Tuesday November 29th, 2005

Third Vioxx trial gets underway in Houston...Port officials push Bayport opening to August...Houston conference focuses on Latin American real estate investment...

The first federal Vioxx trial began today in Houston with the selection of a four-woman, five-man jury--three of whom will serve as alternates. They'll determine if Merck & Company's once-popular painkiller caused the death of a 53-year-old man. The case before U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon of New Orleans was moved from the Crescent City to Houston because of damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina. The case pits the widow of Richard "Dicky'' Irvin of St. Augustine, Florida, against Merck. Irvin took Vioxx for about a month to alleviate back pain. Evelyn Irvin Plunkett's attorneys are trying to prove that Merck's former blockbuster painkiller led to Irvin's death in May 2001. Merck has lost one Vioxx trial in Texas and won one on its home turf of New Jersey in the first two state-level Vioxx cases.

Port officials have pushed the opening of the Port of Houston's Bayport container and cruise terminal from June to possibly August. The Port of Houston Authority commission approved more than $75 million in additional project contracts this week. Zachry Construction is considering abandoning an innovative ground-freezing technology that was planned for dredging. A 1,700-foot frozen wall, 110 feet deep and 50 feet wide at its base, would minimize the environmental effects associated with dredging for the $1.2 billion project. Zachry has been awarded an additional $15.2 million contract to develop the Bayport site and utilities for the first phase of the cruise terminal complex. A $40.4 million contract for wharf construction and dredging and a $21.9 million contract for an office building was also awarded this week.

The Stewart Title Latin America STAR Conference is focusing on real estate investment this week at the Intercontinental Hotel. Christopher Hill is general manager of Stewart Title Latin America.

Christopher Hill audio 1

The attorneys from Latin American and Caribbean nations attending the conference have been looking at all aspects of real estate development in developing markets.

Christopher Hill audio 2

Hill says large and small investors in the United States are interested in Latin American and Caribbean real estate investment.

Christopher Hill audio 3

Stewart provides title insurance and information services through more than 8,000 policy-issuing offices and agencies in the United States and international markets.

Massachusetts-based missile-maker Raytheon is closing a manufacturing facility in Sherman, laying off as many as 193 workers beginning in January. The North Texas company told the Texas Workforce Commission the employees are not guaranteed positions elsewhere in the company.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas says manufacturing activity in Texas continued to expand during November. The survey of about 80 manufacturers looks at indicators such as general business activity, production and employment. Expectations for future activity have been consistent for more than a year, and the Federal Reserve Bank says that means Texas manufacturers are optimistic about the 2006 outlook.

Prudential Gary Greene Realtors has merged AllisonSpear.com Realtors into its operations, according to the Houston Business Journal. The merger brings the total number of sales professionals at the Prudential Gary Greene Inner Loop location to 80.

Enterprise Products Partners is expanding its natural gas liquids and petrochemical storage services at its Mont Belview complex east of Houston. Enterprise will more than double its brine storage capabilities. Brine--a mixture of salt and water--is injected into underground storage caverns to displace and deliver natural gas liquids and petrochemicals to pipelines. The expansion projects are scheduled to be place in service in 2006.

LeTourneau University is expanding its degree programs for working adults in Houston, according to the Houston Business Journal. The Longview-based school has signed a seven-year lease on space in the Granite Westchase Building on Richmond. This second Houston facility will have six classrooms to accommodate 140 students.

Fares will fall and American Airlines stands to lose $115 million a year if direct flights from Dallas Love Field to Missouri are approved. That's according to an analyst who follows the airline industry. Roger King of the New York-based research firm CreditSights says Southwest Airlines would be the big beneficiary of the change at its home airport--gaining $80 million annually. King predicts fares from North Texas to St. Louis and Kansas City would fall an average of 25 percent if Southwest is able to make direct flights. He says he based the estimate on fares between Houston and Missouri, a route flown by both Fort Worth-based American and Dallas-based Southwest. A 1979 federal law limits flights from Love Field to Texas and a few nearby states. Congress passed legislation this month that would expand service to Missouri. Southwest officials say they'll offer flights from Love Field to St. Louis and Kansas City once President Bush signs the bill. American indicates it would launch service from Love Field to compete with Southwest flights to Missouri and possibly other states.

Texas Instruments is testing two new semiconductor chipsets. Dallas-based TI says those items could mark the next step in making so-called third-generation mobile phones more affordable and widely available. Details were announced today in Tokyo. TI is expected to outline testing of a new chipset with Japan's NTT Docomo and expects phones with the new component to be on the Japanese market next year. Analysts who were briefed by Texas Instruments say the new chipset combines a modem with an applications processor. It's designed to improve the video performance of advanced phones. Also, TI is set to announce that it's testing a new processor designed to boost video performance and support more cutting-edge phone functions at a lower cost.

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...