News Briefs


$1B sent in bad refunds

WASHINGTON — The government sent out more than $1 billion in fraudulent refunds last year and offered this explanation Thursday for the bad checks in the mail: The Internal Revenue Service has too few resources to pursue every tax fraud case. IRS investigators never even looked at an estimated $742 million in fraudulent refunds, according to a report by the Treasury Department office that monitors the agency. When they did identify an additional $264 million in bad refunds, it was too late to stop them from being issued.

Endeavour to launch Nov. 14

NASA on Thursday chose Nov. 14 for its next space shuttle launch, a flight by Endeavour to the international space station. The Hubble repair mission had been planned for this month, but was postponed until next year because of problems with the orbiting telescope. Shuttle officials plan to launch Endeavour with enough household items to increase the size of the space station crew from three to six next year.


Melamine no secret in China

BEIJING — The industrial chemical melamine is commonly added to animal feed in China to fake higher protein levels, state media reported Thursday, offering what appeared to be a tacit admission by the government that the food supply could be rife with contamination. The Nanfang Daily said it was an "open secret" in the industry that melamine scrap is being repackaged into an inexpensive product called "protein powder" that is sold to food suppliers. The Web sites of the official Xinhua News Agency and the Communist Party's main newspaper, the People's Daily, also carried the story.

Vatican issues new guidelines

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican issued new psychological screening guidelines for seminarians Thursday. The church said it issued them to help church leaders weed out candidates with "psychopathic disturbances." The guidelines "became ever more urgent because of the sexual scandals," Monsignor Jean-Louis Brugues told reporters. "In all too many cases, psychological defects, sometimes of a pathological kind, reveal themselves only after ordination to the priesthood," the guidelines said. They also said problems like "confused or not yet well-defined" sexual identities need to be addressed.

Herald-Leader wire services