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Gillian Sorenson, at right, makes a point during the What's Left Over for Philanthropy panel at the Conference on World Affairs on the University of Colorado Boulder Campus on Tuesday April 7, 2009. With Sorenson at far left is Carolyn Makinson and Barbara Ibrahim.
Photo by Mark Leffingwell / The Camera
Mark Leffingwell
Gillian Sorenson, at right, makes a point during the What’s Left Over for Philanthropy panel at the Conference on World Affairs on the University of Colorado Boulder Campus on Tuesday April 7, 2009. With Sorenson at far left is Carolyn Makinson and Barbara Ibrahim. Photo by Mark Leffingwell / The Camera

BOULDER, Colo. –

Camera reporter Vanessa Miller will be blogging from the Conference on World Affairs on the University of Colorado’s campus today. Here are highlights from a few of the dozens of panels being hosted today.

4:22 p.m. panel: Cinema Interruptus: Chop Shop

Ramin Bahrani, Jim Emerson and Roger Ebert have started the conference’s first Cinema Interruptus with the film’s writer-director present.

“Chop Shop” was shown all the way through Monday night, and the film’s first portion is being shown tonight.

Audience members can interrupt the film and ask questions, and several people already had questions before the movie started. One person wanted to know whether the children were orphans.

Bahrani said that is the assumption, but he thought it would be boring to include a scene where the children reminisced about their parents.

Bahrani paused the film in the opening scene to mention a soccer-ball bumper sticker on the back of a truck.

“That soccer ball was like a two-hour conversation,” he said. “We’re always discussing what in the frame might create meaning and what is taking away energy.”

They decided to leave it in, he said, because “It didn’t suck up any energy, and it seemed correct for them to have on their truck.

“Nothing is ever good or bad,” he said. “It’s correct or incorrect.”

When a kid is thrown out of truck along the roadside, Bahrani said, a New York police officer was nearby and didn’t say anything.

So, he said, when you ask whether this stuff really happens, “It does,” he said.

A scene where two children sell candy on a subway train is real, Bahrani said, and the boys weren’t afraid to peddle the sweets to strangers because they knew they got to keep any money they made.

3:51 p.m. panel: The upside of the downturn

There are some good things about a slumping economy, and many of those things are personal and environmental, said Susan Shaer, who leads the national women’s peace and security organization, Women’s Action for New Direction.

For instance, she said, more people are cooking together at home, playing games for fun, using public transportation and finding entertainment outdoors.

Shaer said there are deals everywhere. More people now can afford to travel and get luxuries that used to be out of reach.

Panelists said that while the economic downturn has left many without work, it has provided people a chance to reevaluate priorities and consider what really matters.

But, one person asked, will it last once the economy recovers?

3:22 p.m. panel:The constitution: not just another piece of parchment

An argument continues to crop up in this country over the constitution, and how relevant parts of it are in this day and age, according to several panelists.

For instance, what was considered cruel and unusual punishment in the 1700s is different today, said political scientist Robert Kaufman.

“It’s irrational to continue to have debates in the 21st century about what Madison and Hamilton thought,” he said.

2:33 p.m. panel: Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh is a “very very good entertainer” who has attracted more than 20 million listeners to his radio show, one panelist said this afternoon during a discussion on the conservative political commentator.

Another panelist conceded that he is “funny” but said he might have a more profound impact on society.

“What type of position has he served to benefit our country, and what type of position has he served that has hurt our country?” asked Janet Breslin-Smith, a former U.S. senator.

“He’s funny and entertaining, but I think we need to look long and hard at the impact on our country.”

Robert George, editorial page association editor for the New York Post, said that regardless of Limbaugh’s positive or negative impact, he’s someone who “needs to be taken seriously.”

“What Rush does is not easy,” George said, adding that many other similar personalities have failed on the radio.”He is the most successful radio show host in the country.”

1:14 p.m. panel: Yes, the UN can!

The United Nations Foundation has shifted its focus from bureaucratic issues to “problems without passports,” said Timothy Wirth, president of the foundation and former U.S. senator from Colorado.

The organization has honed its vision to address, among other things, issues related to children’s health, women’s reproductive health, population and the environment, Wirth said during Tuesday’s noon plenary at the Conference on World Affairs.

“We are now faced with a whole series of new problems,” Wirth said about the concerns that aren’t bound by state borders or separated by oceans.

“How do we deal with terrorism and climate change and health-care issues?” Wirth said. “That is the new UN, and that is the UN that we hope will pivot rapidly and one that gives us great hope that, yes, the UN can work, and it’s our obligation to do so.”

Wirth’s organization was founded in 1998 through a major financial commitment from Ted Turner to support and strengthen the United Nations.

In addition to reshaping its focus, Wirth said, the United Nations Foundation is changing the way it operates to use new technology.

“We have begun an experiment with the United Nations on how to use mobile technology,” Wirth said.

12:14 p.m. panel: Brain quirks

Telepathy might not be an actual “sixth sense,” but a person’s senses can work together, at a high level, to make possible something that’s not with just one of the senses, said Kirsten Sanford, a specialist in learning and memory.

And, she said, as a person becomes more familiar with an environment â be it a classroom or a work place â he or she can become more aware of things not obvious to most people.

That, in turn, can be viewed as a type of telepathy â like a teacher having eyes in the back of his or her head, she said.

11:51 a.m. panel: Geek culture: sci-fi, superhero movies and comic books

In a discussion packed with teenagers, a panel of film and self-proclaimed comic-book geeks are discussing the future and the health of sci-fi, superhero movies and comic books.

They’re fine, says Andy Ihnatko, a technology columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Macworld.

They’re constantly being remade and reshaped, so it’s OK if one version isn’t up to snuff.

And, Ihnatko said, sometimes they’re made better â like in the newly-released comic-based film “Watchman.”

“I think they actually improved on the ending,” Ihnatko said.

Film critic Jim Emerson said comic-based movies can be top quality, and they shouldn’t be put in another, lower category.

“It’s like when people say, ‘It was good â for a comic-book movie,'” Emerson said. “No.”

11:25 a.m. panel: Winning Islamic hearts and minds

If asked, people in the Muslim world would have a list of reasons why they don’t like America, said Saad Ibrahim, an Egyptian social scientist.

First on that list, he said, is the United States’ treatment of Palestine. People also are upset with the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, Ibrahim said.

“At the heart of it is that American foreign policy is a double-standard, it’s not consistent,” Ibrahim said.”And the U.S. government supports dictators in the Muslim world.”

Ibrahim said he’s encouraged by President Obama’s interactions, so far, with the Middle East.

“To my gratification this morning, I think President Obama has done the job that I am supposed to tell him how to do it,” Ibrahim said. “He seems to be naturally gifted to do what needs to be done.”

And, he said, aspects of the United States that the Muslim world appreciates include its democracy, freedom, science, technology and education.

10:42 a.m. panel: The future of the UN and why it matters

North Korea isn’t a legitimate nuclear threat, at this time, said Jonathan Granoff, president of the Global Security Institute.

The Asian nation’s recent missile test failed, Granoff said.

Still, he said, North Korea over time could become a “virtual nuclear weapons state” pull out of the United Nations’ Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and create a bomb.

That’s why their needs to be a way to monitor nuclear activity, Granoff said.

“We have to put real money into a viable effective verification and monitoring system,” he said. “And that is going to have to be done through the UN.”

9:59 a.m. panel: Teaching What to Think or How to Think

Investigative journalist Roberta Baskin said she has always questioned assumptions and considers herself a skeptic.

“I’m an optimistic skeptic,” she said, “And that has served me well.”

Baskin — speaking during one of four panels at the University Memorial Center this morning that are packed and turning people away â said it’s important for people to think for themselves.

“I would urge you to be discerning consumers of news in this day and age,” she said.

Baskin credits much of her success as a journalist to questioning things she’s been told and then finding out the truth for herself.

Sanjoy Mahajan is internationally known for advancing the teaching of mathematics and science, and he said it’s crucial in his instruction to teach students to think outside the box.

He’ll provide problems with multiple-choice answers â none of which are correct. That exercise, he said, teachings the pupils to think beyond what is offered to them.

“It teaches problem-solving skills,” Mahajan said.

And, he said, when you’re working for the government later in life and you’re asked to solve a budget problem, you can think beyond the options they give you to find a solution.

9:19 a.m. Panel: Wounded Warriors

Thanks to technological advancements, fewer of today’s U.S. soldiers are killed on the battlefield, said Ike Wilson, a lieutenant colonel who was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army.

Wilson is speaking on a panel about modern war wounds this morning during an early panel on the second day of the University of Colorado’s Conference on World Affairs.

During the Vietnam conflict, Wilson said, the injury-to-death rate was 7 to 1. In today’s wars, he said, that has improved to 16 to 1.

Unfortunately, he said, there has been an increase in traumatic injury.

“That’s due to the machine approach to warfare,” he said.

Every conflict has its “signature wound,” Wilson said. In the American Civil War, he said, it was amputation.

“The signature wound of these wars has become minor and major brain trauma,” he said.

Josh Rushing, a former U.S. Marine captain and international correspondent, said he feels for the soldiers injured in conflict, but he has a problem with the term “wounded warriors.” Some of the people who are most injured in conflicts are those who never intended to enter the battle, he said.

Laos, for instance, wasn’t involved in wars like the Vietnam conflict but has become “the most bombed country in the history of the world,” Rushing said.

“So, for me, it bothers me to talk just about wounded warriors,” he said.

Conference on World Affairs (CWA)

Conference on World Affairs

The 61st annual Conference on World Affairs runs Monday through Friday on the University of Colorado campus.

For more news on the CWA, see’s Special Section and Archive.

For a full schedule of events and participant bios, visit

VIDEO: Beatboxing workshop at the Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado


Archived comments

“He’s funny and entertaining, but I think we need to look long and hard at the impact on our country.”


Huh?Does she feel that way about Jay Leno, too?Or perhaps, given her age, Phyllis Diller?Since when are entertainers subject to government scrutiny and speculation about what they “should” be saying?Sheesh.


4/7/2009 2:40:05 PM

rush is funny?


what else is funny?

dead gophers?

hmmm…maybe…soap opera reruns?

from the sixties?

yeah! yeah, man!!! funny sh***t!!!

how ’bout things decaying in the fridge!!

yeah, man…get it on!! that is some funny, funny,



4/7/2009 4:29:50 PM

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