Thursday PM November 9th, 2006

Woman whose parents died in deadly BP Texas City refinery explosion settles out of court...United Steelworkers Union and Goodyear Tire & Rubber to resume bargaining...

Financial terms will remain confidential in the settlement between BP and a woman whose parents died in last year's deadly explosion at the BP Texas City refinery. But Eva Rowe says she's confident BP will release documents about safety practices, as agreed.

"You know, I'm satisfied if they release them. They say that they will and hopefully, you know, everything will go smooth and that they'll release them just like they said that were have with no problems on either side. As it seems right now they say they're going to."

Rowe's attorney stresses "money did not solve all of the problems.'' Brent Coon says efforts to settle the case always included stipulations that BP make the refinery and other facilities safer.

"There's some degree of trust that you have to place in it in terms of if that's part of the deal, do they honor it? Obviously, they're obligated to, there are ramifications for the failure to do so, and we still have plenty of leverage. We have another, unfortunately, we have another large group of cases set for trial this February, and we'll have, I'll still represent probably 75 to 100 other claimants who have unresolved claims."

Under the settlement, BP will donate more than $30 million to various colleges and hospitals in Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana. Rowe's lawsuit was the last still unsettled against BP that related to fatalities in the blast. Jury selection for the civil trial had been scheduled to start today in the Galveston County State District Court. But it was delayed to allow settlement talks. Rowe had said she hoped her case would focus attention to prevent repeats of the blast that killed her parents, James and Linda Rowe of Hornbeck, Louisiana, who were among the 15 people killed in the March 2005 explosion. BP put aside $1.6 billion to resolve legal disputes related to the explosion.

The United Steelworkers Union and Goodyear Tire and Rubber say they're ready to get back to bargaining. Both sides said they want to try again to resolve a four-week old strike by more than 12,000 workers in the United States and Canada. Akron-based Goodyear says it's sending its negotiating team back to Cincinnati, where negotiations broke off ahead of the October 5th strike. The union says it takes that to means Goodyear is ready to deal without plans to close plants and cut health care. USW chief negotiator Tom Conway says if so, they're ready to talk. Goodyear said earlier it was closing its Tyler plant and eliminating 1,100 jobs.

In the midst of the strike, Goodyear is reporting a $48 million third-quarter loss due to restructuring charges and higher costs for raw materials. But the Akron, Ohio-based tire company says its sales set a record in the July-through-September quarter. Goodyear says a big chunk of the charges are tied to the company's plan to close a plant in Tyler.

A Houston mom-and-pop landscaping business has now become vilified around the world. That's because its Christian conservative owners refused to do work for a gay couple. A few weeks ago, a male couple requesting bids for a landscaping job at their new house in Houston received an e-mail from a co-owner of Garden Guy. The message said the business couldn't meet with the couple because "we choose not to work for homosexuals.'' The e-mail was then forwarded to 200 of the couple's friends, asking them not to patronize Garden Guy and urging them to pass the word on to friends and family. From there, the e-mail has been forwarded to thousands of people around the world, and has quickly became the subject of heated debates on the Internet. The owners say that they have also gotten hundreds of calls and messages offering encouragement. Because of the furor, a professional association of landscapers created a non-discrimination policy.

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