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Posts Tagged ‘President Barack Obama’

In a live address from the Oval Office last night President Barack Obama declared the end of the US combat mission in Iraq. The president thanked American military personnel for their dedicated service, while also restating his firm belief that the entering the conflict was a mistake. “We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home,” Mr. Obama said. Watch the president’s entire speech here.

Some of those sacrifices are chronicled in The Good Soldiers, by David Finkel. He will be speaking at the Council on Thursday, September 9 about the eight months he was embedded with the 2-16 infantry battalion deployed on the outskirts of Baghdad. Finkel, a reporter for The Washington Post, will also discuss the cognitive dissonance between the violent reality of the ground war and the abstract policy debates back in Washington. Register for the program here.  While another perspective of the war will be provided by Georgetown professor Derek Leebaert on Thursday, September 16. Examining the missteps of wartime foreign policy,  Leebaert argues that the cause of many of America’s foreign policy mistakes lies in “magical thinking” – the idea that the US can manage the world through well-intentioned force. Register for the program here.

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Less than a week after President Barack Obama introduced a new national HIV and AIDS strategy, the International AIDS Conference began in Vienna. UNAIDS Executive Director Michele Sidibe unveiled Treatment 2.0, an initiative that will try to bring down the cost of life-saving medicines, make drug regimens less complicated and simplify the process of HIV treatment.

On Wednesday, July 28 the US Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Eric Goosby, will be at the Council to outline Obama’s new AIDS strategy. To register for the program, visit our website here.

For more information about the AIDS Conference, read this article from Voice of America. To learn more about the new national plan, listen to this episode of KQED’s Forum.

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Only days after Russian President Dmitri Medvedev met in Washington with President Obama, the FBI accused 11 people of being Russian agents. The charges include money laundering, conspiracy and failing to register as agents of a foreign government, but do not include espionage. The FBI has been tracking the alleged spies since 2003, though many of the spies have been in the US since the 1990s.

The need for increased vigilance towards Russia’s spy program was brought up at Monday night’s Council program with Georgia’s Ambassador to the US, Batu Kutelia. He noted the weekend’s 11 arrests and said, “This same case happened in Georgia five or six years ago and at that time I was head of our foreign intelligence service and when we intercepted and arrested this, most of the world accused us, Georgia, of being too provocative towards Russia. But now it appears that the same activities are happening in a different part of the world and the intention of modernizing Russia is really good, but if they continue with business as usual, there could very different consequences for them as well.” To listen to the entire program with Ambassador Kutelia, please visit our online audio archive.

To learn more about Russia’s history of espionage the US, read this article from the New York Times. For more information about the relationship between Russia and the Caucasus, read this article from the current issue of Foreign Affairs.

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Many were thrilled to see that the Kellogg Foundation had made a $75-million commitment to attacking racial disparities in communities across the country. It brought to mind the superb work of Anne Kubisch and her colleagues at the Aspen Roundtable for Community Change— whose work on structural racism remains among the most thoughtful approaches to analyzing and acting on this insidious problem. And so I turned to Anne’s colleague Keith Lawrence— and this is what he had to say:

“Hats off to the Kellogg Foundation for publicly adopting racial equity as a central grant-making principle!

“This is a bold step by a major philanthropic sponsor of initiatives designed to eliminate racial disparities in communities across America. It’s bold because a racial equity perspective explicitly challenges a number of faulty ‘wisdoms’ about race and its connections to familiar socioeconomic outcome patterns, and about the appropriate posture for philanthropy in this arena.

“Kellogg’s recent decision to transform itself into an anti-racism organization sends an important message to those who would believe that President Obama’s election signaled the end of race in America. While that historic development is a great leap forward for our democracy, and a welcome reminder that large numbers of voters hunger for a politics of hope and connectedness, it should not cloud our recognition that we still have a long way to go in truly extending opportunity to all Americans. Thankfully, old-fashioned, in-your-face racism has receded and most of us now consciously embrace colorblind values. But we’re not yet a colorblind society, because our opportunity systems and institutions maintain racially patterned inequalities without, for the most part, intentionally setting out to do so. Kellogg understands that racial privilege and disadvantage have been deeply inscribed into the physical, cultural, economic, institutional, and psychological spaces we navigate daily. Racially inequitable norms and practices in the employment, housing, criminal justice, health and other key sectors still combine to keep far more individuals of color on the margins than can reasonably be explained by their individual shortcomings. Personal responsibility isn’t irrelevant, but its contribution to chronic racial group inequalities is dwarfed by the effects of public policies, institutional practices and unconscious biases that continue to perpetuate racial disparities.

“By stepping up and reframing its race work in this way, Kellogg also sends an important message about the niche philanthropy occupies in our democracy.  Americans have always relied on secondary institutions to extend democratic equality: public schools, trade unions, political parties, religious organizations and, among others, philanthropy. These “equalizing institutions” help create a common social fabric as well as additional opportunity pathways for those without social advantages. The extent to which philanthropic foundations have given a broader cross section of the public access to areas and opportunities once the exclusive preserve of elites—such as higher education, the arts, or specialized training—has been part of this equalizing stratum. This wholehearted embrace of a racial equity grant-making standard speaks loudly to others in this sector about what they can do to help our democracy achieve its full potential and substance”.

Keith could not have put it better. I am eager to hear the thoughts of others on Kellogg’s big bet, the work of the Aspen Roundtable on Community Change and the combination of research and action that is required.

—Jane Wales

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