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The St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs continues through Friday at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and environs. Today’s lineup of panels could be viewed as a handy primer on today’s political and social hot buttons — arms control, Turkey, terrorism, artificial intelligence and more. Two of the panels ask particularly cogent questions. “Let’s Get Money Out of Politics. Where to Start?” (USFSP Student Center, 2 p.m.) has special resonance as gazillionaire Michael Bloomberg takes the Democratic debate stage for the first time tonight. And with two women joining him on that stage but still lagging behind the front-runners, it’s a good moment to be asking “Women’s Equality: When Is the Battle Won?” (Student Center, 11:20 a.m.), with panelists like former UNICEF head Carol Bellamy (last night’s keynote speaker) and Out & Equal founder Selisse Berry well-equipped to address the question. 

I urge you to attend one or all of the events in this three-and-a-half-day conference. The experience reminds me of the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading (another multi-faceted fest on the USFSP campus), where you look around in amazement at a ballroom packed to capacity with people waiting to hear, say, a Haitian novelist, and say to yourself, “Look at all these fellow readers!” The Conference on World Affairs offers a similarly heartening boost, as you look around at a room packed with people waiting to hear about, oh, the crisis in the Middle East, and say to yourself, “Look at all these people who care about the world!”

Like all conference events, these panels are free and open to the public, but you must register in advance here.

For more information on the World Affairs Conference, including a full printable schedule, go to


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