Monday, December 29, 2003

Shuttles Will Return to Flight Upgraded With Added Technology: "When the next space shuttle lifts off, perhaps as early as September, an upgraded model of the decades-old spaceship will be doing the flying. Packed full of additional technology intended to make the astronauts safer, most of the improvements won't be obvious when you watch the launch on television. … Those changes will be included as the direct result of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's final report, released in August, which detailed 15 recommendations NASA must do before resuming shuttle flights. Another 14 must be adopted as soon as possible."

"Chief among those: incorporating the ability to detect damage to the shuttle's heat protection system of tiles and reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) material and then repair that damage while still in space. Another major task: redesigning the shuttle's external tank so large chunks of insulating foam won't fall and threaten the shuttle's heat shield in the manner that led to the Columbia tragedy in February."
The fate of a wing shaped by politics: "Fragments of Columbia were laid out on a vast concrete floor like broken bones on an autopsy table. … For weeks, wreckage poured into the isolated hangar at Florida's Kennedy Space Center—27 tractor-trailer loads in all delivered by Lone Star Trucking."

"A key to interpreting the debris in the hangar was Columbia's flight data recorder. … 620 sensors had actually recorded reliable data. Fortuitously, there were more working sensors on the left wing than anywhere else on the vehicle. They matched the timing of interruptions in the sensor readings with the physical locations of wires that fed data to the recorder. By reconstructing the sequence of burning wires, they could follow the heat through the left wing. The new data established the timing of the accident and, by inference, narrowed the location of the initial wing damage.

"Wing sensor V07P8074A—one of the first to fail during reentry—also had recorded an unusual spike in pressure 16 days earlier, only 81.9 seconds after liftoff, just about the moment a spinning block of foam hit the leading edge.

"The debris, too, pointed to the left wing. Searchers found 827 pieces of the wing. Looking for the sense in so much slag, technicians in the reconstruction hangar used a computer database to match fragments against the locations where they were found. The resulting map revealed that the left wing had disintegrated first, falling to Earth west of Nacogdoches in East Texas."

"Few remember why the shuttle had a delta wing in the first place, but Max Faget does. … As a leading architect of human spaceflight, Faget left his stamp on virtually every U.S. manned spacecraft. He led the team that designed the blunt-bodied Mercury and Gemini space capsules. He collaborated on the design of the Apollo moon capsule. His name is on patent documents for the space shuttle system.

"By 1969, NASA had 13 different concepts for a fully reusable shuttle on its drawing boards. Faget was the chief engineer at NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center. For a space shuttle, Faget had in mind a two-stage reusable rocket plane with enough cargo capacity to resupply a space station. His design featured short, straight wings like those of a DC-3 cargo plane and a true tail so the shuttle could maneuver under its own power like an airplane, instead of gliding heavily to the ground like Columbia.

"In those plans, Faget proposed that the shuttle minimize the fierce heat of reentry by descending with its nose pointed up at a much steeper angle than the spacecraft that NASA would eventually build. The craft's belly would act like the blunt body of the Mercury and Apollo capsules he designed, spreading the heat more evenly across the broad underside of the spacecraft, rather than concentrating it along the leading edges of the wings.

"In 1971, the purity of the shuttle's design collided with the reality of politics. President Richard M. Nixon informed the space agency that there would be no Mars missions, no space station, no nuclear rocket engines. The remaining moon missions were canceled not long after. Unless NASA officials could win the support of the Air Force, there would be no space shuttle either.

"That meant NASA had to make more room in the cargo bay for big spy satellites. It meant NASA had to build a broad delta wing for the craft to carry out maneuvers required for military missions. All that extra weight meant an even heavier heat-shield system. Among other things, the extra pounds made it harder to accommodate the weight of crew escape pods or a stronger, more heat-resistant crew compartment. 'The delta wing was really the price of the space shuttle,' Faget said."

"At NASA, the men and women who tended the space shuttles were no longer its inventors and innovators. They were by necessity curators of an operational museum piece. At least a quarter of NASA's scientists and engineers were expected to retire within five years. Already the people over 60 outnumbered those under 30 by nearly 3 to 1. 'People talk about the learning curve,' said physicist Paul Dimotakis of Caltech. 'Nobody talks about the forgetting curve.' When it came to Columbia, time had made a mockery of NASA's institutional memory.

"The space agency had millions of technical documents meant to capture the expertise of the thousands of engineers who had designed and built the space shuttle fleet. Over the years, there had been so many design changes and so little money to document them that thousands of shuttle blueprints appeared to describe a vehicle that no longer existed. When accident investigators sought out a report documenting details of the shuttle's design or performance, they often found only PowerPoint presentations.

"Without the knowledgeable voice of the engineers who had originally presented them, the slides were meaningless. The board's investigators soon coined a phrase for this new institutional amnesia. 'Death by PowerPoint.'"

Saturday, December 27, 2003

A Love Story (Some Assembly Required): "It's hard to explain, but I love walking into a Radio Shack in December.

"And here is what I love a little bit more: Watching people storm out of a Radio Shack in a huff. Before the holidays are over, be sure to take time to storm out of a Radio Shack in a huff, just for the yuletide exhilaration of it.

"There are about 7,200 store locations nationwide, although the exact count fluctuates with the seasons. (The company proudly boasts that 'an estimated 94 percent of all Americans live or work within five minutes of a Radio Shack store or dealer,' and this can be a troubling ubiquity, since some Radio Shacks exist within sight of one another.)

"Radio Shack and the American consumer have a comically codependent Christmastime relationship, defined by both affection and hot tempers. Radio Shack is a wonderful place for last-minute gifts, and also last-minute tantrums. (Tantrums about refunds, about coaxial cable, about credit checks on wireless calling plans.) Of all the chain stores you could storm out of, there is none more satisfying than a Radio Shack, which, on some level, seems fine with Radio Shack, because they know you'll come back. You also know you'll come back. It's a love story."

The rest of the article is just as funny. It's a must-read all the way to the end!

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Bush's Faith-Based National Parks: "The view from the south rim of the Grand Canyon, smogged up as it is these days, still retains the power to prompt even the most secular of visitors into transcendentalist reveries as they cast theirs eyes toward Shiva's Temple and Wotan's Throne. Now tourists at the federal park in northern Arizona will be greeted with scriptural passages affixed to park signs to help interpret the religious experience of gazing into God's mighty chasm.

"This autumn Donald Murphy, deputy director of the National Park Service, ordered three bronze plaques featuring quotes from Psalms 68:4, 66:4 and 104:24 placed on viewing platforms on the south rim of the Canyon."
Sprint customers finally have a Bluetooth option: "Early this year, Sprint announced that it would soon begin offering the Sony Ericsson T608, the first CDMA mobile phone with Bluetooth. … Today, there is word from Sprint PCS Info that Sprint is now offering the T608. This finally gives Sprint customers with Bluetooth-enabled handhelds the option of buying a mobile phone they can use to wirelessly connect to the Internet."
DoCoMo to fund advanced-handset development: "DoCoMo tipped its hand on future offerings last week, when it announced it will award US$344 million to handset developers to work on a generation of handsets based on the Linux and Symbian operating systems.

"The goal, the company said, is to produce handsets in 2005 capable of achieving the broadband speed goals of its high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) technology."

"Based on W-CDMA architecture, HSDPA has a goal of increasing downstream speeds to 14Mb/s."

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Intimidation Campaign Spreads: "As news of the Center for Reproductive Right’s (CRR) top secret memos (PDF) to establish international abortion and “sexual” rights spreads within the public policy community, CRR has stepped up its campaign to silence critics by threatening more groups with lawsuits."

"At the same time, analysis of the documents continues to reveal startling details of both the means and long-term goals of the abortion-advocacy group."

"Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), who introduced the memos into the Congressional Record, notes that 'One of their strategies is to manipulate international norms to force countries to do what CRR wants.'"

"Smith also describes CRR’s domestic goals, 'CRR has programs to work with major medical groups to oppose parental involvement in abortion decisions and to "debunk the extent of parental rights currently recognized." They have programs on forcing hospitals to do abortions and on forcing taxpayers to use state and federal funds to pay for abortion. They even go so far as to target Pregnancy Resource Centers.'"

"John O’Neil, a pro-life advocate from California, also notes that CRR acknowledges that it intends to undermine laws mandating the reporting of child abuse for what CRR labels 'non-abusive sexual relations,' which appears to mean that CRR intends to fight age of consent laws, the primary goal of groups such as the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA)."
Selling Content on the Internet: It's Happening, But Is It Profitable?: "If you look at the latest report from the Online Publishers Association covering online paid content, you might well think that online information is a hot commodity."
American skydiver to jump from edge of space: "An American female skydiver plans to set a world record for the highest free-fall by jumping to earth from the edge of space. In a feat which could lead to an astronaut bailing out of a space shuttle, Cheryl Stearns plans to make the 25-mile jump in 2005. She is preparing with the aid of the US space agency NASA."

"Ms Stearns, who is a champion skydiver, told New Scientist magazine that her aim was not just to set a record. Her jump from the stratospheric height in March 2005 could benefit shuttle crews facing a situation like those on board the Columbia, which disintegrated when entering the Earth's atmosphere on 1 February, at a height of 200,000ft and travelling at about 12,500mph."

"Ms Stearns plans to wear complete spacesuits, as there is negligible oxygen at their target altitude. Ms Stearns estimated she would reach Mach 1, the speed of sound, in 47 seconds but wouldslow down when she reached 100,000ft, where the atmosphere thickens. Even there, she would be three times higher than the summit of Everest."

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Baghdad-bound, with no escorts: "Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) had never traveled abroad until he won a seat in Congress more than two decades ago. Today, along with Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.), Wolf is among Congress’s most adventurous travelers."

"Instead of flying into Kuwait on military aircraft and touring Iraq under military escort, Wolf and Shays flew into the turbulent U.S.-occupied, cold and damp country aboard a small prop plane chartered by a nongovernmental organization."

"Wolf said Monday in a phone interview that he wanted to see the country without official trappings because he had voted to send American service members to war and a young Marines Corps corporal from his district had been killed in April." Frank Wolf represents me in Congress as well.

"Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and a group including Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) returned from a trip to Argentina, Chile and Peru where they discussed trade, terrorism and drugs with government officials and executives."

Mobility Electronics expands on RadioShack deal: "Scottsdale-based Mobility Electronics Inc., a specialist in products for mobile computer users, and Texas-based RadioShack Corp. Thursday announced a distribution agreement for Mobility to sell RadioShack-manufactured power products—products that utilize Mobility's patented 'smart tip' technology—worldwide to non-RadioShack outlets."

"In addition, RadioShack will also carry these products in their 7,000 plus retail stores. Products included under this agreement include cigarette lighter adapters (CLAs), low-power mobile AC power adapters, inverters, and a low-power combination AC/DC power adapter called Squirt."
Sprint PCS Vision VM4500 by Sanyo: This is the phone I have! :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Atomic Bomb Survivors See Enola Gay: "A small group of protesters briefly disrupted the official opening of the National Air and Space Museum's new annex at Dulles International Airport Monday, spilling a red liquid supposed to resemble blood near the Enola Gay exhibit and throwing an object that dented the airplane."

"The Enola Gay is one of 82 racers, gliders, helicopters, warplanes and airliners currently on display in the Smithsonian Institution's nearly 294,000-square-foot aviation exhibit hanger. Other notable exhibits include the S-R 71 Blackbird, an American spy plane that still holds the record as the fastest plane ever built; and the space shuttle Enterprise, which was used by NASA to test various concepts during the development of reusable spacecraft.

"The Smithsonian's aerospace collection also will eventually be displayed in the 53,000 square foot James S. McDonnell Space hanger. 'This is the largest air and space exhibition complex in the world,' said retired Gen. John R. Dailey, director of the museum. 'We have about 40 percent of the aircraft in here today, and over the next three years we'll be moving more in.'"

"Visitors, for the most part, said they were impressed with the new annex." Yours truly was at the museum on opening day! Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment. The resolution is a little low, but that will have to be forgiven considering this is the first group of pictures taken with my new phone and uploaded to Sprint.
Storm over Mexican cloning ban: "The Mexican parliament has approved a bill that would ban 'therapeutic' cloning—the creation of embryos to obtain stem cells to treat a variety of diseases"—the creation of human beings in order to create organs and then kill them.

"Under the legislation, which is intended to outlaw all forms of human cloning, and was approved by the house of deputies earlier this month, cells 'of embryos that are alive or obtained by nuclear transplant should not be the subject of human research.'"

"Members of the conservative National Action Party, who voted for the ban, say that embryonic stem cells are not necessary for research, and that adult stem cells—which do not require the creation of cloned embryos—can be used instead."

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Sound of Freedom: "In his opening remarks to the sold-out crowd in attendance Tuesday evening at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to the historic event as 'the music of hope; the sweet, sweet sound of freedom.'

"On Tuesday, the National Symphony Orchestra, led by music director and conductor Leonard Slatkin and joined by renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, shared the stage for the first time ever with the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra."

"Met by spontaneous thunderous applause, cheers, and a standing ovation, it was obvious that the orchestra wasn't prepared for the reception they received. 'They were blown away,' commented Arabic interpreter Mustafa Sayid. When asked about his emotions, Iraqi violinist Luay Yousif simply said through a smile, 'wonderful, very wonderful.'

"Another said 'this was the first time we were ever able to leave Iraq without government minders watching our every move and ordering our steps.' For the first time in many of the musician's lives, they were experiencing a small taste of freedom."

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Defending Traditional Marriage: "In recent months, one of the most important cultural debates of our time has raged in the media. After the Canadian Supreme Court struck down a law banning marriage between homosexuals, and the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Texas law prohibiting sodomy, we’ve seen a flood of articles and reports about 'gay marriage.' And the debate is not likely to fade away.

"The cultural argument about marriage between homosexuals is really an extension of a debate that has lasted for decades. Beginning in the mid-1960s, our culture embarked on a path of social experimentation when we looked at a variety of social mores and decided that things needed to change. We decided that people needed to enjoy sexual freedom without constraints. We decided we needed to relax our disapproval of divorce. We decided we should base our moral decisions on individual desires and opinions rather than on biblical truth.

"In some areas, we did need cultural change; the civil rights efforts are a prime example. But today it is clear that the social earthquake that began in the Sixties mostly left us with a rubble of social pathologies that continue to plague us today."
Q&A: Abortion case: "In 1991 Mrs. Thi-Nho Vo had her healthy pregnancy terminated by mistake after she was mixed up with another patient. Since then, she has been unsuccessfully attempting to prosecute the doctor who carried out the procedure for unintentional homicide, the French equivalent of involuntary manslaughter.

"Mrs. Vo has failed because the courts do not recognise the foetus' right to life. Her lawyer, Bruno Le Griel, argues that the unborn child is protected by article 2 of the European convention on human rights, which guarantees the right to life. He said: 'I will be asking the court to recognise reality. That is to say that human life begins at the moment of conception.'"

"The case is in its first stage, an admissibility hearing, where the court will decide if it should go ahead and hear full arguments. Although this case is individual, the court has been asked to consider other cases. … On each occasion, the European Court shied away from taking a decision because each member state has very different abortion laws.

"It is possible they may again leave the decision to national courts. … The court rules on individual cases, and its rulings are binding only on the respondent states—which in this case would be France."

The end here, to legally protect unborn human life that is created in the image of God, is good. The means by which this is being pursued are questionable. Should the national sovereignty of any nation be usurped because a local wrong cannot be righted?

Though many people could easily be classified as having blinders on to all other political implications, save the life of the unborn, they must see the potentially greater concerns involved such as the centralization of power that for the moment may be good, but could eventually once again lead to tyranny.
Heads up: Local firm bringing cockpit display tech to cyclists: "Fighter pilots have long been able to view flight data projected onto jet windshields within their line of sight. Soon recreational motorcyclists and bicyclists will be able to take advantage of that technology."

"The Sportvue head-mounted display will allow riders to see speed, rpm and gear position without taking their eyes off the road. The system gathers speed information from a global positioning satellite receiver attached to the rear of the helmet."

"Motion Research will be the first company to attempt a truly low-cost consumer application. The price of the motorcycle Sportvue will be from $249 to $349. The bicycle version of Sportvue, which will be introduced sometime after the motorcycle system, will project speed, distance traveled and heart rate information, like current cyclometers do, and cost from $150 to $199."

Monday, December 8, 2003

KnoxNews: National: "Even at 10 stories high and three football fields long, the National Air and Space Museum's new center might not be the world's largest airplane hangar.

"But when its full complement of more than 200 aircraft and 135 spacecraft and related large artifacts are on display, the museum's annex on the edge of Washington-Dulles International Airport [IAD] will surely house the most diverse collection of flying machines ever assembled.

"The new museum, named for Steven F. Udvar-Hazy, an aviation executive who donated $65 million toward the $311 million center, opens to the public Dec. 15, two days before the 100th anniversary of powered flight is celebrated with a re-enactment of the Wright brothers first flights at Kitty Hawk, N.C."
UN may vote on cloning Monday: "US-led group may push total ban, despite earlier vote to delay a decision for 2 years"

"An initial proposal, supported by more than 20 nations including Belgium, France, Germany, and Japan, would have banned human cloning for the purposes of reproduction." In other words, create people, grow them for parts, and then mandate the killing of the rest of those human beings.

"A second proposal supported by the United States, Costa Rica, and 64 other nations—mostly developing and strongly Catholic countries—would have led to a ban on both reproductive and 'therapeutic' cloning for research purposes."
NASA's funding displaced by 'pork': "When House and Senate budget negotiators announced a deal on a massive $328 billion federal spending bill, lawmakers proudly noted that they had funded NASA at the amount requested by President Bush in February.

"But a closer look at the $15.5 billion bill shows that budget writers axed more than $300 million from NASA's budget request and replaced those dollars with money for line items of their own choosing. Many of them are hometown 'pork' projects that win legislators political favor at home but no fans inside the federal agencies they affect.

"For example, the proposed budget slices $200 million from the international space station program and $70 million from the Space Launch Initiative, part of NASA's effort to develop a next-generation spacecraft. An additional $20 million came from Project Prometheus, a key element of the agency's hopes of finding a way to convert nuclear energy into electricity for in-space propulsion and power.

"In place of those funds, lawmakers stuffed in an assortment of projects, spreading federal dollars across the country. The U.S. House is supposed to vote on the spending bill Monday. The Senate may take it up this week, although Democrats are threatening to block a vote until January.

"Some of these so-called 'earmarks,' such as a $1.9 million line item for infrastructure repairs at Kennedy Space Center, can't really be called pork. But there is more than $220 million in bacon in the NASA portion of the budget bill.

"The projects are as varied as $3 million for an astronomy center in Hawaii and $4.5 million for a new science center at St. Bonaventure University in New York to $3 million for 'ocean and weather research' at the University of Alaska—home of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, the powerful Republican chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"All of this comes in a year when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration suffered one of its darkest moments, the Feb. 1 loss of the space shuttle Columbia, and when many legislators have openly criticized the space agency's budget as insufficient.

"'It shows you that no agency, no program is sacred and is protected from the appropriators,' said David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington-based nonpartisan group that tracks overzealous federal spending."

"Sen. Bill Nelson, who has frequently complained that NASA has been starved of funding by the administration and Congress, said the projects may be admirable but should not take precedence over the needs of the agency."

"NASA chief Sean O'Keefe, a longtime staffer on the Senate Appropriations Committee—and a former aide to Stevens—knows the budget process from both sides. He also served as deputy White House budget director in the first year of the Bush administration, before coming to NASA in late 2001.

While O'Keefe would not specifically address the redirected money, he complained about the decision to pare the space station's budget. He said the cut will put a crimp in the station's reserves and leave the project vulnerable to money woes when, inevitably, the unexpected happens.

"O'Keefe sounded particularly bitter in noting that NASA did exactly what Congress ordered it to do—get the station's spiraling cost overruns under control—yet lawmakers are now upsetting the balanced ledger that was so hard to achieve."

"Williams, who noted that earmarks are prevalent throughout the spending bill, said the growing practice shows just how much power the agencies have lost in the budgeting process. When lawmakers can tweak each and every expenditure, he said, the agencies are weakened.

"'Why have all these people employed at NASA when the appropriators are telling them how to spend their money anyway?' Williams asked. 'Their power is going unchecked. They're using money for political purposes and not things that accomplish a mission.'"

However, if the "agencies" (a euphemism for bureaucracy) are eventaully the downfall of every civilization, then perhaps their weakening is exactly what we need. If the appropriations process, as deplorable as some may find it, is the vehicle to preserving America as an institution, so be it. After all, the only thing appropriators change about government spending is where that money is spent; the same things are being accomplished, just in different places.

The problem remaining is the excessive and ever-increasing level of government spending. Then again, all this could change with an anticipated announcement on December 17.

Saturday, December 6, 2003

Bush expected to target moon, Mars: "Raising the prospect of a new space race, George W. Bush is expected to announce soon that the United States will return Americans to the moon, then aim for a manned mission to Mars.

"With the Soviet Union no more and its Russian successor state short of cash, the competitor this time will be China. China's progress in space exploration is beginning to set off alarms in Washington after Beijing said this week that it plans to land a man on the moon by 2020."

"Washington is abuzz with talk Mr. Bush will breathe new life into the U.S. space program in a speech on Dec. 17 marking the centenary of the Wright brothers' first powered and sustained airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. It is also possible he might save any announcement for his State of the Union speech in January."

"Chinese officials have said that in contrast to the U.S.-Soviet space race, China will move ahead at its own careful, cost-effective pace. 'We will focus on deep-space exploration,' said Luan Enjie, director of China's National Aerospace Bureau.

"Mr. Bush's commitment would give Americans a renewed sense of being on the cutting edge of progress amid their anxiety about terrorism and the struggle to bring Iraq under control. Mr. Kennedy delivered his "bold challenge" [to Congress on May 25, 1961] after the U.S. humiliation in the Bay of Pigs fiasco, which saw Cuban leader Fidel Castro repel a U.S.-backed bid to overthrow him.

"Mr. Bush would also be setting the stage for completing yet more work started by his father, George Bush. … On space, George Bush Sr. marked the 20th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing with an address on July 20, 1989, calling for a permanent U.S. presence on the moon and, ultimately, a mission to Mars."

Friday, December 5, 2003

Bush Wants Mission to the Moon: "President Bush wants to send Americans back to the moon—and may leave a permanent presence there—in a bold new vision for space exploration, administration officials said yesterday."

"Sources said the president may also give the go-ahead to pursue a manned trip to Mars—a long range goal. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe told an advisory council yesterday that 2004 will be a 'seminal time' for the agency."

"Bush could spell out his new plan for space travel on the 100-year anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight, Dec. 17, officials said. … If the president does announce his new space vision on Dec. 17, it would be 100 years after the Wright Brothers first set an airplane in flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C., and it would be two days before the [31st] anniversary of the last manned lunar landing."

Thursday, December 4, 2003

Sprint PCS launches video service: "Sprint PCS launched its Video Mail service allowing customers to compose, send and receive video clips of up to 15 seconds in length with full sound at 15 frames per second between other Video Mail-enabled handsets or send clips to an e-mail address."

"The Video Mail service is initially available on the Sanyo VM4500 handset, which includes both video and picture mail capabilities, a camera flash that doubles as a light for the video service, a one-time zoom for video, and compatibility with Sprint PCS’ recently launched Ready Link walkie-talkie service."

"Sprint PCS said the Video Mail service builds upon its Picture Mail offering, which the carrier noted accounted for 23 million uploads during the third quarter of this year."

This is the phone I plan on buying later this month! Of the three colors in which it will be shipping (silver, gray and navy blue), it will probably have to be the Navy gold color for me. :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Holiday sales increase 5.4%: "Sales rose 5.4 percent, to $12.4 billion, on Friday and Saturday from a year earlier, according to ShopperTrak, which monitors customer traffic at about 30,000 stores. Visa International Inc. said U.S. spending using credit and debit cards rose 12 percent on Friday and Saturday from a year earlier, to $6.5 billion.

About 43 percent of shoppers visited discounters, 29 percent made purchases from department stores, and 23 percent bought from specialty shops, according to the National Retail Federation."

Monday, December 1, 2003

Electronic voting firm drops legal case against free speech advocates: "In a major victory for free speech enthusiasts on the Internet, Diebold Inc. has agreed not to sue voting rights advocates who publish leaked documents about the alleged security breaches of electronic voting.

A Diebold spokesman promised in a conference call Monday with U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel and attorneys from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that it would not sue dozens of students, computer scientists and ISP operators who received cease-and-desist letters from August to October."
RadioShack Thinks Small: "With its affordable and comprehensive selection of accessories, batteries, and peripheral items, RadioShack holds an important spot in the consumer-electronics market. Sales on higher-priced items may be lackluster, but the company is confident that its stock of smaller items can more than pick up the slack."