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Book Review: Drift

Posted By IRC, Monday, July 30, 2018
Updated: Friday, July 13, 2018

Rachel Maddow is a public liberal political commentator and author. On MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” she stresses the importance of transparency and accountability from American leaders in regards to political affairs. She received her Bachelor's degree from Stanford University and a Doctorate of Philosophy from Lincoln College, Oxford.

Rachel Maddow’s Drift analyzes United States military history and involvement in international conflicts while simultaneously critiquing the unhinged executive power involved in the decision to declare war. Maddow dissects the Reagan administration and its use of cloak and dagger tactics when it came to disclosing military decisions to the American public. By exploring examples such as the U.S. invasion of Grenada, the Contragate scandal, and the Iran Hostage Crisis, among others, Maddow paints a revealing image of administrative power and secrecy. Maddow criticizes the Bush administration’s attitude towards removing Saddam Hussein from power and decision to go to war. Maddow shifts her focus towards the cost of war and how the U.S. tried reducing expenses by hiring out private contractors, which she says negatively affected the way the world viewed the United States military. Additionally, Maddow explains an American paradigm shift and acclimation to war, which she suggests should be alarming. She concludes her book by discussing the risks of the United States’ sizable nuclear stockpile. In her epilogue, she clearly outlines how she believes the United States should handle being at war, approach internal conflicts, deal weapons, reduce its nuclear infrastructure, and reduce executive power in the decision to go to war.

In this book, Maddow takes an intriguing look at the morality and ethics of war while considering whether CIA covert ops are truly necessary.  Overall, Rachel Maddow’s Drift effectively lays out the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to American military power, and proposes several solutions to said issues. While the book is left-leaning, it can appeal to a wide audience insofar as it provides interesting arguments that can ignite discussions around difficult topics.  


About the Author
Lea Spiers is a student at Illinois Wesleyan University studying International Studies and Pre-Med.

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2026 World Cup

Posted By IRC, Monday, July 23, 2018
Updated: Friday, July 13, 2018

In the midst of tariff escalations and immigration policies, it may seem there is currently little that Canada, the United States, and Mexico can agree on – except perhaps soccer. FIFA's announcement last month that North America would host the 2026 World Cup has thrilled American soccer fans disappointed in the U.S team's failure to qualify for the 2018 games. For local soccer enthusiasts, the announcement came with a bonus, as Kansas City was named as a potential host site. 

Even if your understanding of offsides is, like mine, a little confused, there is still plenty of reason to be excited about the potential of this global event landing in our backyard. For the first time, there will be 48 teams competing in the games and the opportunity for Kansas City to welcome players and fans from all corners of the world with our Midwestern hospitality.

Hosting the World Cup is more than just a chance for us to introduce the world to Kansas City, but also for the world to introduce itself to us. Every team, every fan has a story to tell, one of pride and hope and dreams, one worthy of our attention.

When that first whistle blows, we can leave dramatic domestic politics on the sidelines and focus instead on the drama of the tournament. We may serve as the summit for unlikely alliances created during the group stage, when a Korean win could mean success for Mexico. And when an underdog team inevitably makes a Cinderella run we may just have the chance to see in person the goal that sends watch parties thousands of miles away into joyful chaos.

Even if there isn't a home team to cheer on, there will still be plenty to celebrate. With any luck, crowded around the Power and Light District or cheering from the Arrowhead bleachers, we may all learn that our differences are not as big as the game that unites us.


About the Author
Morgan Biles is the Summer 2018 events intern at the IRC. She is a rising sophomore at Boston College and plans on majoring in political science and communications.

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Member Spotlight: Andrea Khan

Posted By IRC, Monday, July 16, 2018
Updated: Thursday, July 12, 2018

Andrea Khan is a graduate of the University of Utah with a degree in Anthropology. After living in Taiwan and later Kenya, Khan returned to Kansas City with a renewed sense of excitement to bring more world cultures to the area.

One of her most prominent contributions to the area includes the formation and continued involvement in an organization called Indigenous to Indigenous. Indigenous to Indigenous brings art and speakers from African countries to show the unique culture that comes from indigenous people around the world. The organization also works to connect indigenous Native American tribes in the United States with African countries. The primary goal of the organization is to get the perspective of the Indigenous people about their experiences and needs going forward.

Khan is highly involved in many other African-focused groups such as Wasim, Baraza African Cultures Center », the Ethnic Enrichment Commission », and Sister Cities ». As for committee involvement, she was member of the board for the Ecuadorian Association of Kansas City », served on the Refugee Immigrant Forum committee, and the World Refugee Day planning committee.

Around 20 years ago when she moved back to Kansas City, she and her husband were members of the IRC Speakers' Bureau » and would often present and speak about African art and culture they brought back. She also participated in the International Classroom Partnership program. Looking to the future, Khan hopes to continue developing her programs and connections in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania and urges people to get involved in the various programs promoting diversity within the Greater Kansas City area.


The IRC spotlights our members and their diverse work and interests in the international space. To learn more or to indicate interest in being spotlighted in an upcoming post, please visit: ».

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Global Education in Kansas City

Posted By IRC, Monday, July 9, 2018
Updated: Monday, July 2, 2018

Today’s world necessitates the inclusion of international topics in everyday educational and professional life. With the continual increase in globalization, the need for understanding international issues and connections is more important now than ever before. I, myself, only recently realized how global Kansas City is; it took me coming home from New York for the summer to fully see the range of international possibilities here and to appreciate the global connections between local universities, businesses, organizations, and people. The common misconception that Kansas City lies outside of major international networks is not only detrimental to the development of increased and improved global opportunities in the area, but it also hinders students’ abilities to see global interest and potential within themselves, so it is imperative that we as a Kansas City community work to promote the exposure of students to such opportunities right in our community.

As a step toward helping high school students realize their own global potential, the IRC is hosting a college and career fair Tuesday, October 16, in Union Station’s Grand Plaza. Appropriately titled “Your Global Future »,” the event will bring together representatives from colleges and universities, ethnic and cultural groups, government agencies, NGOs, performing and visual arts groups, museums, study abroad programs, and various international business sectors to showcase the vast array of globally tied opportunities available to students in both their near and distant futures. The diversity in this lineup of booths will not only allow Kansas City students to see both the number and range of international opportunities in the area, but it will also help guide high school youth, of all backgrounds and interests, toward discovering their value as students, future professionals, and members of a comprehensive global community, which is necessary for the further expansion of Kansas City as an international connected locality.


About the Author
Ellie Bartlett is the global education intern at the IRC for summer 2018. She is a rising junior at New York University. She is double majoring in global public health and sociology and minoring in peace and conflict studies.

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Cuban, Jayhawk, and Kansan

Posted By IRC, Monday, July 2, 2018
A glamorized country where people come to pursue new lives, the U.S. is a country built on immigration. The Cuban community has grown rapidly since 2014 when President Obama shared intentions in a USA Today post to normalize the relations between the U.S. and Cuba. After the U.S. announced plans to close the U.S. embassy in Cuba, I have seen more Cubans interested in relocation to the U.S. While Cuban immigrants resettle all over the world, the majority come to the U.S., with a particularly large Cuban community residing in Miami and other parts of Florida.

Kansas City, too, has served as home for many immigrants from Cuba and around the world. Cuban communities along with Cuban coffee shops in the northern United States seem to be more geographically dispersed than in Florida where we see a more concentrated population.

One can see evidence of the growing Cuban presence in Kansas City in the larger number of people engaging in conversations about the role of Cuban immigration and immigrant communities than before. Ernesto Ariel is an example of someone promoting dialogue on this issue. As a Cuban advocate in Kansas City, he convenes Cubans for coffee or lunch, where they are invited to share their experiences. Many establishments in the metro area, including Thou Mayest Coffee, have opened their doors to host such Cuban reunions.

The growing Cuban community can also be seen in the increase in Cuban options in restaurants, including mojitos, plantain chips, or Cuban sandwiches, as well as in the presence of music groups like KC Latin Jazz All-Stars, which provide a real taste of Cuban culture.

Indeed, one does not have to look far to see and feel the growing diversity within the Greater Kansas City region. Whether it's the Cuban community or the broader Latin American community, opportunities to experience and engage in these cultural groups abound.

About the Author
Reidel Rodriguez is the Summer 2018 community intern at the IRC. He is majoring in Global and International Studies with a specialization in Latin America and minoring in Business Administration at the University of Kansas.

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Collecting International Postage Stamps – Tiny Windows to the World

Posted By IRC, Monday, June 25, 2018
Updated: Friday, June 22, 2018

Why are there postage stamps? Roland Hill reformed the British post office in the late 1830s. Postage stamps were his answer to three problems. First, the old system where the recipient of the letter always paid for the postage was inefficient, because it required many trips to find the recipient and the recipients frequently wouldn't pay for mail they didn’t want to receive. Second, postmasters were pilfering revenue, and stamps provided an effective inventory control method: each letter needed postage stamps to transit the mail (not a rubber stamped "Paid" marking, as had been the practice), and the government needed correct payment from the postmaster for each stamp. Finally, postal rates were exorbitant, and it was believed more efficiency would be derived from greater volume resulting from lower rates. Roland Hill’s invention of the postage stamp was a great success; and, as a result, Great Britain is the only country in the world that does not have to put its name on its stamps, a reward for his innovation. Early adopters of postage stamps were Great Britain in 1840, Switzerland and Brazil in 1843, the United States in 1847. Most of the western world adopted postage stamps in the 1850s, and the rest of the world did so by the end of the 1860s.

Evolution of Stamp Collecting
Soon after postage stamps came into use, people started saving them. One young lady in London in 1840 completely wallpapered her apartment with used copies of the world's first postage stamp, now known as the famous British Penny Black. Today those stamps would be worth several hundreds of dollars or pounds each. Stamp dealers soon arose to meet the demand for collectible postage stamps, and dealer price lists began circulating around the time of the United States Civil War. Those early price lists later evolved into the massive catalogs that we have today: the Scott Catalogue in the United States, the Stanley Gibbons Catalogue in England, the Michel Catalogue in Germany, the Sassone Catalogue in Italy, and the Cérès Catalogue in France, among others. The stamp collecting hobby today enjoys more literature and scholarly articles than any other hobby in the world.

Famous people contributed to the popularity of stamp collecting, indeed it became known as "The King of Hobbies and the Hobby of Kings." King George V of England built the Royal Philatelic Collection, still one of the finest in existence. Franklin Roosevelt greatly popularized stamp collecting in the United States during the depression, and always took part of his collection with him on foreign trips for relaxation. King Farouk I of Egypt amassed a fabulous royal collection. Many captains of industry around the world assembled renowned collections.

Not only is stamp collecting an enjoyable pastime, the laws of supply and demand created investment opportunities. Investment returns on quality philatelic materials compare favorably to returns on other collectibles and alternative investments. Rare and popular stamps have recently realized fantastic prices such as $1.3 million for a United States C3A – depicting an upside down Curtis Jenny airplane from 1918, $2.3 million for the Swedish 1855 Three Skilling yellow error of color, and $9.3 million for John DuPont’s British Guiana 1cent Magenta of 1856.

How Do You Get Stamps?
Common stamps are ubiquitous - acquiring investment grade stamps requires specialized knowledge and foresight. Ironically, the mail is the source of many stamps, including those used on envelopes, price lists and approvals mailed from dealers, mail trade clubs, and subscription stamp collecting services. Stamp and coin stores used to be in every community, but high overhead and reduced foot traffic has led to other retail outlet methods, most notably weekend stamp shows and the internet. On any given weekend, hundreds of stamp shows are held around the country. EBay, Delcampe, Stamp Net, HipStamps, and other internet sites do tremendous volumes of philatelic sales every day. There are dozens of in-person, mail, and internet auctions which close every weekend, including many well-known high-end auction houses such as Sotheby’s, Siegel's, and Harmers, and many other specialized, international, regional, or local auction firms.

Windows on the World
Postage stamps are miniature works of art. Similar to currency, they possess value that required security measures be used. Stamps of the classic period from 1840-1940 were printed by security bank note companies or government printing offices, and involved highly skilled workman hand engraving designs frequently on a par with major works of art. Modern technological advances led to photolithography, computer-aided design, and many innovative production techniques. Stamps exist that you can put on a record player to play a country’s national anthem; there are scratch and smell stamps; the U.S. Lunar Eclipse stamp goes through the phases of an eclipse when you put your warm thumb on it; and you can personalized stamps with your own picture, your cat's, or with whatever statement you wish to make.

Postage stamps reflect the history, geography, politics, religion, and values of the communities they represent. Depictions on postage stamps, such as territorial claims, have even led to wars. Pictured with this article is a relatively primitive stamp printed in 1874 by typograph in Boulac, Egypt, by the Egyptian government printing office shortly after Egypt adopted postage stamps in 1866. Egypt had defeated Napoleon's army that had occupied it early in the 19th century (hence the French language used on the stamp: "Postes," meaning "postage"). The Ottomans then established a Khedive in Egypt as part of the Ottoman Empire and caliphate, and the Turkish Sultan recognized a Viceroy as the governor of Egypt shortly before the stamp was printed (hence the words "Khedevie Egiziane," meaning "postage of the Egyptian Ottoman Governor"). Britain soon after asserted a presence in Egypt in 1882 in connection with the construction of the Suez Canal to provide seaway access to its colony in India. Thereafter, the Ottomans lost their empire including Egypt after siding with Germany and the Central Powers in WWI, and Egypt eventually became independent. Did you notice the 5s were inverted on this Egyptian stamp? – The government print shop workers in Boulac in 1874 likely weren't very familiar with Western-style numerals.

Stamp collecting is a great way to establish relationships with persons from other countries and communities. It fosters cultural knowledge and sensitivity, and an understanding of the history and values that motivate people – goals and purposes quite similar to those of the International Relations Council.


About the Author
Kirk Doan is a business lawyer with Stinson Leonard Street in Kansas City, Missouri, and is an avid stamp collector. He is a member of the International Relations Council Board of Directors, and on the International Relations Council Speakers Bureau. You can often find Kirk at an IRC program with a country-specific stamp collection.

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World Refugee Day

Posted By IRC, Monday, June 18, 2018

This Wednesday, June 20, is World Refugee Day, which is a perfect time to learn about refugee issues at home and abroad.

According to the UNCHR, there are 65.6 million people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced. 22.5 million are registered refugees. 10 million are stateless. Compared to this, the total number of refugees that were resettled around the world in 2016 was a mere 189,300.

55% of refugees worldwide come from three countries: South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria. Top refugee hosting countries are Turkey (2.9 m), Pakistan (1.4 m), Lebanon (1.0 m), Iran (979,400), Uganda (940,800), and Ethiopia (791,600).

Those displaced lose everything they owned. They leave their homes with mostly clothes on their bodies and the few items they can hold. Sometimes they lose family members during the journey as they leave their country.

The transition from refugee camps to resettlement is long and hard, and often entails starvation, fear, abuse, lack of clean water, few job prospects, and limited educational opportunities. Some refugees spent in excess of 10-20 years from start to finish to apply for and finally get resettled. Statistically, refugees have a smaller chance of being accepted for resettlement than an applicant has of getting accepted to Harvard.

First the refugee goes through a UNCHR screening process and then a rigorous process of vetting. If a refugee is lucky enough to complete the process, they then are settled into a city by the sub-contracted voluntary agencies. We have three such agencies in the Greater Kansas City area, including JVS, Catholic Charities, and Della Lamb. These agencies are paid to help resettle the refugees. They are expected to help them for the first 90 days, during which time the agencies find them housing to rent and assist them to access temporary benefits, like food stamps and Medicaid. The refugees are registered in ESL classes, kids are enrolled in schools, and the adults start their job search.

90 days are sometimes not adequate to help refugees learn a new language and secure employment. The $930 one-time payment given per refugee also doesn't last long. Communities help by donating furniture and household items. Mentoring, ESL classes, and job search assistance can also help refugees to maneuver the cultural and social issues resettlement.

At the end it's about people working together to build their own communities, where all of us feel safe, secure, and are able to work to the best of our potential.


About the Author
Dr. Sofia Khan is the founder and president of KC for Refugees. She has been involved in local and international refugee relief efforts for over a decade. KC for Refugees is a local, 100% volunteer-run, humanitarian group that provides support to locally resettled families through collaborations with other agencies and by educating our community on refugee issues. More information can be found at » and on Facebook: KC for Refugees.

Click here for information on how you can participate in a World Refugee Day celebration in Kansas City ».

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Ramadan 2018

Posted By IRC, Monday, June 11, 2018
Updated: Friday, June 8, 2018

Some of us may have noticed recently that our friend hasn’t come to class with his regular latte in the morning, or that one of our co-workers has started skipping lunch. This could be because they are celebrating Ramadan, a holiday currently being celebrated by Muslims all over the world. Although the history and practices of Ramadan are complex and diverse across cultures and countries, having a general understanding of this major holiday can only enhance our ability as Kansas Citians to engage with others as culturally and internationally aware citizens.

The month of Ramadan occurs at different times every year, as its beginning depends on the sighting of the crescent moon. This year, Ramadan lasts from Thursday, May 17, until Thursday, June 14. The holiday is meant to be a time to focus less on one’s physical condition and more on one’s spiritual condition, and its observance is one of the five main principles, or pillars, of Islam. In order to promote discipline and enhance one’s spiritual experience during Ramadan, adult Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sunset every day for a month, unless they are sick, pregnant, elderly, breastfeeding, menstruating, or traveling. Fasting in this context means abstaining from eating, drinking, taking drugs of any kind, engaging in sexual relations, cursing, and even lying. One question many Muslims often hear is, “So you can’t even drink water?” The answer is yes, Muslims who are fasting do not drink water from the end of Suhur, the last meal before the fast begins at dawn, until Iftar, the big meal breaking the fast at sunset. Although I am not Muslim, I have several Muslim friends, and I voluntarily joined them in fasting for a week this year as a challenge to myself and as a new cross-cultural experience. While taking part in Ramadan this year in Kansas City, we began fasting around 4:30 a.m. each day and broke our fast around 8:30 p.m., enduring one of the longest possible fasts Muslims can face due to the time of year.

Ramadan is a time of increased prayer and worship, of increased generosity and charity to the poor, of spiritual reflection, and of togetherness with friends and family. Muslims are encouraged to read the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, and many Muslims attempt to read the entire thing within the month. Mosques also usually hold daily recitations of the Qur’an, called Taraweeh, that Muslims are encouraged to attend in order to foster a deeper devotion to Islam and connection with Allah (God). Muslims in Kansas City can attend Iftar meals, daily Taraweeh, and five daily prayers at several local mosques, including the Islamic Society of Greater Kansas City Masjid, Masjid Al-Khair, and the Johnson County Islamic Center. Muslims end the month of fasting with a holiday called Eid-al-Fitr, where they often feast, visit family and friends, and engage in other celebrations according to the culture.

Although not every Kansas Citian may have had the chance to make Muslim acquaintances or friends, a large part of the Kansas City community identifies as Muslim. While life in Muslim-majority countries often slows down to accommodate altered eating schedules and religious observances of Ramadan, American Muslims, and Kansas City Muslims, bear the difficulties of Ramadan while having to continue to meet the expectations of daily American life.  Many teachers, business owners, government employees, students, mothers, fathers, and others who contribute to the success of Kansas City are a part of the local Muslim community. Therefore, by understanding the basic purpose and practices of Ramadan, we show that we value and promote inclusion, respect, and cross-cultural awareness in our diverse city.


About the Author
Lilah Wilder is the communications intern at the IRC. She is double majoring in Global & International Studies and French and double minoring in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic at the University of Kansas.

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Book Review: Is This The End of The Liberal International Order?

Posted By IRC, Monday, June 4, 2018
Updated: Friday, June 1, 2018

Moderated by Rudyard Griffiths, Is This The End of The Liberal International Order? is the published copy of the debate hosted by Munk Debates. The event brought together Niall Ferguson and Fareed Zakaria to discuss whether the liberal international order, who some argue has existed since the end of WWII, is over. Niall Ferguson, supporting the end of the liberal international order, is a British historian and political commentator, and currently serves as the Hoover Institution senior fellow and served for twelve years as Harvard’s Laurence Tisch Professor of History. An author of sixteen texts covering subjects such as international history, economic and financial history, and American and British imperialism. Ferguson is known for his provoking and oppositionist views.

Fareed Zakaria, arguing against the decline of the liberal international order, is an American journalist and author of best-selling books The Post-American World and The Future of Freedom. He currently hosts the weekly public affairs show, Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN International, and writes weekly columns for The Washington Post. He has published for Newsweek and edited for Newsweek International and Time. Zakaria self-identifies as a centrist, but has been described as a political liberal, a conservative, a moderate, and a radical centrist.  

Both contestants gave their opening and outlining remarks. Ferguson believed that although globalism has benefitted the top 1% of income earners who receive a third of the economic revenue created, it has hurt the majority living on the periphery. He also does not believe that the international order is liberal because of its main beneficiary, China: the one-party state run by the communist elite. He concludes his statement by arguing that the system has been anything but orderly. Challenging the era of the Pax Americana has been the rise of Islamic extremism, tens of millions of displaced individuals, and nuclear proliferation.

Fareed Zakaria believed that since the end of WWII there has been massive progress for mankind. More countries have joined to be part of a system that has taken more people out of poverty than ever and that thrives off of self-determination, freedom, and liberty with institutions such as the EU and GATT. Zakaria acknowledges that fast globalization has created a sense of cultural anxiety, but it is those same states that spearheaded the liberal international order. He ends his statement recognizing that the future lays in the hands of those who live in an diverse and cosmopolitan world.

Before the debate, the 3,000-member audience voted 34% in favor of the end of the order while 66% were against it. At the conclusion of the debate, 29% were in favor, and 69% were against the resolution.



About the Author
Isabela Piedrahita is a recent graduate of Barstow High School in Kansas City, MO, and has interests in International Relations and Diplomacy.

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The Day I Met El Chapo

Posted By IRC, Monday, May 28, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, May 29, 2018

I, like most millennials who refuse to have a standard cable contract, find myself diving head first into every Netflix series that catches my eye, binge watching every episode with a hunger for more entertainment. “The Day I Met El Chapo” was one that especially grabbed my attention. I found myself finishing the real life telenovela in a single afternoon of binging. It's a tale of how Kate Del Castillo, famed Mexican actress and Chicano household name, managed to meet El Chapo, who professed his fandom in a heartfelt letter and creepy legal aid visits. What I found most interesting, and which pertains to my interest in international relations, was the way in which the governments, both Mexican and US, portrayed the actress who—by all accounts in the series—was placed in an impossible position.

Kate met Sean Penn at a party and, by chance, confessed she had been in contact with El Chapo by way of his attorney. Like most Hollywood tales of drugs and rebellion, the pair set out to try to interview the legend to make a movie about his life. Ultimately, Kate was able to play an integral part in obtaining footage of El Chapo and getting Sean Penn to the hiding place of the world’s most wanted man. Unfortunately for the actress, Penn decided to leak the information to the press in an interview with Rolling Stone. For Kate, the world came crashing down almost immediately. As a result, she was subjected to (basically) seeking asylum in the US. She has not returned to Mexico since the incident.

In the end, I was enthralled by the show and believe it is a crucial insight into the Mexican government. It displays all the modern complexities in a way that is personal and intimate. So if you're looking to learn a little about international relations in an accessible way, pull the shades, pop the corn, and enjoy.


About the Author
Bryce Slaughter is a former global education intern at the IRC. He is currently a graduate student studying education at Avila University. 

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