Week of December 3, 2002, Program 0249
|Border Killings Update||Transcript||MP3||Related Links|
|UK Census||Transcript||MP3||Related Links|
|North Korea||Transcript||MP3||Related Links|
|Propaganda Radio||Transcript||MP3||Related Links|
|Adoption Policy||Transcript||MP3||Related Links|
|Adopting Diego (Part 1)||Transcript||MP3||Related Links|
|Broadway Hits Moscow||Transcript||MP3||Related Links|
JESSICA YARAMINDI: So women were afraid, and they had a right to be afraid because the authorities weren’t doing much about the murders.
KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, international pressure to solve a string of Mexican murders.
PORTER: And planning for longer lives in Great Britain.
RHIAN BEYNON: The aging population does not have to be a burden, it does not have to be a crisis.
PORTER: Plus, the United States fights a battle—over the airwaves.
NORMAN PATTIZ: What we discovered was that there was a media war that was in fact going on throughout the entire Middle East. And the weapons of that war included hate radio and television, incitement to violence, disinformation, government censorship, and journalistic self-censorship.
PORTER: These stories—coming up next.
Listen to This Segment
Mexican Film About the Murders
PORTER: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Keith Porter. Kristin McHugh is off this week. International pressure on the Mexican government to clarify and stop the murders of women in the northern border state of Chihuahua is picking up steam. Leading the demands is a growing cross-border movement of women’s and human rights organizations. Kent Paterson has more from Ciudad Juarez.
[The sound of a street protest.]
KENT PATTERSON: Protesters march across a bridge that separates El Paso, Texas, from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The demonstrators demand that the Mexican government clear up and prosecute the murders of more than 300 women in Chihuahua state. At least 90 of those victims are believed to have died at the hands of a serial killer or killers. Speaking before the march, Texas State Senator Elliott Shapleigh urges residents to speak out against the brutal killings that have gone on since 1993.
ELLIOTT SHAPLEIGH: If we do not send a message to those who are committing the most heinous of murders in Juarez, where torture and rape, where people’s faces are carved off with acid in Juarez today, then who are we in our community to sit silent while this is going on?
[The sounds of a large community meeting.]
PATTERSON: Throughout Mexico and the United States, different groups are taking on the issue of the murdered women. In El Paso, 2,000 youth recently attended a rock benefit held to educate people about the serial murders and domestic violence. Co-organizer Jessica Yaramindi is a student at the University of Texas who grew up in Juarez amid the killings.
JESSICA YARAMINDI: So women were afraid, and they had a right, every right to be afraid, because the authorities weren’t doing much about the murders and neither were they doing anything about any other case of violence against women. So women were afraid, and, but the general attitude of the people was just to accept it, which is very sick in my opinion.
PATTERSON: [interviewing Ms. Yaramindi] Do you think the population got numbed into accepting that this is a “normal” thing that goes on?
YARAMINDI: Yes, I think it goes back to the status of women’s rights. They just accepted it as something that just happens. And since they all blamed the authorities, they all felt, I think the general feeling was that we really were impotent; we really couldn’t do anything about it.
[The sounds of Chihuahua State Governor Patricio Martinez giving a speech.]
PATTERSON: But today more people are doing something about the violence. In a Juarez convention hall, Chihuahua State Governor Patricio Martinez inaugurates the first joint government-citizen working group set up to review the murders and pursue justice for the victims and their family members. The working group was established following pressure from Mexican activists and their supporters. Another key demand of women’s organizations was also partially met when the Mexican government recently agreed to the renewed involvement of the FBI in the murder probes. Vicky Caraveo coordinates several Juarez women’s rights organizations. Caraveo welcomes the FBI.
VICKY CARAVEO: We want them to participate in a real way, they know how to participate—investigating, seeing the evidence, seeing the DNA, seeing the bodies, their, the clothes, the bodies, the hair, the things they have in storage—to see if they can find, or understand, the mentality of the serial killers.
PATTERSON: But some fear that a recent political scandal in Juarez over FBI agents allegedly stepping into Mexico without permission to arrest train robbers could complicate the serial murders investigation. Victor Munoz co-chairs the coalition on violence toward women and families in El Paso.
VICTOR MUNOZ: What is really interesting now is what happened in Anapra, where there is big headlines that the FBI invaded Mexico, Mexico’s territory. It will probably play on groups that do not want The FBI at all. And they could be political groups and it could be people that are actually concerned on US intervention in Mexico again. But it also would be of concern to some of the people that are actually, that actually have something to hide.
[The sound of a street protest.]
PATTERSON: Although the clamor to halt the violence against women is growing, the problem was once again dramatized with the recent discovery of two bodies in empty lots. For Common Ground, I’m Kent Paterson reporting from Ciudad Juarez.
Listen to This Segment
United Kingdom From World Press Review
PORTER: Britain is rapidly graying. The latest census reveals there are more people aged 60-plus than there are children and teenagers. The figures are raising concerns that in the coming decades, there won’t be enough people contributing to the economy to support those who retire. Suzanne Chislett reports from London on the problem facing Great Britain and the possible solution to the crisis.
SUZANNE CHISLETT: For the first time since the census began, Britain has more people aged over 60 than children under 16. Twenty-one percent of the 58.7 million living in the UK are over 60. There are 1.1 million people aged over 85—that’s five times the number recorded in the 1951 survey. And compared with the world average life expectancy—65 for men and 70 for women—Britons can expect to live longer—men to 75 and women on average to 79. Rhian Beynon from Age Concern, a charity which campaigns on behalf of Britain’s elderly, says the increase in the aging population isn’t necessarily bad for the economy.
RHIAN BEYNON: The aging of the population does not have to be a burden, it does not have to be a crisis, if we make the necessary changes to ensure flexible working, the right kind of health and social care, the right kind of saving for retirement now. But, it’s true the nature of families is going to change and one thing that is going to change is that many of us are going to stay single and we could be a lot of lonely older people, if not dependent ones. And there are a whole range of issues that the governments have to look at.
CHISLETT: Researchers estimate the average life expectancy in Britain will reach 100 in just six decades. That’s likely to put even more pressure on the country’s economy to ensure the elderly are not allowed to slip into poverty. In recent years, there have been changes to the state pension system, which many of today’s elderly had been told would care for them when they retired. And many young people are not saving to ensure they will have enough money in their older age. Age Concern’s Rhian Beynon says the government must take action.
RHIAN BEYNON: In the wake of mis-selling of pensions in the UK, the resulting loss of consumer confidence both in that and both in the fallout in the stock market, people are really not very confident of saving into pension plans. And at Age Concern we regularly do polling on this and our polls are very, very scary. They suggest that a lot of younger people aren’t saving at all, or aren’t saving what they need to save to ensure they have a good retirement.
CHISLETT: So, if younger generations aren’t doing enough privately to guarantee themselves a living income in old age, should the government be doing more to ensure that there are enough people in the workforce to allow the state to continue funding pensions? One solution under consideration is to increase the number of immigrant workers. For the last 50 years Britain has opened its doors to Asian, Caribbean, and East European workers and increasing the immigration numbers could help boost the workforce. The British government already employs nurses, teachers, and police officers from Commonwealth countries to fill gaps in the core professions.
[The sound of race riots.]
CHISLETT: But, only last year race-riots across the north of England highlighted concerns some people have about granting entry to more immigrants.
[The sound of race riots.]
CHISLETT: And those kinds of scenes will lead to more problems for the British government. Quentin Peel is International Affairs Editor at the London Financial Times. He says Britons must change their attitudes to immigration.
QUENTIN PEEL: I think there’s a profound insularity in Britain which still says “We’re a small island and we can’t fit too many people.” I think they’re completely wrong-sighted, that our geography is no longer relevant. We’re a very wealthy island, we’re an aging island, and we need immigrants. We need people to come and actually keep the economy going, do many of the jobs that our own people don’t want to do. And so I think that we need immigration and we should positively encourage it, but the government and many governments before it find that a very difficult concept to deal with.
CHISLETT: The next few decades are expected to see the elderly population grow faster than the birth rate. The UK government’s Department of Health says the trends of the 2001 census are likely to continue well into this century. And Professor Tim Dyson, population expert at the London School of Economics, says the issue is not just a UK one, but is affecting Western Europe and Asian nations like Japan and Singapore.
TIM DYSON: Smaller and smaller birth cohorts coming into the bottom of the age pyramid generating smaller and smaller numbers of women who are having those birth cohorts. So this becomes a feature, could potentially become a feature which might be hard to stop. Not just population aging but population decline.
CHISLETT: Therefore, countries around the world will closely monitor how Britain copes with the problem. For Common Ground, I’m Suzanne Chislett in London.
PORTER: What to do about North Korean Nukes, next on Common Ground.
Listen to This Segment
Speech by Harrison on North Korea
Center for Contemporary Conflict
Korea, North From World Press Review
PORTER: North Korea’s admission of nuclear weapons development shocked many in the international community. The revelation means North Korea has violated a 1994 agreement with the United States. And the confession sparked a debate on how to deal with North Korea over it’s confessed cheating on the treaty. Common Ground‘s Cliff Brockman recently talked with Selig Harrison, a long-time analyst of North Korean affairs. Harrison says he wasn’t surprised to hear about North Korea’s nuclear program.
SELIG HARRISON: I predicted in my book, Korean Endgame, that we were going to run into trouble like this. Because from their point of view we haven’t fulfilled our side of the agreement that was made in 1994 between North Korea and the United States, under which they did something very remarkable. They froze their nuclear weapons program. They suspended it, and they thought that they were doing that in order to be friends, to show that they wanted to be friends, that they would get normalized relations with the US, economic relations. We’d stop obstructing their membership in the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. They’d open up to international aid. We haven’t done that.
And we didn’t because when Clinton made that agreement in October of 1994 it was just a few weeks before the Republican sweep in the fall elections. And the Republican controlled Congress confronted Clinton with opposition to implementing most of the things he was supposed to do to move towards closer relations with North Korea, like lifting economic sanctions. And so we had a stalemate in relations with North Korea throughout the Clinton period until the very last year, in which we didn’t fulfill our commitment to move toward the normalization of relations. That was Article II.
And Article III, we said that we would give them formal pledges not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against North Korea—which was an understandable provision in an agreement where they were giving up their nuclear option, they got us to agree we would not threaten them with nuclear weapons. Well, we didn’t make such pledges. So this was building up all through the ’90s, that North Korea felt they’d been taken.
CLIFF BROCKMAN: Why did North Korea reveal they had a nuclear development program?
HARRISON: What they did was, they decided that this was a good time to try to wipe the slate clean, to bargain with this. They decided, “Let’s see if we can get this Bush administration, which doesn’t want to talk to us, and has refused to have real dialogue with us, with any give and take, ever since they came into power two years ago—let’s see if this will get their attention.”
Though they admitted they are carrying on this program, there’s no reason to believe that they have successfully enriched uranium and actually have new fissile material. But there’s no question that under the 1994 agreement, the agreement that’s been in force, that we negotiated with North Korea, they did have spent fuel rods, which if you re-process them, could make enough plutonium for four bombs.
Now, those spent fuel rods are under inspection, in storage. If North Korea actually breaks out of that 1994 agreement and decides to re-process that plutonium, then we really do have a nuclear problem in North Korea. Now we have a hypothetical, potential nuclear problem. They are saying, “We’ll end the program. We’ll continue to abide by the agreements we made in 1994 and that we will agree to inspection that satisfies you if you will do three things. First, you have to pledge not to attack us militarily. Not to stage preemptive military action against us. Number two, you have to normalize relations with us, which you promised to do in 1994 but you haven’t done, so that we can open up to the world economically. And number three, you’ve got to sign a peace agreement ending the Korean War.” Which has now been an armistice for half a century but there’s no formal peace.
BROCKMAN: Hasn’t Secretary of State Colin Powell said that since the, North Korea has declared the agreement nullified, it’s nullified?
HARRISON: The word “nullified” is not, it’s not clear that they actually said that. I met the North Korean ambassador over the lunch table recently and my understanding is they said “We are not bound by it until such time as you dialogue with us in the way that we are suggesting.” In other words, they’re threatening to abrogate it but they haven’t abrogated it yet. I think that what Colin Powell, I heard him say was, “If one side to an agreement says that it’s nullified it’s hard to know what to do with that agreement.” Those are his very words. So, whether they even used the word “nullified” is not clear, but certainly they don’t consider it dead. And they don’t want it dead. But they want us to bargain to have it abided by in, in the future.
Now, South Korea and Japan are partners in building two nuclear reactors for North Korea under that 1994 agreement. They’ve already spent $800 million in the case of South Korea; $400 million in the case of Japan. They’re in no hurry to scrap that agreement. So they’re saying to us, “Wait a minute. Take it easy.” First, there’s the danger of this plutonium being produced if you scrap this agreement and they’re no longer covered by the safeguards under it. Secondly, you asked us to pay for these things and we’ve spent all this money and now you’re telling us, ‘Sorry, we decided it wasn’t a good idea.'” And you know, the fact that one was done by Clinton and now it’s Bush, that doesn’t impress South Korea and Japan. So they’re strongly urging us to dialogue and to keep the 1994 nuclear freeze agreement in force.
BROCKMAN: Former Secretary of State James Baker has a little different view. He thinks that we should put more troops in, go to the UN Security Council, ask for economic sanctions against North Korea, and let them know in that manner that we think they shouldn’t be developing a nuclear program.
HARRISON: Well, I read that article by Secretary Baker. And it’s really a restatement of the policy that the Bush administration pursued in the 1991, ’92, ’93 period, which got us nowhere but into great tension with North Korea, which almost exploded into a war in 1994, until former President Jimmy Carter went to North Korea and met Kim Il-Sung and set up a situation in which they were ready to accept a nuclear freeze agreement. President Clinton was able to negotiate with it. If we followed his advice we’d do a re-run of the tensions that led to a near war in 1994, another Korean War. It was a very dangerous period and we shouldn’t go down that road again.
BROCKMAN: How do you see this playing out finally?
HARRISON: Well, I’m very concerned. The Bush administration, almost as a matter of theology, thinks you shouldn’t negotiate on equal terms with a country like North Korea, and agree to give them anything to meet their concerns. We’re the only ones entitled to have any concerns. And so they, they think of it as blackmail. Somehow they’re saying to us, “If you don’t do certain things for us, we’ll go ahead and build a nuclear weapon.” Now, I think one has to face this argument, this blackmail argument. It really isn’t blackmail. When you look at it from their point of view—from the point of view of any other, any other country, really—if we say, as President Bush did on September 20 in his new national security doctrine, “We are entitled to stage preemptive military action, including nuclear strike against any country we think is a potential threat to the peace,” naturally other countries are going to attempt to deter that kind of action by us.
To think of it as blackmail, when North Korea says to us, “Look, you’re posing a nuclear threat to us. If you want us to give up our nuclear capability, you have to remove that gun from our head in the first place. And you have to recognize that we feel very insecure because we think your whole posture of not normalizing relations with us is designed to fence us in economically, which just threatens our security in another way. So you’re worried about certain security problems; so are we. If you address our security concerns we’ll address yours.”
BOYD: Selig Harrison is Director of International Security for the Center for International Policy. He has recently written a new book entitled The Korean Endgame: A Strategy for Reunification and US Disengagement. For Common Ground, I’m Cliff Brockman.
Listen to This Segment
Broadcasting Board of Governors
PORTER: As the world focuses on the US-led war on terrorism, the United States is fighting an entirely different battle—one that many Americans are completely unaware of. The US is engaged in a sophisticated effort to win over public support in countries from the Middle East to China, from Afghanistan to South America. And the tool that Washington is increasingly using to reach the peoples of nations often hostile to the United States, is radio. Steve Mort takes a look at how America is taking to the airwaves in its struggle for public opinion in almost every corner of the globe.
[The sound of Radio Sawa, broadcasting in Arabic.]
STEVE MORT: The sound of Radio Sawa—a pop music station broadcasting to the Middle East—but this isn’t just any radio station. It’s run by the American government, and its studios are right here in Washington, DC.
NORMAN PATTIZ: What we discovered was that there was a media war that was, in fact, going on throughout the entire Middle East, and the weapons of that war included hate radio and television, incitement to violence, disinformation, government censorship, and journalistic self-censorship. And obviously the United States did not have a horse in this race.
MORT: Norman Pattiz is the Chairman of the Middle East Committee of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is responsible for US government radio transmissions in the region. He says Radio Sawa’s diet of Arabic and western pop music, news, and US culture, is proving to be one of America’s most effective weapons in its battle for Arab opinion.
[The sound of Radio Sawa, broadcasting in Arabic.]
MORT: A recent survey in the Jordanian capital Amman showed over 50 percent of the station’s target audience of people over 25, said Radio Sawa was their favorite station, and 35 percent thought it carried the most accurate news. Norman Pattiz says the figures are astonishing.
PATTIZ: We knew that we would attract, with our modern format of, which is music driven, where we play contemporary Arabic and western pop music blended together—we knew that would attract a very, very large audience, but I don’t think we believed that our news would get the traction that it’s demonstrating now, as quickly as it has.
MORT: But not everyone is happy.
DEPA FERNANDEZ: The United States figures that it has to go in there, be it militarily or be it via radio broadcasts, and teach the people. It’s very condescending. It’s very patronizing.
MORT: Depa Fernandez is the host of the syndicated radio show, Free Speech Radio News, which campaigns against what she describes as US propaganda.
FERNANDEZ: It’s not only in the Middle East. You see it throughout Asia, you see it in South Asia, in India, in Pakistan. What this represents is the US bringing their culture, which again is a culture of materialism and what we need to mourn, what we need to look at, that is happening, is the loss of many cultures around the world—the Westernization, the globalization of a McDonald’s culture.
MORT: It’s not just the United States that’s upping its presence on the dial. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority use radio to bombard the other with information, and even Osama bin Laden has taken to the airwaves on the pan-Arab TV channel Al-Jazerra. Radio Sawa’s Norman Pattiz says, in an age where America’s enemies are using the media to damage the reputation of the United States, it’s vital the US fight back. He denies the government is simply involved in pedaling propaganda.
FERNANDEZ: We are not a propaganda organization. We are an organization with a journalistic mission. We are a news organization. US international broadcasting, which includes the Voice Of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and others, you know, has a long tradition—a 60-year tradition—of providing balanced and truthful news and information. The mission of US international broadcasting is to promote freedom and democracy through the free flow of accurate, reliable, and credible news and information.
MORT: But Depa Fernandez is suspicious of the government’s motives.
FERNANDEZ: If the US was serious in wanting to provide, you know, this alternative, why not fund, why not provide funds to local cultural groups, to local political groups, to—why not provide funds so that locals can, in fact, make their own media. They can promote their own culture, they can have their own internal political discussions?
MORT: The power of radio to reach large audiences did not go unnoticed by political leaders as far back as the 1930s.
[The sound of a World War II radio broadcast criticizing the Hitler Youth.]
MORT: During the Second World War, Germany began broadcasting more English-language programs abroad to gain support, and the government banned all non-German radio programs at home. In 1938, Hitler used radio to broadcast the intentions of his Nazi government to other nations, and Britain and America in turn broadcast programs to Germany. In fact, it’s claimed stations like the US-funded Radio Free Europe had a lot to do with the fall of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia. Shanthi Kalathil, with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, specializes in the political impact of communication technology. She says the task facing US stations like the Voice of America is very different today than during the war.
SHANTHI KALATHIL: In certain cases in the past, during the cold war, you know, there has been tremendous local support for programs like VOA. In Poland, for instance, people looked to these radio programs as a source of independent news. But I think it’s also important to realize the new realities that we’re facing, you know, at the present time. The fact that in a lot of these target audiences you’re not going to be encountering an audience that is sympathetic to the US inherently. And so, rather than simply broadcasting US news, I think that the State Department, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, have decided to focus on a less “beat you over the head” sort of approach.
MORT: Indeed, one of the latest examples of American broadcasts overseas is the new pro-American radio station in Afghanistan, believed to be a part of the US military’s so-called Psychological Operations in the country. The use of radio by the American government is one of the most controversial methods of public diplomacy. Critics say the US is using its position as a super power to impose its culture on other parts of the world. But those involved in the broadcasts say that’s simply not true. With their mission being to carry the truth to far flung parts of the globe where the only other source of information available is that provided by regimes often hostile to the American way. For Common Ground, I’m Steve Mort in Washington.
PORTER: If you have questions or comments about today’s program, visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org or e-mail us at [email protected]
ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is a Stanley Foundation production. On the Web at stanleyfoundation.org.
PORTER: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
PORTER: I’m Keith Porter. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, overcoming barriers to international adoption.
PATRICIA HUFF: It seems, for every new family formed, there’s a sad tale of potential parents scammed out of thousands of dollars by unscrupulous adoption brokers.
PORTER: Plus, a Minnesota couple’s journey to “Adopt Diego.” And Broadway goes to Moscow.
NICHOLAS HOWEY: There are more dreams in Russia. Russia is an incredible place right now. And I’ve heard it described as a frontier. It is.
Listen to This Segment
PORTER: In the past decade, the number of children adopted from other countries into the United States more than doubled, from just over 7,000 in 1990 to over 18,000 in 2000. At the same time, the international community has tried to standardize and equalize the process, with the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption, which has been ratified by the US Senate. While the number of international adoptions continues to rise, as Priscilla Huff reports, the process is not always easy, and significant problems remain.
PATRICIA HUFF: Across America, hundreds of thousands of adults yearn to be parents. Around the world, hundreds of thousands of babies need parents. The challenge is bringing them together, across geographical and legal divides, and that’s a continuing concern for officials in Washington. For Nancy Robertson, who adopted her daughter Grace from China on Christmas Eve 1994, she was inspired to advocate for international adoption the moment her husband put their baby in her arms.
NANCY ROBERTSON: There I saw Brooks holding the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen. He walked toward me and handed her to me and I said, “I love you Grace.” From that moment until this, I cannot imagine my life without her. On that Christmas Eve, I saw in her eyes, all of the children.
HUFF: The Robertson’s journey to China to bring home their daughter was probably expensive. Adoptive parents can spend more than $20,000 in fees and travel to adopt from overseas. And it seems, for every new family formed, like the Robertsons, there’s a sad tale of potential parents scammed out of thousands of dollars by unscrupulous adoption brokers. That’s where the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption comes in. This agreement, signed by more than 40 countries, is designed to ensure the rights of the children being adopted and the parents-to-be. The Senate has ratified the treaty, but the legislative process has been stalled. Susan Soon-Keum Cox is an adoption advocate with Holt International Children Services.
SUSAN SOON-KEUM COX: I think that everyone is waiting to see what happens with the United States and what the regulations look like.
HUFF: The Hague conventions call for a single government agency to regulate inter-country adoptions. Right now, if adoptive parents find themselves the victim of a scam, just about the only recourse they have is to turn to their local Better Business Bureau, because adoption is currently regulated on a state level, not national. Susan Cox says some nations, like China, have taken the lead in complying with the new Hague conventions.
SOON-KEUM COX: The most important thing that they already have in place is a strong central authority. In fact, it’s something that the United States really doesn’t have yet. When you consider Romania that started out with huge numbers and what’s happened there; when you look at Cambodia, how fast the numbers grew, and how it’s now at a standstill, China really did do it right from the very beginning.
HUFF: China established China Center for Adoption Affairs as part of its liberalization of international adoption in 1991. The US Congress is still wrangling over which department should manage international adoption. Some want the State Department to do it, because American diplomats maintain key relationships with foreign agencies. Others think Health and Human services is the natural place because children born in other nations have higher rates of medical problems, from nutritional deficits to hepatitis and mental illness. Immigration and Naturalization Services is already a key player. Adoptive parent Nancy Johnson.
NANCY JOHNSON: There is a very major downfall on this end, which is through the INS, and that is the extraordinary process in terms of the wait period to be cleared. There are definite, very clear devices that could be put in place to help expedite from our end and set an example, knocking out big chunks of bureaucracy that are simply not necessary. Again I think a great stride was the citizenship issue, which is now retroactive.
HUFF: That’s the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which granted full citizenship to children born abroad and adopted by US citizens, just as the children of American citizens born abroad automatically have full rights. But, adoption expert Susan Cox says problems remain.
SUSAN SOON-KEUM COX: While that seemed like a wonderful breakthrough, what has not yet happened is that INS has not created a mechanism or procedure for that to really kick in. So while officially, once a child arrives from another country, they should be able to, have automatic citizenship, but they still have to apply for a passport or some other procedure, and it’s been over a year.
HUFF: The problems with the paperwork include an apparent inability to publish a correct fee schedule, forcing parents to endure sometimes inexplicable delays. And, while the State Department and INS slog through the regulations writing process, officially, the Bush administration has taken a stand to promote adoption, increasing the tax deductions for expenses related to the process to $10,000. For Common Ground, I’m Priscilla Huff.
PORTER: Coming up next on Common Ground, a personal story of international adoption. And later, American theater makes a splash in Russia.
Listen to This Segment
For Kid’s Sake
Guatemala From World Press Review
PORTER: International adoption is more than statistics and international policies—it’s about people. Beginning this week, and continuing for two more weeks, we’ll follow a Minnesota couple as they try to adopt a Guatemalan baby. Lori Stern and Dan Lake fell in love and got married in their 40’s. Even before their wedding, they began research on overseas adoption. Our story begins as Lori boards a plane for Guatemala City. She’s going to get their newborn baby, Diego, and bring him home.
[The sound of flying jet aircraft.]
LORI JOHNSON: It’s February 17th, 1999. I go to Guatemala City to meet our baby. The adoption agency says I can stay in his foster home for a couple of weeks. That’s how long it will take to finish his paperwork, they tell me. Diego Rodrigo Chicai Petse?? is five and a half months old. We’ve been working on this adoption since before he was born. And I’m impatient to meet him.
[The sound of people greeting one another at an airport.]
JOHNSON: The plane lands about 9:00 p.m. I see a woman holding up a sheet of paper with my name on it. She kisses me and points to someone holding a little bundle in a blue blanket. He doesn’t mind when I take him in my arms.
[The sound of an excited conversation at the airport as Ms. Johnson is holding Diego.]
JOHNSON: Diego’s being at the airport is the first of countless surprises. And one of the only happy ones.
[The sound of Guatemalan music, which continues to play in the background.]
JOHNSON: I almost didn’t adopt at all. The rules of the game seemed unfair, because I happened to be born a middle class North American, I could afford to pay for a baby born to a woman who couldn’t afford to keep him. But at 43 I was finally ready for the complex commitments of motherhood. I wanted a baby and adoption made sense. I chose Guatemala because I knew something about the place and it’s people. I spoke some Spanish, anticipated visiting the country as our child grew up, and did enough research to know that most adopting parents got young, healthy babies. And yes, I had heard about allegations of corruption. But I reassured myself they were mostly unsubstantiated and didn’t involve my adoption agency.
[A video game or TV program plays in the background.]
JOHNSON: I’m not sure what I’m expecting but Diego’s foster home is not it. It’s one room shared by Estella, the foster mom, her three school-age kids and the two babies they care for. Estella’s two boys share the lower bunk. The 12-year-old girl has the top one. Estella and the baby sleep together in a separate bed so soft they disappear into it. A wardrobe has a TV perched on top. It’s always on.
[A video game or TV program plays in the background.]
JOHNSON: The babies spend most of their day sunk in the bed on their backs watching cartoons or soap operas. There’s a tiled bathroom down the hall that appears more functional than it is. It has a sink, a bathtub, and a toilet. But no running water. This we bring in pails from the pila??, or communal sink, in the courtyard. Estella also has a hot plate she uses to boil water for the babies’ formula. I am to sleep in a room down the hall, just past the bathroom. Diego sleeps next to me in a wicker crib the agency bought especially for my visit. The first thing the next morning I make a videotape to FedEx to my husband back in Minnesota.
[The sound of Ms. Johnson talking in baby-talk to Diego as she makes the videotape. Then the sound of heavy street traffic becomes the dominant background sound.]
JOHNSON: Our rooms are on the ground floor, separated from the busy street by a cement block wall. The small windows are barred and covered with heavy material. The rooms feel like prison to me, with their stark single light bulbs. Then there are the street noises that make it sound as though we’re actually living in traffic.
[The sound of heavy street traffic.]
JOHNSON: I got an e-mail from my friend Donna.
LORI’S FRIEND DONNA: [Lori reads her e-mail, with the sound of a clacking keyboard in the background] Any read on what steps have to happen before you can bring the little guy home? We can’t wait, and I don’t think that you want your loved ones coming down to share your room, seven to a room.
JOHNSON: Estella sprays pesticides morning and night. But every day I see as many live cockroaches as dead ones. These don’t bother me as much as the pervasive chemical stench. I wonder about its effects on the kids.
[The sound of a violin being played by a young violinist, which continues in the background.]
JOHNSON: Estella’s place was pretty typical of the foster homes I came to know. The care was loving and responsible. But you could understand why many Guatemalan babies skip crawling altogether. There’s no place you’d want to put them down until they’re ready to walk. Foster mothers like Estella can legally care for up to two babies. For their services they receive between $80 and $200 a month for each child. From their wages they buy diapers and formula—very expensive. These women, many single mothers with no other source of income, are dependent on the system. Without income from the adoption agencies they’d be working long days in factories away from their own kids. Or maybe they’d even be on the streets.
[The sound of traffic, which continues in the background.]
JOHNSON: Estella and I establish a kind of formal relationship. She calls me “Dona Lori,” and always uses “usted” instead of “te.”?? So I’m surprised one day when she asks me to go with her and 9-year-old Cesar??, to a free clinic on the other end of town. I can’t understand why she wants my company. But as we stand waiting in a succession of bus stops, I get it. She needs me to read the destination signs on the buses. It dawns on me what it must feel like to be illiterate. How it limits your ability to get around and shrinks your options.
LORI’S HUSBAND, DAN LAKE: [with the sound of a clacking keyboard in the background.] I got an e-mail from Lori one night. [Now he reads Lori’s e-mail.] “Estella doesn’t even know how to sign her name. She never went to school. You should have seen us navigating the city today with her not reading and me not speaking. Sunday I think was when I officially feel in love with Diego. He’s irresistible. So much fun. The favorite of Estella’s family. Sometimes the wait and the not knowing seems unbearable, but there’s no choice. And Dan, the pay-out’s going to be great.”
[The sound of a flying jet aircraft.]
PORTER: Next week, we’ll follow Lori through a number of delays as she tries to bring Diego home. “Adopting Diego” is part of the For Kids’ Sake radio series. For a link to their site, go to commongroundradio.org.
PORTER: You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
Listen to This Segment
PORTER: Since the fall of the Soviet Union 10 years ago, Moscow has been transformed from the heart of the “evil empire” to the commercial and cultural center of a country in the heady and sometimes dangerous early stages of capitalism. One of the latest Western imports to take Moscow by storm is American musical theater, direct from Broadway. The classic musical comedy 42nd Street burst onto Moscow’s theater scene earlier this year, and Common Ground‘s Judith Smelser spoke with two people involved in the sometimes bumpy production.
[Sounds of music from the Broadway musical 42nd Street.]
SMELSER: 42nd Street is a Broadway musical about—Broadway. Set in the 1930s, the glitzy spectacle, filled with jazzy tunes and flashy tap dances, is the story of a first-time Broadway chorus girl who suddenly gets the chance to step into the starring role. It’s the classic story of the American dream—but it’s touched a chord in Russia, too.
NICHOLAS HOWEY: There are more dreams in Russia. Russia is an incredible place right now. I’ve heard it described as a frontier. It is.
SMELSER: Nicholas Howey is the executive producer of the show.
HOWEY: There’s a lot happening and there’s an energy like I’ve never experienced before. If ever the time was right to do a musical, I’m not sure about an American dream, it’s about anybody’s dream—that I can have anything and nothing can stop me and if we all work together we can accomplish our dream—it seems, I think was perfect.
SMELSER: Howey’s US-based production company, Troika Entertainment, produces touring versions of Broadway shows, mostly in North America. But earlier this year, he was approached by a entrepreneur named Boris Krasnov, a mover and shaker in the so-called New Russia. Krasnov believed Moscow was ready for Broadway, and he thought 42nd Street was the right show to debut. Nicholas Howey agreed to bring Troika on board, and so the bumpy ride began.
HOWEY: 42nd Street‘s a very unusual arrangement. Basically we were responsible for hiring the creative team, all of the talent, the rehearsal procedure, securing the rights to the property. And normally we would also be responsible for the entire physical production—the lights, the sound—but in this case, our Russian partners provided the lights. We had light designers, sound designers, but they provided all that equipment. The physical production was created by Krasnov Designs, so they designed the show and they renovated the theater. So it was a real partnership.
SMELSER: The creative team that Troika put together was top notch. The star of the show came to Moscow straight from playing the same role on Broadway, and the director-choreographer of the Tony Award-winning revival of the musical was also brought on board. But the technical aspects were more challenging. Sets and costumes weren’t finished until the last minute, and the sound system had glitches even at the first preview performance. Nicholas Howey says the reasons for the problems ranged from performing in a newly renovated theater, to dealing with Russian customs regulations, to working with people who simply had no background in the complexities of American musical theater.
HOWEY: All the Russians were very experienced in the arts and in design, but there’s something about this, about a Broadway musical and this one, this one is really complicated. And it moves fast, and there’s a lot of sets and costumes and you don’t have time. And there’s as much choreography backstage as there is onstage. And I, I’m not sure—heck, I don’t think I understood it was that complicated. I think it was pretty mind-boggling to the Russians who were used to doing the Bolshoi Ballet.
SMELSER: And then there was the question of translation. The Russian investors thought audience members should have the option of hearing a simultaneous Russian translation through headphones. But the first draft of the Russian version was a far cry from the innocent picture of 1930s America that is the very essence of 42nd Street. There were references to prostitutes and abortion and even Viagra. Actor Lew Lloyd, who plays one of the show’s principle characters, believes the translators were trying to reflect today’s America instead of the America from time gone by.
LEW LLOYD: I think it was just a difference in the lexicon. The language of that era in America versus how it would translate now in modern language. I think some of the jokes and the gags of that era were a bit lost on the translators.
SMELSER: But he says they’re not lost on the audience, now that a new draft of the translation is being played through the headphones. They laugh in all the right places, he says, and the reviews have been glowing.
LLOYD: This type of theater is very new here, and I think it’s somewhat of a curiosity, and then when the audience gets in there and realizes what’s going on and how quickly it moves and how enormous the sets are, I think they’re really taken by the whole, by the whole genre of the Broadway musical.
SMELSER: While musicals may be new to Russia, theater definitely is not. The country has a rich history of excellence in the performing arts and Lew Lloyd says he and his fellow cast members have taken advantage of the opportunity to learn from their Russian hosts, seeing numerous plays, operas, and ballets. He says he’s constantly amazed that he’s able to do these things in a country that less than two decades ago was America’s arch enemy.
LLOYD: If you had told me as a young boy that I would be doing this I would have thought you were crazy. And if you had told me as a young man beginning my acting career in New York in the mid-’70s that I would be doing this I would have told you you were crazy. [laughs] But now I’m the one that’s crazy. I’m here and I’m having a great time.
SMELSER: Audiences are having a great time, too, but not everyone can afford to be in the audience. Tickets average $35 US each, which is as much as a quarter of the average Russian’s monthly salary. Is there a danger of Broadway becoming an elitist attraction in Russia? Executive Producer Nicholas Howey says maybe so.
HOWEY: It would seem so, wouldn’t it? But I know they have things like student rushes, and we’re in a very large theater—we have 2,100 seats. So I think when we come and visit that marketing question, I will say exactly what you said. Because we’re all pioneering, and the Russian team and the American team will sit down and say, “Is there any danger that Broadway could become an elitist attraction?” Because I think it’s a good question.
SMELSER: However they decide to address it, Howey says he does expect 42nd Street to be the first of many Broadway shows to run in Moscow. That, in fact, was the original idea, and he says the Russian investors who’re putting up the capital for the project are even more committed to it now that 42nd Street is up and running. Asked what show will come next, he says anything’s possible, from Cats to Saturday Night Fever to West Side Story to Phantom of the Opera. But actor Lew Lloyd says he has just one criteria for the next show.
LLOYD: Anything with a good role in it for me!
SMELSER: For Common Ground Radio, I’m Judith Smelser.
[Sounds of music from the Broadway musical 42nd Street.]
PORTER: That’s our show for this week. If you have questions or comments about today’s program, visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org or e-mail us at [email protected] Please drop us a line—we’d love to hear from you. Transcripts and information on how to order copies of this and other Common Ground programs are also available on our Web site: commongroundradio.org. I’m Keith Porter. Kristin McHugh is our Producer. Cliff Brockman is Associate Producer. B.J. Liederman created our theme music. Additional compositions by Wink Music.
ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is a Stanley Foundation production. The Stanley Foundation: promoting public understanding, constructive dialogue, and cooperative action on critical international issues. On the Web at stanleyfoundation.org.