The Syrian Refugee Crisis: A First-Hand View

TRAVERSE CITY — NMC’s International Affairs Forum and the Utopia Foundation will present a global hot spot conversation and an opportunity to donate to the Syrian refugee crisis at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 in Milliken Auditorium.

Speaker Dr. Curt Rhodes comes to Milliken directly from working at refugee camps in Jordan. Rhodes is the founder and international director of Questscope,  an NGO founded in that country that works with individuals, communities, local organizations and international partners to produce social, educational, and entrepreneurial opportunities for marginalized youth in the Middle East.

The Syria conflict has fueled the worst humanitarian crisis of modern times. Before fighting broke out in 2011, Syria’s population was 22 million. Today, half those Syrians have been forced to flee their homes. More than 7 million are now displaced within Syria and 4 million have become refugees in neighboring countries of Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. These countries are now overwhelmed and, as resources have begun to run out, conditions have sharply deteriorated.

Rhodes began his career in the Middle East in the early 1980s as assistant dean in the School of Public Health at the American University of Beirut. During the 1982 invasion of (west) Beirut, he volunteered in a community-based clinic alongside students and friends, doing around-the-clock triage for wounded and ill civilians. That experience formed the seed of Questscope, and Rhodes has now spent more than 30 years working with and on behalf of marginalized communities and young people across the Middle East.

Tickets are $10 and free to students and educators. Half of  each ticket price will go to Questscope’s emergency fund for Syrian refugees in Jordan. The Utopia Foundation will also match the first $1,000 of donations made during the evening.



Karen Segal
International Affairs Forum co-chair
(231) 715-6064

Dr. Dave Zehnder
Questscope board
(231) 526-2981


Last week’s shocking events in Paris have made us all aware of the price that can come with a free press and the challenges any liberal democracy faces today in trying to confront radical ideologies. As Grant Parsons writes in his provocative article, “a displaced, disaffected, semi-assimilated, young, angry individual is the ‘secret cell’ of the soul of the Western world… When you put together the disaffected, with the terrorist, using the glue of modern communications” it’s not surprising what we get.

To help address and put into focus some of the issues related to the Paris attacks, the International Affairs Forum is teaming up with UpNorthTV’s In Focus, produced by Dave Poinsett, to present:


Thursday, January 22, 8–9 p.m.
UpNorthTV Channel 189

Watch It Here Live!

In Focus hosts Kimberli Bindschatel and Anthony Weber join guests Jack Segal, retired U.S. diplomat and co-chair of the International Affairs Forum; Grant Parsons, Traverse City attorney and board member of the IAF; and Bob Giles, veteran newspaper editor and board member of the IAF, to address:

  • the price of freedom of expression
  • the challenge for liberal democracies in confronting radical ideologies even while protecting cherished ideals
  • the role of global communication technology in giving everyone — radical or otherwise — a powerful megaphone to reach listeners around the world

The program will be rebroadcast on channel 189 Thursday and Friday evenings at 8 p.m. through the month. The show can also be streamed at


An NMC  Extended Education class taught by IAF co-chair Jack Segal
January 21, 1–4 p.m. OR March 9, 6–9 p.m.
$39 each option; call NMC/EES at (231) 995-1700 for more info or to register.

The attack on Mumbai (2008) was the first terror attack to use 21st century technology to maximize its destructive impact. Employing the internet, GPS, live TV coverage, cell phones and detailed planning, a small group carried out twelve separate attacks, killed 164 victims, and brought a city of 20 million to a standstill for days. Meanwhile, the terrorist organization (Lashkar-e-Taiba) controlled the entire operation from 1400 miles away. Jack will explore the critical role that mass communications, technology and social networks played in this attack as well as recent acts of terrorism in Paris, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria and Iraq.

In the months ahead, the International Affairs Forum has several events planned that will address facets of these critical issues:

Our community discussion on Ebola drew over 250 citizens to hear National Public Radio’s Anders Kelto, CDC’s Dr. Benjamin Levy (on SKYPE), Africa expert Dr. Terrie Taylor, Dr. Karen Spiers and Dr. David Martin of Munson Healthcare, and Wendy Trute from GT County Health.

November 1oth, 2014 - Ebola: What you need to know

TRAVERSE CITY — A panel of medical experts and NPR’s global health correspondent will discuss the Ebola epidemic in western Africa and what northern Michigan residents need to know about the disease at a special free International Affairs Forum event Nov. 10 at the Hagerty Center.

UpNorth TV will also broadcast the event live on UpNorthTV, channel 189, and at, available to viewing areas between Traverse City and Mackinaw City. Moderated by Dr. David Martin, M.D., a specialist in infectious disease at Munson Medical Center since 1978, presenters include:

  • Anders Kelto, correspondent for National Public Radio’s Global Health and Development team. A Traverse City native, Kelto’s primary focus is on Africa. In September he traveled to and reported on Ebola from Sierra Leone, one of the three west African nations experiencing an outbreak. He will discuss the effort to halt Ebola at its source in western Africa; what is working and what is not, what has been provided in terms of assistance and what is still lacking, African perceptions of the crisis and the international response.
  • Dr. Terrie Taylor, distinguished professor of medicine at Michigan State University and an internationally recognized expert on disease in Africa. Taylor, also a Traverse City native, spends six months out of every year in the southern African nation of Malawi conducting malaria research and treating patients, most of whom are children. Dr. Taylor recently was in Malawi, helping to assess Ebola preparedness there.
  • Dr. Karen Speirs, director of Infection Prevention at Munson Medical Center as well as president of Munson’s medical staff. She has specialized in Infectious Disease and Internal Medicine for 14 years and is leading efforts to develop contingency planning for this community in case of any Ebola cases here.
  • Wendy Trute, Health Officer for Grand Traverse County Health Department. In the event of an outbreak of any infectious disease, local health departments play a key role in coordinating local responses, training of first responders, contact tracing with infected individuals and those exposed, communicating risk messages to the public and serving as a liaison to the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control. Trute has spent 19 years in the field of public health as a health officer and epidemiologist.

Speirs and Trute will address community readiness, including detection, isolation and quarantine measures, availability of personal protective equipment, training of nursing staff and doctors, contact tracing and public health risk communication messages.

The presentation begins at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a question and answer session. Sponsors include Indigo Health Partners, Munson Healthcare, NMC, Interlochen Public Radio and Up North Media. It will be rebroadcast on Up North Media (channel 189) starting November 13 and available for streaming online at



Karen Segal
International Affairs Forum co-chair
(231) 715-6064

Dale Killingbeck
Munson Medical Center
(231) 935-3393