Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- The following are the day's top general news stories:
1. House Votes to Debate Obama's $858 Billion Tax-Cut Deal With Republicans 2. Wen Visits Pakistan to Revive Road-Rail Network From China to Persian Gulf 3. WikiLeaks Founder Assange Released on Bail, Says He Will Continue His Work 4. Defending Korea Line Seen Contrary to Law by Kissinger Remains U.S. Policy 5. Blake Edwards, Versatile, Volatile Movie Director, Dies of Pneumonia at 88
1. House Votes to Debate Obama's $858 Billion Tax-Cut Deal With Republicans
The U.S. House voted to begin debate on President Barack Obama´s $858 billion tax-cut agreement with Republicans after quelling a rebellion by Democrats, setting up potential passage late tonight or early tomorrow. The 214-201 vote created a revised procedure that will let disgruntled Democrats express their displeasure with the measure and then move to final passage of the bill. It came after hours of wrangling by House Democrats that threatened to derail the tax-cut agreement. "We will get a vote on the merits of this bill," Vermont Representative Peter Welch told reporters after a meeting with House leaders in Speaker Nancy Pelosi´s office. Taxes will increase for all income levels on Jan. 1 if Congress does not pass a bill for Obama to sign.
2. Wen Visits Pakistan to Revive Road-Rail Network From China to Persian Gulf
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao travels to Pakistan today for a visit that officials say may revive a planned road-rail network linking China to the Persian Gulf. Pakistan also hopes to sign business agreements valued at $20 billion with executives from companies traveling with Wen, Defense Minister Chaudhary Mukhtar Ahmed, said yesterday. Wen and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will meet today to discuss how to make the Chinese-built port of Gwadar operational, Gilani told journalists on Dec. 15, according to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan. The port, which lacks a rail or multi-lane highway link to the rest of Pakistan, is envisioned as the terminus of a transport corridor that would carry Middle Eastern oil and other goods to western China. Chinese engineers have finished a feasibility study for a railroad and pipeline from Gwadar to the western Chinese city of Kashgar. It would follow the route of the China-built Karakoram Highway, a Chinese specialist on Pakistan, Li Xiguang, wrote on Dec. 14 in the Global Times, an English-language website controlled by the ruling Communist Party´s official newspaper.
3. WikiLeaks Founder Assange Released on Bail, Says He Will Continue His Work
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said he would continue his work and "protest my innocence" after being released from a London prison on bail today. "During my time in a Victorian prison, I had time to reflect on the conditions of those people around the world also in solitary confinement in conditions that are more difficult than those faced by me," Assange, 39, said outside the High Court in London today, while thanking supporters who helped him post bail. "Those people also need your attention and support." Assange has been in jail since Dec. 7, when the Australian turned himself in to U.K. police after Swedish authorities issued a European arrest warrant. Assange is wanted for questioning over claims of rape and molestation in Sweden. A court ruling today upheld a Dec. 14 decision to free Assange that U.K. prosecutors had appealed. Assange´s lawyer has suggested the Swedish case is politically motivated by WikiLeaks actions. WikiLeaks has drawn condemnation for posting thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic communications and U.S. military documents, including a video of a July 2007 helicopter attack in Iraq that killed a Reuters television cameraman and his driver.
4. Defending Korea Line Seen Contrary to Law by Kissinger Remains U.S. Policy
The sea border that has become the main battleground between North and South Korea 57 years after it was imposed by a U.S. general has been called legally indefensible by American officials for more than three decades. Then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in a 1975 classified cable that the unilaterally drawn Northern Limit Line was "clearly contrary to international law." Two years before, the American ambassador said in another cable that many nations would view South Korea and its U.S. ally as "in the wrong" if clashes occurred in disputed areas along the boundary. The border was drawn by Army General Mark Clark and his aides in 1953 to stop South Korea from disrupting the fragile armistice he oversaw at the end of the Korean War, according to Narushige Michishita, an associate professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. Now, the U.S. must stand by the line to contain North Korea, said Michael J. Green, a security adviser to President George W. Bush. Moving the boundary further from North Korea´s coast would make it easier for the regime "to smuggle out military equipment and drugs, and smuggle in things that are part of their nuke program," said Green, who now heads the Japan Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "Nothing good comes from it."
5. Blake Edwards, Versatile, Volatile Movie Director, Dies of Pneumonia at 88
Blake Edwards, the versatile and volatile Hollywood figure who wrote, directed or produced eight "Pink Panther" movies and films such as "Breakfast at Tiffany´s," "Days of Wine and Roses," "10" and "Victor/Victoria," has died. He was 88. He died yesterday of complications from pneumonia at St. John´s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, the Associated Press reported, citing publicist Gene Schwam. The writer-director received an honorary Oscar in 2004 from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, in a gesture that many Hollywood figures considered overdue. Edwards directed almost 50 movies and wrote or co-authored 38 screenplays, yet received a lone nomination, for his adapted screenplay for "Victor/Victoria" (1982). That movie garnered a Golden Globe award for his wife, singer-actress Julie Andrews. Edwards feuded with studio bosses at Paramount, MGM and other studios over the handling of some films. In the early 1970s, he moved with Andrews to Europe for six years. An early script for the film "S.O.B." (1981), a biting satire about Hollywood, was written during that period.
For the complete stories summarized here, and for more of the day's top news, see TOP <Go>.