Top Stories: Worldwide

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

1. South Korea, U.S. Rework Trade Accord to Appease Ford on Tariff Timetable 2. Obama Promises U.S. Troops Full Support During Surprise Afghanistan Visit 3. Tax Boost for Hedge Fund Executives Dropped From Bill by Senate's Baucus 4. Illinois Passes Pension Fix for Cities, Doesn't Act on State Bond Proposal 5. Jets Safety Leonhard Out for NFL Season With Shin Injury, Daily News Says

1. South Korea, U.S. Rework Trade Accord to Appease Ford on Tariff Timetable

The U.S. and South Korea agreed to change automobile provisions in a pending free-trade deal, gaining the support of Ford Motor Co. and lawmakers in both parties for the stalled accord. Both nations will scale back initial tariff cuts for cars, and South Korea said it would allow more imports of U.S.-made vehicles that meet American standards and not Korean rules. The U.S. will maintain a 25 percent tariff on truck imports for eight years instead of beginning to phase it out immediately. "This was the only way to reverse the historic, lopsided pattern of one-way trade with South Korea," Representative Sander Levin, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a critic of the earlier accord, said yesterday in a statement supporting the agreement. With almost $68 billion in trade between the nations, a deal would be the U.S.´s largest since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, and would help President Barack Obama meet his goal of doubling American exports in five years. It was backed by companies including Citigroup Inc., Caterpillar Inc., General Electric Co. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

2. Obama Promises U.S. Troops Full Support During Surprise Afghanistan Visit

President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and promised them unstinting support for their mission as he prepares to review his strategy for the war, which is now in its 10th year. Obama, who announced a revised Afghan War plan one year ago this week, secretly flew through the night from Washington and arrived in darkness at Bagram Airfield, north of Kabul. The president met with U.S. military and civilian officials and visited wounded troops at a base hospital. "We will never let this country serve as a safe haven for terrorists who would attack the United States of America again," Obama told 3,850 military personnel from the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marine Corps inside a hangar at the base. "We will do whatever it takes to make sure that you have the strategy and the resources and the equipment and the leadership to get this done." A planned side trip to see Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul was scrapped because high winds and low visibility in the mountain passes between Bagram and the capital made the helicopter trip too risky, White House officials said. The two spoke for about 15 minutes by telephone instead.

3. Tax Boost for Hedge Fund Executives Dropped From Bill by Senate's Baucus

Executives at investment partnerships including private-equity firms and hedge funds have won a four- year battle with congressional Democrats over increasing taxes on a large portion of their pay. U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, omitted a provision to boost tax rates on so- called carried interest from a bill to extend Bush-era tax cuts for middle-income Americans that is set for a Senate vote tomorrow. The bill also would renew dozens of expired business tax breaks to which the carried interest proposal had been attached as a budget-balancing measure. The omission closes the door on efforts by Democrats to change the tax treatment of carried interest. Carried interest is the compensatory share of an investment partnership´s profits fund managers receive as part of their pay. The pay can qualify for the 15 percent capital gains tax treatment even though it´s a return on labor rather than capital invested. "I think, for all practical purposes, it´s in a deep coma, not to come out until the discussion of tax reform," said Clint Stretch, managing principal at Deloitte Tax LLP, a Washington consulting firm. "It looks like it´s dead for this year."

4. Illinois Passes Pension Fix for Cities, Doesn't Act on State Bond Proposal

The Illinois General Assembly placed new demands on the funding of municipal retirement plans, even as it recessed until early January without acting on a $3.7 billion bond proposal to make payments into state employee pension funds. The state Senate doesn´t have enough votes to pass the bond plan, said John Patterson, spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton, a day after the chamber sent Governor Pat Quinn a bill that Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley warned would result in the biggest property-tax increase in the city´s history. Legislative inaction on state pension funding has dragged on for months in Springfield, prompting advocates of pension reform in Illinois to warn of the dangers of unfunded liabilities that total at least $80 billion. "We don´t have the will to cut or reform the system, and we´ve been afraid to raise taxes," said R. Eden Martin, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago. "Because of the political consequences, we´ve done neither."

5. Jets Safety Leonhard Out for NFL Season With Shin Injury, Daily News Says

New York Jets starting safety Jim Leonhard will miss the rest of the season after injuring his leg in practice, the New York Daily News reports citing an unidentified person close to the team. Leonhard, 28, hurt his shin today during drills at the Jets´ practice facility in Florham Park, New Jersey, the team announced. The team said he would miss the Dec. 6 game against the New England Patriots. The Daily News reported later that Leonhard was carted off the field and won´t play again in 2010. Leonhard is in his sixth year in the National Football League and second with the Jets, who have allowed the third- fewest yards in the league this season. He has 61 tackles and one interception through 11 games.

-0- Dec/04/2010 00:35 GMT

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