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Questions Raised on Afghan Death Toll

The death toll of civilians killed in bombing by foreign forces on Tuesday night was much higher than the official figure of 21, and may be as high as 50 or even 80, residents reached by telephone said Thursday.

The tally differed from that given by a government administrator of the Sangin region, Ezatullah, who uses only one name. He said he had spent four to five hours in the village of Sarwan Qala on Thursday and said the civilian death toll remained 21. Some Taliban were also killed in the bombing, he said, but he did not specify how many.

The U.S. military has stuck with its original news statement, which said that it had called in the airstrikes on Taliban insurgents after a heavy 16-hour battle and destroyed three militant compounds.

But residents of the area, some of whom said they had also visited the village and helped bury the dead, said three houses were destroyed and put the number of dead variously at 56, 60, and 80.

On Wednesday, villagers brought the bodies of 21 people, mostly women and children, to the Sangin district center to show them to government officials and NATO troops stationed there.

Movie Ratings Panel Will Start to Consider Smoking

Warning: Smoking may be dangerous to your movie rating.

In a significantchange to its movie ratings system, the Motion Picture Association of America on Thursday said portrayals of smoking would be considered alongside sex and violence in assessing the suitability of movies for young viewers. Films that appear to glamorize smoking will risk a more restrictive rating, and descriptions of tobacco use will be added to the increasingly detailed advisories that accompany each rated film.

Anti-smoking groups, already successful in much of the country in banning smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places, have ratcheted up the pressure on Hollywood in recent years to purge movies of images that might promote tobacco use. Some have even demanded that virtually any film with smoking be rated R, shutting out those under 17 unless they are accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.

Under the new policy, a film’s rating will consider all tobacco use, rather than just teenage smoking, as in the past. But the board stopped short of guaranteeing that tobacco use would be considered as heavily as sex, violence or drug use in assigning a rating. (Film ratings are assigned by a panel of about a dozen parents through an apparatus called the Classification and Ratings Administration, and overseen by both the Motion Picture Association and the National Association of Theater Owners.)