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On Tuesday the World Affairs Council and Young Professionals International Forum were joined by physician and award-winning author Abraham Verghese for the fourth installment of the International Forum’s Voices of the World Author Series. The author of the recently published novel Cutting for Stone, Verghese discussed how his childhood in Ethiopia as the son of Indian immigrants, his first years of medical school in Ethiopia, and his work as an infectious diseases expert formed his narrative. Although he had known he wanted to write fiction for a long time, two non-fiction works came first, My Own Country and Tennis Partner.

It took Verghese eight years to write Cutting for Stone. During that time he became known for the great value he places on bedside medicine and was recruited to Stanford University to work as a clinician and teacher. He took his time on the project so that he could practice medicine and write, but also so that he could craft the novel he had been thinking about for a long time: a story that started in Africa and ended in America, which was “of medicine” in the same way that Emile Zola’s books are “of Paris.”

Verghese read a section of his novel during the program and fielded many questions from the audience, about both writing and medicine. He spoke about a series of articles he recently wrote for the Wall Street Journal about the current health care debate and stated that certain American statistics, such as infant mortality, are much too close to those of developing countries. However, he expressed great optimism about the HIV vaccine and the possibility of finding a cure.

A reception followed the program, during which Verghese spoke to many members of the audience, including a number of Ethiopians who were able to personally ask him questions over a glass of wine.

To hear the full program, including a reading from the book, visit our online audio archive.

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The construction of the Nabucco pipeline, slated for completion in 2012, is part of the effort to reduce European dependence on Russian gas amid concerns and fears that Russia, the supplier of between 30 and 40% of Europe’s natural gas, will use its economic leverage for political gains. However, recent developments in Turkmenistan, China, Iran, Turkey, and Europe itself, raise many questions and uncertainties regarding the future of the Nabucco pipeline. What are the new implications of and aims for building such a pipeline? Is continued construction necessary? What are the benefits and dangers of using the Nabucco pipeline—or rather the promise of its discontinuation—as a political bargaining chip? Steve LeVine, foreign affairs and energy correspondent for BusinessWeek and author of The Oil and the Glory and Putin’s Labyrinth, joined the Council and the Young Professionals International Forum (IF) last night to share his thoughts and insights into pipeline politics and Russia’s new energy diplomacy. Full program recordings will be available soon at our online archive. 

For more on pipeline politics, check out this article from Deutsche Welle on the recently signed agreement between Russia and Turkey to build the South Stream pipeline, a new rival to the Nabucco pipeline.

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