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News Briefs

Insurgent Attack Sends Journalists Fleeing From A Baghdad Hotel

Insurgents fired two rockets into the Ishtar Sheraton Hotel in central Baghdad on Thursday night, setting rooms ablaze and forcing the temporary evacuation of scores of journalists and foreign contractors working on reconstruction projects in Iraq.

No deaths were reported but the attack sparked chaos, as American soldiers, security contractors and police officers opened fire from hotel checkpoints and rooftops. Red tracer rounds arced through the night sky as guests, many stumbling from their rooms dazed and wearing flak jackets, scrambled next door to the Palestine Hotel. Broken glass littered the lobby floor and thick smoke filled the area.

The rocket fire underscored the extreme vulnerability of foreign workers in Iraq and the determination of insurgents to drive them out. There are no unqualified safe zones left in the capital, not even in the fortified compound west of the Tigris that houses the Iraqi government headquarters and the U.S. Embassy.

A U.S. military official said Thursday that a homemade bomb was discovered on Tuesday in a popular restaurant inside the complex. That bomb was defused, and officials declined to comment on how it might have been planted inside the restaurant.

New York Times Reporter Cited For Contempt Of Court

A federal judge held a reporter for The New York Times in contempt of court on Thursday for refusing to name her sources to prosecutors investigating the disclosure of the identity of a covert CIA agent.

The reporter, Judith Miller, published no articles about the agent, Valerie Plame. Nonetheless, the judge, Thomas F. Hogan, ordered her jailed for as long as 18 months, noting that she had contemplated writing such an article and had conducted interviews for it. Hogan suspended the sanction until a planned appeal is concluded, and he released Miller on her own recognizance.

“We have a classic confrontation between competing interests,” Hogan said, speaking from the bench. “Miss Miller is acting in good faith, doing her duty as a respected and established reporter who believes reporters have a First Amendment privilege that trumps the right of the government to inquire into her sources.”

But Miller is mistaken, Hogan ruled. “Miss Miller has no right to decline to answer these questions,” he said.

The investigation seeks to determine who told the syndicated columnist Robert Novak and other journalists that Plame was a CIA officer. A 1982 law makes it a crime for people with access to classified information to disclose the identities of undercover agents in some circumstances.

Miller spoke briefly at the hearing, affirming that she would indeed refuse to answer questions about confidential communications.

A Growing Military Contract Scandal

When the Lockheed Corp. lost a $4 billion contract to Boeing in 2001 to upgrade the electronic controls of the C-130 transport plane -- a plane that Lockheed itself had designed and built for the Pentagon since the 1950s -- the tight-knit world of military contractors was stunned.

The person handing Lockheed that harsh blow was Darleen A. Druyun, the No. 2 weapons buyer for the Air Force, with the authority to pick and choose among bids for multibillion-dollar military contracts. So strong was Druyun’s reputation for hard work and rectitude that no one questioned her startling decision.

Today, Lockheed is once again in shock, but for different reasons. It turns out that it was competing in a rigged game -- one in which Druyun, who left her civilian position in the Pentagon last year to take a job at Boeing, now says she tilted in Boeing’s favor out of gratitude for its hiring of her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend. Lockheed is now talking to its lawyers, and the Pentagon and its extensive network of military suppliers is caught up a scandal that only grows by the day.

The career of Druyun, once the most powerful woman in the Air Force, of course, is over. Last week, she was sentenced to nine months in prison, for having steered billions of dollars in Air Force contracts for four critical weapons systems to Boeing and for having overpaid the company as well.

Publishers See Book-Search Service Prompting Shift In Industry

Google Print, the new search engine that allows consumers to search the content of books online, could help touch off an important shift in the balance of power between companies that produce books and those that sell them, publishing executives said here Thursday.

Google announced the introduction of the service at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the industry’s most important annual meeting, where publishers, authors and their agents convened to buy and sell the rights to publish books in countries worldwide.

The new service would allow users of Google’s main search engine to simultaneously search billions of Web pages and the text of hundreds of thousands of books for information on a given subject. The search works by looking for words or phrases in the scanned, digital images of the pages of books that publishers have provided to Google.

For each book found, a user would see several pages of the book with the phrase or subject of the search highlighted. The page would also offer links to several online retailers, where the book could be purchased. Publishers do not pay to participate in the program; rather, Google would make money from the service by selling advertising on the search pages, and it would share those revenues with the publishing companies.