Category Archives: Spring 2012

William M. Reisigner, May 3, 2012

“Putin’s Re-election and Russia’s Political Future”

No video available.

Although re-elected handily, Vladimir Putin faces steeper challenges than ever. He must modernize Russia’s economy and society while holding together the political regime he has forged. Can he do it, and what will his efforts mean for Russia’s role in world affairs?
William M. Reisinger is Professor of Political Science at the University of Iowa. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and joined the University of Iowa faculty in 1985. His research concerns democratization in the former communist states, especially Russia. His publications include six books and over 50 articles or book chapters, most recently editing Russia’s Regions and Comparative Subnational Politics (Routledge 2013). He travels frequently to Russia and has conducted research as well in Ukraine and Uzbekistan. He teaches courses on democratization, authoritarian politics, and the politics of the post-communist countries. He is a former chair of the Political Science Department and, from 2003-2008, served as The University of Iowa’s Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs.


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Filed under Economics, Governance Issues, Past Events, Spring 2012

Jennifer Smyser, April 11, 2012

“The Importance of Global Nuclear Security”

Watch the program here.

On Wednesday, April 11, Jennifer Smyser gave a lecture on the state of the on-going international and domestic efforts at guaranteeing worldwide nuclear security. As a Program Officer in Policy and Outreach at The Stanley Foundation, Ms. Smyser is a member of Fissle Materials Working Group (a nongovernmental coalition of over 40 experts representing many of the top nonproliferation and nuclear security organizations).

Read more.

The entirety of global nuclear security depends on accounting for, stockpiling, and securing of nuclear materials, especially Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium.  Thirty countries depend on nuclear power as a source of electricity (which utilizes Low Enriched Uranium). Of these countries,  only the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea have successfully detonated nuclear weapons (although it is widely believed that Israel is also in possession of nuclear arms). South Africa is the only nation to have successfully built a nuclear weapon and, as a result of intense international pressure, has since dismantled its weapons program. It is crucial that the nuclear capable nations (and especially those that maintain an active weapons program) take all necessary pre-cautionary measures to ensure that their own stockpiles are well documented, centralized, and secured. These efforts, however, are far from complete. According to a report released by the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA), there were more than 2,100 reports of loss, theft, and illegal acquirement of nuclear materials by the member nations from 1993 to 2011, of which about 400 incidents involved unauthorized possession, movement, or attempts to illegally trade or use nuclear and radioactive materials. Various attacks on nuclear facilities, and high-profile incidents of theft and sale of HEU on black markets have led to increased concerns of a nuclear terrorist plot. Known somewhat infamously as the “Khan” network (named after Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan), the presence of a number of “black markets” have enabled states like Libya, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan to illegally acquire weapons-grade nuclear materials. Additionally, as Ms. Smyser noted, there are significant security concerns regarding the storage of nuclear isotopes at medical laboratories and research facilities, which would be especially vulnerable to attack.

With the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, Russia’s efforts at securing its nuclear facilities are absolutely essential for international security. However, Russia’s stores are spread thinly all across a vast amount of space and are thus difficult to secure and account for effectively. According to the CRS, “reports of Russian nuclear materials for sale on the black market, when combined with evidence of weaknesses in the security system have raised concerns about the possible theft or diversion of nuclear materials from these facilities” although the United States and Russia have cooperated on a number of fronts to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation and war. This has included, among other initiatives, the conversion of weapons-grade plutonium to non-weapons-grade, sharing early warning data, agreements to transparency, safeguards, and irreversible talks, and economic initiatives for proliferation prevention (IPP) programs. Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile has also been a subject of significant international concern, as the political integrity of the Pakistani state is sometimes threatened by political instability.

To address some of the significant problems with the current state of international nuclear security, in April of 2010, the United States hosted the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit, wherein leaders and representatives from forty-six governments convened to discuss measures to better safeguard weapons-grade plutonium and uranium and to prevent nuclear terrorism. The results of the summit were largely symbolic, with only a handful of governments committing to new, detailed initiatives to increase domestic nuclear security. However, at the conclusion of the summit, seven countries had agreed to the removal of HEU from their facilities and a number of others committed themselves to begin converting weapons-grade uranium and plutonium to non-weapons-grade. A detailed list of the committments made at the summit (by country) can be accessed here. And again, in March of this year, another Nuclear Security summit was convened in Seoul, South Korea, wherein member nations reported on the statuses of fulfilling their committments and addressing questions regarding the production of nuclear isotopes.

Ms. Smyser concluded her discussion with a brief assessment of the current state of affairs in global nuclear security. She remarked that there is significant disagreement among various nations regarind the nature of the nuclear threat. Some nations, like the United States, are deeply worried about the possibility of a nuclear attack, while others are less inclined to give it attention. Additionally, she highlighted the need for more bilateral and multilateral cooperation among participating nations. Non-nuclear powers must also committ to initiatives concerning nuclear security as proliferation networks extend all across the world. And finally, Ms. Smyser emphasized the need to sustain previous committments. If global nuclear security is only as good as its weakest member, then the whole community must actively cooperate with one another to ensure that the nuclear materials of the world are well accounted for and secured.

Links to the Stanley Foundation’s work:

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Filed under Past Events, Spring 2012, War & Conflict

Wojciech Przyblyski, April 6, 2012

Wojciech Przblyski

“The Political Scene in V4 Countries and the Perception of the USA”

Watch the program here.

As President of the Res Publica Foundation (and Editor-in-Chief of the Res Publica Nowa Quarterly), Mr. Wojciech Przyblyski belongs to the Free Speech Partnership, a network of editors from intellectual and cultural journals in former Soviet Republics established to undertake joint publishing projects. Specializing in recruiting high-level experts for analysis and critical evaluation for their seminars, conferences, and publications, he and his organizations are at the center of Central European political debates today.

Read Mr. Przblyski’s publications:

On Friday April 6th, the Foreign Relations Council hosted Mr. Przyblyski for a lecture-luncheon, and he shared his thoughts on the history and current political developments in the Visegrad Group (also known as the V4), a coalition of four central European countries committed to working in tandem on a number of political, economic, and other relevant issues. He spoke extensively on a variety of topics, including the definition of “central Europe” (East of the West and West of the East!) and how this ambiguous geographical position has affected sociopolitical discourses on identity and aspirations of the Visegrad member nations. As all V4 countries are members of the European Union, Mr. Przyblyski walked us through the unique ways in which the Eurozone debt crisis affected Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.  Our lecturer remarked on the current environmental issues facing V4 nations, and commented on the state of journalistic freedom in Poland (read more here and here).

The Visegrad Group

At each of our lectures, we present our audience members with trivia cards to see how well they stack-up in their knowledge of international history and affairs.


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Filed under Europe, Past Events, Spring 2012

Ambassador Stephen Rapp, April 3, 2012

“Diplomacy for Global Justice: The Tools for Establishing Truth, Accountability, and Reconciliation After the Commission of Mass Atrocities”

No video available.

Stephen J. Rapp of Iowa is Ambassador-at-Large, heading the Office of Global Criminal Justice in the U.S. Department of State. He was appointed by President Obama, confirmed by the Senate, and assumed his duties on September 8, 2009. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Rapp was United States Attorney in the Northern District of Iowa from 1993 to 2001.

From 2001 to 2007, Mr. Rapp served as Senior Trial Attorney and Chief of Prosecutions at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Ambassador Rapp served as Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone beginning in January 2007, responsible for leading the prosecutions of former Liberian President Charles Taylor and other persons alleged to bear the greatest responsibility for the atrocities committed during the civil war in Sierra Leone. His office won the first convictions in history for recruitment and use of child soldiers and for sexual slavery and forced marriage as crimes under international humanitarian law.

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Filed under Governance Issues, Past Events, Spring 2012

War Veterans, March 27, 2012

“Telling Iowa City: War Veterans’ Experiences: Putting Our Stories on Stage”

Watch the program here.

Telling: Iowa City was created from the stories of local veterans whose military experiences ranged over 40 years, from Vietnam to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Unlike other shows, this play was performed by the veterans themselves, each telling their own stories of enlistment, deployment and return to civilian life.   Members of the cast will be talking about what it was like to be in the show and to share their very personal stories with the community. The show was co-produced by Working Group Theatre, the University of Iowa Veterans Association and The Telling Project. The Telling Project works with communities and organizations around the country to bring attention to the public ignorance of the immediate impact of war on individuals and communities, as well as the difficulties and danger that ignoring the rift between veterans and civilian populations poses to communities and the nation as a whole.The Cast of Telling: Iowa City includes: Joe Gasperetti (United States Amy 1966-1968), Charles Lynch (United States Army 1968-1971), Randy Miller (United States Navy 1973-1975), Theodore John (United States Marine Corps 1986-1992), Amanda Irish (United States Marine Corps 2002-2006), and Chris Deyo (United States Army 2006-2011). Jennifer Fawcett, the Associate Artistic Director of Working Group Theatre and co-writer and co-director of Telling: Iowa City, will be introducing the group. A native of Canada, she came to Iowa City to attend the University of Iowa’s MFA Playwriting Workshop. Fawcett is now preparing to write and direct Telling: Des Moines

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Filed under Past Events, Spring 2012, War & Conflict

Prof. Frank Salomon, March 20, 2012

“Peru: Mountain Life and Modernity”

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Since 1992 the Andean countries, once troubled by poverty, racial exclusion and political warfare, have burst forward with striking growth and innovation. A lifetime of research into the culture of the Quechua-speaking peoples (heirs of the Inkan Empire) brings to life products and ideas unique to the high Andes. This same lifetime, however, is not just a chronicle of tradition. What does Andean tradition mean to the people who have grown up in a breakthrough era?

Professor Salomon’s current work is a detailed study of Rapaz, a community at 4000 meters over sea level. This community guards some 263 khipus (knotted-cord records) in a house of traditional rituals from which villagers serve the defied mountains. The project combines a close study of these khipus with archaeological, ethnographic, and architectural studies of their context. Khipus research bears on questions of “proto-writing” and the origin and demise of scripts.

Salomon is the John V. Murra Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin- Madison and Adjunct Professor at the University of Iowa. He has done field research in Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia for four decades. The results include The Lettered Mountain: A Peruvian Village’s Way With Writing (with Mercedes Nino-Murcia, Duke, 2011) The Cord Keepers: Khipus and Cultural Life in a Peruvian Village (Duke, 2004), and The Huarochiri­ Manuscript (Texas, 1991). His edited works include the South American volumes of the Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas (1999). He is a past President of the American Society for Ethnohistory.

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Filed under Past Events, Spring 2012

Asst. Prof. Rúnar Helgi Vignisson, March 6, 2012

“Blue Birds from the Dreamland (Iceland’s Modern Economy)”

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A graduate of the University of Iowa, Runar H. Vignisson is a distinguished author and translator who has been the recipient of a number of illustrious awards for his work, including The Icelandic Translation Award for his translation of J. M. Coetzee’s “Disgrace” and the Reykjavík City Children’s Literature Award for his translation of Kenneth Opel’s “Sunwing” Furthermore, Vignisson has crucially translated many books by acclaimed American authors, such as Philip Roth, Amy Tan, Cormac McCarthy, and William Faulkner. On top of his career in translation,

Vignisson has proven himself as a prolific and creative writer. He is the author of six books of fiction (with the seventh forthcoming later this year). His short stories have been featured in Icelandic, German, and Spanish anthologies. Professor Vignisson is currently Assistant Professor and Director of the recently established Creative Writing Program at the University of Iceland.

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” Shakespeare had one of his characters say in Hamlet.Coming from a former Danish colony, Vignisson will be addressing the conditions and characteristics of the Icelandic nation that may have contributed to the world scale failures of the banks in his small Nordic dreamland. He will look in the rear view mirror for a while, ruminate on his Norse Heritage, and draw a picture of the current situation in this miniature world.

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Filed under Economics, Past Events, Spring 2012

Edouard Duval-Carrié, March 2, 2012

“The Artist and the Haitian Art Relief Fund”

Watch the program here.

Haitian-born painter and sculptor Edouard Duval-Carrié gave a talk on “The Artists and the Haitian Relief Fund” where he discussed his own activities as a part of the Haitian relief effort, in addition to presenting a selection of his most recent artistic productions.

Duval-Carrié was born in Port-au-Prince, but his parents emigrated to Puerto Rico when he was still a child as a result of political insecurity in Haiti. He recieved his bachelor of arts from Loyola College in Montreal in 1978. As a graduate of the prestigious École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France (where he lived for eight years), Duval-Carrié’s art combines “African fables, classical mythology, Haitian and world history with contemporary events”. Duval-Carrié makes no pretenses about political neutrality, however. On the contrary, he considers his art to be a reflection of his own political conscious and a mirror of the rapidly changing world:

“I personally believe that most artists are in one way or another reflections of their immediate surroundings. What they are confronted with on a daily routine is bound to affect and influence their personal visions of the world. This general tendency would simplify my answers to inquiries on the relative importance of popular culture in the context of the contemporary art world. But with the advent of a rapid globalization and the proliferation of information at all levels, this permits everyone, and particularly artists, to take their ideas from a global well.”

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Filed under Arts & Culture, Humanitarian Issues, Past Events, Spring 2012

Rubie Watson, February 16, 2012

“Effects of Low Fertility Rates in East Asia”

Watch the program here.

Dr. Rubie Watson attended the University of Iowa in the 1960s, received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the London School of Economics, and has taught anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard University. Her research interests include gender, family organization, and memory and history with a focus on China. She is recently retired from Harvard University where she was Director of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and now lives in western Illinois.

Dr. Watson will address the four East Asian societies (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong) that lead the world in low fertility and the reasons behind these population declines as well as the social, economic, and political implications of low fertility.

Dr. Watson’s publications include several articles and a book entitled Inequality Among Brothers: Class and Kinship in South China (1985). She is editor of Memory, History, and Opposition under State Socialism (1994), and with James L. Watson co-authored Village Life in Hong Kong (2004). She is currently working on two projects: a book manuscript tentatively entitled “British Colonial Rule in Rural Hong Kong” and a research project focused on Hong Kong’s fertility decline.

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Filed under China & East Asia, Past Events, Spring 2012