Tales from the Trail

Safari time in Africa for first lady, family

After nearly a week of public diplomacy and outreach in Africa, U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and her family went on safari on Saturday and had an encounter with an elephant.

Obama, who is traveling on her second official solo trip abroad, went to see wildlife at Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa, roughly an hour away from Gaborone, Botswana, where she spent the previous night.

Together with her daughters, niece, nephew and mother, the first lady roamed the game park in an open-air vehicle, spending her final full day on the African continent engaging in a little touristic fun.

The elephant encounter happened toward the beginning of their tour, while reporters were waiting nearby for the one photo opportunity with the first lady in the park.

As her vehicle approached the spot where the press waited, it stopped and the family — with mouths gaping — turned their heads to see an elephant.

Clinton sees diplomats of the future in cargo pants as well as pinstripes

CONGO-DEMOCRATIC/

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Congress to finance a major new U.S. push on overseas development aid, arguing that only by building up a global middle class will the United States increase its own national security.

Clinton, in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine which previews a pending State Department report on diplomacy and development, says it is essential for Congress to keep the money flowing even as the United States grapples with its own financial problems at home.

“The American people must understand that spending taxpayer dollars on diplomacy and development is in their interest,” Clinton wrote, saying it was time to put to rest “old debates on foreign aid.”

The First Draft: Hillary Clinton’s bad day

CONGO-DEMOCRATIC/CLINTON-OUTBURSTSome days, you really have to feel for Hillary Clinton. And this could be one of those days.

Secretary of State Clinton’s bad day started Monday in Kinshasa, in the middle of a grueling African trip, when a translator goofed and made it sound as if a questioner wanted to know what Clinton’s husband Bill thought of a particular issue. While on this tour, she’d already had to comment on the former president’s humanitarian mission to free to U.S. journalists from North Korea, and basically, she’d had about enough.

Read a just-the-facts Reuters story on what happened here and watch the video below.

from FaithWorld:

Can the United States fix Durban II?

The United States has decided to participate in planning meetings for the United Nations Conference on Racism in April in order to influence its final declaration. The conference, a follow-up to the 2001 meeting in South Africa that the U.S. and Israel walked out on because the draft declaration called Israel racist (that language was later dropped). Israel and Canada have already announced they would boycott "Durban II," as the conference is being called, and the Bush administration was opposed to the conference. But the Obama administration has decided to wade into the debate in the hopes of getting a better result. (Photo: United Nations General Assembly, 26 Sept 2008/Eric Thayer)

Apart from the expected criticism of Israel, this conference in Geneva is also due to be a showplace for a drive by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to have the U.N. condemn defamation of religion. The U.N. General Assembly voted for just such a condemnation last December, for the fourth year running. While the non-binding resolution urged member states to provide "adaquate protection against acts of hatred, discrumination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general," the only religion it mentioned by name was Islam. Western countries opposed that resolution as contrary to the basic rights of free expression and opinion.

In statements in December, the freedom of expression rapporteurs of the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) have called on the United Nations not to issue any such resolution.