Czech Debate — The New York Times reports that the Czechs are split over joining the euro as E.U.-friendly Milos Zeman starts his presidency next Friday. Zeman has already suggested a referendum on whether to join the euro zone and recommended 2017 as the earliest possible date for entry. Yet the latest Eurobarometer poll shows that more than 80% of Czechs are opposed to joining the euro zone. “The Czech Republic,” according to the Times, “remains deeply polarized between a business community clamoring to get into the euro club and skeptics who associate the currency with the economic pain buffeting Europe’s southern tier.”
Anti-Slavery Laws — The Australian parliament has passed a law that criminalizes forced labor and marriages and human trafficking to protect what activists call a “silent army” of victims, many of them migrants, notes VOA News. The new legislation will increase the number of prosecutions because it gives police more authority to investigate allegations of exploitation and coercion, according to activists. Forced marriage has been dubbed Australia’s guilty secret because it only comes to light when victims break their silence.
Africa’s Growth — The Economist notes that while the African continent is in its best shape since it won independence from colonial powers in the mid 20th century, it needs to make a more ambitious push for progress. Africans have adopted modern technology, voted in elections, and called for more accountability from their leaders, but the current pace of change, which relies heavily on revenues from commodities, is not sustainable, writes the paper. In order to reach its full potential, the Economist prescribes more manufacturing, better infrastructure, rooting out corruption, streamlined bureaucracy, greater productivity in farms and cities, and freer markets.
Lockerbie Bombing Case — The Libyan government said that the Lockerbie bombing case is closed, despite British and American hopes for a new investigation into the atrocity, reports the Independent. British police had hoped that a post-Gadaffi Libya would be open to a new investigation into the bombing, which brought down Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland, killing 270 people, in 1988. American authorities have also shown renewed interest in the case. But Libya’s justce minister Salah al-Marghani told the Daily Telegraph: “The matter was settled with the Gaddafi regime. I am trying to work on the current situation rather than dig into the past.” The alleged Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was tried and convicted by a Scottish court for the bombing, and was imprisoned in 2001. He is the only person to be convicted of the crime. Released on compassionate grounds in 2005 and allowed to return to Libya, he protested his innocence up to his death from cancer in 2012.
Baby Doc in Court – The former Haitian president Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was finally forced into court yesterday to face accusations of crimes against humanity, reports the Guardian. It is the first time Duvalier has been obliged to personally address accusations relating to crimes allegedly committed during his 15-year rule, including extra-judicial killings and detention of political prisoners, writes the Guardian. He had boycotted three previous hearings. The case is considered by international human rights observers to be a landmark case for Haiti’s weak justice system, following decades of dictatorship, military rule and economic chaos, writes the Guardian.
China Executions – Four foreign men were paraded on Chinese state television before being executed for the killings of 13 Chinese fishermen on the Mekong River in 2011, reports the BBC. It is understood to be the first time in China’s recent history that live footage has been broadcast of condemned men being taken to their execution. The broadcast sparked outrage on Chinese social media sites, writes Reuters. The executions themselves, which were carried out by lethal injection in the city of Kunming, were not shown. The four executed men were arrested in Laos and extradited to China in May last year after the 13 fishermen were found dead inside two Chinese cargo ships in the Golden Triangle region, which is notorious for drug smuggling, writes the BBC. One of the prisoners was the Burmese drug baron Naw Kham. One of the other executed men was from Thailand, another was from Laos and the other was stateless, writes Reuters.