World and Nation

Shorts (right)

Mild Reaction in Capitol To Dubai Nasdaq Stake

As the Bush administration vowed to vigorously review for national security concerns a proposed investment in the Nasdaq Stock Market by a Dubai-controlled exchange, several senior Democrats and Republicans said Thursday that the transaction did not trouble them and predicted it would be approved.

The deal, announced Thursday morning, would be among the first to be examined under a law adopted two months ago in response to a 2006 deal sought by another company controlled by Dubai. That deal involved the acquisition of a company that managed port operations in the United States by DP World. It resulted in sharp criticism of the Bush administration for having approved the transaction, and DP World ultimately agreed to sell the American holding.

The recent law codified and expanded the mandate of an interagency committee, led by the Treasury Department, that reviews foreign investments for national security issues.

While the law does not take effect until next month, the administration said it would apply it in the review of the investment in Nasdaq. In advance of the deal, several lawmakers and other officials appear to have received briefings and assurances that it would not pose national security problems.

NBC to Offer Popular Shows To Download For Free

NBC Universal said Wednesday that it would soon permit consumers to download many of NBC’s most popular programs free to personal computers and other devices for one week immediately after their broadcasts.

The service, which is set to start in November after a test period in October, comes less than three weeks after NBC Universal said it was pulling its programs out of the highly successful iTunes service of Apple Inc. That partnership fell apart because of a dispute over Apple’s iTunes pricing policies and what NBC executives said were concerns about lack of piracy protection.

NBC’s move comes as companies throughout the television business search for new economic models in the face of enormous changes in the business. Networks continue to lose audience share, and viewers — especially many of the highly prized viewers under 30 years old — are increasingly demanding control of their program choices, insisting on being able to watch shows when, where, and how they want.

At the same time viewers are finding more and more ways, like TiVo machines, to avoid watching the commercials that have long provided the bulk of television revenue.

Pentagon Reviews $6 Billion In Contracts For Crimes

Military officials said Thursday that $6 billion in contracts to provide essential supplies to U.S. troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan — including food, water and shelter — were under review by criminal investigators, double the amount the Pentagon had previously disclosed.

In addition, $88 billion in contracts and programs, including those for body armor for U.S. soldiers and materiel for Iraqi and Afghan security forces, are being audited for financial irregularities, the officials said.

Taken together, the figures, provided by the Pentagon in a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, represent the fullest public accounting of the magnitude of a widening government investigation into bid-rigging, bribery and kickbacks by members of the military and civilians linked to the Pentagon’s purchasing system.

Until Thursday’s hearing, the Army’s most detailed public disclosure about the scale of the problem was that $3 billion in contracts awarded by the Kuwait office were under review.

At the hearing, a panel of high-ranking Defense Department officials described a war-zone procurement system in disarray. They said that the Pentagon failed to provide adequate training for contracting officers for their assignments, offered insufficient oversight of contracting officers’ activities and hadn’t put in place early warning systems to catch officers who violated the law.

Germany’s Commercial Ties With Iran Prove Hard to Cut

As European leaders argue about whether to tighten sanctions against Iran, the debate is not just diplomatic. Here in this industrial city, German exporters gathered on Tuesday to learn about “market opportunities” in Iran that they complain are drying up.

Germany has long been one of Tehran’s largest trading partners, but its exports to Iran plunged nearly 18 percent in the first half of this year. Businessmen at the chamber of commerce here blamed the legal uncertainties of doing business in Iran for the trend.

Still, Rolf Weitowitz, a representative of the German Office for Foreign Trade, told the group that Iran was eager to buy all sorts of capital goods that German companies specialize in making: turbines for power plants, water-treatment systems, monorails, even windmill farms.

Iran, he said, would offer “promising potential for German suppliers and partners” — if only the political atmosphere had not been soured by the dispute over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the U.N. sanctions over the same issue, and the anti-Israel comments of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

To some critics, the mere fact that this meeting was held illustrates why Germany is not taking as hard a line toward Iran as the United States or France. German companies, they say, are determined to preserve their ties to a country that has been one of their most durable trading partners.