Park pain. The Obama administration’s decision to shutter national parks during last fall’s partial government shutdown cost the parks and surrounding communities $414 million in lost revenue, according to Interior Department estimates. Several states, including California and Arizona, lost more than $20 million each during the 16-day closure. Arizona later reopened the Grand Canyon and other national landmarks using state money. Critics said President Barack Obama didn’t have to close the parks but did so to maximize shutdown pain and turn public sentiment against Republicans. In 2012, nearly 283 million national park visitors generated $26.8 billion in economic activity and supported an estimated 243,000 jobs.
Lame defense. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is the latest elected official to refuse to defend a state traditional marriage law. Conway announced today he would not appeal a federal judge’s ruling demanding Kentucky recognize out-of-state, same-sex marriages. Shortly after Conway’s announcement, Gov. Steve Beshear said the state would hire outside counsel to plead its case. Last month, U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn II declared the state’s position discriminatory. “From a constitutional perspective, Judge Heyburn got it right,” Conway said. The judge’s ruling does not affect the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. But starting March 20, Kentucky must give same-sex couples married in other states the same benefits provided to heterosexual couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns.
Blade Runner on trial. South Africa and much of the rest of the world are glued to the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, which got started Monday in Pretoria. Some analysts are calling it the O.J. Simpson trial of the 21st century. Pistorius, the double amputee made famous after competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics, is charged with shooting his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The former Olympian, nicknamed “Blade Runner,”claims he thought Steenkamp was a burglar. Prosecutors say he shot her in cold blood following an argument. He faces up to life in prison if convicted of the murder charge. South Africa abolished jury trials in 1969, so a judge will decide Pistorius’fate.
Stop loss. Radio Shack announced today it plans to close up to 1,100 underperforming stores in a bid to shore up sagging profits. The electronic retailer’s fourth-quarter sales dropped 19 percent over the same period last year. The company also reported a net loss of $191.4 million for the fourth quarter, its eighth consecutive quarterly loss. Like many traditional retailers, Radio Shack is fighting to reverse declining foot traffic as customers increasingly turn to the internet for technology needs.
Social drones? Facebook wants its own drone division, and it’s not so that the ubiquitous social network can spread its tech tentacles even further into users’private lives, as privacy experts might fear. The company is reportedly in talks with drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace about an acquisition, which would help Facebook further its goal of universal internet access around the globe. Titan makes an unmanned aircraft that can fly 12 miles into the atmosphere for up to five years, providing many of the functions of a much more costly communications satellite. Facebook could deploy the drones in parts of the world not currently connected to the internet, increasing its potential customer base. Titan’s drones already are involved in the Internet Africa Project.