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Adventures in a Moroccan Medina

Posted By IRC, Monday, October 9, 2017
Updated: Sunday, October 8, 2017

While studying abroad for a semester in France, I had the opportunity to visit approximately a dozen countries. The most culturally enriching experience was the four days I spent staying in the heart of the Medina in Casablanca, Morocco. Admittedly, I picked Casablanca because it was the cheapest flight and because I love the film named after it. Although many friends told me I should have booked a trip to Marrakech instead, I remained optimistic and was rewarded with a wonderful, peaceful weekend in a beautiful port city unlike any I have ever been to.

So many things about Casablanca are so drastically different than what I was accustomed to. The streets are narrow and constantly bustling with cars, motorbikes, and pedestrians, and every morning I woke up to the sound of morning prayers being led over the loudspeaker from the mosque down the street. Morocco is unlike anywhere else I have ever been, yet I was frequently reminded of home.

The hospitality shown to me by my hosts and the shop owners in the Medina helped me to recall the kindness that Kansas City is so well known for. There was a group of children that played soccer every afternoon and between games of tag we would sit and I’d listen to their stories from school, just like the children I have babysat and watched grow up in my own neighborhood. At the time I had already been living abroad for four months, but this was quite honestly the first time I felt homesick. Between wandering through the Medina, visiting the beautiful Hassan II Mosque, and eating a whole lot of tajine, I was able to find a little piece of home in this wonderful new land, and it brings me joy to think that someone from Casablanca might be able to find a piece of home here, too.

Jessie Roach is a senior at the University of Kansas studying Global and International Studies and Political Science.

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Crisis in Venezuela

Posted By IRC, Monday, October 2, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

Venezuela has been in the news for many months for a number of different issues. Political strife and deep economic issues have plagued the country for some time. This political tension has caused many anti-government protests that have resulted in the death of dozens of people. These issues have also resulted in many starving citizens. Let’s take a look at some of the problems and what is causing them.

Venezuelan politics are split into two groups: Chavistas are those who support the socialist ideals of the late president Hugo Chavez, and the other group opposes their ideals. The current president, Nicolas Maduro, is a Chavista who has continued Chavez’s policies. This has resulted in many protests against the government by those who think Chavistas have destroyed Venezuela’s democratic institutions and mismanaged the economic budget.

Oil has long been the leading source of revenue for the country, accounting for 95 percent of Venezuela’s export revenues. Their oil revenue has declined significantly due to decisions made during the Chavez government, which has had significant effects on the economy.

Inflation has been another considerable economic problem in Venezuela, as the currency has become increasingly worthless. In early July, the minimum wage increased 50 percent. Knowledge of macroeconomics shows that this adjustment does not solve the inflation issue and could make the problem even worse. According to the International Monetary Fund, the country’s inflation could reach up to 720 percent by the end of this year. The main cause of this hyperinflation has been government overspending and mismanaged funds. Food, medicine, and cash shortages have also contributed to the issue.

These are the political and economic issues that Venezuela is currently dealing with. We can only hope that these problems can be resolved in a way that restores stability within Venezuela.

 

References:

CNN
BBC

John Pawlewicz is a senior at the University of Kansas studying Economics.

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Lessons from Versailles: Isolationism, Victory, and Repercussions

Posted By IRC, Monday, September 25, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

When World War One finally ended on the November 11, 1918, more than 38 million military and civilian casualties had been reported between both sides, making this war one of the deadliest conflicts in human history. As a result of the war, the governments of four European powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russian, and Ottoman Empire) collapsed. The Allied Powers, led by Great Britain, France, and the United States, spearheaded the Paris Peace Conference. The Treaty of Versailles declared that Germany was responsible for starting the war and for causing all of the war’s destruction. Because the treaty was extremely (but not effectively) coercive, the Treaty of Versailles was destined to fail and should not have been expected to last more than twenty years.

Coming into November of 1918, both the Allied and the German armies were completely exhausted and ready for an armistice. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson offered his Fourteen Points as groundwork for a peace settlement after the war was over. The Germans, knowing fully well that they were very nearly exhausting their military in terms of personnel and supplies, decided to sue for peace on the terms of Wilson’s Fourteen Points. The armistice was signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, and all fighting ceased.

Going into to the peace talks, the German government was under the impression that the Allies would honor Wilson’s Fourteen Points, as that was what they had advertised to the Germans in order to get them to stop fighting. However, once the German envoy arrived in Paris, they found that the British and French had instead planned for an unconditional surrender on the part of the Germans, as well as severe reparation payments, extremely limited military, and demilitarization of the industrial areas of Germany.

Due to the unclear communication, and the resultant punitive settlements the Germans agreed to, the German people felt betrayed for years after the war. After the Treaty of Versailles was signed, both the United States and United Kingdom resigned to very isolated positions in the international system. The United States Congress also failed to ratify the treaty to join the League of Nations. With neither the US nor UK wanting to involve themselves in European affairs, France was left as the sole enforcer of the Treaty of Versailles.

Building off of the animosity that stemmed from the miscommunication by the Allies and the French occupation, Adolf Hitler was able stroke the nationalistic fervor that was rising in Germany. By now, the credibility of the Treaty of Versailles was beginning to wear off, to the point where it was completely ignored.

After reviewing the Treaty of Versailles, the Supreme Allied Commander, Ferdinand Foch, proclaimed: “This is not a peace. This is an armistice for twenty years.” Foch’s words proved to be prophetic as the Second World War began 20 years and 64 days after the Treaty of Versailles was signed. The treaty was flawed from the beginning, demanding impossibly high reparations and humiliating Germany on the international stage. The French lacked the true capability and credibility to effectively enforce the treaty, which as a result was eventually ignored. It was too late for Europe once the British and French actually started to worry about Germany. Luckily, the Allies learned from the mistakes of the Versailles Treaty and were able to end World War II effectively and maintain peace for more than 75 years.

 

References:

History
Wikipedia

Peter Fortunato is a sophomore at the University of Miami Ohio, pursuing a Bachelor degree in both International Studies and Statistics, and minoring in Spanish.

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America's UN Promises: Contradictions within Foreign Policy?

Posted By IRC, Monday, September 18, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

In June, the United States joined a United Nations resolution supporting the protection of human rights from the impact of climate change. Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Vietnam – all developing, coastal countries most affected by the consequences of climate change – introduced the resolution to the UN Human Rights Council on June 22, 2017. When the text was first introduced it was unclear whether the U.S. would support the resolution, given the Trump administration's past actions regarding international climate change (such as withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and refusing to endorse a joint statement on climate change at the G7 summit in Italy in May).

The U.S. had a few routes they could have taken with respect to the resolution in the UN Human Rights Council. They could have voted against it, abstained from voting, or voted in favor of it. If they were to vote against it, it would have actively undermined the action towards supporting protection of human rights from the impact of climate change. Or the U.S. could have been more passive and abstained from voting. But by actively supporting the resolution, it shows the rest of the world that the U.S. is still interested in continuing, at least at some level, a proactive international climate change initiative that characterized the Obama administration.

The resolution itself acknowledges that climate change is impacting human rights and states have to take action to address climate change. Although the resolution is not binding, it calls on participating countries to take steps to better integrate human rights into climate action. Specifically, the resolution focuses on two specific issues. The first issue is that children are the most vulnerable groups to the impacts of climate change. The resolution insists on the recognition of existing obligations under international law for governments and businesses to protect the rights and interests of children when taking climate change action. The resolution also addresses the challenges climate-induced migrants face. These challenges include anything from rising sea levels to flooding arable land.

Debates and negotiations within the UN regarding the interlinkage between climate change and human rights have been going on for many years. Although American support represents a global consensus on the resolution, it hardly counters the Trump administration’s policy steps the past few months. Most recently, Trump has promised to end U.S. payments to the Green Climate Fund, a finance mechanism meant to help developing countries pay for climate adaptation and mitigation projects. But part of the human rights resolution that the U.S. signed calls on developed countries to continue payments to the Green Climate Fund, something the Trump administration has explicitly promised it will not do; this shows where the current administration’s policies are at odds with the UN human rights resolution. 

References

Climate Change News

 

Avery Dorsey is a third-year senior at American University in Washington D.C., and is studying for a degree in International Relations with a minor in Chinese.

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Member Spotlight: Shari Wilson

Posted By IRC, Monday, September 11, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I have been a member of the IRC since 2005. My husband Chris Steineger and I love to travel, have been to more than 50 countries, and host delegations for dinners at our home through the Global Ties KC organization. As well as being involved with Global Ties KC, Chris is a former IRC board member.

Additionally, I have given talks and programs on climate change, Green Schools, and environmental education in Armenia, the Republic of Georgia, and Germany. Recently, I traveled to Vietnam and Laos; the State Department funded two teacher-training workshops (one in each country, about 170 teachers total) on using art to teach environmental concepts. We also held community festivals in each location. The workshops were very well received – I learned as much as I taught (if not more), and we are working on future projects! 

To nominate another IRC member or to share your own story as it relates to international relations, please click here ».

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India and the Largest Solar Power Project in the World

Posted By IRC, Monday, September 4, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

In modern society, the need for power is an ever-present, yet often overlooked reality. Every time we use our cars or phones, every time we turn on the lights or cook something on our stoves, we need power. The question of how to obtain that power is an important one and many believe that finding sustainable power sources will be a key part of ensuring the future prosperity of humanity. There are many innovative ideas about sustainable energy sources, but one of the most recognizable and readily accessible is solar energy.  

Today I would like to focus on a huge solar energy project that most people have probably never heard about. Tucked away in the town of Kamuthi in the Ramanathapuram district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu is the world’s largest solar plant. Completed in September of last year the Kamuthi Solar Power Project spreads out over an area of 2,500 acres, contains 2.5 million solar panels, and has a capacity of 648 megawatts. Despite its massive scale the project took only approximately eight months to complete. When working at full capacity this plant will produce enough energy to power close to 150,000 homes. In addition to providing clean energy to thousands of families the plant itself is something to be marveled at. Not only does the sheer size of the plant compensate for whatever cloud cover may come its way, but some of its maintenance is self-powered. To keep the panels working at peak capacity they need to be cleaned of dust and dirt regularly. Instead of using thousands of gallons of water to do this, the plant uses solar powered, dry cleaning robots that provide daily upkeep of the solar panels.

The project was commissioned by Adani Power and cost $679 million to build. With the success of this plant, Adani is contributing to a national goal of powering 60 million homes with solar energy by the year 2020. Should India meet this goal it will take its place as one of the top three solar energy producers in the world alongside China and the United States.

 

References:

Al Jazeera
BBC
Clean Technica

Annelissa Taylor is a second-year Master student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and is working toward her degree in Public Administration.

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Flooding in Peru

Posted By IRC, Monday, August 28, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

March and April 2017 were two of the most disastrous months for Peru since 1998. During its rainy season, Peru received ten times more rain than it typically receives, displacing thousands of people. Several towns and homes were washed away as rivers rose and landslides swept, making regions in Peru uninhabitable. A reported 70+ were killed in the floods and more than 70,000 people fled their homes and are now homeless. More than 50 percent of Peru is in emergency status and disaster relief programs are in effect. Leaders in Peru believe that the rains are due to climate change since glaciers in the Andes have already retreated and crop cycles have had major shifts.

                               


Being from Peru, this development is close to my heart as I have extended family members who were in danger from the flooding. However, I found that my family in Peru provided aid during natural disasters. In March I scrolled through Facebook to find uncles and cousins post videos of themselves building sandbag barriers to divert rushing rivers going through streets. This was at the very beginning of the season, when no one knew the extent of the damage the rains would cause nationwide. Thankfully, no one in my family was negatively affected by the flooding.


The height of the flooding took place several months ago, but the cleanup, along with the need for national and international aid, continue. Medical supplies are still being collected in the 50 percent chance that El Niño shows up later this year.

 

 

References:

 

New York Times
Global Giving
CNN

 

Luigi Cruz is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Missouri–Kansas City studying for a bachelor's degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in marketing.

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Rejecting Intolerance

Posted By IRC, Monday, August 21, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

My hometown of Overland Park, Kansas is a bubble. Not in the sense that nothing can get out, but it seems as if no danger, poverty, or real world ugliness can penetrate the city limits. The same can be said about Leawood, Prairie Village, and Mission Hills: nothing bad happens here. We know that terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and engineering disasters occur all the time, but their absence from our communities has tricked us into believing that we are immune to them. Which is why we are caught unprepared to confront these ugly realities when hate crimes occur in our neighborhoods, including the 2014 Overland Park Jewish Community shootings and the shooting at an Olathe bar in February 2017.

The shooting at the Jewish Community Center had a profound effect on me when it first happened. Since I was born, the JCC has retained an important and changing role in my life though I am not a part of the Jewish faith. From attending preschool and summer day camps at the JCC to having been employed there for more than three years, the Jewish Community Center has integrated itself and an educated understanding of the Jewish faith into my life. The JCC is as much of a part of the Johnson County bubble as anything else with which I had constant interaction.

That bubble burst on April 14, 2014, when I received a text message from my boss at the JCC warning all employees to stay away as a shooting had taken place. In an age where mass shootings garner undivided attention from the American public to the delight of 24-hour news networks, I still felt compelled to spend the next several hours figuring out what was going on, if every one of my coworkers and other members were okay. I wasn’t scheduled to work that day, but that didn’t calm the reality of the situation in which someone decided to attack a community that I have been a part of my entire life.

The only way to recover from a tragedy like this is not to repair the protective bubble that was burst. We cannot let our socioeconomic privilege and culturally segregated community provide a false sense of security from reality. We must instead recognize that we are not immune to hate and understand the importance of coming together and rejecting intolerance and violence. 

 

Peter Fortunato is a sophomore at the University of Miami Ohio, pursuing a Bachelor degree in both International Studies and Statistics, and minoring in Spanish.

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Member Spotlight: Holly Nielsen, Baring Vostok Capital Partners

Posted By IRC, Monday, August 14, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 17, 2017

Life is a journey; and careers can be too. Coming of age in the 1970s meant a fascination with the Soviet Union. President Nixon’s visit to Moscow made quite an impression. In college during the years of U.S.-Soviet détente, I chose to study Russian as my foreign language. After KU Law School, I joined a law firm in Houston with energy clients. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and then the Soviet Union dissolved at the end of 1991, I worked with our energy clients on early commercial projects in Russia, and then excitedly moved to Moscow to open a branch office for the law firm in 1992.

For twenty years, I had a front-row seat at one of the most interesting historical events of my lifetime – Russia’s transition from a communist system and planned economy to a democratic system and commercial market economy. I worked in the Moscow offices of three U.S. law firms, and spent three years in the late '90s working with the Harvard Institute for International Development as an adviser to Russian government officials developing the securities market and securities regulation. Eleven years ago, I joined a client private equity firm as general counsel. Our investors are institutions in North America, Europe, and the Middle East, and the portfolio companies in which we invest are businesses operating in the former Soviet countries primarily in the areas of financial services, consumer goods, telecom and media, and minerals and mining.

My daughters began their education in Russian public preschools and primary schools, and I wanted them to transition to U.S. high schools and English language education for their secondary years. In 2010, we repatriated to Kansas City, but with a wonderful work arrangement: I continue to work as a lawyer for the international private equity firm, but from my home office in Kansas City, and with travel to Europe every couple of months.

The world is interconnected and virtual today; with the advantage of technology and early mornings, I happily work from the middle of the U.S. with my colleagues in Moscow, London, and Channel Islands and our investors around the world. I’m glad to have found the IRC community in Kansas City to share my love of foreign policy and all things international. 

 

To nominate another IRC member or to share your own story as it relates to international relations, please click here ».

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The Search for ISIS

Posted By IRC, Monday, August 7, 2017
Updated: Sunday, July 2, 2017

The United States continues the search for ISIS leaders; two of the most recent being pursued are Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Raw and Turki al-Bin’ali. Another example comes from late April when American commandos intercepted Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, who had been tracked by United States Special Operations forces for months. The helicopter-borne commandos had hoped to take Uzbeki alive, but a firefight broke out resulting in his death. Despite missing the chance to gather human intelligence, the commandos collected cellphones and other materials that proved useful for U.S. intelligence and military services.

 

 

Despite these successes and the continued hunt for ISIS leaders, the supreme leader and caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains at large as far as the U.S. is aware. The Russian government maintains that Baghdadi may have been killed in a Russian airstrike in Syria, but the U.S. military is unconvinced. Colonel Dillon, the spokesman for the international coalition fighting ISIS, affirms that there is no concrete evidence on whether or not Baghdadi is still active. Military officials say they don’t care whether Baghdadi was killed by Russians or the American-backed coalition.  

 

If Baghdadi is dead, one of his two lieutenants will likely take his place. Both former Iraqi army officers under Saddam Hussein, they are the War Minister Obaidi and head of ISIS's Amniya security agency, Jumaili. Ironically, Jumaili is in a similar situation to Baghdadi, with his death affirmed by some, but questioned by others. On April 1, Reuters reported that a statement from the Iraqi directorate of military intelligence confirms Jumaili’s death. However, U.S. military officials told NBC that the Iraqi military report was unconfirmed.

 

In summary, the U.S. and coalition forces, as well as Russia and its allies, are continuing attacks on ISIS and its leaders. However, there is a degree of uncertainty in the ongoing war. The first and second in command of ISIS could still be alive and well, directing ISIS and its atrocities from unknown locations.

 

References:

 

New York Times 1
New York Times 2
NBC
Reuters 1
Reuters 2

 

Jake Janeiro is a senior at the University of Kansas and is majoring in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations.


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10/24/2017
2017 CHINA Town Hall, featuring Ambassador Susan Rice

10/26/2017
Diplomat Luncheon: Mexican Ambassador to the U.S.

11/1/2017
IRC Book Club: China's Future

11/9/2017
2017 Global Honors Evening

2/3/2018
Academic WorldQuest 2018

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