Jetmakers: Supersonic flight, without the boom
Supersonic flight may be making a comeback. Nine years after the retirement of the Concorde jetliner, aircraft manufacturers catering to CEOs and wealthy individuals are researching ways to break the sound barrier without the window-rattling sonic booms outlawed over land in many countries. Gulfstream Aerospace is experimenting with a telescoping rod protruding from a jet’s nose to disrupt the sound waves that cause sonic booms, and Boeing and Lockheed Martin have devised slender fuselages and rear-mounted engines to reduce the drag that contributes to the noise. Trying another tack, billionaire Robert Bass’s aerospace company, Aerion, is testing a new wing design.
Apple: Map man directed to the exit
Apple has fired Richard Williamson, the manager responsible for the faulty mapping software on the iPhone 5, as it seeks to win back the trust of users, according to people familiar with the move who asked not to be named because the information wasn’t public. Apple is getting advice from outside mapping-technology experts and prodding map provider TomTom to fix landmark and navigation data that it shares with Apple after critics faulted the company’s maps for unreliable searches. Williamson could not be reached for comment.
Commodities producers: Sidestepping the shallow Mississippi
Shippers are looking for alternatives to transporting commodities down the Mississippi River as water levels reach near-record lows. The worst drought in five decades, combined with a seasonal dry period, is causing barges to lighten loads to meet narrower depth restrictions, and railroads are signing up new business. The river could be shut to cargo from companies in December. Barge, shipping, and business organizations are urging President Obama to declare an emergency in the region.
Amazon.com: A rare trip to the bond market
Amazon.com raised $3 billion in the bond market to finance the planned purchase of its Seattle headquarters. The world’s largest online retailer issued its first dollar-denominated debt offering since 1999 to help fund its $1.16 billion purchase of the 11 office buildings it had been leasing, according to Moody’s Investors Service. The deal, which Amazon expects to close by yearend, may boost 2012 capital spending to a record $3.1 billion. Amazon has been investing heavily in its fulfillment centers, server-renting business, and Kindle Fire.
Wal-Mart: A deadly blaze draws global attention
An apparel factory in Bangladesh that once supplied Wal-Mart Stores was the site of a fire that killed more than 100 workers on Nov. 24. The world’s largest retailer says a supplier illegally contracted work to the factory, which is owned by Tazreen Fashion. Wal-Mart severed ties with 49 factories in Bangladesh last year because of dangerous working conditions. Since 2005, about 700 garment workers have died because of unsafe buildings in Bangladesh, which relies on the industry for more than 10 percent of its economic output.