This particular problem is most likely caused by a mod that's got a duplicated identifier for a race trait.
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Maybe other people are different. Generally I read one forum or another, rarely both. In this case I wanted to make sure my disappointment was heard by anyone who was in a position to affect the future development of the franchise. I am willing to give Star Ruler 3 a shot, if they do a 180. Both ship design and colony development took a very big step in the wrong direction in Star Ruler 2.
A) No, they do not. Reasonably you would expect them to, but at the current time you still need trade stations for unattached zones to trade with each other.