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Category: State Department

Google Chairman Dabbles in Diplomacy at the Disapproval of the State Department

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was in North Korea last week. (Photograph by David Guttenfelder/AP)

Some may call it "hopelessly naïve" but no one can say that Google Chariman Eric Schmidt's four day trip to North Korea, where he was photographed walking through the streets surrounded by North Korean people, did not have an impact on the mindsets of people ordinarily closed off to the outside world. For more than half a century, North Korea has maintained its tightly state-controlled system and built up its nuclear weapons program, keeping foreign invaders at bay, while millions of its citizens are at the same time dying from food shortages. The United States government has, understandably, hesitated to act; however, it is about time we let somebody else try to negotiate with the Kim dynasty.

Even though it is gutsy of Schmidt to dabble in diplomacy with North Korea, I have to applaud him for giving it a shot. Last week, BBC News reported that Schmidt and a delegation that includes former New Mexico governor and US envoy to the United Nations Bill Richardson visited North Korea in order to urge the country to take down some of its restrictions and to allow its citizens to use the internet. It also pushed for North Korea to end its nuclear weapons and missile tests and discussed the case of the Korean-American detainee, Kenneth Bae, who has been held in the country on arrest since November.

Budget Cuts: The First Innings of a Long Debate about Foreign Aid

Today, even Politico understands how disastorous it would be to if we listened to House Republicans and cut State and Foreign Aid spending to 2008 levels. Yet, there are still those who, like Rand Paul, would happy to reduce the PEPFAR budget, which provides antiretroviral drugs to AIDS patients in Africa. Check out the full Politico article here:

GOP seeks to slash foreign aid

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other...

Deep in Al Kamen's usually fun but almost always snarky In the Loop column in the Washington Post last Friday, there was a brief (and completely unsnarky) mention of the resignation of Barry Lowenkron, who has served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy Human Rights and Labor (DRL) in the Bush Administration for roughly the past 18 months. Lowenkron has decided to leave the Department to serve as a Vice President of International Programs with the MacArthur Foundation.

Now I have not had the opportunity to meet Mr. Lowenkron, but I do know that his appointment came fourteen months after the resignation of the previous Assistant Secretary, Lorne Craner. Word on the street at the time was that the Administration could not get anyone to accept the job -- not even loyal Bushies wanted the to take on the Sisyphean task of trying to explain this President's absolutely abysmal human rights policies. So instead they turned to... well, let me allow the official State Department bio to tell the story: