Top news: A private American delegation that includes former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen arrived in North Korea Monday for a controversial four-day visit. Richardson, who called the mission a "humanitarian private visit," intends to try to secure the release of Korean-American Kenneth Bae, a tour guide who was taken into custody last November. Why Google has chosen to send a delegation to the notorious Internet black hole remains something of a mystery, though Richardson said that Schmidt was "interested in some of the economic issues there, the social media aspect."
The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, called the trip "ill-advised," coming as the international community considers how to respond to Pyongyang's Dec. 12 rocket launch. "We are in kind of a classical provocation period with North Korea," an anonymous U.S. official told Reuters. "Usually, their missile launches are followed by nuclear tests." North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency confirmed that the group arrived Monday, but provided no further details.
In 2009, a delegation including former President Bill Clinton and John Podesta managed to secure the release of U.S. journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling.
Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai is expected to arrive in Washington Tuesday for a series of meetings with top U.S. officials about the United States' long-term role in the region. He will meet with President Barack Obama on Friday.
- A court in Kuwait sentenced a man to two years in prison Monday for insulting the country's emir on Twitter.
- The Liberal National Forces Alliance, Libya's main liberal coalition, withdrew from the national assembly Monday to protest delays in drafting a new constitution.
- A Bahraini court upheld life sentences for eight opposition members accused of plotting to overthrow the state.
- Hundreds of protesters rallied in Guangzhou against the censorship of an influential liberal newspaper.
- An Indian military spokesman claimed that Pakistani troops killed two Indian soldiers on the Indian side of the border in Kashmir.
- Japan's new government announced a review of its five-year military spending plan on Monday, a move that could presage the country's first military spending hike in a decade.
- Malian troops clashed with Islamist rebels Monday, after they tried to enter the southern portion of the country.
- Talks between the government of the Central African Republic and Seleka rebels who now control much of the country are expected to start before Friday.
- South Sudanese officials said Monday that they expect to establish a buffer zone with Sudan within a month.
- Greece's Democratic Left party expelled two MPs for backing an investigation into a ruling party leader over the so-called "Lagarde list," which names tax evaders.
- Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi agreed not seek reelection as part of a pact between Berlusconi's People of Freedom party and the Northern League.
- Police clashed with rioters for the fifth night in a row in Northern Ireland, following a decision by the City Council to stop flying the British flag.
- The head of the Venezuelan Conference of Bishops said Monday that delaying President Hugo Chavez's inauguration would be "morally unacceptable" and a violation of the constitution.
- A gunman injured six people in the Chilean port city of Valparaiso before being brought down by a bystander.
- A new report showed that the development of oil sands in Alberta, Canada has increased the level of carcinogens in surrounding lakes.