Vietnamese Apology — The Communist Party of Vietnam said sorry to the public for having “made some big mistakes, especially having not prevented and remedied corruption and the deterioration among some party members,” quotes Bloomberg. Despite the announcement, the Party’s Central Committee spared the 14-member Politburo and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dang, who has been under pressure for lack of oversight of state-owned companies. The government has found it difficult to reduce its role in the local economy, which is forecast to grow at the slowest rate since 1999, as local banks struggle with bad debts, says Bloomberg.
Military Spending – A new study indicates that five Asian powers have increased military spending to record-levels over the past decade, reports VOA News. The study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies shows that China quadrupled its defense budget since 2000, while India, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan dramatically increased their military spending. According to VOA, the five countries spent a total of around $224 billion on defense in 2011–nearly double what they collectively laid out in 2000–and are forecast to surpass Europe’s military spending this year.
African Leadership — A good-governance prize for African leaders has no winner this year, an indication that upholding democracy and human rights still remains a serious challenge on the continent, reports the New York Times. The Ibrahim Prize of Achievement in African Leadership, which comes with a cash prize of $5 million, wasn’t granted in 2009 and 2010 either. Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese-British telecommunications magnate, established the award in 2007 to encourage good governance in Africa. Last year’s winner was Pedro Pires, the former president of Cape Verde, who rejected suggestions to change his small island country’s constitution to run again.
Extradition Trial – Gary McKinnon, who admits to accessing U.S. government computers while searching for information on UFOs, has been fighting extradition since 2006, writes the BBC. The U.K. home secretary Theresa May will announce on Tuesday whether McKinnon will be extradited to the U.S. to face trial. If convicted on U.S. soil, McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, could be imprisoned for up to 60 years. The home secretary’s decision will be a test of the U.K./U.S. extradition treaty, which came into force in 2004, reports the Guardian. Both the Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have condemned plans to send McKinnon to the U.S.
Cuba Lifts Travel Restrictions – As of January 14, 2013, Cubans will no longer need an exit permit to leave the country, reports AlJazeera. These changes in legislation also mean that Cubans may remain abroad for up to 24 months as opposed to the previous number of 11. Until now, Cubans wishing to travel had to pay $150 and present a letter of invitation from the country they were hoping to visit, writes CNN. Once the changes come into effect, Cubans will only have to present a valid passport and entry visa for the country they are visiting. The change in policy comes as part of reforms promised by Raul Castro when he came into office in 2008.
Seeking Praise – Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is being tried in The Hague for war crimes between 1991 and 1999, has opened his defence by saying he should be praised for promoting peace, reports the Guardian. Karadzic is accused of being one of three Serb leaders responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 people. He’s also charged with the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. “Instead of being accused of the events in our war, I should be rewarded for all the good things I have done,” said Karadzic through a court interpreter. Karadzic’s statement, which was not made under oath, could not be cross-examined by prosecutors, says the New York Times.