Wednesday PM August 30th, 2006

Hackers obtain credit card data from AT&T's online Web store... Federal investigators reportedly probing whether BP manipulated gasoline and crude oil markets...RadioShack cuts 400 jobs; informs workers by e-mail...

Hackers have illegally accessed a computer system and obtained credit card information and other personal data from thousands who purchased DSL equipment from AT&T's online Web store. The company says the system was hacked over the weekend and the files of fewer than 19,000 customers were affected. AT&T says it notified the major credit card companies whose customer accounts were affected. The company says it shut down the online store and would pay for credit monitoring services for the people whose files were accessed. Officials say the unauthorized access was found within hours of the breach.

Federal investigators are reportedly probing whether BP manipulated gasoline and crude oil markets between 2002 and 2004, according to the Wall Street Journal. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission has subpoenaed BP and other energy trading firms, and a separate probe of gasoline prices includes a criminal inquiry by the Department of Justice, examining a single day's trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange in 2002. BP faces investigations related to a fatal explosion at its Texas City refinery in March 2005 and leaks in its pipelines in Alaska. The company agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle allegations by the Exchange that it engaged in deceptive trading practices in oil markets in 2001 and 2002.

Hundreds of RadioShack workers learned they had mail--but no jobs. The electronics chain is getting some flack for sending pink slips by e-mail. Workers at the company's headquarters in Fort Worth found they were unemployed with the click of a mouse. The layoffs took effect immediately, with RadioShack cutting some 400 jobs. A spokeswoman defends the e-mails, saying workers had been told during meetings that that's how it would be done.

A welder at a small oil refinery business died yesterday afternoon when a tanker truck exploded as he worked on it. Detective John Foster of the Williamson County Sheriff's Department says Casey Allen Teague, 52, of Coupland, was doing some spot welding on top of an empty tanker. One of his welds went through the tanker hull and ignited fumes inside. Authorities evacuated a half-mile area around the heavily traveled intersection near Coupland, because they did not know what fumes were leaking from the tanker. The Austin American-Statesman reports that Teague was working on the truck at Fuel Blenders Incorporated.

The private sector has offered to build the 140 mile-long southern sector of Loop 9 in south Dallas, according to Governor Rick Perry. Officials with Cinta-Zachry have notified the Texas Department of Transportation that traffic patterns in the region now warrant construction of a southern connector route, and the company is willing to pay for construction of the roadway as a toll road. Loop 9 could eventually tie in with the Trans Texas Corridor-35 project. Perry says the only option Texas has to meet its transportation needs—other than toll roads—is to raise the state gasoline tax a dollar.

Governor Rick Perry's office reportedly appears to have worked aggressively to facilitate the auction of 400 acres of state park land to the highest bidder. That's despite a growing outcry over the loss of Texas parks. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram cites documents it obtained about the land at Eagle Mountain Lake near Fort Worth. The tract has become the subject of intense interest by several residential developers. According to the documents, which the newspaper obtained through the state open-records law, Perry proposes setting aside several gas well drilling sites on the land. Also, the auction would guarantee that only a fourth of the land would remain green space. But a Perry spokeswoman says the governor wants the State Parks Department and the State Land Office to develop a plan for the property that best suits the state's needs. She denies the governor's office pushed any plan or made recommendations for the site. Perry and Texas lawmakers have come under fire for shortchanging the Parks Department, which recently has reduced park operations, ordered layoffs and suffered with deteriorating equipment.

New York Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Gonzales has rebuffed efforts by Enron Broadband Services to exclude testimony by executives about their communications with in-house counsel from a bond dispute, according to the New York Law Journal. Judge Gonzales says the communications at issue are not protected from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege because the crime-fraud exception applies.

A former Texas Southern University president fired in June for spending hundreds of thousands of university dollars on personal purchases remains on the TSU faculty. Priscilla Slade is teaching accounting courses this semester at the Houston university. The tenured professor in TSU's Jesse H. Jones School of Business was indicted by a Harris County Grand Jury four weeks ago. She's charged with two felony counts of criminally misusing university money for her private benefit. That's after she allegedly used TSU funds to furnish and landscape her home and buy club memberships, sporting event tickets and spa treatments. Slade, who was president for more than six years, has denied any wrongdoing and filed a lawsuit against the university. If found guilty, Slade could face a lifetime in prison. Approached on campus Tuesday, Slade told the Houston Chronicle she is enjoying her return to teaching, but declined to comment further.

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