Josh Rovner on Trump considering Exxon Mobil CEOs for secretary of state

Tower Chair Josh Rovner was interviewed in the Dallas Morning News about rumors President-elect Donald Trump considering present and past CEOs of Exxon Mobil for the position of secretary of state.

“It could be very unusual,” Rovner said. “The only reason it might make sense has to do with the way Trump feels about international relations, that it seems always to be related to a business transaction.”

Read the full article here.

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Q&A with Sara Jendrusch | Exploring security within the commercial sex trade

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HCM Tower Scholar Sara Jendrusch traveled to London as part of her research project to work with women who had been trafficked into the sex industry.

The Tower Center sat down with Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Sara Jendrusch to discuss her research exploring the security of the commercial sex trade. Jendrusch has conducted research in Amsterdam, London and around the United States. She is majoring in English and corporate communications and public affairs, with minors in public policy and international affairs and history.

Why did you decide to study security of the commercial sex trade?

Tower Scholars PortraitsStudying the sex trade is certainly not something to take lightly. When I first became interested in it, I wanted to understand the power given to the women by the law — how were their rights and freedoms restricted? As I looked more into the subject, however, what caught my interest was not the legality or morality of the sex trade itself. Rather, it was the concerns of the individuals involved. They did not focus on the larger debates on freedom and empowerment surrounding the industry, because it simply did not matter to them. Prostitution was their means of survival. They focused on surviving and protecting themselves. It was that survival instinct I wanted to study, so as I moved forward with my research I began to examine sex workers’ concerns regarding security and protecting themselves.

Your research has taken you around the world. What did you learn from your experiences in Amsterdam and London?

My time in Amsterdam was short compared to the time I have focused on other locations. However, what I did find was that regardless of its legality, the role of law enforcement remains a large issue of concern. Those in the industry still worry about whether the police had the ability (or, more accurately, the will) to protect the workers if they were put into danger by a client for any reason.

When I studied in London, I was exposed to a different side of the sex industry. Through the non-profit I interned with,  I worked with women who had been trafficked into the sex industry. Some of the larger problems that the women seemed to face had to do with the government and police force, and the assistance the women received or did not receive. More than that, however, my time in London showed me the impact that sex trafficking can have on an individual. Regardless of country, race, ethnicity, or age, these women were all tremendously hurt by their experiences, and it was one of the ugliest sides of humanity I have seen. Hearing their stories was an experience I knew I needed to have over the course of this research. It’s easy to talk about the Red Light District, or women who choose to be in the industry, or any of the lighter ways of looking at it. But in order to understand the sex trade fully, you have to acknowledge the worst, most difficult parts of it, even if it makes you uncomfortable. That full understanding is the only way we can see where the true problems lie and how we can work best with the individuals in the industry.

Have you looked into the sex trade in Dallas? How does it compare to the rest of the world?

Dallas is an interesting city to look into, because it is one of the worst areas in the United States for trafficking. However, the Dallas Police Department and the individuals I’m working with recognize this, and they have a goal of countering that status. They have developed a police system that empowers the women in the industry, as well as the officers who work the cases. It has taken a while, but the system Dallas developed is making an impact. The difference between it and other systems is that a segment of government – the police force – is at the head of it. Because of that, they can work with non-profits and other government segments to unite them all in order to attack the problems they see.

What have you found most surprising about your research?

As a communications scholar, I notice quite a bit about how people talk about the subject, and what they say or don’t say. What has been most surprising to me is how all of the people involved in the industry identify the women. Most of them view the women as victims, but they do not focus on the male prostitutes as victims. The definition of victim changes from group to group, but the title remains the same. It is a small detail, but it defines so much in the industry. How the women are viewed or defined changes how they are treated, and I cannot help but wonder if that helps or hurts the efforts of the groups trying to offer assistance to the women.

How does your research for the Tower Scholars Program fit into your goals for the future?

People ask me all the time if this is a field I want to go into. Truthfully, I don’t know. If I am able to go into the field in a position I am passionate about, I certainly am not closed to it. But I always emphasize that my choice in doing this research is not about getting into an industry or building a resume. Small as it may be, this is something that could have an impact that lasts longer than I could. It’s something that can be used as is or built upon, depending on what the industry needs as time passes. That’s why I am passionate about this research – it gives me the chance to leave a small footprint behind, and if it can help even one woman, then I have succeeded in something.

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Former Tower Center Student awarded Marshall Scholarship

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Brandon Roselius with Rahfin Faruk at the Tower Center’s 2014 National Security Conference.

SMU graduate Rahfin Faruk was awarded the Marshall Scholarship, a scholarship awarded to young Americans to study in the United Kingdom, becoming SMU’s second Marshall Scholar.

While at SMU, Faruk ran the Tower Center Student Forum and was awarded the Tower Center’s Jack C. and Annette K. Vaughn Foreign Service and International Affairs Internship.

“I am incredibly humbled to receive this opportunity to study in the United Kingdom and thank the British people for this scholarship,” Faruk said in an SMU press release.

“My life’s goal is to create an economically and financially inclusive world, which I believe can beget socioeconomic progress in critical areas like education, health and housing. With the support of the Marshall Scholarship, I will explore how different technologies, models and approaches can transform painful paradoxes – like the poorer you are, the more you pay – for billions of people.”

Read more about Faruk here.

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Josh Rovner | Push for transparency could have cost Clinton the election

Tower Chair Joshua Rovner wrote an editorial for the Washington Post, “This is why the push for transparency may have cost Clinton the election,” Nov. 28.

Rovner argues that the push for openness from law enforcement and intelligence officials, while understandable, has unintended consequences. Eleven days before the election, James B. Comey, director of the FBI,  sent a letter to Congress saying he was looking over new information that could be relevant to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Clinton herself has said that this cost her the election.

“Transparency is the only way we can hold executive agencies accountable,” Rovner wrote. “However, the Comey saga is a stark and troubling reminder that transparency has a price.”

Read the full editorial here.

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Tower Scholars donate laptops to refugees to help them learn English

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars Kovan Barzani and Thomas Schmedding donated 11 laptops to refugees in Dallas to help them learn English as part of a group project for a class.

Barzani, Schmedding and four of their classmates submitted their project for Engaged Learning funding and used the money to buy the laptops and download a software program that will teach the refugees English.

“There’s so many barriers that exist for language development and getting those resources to people quickly, especially right when they get here, will help them so much as they go through,” Barzani said.

Listen to KERA’s story here.

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Board Member William Cohen | “Don’t Retreat into Fortress America”

Honorary Tower Center Board Member William Cohen, former Republican senator and secretary of defense, coauthored an opinion piece for the New York Times, “Don’t Retreat into Fortress America” with Gary Hart Nov. 22.

Cohen and Hart explore the two greatest surprises of 2016 — Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump as president. Both, they argue, will have a significant impact on post-war international order.

“Wise leaders such as Truman, Eisenhower, Marshall and Acheson constructed a temple in which freedom could thrive and economies could prosper,” Cohen and Hart wrote. “The interior of the temple may be in need of renovation, but Mr. Trump should not pull apart its central pillars and bring it crashing down.”

Read their column here.

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Student Blog | Hope fades for unification of the Korean peninsula

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Kuyoun Chung prepares for her talk at the Tower Center “Security of the Korean Peninsula” Nov. 11 as part of the Sun & Star Program.

Kuyoun Chung, research fellow in the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU)’s International and Strategic Division, came to SMU to give the talk “Security of the Korean Peninsula” Nov. 11 as part of the Tower Center’s Sun and Star program.  She came fresh from a three-day strategic dialogue in D.C. with think tanks, state department officials, and U.S. military officials to speak to us.

At the beginning of every new South Korean administration, the leaders come together to create a unification policy.  Its current administration, under President Park Geun-hye, hopes to achieve unification by ending the current cycle of provocation and compensation and replacing it with enough trust to begin a new cycle of denuclearization and collaboration.  Until Korea resolves the fundamental incompatibility between its hopes of unification and the international strategy of deterrence, pressure, and sanctions, Chung says it will be difficult to establish such trust.  Given the steady increase in sanctions and North Korea’s dual strategy of nuclear and economic development, it is easy to understand the title of Chung’s first slides: “fading hopes for unification.”

Today, she believes there are two possible ends for the 60-year-old conflict.  One possibility is for North Korea and the U.S. to reach a peace treaty, which would require recognizing North Korea as a sovereign nation. American recognition would leave the Korean peninsula divided between two hostile nations. Alternatively, Dr. Chung believes the path to unification would proceed from North Korean regime change.

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SMU students A.J. Jeffries and Matthew Reitz interview Kuyoun Chung Nov. 11.

Chung also emphasized the different goals of the major stakeholders in East Asia.  The United States and Japan share a vision of a united Korea as a liberal democracy operating in a market economy, a nation that would be friendly to the U.S.-Japanese alliance.  China’s ideal form of unification emphasizes its concerns about a U.S.-Japan-Korea triple alliance.  It would prefer to see unification delayed until a self-determined nation could emerge without any need for an alliance with the United States.  Finally, Russia’s focus on the Crimea means it would prefer not to have Korea buck the status-quo.

In her concluding statements, Chung explained that progress towards unification would be a combination of urgency, initiative, and mobilization. She said that unification would be a gradual, generations-long process that would give time for the ideal circumstances to come about.  Over the course of those generations, South Korea would have to strengthen its unification-oriented policies by nudging North Korea towards regime change and mobilize and coordinate international support around a unification policy.

During the question and answer session, Chung also discussed the need to prepare the people of South Korea for unification.  Many members of the younger generation, who have trouble finding employment, oppose unification because they prefer to see South Korea’s economic resources used to improve their situation at home first.  However, there are programs prepared as part of a campaign to emphasize the valuable aspects of unification to the North Korean people.  The primary appeal would be the denuclearization of North Korea, eliminating a significant threat to South Korea.

When asked about the potential impact of President Donald Trump on Korea, she focused on his promises to remove troops from South Korea and Japan.  This, Chung explained, would significantly alter the balance of power in Asia, giving China the opportunity to expand its influence.  Greater China influence would push unification efforts closer to China’s vision.


Tower Scholars PortraitsA.J. Jeffries is from Downers Grove, Illinois, and he is triple majoring in history, economics, and public policy with a double minor in philosophy and public policy.  He is a Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar, and when healthy, he can be found in the center of the midfield for the SMU soccer team.  Off the field, he enjoys writing for the honors newspaper, Hilltopics, cooking, and reading.

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Law Professor Nathan Cortez: Tampering with Obamacare is like a game of Jenga

Tower Center Fellow Nathan Cortez, professor of law in leadership and Latino studies at Dedman School of Law, talked with KERA News about the future of the Affordable Care Act under President Trump and a Republican held Congress.

Republicans have called for the repeal of Obamacare since it was first passed in 2010. But Cortez told KERA’s Lauren Silverman it’s still too soon to tell what will happen.

“There’s a pretty wide range of possible outcomes right now, anything from burn it all down, full repeal… to very subtle changes, in which Republican House and Senate members and President Trump could claim that they’ve repealed it but really just got rid of a few unpopular provisions,” he said.

Read the story here.

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Harold Clarke | “How a 1950s political theory predicted defeat for Clinton”

Tower Center Senior Fellow Harold Clarke wrote an opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News titled “How a 1950s political theory predicted defeat for Clinton.”

Clarke argues voters make their decisions based on three factors: long-term partisan predispositions, judgments about important issues, and images of the candidates.

See how the theory played out in this year’s election in his op-ed here.

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Mexican government hesitates to respond to Trump campaign promises

Tower Center Academic Director Jim Hollifield and Executive Director Luisa del Rosal were quoted in the My Statesman article “Mexican official strikes cautious tone when discussing Trump’s policies” Nov. 14.

Paulo Carreño King, Mexico’s undersecretary to North America, said he wouldn’t respond to Donald Trump’s campaign policies until he is in office Jan. 20, according to My Statesman reporter James Barragan. Mexico is waiting to see what his next move will be, and Hollifield said it’s a smart decision.

“They want to be a partner and want to give the benefit of the doubt because the relationship is so critical, and they want to show how critical it is by being the friendliest neighbor possible,” del Rosal said of the Mexican government.
Read Barragan’s article here.

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