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News Briefs

Observer's Faulty Diodes Also Crippled Two Weather Satellites

Los Angeles Times

Transistors from the same lot that may have crippled the Mars Observer probe also broke down aboard two U.S. weather satellites and were pulled at the last minute from two key military satellites, according to aerospace industry documents and NASA officials.

The parts had all passed rigorous industry and military quality control tests, but a subsequent investigation this summer by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Air Force, the Martin-Marietta Corp. and several other aerospace companies revealed that many of the tiny diodes were defective, with fractured or sloppy welds. Of the 71 transistors tested by NASA, 53 failed, according to a summary of the investigation prepared by TRW, Inc.

In the report, investigators attributed the flaws to an ``out of control" manufacturing process. They cited ``poor mechanical attachment" of welded bonds that led to fracturing of the transistors.

The company involved -- a Massachusetts electronics subcontractor called Unitrode Inc. -- sold about 700 transistors to Frequency Electronics Inc. in Uniondale, N.Y., which manufactures satellite timing devices and clocks.

Project engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said the two clocks aboard the missing Mars Observer spacecraft utilized the diodes and are now the leading suspects in the demise of the mission.

Yeltsin Loses Parliament Vote On Setting Safe Deficit Cap

Los Angeles Times


President Boris N. Yeltsin tasted both victory and defeat in Russia's Parliament Friday when legislators lifted controversial limits on religious activity by foreigners but approved budget-busting spending levels that endanger further Western aid.

Rejecting Yeltsin's request to hold the line on subsidies to loss-leading state industries and other government outlays, the Supreme Soviet re-voted its 1993 state budget that provides for a deficit equal to 25 percent of Russia's gross national product.

The lawmakers' action flew in the face of advice from foreign economic experts and could have momentous consequences for Russia's economy: The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund recommend a deficit of no more than 10 percent of GNP.

``The people will not forgive us if we approve this budget," Finance Minister Boris G. Fyodorov, who pleaded the president's case, bluntly told the conservative-led Parliament Friday.

He reminded lawmakers, most of whom were once Communist Party officials, that ``even Lenin once said that inflation is a tax levied on every man."

Despite his protests, deputies voted 151-3 for a budget denounced by Fyodorov as a grandstanding populist ploy.

Army Secretary Accused Of Theft

The Washington Post


The acting secretary of the Army has been accused of shoplifting a woman's skirt and matching blouse from the Fort Myer Post Exchange in Arlington, Va., authorities said Friday.

John W. Shannon, 59, who retired from active duty in the Army in 1978 as a highly decorated colonel, was stopped by a store detective in a food court area outside the exchange about 11:40 a.m. Thursday, Army officials said.

Shannon, who was carrying a blouse and skirt ensemble worth about $30, was cited by military police for misdemeanor theft of property, authorities said.

Shannon could face up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000, U.S. Attorney Kenneth E. Melson said. An Oct. 22 hearing has been scheduled in federal court in Alexandria, Va.