Tuesday AM December 4th, 2007

Opening statements in BP Texas City civil trial expected today...UTMB considers ending cancer care to indigent, undocumented immigrants...Houston Community College tops nation in community colleges hosting international students...

Opening statements are set in Galveston for today in a civil trial stemming from the 2005 explosion at BP's Texas City refinery, barring any settlements. Stephenville attorney Ernest Cannon represents eight plaintiffs hurt in the blast. BP has spent more than $1.6 billion settling most of the 4,000 lawsuits, including those involving the 15 deaths. Hundreds of lawsuits still pending involve injuries and property damage. Four plaintiffs settled their cases in mid-September before finishing presenting their evidence.


The University of Texas Medical Branch says it may stop offering cancer care to indigent, undocumented immigrants. That policy would save money but run counter to the medical school's mission of treating the poor. The Medical Branch has a $1.4 billion annual budget and set aside about $12 million this year to treat indigent cancer patients. But Vice President Karen Sexton says it is still not able to meet demand. The Medical Branch laid off 381 employees last year as it dealt with medical inflation, state funding cuts and the growing number of Texans without health insurance. The Medical Branch's cancer patients' acceptance committee has for months been studying the issue of turning away undocumented immigrants to save money. Sexton says that while practical, such a policy raises obvious ethical questions. About 5.4 million Texans, or 24.6 percent of the state's population, are uninsured. Non-citizens are almost three times as likely to be uninsured as native U.S. citizens.


Carmel Builders plans 35 three-story townhomes called the Brownstones at CityCentre in 2008, according to the Houston Business Journal. The luxury homes under construction at Interstate 10 and Beltway 8 will sell for just under $1 million.


The Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau is welcoming 11 conventions, trade shows, events and other meetings in January. More than 36,720 attendees are expected to spend an estimated $35.7 million during the month. Events include the Chevron Houston Marathon's 26.2, 13.1 and 3.1-mile run in downtown Houston on January 5th. More than 25,000 participants are expected. Americas Classic will hold its 17th annual Swing Dance Championships at the Wyndham Greenspoint Hotel from January 10th through the 13th. Mary Kay holds its annual Leadership Conference January 23rd through the 30th at the George R. Brown Convention Center.


Houston Community College tops the nation in community colleges hosting international students, according to the Institute of International Education, as reported by the Houston Business Journal. The Open Doors 2006 report says HCC has about 3,200 international students enrolled. North Harris Montgomery Community College District is sixth on the list, with some 1,617 international students.


ExecuNet's Recruiter Confidence Index dipped two percentage points in November, based on a monthly survey of executive recruiters. Despite the decline, the majority of executive recruiters are expecting a double-digit increase in search assignments during the next three months, and nearly half of all firms are planning to add staff.


Congress' dawdling could mean millions of early tax return filers will have to wait to get their refunds. At issue is the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was passed in 1969 and was aimed at very wealthy families who used deductions to avoid paying any federal income tax. The tax was not adjusted for inflation, so every year it expands and includes more middle-income families. Congress has passed one-year fixes in the past, but has failed to do so this year. The IRS says the agency is considering not processing early returns if the amt issue is not resolved in the next two weeks. The filing season is set to kick off January 14th. If it's pushed back two weeks, it would delay some 6.7 million refunds totaling $17 billion.


San Antonio is one of five U.S. sites to test a program designed to attract army recruits. Starting in January, recruiters will offer new enlistees up to $40,000 toward their mortgage or to start a business. The $40,000 requires a five-year commitment and is available after finishing the term of service. The Army Advantage Program will also be tested in: Montgomery, Alabama; Cleveland; Albany, New York; and Seattle before it's offered nationwide. The army would not say why the cities were chosen other than through demographic research. The army has suffered a historic dip in recruiting the last few years during the war in Iraq.


Repros Therapeutics has been granted approval by the Food & Drug Administration to begin Phase 3 studies on its anemia drug Proellex, according to the Houston Business Journal. The Woodlands-based company says the drug is a treatment for anemia from excessive menstrual bleeding associated with uterine fibroids.


Continental Airlines will offer passengers the option of offsetting their travel carbon footprints, starting in May. Passengers can buy carbon credits, view the carbon footprint of their itinerary and make a contribution to Sustainable Travel International. The carbon credit cost for the average domestic flight would be around $5 per roundtrip per passenger. Fliers can choose to support international reforestation projects or renewable energy projects such as wind farms.


Dell has announced that it will partner with advertising giant WPP Group to create a new marketing agency that would handle $4.5 billion in Dell accounts over three years. Dell's advertising and marketing business had been spread among 800 firms worldwide. Casey Jones, Dell Vice President of Global Brand Marketing, says the new agreement will allow the company's partner to spend 100 percent of its time thinking about customers, rather than how it will get the next assignment.


AT&T says it'll quit the rapidly shrinking pay phone business by the end of next year. The San Antonio-based phone company says it'll depart the field before it becomes unprofitable. AT&T says it expects independent operators to buy its 65,000 pay phones in prisons and in public places in its original 13-state area. Spokesman Michael Coe says pay phones are a tiny part of AT&T's overall business. The pool of pay phones nationwide has shrunk from 2.6 million to one million in the past decade. AT&T, alone, has 67.3 million wireless subscribers. BellSouth, which AT&T acquired at the end of 2006, had already exited the pay phone business. So had Denver-based Qwest Communications International.


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...