Thursday PM June 5th, 2008

Continental Airlines says it's cutting 6.5 percent of its 45,000-member workforce in the fourth quarter. The layoffs will involve 3,000 positions. Also, Continental's chief executive and president say they won't take a salary for the rest of this year and will decline bonuses. The airline says it'll start pulling back on flights in September, when it expects departures will be down about 16 percent year-over-year--a total capacity reduction of about 11 percent. The airline blames record-high fuel costs and an industry in "crisis." It says fare increases haven't been enough to offset the rising cost of fuel. With the price of jet fuel at about 75 percent higher than it was a year ago, Continental estimates it'll spend $2.3 billion more this year than last. By the end of the second quarter, Continental will operate 375 mainline aircraft. Continental plans to take 67 planes out of service through 2009. Mayor Bill White says the cuts are not expected to delay a terminal expansion at Bush Intercontinental Airport. Continental said it will provide details on specific flights subject to cuts by the end of next week.


The push in Congress for increasing American-made energy continued with 8th District Congressman Kevin Brady on the floor of the House. He said he's been talking with his constituents.

image of speaker, click here for audio"Painters and plumbers and others who now basically work for free because gas prices have basically eaten up all their profits. I visited this last week with our law enforcement agencies who were no longer able to be proactive in the community. They're just responding to calls because they've burned through much of their fuel budget for the year already. In each case, every one of them asked me 'why isn't America taking more responsibility for our own energy needs?' In each case, they said 'look, take a message back to Congress: no more gimmicks. We need more American-made energy here in the United States to get our fuel prices down to be less-dependent on Middle East fuel to have some say over the prices that our families and small businesses pay'."

Brady has signed on to a package of bills, including one to unlock the ANWR and the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act of 2008.


More than 12,000 electric customers of E-tricity are being switched to other providers. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, reports Hwy 3 Mph, which did business as E-tricity, defaulted on financial obligations to the council. The company is based in Denton and advertised for customers throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas. Those being switched include 12,222 residential customers and 29 business or other customers. The first customers began to be switched to new providers Thursday. E-mails to the company and its lawyers were not immediately returned. Representatives who answered the phone number listed on an E-tricity advertisement said the company was no longer taking new customers but would refund deposits to existing customers.

More than 30,000 Texas electricity customers have been forced into a state backup program in recent weeks. That's after their retail providers defaulted on payments to the operator of the state's largest power grid. The latest provider was Denton-based E-tricity. Two other companies, Pre-Buy Electric and National Power Company, also stopped serving about 24,000 customers in the last couple of weeks. ERCOT operates the grid for most of the state. While those customers may have to pay higher prices until they sign with a new provider, it allows them to avoid having their electricity turned off as Texas heats up for the summer.


Verizon Wireless has agreed to buy Alltel for $5.9 billion, which would make it by far the largest cellular carrier in the U.S. Verizon Wireless said Thursday it would assume $22.2 billion in debt in the deal, bringing the total value to $28.1 billion. Alltel has 13.2 million subscribers in 34 states, mainly in rural areas away from the coasts. Added to Verizon Wireless 67.2 million subscribers, the size of the combined company would surpass San Antonio-based AT&T, with 71.4 million subscribers. The parties expect the deal to close by the end of the year, pending regulatory approvals. The deal is likely to face scrutiny by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, but analysts expect it to pass.


Democrats have given final approval to a budget blueprint for 2009 that rewards agencies and the Pentagon with generous spending increases. But it leaves it up to the next president to decide about curbing Medicare costs and increasing taxes. The House approved the $3.1 trillion plan by a 214-210 vote Thursday. The measure sets guidelines for future action by Congress. It does not go to President Bush. The plan rests on questionable assumptions to predict a small budget surplus by 2012 after seven years of deficits under the Republican president. It would achieve the goal by allowing many Bush tax cuts to expire on schedule in two and-a-half years and predicting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will not cost anything after next year.


A federal study finds Hispanic workers die at higher rates than other laborers. The study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was performed by health researchers in Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey. It found that one in three of the deaths occurred in the construction industry. The researchers say Hispanic workers tend to hold more high-risk jobs than those in other racial groups, but language and literacy barriers and poor training and supervision may also be factors. The leading causes of death in recent years have been falls and highway-related accidents. The study counted more than 11,000 Hispanic work-related deaths nationwide from 1992 to 2006. The researchers calculated an annual death rate of 5 per 100,000 Hispanic workers in 2006 the rate for non-Hispanic white workers was four. For blacks, it was 3.7. In 2003 through 2006, the highest numbers of Hispanic work-related deaths were in California, with 773 deaths; Texas, with 687; and Florida, with 417.


A person with the Screen Actors Guild says the union has signed more than 300 waiver deals allowing members to work on films by independent producers even if actors strike. The person, who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity, says the films include "Edge of Darkness" starring Mel Gibson. The contracts are offered to independent producers with no ties to the major Hollywood studios involved in ongoing labor talks. The current contract expires on June 30th.


 

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