Defending his government's handling of the tainted-milk scandal, Chinese Premier Wen Jibao pledged over the weekend to "ensure that all China-made products are safe for consumers." At least four children have died and a reported 54,000 others have been made ill by drinking formula laced with the chemical melamine. Melamine also has been found in liquid milk, yogurt, candies, and numerous other products. But Wen said the experience "has laid a good foundation for resolving problems."
Gunmen said to be Taliban militants killed the most senior policewoman in southern Afghanistan and critically wounded her son Sunday. Lt. Col. Malalai Kakar died as she was leaving home for her office in Kandahar. She had survived numerous other assassination attempts and was internationally hailed for her courage. When they ruled Afghanistan, the Taliban forbid most women from working outside the home.
Pirates holding a cargo ship off the coast of Somalia Sunday were demanding a ransom of $20 million, reports said. The vessel, with a cargo of Russian-built tanks and ammunition intended for delivery to Kenya, was seized last Thursday, and its hijackers vowed to defend themselves "until the last one of us dies" if US and Russian warships that have been pursuing it tried to attack.
Amid signs that President Alexander Lukashenko may have relaxed his grip on Belarus somewhat, voters went to the polls Sunday to choose a new parliament. The outcome was not expected to challenge the hard-line leader's 14-year rule. But analysts noted that, unlike previous elections, challengers were allowed onto the ballot, and Lukashenko, often called Europe's last dictator, said publicly that he hoped some would win seats.
Victory by a comfortable margin was expected Sunday in Ecuador for leftist President Rafael Correa as voters decided whether to endorse his proposed new constitution. If a majority approves the rewritten charter, Correa would have a mandate to overhaul the courts and the legislature and potentially could remain in office himself until 2017.
Based on exit polling, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative allies appeared almost certain to lose their 46-year hold on power in the key state of Bavaria Sunday. In an election for seats in the legislature, the Christian Social Union's vote was at about 43 percent, down from 60.7 percent in the last previous election. The CSU is a vital partner in Merkel's coalition government, and in the runup to the election she said it "must continue" to govern Bavaria alone.
Over the objections of Britain's banking association, the government was set to nationalize troubled mortgage lender Bradford & Bingley, the BBC and the Sunday Times (London) reported. Assets of the bank will be sold off as soon as possible, the reports said. B&B's shares have plunged 93 percent in value over the past 12 months, and there were concerns that worried depositors would mount a run on its 200 branches as soon as their doors opened Monday. The bankers' group said it is unhappy that taxpayers will be billed for B&B's problems.
Running under clear skies and in mild temperatures, Ethiopian marathoner Haile Gebrselassie broke his own world record for the race Sunday in Berlin. He covered the distance in 2:03:59. Gebrselassie, who skipped last month's Olympic Summer Games because of the polluted air in Beijing, won the Berlin Marathon last year in 2:04.26. He also won the Berlin race in 2006.