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Foreign affairs experts address timely international issues

Feb. 5, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Timely international issues involving Afghanistan, the Arctic and Cuba will be discussed in Kalamazoo during February and March, when the 2009 Great Decisions Foreign Policy Lecture Series stages three talks at Western Michigan University.

All of the local lectures will take place on Tuesdays in Kirsch Auditorium of the Fetzer Center, which offers free parking. Admission is $10 for the general public and, with a valid ID, free for students and faculty of Davenport University, Kalamazoo College and WMU.

Kicking off the trio of programs will be "Who Owns the Northwest Passage: Arctic Region Issues " at 6 p.m. Feb. 10. The other two lectures are "Biography of a Cause: Cuba after Castro," set for 6 p.m. Feb. 17, and "True Adventures in Afghanistan," set for 7 p.m. March 17. The final two programs will include book signings.

The three Kalamazoo lectures are being co-sponsored by Davenport University, Kalamazoo College, WMU's Haenicke Institute for Global Education, and the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based World Affairs Council of Western Michigan. They are part of the council's annual Great Decisions Foreign Policy Lecture Series, which features national experts and policy makers as speakers.

"Our mission for 60 years has been to educate people in western Michigan about international and foreign policy issues. Every facet of life in the United States is affected by decisions made in other parts of the world," says Dixie Anderson, executive director of the council. "We surely all learned this with the recent global economic meltdown. In fact, there's a new term that's been coined: 'Intermestic' issues--issues that straddle domestic and international life, like global warming, pandemics and terrorism."

Great Decisions Foreign Policy Lecture Series at WMU

Tuesday, Feb. 10, 6 p.m.
"Who Owns the Northwest Passage" will be presented by Mead Treadwell, chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. It will center on Russia's controversial symbolic gesture of planting a flag near the North Pole in 2007, which prompted calls for new ways to handle territorial claims outside of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States maintain 200-nautical-mile economic zones around their Arctic seacoasts, and all are eager to extend into this potentially strategic location. Treadwell's talk will examine how the new race for the Arctic impacts relations between surrounding countries and how best to clarify contentions over the disputed territory.

During his 30-year residency in Alaska, Treadwell has played an active role in Arctic research and exploration, focusing on developing the area's natural resources, protecting its environment and fostering international cooperation after the Cold War. In addition to his role with the Arctic Research Commission, he is chairman and CEO of the firm Venture Ad Astra in Anchorage, Ala., and a Senior Fellow of the Institute of the North, founded by former Alaska Gov. Walter J. Hickel.

Treadwell was the institute's first full-time managing director and served as an adjunct professor of business when the facility was part of Alaska Pacific University. The research he conducts at the institute revolves around strategic and defense issues facing Alaska and Arctic regions, management of Alaska's commonly owned resources, and integration of Arctic transport and telecommunications infrastructure.

During the early 1990s, Treadwell served as deputy commissioner of Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation and as a representative on the U.S. delegations of three circumpolar government groups, including the eight-nation Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy.

Tuesday, Feb. 17, 6 p.m.
"Biography of a Cause: Cuba after Castro,"
will be presented by Tom Gjelten, author and national security issues reporter for National Public Radio. Gjelten will share fresh perspectives on Cuba, discussing the current situation in the country as well as the hints from the Obama administration of a soon-to-be changing Cuban policy.

Gjelten has reported for NPR extensively from Cuba in recent years, visiting the island more than a dozen times. His new book, "Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: A Biography of a Cause," tells the history of modern Cuba through the life and times of the Bacardi rum family.

Prior to his current assignment, Gjelten covered U.S. diplomacy and military affairs, first from the State Department and then from the Pentagon. He was reporting live from the Pentagon when terrorists hit the building Sept. 11, 2001, and he was NPR's lead Pentagon reporter during the war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq.

Gjelten also has served in Mexico City as Latin America correspondent and in Berlin as Central Europe correspondent, covering the wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia, as well as the 1990-1991 Gulf War and the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. He is the author of the book "Sarajevo Daily: A City and Its Newspaper Under Siege" and "Professionalism in War Reporting: A Correspondent's View."

Tuesday, March 17, 7 p.m.
"True Adventures in Afghanistan,"
will be presented by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, reporters and documentary makers who focus on Afghanistan. Fitzgerald and Gould, a husband and wife team, began their adventures in Afghanistan when they were the first American journalists to acquire permission to enter behind Soviet lines in 1981.

That experience for CBS News resulted in their producing the documentary "Afghanistan Between Three Worlds" for the Public Broadcasting Service. They returned to Kabul in 1983 for the ABC News program "Nightline," and the couple began collaborating with Afghan human rights expert Sima Wali as the horrors of the Taliban regime began to grab headlines in 1998.

Fitzgerald and Gould produced a 2002 film called "The Woman in Exile Returns," which chronicles Wali's first return to Kabul since her exile in 1978. They also penned an account of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and U.S. foreign policy that was published this month. The book analyzes Afghanistan's political history, from the roots of tribal leadership to present time and the impact of ongoing U.S. military intervention.

For more information about the Great Decisions lectures in Kalamazoo, contact Margaret von Steinen in WMU's Haenicke Institute at margaret.vonsteinen@wmich.edu or (269) 387-3993. Visit international.wmich.edu to obtain biographies of the Kalamazoo speakers. Go to worldmichigan.org to learn about other talks in the 2009 Great Decisions lecture series.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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