Top Stories: Worldwide

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

1. South Korea to Proceed With Live-Firing Drill as UN Seeks to Ease Tension 2. Medvedev Joins Parade to India as Leaders Chase Arms, Nuclear-Power Deals 3. Heathrow, Frankfurt Flights Canceled, Delayed Second Day by European Snow 4. Biden Says Ending Tax Cuts for Wealthiest Americans Is Democratic 2012 Aim 5. Sachin Tendulkar Hits Record-Extending 50th Century in Test Cricket First

1. South Korea to Proceed With Live-Firing Drill as UN Seeks to Ease Tension

South Korea said it will proceed with a live-firing drill that has prompted North Korean threats of retaliation, as the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting designed to ease tension on the peninsula. Artillery positions on Yeonpyeong Island will fire shells into the surrounding sea, said an official at South Korea´s Joint Chiefs of Staff who declined to be named, citing military policy. Yonhap News said the exercise, taking place on an island that North Korea attacked last month, may start at 11 a.m. or 12 p.m., without saying where it got the information. Such drills "would make it impossible to prevent the situation on the Korean peninsula from exploding," North Korea´s state-run Korean Central News Agency cited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying on Dec. 18. South Korea sees no reason to abandon the exercise just because other nations say it shouldn´t happen, a military spokesman said yesterday. Yeonpyeong lies close to the disputed sea border off the peninsula´s west coast. About 20 U.S. military personnel plan to participate in the artillery drills.

2. Medvedev Joins Parade to India as Leaders Chase Arms, Nuclear-Power Deals

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will seek arms and nuclear-power contracts during an Indian visit starting today that follows trips by U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Medvedev´s two-day trip comes after Sarkozy spent four days in India earlier this month and Obama visited in November to promote trade. He will arrive with an $11 billion tender for 126 warplanes and as much as $100 billion in nuclear-power contracts up for grabs. Wen led a delegation that signed $16 billion of deals during a trip that ended Dec. 17. India, Russia´s top arms customer, has tripled its defense budget over the last decade as it looks beyond a traditional military rivalry with Pakistan to counter China´s rising power. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has spearheaded Russia´s efforts to fend off competition from the U.S. and Europe. "Russia has always been a major player in India, but now it faces increasing competition in areas it traditionally dominated such as the arms trade as India tries to diversify its suppliers further to get the best price and quality," Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy head of the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow, said in a Dec. 17 phone interview.

3. Heathrow, Frankfurt Flights Canceled, Delayed Second Day by European Snow

Air travelers across Europe face a third day of travel disruption tomorrow as more snow is forecast for England and Germany. London´s Heathrow said there will be further delays and cancellations Monday after snow blanketing western Europe disrupted holiday travel plans during the final weekend before Christmas. Deutsche Lufthansa AG said it expected a reduction in flights within Germany and Europe. Snow is expected tomorrow in the south and west of the U.K., the Met Office said on its website, after a fall of 15 centimeters (six inches) yesterday forced the closure of Heathrow and Gatwick for most of the weekend. Germany can expect as much as 15 centimeters of snow in the 12 hours from 5:20 p.m. Berlin time, according to a German Weather Service forecast. "There will be further cancellations and delays tomorrow as we continue to clear snow and ice, as well as in the days that follow as airlines move diverted aircraft and crew back to their normal positions," Heathrow operator BAA Airports Ltd. said in an e-mailed statement.

4. Biden Says Ending Tax Cuts for Wealthiest Americans Is Democratic 2012 Aim

Vice President Joe Biden said ending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans will be an administration goal for 2012 and predicted Democrats would be able to advance measures that get more revenue from the highest earners. "We will be able to make the case much more clearly that spending $700 billion over 10 years to extend tax cuts for people whose income averages well over a million dollars does not make sense," Biden said in an interview on NBC´s "Meet the Press." The vice president also said the economy would be stronger in two years. Biden defended the tax-cut compromise President Barack Obama forged with Republican leaders and signed into law Dec. 17, saying it would boost economic growth and lower an unemployment rate that is hovering near 10 percent. "This is going to grow the economy faster next year than it would have," Biden said. "That means more people employed."

5. Sachin Tendulkar Hits Record-Extending 50th Century in Test Cricket First

Sachin Tendulkar became the first player to score 50 centuries in cricket´s elite Test format as he led India´s resistance yesterday against South Africa. The 37-year-old right-hander, the leading run scorer in Tests and one-day internationals, brought up his latest hundred on the fourth day of the first Test in Centurion as India battled to save the match. Tendulkar raised his bat and looked to the sky after reaching triple figures. It´s the fourth major milestone this year for Tendulkar at the stage of his career when batsmen typically decline. He became the first player to score a double-century in a one-day international in February and six months later played in a record 169th Test. He reached an unprecedented 14,000 Test runs in October. "He can also get 75 hundreds if he wants," former India fast bowler Javagal Srinath said in an interview. "This is one guy who doesn´t have any problems as far as batting is concerned. Even if he is out of form, he is the only guy to come out of it as quickly as possible and be as effective as ever."

-0- Dec/20/2010 00:35 GMT

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