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Another Storm Casualty: Oil Prices

By Jad Mouawad and Simon Romero

The region that produces and refines a major portion of the nation’s oil and natural gas was largely shut down by Hurricane Katrina on Monday, further tightening strained energy markets and sending prices to new highs.

As oil companies evacuated offshore facilities throughout the Gulf of Mexico, oil production in that region was reduced by 92 percent and gas output was cut by 83 percent.

The latest interruptions in oil supplies are likely to send retail gasoline prices even higher than the current average of $2.60 a gallon. They have prompted the Bush administration to say it would release emergency oil stocks if needed.

Hurricane Katrina could result in insured damage of more than $10 billion, making it perhaps the costliest storm since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, according to Risk Management Solutions, which assesses catastrophes and is based in Newark, Calif. The storm has disrupted maritime traffic and trade, as well as caused losses at port and shipping facilities.

Egypt Resumes Terrorist Hunt

By Michael Slackman and Mona El-Naggar

Thousands of security troops have spread out across a sprawling mountain range in the northern Sinai in an increasingly violent hunt for terrorists in which two high-ranking police officers were killed by a land mine, the worst such incident since the Islamic insurgency of the mid-1990s, Egyptian security officials say.

A week ago, the Interior Ministry issued a statement saying it had captured, killed or identified all of those responsible for the suicide bombing attacks on resorts in Taba in October and Sharm el Sheik in July.

But what was supposed to be a mopping-up operation, seeking a handful of suspects who were believed hiding in the caves and hideaways along Halal Mountain, turned into a national tragedy when the two police officers, Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Adel and Lt. Col. Omar Abdel Moneim, were killed last week, and the security forces were forced to temporarily withdraw, officials said. Other police officers were also reported wounded in the weeklong operation.

The timing could hardly be worse, as Egypt heads into the final week before its first multicandidate election for president. The authorities have hoped to focus international news media attention on their efforts to bring a more open political system to Egypt. When the officers were killed, the state’s prosecutor general barred local news organizations from writing about the investigation into the deaths, but the blackout failed to quiet the intense local interest.

Market Place: Satellite Industry Consolidates

By Ken Belson

A plan by Intelsat, announced Monday, to purchase PanAmSat Holding for $3.2 billion is the largest takeover in recent years in the fast-consolidating commercial satellite industry. But it is unlikely to be the last.

There are still about three dozen satellite providers operating worldwide, which means there are too many players in a market that is no longer growing fast enough to sustain them all.

Increasingly, a global network matters, too. Programmers like Disney, CNN and others are expanding into Asia, the Middle East and beyond and need satellite operators that can beam their signals to all points on the globe.

PanAmSat had this in mind last month when it bought a satellite and two orbital slots from Alcatel to help it expand further into Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Then there is the big threat from the operators of the world’s transcontinental and transoceanic fiber networks. These companies can zip bits and bytes around the world, often for far less than satellite operators.