Thursday AM, January 3rd, 2008

New joint military reserve center to be built in northwest Houston...ISM report indicates slowdown in manufacturing; Federal Reserve Bank says manufacturing down in Texas...FAA says DFW is nation's third-busiest airport...

The Texas Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve will construct a new joint reserve center in northwest Houston as part of the Base Realignment and Closure 2005 initiative. The center will provide a regional base for three Texas Army National Guard units and nine U.S. Army Reserve units. The $31 million project will provide a reserve center and a joint vehicle maintenance facility at Rankin Road and Cambury Drive. The project will be advertised for bid from July to August, and construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2008, with completion set for mid-summer 2010.


A closely-followed report covering the nation's manufacturing sector shows a slowdown last month. The contraction comes after ten straight months of growth. The Institute for Supply Management Index is reported at 47.7, below expectations. Any number below 50 indicates contraction, while a number above that level suggests growth. The report from the private group says December was "apparently a very tough month,'' with industries related to the housing slump suffering most. It adds that sectors related to exports were doing better.


Manufacturing activity in Texas continued declining in December, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas survey. The Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey of 115 business executives indicated a continuing decline that began last spring in production, capacity utilization, volume of shipments and material inventories. The labor market also continued to weaken, in both the number of employees and the average workweek indexes.


The government says construction spending rose slightly in November. The effects of the housing slump were offset by record spending on government and business outlays. The Commerce Department says spending on construction projects rose one-tenth of a percent in November, a better performance than economists expected. Home builders have been battered by the worst slump in the housing market in more than two decades. The slowdown came after five boom years which had pushed home sales and prices to record levels. Analysts believe the slowdown in housing will last through much of this year, forcing builders to keep slashing their construction plans in an effort to reduce a huge backlog of unsold homes. The housing meltdown has been made worse by a sharp increase in mortgage foreclosures. That is putting more homes on the already saturated market. Tighter lending standards by banks is making it more difficult to qualify for a mortgage.


The next generation entering the workforce may be more likely to cheat and lie, according to a survey conducted by Junior Achievement Worldwide. Nearly 40 percent believe lying, cheating or violence are necessary to succeed. Some 23 percent say violence toward another person is acceptable on some level. The number of teens willing to bend the rules to succeed has more than doubled since 2003.


Houston-based medical equipment supplier Patient Care Systems has been acquired by Pennsylvania-based RecoverCare, according to the Houston Business Journal. The deal adds Patient Care's 38 service centers in 26 states to RecoverCare's national service network, bumping them up to over 100 service centers nationwide.


Houston-based Veolia Water North America's Process Solutions/Texas has purchased most assets of Houston-based Tetra Process Services. Tetra Process Services serves large-scale Gulf Coast and Caribbean refineries, providing wastewater and oily residuals separation and water reuse services to the refining and oil and gas exploration market sectors. Process Solutions provides wastewater processing, byproduct recovery, reuse, recycle and chemical production technologies to the refining, chemical and related industries.


Kuraray America has consolidated its North American assets, including Houston-based Eval Company of America and Pasadena-based Septon Company of America, according to the Houston Business Journal. Eval makes and sells ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer resins. Septon makes and markets elastomers. The two companies have adopted the Kuraray America name.


The Federal Aviation Administration says Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has retained its title as the nation's busiest airport for the third year in a row. The FAA says the Atlanta Airport logged 994,466 flights in 2007. That's up 1.8 percent from 976,447 flights in 2006. Flights include takeoffs and landings. Rival Chicago O'Hare International Airport was listed second busiest with 926,973 flights in 2007--down 3.3 percent from the 958,643 flights it had in 2006. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport ranked third with 686,711 flights in 2007. That was down 2.3 percent from its 702,722 flights in 2006. Atlanta and Chicago have run neck-and-neck in recent years to claim the title of the nation's--and therefore, the world's--busiest airport. Atlanta already claimed to be the world's busiest airport in terms of passengers. The FAA does not maintain passenger statistics.

Last year was one of the safest in aviation history. That's according to an independent watchdog group that recorded the lowest number of crashes in 44 years. The Aircraft Crashes Record Office in Geneva says there were 965 deaths in air crashes in 2007, a drop of 25 percent from the previous year. The office tracks all aviation accidents in which planes capable of carrying at least six passengers in addition to the crew are damaged beyond repair. The worst single accident was in Brazil. Almost 200 people died when a jetliner slammed into a building in Sao Paulo. Meanwhile, preliminary estimates by the International Civil Aviation Organization show air travel increased by over three percent in 2007 to about 2.2 billion passengers.


Two passengers who were stranded for more than eight hours aboard an American Airlines flight are suing the Fort Worth-based carrier. The passengers suing--who were stranded when the plane was diverted during a major storm over north Texas--are accusing American of false imprisonment, fraud and negligence. Kate Hanni of California and Catherine Ray of Arkansas were on flights diverted from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport to Austin on December 29th, 2006. After landing, passengers sat in the planes for more than eight hours, unable to leave despite overflowing toilets and little food or water. American officials say they haven't seen the lawsuits and could not comment. The lawsuits ask for unspecified damages as well as legal expenses. Both suits were filed in circuit courts; Hanni's in California and Ray's in Arkansas. They seek class-action status.


Houston-based Cameron International Corporation has secured a $190 million equipment and services contract from the Venezuelan national oil company. The flow equipment provider says the contract includes ten subsea Christmas trees and other equipment, plus engineering and project management services. Cameron expects the first equipment to be delivered in early 2008 and continue through 2009.


Two Houston researchers are working on a cocaine vaccine. The two researchers with Houston's Baylor College of Medicine hope it will become the first-ever medication to treat people addicted to cocaine. The idea is to eliminate the high. Dr. Tom Kosten--a psychiatry professor--is being assisted in the research by his wife, Therese, a psychologist and neuroscientist. The vaccine is currently in clinical trials. Kosten asked the Food and Drug Administration in December to green-light a multi-institutional trial to begin in the spring. He's awaiting a response.


The city of Austin is hoping a new plan will help reduce its landfill waste to nothing. The city has hired a California firm to write a zero-waste plan--a strategy to reduce to zero the amount of garbage sent to landfills by reusing, recycling and composting materials instead. Several cities, such as Seattle and San Francisco, and countries either have or are writing zero-waste plans. The goal of Austin's plan will be to reduce the garbage sent to landfills by 20 percent per capita by 2012 and to achieve zero waste--an international standard set by the U.N. environmental accord--by 2040.


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