some shopping for you … ?

Man! The world is a crazy place.

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Getting back to the tens of millions of dollars the UN has wasted in Sudan that I mentioned yesterday, but had neither the time nor the stomach for, I find it more than a tad disingenuous that the same day this story came out in the Washington Post, the “UN News Centre” had only this to say … a long, drawn out whine from Ban Ki-moon as he “strongly condemned” Janjaweed militia attacks killing 200 people in West Darfur.

Mr. Ban “stresses that all parties must adhere to international humanitarian law, which prohibits military attacks against civilians,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.

First … Yeah, Ban. Like that’s gonna work! (Gee, whiz … slap forehead … Let’s just explain that genocide is “prohibited”! Wonder why Kofi didn’t think of that … )

And, second … Why the hell should the Janjaweed listen to the UN talk about obeying laws?

From the WaPo:

A U.N. task force is examining the United Nations’ handling of nearly $300 million in contracts for food, transportation and fuel for Sudan, including a $200 million contract with Eurest Support Services, a Cyprus-based subsidiary of the Compass Group, a British catering company. ESS also has been charged with rigging bids in Liberia, Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Anyone want to venture a guess as to what a “task force” not under UN employ might find?

But back to the UN news that goes on to sing the praises of something called the Status of Forces Agreement … unfortunately, but probably prophetically abbreviated to SOFA … that was signed recently.

A couple of points to make on this.

First, on this:

SOFA covers the activities of the military, police and civilian personnel of the mission, known as UNAMID, which seeks to stem the violence in the war-ravaged Darfur region, where over 200,000 people have been killed and 2.2 million others forced to flee their homes since fighting began in 2003 among Government forces, rebel groups and allies militia groups known as the Janjaweed.

Yep. Those same damned numbers they’ve been trotting out for the past five years … 200,000 dead, 2.2 million displaced.

When and why did the UN stop counting? Counting the dead and displaced is one of the few things the UN can actually do, but not in Sudan. There were 200,000 dead and 2.2 million displaced way back during GW’s first term and way before George Clooney ever went to Darfur … and now he’s not only been back for ages, he’s working for the UN. (Talk about a powerful PR machine!)

The other thing in the UN News:

Mr. Guehenno, who recently visited Sudan, emphasized that UNAMID operation is “severely under-resourced for the tasks which it was mandated to perform” since it lacks the necessary troops, police and equipment, including military aircraft and ground transportation, to provide protection to Darfurians.

No mention there what 10s of millions of wasted dollars could have provided on this front, is there? No. There wouldn’t be.

Back to George Clooney for a moment …

Last September I wrote a post responding to a question he asked during his testimony before the UN where he said:

We were brought up to believe that the U.N. was formed to ensure that the Holocaust could never happen again. We believe in you so strongly. We need you so badly. We have come so far. We’re — we’re one yes away from ending this. And, if not the U.N., then who?

I looked around a bit at the time and came up with:

In 2005, UNICEF received over $53 million in contributions for Darfur, meeting approximately 43 percent of total requirements. As of April 2006, UNICEF has received about $1.85 million in contributions from government donors, while UNICEF’s National Committees have raised approximately $966,000.

This means UNICEF has a total of just over $2.81 million in donor resources against its Darfur target of $89 million in 2006 – so its programmes in the region are just 3.1 per cent funded moving into the second quarter of the year.

Pointing to this as, “the UN’s own justification for doing squat!” led me to compose another post I called “If not the UN, why?”

Today, as last year, as the year before, what I said then holds true now:

Lack of funds … lack of will …

Where does it make sense, however, that this body … the UN, I’m taking here … would CHOOSE to sit back once again and allow a genocide to happen and happen and happen?

Which brings me to the real why?

Why does the UN exist at all?

A very quick look at stories from the past couple of days could be taken to prove the utter uselessness of the organization without even having to mention Cambodia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, or more stops along the genocide trail that’s been well traveled without hindrance from those folks in the big building with all the flags around it.

With a recent article in Newsweek addressing the UN’s creeping agenda on international adoption that does so much damage to so many and now seems to have the children of Haiti ready to serve up on a plate that doesn’t include adoption as an option, I do not feel any inclination to judge gently what the UN calls waste.

When 10s of millions of dollars disappear, that’s not just sloppy, it’s criminal.

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Why are no heads rolling?

Heads? Heck … there are hardly any eyeballs rolling, as this sort of crap from the UN is now common as designer muck in baby blue berets and pretty much expected as business as usual.

U.N. officers in Sudan have squandered millions by renting warehouses that were never used, booking blocks of hotel rooms that were never filled, and losing thousands of food rations to theft and spoilage, according to several internal audits by the U.N. Office for International Oversight Services. One U.N. purchasing agent has been accused of steering a $589,000 contract for airport runway lights to a company that helped his wife obtain a student visa, while two senior procurement officials from the United States and New Zealand have been charged by a U.N. panel with misconduct for not complying with rules designed to prevent corruption.

Hello?

I’m too mad to even write about this tonight.

Read the story, let me know what you think. Perhaps we’ll rip them a new one in the morning.

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The regular feature that is the wrap of news from Cambodia tailored to families with connections to the country through adoption has moved for the last time. It is now firmly and happily ensconced in its new home, right where it belongs … Under One Roof in OUR house.

This week’s is here and covers everything from a new honor for Kari Grady Grossman to development and reports of increasing press freedom in the country.

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Warping children for war

A couple of items in the news recently have me lingering on the edge of despair, wondering if there is any hope at all for a world fit to live in.

First was a report I caught the end of on the BBC about how children in Gaza were handing out sweets in celebration of the suicide bombings in Israel that managed to blow some people to bits.

Then, this morning a brought this, complete with video, from an Al-Qaeda training school that teaches little boys how to be terrorists.

Also in the news, a Khmer Rouge leader asking to be released on bailBrother Number Two, nonetheless.

All three of these are stories of child abuse, yet none are thought to be so in the minds of many.

Although Nuon Chea was a grown man at the time he participated in masterminding the murders of almost two million Cambodians, it was children in the country he turned to for the hands-on, get-their-backs-into-it killing, and the success of getting the kids involved hasn’t been forgotten.

“Lord of the Flies” is terrifying enough as a novel, but when the same inclinations that can take a group of boys from manners to mayhem completely on their own are guided with intent, and armed to the teeth, sinister and sordid no longer fit as descriptive terms, and cultural boundaries should not be allowed to come between kids and their right to be protected from the sort of horrors they are being inducted into.

There is nothing natural about a child feeling joy over death and destruction as a matter of choice, and a process that teaches this reaction to pain and suffering is wrong … just plain wrong. Getting them to cause the pain and suffering is not only wrong, but criminally so, and anyone perpetuating a system of hand-me-down terrorism should be subject to punishment.

Anyone inclined to agree with children being intentionally involved in the horrors grownups create has been warped beyond redemption, and unfortunately, this may also be so for the children at their mercy.

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According to this article in the Washington Post, not a lot.

It would be nice to claim that comic strips are the last bastion of racism in American media, but that really would be funny. It’s simply one more example of carte blanche being lily white in the realm that exerts influence over the thinking of millions of people every day, and most people don’t even bother to notice that it happening.

After all, who knows what the person drawing a strip looks like?

(I have friends who vacationed in Mexico a number of years ago and didn’t realize that the Gary Larson who was their beach buddy of a couple buddy of a few weeks, who shared many a meal with them was actually THE Gary Larson of “Far Side” fame.

Yes, he was a fun guy and his name did ring bells, but no connection was made until he signed the hotel’s guest book as he checked out and drew a little cartoon as a memento of his stay.)

To draw attention to the fact that the number of non-white cartoonists is an embarrassment in a country as racially diverse as America demographically is, this coming Sunday those sitting down to read the “funnies” will find a protest, of sorts.

11 cartoonists of color will be drawing essentially the same comic strip, using irony to literally illustrate that point. In each strip, the artists will portray a white reader grousing about a minority-drawn strip, complaining that it’s a “Boondocks” rip-off and blaming it on “tokenism.” “It’s the one-minority rule,” says Lalo Alcaraz (“La Cucaracha”). “We’ve got one black guy and we’ve got one Latino. There’s not room for anything else.”

Read along, smile if you are so inspired, but understand there is no little power in humor, and comic strips have long been both an indicator of and an influence over popular culture.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our kids could all spend their Sunday mornings hovering over a two-page spread that would represent them more fully and clearly? I’m not suggesting that every paper needs to have a special section for transracially or internationally adopted kids, but we’re a multicolored world, and the funnies haven’t been printed in black and white for many, many years. It’s time they caught up with themselves.

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So, big changes in the online adoption world, as you can see from the press release here.

Because I am one of the eight bloggers founding the site that is Adoption Under One Roof … ouradopt.com … I will be moving most of my adoption-related writing over there and leaving this blog for personal stuff, general opinions, politics, information on Seychelles and whatever else I feel like writing about that has less to do with adoption and more to do with other aspects of life I find interesting.

I encourage everyone to visit what we know as Our House, to come in for a look around, then wander all over and get to know the place and the people.

We have put a great deal of thought and work into Adoption Under One Roof, determined to make the site easy to navigate in a way that allows everyone interested in adoption, from whatever angle, opportunities to learn and to teach, to share and to listen, and even to fight when that seems a possibility for resolving conflict.

Years of softly-softly, please-excuse-me-for-having-opinions-but … communication in a population segmented into tidy groups of the like-minded stifled not only disparity, but also originality of thought as a byproduct, have produced only limited success, if that, in bringing about needed change in the adoption world. With each POV pulling against the other, often with almost irreparable results, forward progress has been near impossible, and as the community became more fractured it also grew more fractious, therefore less able to coordinate any efforts toward reform.

As the environment came to view the standard of separation as a given, bad habits developed and discussion between those with differing, although very often valid, views became progressively more rare and people stopped listening to entire populations simply out of reflex. Rules of engagement within neighborhoods of the adoption community grew less flexible and exclusion became more and more the common method of dealing with dissent.

At the same time, within cozy climates of agreement-at-all-cost the inclination was to support without question or debate ideas that couldn’t possibly hold water, being so full of holes and without enough real fabric to stick together, and this allowed much of the irrelevant and invalid to take on unwarranted gravitas and leak into discussions without ever having been subjected to the light of rational critique.

Allegiance became obligatory based on whatever version of shared point of view dominated a segmented population, and honest evaluation and demands for accountability took a back seat to comradeship-at-any-cost.

Although everyone has heard of adoption, only a small percentage have any real information, and most of those who think they understand adoption are actually way, way off the mark by just about everyone’s perception, so most of those finding themselves making an approach to the adoption world come with the great handicap of no information or a load of misinformation.

The key to reforming systems to the point that no child is unnecessarily relinquished, no mother is coerced into placing against her will or better judgement, no family adopts without having demanded the highest ethical practices, no agency over-charges or misrepresents, no government facilitates ease of adoption for reasons of profit or felonious purposes, no child is denied the hope of a loving family when needed and one can be provided, and no children are put or left at the mercy of the horrors of abuse and neglect is education and information; putting everyone as close as possible to the same place on the same page with access to ALL the information.

Whether a starry-eyed couple dreaming pastel dreams of parenting in spite of the odds against or a terrified woman trying to figure out how to make it from one day to the next, having access to all sides of what adoption is, and what it isn’t, will go a long way toward putting power in their hands, the power to make informed decisions based on here and now and tomorrow and fifty years from now.

It’s with this in mind that OURadopt.com began, and why those of us dedicated to the idea put Adoption Under One Roof.

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Press release:

Adoption dot com Blogging Staff Resigns to Launch More Inclusive, Relevant Site.
Adoption Under One Roof: covering adoption from every angle, every view, for everyone, at ouradopt.com.

In reaction to a narrowing focus and dwindling support for quality writing tackling the big issues related to adoption, more than one-third of the remaining blogging staff of Adoptionblogs dot com resigned last week, and in conjuction with former colleagues today launched the realized vision of a totally new concept in online adoption communities.

Dedicated to providing information, provoking thought and promoting positive progress toward ethical adoption practices through education, exchange and cooperation between triad members, eight talented and dedicated bloggers have joined forces to build a new, relevant and totally inclusive site.

Never before have all aspects of adoption been presented under one roof … a one-stop reference for anyone coming to adoption from any direction … the goal of the site, as is made clear by the title: Adoption Under One Roof — Covering adoption from every angle, every view, for everyone.

Areas of the site will offer platforms for birth parents, adoptees, prospective adoptive parents and adoptive families, from enthusiastic advocates to staunch opponents. Individuals and families of every stripe — married, single, gay, straight, pro, con, LDS, atheist … and everyone else with adoption in their life — will be able to access valid information, participate in discussions, laugh, learn, rant, rave, share and enjoy in an atmosphere created specifically for the purpose of bringing about positive change in the adoption world.

Through a vision for a world in which every woman in a crisis pregnancy is fully informed and ethically treated, every hopeful adoptive parent demands a process that ensures any child coming to a family comes as the result of strict following of the laws and as the best of best options available, where rights of every adopted child have been protected along each step of the journey, and the hope of a family remains for the children of the world who have no others, Adoption Under One Roof … ouradopt.com … casts a new light over adoption that will illuminate all dark corners and brighten the lives of many.

An arm of Adoption dot com, once the world’s largest adoption-related website, Adoptionblogs dot com was launched in October of 2005, going live the following February with twenty-six bloggers covering thirty-one categories. The site was an immediate success, filling a need for real information from honest and talented writers.

Management support and leadership, however, began to flounder, and by late last year it was apparent there was no committment to move forward and a rapid slide toward irrelevancy began. With more than two-thirds of the blogs abandoned, and that list growing longer every month, reader’s needs were not being met and the demand for a new, dynamic and dedicated site presented itself.

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I had an interesting email in response to the post of the other day, “Gay backlash and presidential candidates” that included these questions:

In your years of writing for adoption dot com, did the company’s anti-gay stance rub off on you?

Were you censored?

To answer the second question first: yes, I was censored. One post early on was removed completely, and I was told that if I did cover anything to do with the subject I was to keep within the confines of reporting news about gay adoptions without ever taking a position … and to go light on even that sort of thing. Or else. (I did slide in as much news as I could on gay adoption and linked to EBD Institute reports on research, however.)

As for the first question, let me begin by saying that there is no way I could care less about what consenting adults do within the privacy of their private places with their private parts … that all being PRIVATE … and that I find it more than a little perverse when others focus on such things.

I am less interested in the sex lives of others than I am in their toilet habits … and that would be not at all … and will never understand where anyone gets off (pardon the expression) letting their mind wander into such territory, then spend any time or energy forming opinions, much less spreading those opinions around. As I said, this strikes me as a strange, though common in every sense of the word, perversion.

I am educated enough to understand that a percentage of most any mammal population could be classified as “gay”, and having had a “gay” dog when I was a kid, that information didn’t come as a surprise. I’ve seen “gay” monkeys and “gay” goats, and whole populations of “gay” chimps … Bonobos, pygmy chimps, our closest relatives, are notorious for their homosexual activities … and know of “gay” couples of penguins and flamingos raising families.

(An exhibit at a Norwegian gallery a couple of years ago displayed photos of “gay” sex between everything from giraffes to whales.)

Since homosexuality is a part of the natural course of life for many, it presents no more barriers than shoe size or skin color, other than those resulting from basic biology, and that’s were adoption comes into the picture.

Obviously, although any two can tango, reproduction takes some more difficult steps that can’t be accomplished without some extra dipping that requires two genders. Unless or until cloning becomes a way to make new people, a gay couple will not be able to combine bits of DNA and come up with chips off the old block. Biology does not, however, make a parent.

Parent is as much a verb as it is a noun, and many people who have the nounish bit cornered are crap at the verby part. From the other angle, some who don’t noun verb beautifully.

Perhaps in a perfect world every child would have a loving mommy and daddy in a cozy house with a three car garage, two Volvos and an Irish Setter, but we don’t live in that world. (And I, for one, am happy about that! How bloody BORING!) The world is full of children who either have no family or family that is worse than no family at all and in desperate need of someone to love and care for them.

That being the case … and, really, that IS the case, and there’s no use arguing about it … I am fully in favor of loving people caring for children in a safe climate of compassion and nutrition.

Is gay parenting any different? Well, DUH. It’s different in the same way that older parenting is different and transracial parenting is different, and adoptive parenting is different, and parenting five kids is different than parenting one, and city parenting is different from country parenting, and Buddhist parenting is different from Catholic parenting, and my parenting is different from your parenting.

Are there some homosexuals that shouldn’t be allowed to adopt? There’s another DUH for you that I’ll place alongside any list of people of every persuasion that should never get within ten miles of a child … most of those having made the poor kids themselves. (See yesterday’s post.)

So, those questions answered, I’ll share this article from Time about the European Court of Human Rights overturning a French law preventing adoption by gays.

Franck Tanguy, spokesman for France’s Association of Gay and Lesbian Parents, says “this ruling is a step in the right direction” in that it “requires countries that, like France, allow singles to adopt children to treat unmarried homosexual and heterosexual applicants in exactly the same manner.” Failure to do so in any country with such legislation, Tanguy says, means they’d “find themselves condemned again and again for discrimination by the many single homosexuals who’d use this precedent to base a legal defense on”. However, Tanguy regrets the ruling “won’t change anything in countries that don’t allow any singles to adopt, nor force nations that don’t allow homosexual couples to adopt to change their laws”.

Seeing the pertinent detail is that the law allowed adoption by unmarried straight folks, this bill introduced in Utah recently would permit singles to adopt, straight or gay. People might want to weigh in on this.

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