Tuesday PM October 3rd, 2006

Shareholder litigation attorneys ask for Andy Fastow's daytime release...Wind energy developers reap $10 billion investment guarantee from Texas...UT Health Science Center gets $36 million grant from National Institutes of Health...

Attorneys representing the University of California have asked U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt to allow former Enron CFO Andy Fastow to leave federal detention during the day over the next three weeks to give a deposition in pending shareholder litigation. Fastow was sentenced last week to six years in prison for his part in the fall of Enron. Fastow has been at the federal detention center downtown since his sentencing on September 26th. The plaintiffs' attorneys are asking that Fastow be allowed to leave the prison for nine hours a day, excluding one weekend, through October 20th, giving him a week to prepare for the two-week deposition. The case centers on his claims that banks and brokerages actively participated in Enron's schemes to manipulate reported finances. The lawyers say evidence from Fastow is crucial before the courts decide on a number of pending motions in civil cases.

The Senate has unanimously approved a revised extradition treaty with the UK that reduces the level of evidence U.S. authorities must show to request the extradition of a British citizen. Senate approval is required for a treaty to be ratified. The treaty has caused political trouble for Prime Minister Tony Blair, with critics saying is makes greater demands on the UK than it does for the U.S. The treaty was used to send three UK bankers to Houston to face prosecution on charges related to Enron.

Governor Rick Perry says Texas will ensure construction of power transmission lines in exchange for a $10 billion investment from wind energy developers. If the development comes to fruition, the state would gain about 10,000 megawatts of power supplied by wind. That's enough to light up about 2.3 million homes. The agreement announced at Southern Methodist University near Dallas is not formal. It does not come with any binding contract between the state and energy companies. The Public Utilities Commission plans to approve construction of the lines. The state backing comes because legislation from the 2005 session has enabled the PUC to fast-track transmission development.

A handful of Texas schools are rejecting a merit-pay program. The schools are turning down thousands of dollars in state money intended to reward teachers for high test scores in low-income areas. Teachers have resisted the program, which was approved in legislation in May. It has been touted by Governor Rick Perry. But teachers say the program fosters animosity and raises the stakes of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. Bellaire Elementary School in Hurst is one of at least 21 schools that will send back $90,000 in grants. The principal at Bellaire--Bea Cantu--says "a lot of our staff felt this would be a distraction to what we have our minds set to do: raise TAKS scores and improve student achievement.'' Most of the 1,161 schools that were awarded grants expect to use the money for merit programs this year. Debbie Ratcliffe of the Texas Education Agency says she expects 98 percent of qualifying campuses to participate.

The University of Texas Health Science Center has been awarded a $36 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health. The money will go toward funding the UT-Houston home of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science. The Health Science Center and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center will collaborate on research and educational activities at the new center. The center will be built on the top floor of the UT Medical School on Fannin.

An out-of-this world vacation heads the offerings in the new Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog released today. The Dallas-based luxury retailer is offering a trip into space aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo. Price--$1,764,000 for up to six people. Neiman Marcus says in a statement that the sub-orbital flight would carry travelers about 63 miles above the earth's surface, where travelers would experience weightlessness. The package also includes a four-night stay at the private island retreat of Virgin Chairman Sir Richard Branson in the British Virgin Islands.

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