It wasn't her shoes, her belt buckle, her earrings, or the spare change in her pocket. But over and over again, the airport metal detector beeped when the Canadian woman walked through.

It took an X-ray to find the culprit: an 11.7-inch surgical retractor in her abdomen. Try explaining that to airport security. It had apparently been left in her stomach after a surgical procedure -- four months earlier.

So remember, as irritating as it may be to remove the tweezers and nail clippers from your carry-on this travel season, it could be worse.

Happy holidays!

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Dell Puts It to Investors

Even the bigwigs in giant companies' finance departments get burned on investments, so don't feel too badly about burns you've incurred. We all have scars. And Dell Computer(Nasdaq: DELL) just showed us a big one.

As part of its stock repurchase program, the computer giant sold "put options." A put is a stock option that gives the owner the right to sell the underlying stock to the put seller (Dell, in this case) at a set price within a set time. Long ago, the company sold put options that allowed the put buyers to sell their Dell stock (to Dell) at an average price of $50.44 per share. The stock is $27 today. So, the put purchasers exercised their options and sold all their shares to Dell.

The company bought 9.3 million shares for a total of $467 million, paying nearly twice current market value, minus whatever premium, or payment, it received for selling the puts. (Any qualified investor can sell put options. Doing so, they receive a cash payment called a premium.)

It also bought call options to purchase 6 million shares of its stock. A call option gives the owner the right to buy a stock at a specified price within a set time. Dell's call options are worthless because the current share price is far below the strike price of the call options. In both cases, its bigwigs in finance were far too optimistic about the stock's potential, and this has cost shareholders many millions.

Of course, the Fool reported (and warned) about this issue as far back as 1997. In fact, we did so again in 1999. And again in 2001. [Sigh.]

The Motley Fool Select (free trial right now) recently ran twoissues all about stock options. If you missed our coverage in the past, it's never too late to start learning.

Quote of Note

"The place where optimism most flourishes is the lunatic asylum." -- Havelock Ellis (1859-1939), English psychologist

Another Tyco Indictment

Former board member Frank Walsh, Jr. has become the fourth person indicted in connection with the festering mess at Tyco International(NYSE: TYC). He has been arrested and is expected to plead guilty to fraud charges, according to an announcement from Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's office.

Published reports say Walsh is being accused of securities fraud for his role in Tyco's $9.5 billion acquisition of CIT Group last year. The company itself filed a lawsuit against him for "breaching his fiduciary responsibilities by taking a $20 million 'finders fee' in connection with the CIT acquisition, without the knowledge or approval of the Board."

Walsh will reportedly return the $20 million and pay a fine of $2.5 million. The Wall Street Journal says he'll be barred from serving as an officer or director of any public company, settling SEC charges against him.

Walsh now joins a list of ex-Tyco indictees that includes CEO Dennis Kozlowski, CFO Mark Swartz, and Chief Corporate Counsel Mark Belnick. The three are accused of stealing money, falsifying records, and concealing material information.

Tyco's stock price, though up 5% this morning, is down over 70% since news of wrongdoing first surfaced.

Discussion Board of the Day: Tyco

So the fourth shoe has finally dropped. What should happen to former Tyco board member Frank Walsh, Jr., and what will befall the scandal-ridden manufacturing and service company? See what fellow Fools are saying and contribute your thoughts on the Tyco discussion board -- only on

Cadbury's Bubblicious Buy

What could be more American than Bubblicious gum? Soon, just about anything.

As contradictory as it sounds, Bubblicious will soon be claimed by the United Kingdom. Pfizer(NYSE: PFE) is selling its Adams confectionery business, including Bubblicious, Trident, Dentyne, Certs, and Halls, to British Cadbury Schweppes PLC(NYSE: CSG). The price of gum? $4.2 billion, including taxes. (What comes around goes around, eh, Britain? Thanks for the tea.)

Pfizer obtained Adams with its $80-billion Warner-Lambert acquisition more than two years ago. Adams didn't jive with Pfizer's drug focus, but Pfizer was barred from selling the division for two years. Adams was shopped around starting this summer; various competitors showed interest; and now Pfizer is getting a sweet price. Cadbury will use debt and tax benefits to finance the purchase. It doesn't expect to see a positive return on capital until 2006.

Acquiring Adams will make Cadbury the second-largest gum seller in the world and the largest in the United States. Such status comes at a price. Standard & Poor's lowered Cadbury's long-term credit rating from A to BBB on account of its increased debt.

With nearly $13 billion in market value, Cadbury has $9 billion in annual soda and confectionery sales, about $1 billion in annual free cash flow (in 2001) and, lately, a 10% profit margin. The stock pays a 3.6% dividend yield, but the last 10 years, the stock price has lagged the S&P 500, PepsiCo(NYSE: PEP), and Coca-Cola(NYSE: KO).

Meanwhile, Pfizer's goal several years ago was to become the largest pharmaceutical company in the world. With its acquisition of Warner-Lambert and now Pharmacia(NYSE: PHA), it will reach that goal. In the process, it helped create a new gum giant.

Shameless Plug: Holiday Sale

We've discounted some of our best Fool merchandise to help you save a little coin this holiday season. Save 20% on The Motley Fool Select, Stocks 2003, TMF Money Advisor, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, and Fool Community subscriptions, now through Dec. 31. We know you've been a little more naughty than nice this year, but that's OK. We won't tell Santa about the naughty part.

Mars and Venus Get the Tab

Women may have a reputation for being the overspending gender, but, ladies, no need to take all the heat.

While women may have the men beat in terms of time spent in stores (why settle for apple red when the perfect shade of weathered brick may be in the pile of sale sweaters or one of the eight other stores on Level 3 of the mall?), it turns out that the final tab females ring up is often lower than that of the supposedly shopping-challenged gender.

The Amerix Quarterly Index shows that women of all ages have lower amounts of total unsecured debt than men. Why the lower bills? The report concludes that since men generally make more money than women, they are more likely to buy larger, more expensive items.

It turns out that more gals than guys seek help wrangling with their inner spendthrift. Roughly 70% of those enrolled in debt management plans are women, according to the stats kept by Amerix, a technology provider to non-profit credit counseling firms. It bases its study on aggregate data from more than 300,000 people enrolled in debt-management plans.

We don't mind if you gossip with the gals over happy hour about your meathead man's fifth HDTV purchase. But go ahead and give your man a few pointers on bargain hunting. And if things get out of hand, send him to our High Definition, DVD-enabled, turbo-charged Get Out of Debt area.

Quick Takes

Hamburglar, what have you done now? It seems McDonald's(NYSE: MCD) can't buck the downward spiral, even with its new buck menu. The company has posted its first-ever loss and warns it will miss fourth-quarter targets of $0.31 a share in profits, as comparable-store sales are off by 1.6% over the past two months. Mickey D's now sees earnings closer to $0.25 a share, not including restructuring charges of about $390 million. On the bright side, four of those quarters will buy you a Big N' Tasty burger.

Attention, Kmart(NYSE: KM) shareholders: There's a blue-light special on your former blue-chip stock certificates. With the company now delaying its filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, and the New York Stock Exchange ready to delist the hobbled retailer after tomorrow's market close, it's a grim clearance sale, indeed.

Grimace? You won't find that in the consumer electronics retailing space, as Best Buy(NYSE: BBY) and Circuit City(NYSE: CC) both topped Wall Street's estimates. But the holidays might not keep up with that kind of cheer, as Best Buy is now talking down its current-quarter bottom-line projections on flat comps.

So does the tarnished golden arches at McDonald's mean that if you hotwire a virtual car in Take-Two Interactive's(Nasdaq: TTWO) video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and head to the drive-thru, you'll fly through? Take-Two is motoring past its fiscal fourth-quarter estimates and putting the pedal to the metal by revising its 2003 outlook higher. It's now looking to earn $2.20 a share on $950 million in revenue in the 2003 fiscal year. Now that's big -- and tasty.

And Finally...

Today on The Fool offers its best gift ideas, all designed to save you some moolah.... Tom Jacobs looks behind the hype of Universal Display and its organic light emitting diodes.... Selena Maranjian offers a better way to think about charities -- and investing.... In Fool's School, how to choose the right broker.... And the Post of the Day: an inspirational message from a fellow Fool.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim