World briefs 2/16/07

Friday, February 16, 2007

Investigators say billions of dollars wasted in Iraq

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government has squandered as much as $10 billion in public money on Iraq reconstruction aid because of overcharges and unsubstantiated expenses. More is yet to come, federal investigators said Thursday. The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done. More than one in six dollars charged by U.S. contractors were questionable or unsupported, nearly triple the amount of waste the Government Accountability Office estimated last fall.

Russia could drop out of 1987 arms treaty

MOSCOW -- A top Russian general said Thursday that Moscow may unilaterally drop out of a key Soviet-era arms reduction treaty with the United States that banned medium-range nuclear missiles, Russian news agencies reported. Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of the military's General Staff, said Russia could pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, negotiated between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Reagan in 1987. The decision would depend, he said, on whether the United States completed plans to deploy components of a missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic -- plans that have drawn sharp criticism from President Vladimir Putin.

Report suggests FCC can limit TV violence

WASHINGTON -- Beaten up and strapped to a chair, once again it looks like the end for Jack Bauer, the hero of Fox Network's hit show "24." Using his wits (and his teeth), Bauer goes for the jugular -- literally. In the scene, Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland, chomps on the neck of the terrorist holding him captive; he spits the blood out and makes his escape. U.S. broadcasters are free to televise such cringe-inducing scenes of violence with relative impunity. But a new draft report from the Federal Communications Commission suggests the government may be able to limit violence on TV in a way that does not violate the Constitution. The report suggests Congress could craft a law that would let the agency regulate violent programming much like it regulates sexual content and profanity -- by barring it from being aired during hours when children may be watching, for example.

Hijacking ends in Canary Islands

MADRID, Spain -- A passenger jet was hijacked Thursday shortly after takeoff from Mauritania and flown to the Canary Islands, where security forces raided the plane and arrested a suspect, Spain's Foreign Ministry said. The Boeing 737-800 had landed at a military airport in Gran Canaria and was immediately surrounded by paramilitary Civil Guard police, who moved in and ended the standoff. Spain's national news agency Efe said the suspect was a Moroccan. It said police were interrogating him to find out if anyone else on the plane may have been involved. The Interior Ministry said the Air Mauritania passenger plane with 71 passengers and a crew of eight was hijacked after it left Nouakchott, the capital of the West African country.

More evidence for water on Mars

WASHINGTON -- An orbiting spacecraft has sent back new evidence for the presence of water on Mars. Scientists long have debated whether water flowed on the planet, with evidence increasing in recent years. The presence of water would raise the possibility of at least primitive life forms existing there. Images from a camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show a series of linear fractures, called joints, that are surrounded by "halos" of light-toned bedrock, according to researchers from the University of Arizona. Lead researcher Chris H. Okubo said the "halos" indicate areas where fluids, probably water, passed through the bedrock.

-- From wire reports

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