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The following are the day's top general news stories:

1. Stern Opposes Bowles-Simpson Plan, Signalling Majority of Panel May Reject 2. U.S. House Votes 333-79 to Censure New York's Rangel on Ethics Violations 3. South Korea Readies for Live-Fire Artillery Drills on Disputed Sea Border 4. Arsenic-Based Bacteria May Assist Hunt for Life in Space, Science Reports 5. Russia, Qatar to Host 2018, 2022 World Cups as Emerging Economies Win Bids

1. Stern Opposes Bowles-Simpson Plan, Signalling Majority of Panel May Reject

Five members of President Barack Obama´s debt commission said they oppose its $3.8 trillion budget-cutting proposal, enough to ensure rejection of the plan. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat, incoming House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Republican, said they will vote against the plan tomorrow. Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union, also will vote no, said spokeswoman Christine Bonanno. Earlier, Representatives Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, and Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, said they were opposed. The plan requires approval from 14 of the panel´s 18 members to forward it to Congress, meaning five "no" votes would kill it. Panel co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson yesterday unveiled the revised plan to overhaul the budget in part by raising taxes by $1 trillion and scaling back or eliminating hundreds of tax deductions, exclusions and credits such as those letting homeowners write off interest on their mortgage payments.

2. U.S. House Votes 333-79 to Censure New York's Rangel on Ethics Violations

The U.S. House censured Democratic Representative Charles Rangel of New York for ethics violations, including soliciting donations for an academic center bearing his name and failing to fully pay his income taxes. The vote was 333-79. Under the censure, Rangel stood on the House floor as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, read the resolution outlining his violations. A censure is a blemish on Rangel´s 40-year record in the House, though it won´t keep him from continuing to serve. He was re-elected Nov. 2 to a 21st term, winning 80 percent of the vote in his Harlem-based district. After Pelosi read the censure, Rangel said that "even though it´s painful to accept the vote," he´s satisfied he had proven that "at no time did it enter my mind to enrich myself." "I know in my heart I am not going to be judged by this Congress, but I am going to be judged by my life, my activities, my contributions," he said in a brief floor speech.

3. South Korea Readies for Live-Fire Artillery Drills on Disputed Sea Border

South Korea´s military said it is preparing to carry out the first live-fire artillery drills along its disputed western sea border since the deadly shelling of Yeonpyeong island by its communist neighbor. As more than 40,000 Japanese and U.S. troops begin joint exercises today, South Korea warned shipping to avoid 29 areas around its coast starting Dec. 6. One zone lies about 7 miles (11 kilometers) off Daechong island, in waters claimed by the North that are about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the South Korean mainland. North Korea attacked the fishing community and military outpost of Yeonpyeong on Nov. 23, killing four people and destroying houses in the first shelling of South Korea soil since the 1950-1953 civil war between the two sides. North Korea said it was responding to a military provocation after the South fired into waters it claims as its own. South Korea hasn´t decided when it will next hold artillery exercises on Yeonpyeong, said a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff who declined to be identified, citing military policy. The National Intelligence Service believes North Korea may launch another attack on the South, Grand National Party lawmaker Rhee Beum Kwan said, citing testimony to parliament this week by the spy-agency´s director, Won Sei-Hoon.

4. Arsenic-Based Bacteria May Assist Hunt for Life in Space, Science Reports

The discovery of bacteria that grows using deadly arsenic as fuel instead of phosphorus, a chemical building block of most earth organisms, may point seekers of extraterrestrial life in a new direction. The bacteria, from Mono Lake in California, was grown in lab dishes where phosphate was slowly replaced with arsenic, which is poison for most creatures, until the bacteria began to thrive on arsenic alone, according to a study published online by the journal Science. Mono Lake, located at the edge of the Sierra Mountains, is a 760,000-year-old salt lake with no fish. All other known life requires phosphorus, according to research cited by the paper. The discovery of arsenic-eating bacteria may give scientists searching for extraterrestrial life a new sign to follow, said Steven Benner, a distinguished fellow of the Westheimer Institute at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Gainesville, Florida. "We´ve cracked open the door for what´s possible," said the study´s lead author, Felisa Wolfe-Simon, in a news conference today. "This will inform us about life on our own planet, and will help inform us of life -- we will find it one day -- elsewhere in the universe."

5. Russia, Qatar to Host 2018, 2022 World Cups as Emerging Economies Win Bids

Russia and Qatar won rights to host World Cups in 2018 and 2022 as soccer´s governing body voted to hold the events in emerging markets. FIFA awarded the tournaments today after a secret vote at its headquarters in Zurich. Russia beat England and joint bids from Portugal-Spain and the Netherlands-Belgium for 2018, while the Qataris defeated the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Australia for the event four years later. The decision means that FIFA will hold the world´s most- watched sporting event in developing nations four times in a row. South Africa held the World Cup this year, and Brazil is preparing for the 2014 tournament. The next two events will be held in Eastern Europe and the Middle East for the first time. Russia had to overcome concerns about its size and ability to build stadiums, while the Qatar bid, the only one with a "high risk" rating from FIFA, will air-condition stadiums to deal with temperatures of 46 degrees centigrade (115 degrees Fahrenheit). "Thank you for believing in change, thank you for expanding the game and thank you for giving Qatar a chance," the country´s bid chairman, Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Thani, said after the victory. "We will not let you down."

-0- Dec/03/2010 00:35 GMT

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