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Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) -- The following are the day's top general news stories:

1. Gates Proposes Troop Cuts, $78 Billion Reduction in Defense Budget by 2016 2. China's J-20 Stealth Fighter Meant to Counter F-22, F-35, U.S. Navy Says 3. Queensland Towns Watch Rivers Rise as Waters Threaten Livestock, Property 4. Clinton Faults Pakistan Fuel Price Rollback as Gilani Seeks to Hold Power 5. Image Consultants No Longer Living Like Rock Stars After Great Recession

1. Gates Proposes Troop Cuts, $78 Billion Reduction in Defense Budget by 2016

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates today laid out a $553 billion budget for fiscal year 2012, along with a five-year military spending plan that will cut the number of troops, cancel programs and move money saved from those measures into current and new weapons. "We must come to realize that not every defense program is necessary, not every defense dollar is sacred and well-spent," Gates said at a Pentagon news conference. "And that more of nearly everything is simply not sustainable." General Dynamics Corp.´s Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, being developed for the Marine Corps, and a Raytheon Co. ground- launched defensive missile system for the Army will be canceled, Gates said. The Marine version of Lockheed Martin Corp.´s F-35 jet will be slowed by two years, he said. Army troop levels will be reduced by 27,000, about 4.7 percent, starting in 2015 and the Marines´ head count will decline by about 20,000, about 9.8 percent, Gates said.

2. China's J-20 Stealth Fighter Meant to Counter F-22, F-35, U.S. Navy Says

China´s new stealth fighter likely was designed "to counter" the U.S. F-22 and F-35 jets, according to U.S. Navy intelligence analysts. Photos of the J-20 aircraft have appeared on the Internet. Aviation Week & Space Technology reported Jan. 3 that the aircraft was in runway tests as a prelude to a first test flight. "The Chinese know the importance of developing an indigenous commercial and military aircraft design industry," said the statement yesterday from the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance. The office includes Navy intelligence. "They have indicated their intent to design a new generation of technologies/subsystems (such as radar, engines and weapons)," said the statement. "The employment of this fighter in numbers will be both a qualitative and quantitative improvement" in Chinese Air Force capabilities, the statement said.

3. Queensland Towns Watch Rivers Rise as Waters Threaten Livestock, Property

Residents of St George, a town in Australia´s flood-ravaged Queensland State, are watching rising river levels as the water that has caused more than A$5 billion ($5 billion) of damage moves south and more rain is forecast. Barnaby Joyce, the leader of the Nationals Party in Australia´s Senate, has been moving livestock to higher ground at his neighbor´s farms and pouring sand into bags to help build levees to protect the town. The Bolonne River is at 12.8 meters (42 feet) and may continue rising to peak just below 14 meters during the weekend, the Bureau of Meteorology said on its website. "Now we sit back and hope and pray that the river does not get to 14 meters," he said by phone from his house that sits above the 15.5 meter flood line. "People are waiting, we are waiting. We are just hoping it doesn´t happen. If it does we have to manage it. I´ll stay here until I´m told I can´t." The floods, the state´s worst in 50 years, have forced the evacuation of 4,000 people and affected about a million square kilometers, or an area the size of France and Germany. It may cost more than A$5 billion to repair the damage the deluge has caused, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has said.

4. Clinton Faults Pakistan Fuel Price Rollback as Gilani Seeks to Hold Power

Pakistan´s government should stick with its economic reforms and not "reverse progress," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday after the country´s prime minister rolled back a recent increase in gasoline prices. Clinton said the government of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani should continue with its plan to strengthen Pakistan´s economy, which includes reducing popular subsidies. "The government of Pakistan must reform its economic laws and regulations, including those that affect fuel and its cost," Clinton said in Washington. Gilani yesterday reversed a Jan. 1 increase in state- controlled gasoline prices in an effort to shore up popular support after his main ally, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, quit the government Jan. 2. Pakistan´s main opposition leader, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, said he would campaign for the government´s fall unless the ruling alliance meets a Jan. 10 deadline to crack down on corruption and withdraw energy price hikes.

5. Image Consultants No Longer Living Like Rock Stars After Great Recession

The Great Recession scorched many a lucrative, bubble-era vocation: Realtor, yacht broker, starchitect. Add to that list the image consultant. While Tiffany & Co. and Coach Inc. are selling bling again, wealthy folks are more inclined to pick it out themselves than pay Samantha von Sperling $300 an hour to help them dress for excess. Two years ago von Sperling, a New York image consultant, was teaching the nouveau riche the art of conversation, and leading executives and their spouses on six-figure shopping trips through Manhattan boutiques and department stores. Today, revenue at von Sperling´s Polished Social Image Consultants has fallen by about half, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Jan. 10 issue, while clients call less often or ask for deals. Last year "was a nightmare," said von Sperling, whose previous careers included makeup artist and actress. "Every month was a panic attack to make sure I could pay the bills."

For the complete stories summarized here, and for more of the day's top news, see TOP <Go>.

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