Friday AM December 7th, 2007

UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center contracts exclusive rights to cancer technologies to Edgeline Holdings...BP employees testify at Texas City explosion civil trial...Tri-County Black Chamber of Commerce hosts luncheon presentation cruise at the Port of Houston...

The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is giving Houston technology firm Edgeline Holdings the exclusive right to five technologies relating to the treatment of various cancers over a nine-month period. The company will evaluate patent rights, potential products and markets and negotiate licenses through its subsidiary Intertech Bio. M.D. Anderson recently formed a partnership to develop therapeutic drugs and new imaging techniques with GlaxoSmithKline, and other alliances with major drug companies are in the works. The partnerships give the drug companies a pool for clinical trials.


Kelsey-Seybold Clinic is announcing a new plan that will expand healthcare services for patients of Medicare age at no additional cost. The plan will provide free or low co-pay checkups, health screenings, hearing exams and vision coverage. The groups' Web site says enrollees can expect to save nearly $1,500 a year with KelseyCare Advantage over traditional Medicare.


BP Texas City refinery technician Joseph Runfola testified that he was frustrated with the failure of supervisors to follow through on repair and maintenance work. A civil trial is underway in Galveston by plant workers suing BP because of injuries suffered in the explosion. An operator who was one of many fired by BP for failing to follow written procedures for the startup of a unit that exploded in March 2005, killing 15 people, has also testified. Union leaders and blast victims said it appeared the company blamed low-level and midlevel workers and avoided broader responsibility for systematic management problems regarding safety. Former Texas City plant manager Don Parus earlier testified he tried to mend the company's safety culture, but tragedy struck first.


Motiva Enterprises is selling ten of its Shell-branded retail locations to The Lewis Group. Shell's John Hofmeister made the announcement at the National Urban League's Economic Empowerment Tour at Minute Maid Park.

"This is an example of economic empowerment in action. Shell's been a long-standing member of the National Urban League. We've had a great partnership for many years. This is an opportunity for the economic empowerment agenda of the Urban League to be satisfied. We've also had a long history of relationship with the Lewis's. The Lewis's used to be what called a multi-site operator for Shell, where they operated a number of shell stations. Now they move from operatorship to ownership. So the retail property, the inventory, the stores—they belong to the Lewis's, as of this morning. So we're very proud for them and very pleased for Shell." Ed: "And this is sort of a general change—a transition of company-owned assets to, you know, wholesale suppliers, or operators." "I think Shell's made a good decision here. We recognized over the years that the best people to reach our customers are the people who live and work in the communities where our customers live. Now, we happen to have our headquarters here in Houston, but across the nation where we do business, we don't know those communities very well, and so by divesting our company ownership of retail stations, and allowing local investors, local business people from a wide variety of backgrounds to own those assets and to own the business and to license our brand and to purchase our wholesale products, we think that's a good business model. It's been demonstrated by share gains in a variety of cities, and it's been demonstrated by the successful business operations of our many wholesale operators."

Motiva earlier this year announced a partnership with the National Urban League to encourage qualified minority candidates to seek opportunities in the retail fuels industry.


The Tri-County Black Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Plan of Work luncheon presentation cruise called "Business Beyond Borders" at the Port of Houston today. Trade missions are being announced to Angola and countries in Central and South America. The trip is being organized for small businesses interested in developing global ties in consumer markets, telecom, agribusiness, communication technology, tourism, finance, mortgage and insurance and housing. Guests include firms doing international business, as well as consulate generals and honorary consulates from countries targeted for trade missions in 2008.


Railroad Commission Chairman Michael L. Williams commends Luminant, the state's largest power producer, for committing to the FutureGen Alliance. Commissioner Williams serves as chairman of both the Governor's Clean Coal Technology Council and the FutureGen Texas Advisory Board. He's helping lead the effort to bring the $1.8 billion FutureGen project to Texas. Illinois is also competing for the project.


Teachers, students and parents in the Houston Independent School District will soon benefit from a $4.5 million, three-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The money is to support the ASPIRE—Accelerating Student Progress, Increasing Results & Expectations—data system. It will monitor individual student progress, inform classroom instruction and help teachers provide more targeted support. The grant will also support new communication systems and online tools to help share knowledge across the district, as well as provide professional development opportunities for teachers.


The University of Houston and UT Dallas are two of 12 sites around the country selected to receive money to certify high school math and science teachers. Governor Rick Perry was on hand as the University of Texas at Dallas received a $2.4 million grant from the National Math and Science Initiative. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is announcing the UH grant in Austin today. The funds are modeled after UTeach, which began as a University of Texas program that recruits and trains math, science and computer science majors to become high school teachers. Since its start, the number of math and science majors certified as teachers at the university has doubled. The UH program is called teachHOUSTON.


Ford says it is recalling nearly 1.2 million trucks, SUVs and vans to fix an engine sensor problem that could cause the vehicles to stall and even crash. The recalled vehicles are 1997-2003 models with 7.3 liter diesel engines, including the Ford E-series van, Excursion full-size sport utility vehicle, and F-450 Super Duty and F-550 Super Duty trucks. A Ford spokesman says there have been 14 accidents associated with the problem, but no injuries reported. Dealers will inspect the sensor and replace it with a new one free of charge. The recall is expected to begin later this month, with notification letters to continue through next year.


Dell is further eroding its direct-to-consumer sales model. The Round Rock-based computer maker will start selling notebooks and desktop computers at Best Buy stores next month. Twin cities-based Best Buy said it would sell Dell's XPS and Inspiron notebook and desktop computer lines at more than 900 stores. Dell built its business around selling computers directly to customers, but it's been cutting deals with retailers lately as PC sales growth slowed. Dell lost its spot as the world's top-selling computer to Hewlett-Packard late last year, and HP has stretched its lead since then. Dell officials believe Best Buy gives the PC maker a presence at different levels of the U.S. retail market. The company already sells modestly priced PCs in about 3,000 Wal-Mart stores and targeted small-business owners by striking a retail partnership with the Staples Office Supply retail chain. The computer maker, however, will miss the pre-Christmas sales traffic at Best Buy.


Retailers are braced for a lackluster holiday shopping season. And monthly sales results from major chains don't appear to be changing that outlook. The season got off to a busy start as result of ''Black Friday'' promotions. Shoppers then largely pulled back. Warehouse club operator Costco and discount giant Wal-Mart are among the winners. Mall-based apparel stores including Limited Brands and Wet Seal had less-than-hoped-for results. Target warns it may not hit quarterly earnings projections if sales fail to improve after falling off in the final week of November. Thomson Financial says 19 merchants topped estimates, two were in line and 22 missed forecasts.


An affiliate of Enterprise Products Partners has been awarded a long-term contract with Marathon Oil to provide services for natural gas production in Colorado, according to the Houston Business Journal. An Enterprise subsidiary will construct about 50 miles of new gathering lines to connect Marathon's multi-well drilling sites.


Houston-based Wortham Insurance & Risk Management has merged with property and casualty insurance brokerage firm Texas AGA of Dallas, according to the Houston Business Journal. The Wortham Group specializes in oil and gas, construction, medical and health care, farm and ranch and real estate.


Researchers at Kansas State University say cattle fed a byproduct of ethanol production are twice as likely to carry a potentially deadly strain of e. Coli bacteria. Experts say the research has far-reaching food safety implications. Ethanol plants are often built next to feedlots because distillers grain is a good animal feed. The study tested the prevalence of e. Coli 0157 in cattle as well as the carcass quality of cattle fed distiller's grain. Researchers reached their conclusions after three rounds of testing. Texas leads the country in cattle, but Kansas is second—with 2.4 million cattle on feed as of November 1st. The industry has spent millions of checkoff dollars collected from beef producers on e. Coli intervention strategies.


Congressional Republicans are divided over how the president should handle Democrats in a showdown over the federal budget. Some House conservatives don't want him to compromise on his demands for Democrats to stick to his budget cap and supply more cash for the Iraq war with no strings attached. Republican lawmakers are looking to take a hard line on spending to repair their image as fiscal conservatives. A veto threat from the president holds particular weight as Congress moves into the end-of-session crunch time. On the Senate side, Republicans are trying to forge a deal with Democrats that would allow both sides to claim victory. Bush's chief of staff met with Democrats to explore whether a deal is possible. Striking movie and TV writers returned to the bargaining table with Hollywood producers in an effort to end a five-week walkout. And both sides are expressing optimism. The Writers Guild of America describes talks over the past two days as "substantive'' but says it's awaiting a response to a number of union proposals, including higher residuals for movies and shows streamed online. The producers alliance says it thinks the two sides can find common ground that would allow the industry to "survive and prosper.''


Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli told a group of employees this week that the company is headed for a $1.6 billion loss this year. That's according to a source. Nardelli told a group of engineers and designers that revenue will be less than $63 billion but costs will exceed $64 billion. The source asked not to be identified because Chrysler is a private company and no longer has to report its earnings. Nardelli, the former Home Depot CEO, was hired in August by Chrysler's new private equity owner, Cerberus Capital Management. If his prediction is correct, it would be the company's second straight year of losses. Chrysler lost $618 million in 2006, but made $1.8 billion in 2005.


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...