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October 2nd, 2002:

Homeowners v. Wal-Mart, round 2

The homeowners in Northwest Houston who are fighting to prevent a 24-hour Wal-Mart from opening up nearby have gotten some help from their county commissioner, who has looked into the possibility of buying the land and turning it into a park. It’s unlikely to happen, since the land owner has a contract with Wal-Mart, which in turn has an option on the land. But you never know.

Jerry Eversole, the county commissioner, wasn’t too happy about how his consituents came to him for help, either:

Eversole said he would also be meeting with Wal-Mart officials, though he added that he was getting deeply involved in the controversy only after feeling political heat from constituents.

“I have received half a dozen to 20 letters saying, `Why don’t you stand up for your people?’ and `I guarantee I’ll remember this at the polls,’ ” he said.

“I explained to the West Road Alliance there are two ways to ask for something — logically and with threats, and that threats aren’t a good way to operate. I don’t enjoy being threatened.”

But Eversole, a Republican incumbent facing Democratic and Libertarian challengers on Election Day, said he opted to help because the group has a legitimate gripe, not because of threats.

Gee, Jerry, maybe the homeowners felt they needed to use harsh language to get your attention because they know what a stooge for unfettered development you are. And thanks for the lesson in etiquette, by the way. Nice to know a backup is available in case Miss Manners needs to take a sabbatical.

Sheesh. Are there any sympathetic characters in this story?

Fastow arraigned

Breaking news from the Chron:

Former Enron Chief Financial Officer Andrew S. Fastow was arraigned in a packed, downtown courtrooom about 11:20 a.m., on charges of securities, wire and mail fraud, money laundering and conspiracy.

Fastow, one of the top executives credited with toppling Enron Corp., last year, surrendered to the FBI early this morning in Houston. Magistrate Marcia Crone set his bail bond at $5 million, in which he was required to put up all his, his wife’s and his parents’ real estate, and $3 million from a Fidelity investment account.

The former Enron executive also agreed to allow prosecutors to freeze an additional $11 million. Prosecutors say that money represents ill-gotten gains. John Keker, Fastow’s attorney, said he doesn’t agree the $11 million represents ill-gotten gains, but has nonetheless agreed to the freezing of the money.

It gets juicy in a hurry:

The criminal charges center on a number of partnerships that had been previously identified as improper in the plea agreement of former Enron finance executive Michael Kopper last month, including the partnerships named Chewco, RADR and Southampton. Also mentioned is a Brazilian power plant project named Cuiba and a Nigerian power plant project.

The most revealing aspect of the charge is a claim that Fastow and Enron’s chief accounting officer, Rick Causey, had what is known as a “Global Galactic” agreement, which assured any losses Fastow’s LJM partnership incurred in its dealings with Enron would be made up later, according to the filing.

This agreement had long been alluded to by others, and was mentioned in an Aug. 2001 memo from Enron executive Sherron Watkins to then chairman Ken Lay, but was believed to be a deal between Skilling and Fastow.

The charges say Fastow “willingly engaged in these transaction in order to achieve accounting goals and to circumvent regulatory requirements,” both those required in corporate accounting and covered by personal income tax laws.

In the deals Fastow and his family members, including his wife and son, received money. For example, as part of the Chewco investments, Fastow had some of the funds that were considered his management fees sent to his wife’s Chase account via 6 checks for a total of $64,000. In later 1998 Kopper did two transfers of funds to accounts in Fastow’s son’s name for $10,000 each.

Since any amount above $10,000 has to be reported to the IRS, Fastow told Kopper that “if ever asked, they could explain the checks from Kopper by saying that he and Fastow were close friends and the checks were gifts,” according to the charges.

In the on-deck circle: Jeff Skilling (maybe):

The precise wording of the charges against Fastow could provide valuable clues as to whether prosecutors appear poised to pursue his superior, Skilling, experts said.

“I’d expect we will get a much clearer sense of how the government intends to build a case against Skilling — if that is their intention — when we see the Fastow charges,” one attorney said.

While Fastow has repeatedly refused to address Enron, his advisers have maintained his actions were approved by superiors within the company, including Skilling.

I’m breathless with anticipation.

Best sports colleges

According to Sports Illustrated, the University of Texas is the best overall college for sports. I don’t actually care about that. What I do care about is that they listed Rice at #45, which just happens to be one spot ahead of Texas A&M. I can just hear the moaning and gnashing of teeth coming from College Station. It’s a sweet sound, let me tell you.

Lili’s coming

Geez, the folks in Louisiana haven’t even recovered from Isidore, and now they’ve got to worry about Hurricane Lili, which looks to be a lot worse. Batten down the hatches, y’all.

Here’s a little advance warning for the serious student of conspiracy theories:

At this point, Hurricane Lili appears to be aiming for Cameron, which means it will pass through the area of the Gulf that has the greatest density of oil company production platforms and rigs. Cameron is just 25 miles from Port Arthur, which is 15 miles southeast of Beaumont.

We all know what happens next once the oil rigs are inoperable, right?

UPDATE: Lili is now a Category Four storm. Hold on tight.