Monday PM August 6th, 2007

Enron broadband defendants push appeals court to drop charges...HISD school board considers petroleum industry curriculum...Dallas-based Fedex Kinko's to add 300 new U.S. office and print centers in 2008...

Three former Enron broadband executives each acquitted of some counts means the remaining charges should be thrown out, according to their lawyers. They are arguing with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that jurors believed the men weren't guilty of at least some wrongdoing alleged by the government, and because the acquitted counts are related to dozens of others on which jurors were hung, the remaining charges are questionable. Joseph Hirko, Rex Shelby and Scott Yeager were tried in 2005, with jurors acquitting each of a handful of counts and hung on the rest. One attorney said that with jurors acquitting one defendant of conspiracy and fraud, for example, allegations of insider trading and money laundering don't stand up.

A new Academy for Petroleum Exploration and Production Technology at Milby High School is being considered by the Houston Independent School District school board this week. The plan calls for the Independent Petroleum Association of America to join forces with HISD to teach students about careers in the petroleum industry. School board members will vote on the acceptance of more than $200,000 from IPAA for the development of the academy at their Thursday afternoon meeting. IPAA will also provide 100 laptop computers with professional software, and students will also take field trips to petrochemical plants. Milby in southeast Houston is the only high school in the country that is being given this opportunity. If approved, the opening of the new academy is set for the fall of 2008.

Fedex Kinko's plans to add 300 new U.S. office and print centers during the 2008 fiscal year. The Dallas-based unit of Memphis-based Fedex also said it'll redesign 110 existing centers and introduce 20 new locations internationally due to increased demand. Most of the international offices will be in the Asia-Pacific region. There will be 12 stores in China, four in Japan, two in Korea, one in Australia and one in Canada. The company currently has 159 international stores. The new U.S. locations will use a small-format design, with stores averaging about 1,800 square feet and carrying more than 700 different office products. The stores set to be redesigned range from 6,000 to 10,000 square feet and will house more than 2,500 different office supplies. The locations will also have enhanced areas for shipping, computer rental and Internet services. Fedex Kinko's currently has more than 1,700 U.S. locations in operation.

Eighty-eight CEOs headed for the exits last month. According to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, that's a drop of 16 percent from June and the fewest in 16 months. The July figure is the lowest of the year and the first time in 2007 that monthly CEO changes totaled fewer than 100. Of the July total, 60 departures were announced by private firms while the rest were announced by public companies.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has regained its full authority, but only for the next six months. The agency oversees the safety of thousands of household products, but it has been unable to order mandatory recalls, adopt new rules or assess civil penalties since early this year. The problem has been that it hasn't had enough members to officially meet or take action. The commission normally has three members, but an amendment to a homeland security bill will allow it to meet and act with only two members present. President Bush signed the legislation last week. Senator Mark Pryor pushed for the measure amid a spate of product recalls, including several involving imports from China. The Arkansas Democrat has called the commission "an agency in distress.''

Federal Reserve interest rate setters meet this week, but that doesn't happen until this morning. The consensus among economists is that the federal funds rate will remain where it has been for over a year--at 5.25 percent. Other items of interest this week include a preliminary look at worker productivity during the second quarter, and the weekly oil inventories report.

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