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  • 03 Mar 2017 10:33 AM | Eddie Kamber

    By, Casey Sacks

    My Russian Experience 

    Last year when I met Nadezhda, Nadie, she lived in my house for about a month during a Russian Business Leaders (RBL) program. We had a wonderful time together, cooking meals, spending time with friends and family, and talking about world affairs and politics. She spent her days in Colorado an internship program. And after work and on the weekends we got to spend time together. 

    Fast forward to 2017. As a part of her RBL project Nadie invited me to Russia. We share a common professional interest in higher education and using education as a driver for economic development. She is working on a project in Russia to help universities better serve businesses by customizing training to meet employment needs, something I specialize in. As a result of our shared interest, her project in Russia emerged as a conference jointly attended by business and university leaders to talk about how they could more effectively partner. 

    As part of my visit, Nadie developed an excellent conference. She had faculty and deans for four major universities in Russia and dozens of businesses come to the table to learn from each other. Businesses I'm very familiar with, like Microsoft and Mars, said similar things to Russian universities about their workforce needs as what I would expect them to say here in the United States about similar employment issues. I had the opportunity to be a morning keynote and then spent time in workshops with my Russian colleagues. 

    Later, Nadie arranged meetings with university leadership at their home college campuses. That allowed me to see the Russian university system in action and also helped her build connections for her business interests. The priority I consistently heard leadership speak to was about becoming ranked on the list of 100 best universities in the world. While some US colleges do chase rankings, I work with community colleges and we most definitely do not chase rankings. Our interests are largely about access, learning, completion, and job placement. Rankings aren't something that enter my talks with colleagues and it was a shift for me to consider what the priorities must be for the Russian Universities with increased rankings as a primary goal (perceived prestige, spending, publications, and English speaking faculty).   

    My time in Russia drew to an end quickly. But while I was there I got to present at a world class conference, present at my Embassy, meet colleagues at half a dozen universities to discuss mutual interests in serving industry more effectively by creating students who were prepared for work. I also got to help students at Education USA to understand and consider community colleges as affordable and accessible options for their own international education experiences. While the professional development I gained from this month was incredible, the most valuable and cherished part of my experience was talking to Russian people. Spending time with Nadie. eating and drinking tea, spending time with friends and family, and talking about world affairs and politics are the things that I will continue to cherish the most back here in the United States. 

  • 28 Feb 2017 2:31 PM | Eddie Kamber

    By, Daniel Zuchegno

    United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Series: Clean Water and Sanitation


    The World Denver event on February 22 concentrated on goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Series.

    Panel:             Eleanor Allen, CEO of Water For People

                            Paula MacIlwaine, Deputy CEO of American Water Works Association

                            Katy Sill, Water and Sanitation Advisor in the USAID Water Office

                            Dr. Marshall Davert,  president of MWH

    The panel was moderated by Allegra da Silva advanced Water Reuse Engineer at MWH Global.

    Each of the panelists described  their efforts in the broader spectrum of  global water and sanitation challenges touching on two major themes of water and sanitation issues. Each of  the panelists presentations  helped to illuminate these issues surrounding development goal number 6.

    The issues:

    One,  global facts associated with a lack of drinking water and proper sanitation and the impacts of  not having clean and viable sanitation.

    Two, how do we achieve these goals  and ongoing efforts to achieve them.

    The panelists mentioned that despite substantial strides being made in the area of water and sanitation, approximately 83% and 70% of countries reported falling significantly behind the trends required to meet their defined national access targets for sanitation and drinking-water, respectively.

    • 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, but 663 million people are still without.
    • At least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated.
    • Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using an improved drinking water source has increased from 76 per cent to 91 per cent
    • Water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise.
    • 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines
    • More than 80 per cent of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or sea without any pollution removal.
    • Approximately 70 per cent of all water abstracted from rivers, lakes and aquifers is used for irrigation.

    The panelist mentioned that sustainable targets have been to cut the deficits in half then reduce them by half again.  These iterative targets for drinking water  have been met in 147 countries but were slightly less successful for sanitation goals.  Rather than continue on this path the new development goals are to ensure availability of sustainable management of water to everyone by 2030, a very ambitious but attainable goal.

    What are the impacts of not meeting development goal number 6?

    Each of the panelists mentioned that clean water and sanitation have impacts throughout an economy.  By managing water sustainably, society can better manage production of food and energy and contribute to jobs and economic growth.  It is rightly argued that proper water and sanitation is a key foundation for achieving many other development goals, including improved health and gender equality. Additionally, we can preserve our water ecosystems and their biodiversity,

    Just looking into the health impacts, each day, nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases.  More than 2million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases.  Poor hygiene and unsafe water are responsible for nearly 90 per cent of these deaths.  The lack of access to clean water and sanitation also has detrimental effects specifically on young girls and women. In most societies, women and girls are delegated to fetch and carry water to homes. The time it takes to go to a local well and carry water back to the point of use often precludes girls from attending school and getting an education.  The lack of restrooms, latrines and sanitation in schools also precludes young girls from being able to attend school and receive a formal education.  This  covert form of gender discrimination slows economic growth and development in an economy and ascribes women to a second class of citizenship.

    The second aspect of the program concentrated on what can and is being done to achieve  millennium goal number 6.  From a cost perspective it is estimated by The World Health Organization that the total annual cost of meeting the sanitation target is just over $9.5 billion. If the full cost of tertiary wastewater treatment for waste streams in urban areas is added, the total rises to $100 billion. Clean water capital costs are estimated to be around $35billion annually. The panel reminded those in attendance that the maintenance and upkeep of a water system must also be determined and met  in order to achieve a sustainable water and sanitation system.  Given these costs, it is estimated that achieving the water and sanitation MDG target  could generate economic benefits, ranging from US$ 3 to US$ 34 per US$ 1 invested, depending on the region. A more than acceptable return for any project.  A return that begs the question as to why more isn’t being done given the human and social costs associated with less action.

    In summarizing the issues of water and sanitation projects globally, the panel emphasized that smaller projects are often times more manageable and sustainable than larger mega projects that exist today in many major urban areas. The panelists agreed that  in terms of the governance of services, a well-run utility demonstrates four key characteristics:

    • ·         They are managerially and financially autonomous.
    • ·         They are accountable to their stakeholders.
    • ·         They are efficient.
    • ·        They are customer-oriented.

    Following are several links that provide additional detail of global efforts in the area of water and sanitation.

    United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Series: Clean Water and Sanitation


  • 14 Feb 2017 4:31 PM | Eddie Kamber

    Post Created by: Zachary Adams 

    Visitor: U.N. Secretary General (as of January 2017) António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres
    Country of Origin: Portugal
    Program Year: 1978
    Travel Itinerary: Washington, DC; Denver, CO; San Francisco, CA; Grand Canyon, AZ; New Orleans, LA; Orlando, FL; New York, NY; Boston, MA

    On January 1st, 2017 former Portuguese Prime Minister (1995-2002) Antonio Guterres officially began his role as the 9th Secretary-General of the United Nations. We at Meridian International Center were delighted to hear this, as Mr. Guterres participated in an IVLP that Meridian facilitated in 1978. This blog entry will provide insight into his program and introduce his professional background and objectives in travelling to the United States at that time. For those interested in more information about his current agenda, you can read about it here.

    Let us make 2017 a year for peace.” – @Antonioguterres, January 1st, 2017

    When he was selected to participate in the IVLP, Mr. Guterres was a leading Member of Parliament within the Portuguese Assembleia da República (Assembly of the Republic). He was also acting as both the National Secretary for Research of the Socialist Party of Portugal and the President of the Parliamentary Commission for Economy, Finance, and Planning. His responsibilities in both positions likely contributed to his interest in having “discussions with politicians, academics, and bankers in the area of economic problems and Portuguese-American relations.” These exchanges would take place with a variety of actors over a month-long period in cities including Washington, DC, San Francisco, and New York.

    Travel itinerary (Read Washington, DC – Boston, MA)Travel itinerary (Read Washington, DC – Boston, MA)

    Mr. Guterres began his IVLP experience in Washington, where he met representatives of several public and private sector organizations, including the Treasury Department, the State Department and the World Bank. The next day he travelled to San Francisco to meet with educators and bankers about the state of economic relations between the U.S. and Portugal. Shortly thereafter, he had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona before travelling on to New Orleans, where he examined the role of local government and federal/state relations in the United States.

    After a stopover in Florida, Mr. Guterres traveled to New York for professional meetings on topics such as the relationship between the U.S. federal government and the central banking system. He visited Niagara Falls briefly before finishing his IVLP in Boston, where he met with faculty from the Harvard Business School and several departments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At these two major research universities, Mr. Guterres examined programs of study and explored perspectives on U.S.-Portuguese relations.

    From there, the rest is history.

  • 17 Jan 2017 2:25 PM | Eddie Kamber

    Ilana Kurtzig

    On December 14, WorldDenver welcomed a panel of foreign affairs superstars to speak to member and guests about Middle East Policy in the upcoming Trump Administration. Barbara Slavin, career journalist and acting director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, moderated the panel. The panel members were Ambassador Chris Hill, now Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.


    The conversation was insightful and, at times, heated as panelists discussed the history of U.S. policy in the Middle East, the questions surrounding Trump’s strategy (i.e. does he have a strategy?), and lessons learned from decades of work in diplomacy. One of the big questions for the panel was whether the new administration would tackle old problems or begin to take on new problems. Syria, Russia, Middle East politics; these are the worn problems. Taiwan and China? Those are newer, and to the panelists, it is a mystery why Mr. Trump would chose to revisit the China/Taiwan issue at this juncture. Two of the main reasons to tread lightly at the moment, said Crocker, are 1) the unintended consequences of getting involved can be severe, and 2) that disengagement proves over and over again to create spaces for unsavory groups to flourish. Hezbollah replacing the Palestinian Liberation Organization, ISIS from Al Qaeda in Iran were two examples. The succession of failed systems and a series of "isms" have continued to fill vacuums left by engagement and disengagement tactics from the U.S., said Crocker.


    So, where does the U.S. want to go, asked Slavin. "We need a strategy in Syria," answered Hill, "and we want to see a policy review that requires more than 140 characters," he continued, referring to Mr. Trump's penchant for making policy statements through Twitter. The U.S. already moved in Iraq and flipped power from Sunni to Shia leaving the country in company only with Iran in terms of its leadership - thus creating a problem demonstrated by the Iraqi question: Why are we living under Shia rule when no one else is? Crocker agreed that a policy is a wise move, but warned that ridding the world of ISIS means nothing if we make no considerations for what the aftermath would and could be.


    The panelists agreed that all of these questions need to be viewed with an eye on Russia as diplomatic decisions by the new administration begin. Mr. Trump has nominated administration members who have strong ties to Russia. With a strong National Security Adviser (and National Security Team, for that matter), Secretary of State and a series of strategies, the direction of Middle East policy in the new administration might become clearer. At the moment, we're all waiting for that strength to appear and solidify.

  • 03 Nov 2016 12:49 PM | Marianne Hughes (Administrator)

    Ilana Kurtzig

    On July 15 of this year, rogue elements of the Turkish military attempted to take control of the government of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. That same evening, they failed. On October 5th, Dr. Henri Barkey of the Woodrow Wilson Center came to Denver to give WorldDenver members and guests insight into why the coup attempt took place and the repercussions for Turkey, the Middle East and Turkey's relationship with the United States.

    Turkey has been divided for years, Barkey began. These divisions he said can be directly linked to two conditions present in Turkey: 1) the secular-religious divide, and 2) the Turkish-Kurdish divide. Both of these divisions said Barkey are the result of changes instituted by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk when he secularized the nation under a dictatorial military system. Ataturk left intolerance of people of faith, and spread the idea that all living in Turkey must be ethnic Turks. This latter stance is the root of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict which continues today.

    For many years, people did not take seriously the importance of these divides said Barkey. For this reason, the country has been simmering.  More recently, president Erdogan, who came to power in the early 2000s, moved to consolidate his power, moving away from a more liberal position. In order to do this he formed an alliance with Fethullah Gulen (the very person his government is now holding responsible for the coup attempt, and the person Erdogan is pushing the US to extradite).

    Since the coup attempt, which Barkey said was carried out rather poorly and was certainly not "textbook coup," Erdogan has continued to further consolidate power. He has arrested and jailed military generals, colonels and other personnel, reducing the size of the military by 150,000 in two months' time. He declared an emergency government thus allowing himself to take action without due process. He has fired school teachers and journalists effectively removing opposition and the ability for children to be educated in the fashion the country has become accustomed. Currently, said Barkey at least 90% of the newspapers are now government controlled. One result of this is the rise in conspiracy theories, said Barkey. One of the more widely spread theories, he said, is that the US government was behind the coup attempt. There is no substantial evidence, however, that Gulen or the US government is responsible.

    Despite this, said Barkey, there will be repercussions not only in Turkey, but also for Turkey's foreign relations. Domestically, Erdogan continues to consolidate power and has replaced almost all of his cabinet and ministers with "yes men." According to Barkey, Erdogan might move to change the constitution to gain more power. Unfortunately for him, said Barkey, there is no one to take his place once he leaves power so there is opportunity for religious factions or some other group to take control. As far as foreign relations are concerned, Turkey is now problematic for all countries in its region. The Kurdish fighters are the only ones willing and able to take on ISIS and the US is allied with Syrian Kurds which will further strain US-Turkish relations in the near future. Turkey and the US still have a strong relationship, said Barkey. Only time will tell how it evolves.

    About Henri Barkey: 

    Dr. Henri J. Barkey is the Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He is the former Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen Professor at Lehigh University. Barkey is also a former public policy scholar at the Wilson Center. His most recent works include Turkey's Syria Predicament (Survival, 2014) and Iraq, Its Neighbors and the United States, co-edited with Phebe Marr and Scott Lasensky (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2011). He served as a member of the U.S. State Department Policy Planning Staff working primarily on issues related to the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, and intelligence from 1998 to 2000.

  • 03 Nov 2016 12:36 PM | Marianne Hughes (Administrator)

    Ilana Kurtzig

    With Election Day looming in one of the more controversial races in recent times, it makes sense for Americans to really take a look at what makes a good US President. Fortunately for WorldDenver members, Talmage Boston has done most of the work for us, researching the various traits of presidents that have given them an edge in leadership and decision making during crucial moments in our history. On October 12, he shared those ten traits with us and asked the audience members to consider each when thinking about his or her vote on November 8.

    Boston began by asserting that the same traits that made a good president 200 years ago still apply today. Using concrete examples from presidential actions or inactions, Boston put forth the following vital traits:

    1. Be the conscience in chief
    2. Remain above the fray and build consensus
    3. Know one's limitations and how to complement or supplement them
    4. Persevere over setbacks
    5. Play hardball when necessary
    6. Stay calm in a crisis
    7. Be mindful of good timing when pursuing initiatives
    8. Be a great communicator and follow through
    9. Put the welfare of the nation above one's own political interest
    10. Stay abreast of public sentiment and find ways to shape it to align with one's vision

    Boston cited Thomas Jefferson's ability to build consensus between the Federalists and the Republicans, and his general ability to work across the aisle to bring together those with conflicting ideas. He used James Madison as an example of someone who knows his limitations, citing his work with Washington and others to complement his brilliance with their creativity. Franklin Roosevelt maintained confidence despite his physical disability and Lyndon Johnson remained patient during the civil rights movement to ensure that efforts to obtain equal rights were buoyed by current national sentiment and not lost among competing movements.

    In relation to number nine, putting the nation above self, Boston used George H.W. Bush as an example. Specifically he cited Bush's now-famous "read my lips, no new taxes" statement. According to Boston, Bush had to go back on his word to avoid a potential recession and to fund the Gulf War. "He broke his promise for the the good of the people," said Boston.

    Boston's examples ran the length of our presidential history and showed how our leaders have worked together to overcome difference when needed, and how a great leader can move a country forward in a way that is meaningful to not only to the country presently, but that can prove meaningful for generations to come.

    So, which of the current candidates do you think best exhibits these traits?

    About Talmage Boston:

    As a civil litigator for almost four decades, a historian, and an author, Boston recognized that a history book constitutes the author’s thorough direct examination of his subject. Knowing ultimate credibility can only be derived following cross-examination, over a three-year period, Boston interrogated those who have performed the heavy lifting of research and analysis about our commanders-in-chief in his new book, Cross-Examining History (Bright Sky Press, 2016). 

  • 03 Nov 2016 12:18 PM | Marianne Hughes (Administrator)

    Colorado Supreme Court Justice and long-time World Denver member and volunteer Richard L. Gabriel recently visited Bulgaria, at the invitation, and with the generous support, of the Bulgarian Judges Association and the America for Bulgaria Foundation.  The principal purpose for Justice Gabriel’s visit was to address the annual meeting of the Bulgarian Judges Association in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.  The Association, which is comprised of over 900 judges from Bulgarian district courts, city courts, and supreme courts, works tirelessly to achieve a better, independent, and fair justice system and to that end, has actively supported judicial reforms necessary to achieve these goals.

                The topic of Justice Gabriel’s address was the judicial performance evaluation process in Colorado.  After describing Colorado’s merit selection system for selecting judges, Justice Gabriel explained the detailed, nonpartisan method by which Colorado state judges are evaluated and stand for retention by Colorado citizens.  After sharing a power point presentation on these issues, Justice Gabriel fielded questions from the audience.  The questions ranged from specific questions regarding Colorado’s judicial evaluation process to questions regarding how judges in Colorado educate citizens about the judiciary in order to ensure trust and confidence in the judiciary.

                The other official business of Justice Gabriel’s visit was a visit with the Honorable Lozan Panov, President of the Supreme Court of Cassation, at his office in Sofia, Bulgaria.  Justice Panov and Justice Gabriel enjoyed a lengthy discussion in which the two shared how their respective judicial systems operated, including discussing areas in which reforms would be useful.

                Fortunately, although Justice Gabriel’s trip was not lengthy, he did have the opportunity to explore both Plovdiv and Sofia, with the most generous assistance of Mr. Lenko Lenkov, Program Director, Civil Society and Democratic Institutions, for the America for Bulgaria Foundation.  Mr. Lenkov, whose knowledge of his country’s history is remarkable, showed Justice Gabriel some of Plovdiv and Sofia’s notable landmarks, explained a great deal of Bulgaria’s history, and also shared some of the many magnificent projects on which the America for Bulgaria Foundation has worked and is working, including the restoration of the small basilica in Plovdiv, the ongoing restoration of the Bishop’s (or Large) Basilica there, and the Foundation’s ongoing support for arts and culture, including its support of architecture and dance week in Plovdiv.  Other highlights of Justice Gabriel’s included dinner and visit to a local jazz club with Judge Atanas Atanasov, Judge of the Sofia City Court and President of the Bulgarian Judges Association, and several of his colleagues (a very kind gesture, given that Justice Gabriel is himself a professional musician), and lunch with Ms. Nancy Schiller, President and Vice Chair, and Ms. Desislava Taliokova, Executive Director, of the America for Bulgaria Foundation.

                Justice Gabriel is immensely grateful to all of his hosts in Bulgaria, and he looks forward to returning there soon to continue this wonderful partnership aimed at ensuring the fairness and impartiality of the judiciary both in the United States and Bulgaria.

  • 22 Sep 2016 3:30 PM | Marianne Hughes (Administrator)

    Kevin Amirehsani

    Why should Americans care about Libya? Because, as top Libya politico Mahmoud Jibril asserted last Friday at a WorldDenver breakfast, “we are interconnected – it’s not a matter of choice.”

    Cementing Denver’s status as an emerging hub of global affairs, the former interim prime minister of Libya stopped by the offices of law firm Ireland Stapleton to both give an update on the chaotic situation in Libya as well as to ask US policymakers for a more concerted effort to bring stability to the North African state, given the impact Libya has on terrorism and rampant migration in Western countries.

    Few nations garnered as much attention and sympathy as Libya did during its 2011 civil war, which saw long-ruling strongman Muammar Gaddafi toppled with the help of a Western no-fly zone. However, even fewer nations experienced such a dramatic fall from grace, in spite of the labors of veteran Libyan statesmen such as Jibril, who chaired the country’s first post-Gaddafi administration for seven months.

    “Libya started as a very promising success story under people who suffered a lot under a tyrant,” said Jibril. “But by the fall of the regime, Libya turned into a stateless society.”

    What to do with a country that is dealing with two rival governments, a rogue general (Khalifa Haftar), territory ruled by the Islamic State, and de facto independent militias whose territory stretches from the Sahara to the Mediterranean?

    According to Jibril, there is work to be done by both the West and Libyans themselves. The current head of one of Libya’s top political parties spoke strongly of the need for Libya to have a state, rather than simply having a government, which requires Libyans to reform their education system, media, and the way they raise their children – in short, “socializing democracy.”

    “Democracy is about two values,” Jibril argued, during an engaging discussion interspersed with questions from the audience. “Accepting others, and tolerance towards disagreement.”

    At the same time, Jibril was unafraid to critique what he sees as the double standards of Western countries and even the United Nations, who decry coups in Egypt and Yemen yet who continue to support various power brokers in Libya, including various Islamist factions, to the detriment of the country’s institutions. The diplomat’s frustration was evident, especially when he spoke about the perceived illegitimacy of the former Islamist-controlled parliament in Tripoli and their UN-backed replacement government.

    Yet when challenged by audience members on what to do moving forward, Jibril struck a more conciliatory tone. He emphasized the need to bring all the relevant actors together, from the autonomous tribal armed factions to former regime loyalists, and acknowledged that it is too late for the previous government, which he was a part of, to come back to power.

    “All militia leaders today are looking for an exit - they don’t want to fight each other anymore,” Jibril affirmed. Hence, the importance of “[locking] them in, Camp David style,” and coming to a negotiated settlement.

    The failure to do so would be immense, Jibril argued, and would only embolden the “biggest employer today in the Arab world” – the Islamic State.

    Given such risks to Western interests, as well as to a war-weary Libyan public, one can only hope that Mahmoud Jibril’s remarks here do not simply fall on deaf ears.

  • 24 Aug 2016 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Ilana Kurtzig

    When the president of China comes to town, which gift do you give him? How about the Prime Minister of Australia? Do you shake hands? Bow? What do you call him or her? Oh, and what to do when the President of Bulgaria surprises the U.S. President with a puppy?

    Andrew Ciafardini, who served as, among other roles, Assistant Chief of Protocol during the George W. Bush administration, answered these questions and more for WorldDenver members and guests. Questions of customs must be researched, plans must be made and particular conduct must be followed in order to maintain, regain or strengthen diplomatic relationships across the globe.

    The State Department Office of Protocol is responsible for upholding the laws, customs and practices that govern diplomatic conduct, said Ciafardini. The Office works to organize the logistics of the various types visits by foreign diplomats as well as takes responsibility for organizing travel abroad for U.S. diplomats. This requires knowing what kind of visitor is coming to the U.S. – is it the Queen of the United Kingdom on a state visit with a 21-gun salute, the Prime Minister of the UK on an official visit with a 19-gun salute, or a private visit that requires a security detail only? What seem like minutiae, said Ciafardini, can make or break diplomatic relations with other countries. Ciafardini referenced an incident in which the People’s Republic of China was introduced as the Republic of China (i.e. Taiwan) during a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao. This was seen as an intentional move to jab the Chinese government and required careful discussion after to remedy the situation. The mistake was unintentional, said Ciafardini, an error by the announcer that unfortunately caused unnecessary diplomatic stress.

    While traveling abroad, said Ciafardini, State Department representatives assume that rooms are bugged and communications monitored. To protect against the release of classified information, staff sets up tents in rooms and surrounds them in radios, and are trained to ensure classified information stays classified. In addition, staff sign non-disclosure agreements related to all aspects of their work.

    Working in the Office of Protocol is usually fun, said Ciafardini, but the purpose of the Office is crucial to U.S. relations to other countries and sets the tone for visits to the U.S. and abroad. There are times of war and unrest that require impromptu visits under stressful circumstances and without the pomp and circumstance of a planned visit, he said. These are times when gifts are not exchanged, but bulletproof vests are handed out upon landing. Fortunately, this kind of visit does not represent majority of visits and usually there is some time for relaxed talk. Oh, and that puppy? It was too pricey a gift for the President to keep, but it was adopted by a White House grounds keeper.

  • 16 Aug 2016 11:55 AM | Anonymous

    Ilana Kurtzig

    Denver Public Library

    WorldDenver members and guests were treated to a lively discussion about the Muslim Community in Colorado. Mayor Michael Hancock kicked off the discussion, which delved into issues facing Muslims in Colorado, and in the United States, in general. Jamie Torres, Deputy Director for the Mayor’s Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships, moderated the conversation.

    The panelists were Ismail Akbulut, Hamideh Etemadnia, Obeid Kaifo and Imam Abdur-Rahim Ali.

    Throughout the two-hours, the conversation moved from mischaracterizations of Muslims – all Muslims are radicalized, conservative, oppressed – to the importance of looking past differences to find common ground among all faiths. Reactions of non-Muslims to Muslims after terrorist attacks, anywhere in the world, remained a common theme of the discussion.

    “I’m afraid to go outside after these things happen,” said Kaifo. “After Orlando, I didn’t want to take the bus,” followed Etimadnia. “I wear a headscarf so people know that I am Muslim,” she said. This is a common theme for Muslims in America, said Kaifo. “No one talks about people,” he said, “just about religion and Muslim=Al Qaeda for most.” According to Imam Ali, Muslims have an obligation to speak out after these tragedies. “It doesn’t get press when we speak out against these acts,” he said, “but we must speak anyway. Eventually someone will listen.” There are however, messages of hope and support, said Akbulut. After the shootings in Orlando and San Bernardino, there were emails of support and events at mosques to show solidarity with diverse populations. “And, the Denver Post actually approached them for comment,” said Akbulut, something that is not common the panel agreed. Akbulut reminded the audience that most targeted terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslims target other Muslims.

    The panelists were asked to comment about rhetoric from Donald Trump during his presidential bid. “It is absurd how much of a nightmare it is for Muslims that an actual legitimate candidate for U.S. President wants to ban and monitor Muslims,” said Kaifo. “Before 2001,” continued Kaifo, “70% of Muslims voted Republican.” That trend has now reversed, he said, due to a party that has alienated Muslims. Akbulut, who was raised in Germany, was taught from a young age about Nazi Germany. “I am looking at what’s being said today and it is a very serious problem,” he said. “Republicans should be speaking up about radical voices within their party.” Imam Ali pointed out that Trump has strong support, something that cannot be ignored or overlooked.

    The discussion wrapped up on a positive note with calls to recognize the humanity in each person regardless of religion or color. The panel called for the audience to reach out to Muslims to meet them, learn about them, and of course, eat great food with them.

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