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News stand: What the papers say

US officials in Baghdad are forcing firms to bid for contracts totalling hundreds of millions of pounds with as little as three days notice.

The ultra-short deadlines are legal, but procurement experts have warned they could stifle competition and favour well-connected contractors, resulting in higher costs.

Network Rail is planning to fit trains with powerful lasers capable of vaporising leaves at up to 60km/h. The British-designed LaserThor destroys foliage by heating it to 5,000infinityC while leaving the surrounding track unharmed.

Plans to build a £15bn canal across Nicaragua, rivalling the Panama Canal were set out last week. A public private consortium backed by the Nicaraguan government and a Chinese developer says the route would take 10 years to build, linking rivers and lakes to create a waterway capable of taking the largest 'post Panamax' vessels, which are too large for the Panama route.

The Ministry of Defence is looking for a publicly acceptable way of disposing of 27 highly radioactive submarine reactors. With more nuclear subs nearing the end of active service, the MoD is worried it will run out of storage space.

China's economy has surged 9.1% in the last year. It is on course to overtake Britain as the world's fourth largest economy in 2005.

A new agency has been created to oversee funds for the reconstruction of Iraq. The move is seen as an attempt to ease concerns about the Pentagon's monopoly over the rebuilding programme.

Tall men and women earn more money throughout their lives than their shorter colleagues, with each inch adding about £493 a year in pay. Research by Professor Timothy Judge, to be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, found that the pay differential between tall and short people is across all professions. 'People ascribed leader-like qualities to tall people because they thought they would be better able to protect them, ' he said.

Special units of emergency staff with life saving equipment are to be created to deal with potential gridlock on Britain's roads. The Highways Agency is looking at how to get emergency medical help, water supplies and portable lavatories to stranded motorists.

The International Olympic Committee was threatening to 'knock heads together' in Athens this week in an attempt to speed the pace of construction of facilities for next year's Games. Greece's preparations are severely behind schedule and £1.07bn over budget.

A consortium of Yorkshire universities has seen off competition from Oxford and London to win the right to run a £25M centre which will lead the government's efforts to boost science teaching in schools.

Private investors and governments will have to invest £6bn in the world's power sector in the next 30 years, the International Energy Agency says in a new report. Such investment is said to be essential if more regional power cuts of the kind seen recently in the US, Britain and Italy are to be avoided.

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