Archive for Tuesday, September 28, 2004

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September 28, 2004

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London

Virgin airline chief plans for commercial space service

Airline mogul and adventurer Richard Branson announced plans Monday to boldly go where no private transport company had gone before -- into space.

Branson's Virgin Group said it would offer commercial space flights by 2007, with Branson himself, pictured above, joining the inaugural journey.

The bid is a natural for Branson, a high-school dropout turned flamboyant tycoon who has made several failed attempts to circle the world by hot-air balloon.

Branson, 54, announced a deal to license technology from Mojave Aerospace Ventures, the firm owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen that bankrolled June's historic 90-minute space flight by the aircraft SpaceShipOne.

The Virgin craft will be based on Burt Rutan's design for SpaceShipOne, a stubby rocket-plane capable of carrying a pilot and two passengers.

Florida

Court reinstates touchscreen voting lawsuit

Just five weeks before Election Day, a federal appeals court Monday revived a lawsuit demanding that all Florida voters who use touchscreen machines receive a paper receipt, in case a recount becomes necessary.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals told a federal judge in Fort Lauderdale to reopen the case, which could affect 15 Florida counties whose electronic voting terminals do not issue paper records.

The three-judge panel in Atlanta wrote that Judge James Cohn misapplied a 35-year legal doctrine when he threw out the lawsuit filed by Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla.

It was not immediately clear if the case could be decided before the Nov. 2 presidential election.

Washington, D.C.

Audit finds FBI backlog of untranslated intercepts

The FBI has a backlog of hundreds of thousands of hours of untranslated audio recordings from terror and espionage investigations, despite large increases in money and personnel for translations since the 2001 terror attacks, according to a Justice Department audit released Monday.

In addition, the audit by Glenn Fine, the agency's inspector general, found more than one-third of al-Qaida intercepts authorized by a secret federal court were not reviewed within 12 hours of collection as required by FBI Director Robert Mueller.

"Our audit highlighted the significant challenges facing the FBI to ensure that translation of key information is performed timely and accurately," Fine said.

Since 9-11, more than 123,000 hours of audio in languages associated with terrorists still had not been reviewed as of April 2004, the audit found. In addition, more than 370,000 hours of audio associated with counterintelligence had not been reviewed.

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