TX Eff U

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Chris Schein, spokesman for TXU, says he doesn't go that far. He even called Bensman to say he was glad Channel 11 let TXU tell its side in the report. "Besides, I know the limitations of electronic media, and it's hard for them to fully look at a story this complicated." He stresses, though, that he thinks the characterization of TXU as somehow engaging in Enron-like activity, as well as the treatment of the former Enron employee who now works for TXU, "was way over the top," saying, "We shouldn't attach a scarlet letter to people just because they worked at Enron."

Riggs says not only do they stand behind the story's merits, he says the carping from others is professional jealousy at best, laziness at worst. "If they are complaining," he says, "it's because they're embarrassed they got beat on this story. And if other reporters didn't know there were Enron traders working at TXU, it's because they didn't dig hard enough. We did. " --Eric Celeste

After Moses

The hot gossip-game all week has been guessing the real reason why Dallas school Superintendent Mike Moses quit. Moses, who gave no reason for his retirement, was out of town and unavailable for comment, we were told. So we went to the gossips.

One strong gossip theory is that Moses, a big old white man from East Texas, didn't have it in him for the next big fight coming up on the school board: race, race, race. When the district got out from under its 30-year-old desegregation case last June, that should have been the end of color-based court-ordered quotas for teacher hiring. In fact, the district's lawyers and internal human resources staff have told the board the district must revert to national standards, which means no more quotas.

But board member Joe May, who is Hispanic, confirmed to the Dallas Observer last week he's leading a movement on the board to ignore the lawyers and stick with racial and ethnic quotas. May said, "I would sense that the vote would come down pretty close, minorities on one side and whites on the other."

Then again, Moses, age 52, could be counting his moolah. This year he crossed the tenure mark with the Texas Teacher Retirement System to retire at full benefits. Our calculation, based on formulas provided by the TTRS, shows him qualifying for a pension of about $310,000 a year--almost twice what former Dallas City Manager Ted Benavides is taking home with him.

So, let's see: You're a big old white man from East Texas. You just hit four home runs: 1) getting crazy school board under control 2) getting out from under multiple corruption probes 3) getting out from under deseg court order 4) selling record bond issue to voters.

You look ahead and see a nasty racial and ethnic fight. You could stay for that and wind up with mud up your nose. OR...you could retire a winner at more than 300 G's a year and probably pull down huge fees as a consultant to a bunch of textbook publishers.

Do the math. --Jim Schutze

Word Up

Chris Cree groans when he's reminded of the story, that week at Bally's in Las Vegas when he was in town for the Scrabble Superstars Showdown in 1995. He became a Scrabble legend that week, and it had nothing to do with how he fared in the tournament.

After playing blackjack all night, Cree had dug himself into a $15,000 hole. Then he started winning. Big. For an hour, he played three hands at a time, sometimes six, sometimes as many as nine, betting $5,000 a shot. By 9 a.m. he'd made almost $200,000. By the end of the week, he'd raked in around $250,000. The winner of the Scrabble tourney--David Gibson--took home only $50,000.

"When you take that amount of money and everybody thinks, 'Aw, man, that guy's rich,' well, that kinda money coming in just ain't the same as that kinda money going out," Cree, 49, says. A third of the money went to the IRS, and half of the rest went to his estranged wife. Cree was left with $80,000, a nice chunk of change that he turned into a nice chunk of real estate near a golf course in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Cree's spent the last nine years living down that story. The owner of a wholesale forklift and investment company in Dallas--"They kind of go hand in hand, don't they?"--Cree would rather be known for his Scrabble playing. To certain people--the 10,000 or so tournament Scrabble players--he is. For good reason: Cree is the highest-rated player in Texas, and always a threat to win the National Scrabble Championships, though his best finish is fifth. Maybe his luck will change at the upcoming national tournament, scheduled for July 31 through August 5 in New Orleans. After all, Cree is on quite a run. He had last August's All-Stars of Scrabble outing "in the palm of his hand," he says, before giving away the lead in the final two games. Plus, a few months ago, he set an unofficial world record by racking up 329 points when he played "blowzier" through two triple-word squares. In Scrabble, a streak of good luck--drawing the high-scoring tiles and getting the high-scoring squares--has as much to do with the game as word knowledge. Cree definitely knows something about luck. --Zac Crain

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