Amid a near unquenchable thirst for natural resources, a desire to develop new trading partners and an opportunity to press for political influence in a vast region increasingly ignored by the United States, the People's Republic of China is forging ahead to develop closer ties with Latin America.
The spate of brutal and systematic attacks on Christian communities in Syria, Iraq and Egypt by Islamic State (IS) has surged. Yet despite this targeted violence, there's a climate of international indifference by many governments and even some Christian communities in the West toward this modern-day religious persecution.
The vast swath of nine countries bordering the southern reaches of the Sahara desert are marked by poverty, drought and chronic instability.
In recent years there's been a dearth of media coverage of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan's troubled western region. What had once been a focus of both diplomatic and high profile celebrity efforts to detail human rights abuses during more than a decade of inter-ethnic conflict, has subsequently been bypassed by both crisis fatigue and a host of other larger African regional conflicts.
There's been a disturbing decline in global freedoms over the past year with a clear erosion of political rights for the ninth consecutive year. These are among the dire findings of the Freedom House report which rates rights and freedoms in 195 countries around the world.
While America seems transfixed on a spate of six separate Middle East crises, there's been far less attention paid on the brewing storm in Europe. Thus as political/military efforts are focused on trying to sort out Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Iran, Washington policymakers have been blindsided by fast unraveling events in Ukraine. We had better take notice of a very dangerous situation.
Proclaiming an end to the American economic recession and declaring that "the shadow of crisis is past," U.S. President Barack Obama addressed a skeptical Republican-controlled Congress in the annual State of the Union Address. Yet the same speech offered a fuzzy view of key foreign policy challenges and, more importantly, no plan on solving other vital concerns.
More than a million people along with 44 world leaders rallied in Paris to proclaim liberty and call for press freedoms in the wake of the radical Islamist media massacre and subsequent terror attacks. The rallies were the biggest since the liberation of Paris from the Nazis in 1944. But while the Americans were a prominent part of the extraordinary events 70 years ago, this time around the U.S. was notably missing.
The appalling attack on the offices of a satirical magazine in Paris, which killed 12, was a deliberately focused and targeted hit not only to stun and intimidate a free press but a free society as well. In recent months France has seen a spate of attacks not only on the media, but on Christmas markets and Jewish synagogues.
It's time once again to peer into the crystal snow-globe to try to decipher and predict what we may expect ahead in 2015. After a dangerously tumultuous past year, the dust has yet to settle on a score of crises ranging from the man made chaos of the Middle East to the medical Ebola emergency in West Africa.