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Briefs (right)

NBC Says Viewers Won’t Notice Cuts in News Staff

By Jacques Steinberg

NBC executives predicted that budget cuts announced Thursday across the breadth of its newsgathering operation would barely ripple with viewers, though their effect off camera is expected to be substantial.

To adapt to the migration of news viewers to the Internet and eliminate overlaps in news coverage, all while trying to offset advertising losses from its prime-time schedule, NBC Universal intends to reduce the staff of its newsgathering operation — about 6,000 people — by an estimated 5 percent, or 300 individuals, and perhaps much more.

Though the company expects the bulk of the reductions to come from eliminating jobs that are already vacant, as well as from early retirements and voluntary buyouts, Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, said that some layoffs were inevitable.

The precise number of reductions overall — as well as among the individual ranks of producers, editors and reporters — will not be known for some time, though “those conversations have begun today,” Capus said.

As is the case companywide, virtually every corner of the news division will be affected in some way, including the “Today” show and “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams”; the cable channel MSNBC; the news desks of the 10 NBC-owned stations, which include WTVJ in Miami and WNBC in New York; and its Spanish-language network, Telemundo, Capus said.

Iraq Propaganda Did Not Violate Law, Pentagon Report Says

By Mark Mazzetti

An American military propaganda campaign that planted favorable news articles in the Iraqi news media did not violate laws or Pentagon regulations, but it was not properly supervised by military officials in Baghdad, an audit by the Pentagon Inspector General has concluded.

The report said that the secret program, run by the military in conjunction with the Lincoln Group, a Washington contractor, was lawful and that it did not constitute a “covert action” designed to influence the internal political conditions of another country.

By law, only intelligence operatives, not the military, are authorized to carry out covert actions, and the government is authorized to deny publicly any knowledge of these activities.

But the audit concluded that military officials in Baghdad violated federal contracting guidelines by failing to keep adequate records about the Lincoln Group’s first propaganda contract — for $10.4 million, signed in September 2004.

A copy of the report’s executive summary was released by the inspector general’s office on Thursday, and other unclassified materials elaborating on its findings were provided to The New York Times by other government officials in response to a request.

The report found that contract officers “did not retain adequate documentation to verify expenditures,” nor did they keep records about whether the contract went through the normal procedures for competitive bidding.

Cloaking Copper, Science Steps Toward Invisibility

By John Schwartz

Invisibility has long been the stuff of fantasy, from Plato’s story of the ring of Gyges to Harry Potter’s mischief-enabling cloak. But scientists led by a team at Duke University have demonstrated a technology that could be a small step in the right misdirection.

The system, a set of concentric copper circles on fiberglass board, deflects electromagnetic waves of a specific frequency that strike it, without much of the scattering and absorption that make reflections and shadows.

The result is that the microwaves slide around the structure like water flowing around a smooth rock in a stream, said David R. Smith, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke and an author of the paper published Friday in the journal Science.

The exact structure of the circles was described in an earlier paper by Sir John Pendry of Imperial College in London, who worked with the Duke group to see his theory etched into a working model by means of the process used to print circuit boards. In the recent paper, researchers said they had successfully cloaked a copper cylinder.

The findings were first revealed in The Sun, a British tabloid. “Boffin Invents Invisibility Cloak,” the headline stated, using the British slang for a research scientist.

Former House Clerk
Testifies For Four Hours

By Jeff Zeleny

Jeff Trandahl, the former House clerk who supervised the congressional page program, testified before the House ethics committee on Thursday that he had periodically advised senior Republican leadership aides of complaints about Rep. Mark Foley’s behavior on Capitol Hill.

Trandahl, whose account is seen by investigators as key to determining whether Speaker Dennis Hastert knew about Foley’s conduct, took questions for four hours in a closed session. He declined to comment as he left the Capitol, but people familiar with his testimony said Trandahl recounted how he informed the speaker’s office about concerns Foley was spending too much time with young pages.

Foley, a Florida Republican, resigned last month after news reports about his exchange of sexually suggestive e-mails and instant messages with pages. “Jeff Trandahl has cooperated fully with the investigation being conducted by the FBI and the investigative group of the Committee on Standards,” his lawyer, Cono Namorato, said in a statement. “He answered every question asked of him, and stands ready to render additional assistance if needed.”