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At least 22 killed in Iraq attacks

More than a dozen Iraqis were killed and 43 were wounded Wednesday in back-to-back car bombings at a bus station in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood in south Baghdad, police said.

The bombings were part of a bloody day in which at least 22 people died in attacks throughout Iraq, breaking a relative calm that the country has enjoyed in recent months.

The attacks came a little more than a week after Iraq held provincial elections in 14 of its 18 provinces.

Although the elections sparked no major violence, Wednesday’s attacks could foreshadow disruptions as election officials prepare to announce the winners in the coming weeks.

Washington

Halliburton, KBR fined millions

Halliburton and Kellogg Brown & Root have agreed to pay $579 million in fines related to allegations of foreign bribery, the biggest fines ever paid by U.S. companies in a foreign corruption case, federal authorities and the companies said Wednesday.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice alleged that Houston-based Halliburton and KBR were part of a joint venture that spent $182 million to bribe Nigerian government officials over a 10-year period to win more than $6 billion in construction contracts.

Halliburton, which owned KBR during the time of the alleged actions and spun it off in April 2007, will be responsible for paying all but $20 million of the penalty.

Harare, Zimbabwe

Mugabe swears in prime minister

President Robert Mugabe administered the oath of office for prime minister Wednesday to his bitter rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, in a power-sharing arrangement in which the president is slightly loosening his three-decade monopoly on power.

Although Mugabe is sharing control of the government for the first time, he retains authority over Zimbabwe’s all-powerful security forces.

Tsvangirai, who led Zimbabwe’s opposition to victory in parliamentary elections last year, called the deal “not a perfect agreement but still a workable one.”

Philadelphia

Study: Cash helps smokers quit

Dangling enough dollars in front of smokers who want to quit helps many more succeed, an experiment with hundreds of General Electric Co. workers indicates.

Among those paid up to $750 to quit and stay off cigarettes, 15 percent were still tobacco-free about a year later. That may not sound like much, but it’s three times the success rate of a comparison group that got no such bonuses.

GE was so impressed it plans to offer an incentive program nationwide next year, aiming to save some of the company’s estimated $50 million annually in extra health and other costs for smoking employees.

From wire reports
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