WASHINGTON

State Department can’t find $6 billion in contracting funds

The State Department’s inspector general has warned the department that $6 billion in contracting money over the past six years cannot be properly accounted for and cited “significant financial risk and … a lack of internal control.”

The warning was the second “management alert” in State Department history, both issued by new Inspector General Steve Linick. Linick took over the job in late September, after it had been vacant for nearly six years.

Both the alert, dated March 20, and the department’s response a week later, were made public Thursday.

The department said it concurred in all recommendations and outlined steps it will take to address what it agreed is a “vulnerability.” Linick initiated the alert format to report on problems that remain unaddressed despite repeatedly being identified in IG audits and investigations.

The first alert, released in January in partly classified form, cited “significant and recurring weaknesses in the Department of State Information System Security Program.” Issued three years after the public release of hundreds of thousands of department cables, which then-Army Pvt. Bradley Manning had turned over to WikiLeaks, the first alert found that efforts to find and fix the problems had been insufficient.

HUNTSVILLE, Texas

Killer executed after appeal on lethal drug rejected

A serial killer was put to death Thursday in Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his lawyers’ demand that the state release information about where it gets its lethal injection drug.

Tommy Lynn Sells, 49, was the first inmate to be injected with a dose of newly replenished pentobarbital that Texas prison officials obtained to replace an expired supply of the powerful sedative. Sells declined to give a statement Terry Harris, whose 13-year-old daughter, Kaylene Harris, was fatally stabbed by Sells in 1999 in South Texas, watched as Sells was executed, saying the injection was “way more gentle than what he gave out.”

Sells’ lawyers had made a plea to the Supreme Court earlier in the day after a federal appeals court on Wednesday allowed the execution to remain on schedule.

A lower court had stopped the execution Wednesday, ordering the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to reveal more information about its drug supplier, but the ruling was quickly tossed on appeal.

Sells, who claims to have committed as many as 70 killings across the U.S., also lost an appeal before the high court that contended his case should be reviewed because he had poor legal help during his murder trial.

BOULDER, Colo.

New clock can keep you on time for 300 million years

Good news for people who are sticklers for punctuality: The National Institute of Standards and Technology has a new atomic clock that isn’t supposed to gain or lose a second in roughly 300 million years. The new clock was launched Thursday. It’s located at the institute’s Boulder center.

The Boulder Daily Camera reports the clock is the nation’s civilian time standard. The U.S. Naval Observatory maintains military time. The new clock is about three times more accurate than the old one.

The institute says it will keep operating both and use comparisons to improve them. Banks, computer networks and others use the atomic clock to synchronize their own.

The institute’s radio broadcasts update about 50 million timekeepers daily. Its Internet service gets about 8 billion automated synchronization requests daily.

– From news service reports