Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Conference on World Affairs coming to St. Pete

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

The St. Petersubrg Conference on World Affairs is coming to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg next week. The three-day event beginning next Wednesday is “a cooperative venture of a group of civic-minded St. Petersdents and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.”

It includes several panels consisting of diplomats, members of the military, media and academia who discuss important international issues currently dominating conversations.

The event is free and open to the public on a first come, first served basis in the USFSP Student Services Center. There are multiple food options located inside the building and several others nearby the USFSP campus. Free parking is also available across the street in the USFSP parking garage.

Each year the event proves to be a success with hundreds of residents and students attending discussions. The conference’s goal is to provide locals and students with access to individuals who have direct knowledge about foreign affairs issues people should know more about.

The event is sponsored by Raymond James, USFSP, WUSF, the Tampa Bay Times, Smith & Associates Real Estate, Sarasota Institute of Lifelong Learning, the Sembler Group, World Politics Review, ONE St. Petersburg, Franklin Templeton Investments, USF World and others.

Here is a rundown of speakers for the event. Complete bios are available on the Conference of World Affairs website along with a schedule and program for the week’s events.

Yavuz Akdağ is a Master’s student in the Department of Government and International Affairs at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He holds a bachelor`s degree in International Relations from Selcuk University in Konya, Turkey. In 2011 he spent a semester as a Socrates-Erasmus student studying at Wroclaw University of Economics in Poland. Subsequent to his graduation, he began an MA Program in Public Administration in Dicle University in Diyarbakir, the city where he was born. In 2014, he qualified for a Turkish government scholarship to pursue graduate studies in the United States. Before starting his graduate work at USF he spent a year studying English at the University of Texas at Austin.

Amelia Arsenault is an Assistant Professor in the Communication Department at Georgia State University and Media and Democracy Research Fellow at the Center for Global Communication Studies at the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication. Before joining the faculty at Georgia State she served for two years as the George Gerbner Post Doctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School. Her scholarly interests center on how different international and domestic actors have attempted to leverage the changing dynamics of communications systems, and the ramifications of those activities for international relations, political and social power relationships, and north/south inequality.  In this capacity, she has conducted research on global media ownership, the impact of international donors in the southern African communications development, network theory, new media, and public diplomacy.

Tom Badey – He is currently a Professor in the Political Science Department and the director of the International Studies Program at Randolph-Macon College. He teaches a number of courses including courses on International Terrorism and Terrorism and Homeland Security. He served twice as the president of the International Studies Association/Southern region. Tom is the two anthologies: Annual Editions: Violence and Terrorism currently in its 15th edition and Annual Editions: Homeland Security. He has published many research articles in the fields of terrorism and political violence.

Bryan Baier is a licensed attorney with over twenty years experience advising elected officials, regulators, trade groups and health plan executives on legislative and regulatory changes to the health system.

Dr. Peter R. Betzer serves as the President of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, a group that has been pivotal to the emergence of St. Petersburg as a major center for marine research in the United States. The author of over 60 publications, including several in NATURE and SCIENCE, he has presented invited lectures in Russia, Australia, England, China and Spain.

Sheryle Bolton is an experienced public and private company CEO, corporate executive and business strategy consultant with a passion for bringing innovation to education and health care.

Kees Boterbloem is a Professor of History at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where he teaches European history. He received his Ph.D. from McGill University in 1994. He has published seven books on Russian and Soviet history.

Karin Braunsberger, Ph.D., is a tenured, full Professor of Marketing in the Kate Tiedemann College of Business at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP). She was awarded a Masters of Arts in Education at Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universitaet in Frankfurt, Germany, and received both her MBA and Ph.D. in Marketing from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Scott Brown joined the Raymond James Equity Research Department in 1995 after two years as an economist in the firm’s Fixed Income Research Department. Before his arrival at Raymond James, he was manager of economic research at Pacific First Bank in Seattle and had previously been director of economic research at First Imperial Advisors in San Diego. He also worked as an economist for the San Diego Gas & Electric Company.

Maria Butina was born in Siberia a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall and spent her childhood navigating the sometimes rocky transition from communism to capitalism. Political rights were initially more plentiful than food as the Russian Federation rose from the ashes of the Soviet Union. Butina distinguished herself early, being named one of the top 100 Russian Federation high school students who in 2007 participated in a joint U.S. / Russian Federation diplomatic legislative seminar entitled “Project Harmony.”

She launched a small chain of furniture stores in her hometown of Barnaul after graduating from college and was the executive director of her local International Rotary Club. But the lure of Moscow – where 1/3 of the Russian population lives – soon drew her west where she founded a public relations firm which she heads to this day. Maria has been engaged in political journalism since 2005 and is fluent in three languages.

Mayra Calo is a highly qualified in immigration lawyer, with a depth of experience in counseling clients from around the world. While her knowledge and unique problem solving skills apply to all areas of immigration law, she has found great success in deportation defense, and refugee/asylum. Her knowledge of international legal, regulatory and policy issues allows her to provide clients with strategic advice and effective and efficient immigration solutions to assist them in achieving and maintaining lawful status in the US.

Suzanne Carlson, President of Carlson Maritime Travel has been a travel professional for over 30 years in the Tampa Bay Area. Carlson Maritime holds appointments with OFAC- The Office of Foreign Asset Control, (U.S. Treasury) IATA- International Air Transportation Association, ARC- Airline Reporting Corporation, CLIA- Cruise Lines International Association, MPI, Meeting Planners International, and is a licensed Florida Seller of Travel. Holding an O.F.A.C license authorizes Carlson Maritime Travel to arrange and sell legal travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens. She is also contracted directly with Havanturs, Celimar the government owned travel provider in Havana Cuba which has facilitated her success in producing and handling dozens of legally O.F.A.C. licensed groups from all over the U.S. to Cuba.

Betty Castor has had a long and distinguished career as a public servant and educator, most notably as the President of the University of south Florida, Commissioner of Education and President of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She has had a lifelong interest in international affairs which began early as a college student. Her global interests were recognized recently with her appointment by President Obama to the William J. Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Janet Chrzan is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania and holds a Ph.D. is in Physical/Nutritional Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research explores the connections between food security, social activities, dietary intake and maternal and child health outcomes in pregnant teens, as well as food security issues relating to agricultural sustainability, food policy and global economics. She teaches a variety of courses related to nutritional anthropology, food and culture, maternal and child health, public health nutrition and global hunger.

Ralph S. Clem (Ph.D., Columbia University, 1976) is Professor Emeritus of Geography and formerly Director of the Center for Transnational and Comparative Studies (1999-2005) at Florida International University in Miami where he was a faculty member from 1974-2009. He also taught in the graduate program in International Administration at the University of Miami (2009-2011). His research, published in many books and articles, focuses primarily and most recently on the electoral geography of states transitioning from authoritarian regimes to pluralist democracies, in particular Russia.

Janet Crane was a payments executive in the Finance Industry for 30 years.  Following Senior Vice President positions at Mellon Bank, MasterCard and Wells Fargo, she was the CEO of Mondex, USA; Vice Chairman of Mondex, Intl. and the CEO of eBay’s first payment company. She was on the Boards of Cirrus, Mondex USA, Mondex Intl and several non-profits. She is currently the President of the Parkshore Plaza Condo Assn and sits on the Board of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic.

Eliane Elmaleh is a Professor in American civilization who teaches at the English department of Université du Maine, Le Mans, France. Her fields of research are contemporary art, African-American art, feminist and political discourses, the American media and identity politics. She has published a number of articles in scholarly reviews such as Annales du Monde Anglophone, Revue Française d’Etudes Américaines, European Journal of American Culture, E-rea and LISA e-journal. She recently co-edited a book entitled Résistances, which describes and analyses the different political movements which recently emerged in countries such as Canada, Cuba, Spain, the US, Greece, France or Tunisia as a reaction to the global economic crisis.

A graduate of the European Business School in Paris, Jean­-Charles Faust’s career started at France ‘s largest Homebuilder, Societe des Maisons Phenix, in Paris. In 1981, Faust was transferred to Clearwater to head the sales and marketing efforts of a joint venture with US Home. In 1986 he opened a commercial real estate brokerage firm, Faust Realty, Inc. Faust is a certified Building contractor and a licensed real estate Broker in Florida.

David P. Fidler is the James Louis Calamaras Professor of Law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law and an adjunct senior fellow for cybersecurity at the Council on Foreign Relations. His latest book is “The Snowden Reader” (Indiana University Press, 2015). He is one of the world’s leading experts on cybersecurity law and policy, cyberspace and international law, international law and global health security, the rule of law in counterinsurgency and stability operations, biosecurity threats, arms control and non-proliferation concerning weapons of mass destruction, the international legal implications of “non-lethal” weapons, and the globalization of baseball.

Ralph Fernandez was born in Havana, Cuba, on January 24, 1952. He left Cuba with his parents as political exiles in 1960. He lived in Puerto Rico for a year prior to moving to Tampa, Florida. He graduated from Jesuit High school in 1969 and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He graduated from MIT in 1972, completing his engineering degree in three years.

Albert A. Fox Jr., a graduate of the University of Maryland, is the Founder and President of the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation, a nonprofit organization formerly based in Washington, DC, and now headquartered in Tampa, Florida. The Alliance was founded in November 1998 to re-establish trade and diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. Through his work with the Alliance, he has made more than 100 legal visits to Cuba in the past seventeen years, under the belief we should interact with the Cuban government as it is, not as we wish it to be. These visits have included nine meetings with former President Fidel Castro, President Raul Castro, numerous meetings with the highest ranking Cuban officials and visits to homes of ordinary Cuban citizens.

A citizen of the World, with roots in Nigeria and the United States, Nosarieme Garrick is passionate in exposing the rapid cultural and technological advancements exploding among the youth in Africa. As a writer, she covers African Culture, writing for outlets like MTV Staying Alive, CNN, Afripopmag, Africa is a Country, and Women’s eNews. Her articles helped her establish fresh new connections with young African political, economic, technological and cultural leaders. In 2010, she founded Vote or Quench, a youth empowerment campaign educating young Nigerians on the importance of their vote in local and national elections. Nosarieme also spearheaded the live production of the first youth centered presidential debate. Before starting My Africa Is as a web-based series, she interned with the Economist newspaper and was mentored by the company’s CEO on the business of media. Nosarieme shares the stories of young people, living, thriving, inspiring and connecting the world community through My Africa Is.

Pierre Guerlain is a Professor of American Studies at Université Paris Ouest Nanterre, France. His fields of research are US foreign policy, Discourse Analysis, and Intercultural Studies. Professor Guerlain has done a lot of work on “anti-Americanism” and the image of the US abroad. He has also published a number of articles on social and political movements in the US. Professor Guerlain’s book about the mutual perceptions of the Americans and the French is titled Miroirs transatlantiques: la France et les Etats-Unis entre passions et indifférences. It was published by L’Harmattan in 1996.

George Hamilton is Chairman of National Payment Corporation (NatPay), a Tampa Bay-based technology company, specializing in electronic payments and electronic document services. He was an investment banker with Raymond, James & Associates, and later started and sold his own securities firm. A former Foreign Service Officer, he holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. Mr. Hamilton divides his time between Tampa, FL and France.

Timothy Heath is a senior international defense research analyst at the RAND Corporation and member of the Pardee RAND Graduate School faculty. Prior to joining RAND, he served as the senior analyst for the USPACOM China Strategic Focus Group for five years. He worked for more than 16 years on the strategic, operational, and tactical levels in the U.S. military and government, specializing on China, Asia, and security topics. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, he has extensive experience analyzing China’s national strategy, politics, ideology, and military, as well as of Asian regional security developments.

Beth Houghton is the Executive Director of St. Petersburg Free Clinic. She says that, after a varied career that included both non profit and for profit roles, she is elated to be giving her time and talent to St. Petersburg Free Clinic. St. Petersburg Free Clinic is supported largely through philanthropy, and has effectively, efficiently and compassionately been assisting the poor and working poor in our community for 45 years. St. Petersburg Free Clinic focuses on basic needs: food, shelter and medical care.

Frederick Hutchinson Jr. has experience in strategic planning, operational evaluations, change management, adaptation of technology to operations, and in international economic and political affairs.

He has twenty years of senior management experience in the Central Intelligence Agency, to include several years as Counselor to one Director of Central Intelligence and served as the head of an internal consulting group for three other Directors. He served twice as the Vice Chairman and once as the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, producing intelligence estimates on global issues to support Presidential decisions.

Dr. Phillip Kasaija is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. He holds a Ph.D. and L.L.M in International Law from Sussex University in the United Kingdom. He is an expert on armed conflict, conflict resolution, and transitional justice in the Great Lakes and Greater Horn regions of Africa. He served as the Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution Advisor at the Inter-governmental Authority on Development Secretariat, Republic of Djibouti (2008), and Assistant Facilitator for Somalia Peace and National Reconciliation in Ethiopia (2009). In 2009 he won the Mary Kinglsey Zochonis Lecture Prize from the African Studies Association of the U.K. In 2010 he was British Academy Visiting Scholar at the African Studies Center at the University of Oxford. In Spring 2016 he is the Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Maureen Laurie Kolar is President of Tampa Bay International (TBI), a women’s club dedicated to promoting friendship throughout the world. The group is partly composed of women who are from other countries and now reside in The Tampa Bay area. TBI members also include women who have traveled the world or taught in foreign countries. Some still live abroad part time. The group is represented by women from India, France, Spain, Cuba, Ecuador, Chile, Syria, Lebanon, Puerto Rico, Italy, Egypt, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala. St Petersburg is the home of most of these women, including Maureen, who grew up in New York and has lived in a number of different States in the eastern United States.

Michael Lemmon served 34 years as a career Foreign Service Officer with postings in Moscow, Islamabad, Tunis, Rabat and Yerevan. He held a wide range of policy positions in Washington including as Deputy Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs and U.S. Ambassador to Armenia. He then joined the Near East South Asia Center at National Defense University as executive director of the Regional Network of Strategic Studies Centers for some 30 thinks tanks from across North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey and South Asia. He currently serves as a consultant to the Department of State.

Supervisory Special Agent Robert Liberto joined IRS Criminal Investigation in 1998 as a Special Agent assigned to the New York Field Office. While in the NYFO, he was assigned to the US Customs-led El Dorado Narcotics Money Laundering Task Force. In 2011, he was promoted to the Supervisory Special Agent position in the Tampa Field Office. He is a firearms instructor, and has also instructed at the US State Department sponsored International Law Enforcement Academy in El Salvador. Prior to joining Criminal Investigation, he was employed as an Investigative Attorney for the New York City Department of Investigation. Supervisory Special Agent Liberto holds a B.S. in Accounting from Pennsylvania State University and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.

Leslie Sue Lieberman, Ph.D., is a biomedical and nutritional anthropologist and currently an Emerita Professor of Anthropology and Courtesy Professor of Medical Education at the University of Central Florida. She was the founding Director of the UCF Women’s Research Center. In 2010-2014 she was a European Union Visiting Scholar teaching Health Equity and Social Determinants of Health in the Masters in Sustainable Regional Health Systems program to students from African, Asian and European countries. Prior to joining the UCF faculty in 2001 she was the Executive Director of the Center for Research on Women’s Health, Affiliate in the Department of Pediatrics and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida. Most of her research has focused on obesity and diabetes among US minority populations but she has recently published with colleagues from Croatia, Lithuania, Germany, Bangladesh, Uganda and Ethiopia.

Dr. Michael Lynch is a Professor in Organizational Leadership at Argosy University of Tampa Graduate School of Business and teaches Culinary management at the Art Institute of Tampa. He completed his Doctorate in Management from the University of Phoenix. Dr. Lynch holds a graduate law degree specializing in food law from DeMontfort University located near London. In addition, he has a master’s degree from Florida International University in Miami and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin where he attended both the Madison and Stout campus. He is also a CEC Certified Executive Chef, CCA Certified Culinary Administrator, and a Certified Food Executive, CFE.

Anthony P. Maingot is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Florida International University in Miami. He has also taught at Yale University where he was Director of the Antilles Research Program and at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad. Dr. Maingot has been the recipient of a Social Science Research Council grant to study Cuba and Haiti, as well as Carnegie, Rockefeller and Mellon Foundation grants in Caribbean Studies. He is co-author of A Short History of the West Indies, now in its fourth edition; Small County Development and International Labor Flows: Experience in the Caribbean (1991); The United States and the Caribbean: Challenges of an Asymmetrical Relationship (1994) of which there is a Spanish edition; The United States and the Caribbean in the Post-Cold War Era.

Daniel McDowell is an assistant professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. His research focuses on the political economy of the international financial and monetary systems. His book project, under contract with Oxford University Press, is entitled Brother, Can you Spare a Billion? America, the IMF, and the International Lender of Last Resort. It seeks to explain why the U.S. sometimes provides unilateral “bailouts” of foreign economies experiencing financial crises. He has published work on other topics, including China’s efforts to internationalize the yuan, in International Studies Quarterly and New Political Economy.

Doug McElhaney is the instigator of the St Pete Conference on World Affairs, having participated in a similar event last year in Boulder, Colorado. When he moved to St. Petersburg in 2007 to take care of aging parents, he noted that international issues did not get the time and attention in the lives of busy Floridians that they warranted. The presidential elections only reinforced his conviction that an international conference in St. Pete that talked about issues, and unfettered by political rhetoric, would be a true contribution to the community. Doug was a career Foreign Service Officer at the US State Department and retired with the rank of Ambassador after a 34-year career. He served in Europe: Brussels, Rome, Milan, Paris, Lisbon, Sarajevo, and for three years in Cairo. He was the US Deputy Permanent Representative during both the Bosnia and Kosovo wars, and he worked for several years in the late seventies on the negotiations that later resulted in the independence of Namibia.

Simi Mehta is a Fulbright-Nehru Doctoral Research Fellow at Ohio State University and a Ph.D. scholar at the United States Studies Division of the Centre for Canadian, United States and Latin American Studies (CCUS&LAS), School of International Studies (SIS), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. She is working on the bilateral agricultural cooperation between the United States and India in the context of achieving food security around the world. Her research interests include India’s Foreign Policy, Indo-US Relations, International Political Economy, Government and Politics of South Asia and American Foreign Policy. A black belt professional in Karate, she has been engaged with civil society movements for better health and education services, gender equality and women empowerment in India. She is also the Secretary of Manavdhara, A Youth Social Organisation for Humanity, ( which is engaged in voluntary social activities, striving for a just and peaceful society across the globe.

Richard Miniter is the Chief Executive Officer of American Media Institute, and an award-winning investigative journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He writes the “National Security” column on He was editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe and was a member of the famed investigative team of the Sunday Times of London. As vice president of The Washington Times, Miniter turned around an ailing division. He is the author of Losing bin Laden, Shadow War, Mastermind, Leading From Behind and most recently Eyes On Target. Miniter has been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Monthly, Newsweek, Forbes, New Republic, National Review and others. He appears regularly on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and hundreds of radio programs every year.

Meg Moritz is a writer and documentary film producer who has covered media ethics for more than 25 years. Her work on news coverage of the gay rights movement has appeared in academic journals, the popular press and her films have been screened in the US, France, Spain, Sweden, South Africa and China. In 1999, she produced the documentary film Covering Columbine that examines the ethics of news media coverage of school shootings. Her most recent documentary, Taking the Lede, looks at high school journalists and their on-going struggles to give voice to the issues that impact young people today including gay rights and school violence. She is a UNESCO Chair in journalism education and professor emerita at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Bola Ogunmefun is a Canadian lawyer and a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Bola was called to the Bar in 2011 and works primarily in the areas of Civil Litigation, Immigration law and Municipal law.

Her Civil Litigation practice covers a broad range of areas, including commercial and contractual disputes and estate litigation matters.

In her Immigration practice, Bola assists clients in preparing and submitting various permanent residence applications, including Family Class sponsorships (spouses/common-law partners, parents and dependent children) and Economic/Skilled Workers programs. Bola also assists with temporary residence applications, including work permit applications for employees and employers, temporary resident visas and student permits.

Gene Poteat is a retired Central Intelligence Agency Scientific Senior Intelligence Officer, who in retirement, also served as president of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), a national association representing the Intelligence Community. He now is president-emeritus and advances AFIO’s mission to educate the American public on the critical need for an effective, professional, and accountable Intelligence Community.

Colonel Joshua Potter is a US Army Officer who has served in several operational assignments in the United States, Europe, and South Western Asia. Upon graduating from West Point in 1993, with a Bachelor’s degree in International History, he served in a variety of Air Defense Artillery, Special Forces, and Civil Affairs assignments. COL Potter earned a Master’s of Science (MS) degree in Health Sciences from Touro University in 2009 and a MS in Joint Campaign Planning and Strategy from National Defense University in 2014. Potter co-authored several professional articles, blogs, case studies, and sections of military Field Manuals (FMs) relating to influence techniques, counterinsurgency, and Security Force Assistance. He authored three books including American Advisors (Combat Studies Institute, 2011) and co-authored Ambush!: A Professionals Guide to Preparing or Preventing Ambushes (Paladin Press, 2010) with CDR (ret) Gary Stubblefield and Mark Monday, and co-authored The Son In Our Eyes (2009) with his son, Damon. He also authored a case study on ethical decision-making in combat for the Center for Complex Operations (CCO) titled, Right and Wrong, Balanced on the Edge of a Spear: U.S. Forces at a Mosque in Baghdad (NPS, 2010).

Shawn Powers (Ph.D., University of Southern California) is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Georgia State University. His research specializes in international political communication with particular attention to the geopolitics of information and technology policy. Dr. Powers is also faculty affiliate of GSU’s Transcultural Violence and Conflict initiative and co-leads its British Council and U.S. Institute of Peace funded project on Civic Approaches to Religious Conflict. He is also an associate director at the Center for International Media Education and serves on the Board of Advisors for the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

Emmanuel Roux is the  Executive Director and President of Urban Food Park, Inc.. The Urban Food Park Project is the result of Emmanuel’s lifetime of experience in agriculture, food service and food manufacturing. Emmanuel is a graduate of the Institut International de Glion in Switzerland, where he received training in professional culinary and hospitality management.

Hiram Ruiz retired in March 2015 from his position as Director of Refugee Services (State Refugee Coordinator) for the state of Florida. He is now a consultant on refugee policy and services at the domestic (U.S.) and international levels, focusing on all aspects of refugee resettlement. From July through December 2015, he undertook a consultancy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, evaluating refugee resettlement programs in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

The Refugee Services program Ruiz headed for six and a half years served the largest refugee/asylee/entrant population in the U.S., providing employment, adult education, youth and other services to some 27,000 new refugee clients every year through contracts with community-based organizations.

Robert Schaefer was NBC’s on-air Security Analyst for their official coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Robert Schaefer is a U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret), Foreign Area Officer, senior analyst, and diplomat specializing in the Eurasia region. He has extensive experience with counterinsurgency and counter-terrorist operations around the world and has lived and worked in many countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia as a diplomat and adviser to foreign governments and militaries. He is the recipient of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and the OSS Society’s Award of Excellence (The Singlaub Award) as the U.S. Special Operations Command Person of the Year for his historic achievements with Russian airborne forces.

Leo Seligsohn is a journalist who spent most of his career at Newsday, first as a reporter and later as theater critic and writer for the paper’s Sunday magazine. After a brief internship at the Paris bureau of International News Service in the early 1950s, he began his career in NBC’s radio news department in New York, starting as a gofer and advancing to the overnight radio news desk. Later, recognizing a preference for print journalism, with its greater emphasis on writing and news gathering at the source, he moved on to a paper in New Jersey before starting at Newsday in 1956, He retired in 1989. Leo and his wife, Adrea, live in Sarasota where he volunteers as a middle school language tutor. He also participates in a group called the Media Roundtable, where speakers are invited to discuss news and other matters of current interest. Once a news junkie, always a news junkie, Leo remains a voracious consumer of newspapers and news shows.

For 20 years, Tom Shepard has produced, directed, edited, and distributed documentary films. Four of his feature projects – SCOUT’S HONOR, KNOCKING, WHIZ KIDS and THE GROVE – have aired nationally on PBS (including POV, Independent Lens and PBS Plus). Coverage of his work has been featured prominently in the U.S. and foreign press, including reviews of three of his films in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe among others. Shepard’s films have played in more than 150 film festivals worldwide – including Full Frame, Silver Docs and the Sundance Film Festival (where he won two top awards for SCOUT’S HONOR in 2001.)  Shepard has raised two million dollars for production of his own work and has received funding from the Independent Television Service (ITVS) four times previously. He is the former Chairman of New Day Films and regularly teaches documentary film in California and Colorado. He graduated from Stanford University where he studied human biology and film.

Howard Simon has been Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida since October 1997. Prior to that, he was Executive Director of ACLU’s Michigan affiliate for 23 years, from 1974 to 1997. His more than four decades as ACLU affiliate Executive Director is the longest tenure in the nation.

Richard B. Smith, whose degrees are from the University of Virginia (B.S., Commerce), Trinity College (M.A., Economics), and the University of Connecticut (Ph.D., Economics), is an associate professor of economics in the Kate Tiedemann College of Business at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He joined the faculty in 2003 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. His focus is in health economics with research interests in the role and impact of patient knowledge in health care markets, hospital quality, and the economics of public health programs. He has been a consultant with World Bank, and prior to entering graduate school was a systems and investment analyst at the Travelers Insurance Cos.

Thomas W. Smith is associate professor of political science and director of the Honors Program at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He holds a Ph.D. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. He has published numerous articles in the fields of human rights, international humanitarian law, and Turkish politics. From 1997-2000 he taught international relations at Koç University in Istanbul. His second book, Human Rights and War: Through Civilian Eyes, will be published next year by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Scott Solomon is Associate Professor of Government and International Affairs at the University of South Florida. He received his Ph.D. from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2002 and his M.A. in International Studies from the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver in 1995. Prior to joining the University of South Florida in 2005 he taught at the New School University, New York University, and Lingnan University in Hong Kong, where he served as The Lingnan Foundation Teaching Scholar. His research interests include globalization, international political economy, and migration.

Ashwinpaul (Tony) C. Sondhi is the founder and President of A. C. Sondhi & Associates, LLC, a financial consulting, investment advisory, and executive training firm. He is currently a member of the Emerging Issues Task Force (EITF) of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). He is also a member of the Investor Advisory Group of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), and the Chairman of the Corporate Disclosure Policy Council of the CFA Institute. He has served as a member of the 2008 Expert Advisory Panel on Fair Value of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). In Spring 2012, he served as the Henry Kaufman Visiting Professor of Financial History at Yeshiva University in NY.

Before joining the CIA in 1985, Leonard E. Tagg worked as a journalist in south Florida and as a high school social studies teacher in Massachusetts. At the Agency, he specialized in three main areas: Eastern Europe, Counterintelligence and the Middle East. As an analyst, he wrote hundreds of finished intelligence reports for the President, Vice President and other senior policymakers. These reports included the exclusive President’s Daily Brief, profiles of world leaders and contributions to several National Intelligence Estimates. His overseas assignments have included Bulgaria, Cyprus, Israel, Italy and Lebanon. Since retiring in 2012, he has written articles on the Middle East including Iraq: Intelligence or Policy Failure and The Iraq War: The Winners and Losers.

Al Tompkins is a senior faculty member for broadcast and online at The Poynter Institute, the world’s premiere school for journalists.

For nearly 30 years, he worked as a photojournalist, reporter, producer, anchor, assistant news director, special projects/investigations director, documentary producer and news director.

Tompkins has trained thousands of television news producers, reporters, photojournalists and managers in his One-Day Storytelling Workshops in 49 states, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Egypt, Cayman and South Africa. He has taught and coached print newsrooms in the U.S. and abroad on how to investigate and report, build interactive news websites, how to use video more effectively online and how to manage ethical issues. Tompkins was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame and in 2008 was awarded The Governor’s Award, the highest honor given by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. During his two and a half decades as a journalist, Tompkins has won the National Emmy, the Peabody Award (group award), the Japan Prize, the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel for Court Reporting, seven National Headliner Awards, two Iris Awards and the Robert F. Kennedy Award.

Sajjad Wali is a native of Afghanistan, and worked for nine years as an interpreter for the US military in his native country. He learned English in Peshawar, Pakistan, and is certified in a number of US Special Forces categories. Last year he and his family arrived in the United States as refugees. Mr. Wali and family currently reside in Tampa, Florida.

Born in the Netherlands in 1946, Albert Wieringa has been a resident of St Petersburg, FL since 2002. He currently writes for the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf and the Belgian periodical Laatste Nieuws. He is a grand national athlete of the Netherlands, and also coaches sports.

Paul Wilborn is the Executive Director of the Palladium Theater at St. Petersburg College. Under his leadership the Palladium has won numerous “Best of the Bay” awards and is recognized as the top venue for jazz, blues, choral music, chamber music and dance in the bay area.

Paul is a pianist, musician and bandleader. His American Songbook Series presents intimate cabaret shows at American Stage Theater and other venues around Florida.

He is a founding member of the WMNF and Studio at 620 Radio Theater Project and contributes radio plays to the project.

Annemarie Wolfe is a British native who has presented on the U.K.’s National Health Service over several years. Annemarie has 25 years corporate management and consulting experience in the technology and ecommerce sectors in the U.S. and Europe. She specialized in IT innovation and global transformation in a number of business sectors for major companies including Yahoo! Inc. in Europe. She combines a technical background with extensive marketing experience, gained working for global advertising agencies in London and New York. Her career has taken her to many locations in Europe and the U.S. but she is now settled in Saint Petersburg, where she works as a consultant. She is an active member of the Project Management Institute™ where she leads a national technology forum and is a board member for the institute’s Suncoast chapter. Annemarie is real estate investor and a realtor in Saint Petersburg and passionate about the development of the St. Petersburg community.

Hoyt Brian Yee is a career member of the United States Senior Foreign Service, currently assigned to Washington, D.C. as Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, responsible for U.S. relations with the countries of Central Europe and South Central Europe.  Before assuming his current duties in September 2013, he was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb, Croatia from 2010 to 2013. He served in Kabul, Afghanistan as Director of the State Department’s Office of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), from 2009 to 2010.  From 2006-2009, he was Consul General in Thessaloniki, Greece, and Principal Officer in Podgorica, Montenegro from 2002 to 2005.  He was Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council from 1999 to 2001, and from 1996 to 1999 worked at NATO Headquarters as Deputy Director of the Private Office of NATO Secretary General Javier Solana.
Other Foreign Service positions Hoyt has held include Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and at U.S. Embassy Paris, and Special Assistant to the U.S. Special Envoy for the Former Yugoslavia.  Hoyt was born in Redwood City, California.  He studied at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at San Diego and has taught courses on International Relations at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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