On Shifting Ground

His Excellency Sergey I. Kislyak became ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States in September 2008, having previously served as Russia’s deputy minister of foreign affairs since 2003. Prior to serving in this senior foreign policy position in Moscow, Ambassador Kislyak served as ambassador to Belgium and simultaneously as Russia’s permanent representative to NATO in Brussels. He has also held various postings in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including director of the Department of Security Affairs and Disarmament, director and deputy director of the Department of International Scientific and Technical Cooperation, and deputy director of the Department of International Organizations. In addition, he served in the United States before as first secretary and counselor at the Embassy of the Soviet Union in Washington and second secretary at the USSR’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.

Direct download: 02-25-10_Ambassador_Sergey_Kislyak.mp3
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Beginning with the transfer of power from Fidel to Raúl Castro in 2006, there are signs that Cuba has found new footing on the world stage. The last few years have seen an expansion of Cuba’s financial and political ties with the European Union and Latin America. And with changes in both the Cuban and US leaderships, anticipation for a breakthrough in dialogue between the two nations is growing. Julia Sweig, a leading expert on Cuba and Latin America and author of Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know, will discuss the small island nation’s unique position in world affairs over the past fifty years and what may be in store for the looming post-Fidel era.

Direct download: 02-23-10_Julia_Sweig.mp3
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A quiet revolution has been occurring in post-World War II Europe. A world power has emerged across the Atlantic that is re-crafting the rules for how a modern society should provide economic security, environmental sustainability, and global stability. During this time of economic crisis and global warming, how do the United States and members of the European Union really compare in terms of sustainable economic growth and trade, political engagement, social policy, and the deployment of renewable energy technologies? With a similar standard of living, universal health care and comprehensive social systems, and smaller ecological “footprint”, what lessons can the US learn from the European model? In his new book Europe Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age, Steven Hill explains Europe new vision, shatters myths, and shows how Europe leadership manifests in several major areas: economic strength, with Europe now the world wealthiest trading bloc, producing nearly a third of the world’s economy, almost as large as the U.S. and China combined; arguably the best health care and other social supports for families and individuals; widespread use of renewable energy technologies and conservation; and regional networks of trade, foreign aid, and investment that link one-third of the world to the European Union’s 27 member states and nearly a half billion citizens.

Direct download: 02-18-10_Steven_Hill.mp3
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While considerable attention has been focused on following the actions of DPRK officials in Pyongyang, how well do we understand the mindset and culture of North Korea’s ordinary citizens? B.R. Myers argues that we know more of North Korea’s clandestine nuclear program than of the motivation behind it. We know more about Kim Jong Il’s potential successors than about the unique worldview that North Korean citizens share. Drawing from decades of research on the country’s ideology and propaganda, Myers offers a new understanding of North Korean culture; using multimedia to tell the story of modern-day life in this closed society through its art, unique historic perspective, literature, film, and iconography. A specialist on North Korea, he is a contributing editor to The Atlantic Monthly and a frequent contributor to both NPR and The New York Times, as well as author of The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves - And Why It Matters.

Direct download: 02-11-10_B.R.Myers.mp3
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Access to clean drinking water is vital to every society and a major factor in furthering public health, economic development and social stability, however, climate change, industrialization and urbanization threaten its supply and safety. In many areas of the world, diminishing access to safe water is creating a public health crisis and escalating tensions between countries and amongst ethnic groups. Join the Council for a discussion with Dr. Peter Gleick on how international water resource management and the lack of access to clean water and sanitation impact social, financial and environmental stability. How is water’s ability to meet public health and humanity’s most fundamental needs being challenged? Where are climate change and urbanization most dramatically impacting water resources? Can an international water policy that effectively addresses these issues be developed? What solutions could be implemented now or in the near future? How likely are wars over water in the future? Dr. Gleick will address these questions and explain how current changes in water supply are impacting development and the future sustainability of many societies.

Direct download: 02-03-10_Peter_Gleick.mp3
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Since January 12th, our televisions and computers have been flooded with pictures of horrific destruction and human suffering wrought by the earthquake in Haiti. What makes the images all the more heart-wrenching is the knowledge that most of the devastation could have been prevented by modern building codes and disaster preparedness techniques. The World Affairs Council of Northern California in cooperation with The Pacific Council’s Equitable Globalization Member Committee welcome Dr. Brian Tucker, President and Founder of GeoHazards International. With decades of work in the field, Dr. Tucker is an expert on incorporating better building practices into disaster risk management programs and international development efforts. He describes how his organization is attempting to prevent earthquakes and tsunamis from having disastrous effects in developing countries, and will outline some of the possible steps needed in Haiti to ensure that the next earthquake that strikes does not cause the havoc we are witnessing now. The discussion offers insights into the challenge of instituting disaster preparedness programs in the developing world – how political, social, technical and economic barriers can be overcome to protect people in the world’s most vulnerable regions from the devastating effects of natural disasters.

Direct download: 02-02-10_Brian_Tucker.mp3
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