Introducing Lauren Osga, Assistant Director, Programs & Development

The World Affairs Council of Charlotte is proud to welcome Laura Osga as our new “Assistant Director of Programs and Development.” She will manage all programming related initiatives including planning, logistics and marketing for our fall and spring programming. In addition, she will administer the Council’s membership program for our new and current corporate  members.

laurenosga1Lauren Osga grew up in San Diego, CA and attended California Lutheran University, earning her B.A. in International Studies and French, with a minor in Religion. During her time at CLU, she took a travel course to Jamaica, toured Italy with the university choir and studied abroad in Dakar, Senegal.

She completed a dual masters degree program in Macro Social Work and Theological Studies at Boston University in May 2015, with a focus on non-profit development and program planning. During her time at BU, she participated in travel seminars to Israel, Palestine and Turkey.

She previously interned and worked at DOVE, a small non-profit in Boston as the Development Assistant. Lauren recently moved to Charlotte with her husband from Boston. She enjoys performing arts, hiking, camping and snowboarding.

Summary: Nawaz Sharif Tries to Do the Right Thing During Ramadan – Pause Hangings (Cole Blum)

For a leader who has become infamously associated with executions, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has shown a great deal of mercy in recent weeks towards the inmates who represent the world’s greatest number of people on death row. Sharif declared a moratorium on executions for 30 days due to the “sanctity of the holy month” of Ramadan, a shocking move simply because Pakistan has more than 8,000 people on death row and has hanged more than 170 since December. The international community has long chided Sharif and his administration for being so keen on using capital punishment on inmates, that so many are stunned that the Prime Minister has made such a request.

The Sharif government assumed power in 2013, and the prime minister was immediately pressured by the European Union to extend the unofficial ban on capital punishment that had been established by former President Asif Ali Zardari. In 2008, Zardari issued an unofficial moratorium on executions even though the Pakistani executive branch did not have enough authority to truly mandate such an order. Despite the “unofficial” moratorium, local law enforcement still executed 276 people in 2009 and 365 people in 2010. Sharif never truly saw much merit in Zardari’s efforts, and he cemented these views after Tehrik-i-Talibal militants attacked a Peshawar school in December of 2013, killing 148 people, most of whom were children. He responded by revoking the moratorium on executions for “terrorist” cases, though in March of 2014 he simply lifted it altogether.

Flash forward to today, and Pakistan has the largest backlog of inmates on death row in the world. Furthermore, Pakistani police have often been accused of using torture on its inmates to obtain confessions, such as electric shock and burnings. Whether these actions will continue into the future after this brief moratorium is unclear, though the British human rights organization Reprieve reported that Pakistani officials are determined to clear the backlog of inmates on death row. Capital punishment will likely remain a cornerstone of the Pakistani justice system, but Sharif’s declaration displays a progressive step and an interestingly uncommon display of mercy.

Original Article:

Summarized by Cole Blum, soon-to-be UNC Chapel Hill sophomore, currently interning with the World Affairs Council of Charlotte

Welcome: Introduction – Cole Blum (Summer 2015 Intern)

coleblumI am very excited and anxious to take on my role as intern for the World Affairs Council of Charlotte this summer. I have lived in Charlotte my entire life, but my hope for this summer is that I will finally embrace the city’s international community.

After graduating with both a high school diploma and Global Studies Diploma from Providence Day School, I realized that I wanted to target my career towards international affairs. After one year at Wake Forest University, I have decided to transfer to UNC Chapel Hill in the fall, where I plan on majoring in Peace, War, and Defense with a concentration in National and International Defense and Security as well as minor in Arabic.

From my field of study, it may seem obvious that my area of focus is the Middle East, and I hope my career will feature some form of diplomacy or international security. I have already studied abroad in Spain and plan to study abroad in an Arabic speaking country in the near future, as I plan on becoming fluent in both Spanish and Arabic someday. I am confident that my time at World Affairs Council this summer will get me well on my way towards my future goals. As intern, I hope to put my passion for international affairs as well as my global perspective to work in any way I can.

Welcome to Summer: Panzanella and Stuffed Grape Leaves Recipes

As part of The Magellan Society (Young Professionals of the World Affairs Council of Charlotte) “Adventures In Dining” cooking class, Dr. Marie-Claire Marroum shared her extensive culinary knowledge by showing our young professionals how to make panzanella and stuffed grape leaves.

La_panzanella_a_la_toscana(Image Source: Wikipedia)


A summer tomato, red onion, olive, and basil salad


  1. A loaf of ciabatta bread
  2. Five to six large tomatoes (preferably heirloom). You can mix colors and use purple, red, and yellow tomatoes
  3. A large red onion
  4. A bunch of basil (enough to make to cups of leaves)
  5. 2 cups of pitted kalamata olives
  6. Red wine vinegar
  7. Olive oil
  8. Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cube the Ciabatta bread, spread on a tray and set aside (you can do this an hour or 2 before so the bread gets dry and ‘stale’)
  2. Peel and slice the red onion very thinly into circles that you can cut in half and place in a salad bowl
  3. Cube the tomatoes in 1/2 inch pieces (keep them chunky) and add to onions
  4. Cut the pitted kalamatas in half and add to the bowl
  5. Wash basil and detach the leaves. If the leaves are too big, stack them and cut in half with kitchen shears or tear by hand
  6. Mix the dressing: start with 1/2 cup of vinegar and 1/2 cup of olive oil, add salt and mix well
  7. Add the cubed Ciabatta bread to the bowl, the prepared dressing and grated fresh pepper. Gently toss all ingredients (I usually do it with my hands so as not to bruise the ingredients) taste and add salt or pepper if needed, or even more dressing

grapeleavesMAIN COURSE: Stuffed Grape Leaves


  1. One jar of grape leaves in brine or fresh grape leaves if available (recommend Orlando)
  2. Half a pound of ground beef
  3. Half a pound ground lamb if desired (otherwise use ground beef)
  4. One to two cups of short grain rice (Watermaid)
  5. One medium onion, chopped fine
  6. One cup of chopped tomatoes (fresh or from a can)
  7. Shortening (I use Crisco) 4 tbsp
  8. Salt 1 tbsp
  9. Pepper 1 tbsp
  10. Dried oregano 2 tbsp
  11. Half a cup of lemon juice


  1. Get a fairly large bowl into which you will place the meat, the onion, the shortening, the chopped tomatoes, the salt, pepper, and oregano
  2. Place the rice in another bowl and wash 2 or 3 times with cold water until water is clear (you do not want the rice starchy). Add the washed rice to the other ingredients
  3. With clean hands, mix all the ingredients together until the mixture looks homogenous
  4. Remove the grape leaves carefully from the bowl and place in a pot and bring to a boil for a minute or 2. Dump the boiled leaves in sieve and wash with cold water. (The grape leaves were in brine and you want to get rid of too much salt).

Assembling your dish:

  1. In a medium pot (nonstick preferable) place thinly sliced cuts of lemon and tomatoes
  2. Sit at a table or counter and use a cutting plastic board or a large pieces of foil as your work area
  3. Spread the grape leaf in front of you with the base towards you (if it has a stem cut it) and place a roll of the stuffing on it. See demo)
  4. Fold over the side closest to you then the right and left sides and roll “like a cigar”
  5. Place stuffed grape leaf in the pot and continue until pot is 3/4 full alternating the direction you place them in (see demo)
  6. Place an ovenproof dish on top of grape leaves so they do not unravel and add water to the level of that dish and bring to a boil
  7. Cook on a range for 30 minutes and tip the pot to see if the fluid is all gone. If it is, add another cup of water and simmer until the fluid level is low. Make sure there is some liquid at the bottom otherwise you will scorch the grape leaves
  8. Right before serving pour the reserved lemon juice in the pot (do not let lemon juice overcook it makes the dish bitter)
  9. When ready to serve place the pot on a heatproof dish and flip it over (see demo). The presentation is nicer although you can remove the grape leaves in small batches and place them on the serving dish


Marie-Claire Marroum

Charlotte, North Carolina

September 17, 2014

Op-Ed: Export-Import Bank driving growth in N.C. (Charlotte Observer)

Wayne CooperN.C. exports are on the rise. No one knows this better than Ethel Torres, the owner of National Drug Source in Concord.

Last year, Torres wanted to expand her medicine distribution business overseas. As a small business owner, Ethel would have to rely on cash-advance payments for any overseas sales, putting her at a competitive disadvantage. So she turned to the Export-Import Bank, a federal agency that provides support to businesses looking to break into foreign markets. Today, thanks to Ex-Im’s support, National Drug Source exports to more than 22 countries.

There are many other firms across North Carolina that are expanding because of Ex-Im. That’s why Congress must reauthorize it.

Despite its name, Ex-Im focuses almost exclusively on exports.

The bank offers low-cost export credit insurance, covering small businesses if a foreign buyer fails to pay. That lowers risk, empowering companies to expand overseas. To further encourage exports, the bank offers loans and guarantees to foreign buyers of U.S. goods. The bank doesn’t compete with private lenders; it fills in market gaps that would prevent such sales.

In the 80 years since its founding, Ex-Im has developed a stellar track record. Last year, less than 1 percent of loans were in default, besting most private lenders. And Ex-Im makes money for taxpayers, mainly through the fees it charges to foreign buyers. Over the past two decades, it has brought in almost $7 billion in fees.

Despite this success, Ex-Im is at risk. Its charter, which Congress has regularly renewed since 1934, expires this month. If lawmakers don’t reauthorize Ex-Im, it will be forced to close. That would spell big trouble for North Carolina’s economy. This state was hit hard by the recession but has managed to recover, in large part because of its growing export business.

Since 2009, the Ex-Im Bank has helped 137 local small businesses – and 47 larger companies – export $3 billion in goods and services to countries ranging from Mexico to China. Despite claims that Ex-Im only helps big multinationals, 90 percent of its transactions directly support small companies. These transactions have translated into nearly 19,000 new jobs for North Carolina.

The Bank supports companies across North Carolina.

Consider Statesville-based Slade, which makes sealing products for industrial equipment. It started working with Ex-Im in 1997 and now counts on exports to 60 countries for two-thirds of its sales. Or look at Miss Jenny’s Pickles in Kernersville, which turned to Ex-Im Bank for help a couple years ago to sell its gourmet pickles around the world, creating 14 jobs in the process.

The future of America’s economy is overseas. Roughly 95 percent of the world’s customers live abroad.

The Export-Import Bank has been a boon to N.C. businesses. Lawmakers must approve legislation to reauthorize it immediately. If they don’t, our economy will suffer.

Wayne Cooper is Chairman of the North Carolina District Export Council.

Reposted with permission from the Charlotte Observer.

Welcome: Summer 2015 Intern – Morgan Houchins

morganAs the new summer intern at the World Affairs Council of Charlotte, I am very excited to begin working and learning about the international community in Charlotte. I am an International Relations and Spanish major at Bucknell University in the class of 2016.

My focus of study is Latin America and the Caribbean, and Foreign Policy and Diplomacy. In the Spring 2015 semester I studied abroad in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica learning about Social Change and Community Engagement. I spent much of my time in Central America in rural, indigenous communities, with the people learning about their experiences and listening to their stories.

I also spent time in Santiago, Chile with a high school student exchange program in 2010 with Charlotte Country Day School. My international travel has enriched my college experience and allowed me to better understand the globalization of economies and cultures. I have a great passion for travel, new cultures, and adventures abroad.

With my time at the World Affairs Council this summer I plan to do research and to apply what I learned abroad to help enhance the Charlotte chapter in any way I can. Interning with the World Affairs Council this summer will give me the opportunity to share my excitement for bringing global thinking and new perspectives to Charlotte.

Op-Ed: In Cuba, times are a-changin’ (Charlotte Observer)

Mark ErwinLast month witnessed the State Department’s list of foreign nations designated as state sponsors of terrorism shrink by 25 percent.

Since March 1982, Cuba has been on that list, which currently also includes Iran, Syria and Sudan. (Not North Korea? But I digress.) But on May 29, the State Department removed Cuba from that list of unsavory nations, following the 45-day waiting period on a delisting directive from President Obama.

Cuban President Raul Castro said removal from the blacklist was a precondition for this thaw in the 55-year Cold War between Washington and Havana, dating back to his brother Fidel’s communist revolution. He insisted May 12 that the terrorism-sponsor designation was an “unjust accusation,” but it dates back to Havana’s support in the 1970s and 1980s for FARC terrorists in Colombia and for revolutionary movements throughout Africa. With the end of Soviet economic subsidies worth between $4 billion and $6 billion a year after the 1991 collapse of the U.S.S.R., Havana was forced, out of economic necessity, to curtail its terrorist adventurism.

With the delisting comes the lifting of a variety of economic and diplomatic sanctions, including restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance and trade, but the next high-profile step in restoring formal diplomatic relations is likely to be the naming of ambassadors. Castro said May 12 that his country stood ready to name an envoy to Washington, and Secretary of State John F. Kerry could travel to Havana as early as next month to hoist the American flag over the U.S. diplomatic compound there. The 1950s-era building has served as the U.S. Interests Section since 1977.

In response to questions about Castro’s remarks about naming an envoy, presidential press secretary Josh Earnest said he didn’t know who might be on Obama’s list of candidates to be the first U.S. ambassador to Havana since Washington severed relations more than five decades ago. Presumably, though, the current chief of mission in Cuba at the Interests Section, Jeffrey De Laurentis, would be at or near the top of that list.

In 2012 and again this year, the Council of American Ambassadors, of which I am a member, traveled to Cuba as part of efforts to improve relations with our neighbor to the south. In both instances, we came away encouraged by what we saw in terms of long-overdue economic perestroika being put in place by Raul Castro, who took over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2008. (Raul is widely seen as being less rigidly doctrinaire and more pragmatic than Fidel.)

By way of examples, under Raul Castro, housing – previously all owned by, and rented from, the government – can now be owned by the Cuban people. Where before there was no pride of ownership, and it showed in the run-down condition of the housing stock, now renovations are underway. In similar fashion, farmers were previously told what to grow and how much to produce, but not allowed to profit from their labor, so they only produced what was required. Now, they’re allowed to sell any surplus food they produce, so they have an economic incentive to do so.

Until relatively recently, Cubans weren’t allowed to sell cars to one another. Restrictions on private-business ownership have been loosened, and more than 500,000 people are now employed in the private sector. “Within two years, private enterprise will make up [one-third] of the Cuban economy,” said one member of the Cuban National Assembly.

Eventually, a democracy?

By U.S. standards, of course, these are modest reforms, but for most Cubans, who have known no other leaders than ones named Castro, they are a sea change, and U.S. policy should be to encourage them. Our ambassadors group met with members of the National Assembly who said they would propose constitutional amendments to move the country toward a democratic system of government between now and 2018.

That seems overly optimistic, and it remains to be seen how fast and far these reforms will go, but for the Cuban people, it must feel like coming out a half-century time warp. You knew something is indeed up, when Raul Castro met with Pope Francis on May 10 at the Vatican. The Cuban leader said he was so impressed with the pontiff that he’s considering returning to the Catholic Church’s fold. “When the pope goes to Cuba in September,” Castro, the head of an officially atheistic regime, said at a news conference, “I promise to go to all his Masses, and with satisfaction.”

That may not be a sign of the apocalypse, but as Bob Dylan might say, for the Cuban people, “The times they are a-changin.’”

Mark W. Erwin, a Charlotte businessman, was a U.S. ambassador under President Clinton. He will speak on the history and future of Cuba at the World Affairs Council of Charlotte’s annual meeting on Wednesday. For more information, visit

Op-ed is reprinted with permission from the Charlotte Observer.