Tuesday PM December 12th, 2006

Skilling waits to hear whether he may appeal his sentence from within or outside prison...Insurgents claim responsibility for deadly attack on Halliburton employees in Algeria...Petro Index declines for first time in four years, although oil industry employment continues growth...

Former Enron chief executive Jeff Skilling will receive a new prison report date from the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has has delayed his report date to a Minnesota prison. The court wants to consider Skilling's request for bail while he appeals his conviction. A docket entry on the court's Web site says a new report date will be set pending further court order. Skilling will await word from the 5th Circuit on whether he can pursue his appeal inside or outside of prison. He had been due to report to the low-security federal prison in the southern Minnesota city of Waseca by this afternoon, to start serving his 24-year sentence on fraud and conspiracy charges.

An insurgency group aligned with al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on employees of an affiliate of Houston-based Halliburton. The group calling itself the Salafist Group for Call and Combat says the attack was a "gift to all Muslims.'' Assailants hurled a bomb and shot at two vehicles transporting employees Sunday evening in a town nine miles west of Algiers. The Algerian Interior Ministry says the Algerian driver of one bus was killed and nine other people were hurt, including one American, four Britons, one Canadian, a Lebanese and another Algerian. It was the first time in recent memory that Americans have been targeted in Algeria. The attack threatened to stain the north African nation's international security image. Algeria's been enjoying an oil boom and increased foreign investment after a bloody insurgency that wracked the nation in the 1990s.

Employment in the oil and gas industry in Texas continues growing, according to the Texas Petro Index, produced monthly for the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. But the index declined overall for the first time in four years, according to Alliance President Alex Mills.

"A slight decline, but it's still a decline. The decline was primarily because of oil prices and natural gas prices softened from this month compared to last month. So, in price is what we call the leading indicator, and leading indicator would mean that a lot of the other factors that go into the index follow price—drilling permits, drilling rig counts, the number of wells completed in oil and gas, employment are some other indicators that would follow price."

For the month, oil gas support employment rose 11.3 percent from the same month in 2005.

Raids called "Operation Wagon Train'' were carried out today at six Swift meatpacking plants nationwide--including one in Cactus, Texas. The Feds say the operation is part of a program to round up illegal immigrants who've obtained jobs by stealing the identities of U.S. citizens. Reports indicated that agents spread out along the railroad tracks behind the plant, with two large buses parked in front--prepared to haul away anyone who may be involved. Authorities say the investigation began in February. ICE agents say they've identified hundreds of potential victims. Swift President Sam Rovit says the company has never condoned employment of unauthorized workers--or knowingly hired such individuals. No charges had been filed against the company. Similar raids are going on in: Greeley, Colorado; Marshalltown, Iowa; Worthington, Minnesota; Grand Island, Nebraska; and Hyrum, Utah. Since 1997, Swift has been using a government pilot program that confirms whether social security numbers are valid. Company officials have said one shortcoming may be the program's ability to detect when two people are trying to use the same number.

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