Welcome: Introduction – Rakia Mahan (Fall 2015 Intern)

With20150206_150847 the World Affairs Council of Charlotte training me for my future career, I expect to soar to new heights. Through global and international exposure I have become more aware of the world around me.

I grew up in a predominantly African American community in Birmingham, Alabama. Most of my peers dressed and behaved in the same manner, and had similar outlooks on life. After I graduated from middle school, my mom and I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina in search of a new opportunities and a different environment. To my surprise there was a world of ideologies, ethnicities, cultures, and personalities I never knew existed. As a result of the move, I rediscovered my passion – writing. I graduated with honors from Mallard Creek High School and hoped to pursue a degree in Communication Studies.

During  my freshmen and sophomore years, I attended Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. I entered the African American Excellence program and worked for the Multicultural Affairs Office, where I fell in love with public speaking and the Japanese language. I was so determined to learn Japanese that I took personal lessons once a week while taking required Spanish courses at the same time.

After my two years at Mary Baldwin, I transferred to UNC Charlotte. This was the most amazing decision I could have ever made because it allowed me to pursue my interests in other cultures and love for foreign languages. Here, I immersed myself in participating in Japanese club activities, language learning and cultural exchange.  My experiences were great, but I wanted more. While declaring an official major, I discovered that I could combine my passion for speaking, writing, and the Japanese language. I became an International Public Relations major with a double minor in International Studies and Japanese language.

I aspire to practice Public Relations in the international department of a company whose ideas I wholeheartedly support. Because I love diversity, this internship with the World Affairs Council of Charlotte is exactly where I need to be.

Council Scholar 2014-2015: Allison Tarwater, Butler High School (Spain and Portugal)

From peaceful, whitewashed villages where time stands still to ornate mosques and palaces that reawaken the majesty of the Moorish past, my discoveries in Spain and Portugal were framed by a coast and country side of exquisite beauty. On the journey that led me through modern cities and medieval towns filled with architectural wonders, I encountered a welcoming people who are devoted to their proud heritage and eager to share the joys of a vibrant culture.

Since I learned of the Council Scholar Program, I researched many travel programs and destinations in my excitement to continue growing in the Spanish language and learning of new places and cultures. I finally pinpointed my desire to explore more of the Iberian Peninsula. Through this trip with Grand Circle Travel, I spent multiple days exploring regions of Spain, listening to various accents and seeing not only the Spanish influence on art and architecture, but that of the Romans and Moors as well. I was eager to encounter both the new and vibrant areas as well as the older more hidden treasures Spain has to offer. I also briefly visited Lisbon, Portugal a country I have only studied but never seen.

As in all my travels, I am constantly reminded of my desire to learn and enhance my cultural knowledge. I am drawn to opportunities to study and travel abroad not only so that I can become more knowledgeable, but so that I can take my experiences back into my classroom. Thank you to Wells Fargo, Carolinas HealthCare System and UNC Charlotte for your support of this amazing program for educators. By participating in this particular program, I am able to teach my students about diversity and inclusion; therefore encouraging them to become open-minded thinkers able to explore, accept, and foster racial and cultural differences. As open-minded individuals, my students can make important contributions to our multicultural society that positively impact our society’s changing cultural demographics.

Marcel Proust the French novelist observed that “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” He realized that by working with other people we learn about their cultures and become able to explore new ideas and prospects. Options that would not have occurred to us before stand out as obvious if we understand how other people experience the world. This is why I believe it is so important for me as a classroom teacher to have a deeper global awareness and understanding of other cultures.

Having had this experience, I have gained authentic materials that I can use to introduce and present ideas and topics that provide my students with a better cultural understanding of the target language. Furthermore, a healthy balance of language activities that improve communicative skills and that focus on the development of cultural understanding is especially important when integrating language and culture. By socializing and visiting with Spaniards, I encountered new accents and new vocabulary that I can use to enhance the curriculum at any level of instruction. The variety of accents and vocabulary are concepts that make Spanish (or any language) a living language and help stimulate curiosity in my students and a desire to explore and interact with the world.

At the school and district level I want to encourage my colleagues to take advantage of the Council Scholar Program. With limited resources and a desire to be life-long learners, it is programs like this that allow teachers to experience the world outside of their classrooms and bring the world back to their students. Not only will I share pictures and realia (objects or activities used to relate classroom teaching to the real life especially of peoples studied) that teachers can use in their classes, but I will spark a desire in the staff to travel and collect their own stories and authentic materials. In addition, with the use of the new curriculum, and the process of leaving behind the textbook, we are in desperate need of authentic materials for instruction. Since the last time that I traveled abroad, our curriculum has changed. On this trip, keeping in mind the Unit topics for Spanish, I paid special attention to those concepts in my travels and sought out materials that can be used and manipulated for classroom instruction as well as hands-on activities.


Pictures taken on my trip: Starting in the top left – Hilltop view of Ronda, Plaza de los leones in Granda, La Mezquita in Cordoba, and Churros and Chocolate in Madrid.

Iran Nuclear Talks: Is This The End Game?

800px-Iran_Talks_14_July_2015_(19680862152)(Photo Source: Wikipedia Commons)

For decades, the international community has been living in fear of Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The West has shown its frustration in the clandestine nuclear operations stemming from Tehran by establishing extensive economic sanctions against Iran. This summer, however, the world has been anxiously awaiting a deal to come from negotiations between Iran and six world powers (P5+1) in Vienna. Failing to meet deadline after deadline, it appeared to many that the diplomatic process would fail to result in any meaningful agreement between the two sides, but President Obama announced last Tuesday that a landmark deal has been reached.

Although Western powers like the US, France, and Germany once provided assistance and even a nuclear reactor to Iran for the purpose of developing nuclear energy, opposition to its nuclear program led by the US broadened after Iran’s Islamic Revolution and its role in the hostage crisis gave way to doubts about the peaceful intent of the program. This opposition quickly drove the program underground, though it continued to grow as the more nuclear-friendly Ayatollah Khamenei took power.

Over the years, Iran has built a vast network of enrichment plants, conversion sites, and research reactors, all of which the country attributes to nuclear energy usage despite vast, incriminating evidence that it has its sights set on building nuclear weapons. In August 2002, a London-based Iranian opposition group disclosed details about a secret heavy-water production plant at Arak. In 2003, the IAEA first reported that Iran had not disclosed sensitive enrichment and reprocessing materials. The CIA in 2008 discovered Iran’s Green Salt project, a secret uranium-processing program which featured high-explosives testing. Finally, in February of 2010, Iran announced plans to heighten the enrichment levels of existing uranium stockpiles, prompting president Ahmadinejad to declare the country to be a “nuclear state.” Iran has consistently denied its intentions to develop a nuclear arsenal despite this kind of damning evidence and various findings by inspectors like the IAEA, who in February of 2010 confirmed Iran’s nuclear capabilities and its plans for building a missile-ready warhead.

The UN Security Council began imposing sanctions in 2006 after Iran refused to suspend its uranium enrichment program, though the US and EU join the Council in attempting to cut off global economic ties to Iran. These sanctions have been at least partly successful, prompting Iran to join the negotiating table in hopes for a reprieve on many of them. Last week’s negotiations mark the culmination of these talks, as the P5+1 and Iran have reached a deal that would prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. Iran is set to dismantle most of its nuclear infrastructure in exchange for a suspension or cancellation of the various sanctions brought upon the country by the UN, EU, and US.

In Obama’s address to the public, he claimed that the deal will eliminate “every pathway” for Tehran to build nuclear weapons and said the deal demonstrates how American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change. He added that the deal will implement an inspection and transparency regime in Iran and will eliminate the possibility of Iran producing the highly-enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium necessary for a nuclear bomb. Specifically, the deal requires Iran to remove 2/3 of its installed centrifuges, machines to produce highly-enriched uranium, and prohibits Iran from using its centrifuges to produce highly-enriched uranium for 10 years. Iran will also get rid of 98% of its stockpile of enriched uranium for 15 years, alter its major nuclear reactor in Arak so it will not produce weapons-grade plutonium, and will not build any new heavy water reactors within the same time frame. Throughout his speech, Obama made it clear that this deal will not rely on trust of Iran and its government but rather on verification by outside officials and inspectors who will assure that Iran complies with the agreement. These transparency measures will be in place for 25 years, and they allow inspectors from the IAEA 24/7 access to Iran’s key nuclear facilities.

Although a nuclear deal with Iran seems long overdue to many, it has not been met with universal acclaim. Critics include many in Congress, primarily Republicans, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who claims the deal is a “capitulation.” To be sure, the deal is not perfect. The agreement has given into many of Iran’s demands in that the West will essentially eliminate its sanctions, an action that will empower Iran economically, perhaps giving the country the wealth it needs to continue to covertly build its nuclear arsenal. Furthermore, the deal will only temporarily stop Iran’s nuclear operations and will almost assuredly require further negotiation in the near future, for many of the actions Iran will take to dismantle its program are only mandated for the next 10-25 years.

Perhaps the most glaring omitted element of the agreement is that Iran’s major nuclear facilities remain in place, infrastructure critical to its nuclear capabilities. Obama will have only 60 days to convince a skeptical congress to accept this deal, though he has promised that he will veto any attempt to undermine its implementation. The world unanimously agrees that the deal from Vienna is historic, but the verdict is still out on its potential efficacy. For now, its future remains uncertain, and the international community must again wait to see how events in Washington play out.

Written by Cole Blum, Sophmore, UNC Chapel Hill (WACC Intern – Summer 2015)


Greece: The Unexpected Eurozone Conundrum

greeceThe current economic situation in Greece has made headlines for weeks now. The deadline for Greece to pay back its creditors passed in June, and now talks of another bailout package are underway. Greece owes money to the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and other Eurozone members, mainly Germany. In total Greece owes about 330 billion euros to its creditors.

Prime Minister, Alexis Tspiras, who won the election on an ‘anti-austerity’ platform in January, held a referendum last Sunday where Greek citizens voted on the new austerity measures proposed by the Eurozone. Greece voted ‘No’ on Sunday to pension cuts, tax increases, and spending cuts. This does not mean Greece is officially ousted from the Eurozone, it does mean that there will be more negotiations. Tsipras has promised the creditors a detailed plan on how Greece plans to repay its debt, due Thursday. This new plan, created by Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, would be a three-year program in which Greece would commit to major reforms in order to create greater stability and long-term economic prosperity.

The next round of negotiations between Greece and the creditors will potentially determine the whether Greece stays in the Eurozone or not. No country has ever left the Eurozone and there is no clear-cut plan for an exit. There are many potential outcomes to the current economic situation; unfortunately none of them appear to be favorable towards Greece. The next deadline that Greece must meet in order remain in the Eurozone is July 20, where they must pay the European Central Bank 3.5 billion euros. If Greece does not pay, the European Central Bank is expected to stop all funds to Greek banks immediately. If Greece leaves the Eurozone they will revert back to their former currency, the Drachma.

There are many unknowns about the future of Greece and the Eurozone. The original plan of the Eurozone was that many countries cooperating together economically would provide greater stability to each individual country. However, in this case it seems that one country’s economic uncertainties can destabilize the entire Eurozone. What will happen next depends on what Greece is willing to sacrifice to shore its ailing economy. The new 3 year rescue plan will be discussed this coming Sunday, and will hopefully be able to shed more light on what comes next for Greece and its fellow Eurozone members.

Additional Reading:

Joseph Stiglizt: The U.S. Must Save Greece 

Written by Morgan Houchins, Bucknell University (Summer 2015 Intern, World Affairs Council of Charlotte)

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: http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/06/19/nawaz-sharif-pakistan-execution-ramadan/

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.