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Briefs (left)

Issuing Contracts, Ex-Convict
Took Bribes in Iraq, U.S. Says

By James Glanz

A North Carolina man who was charged Thursday with accepting kickbacks and bribes was hired as a controller and financial officer for the American occupation authority in Iraq despite having served prison time for felony fraud in the 1990s.

The job gave the man, Robert J. Stein, control over $82 million in cash earmarked for Iraqi rebuilding projects.

Along with a web of other conspirators who have not yet been named, Stein and his wife received “bribes, kickbacks and gratuities amounting to at least $200,000 per month” to steer lucrative construction contracts to companies run by another American, Philip H. Bloom, an affidavit outlining the criminal complaint says. Stein’s wife, who was not named, has not been charged with wrongdoing in the case;

Bloom was charged with a range of crimes on Wednesday.

In the staccato language of the affidavit, filed in Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, Stein, 50, was charged with wire fraud, conspiracy, interstate transportation of stolen property and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Military Recruitment Falls Short
In Key Jobs

By Damien Cave

The military is falling far behind in its effort to recruit and re-enlist soldiers for some of the most vital combat positions in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new government report.

The report, completed by the Government Accountability Office, shows that the Army, National Guard and Marines signed up as few as a third of the Special Forces soldiers, intelligence specialists and translators that they had aimed for in the last year.

The report found that, in all, the military, which is engaged in the most demanding wartime recruitment effort since the 1970s, had failed to adequately staff fully 41 percent of its array of combat and noncombat ranks.

Officials with the accountability office, the independent investigative arm of Congress, found that some of the critical shortfalls had been masked by the overfilling of other positions in an effort to reach overall recruiting goals. As a result, the GAO report questioned whether Congress had been given an accurate picture by the Pentagon of the military’s ability to maintain the force it needs for Iraq and Afghanistan.

News Tycoon Stole Millions,
Indictment Alleges

By Geraldine Fabrikant

Conrad Black, once a major force in business, political and social circles in Manhattan and London, was indicted Thursday on charges that he and three former colleagues stole $51.8 million from Hollinger International, the giant international newspaper publisher he helped create.

The indictment alleges that Black, 61, and his co-defendants worked out a plan to divert funds to themselves and misused corporate funds, such as when Black and his wife took a private jet to Bora Bora, and he spent $40,000 to cover much of the cost of a lavish birthday party for her.

“If you worked at a bank and you wanted to spend $40,000 on yourself, you should ask someone other than you,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, who announced the 11-count indictment handed down Thursday by a federal grand jury in Chicago. “Failing to do so when there was a legal obligation to do so is a fraud.”