Top Stories: Worldwide

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

1. House Democrats Oppose Floor Vote on Obama's Tax-Cut Plan, Seek Revisions 2. Nobel No-Shows for Award to Dissident Liu Reveal Rising Chinese Influence 3. Prince Charles's Car Attacked in London During Student Protests Over Fees 4. Hunters Paying $150,000 to Kill an Endangered Rhino May Save the Species 5. Gladiator Helmet Seeks to Eliminate Concussion Pain From Football Players

1. House Democrats Oppose Floor Vote on Obama's Tax-Cut Plan, Seek Revisions

House Democrats voted to block a floor debate on President Barack Obama´s tax deal with Republicans, in a non-binding move to force changes in the proposal to extend Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California told reporters that members will make suggestions and "bring something to the floor." She said the Democrats´ action was "nothing different" from Democratic senators´ effort to seek changes in the bill. "The need is great, but we do not have to capitulate to just any deal that is offered," said Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas after Democrats adopted the resolution during a private caucus. "We have to stand up and say unless we get some changes in the agreement it ought not to come up for a floor vote." Senate Democratic leaders have been planning to move forward with a vote as early as this week on the tax deal, brushing past a rebellion in their party. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today said lawmakers should "stay tuned" on timing of a vote. He said a procedural vote might be held Dec. 11.

2. Nobel No-Shows for Award to Dissident Liu Reveal Rising Chinese Influence

Nineteen countries will be absent from today´s ceremony bestowing the Nobel Peace Prize on Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in the wake of his government´s campaign to portray the award as a western effort to undermine its authority. Those absent will include countries with unelected rulers such as Cuba and Saudi Arabia, Chinese neighbors Kazakhstan and Vietnam, and U.S. allies Colombia and Egypt. Their decision to skip the ceremony in Oslo comes as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu derided the award as a "farce" bestowed by "clowns" in comments to reporters in Beijing on Dec. 7. The no-show list, nearly double the number from two years ago, reflects China´s growing global influence as its economic power expands, says Iver B. Neumann, Research Director at the Oslo-based Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. "China is the rising power of the century," said Neumann in an interview Dec. 8. "This seems to be one of the central dramas of world politics today. The discussion will certainly not blow over."

3. Prince Charles's Car Attacked in London During Student Protests Over Fees

Prince Charles´s car was attacked in central London last night during student protests after British Prime Minister David Cameron´s government won a parliamentary vote to allow universities to triple tuition fees. The heir to the throne and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who were both in the car, were unharmed. The limousine, bearing the royal coat of arms, had paint thrown at it in the Regent Street area of the West End at around 7:30 p.m. as the couple were being driven to a show at the Palladium Theatre, 30 minutes walk from Parliament. A window was cracked. Still pictures showed the royal couple in the car looking shocked. The attack took place as thousands of students staged demonstrations around Parliament against the increase in tuition fees. Cameron´s Conservative-led government won the vote by 323 to 302 in the 650-member House of Commons, heading off a revolt by some members of the Liberal Democrats, the junior coalition partners, who had had pledged to oppose any rise. "The violence in London today is totally unacceptable. It is clear that a minority of protesters came determined to provoke violence, attack the police and cause as much damage to property as possible," Cameron said in an e-mailed statement. "It is shocking and regrettable that the car carrying the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall was caught up and attacked in the violence."

4. Hunters Paying $150,000 to Kill an Endangered Rhino May Save the Species

In June 1996 a game rancher named John Hume paid about $200,000 for three pairs of endangered black rhinos from the wildlife department of the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. Among them was a male who would come to be called "Number 65," and whose death would play a central role in the debate about conservation. South Africa did not start the auctions because it had a surplus of the animals. Quite the opposite. Although the black rhinos had been reproducing, they were still critically endangered. Only about 1,200 remained within the country´s borders, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Dec. 13 issue. But black rhinos are massive animals, and with just under 7 percent of the country set aside in protected areas, conservationists and wildlife departments had run out of room to accommodate them. Hume´s 6,500-hectare ranch, Mauricedale, lies in the hot, scrubby veldt in northeastern South Africa. Hume, 68, made his fortune in taxis, hotels, and time-shares, and Mauricedale was his Xanadu, a retirement project of immense proportions. In the late 1990s he began buying up many of the neighboring farms and ranches, and his triangular estate would soon be boxed in on all sides by roads and sugar cane plantations.

5. Gladiator Helmet Seeks to Eliminate Concussion Pain From Football Players

As an offensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers in their glory years, Steve Wallace knew plenty about the pain of concussions. So when he got clobbered by a linebacker in 1994, Wallace recalls that he expected the familiar aftershock. Instead, Wallace walked away uninjured because he was wearing a foam helmet protector called a ProCap, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Dec. 13 edition. "I was just waiting for that buzz, that pain you get, but it didn´t happen," he said. During a National Football League season marked by head injuries and a quest to protect players from hits to the head and neck, the technology that spared Wallace may be poised for a comeback. Its inventor, designer Bert Straus, has incorporated the ProCap concept into a helmet he calls the Gladiator, with three layers of protection instead of the current two.

-0- Dec/10/2010 00:35 GMT

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