• The nation's largest retailer remains a massive target from multiple fronts. In one of the most damaging shots to the company to date, the Maryland legislature passed a law requiring firms with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payrolls on health benefits or else make a contribution to the state's health-care programs for low-income families. The bill was a response to the fact that fewer than half of Wal-Mart's employees nationwide get insurance through the company, with many more forced to get health care through spouses or through state-subsidized programs. Since the passage of Maryland's bill, more than 20 other states have introduced similar bills.

  • Wal-Mart's nascent attempts to start a banking operation received opposition from an unexpected front: outgoing Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. The Fed chair sent a 12-page letter to Congress opposing a regulatory loophole that opens the doors for corporations to own banks. Wal-Mart has been trying to obtain a state banking charter in Utah.

  • Wal-Mart recently launched an online music video and audio service called “Wal-Mart Soundcheck” that will promote exclusive studio performances and interviews. The first bands featured: rock group Switchfoot and punk group Yellowcard.

  • Both Wal-Mart and Costco are exploring using biometric checkout systems. The technology would allow consumers to pay via a finger scan. Customers would register at in-store kiosks, scan their fingerprint into the system and their credit information would be pulled up. Already, some grocers are experimenting with the system including Albertson's and Piggly Wiggly.