Thursday PM November 2nd, 2006

Two oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria...World Oil hosts conference spotlights women in government and major energy companies...Enron prosecutor Sean Berkowitz joins Chicago law firm...

An American oil worker and a British oil worker have been kidnapped in Nigeria by armed gunmen. The two PGS workers were taken from a Norwegian oil services ship off Nigeria's southern coast. PGS is an oil service company specializing in exploration using seismic surveys. Militants in Nigeria have launched a wave of kidnappings and attacks on oil facilities since the beginning of this year, forcing a 25-percent decrease in crude oil production. The militants say they're fighting for a greater share of oil wealth from oil companies and the government. The hostage-takings have usually ended peacefully, with those seized being set free after negotiations.


The Women's Global Leadership Conference in Energy and Technology at the Hilton Americas included speakers from major energy companies and government officials. The Ambassador of Angola to the U.S.--Josefina Pitra Diakite--gave the opening keynote.

"I hope I could have more Angolan women coming, especially the ones who at the leadership of the, you know, our prosperous oil company. This is a very interesting audience, but we don't have exactly the common interest, you know. By one side, women in countries like the United States are looking really out to progress, grow more in the career. Of course, our women in the sector are doing the same, but we have different realities. And it is good to interface, to define the strategies that will enable the women in energy to look for the ones that deserve the support to also grow their lives."

This second annual day-long event was organized by World Oil. Topics at the Women's Global Leadership Conference in Energy and Technology included balancing work and family life and managing a dual-career marriage, gaining seats on boards, methods for attracting and retaining seasoned women executives and discussion about how to rise to the top quickly.


A company that makes most of its revenue from patents has reached $8 million settlement with some of the tech industry's biggest players. Austin-based Forgent Networks had sued them over the use of a patent covering the ubiquitous J-peg digital image format. The so-called 672 patent was issued in 1987 and obtained by Forgent a decade later when the company acquired Compression Labs, which created and owned 672 patent. The patent has been Forgent's cash cow, bringing in more than $110 million in settlements and licensing fees in the past three years. Though used in countless electronic gadgets and software programs since the 1980s, it wasn't until two years ago that Forgent sued 44 companies. But in June, the court ruled the patent applied only to video. That severely limited the scope of Forgent's claims. Although the patent expired in October, Forgent could have pursued claims retroactively. But Forgent says it agreed to a settlement with such tech giants as Round Rock-based Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems. The deal was filed in a federal court in San Francisco.


Enron prosecutor Sean Berkowitz has joined the Chicago office of Latham & Watkins, after securing the fraud convictions this year of Enron founder Ken Lay and former executive Jeff Skilling. His last day as director of the Enron Task Force at the Department of Justice was Tuesday. The task force's first director, Leslie Caldwell, is now a partner at Morgan Lewis in New York. Her successor, Andrew Weismann, joined Chicago-based Jenner & Block's New York office.


The Labor Department says the number of newly laid off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits shot up last week to the highest level in more than three months. New claims rose by 18,000 to a total of 327,000. The four-week moving average of new claims, which is less volatile than the weekly numbers, rose by 5,700 to more than 311,000. The Labor Department is to release the monthly employment report Friday morning.


The Web site careerbuilder.com expects job postings to continue to run at about 128,000 in the fourth quarter, the same as the three months before. Job areas showing the biggest increases include health care, professional and business services and information technology. On the other hand, telecommunications is having problems. Careerbuilder.com expects a seven percent decline in jobs over the next ten years, compared with 14 percent growth in all other industries combined. Best areas for job-hunting continue to be the southwestern U.S., particularly Phoenix, along with the southeastern states.


A new report says the number of job cut announcements fell 31 percent last month compared to the month before. The outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas says there were more than 69,000 job cuts announced in October. That's also 15 percent below the pace of a year earlier. For the year so far, job cuts total more than 700,000, down 18 percent from the comparable ten month period in 2005. The Challenger report comes ahead of Friday's closely followed unemployment report from the Labor Department.


Steady output, but costing more. That's the picture painted of worker productivity by the Labor Department. It says productivity was unchanged in the third quarter, while wage pressures were rising at the fastest rate in more than two decades. Labor costs increased 3.8 percent in the July-September quarter, and are up 5.3 percent over the past year. The combination risks raising fresh inflation concerns at the Federal Reserve, which has been opting to leave interest rates unchanged. Productivity is defined as output per hour of work.


Southwest Airlines is cutting fares again in Dallas. The Dallas-based company said it will sell one-way tickets to and from Dallas for as low as $39. Southwest chief executive Gary C. Kelly says Southwest is treating its longtime home at Dallas Love Field as if it were just launching service there. Kelly and other Southwest officials told reporters that the airline is adding flights in Phoenix and Orange County, California. Southwest started in 1971 with three planes serving three Texas cities, and now has 476 planes flying to 63 airports in 32 states. It has, however, retained some of the simplicity long abandoned by other carriers. Kelly says that flights to and from Dallas are more full since last month, when Congress relaxed 1979 limits that prevented Southwest from offering long-haul service to and from Love Field.


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...