Chaos feared at democracy march
HONG KONG | Tens of thousands in Hong Kong are expected to join an annual pro-democracy march Thursday amid growing tension inside the city's opposition camp over the pace of political reform.
Some politicians fear the protest will be "very chaotic" — with campaigners directing their anger at the government and at the formerly uncompromising Democratic Party, which recently changed course and is now willing to negotiate with Beijing.
The march, which coincides with the anniversary of Hong Kong's 1997 transfer from colonial power Britain to China, has become an annual opportunity for campaigners to show the strength of opposition to Beijing and the local authorities.
But last week's enactment of a package of political reforms that promise an incremental boost to democracy — but not one person, one vote — has split the opposition camp.
Radicals, who have campaigned for a firm blueprint for universal suffrage for the city of 7 million people, have condemned the Democratic Party for voting for the package and giving up on their fight for universal suffrage for Hong Kong in 2012.
Merkel candidate falls short of hopes
BERLIN | Chancellor Angela Merkel failed to secure a swift victory for her candidate to be Germany's president in an election Wednesday, but still appeared likely to get an embarrassingly lackluster win in a vote seen as a test after a bumpy few months.
Mrs. Merkel's center-right government had the simple majority in the special parliamentary assembly that chooses the president, but her candidate, Christian Wulff, fell short of the absolute majority needed in the first two rounds of voting.
The governing coalition hoped to show strength after a strife-riven start since it took office in October.
But Wolfgang Bosbach, a lawmaker with Mrs. Merkel's Christian Democrats, voiced regret that the alliance "hasn't shown the unity — at least so far — that would significantly have stabilized the coalition."
Chechen leader safe after suicide bomb
GROZNY | A suicide bomber blew himself up in the capital of Russia's restive Chechnya on Wednesday, outside a theater where the region's Kremlin-appointed president was waiting for a concert to begin, officials said.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a former separatist rebel who switched sides to support Russia, was not injured. But the Investigative Commission, Russia's top investigative body, said five police officers and two civilians were wounded in the blast.
The explosion, at about 6 p.m., shook the center of Grozny, a city gingerly trying to come back to life after being devastated in two wars between separatists and Russian forces since 1994.
Mr. Kadyrov's office said in a statement that police guarding the theater noticed a man behaving suspiciously and that when they shouted at him, he detonated an explosive device.
Pope shuffles staff before vacation
Preoccupied for months by the clerical sex abuse scandal, the pope on Wednesday shuffled the Vatican bureaucracy before heading off on vacation. His most significant appointment: the head of a new office designed to fight secularism in the West.
Pope Benedict XVI tapped a trusted Italian, Monsignor Rino Fisichella, to head the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, a new Vatican department designed to reinvigorate Christianity in the parts of the world where it is falling by the wayside.
Benedict has made rekindling the faith in Europe a priority of his papacy, and the appointment of Monsignor Fisichella served as a tacit acknowledgment that his efforts to date needed focus.
Also Wednesday, Benedict named Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet to head the powerful Congregation for Bishops, which vets bishop nominations worldwide. Cardinal Ouellet, the 66-year-old archbishop of Quebec, replaces the retiring Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, and his new high-profile job ups his ranking as a papal contender.
Benedict also moved his New York-based U.N. ambassador to Poland to serve as papal nuncio and named a new head of the Vatican's bioethics advisory board, the Pontifical Academy for Life.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports