50 YEARS OF THAT UNMISTAKABLE VELCRO SOUND: Plenty of products last for 50 years, but few have the staying power of Velcro fasteners. The signature sound of Velcro hook-and-loop tape being torn apart rippled along a parade route in Manchester, N.H., on Tuesday to mark half a century since the Velcro brand was trademarked in the United States. Former and current employees of Manchester-based Velcro USA lined up for more than a mile to rip apart 8-inch lengths of the company's famous fasteners. The hook-and-loop tape has its roots in Mother Nature. Swiss engineer George de Mestral came up with the design in the 1940s after studying burs that stuck to his dog's fur and his wool pants during a walk in the woods. He named his invention Velcro, a combination of "velour" and "crotchet," the French words for velvet and hook. Production began in France, but by 1958, administrative and manufacturing operations had moved to Manchester, where textile mills had a long history. Since then, the product has been used in applications ranging from the humble to the high-tech, on everything from sneakers and diapers to astronaut equipment and military body armor. Although Velcro products are so pervasive that the company's name is virtually synonymous with hook-and-loop tape, Velcro's patent expired in 1978, allowing competitors such as 3M to move into the market. But Velcro remains the industry leader, said company President Joan Cullinane.
TINY CAR EARNS GOOD MARKS IN CRASH TESTS: The 2008 Smart fortwo micro car, the smallest car for sale in the U.S. market, has earned top scores in crash tests conducted by the insurance industry. The 8-foot, 8-inch vehicle received the highest rating of "good" in front-end and side-impact testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, helping address some concerns that consumers might be more vulnerable in the tiny two-seater. Smart, a division of Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz brand, has arrived in U.S. showrooms this year as consumers deal with rising fuel prices. The automaker has received more than 30,000 reservations for the vehicle .
FEWER FLIERS, BUT FEWER SEATS AVAILABLE: Fewer U.S. residents are expected to fly this summer, but don't expect more empty seats as carriers park planes to help offset surging fuel costs. The trade group for the nation's largest airlines on Tuesday forecast that 211.5 million passengers will travel on domestic carriers from June 1 to Aug. 31. That would be a 1.3 percent drop from last summer. Airlines are reducing their carrying capacity amid slower economic growth and rising jet fuel prices, the Air Transport Association said. Some large U.S. carriers last week again raised ticket prices to offset surging fuel costs. The airlines have indicated more increases are possible in the coming weeks, but some analysts think fares and fees won't go much higher.
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52: Percentage of U.S. residents who complain that they pay too much in federal income taxes, according to Gallup's 2008 Economy and Personal Finance survey
42: Percentage who say they pay the right amount
2: Percentage who say they pay too little
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