Meanwhile in the rest of the world…

While the corporate media covers the “Akin Story” better than one sheet, two blankets, and three warm dogs on cold winter night — there are some other items of interest in the news.

Isn’t Africa a country?   Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died this week, [WaPo] and while he was praised for his strong stance against terrorism and for his support for infrastructure improvements in his country, his legacy is shadowed by incidents illustrating a lack of tolerance for political and intellectual dissent.

Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton issued this statement concerning Zenawi’s death:

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia.

I admired the Prime Minister’s personal commitment to transforming Ethiopia’s economy and to expanding education and health services. He was an important and influential voice in Africa, and we especially valued his role in promoting peace and security in the region. I am confident that Ethiopia will peacefully navigate the political transition according to its constitution.

On behalf of the American people, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the people of Ethiopia, and to reaffirm our commitment to a strong partnership focused on strengthening development, democracy and human rights, and regional security.”

Perhaps the American people would like to know:

#1.  While the U.S. government may have valued his role in keeping conflicts minimized, what realistic concerns should we have over the unresolved issues with Eritrea?  And, is a new Ethiopian government expected to provide the same cooperation in military operations in Somalia?

#2.  Secretary of State Clinton affirms her belief that Ethiopia can make the transition to a new government peacefully, but the Kenyan Prime Minister Railia Odinga is not quite so confident, saying that the factions in Ethiopian politics makes the situation very “fragile.” [BBC] The question is not whether one view is more accurate than the other, but whether regional and U.S. interests can be advanced in a country in which the leadership has been supportive of U.S. interests but which also has a highly questionable human and civil rights record?  [NYT]

#3. What are the major factions in Ethiopian politics? Where are their allegiances and alliances?

Another U.S. ally, the Republic of South Africa, has endured serious unrest after the strike at the Marikana Mine (owned by Lonmin) during which 34 miners were killed.  [BBC] The New Yorker covered the conflict, but the miner’s issues and the negotiations (or lack thereof) have barely dented the consciousness of most Americans.

#1. Has the U.S. issued directives to our diplomats in RSA concerning any position taken by the State Department in regard to the Marikana strike and resulting police attack, the most serious since the apartheid era?

#2. Does the income inequality gap in the RSA compound the issues underlying the Marikana Strike, including the substandard housing for most of the platinum miners?

Are we Orient-ed?  The U.S. has extremely close ties to China, Korea, and Japan.   How does the economic growth of the South Korean economy affect its (and our) relations with China?  With Japan?

#1. What position should the U.S. take regarding South Korea’s recent issues over maritime boundaries with Japan?

#2. What does South Korean interest in forging closer economic ties with China mean for the Tri-lateral Free Trade Talks?

#3. If there are conflicts over both economic interests and maritime boundaries between the South Koreans and the Japanese, then how are American interests to be preserved as both are U.S. allies and close economic partners?

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