Wednesday February 22nd, 2006

Former Enron corporate secretary faces cross-examination...Nigerian militants continue holding Willbros workers...Texas Emerging Technology fund makes first award...

As an Enron insider, Paula Rieker saw the Houston company's inner workings as it became a Wall Street darling. As Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Secretary for Enron's board, she also saw them as the company collapsed in December of 2001. Rieker returned to the stand today in the fraud and conspiracy trial of former Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. Rieker testified Lay downplayed or hid bad news from Wall Street in the last few months before Enron's bankruptcy. But she acknowledges that in November of 2001, she sent Lay an encouraging note that called his leadership "invaluable.'' The testimony came under cross-examination. Rieker is testifying against her former bosses as part of an agreement with the government after pleading guilty in 2004 to insider trading charges.

KUHF Business Reporter Ed Mayberry has been covering the trial, and filed this report from the Federal courthouse Wednesday afternoon.

Ed Mayberry's 5 p.m. report

Nigerian militants holding nine foreign hostages said today they have no plans to release their captives soon. They accused Nigeria's government of wasting time in securing the hostages' freedom. The oil workers include three Americans, two Egyptians, two Thais, one Briton and one Filipino. They were seized Saturday by militants belonging to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. The workers formed the crew of a barge belonging to the Houston-based oil services company Willbros Group, which was laying pipeline for Shell. The militants are pressing for the release of two of the region's leaders from prison and greater control of oil revenues. Recent attacks by the militant group on oil facilities in the United States' fifth-largest oil supplier has cut production by nearly 20 percent and sent prices soaring on international markets.

More than $2 million in hurricane recovery grants will benefit El Paso and the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. The grants announced today by U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison are reimbursement for emergency services provided after Katrina and Rita. Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast in late August, sending several hundred thousand Louisiana evacuees to Texas. Rita hit Southeast Texas on September 24th. The money comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. One grant for just over $1 million reimburses El Paso for overtime expenses incurred by providing shelter to about 450 evacuees. Another grant of just over $1 million to the state pays for support provided for elderly and disabled evacuees.

Texas Tech is getting a nearly $2 million high-tech grant for agriculture geonomics research. Governor Rick Perry was in Lubbock today to announce the money. It's the first state investment from the new Texas Emerging Technology Fund. Perry's office says the money will support Tech's partnership with Bayer CropScience and help launch the International Center of Excellence in Agriculture Genomics and Biotechnology. Tech is committing $1.8 million to the project. Bayer CropScience endowed a professorship at the school in Lubbock. The $200 million technology fund was created by the 2005 legislature.

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