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Listen to the Newest Longform Podcast

The backstory for this is strange. I met Max Linsky, one of the hosts of the Longform Podcast, at a bar in Austin maybe two years ago. We’d emailed a few times before that, and he told me that I should do an episode of their podcast. Looking back, it was possibly just one of those things people say when they’re being polite–when you know they host a podcast with writers and they know you’re a writer–but I’m awkward.

At some point I knew I’d be in New York for a two days and figured I’d let him know. He said he’d put it on his calendar. Again, looking back, Max may have just been being polite. I’m honestly not sure. Either way, it happened.

We talked about, among other things, the bowling story I wrote, the Chris Kyle story, the JFK doctor story, Glenn Beck, “How Now to Get Away with Murder”, and the story I wrote in January’s Crime Issue.

I’m sure Tim will be along at some point with a whole series of his own notes and critiques about the episode, but in the meantime you can listen to it here.

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Leading Off (2/3/15)

Cyclist Finds Skull in Plano. Police are investigating what appears to be a skull and human bones found in a creek behind an elementary school yesterday afternoon. The family of at least one missing woman has been notified, though police say it’s too early to connect the remains to anyone.

Fight Over Phone Leads to Fatal Shooting. Police say a 21-year-old man confessed to shooting 30-year-old Jamal Deshaylen Berry in the chest after an argument over a phone. Berry was found shot in the street outside a rec center in East Oak Cliff yesterday morning.

Whataburger Robbers Sentenced to 115 Years. Two men who were convicted of robbing four different Whataburgers and three different Jack-in-Box locations in 2014 were sentenced to more than a century each — 1384 months, specifically — in prison for the crimes.

Local Man Returns Home After Son Wins Iowa Caucus. Rafael Cruz was spotted in an Iowa airport yesterday, heading back to Texas. He said he wouldn’t be spending as much time campaigning for his son in New Hampshire because “There are not as many evangelicals.”

Leading Off (1/27/16)

72-Year-Old Blind Woman Escapes Fire. Caroline Ware says she was asleep on the couch when fire alarms woke her up just after midnight. Ware, who is usually confined to a wheelchair, made it her electric scooter and drove out onto the front porch before calling for help. Ware’s daughter says she was gone from the house for only a few minutes when the fire started.

Video of Highland Park Chanel Store Robbery. Highland Park police released video from last Monday’s robbery. It shows a van crashing through the store window. Then a group of mask-wearing thieves gets out and starts collecting purses. The entire thing is over in seconds. (Seven people were arrested.)

Father Arrested for Taking Daughter’s Phone Found Not Guilty. It started when Ronald Jackson says he found a rude text message on his daughter’s phone in 2013, when is daughter was 12. Jackson confiscated the phone. Jackson’s ex-wife called the police to get it back. Jackson refused. He was charged with misdemeanor theft. He says he’d prefer police not tell him how to parent, and says justice has been served.

Report Says Texas Schools Are Worst in Nation. But it’s really hard to measure these things. By some standards, Texas is actually doing better than most states. Which is kind of the point of this story.

Mavs Beat Lakers. Dirk Nowitzki hit a beautiful jumper with two seconds left to help propel the 92-90 win in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant didn’t play, but he and Dirk shared a nice moment in what is almost certainly their final matchup.

Dallas Zoo Gets Approval to Bring Elephants from Swaziland

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has granted a permit to bring over elephants from Swaziland. For months, the Dallas Zoo, along with zoos in Kansas and Nebraska, have been trying to get permission to bring 18 elephants to the United States — six pachyderms per zoo. The move has been contested by animal rights groups.

You can hear Harrison Edell, the senior director of living collections at the Dallas Zoo, answer questions about the effort to bring in the elephants on this episode of EarBurner.

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Leading Off (1/20/16)

Police Find Underground Pot Farm in Arlington. Apparently DPS officers were looking for stolen cargo equipment when they discovered 100 pot plants growing under a backyard deck. Here’s what should probably happen: because weed is legal in most states and really shouldn’t be illegal here either, the two people arrested should possibly get their plants back and talk to the police about this stolen cargo stuff. Also, someone should possibly give them jobs, because this set up sounds pretty ingenious. Here’s what probably will happen: felony charges and prison.

The Latest on Ethan Couch. His probation hearing was delayed, and his lawyers say he may have been “forced” to go to Mexico. No word whether he was also forced to dye his facial hair or go to that strip club with the sign “Boobies and Booties Galore!”

Mother Snaps Photo of Sleeping Day Care Worker. The mother is described here as “outraged.” The day care worker in the photo, who was the only adult in charge of a half dozen or so kids, is described as “asleep, curled up on a table.” Seems like accurate reporting.

Investigation Into Yu Darvish After Brother’s Arrest. Yu’s brother, Sho Darvish, was arrested in October, charged with running an illegal gambling ring in Osaka, Japan. There’s no evidence Yu had anything to do with it, but the league is investigating just to be safe. My friend John Blake, Texas Rangers’ spokesman, says this is “standard operating procedure.”

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Leading Off (1/13/16)

Amber Hagerman Disappeared 20 Years Ago. The 9-year-old girl for whom our “Amber Alert” system is named disappeared 20 years today. The case is still open. Yesterday, detectives and Amber’s mother had a press conference. “Her killer is still out there,” the mother said.

Gas Leak in North Dallas. About 100 people were forced from their homes last night as a precautionary measure after worries that gas may have entered the sewer line.

Mixed Reactions to Obama’s Final State of the Union. It turns out, not every Texas politician loves everything the President says and does.

Mavs Lose in OT. When I last checked on the game, Dallas was up by 10. In the end, Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers won their eighth straight.

You Will Not Win the Lottery Tonight. But if you do, I’d love to chat about it. I’ve got some good ideas on how to double that first billion.

Leading Off (12/30/15)

Details Emerge from Ethan Couch’s Arrest. Good reporting here from WFAA. Couch and his mother were apparently arrested after one of them ordered pizza. They were reportedly staying in what looks like a rundown, cheap hotel, and Ethan frequented a nearby store where he would eat by himself in the back. And they may have had a going away party before they fled.

Tonya Couch Might Serve More Time Than Ethan. That’s according to Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson. Tonya will likely be charged with a felony that could come with 10 years in prison. But because Ethan Couch is still in the juvenile justice system — a hearing to move his case to the adult system is scheduled for January — his run South of the border will probably cost him no more than 120 days in jail. Read more about the Couch family’s background here.

Lawmakers Promise Action on Lewisville Dam. Representative Michael Burgess from Lewisville, along with Eddie Bernice Johnson and Pete Sessions from Dallas, met with the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News earlier this week and promised to make sure a giant wall of water doesn’t flood downtown.

Tornado Damage Estimated at 1.2 Billion Dollars. Early estimates from insurance companies say claims from the horrific storms could total more than $1.2 billion. In some places there is utter devastation and ruin. Senator Ted Cruz is expected to visit later today.

Leading Off (12/16/15)

Warrant Issued for Ethan Couch. We wrote about the infamous “affluenza” family in May, under the headline “The Worst Parents Ever.” Recently video surfaced of Ethan possibly violating his probation. Now the Tarrant County district attorney’s office says Couch missed a check-in with his probation officer, and officials don’t know where he and his mother are. Does this mean Couch will finally get the prison sentence so many people believe he deserves? Would you bet on it?

Wisconsin Woman Who Came to Dallas for Sex with Minor Pleads Guilty. Jennifer Dougherty allegedly began a relationship with a 14-year-old boy from North Texas after meeting online, playing video games. She apparently admitted to having sex with the boy at several local hotels, and also at her house, where he flew without his parents’ permission. Dougherty faces up to 30 years in prison.

Funeral Home Accused of Using Dead Woman’s Credit Card. Four days after a young woman died, her family started seeing new charges on her credit card. They noticed that they never got the card back from the Calvario Funeral Home, in Bishop Arts. Police say they have video evidence of a 33-year-old employee of the funeral home using the card. Ugh.

Cowboys Fan Arrested for Selfie Attempt at Lambeau. A football fan was arrested after the Packers-Cowboys game this weekend when he hopped a fence to take a better selfie photo. The fine assessed: $880. And it’s not clear if he actually took the selfie before being arrested.

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Leading Off (12/9/15)

Increasing Threats Against North Texas Muslims. Historians will look back at this period, and specifically this area, and wonder which came first: the awful politicians or the awful citizens? Of course, when someone is being terrible, espousing xenophobic or racist beliefs, the correct response should be telling the racist, “You ain’t no American.” And we’ll just let the historians decide how accurate that statement proves.

Irving Bus Driver Fired After Giving Ring to Student. The district didn’t release the names of anyone involved, but says an investigation revealed that the driver also “made inappropriate statements” to a high school student. I know it’s not fair, but this won’t do much to help the great reputation Irving seems to building.

winstar steals good acts from dallas. Local talent bookers are reportedly struggling to compete against the massive pull of the casino across the Oklahoma border. The problem isn’t just that Winstar can offer “A-list talents” like Jerry Seinfeld or Bob Dylan boatloads of money, subsidized by gambling profits, it also locks performers down with radius and time clauses. Meaning Seinfeld won’t be performing anywhere else within 100 miles of Winstar anytime soon.

Stars Beat Hurricanes, Remain Awesome. Dallas blew a four-goal lead in the third period, then scored to take the lead back with 18 seconds left on the clock. The victory puts them at 21-5, two wins above the next best teams in the league.

Leading Off 12/2/15

Police Investigating Incident at Cowboys Thanksgiving Game. Arlington police are looking into disturbing footage of security personnel choking a Panthers fan before kicking him out of last Thursday’s game. On multiple videos, you can see fans of both the Cowboys and Panthers (and what looks like a Bears fan) trying to stop the security team from choking John Small. Small, 24, says he and his mother flew to Texas for the game to help get their minds off the death of Small’s father, one year ago that day.

Accused Dog Killer Cries in Court. Bradley Glenn Boley began to cry yesterday as prosecutors showed photos of the two-and-a-half-month-old puppy that Boley allegedly trapped on top of a stove. Jurors saw photos that showed the dog “had black plastic melted to his legs, nose, ears and face. In other parts, his white fur had been burnt and tinged brown.” Boley faces up to 10 years in prison.

Buc-ee’s Coming to Denton. The city council there voted last night to approve an $8 million, 22-year tax incentive plan that would bring a Buc-ee’s Travel Center to I-35E. Some argued against the deal, citing worries of pollution and congestion. Others argued the chain’s clean bathrooms and 96 gas pumps will bring business and tax revenue. (Side note: In reporting this story, about a 10-year-old stand up comic, I learned that Buc-ee’s is also a child’s birthday party destination.)

Video Shows Deputy Trying to Save Woman in Flood. Zenola Jenkins was just a mile from home when her car was swept up in flood waters last week. The 76 year old called her daughter three times from the car, and her family called 911. Tarrant County Deputy Krystal Salazar waded into the water to try to save Jenkins, with family members watching, when rushing waters carried the deputy over the guard rail and off the bridge. She was found clinging to a tree downstream hours later.

Have You Seen a Vintage Red Mustang Convertible? A thief was caught on surveillance footage in Lake Highlands, pushing a stolen car down the street around 5 a.m. before starting the engine and driving off.

What the Dallas Morning News Should Do About That Gag Order in Anderson County

The Dallas Morning News has a very solid editorial today, about the ridiculous gag order from the judge in the case of a man accused of murdering six people at a campsite near Palestine. The paper explains that State District Judge Deborah Oakes Evans issued an egregious order demanding journalists not photograph the defendant in the case, William Hudson, nor report anything discussed at the public hearings. The editorial calls the order “wrongheaded” and “unconstitutional,” which is probably going easy on the judge. It also lists several big court decisions that make it clear that any kind of prior restraint should be the absolute last measure, taken only when “the evil that would result from the reportage is both great and certain and cannot be mitigated by less intrusive measures.”

There is no indication in this case that reporting what is transpiring in a public court would cause any evil at all.

Remember how crazy people — especially media people — went when that University of Missouri professor tried to keep journalists from reporting in a public area? This gag order is exponentially worse. And it’s from the government. In Texas!

While that editorial is a good (late) start, here’s what the DMN should do:

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Leading Off (11/25/15)

Parkland Workers Can’t Be Held Liable in Patient’s Death. In 2011, George Cornell died in restraints at the psych emergency room. It’s one of the incidents that brought about some of the recent changes at the hospital. A lower court initially ruled that the hospital executives and workers couldn’t claim immunity from a civil-rights lawsuit brought by his family. Now a federal appeals court decided otherwise, because it is almost impossible to hold government employees accountable when they screw up.

Attorney Owes Accident Victim $700,000. Diana Bernal was in a car accident in 2009 and won a settlement, but was never told about it. When she tried to contact her attorney, Richard Jaramillo, he didn’t respond. A judge recently ruled that Jaramillo owes Bernal $776,000. Bernal, still recovering from her injuries, says she doubts she’ll ever see the money.

North Texas Spends More on Christmas. We go out more, we shop more, we spend more on gifts. We also, according to this Deloitte survey, spend more on ourselves. Nearly half of the North Texans surveyed said they planned on buying themselves something.

Heavy Rain Expected on Thanksgiving. The weather psychics say we should expect a lot of bad weather over the holiday weekend. Please be safe.

Leading Off (11/18/15)

Hillary Clinton Comes to Dallas. She attended a $1,000-per-plate fundraiser before a rally where she gave a speech that took swipes at both Bernie Sanders (on healthcare) and Greg Abbott (on a lot of things). On Texas taking in Syrian refugees, she said: “We can’t act as though we’re shutting the doors to people in need without undermining who we are as Americans.”

Zoo Wants 18 Elephants from Swaziland. The Dallas Zoo says the animals face “certain death” in Africa, and has applied for permits to bring them to the U.S. They say moving the elephants is vital to the survival of the nearly extinct black rhino.

Aryan Brother Kingpin Gets Life in Solitary Confinement. Tarrant County prosecutors were pushing to get James Byrd moved to a state prison — as opposed to federal prison — where policy allows for prisoners to be held in solitary confinement on the basis of gang affiliation. Prosecutors also say Byrd once stabbed a man 37 times in the face, and that isn’t even close to the most disturbing thing he’s accused of doing.

Police Looking for Woman Suspected of Robbing Two Banks. Both robberies happened within a week or so in October, and both banks are in Oak Cliff. She apparently has a scar on the right side of her face that begins at her lip and ends at her hair line, which will probably factor into a nickname if she robs more banks.

Jeff Banister is the AL Manager of the Year. It went down pretty much exactly as Jason predicted a week ago, for mostly the same reasons.

Gov. Abbott Isn’t Racist. In the Aftermath of Paris, He’s Scared

Greg Abbott wants to lock the doors. Liberals are wrong to think that Governor Abbott is posturing. When Abbott, a good, Christian man, announced that Texas is closed to Syrian refugees, he wasn’t just out to score political points, although the sentiment will obviously be popular here. He wasn’t just trying to get attention or exploit a tragedy. Abbott is trying his best to protect the people who already live in Texas. This doesn’t prove that he’s a racist. It proves that he’s scared.

And he should be. The stories coming out of Egypt and Lebanon and Paris—where terrified concert goers ran and had to take shelter in the apartments of strangers—are utterly horrific. If he takes the terrorists at their word—and he should—they will strike again, and again after that, and after that, too, and the targets could be anyone or anything: concerts, stadiums, crowded markets. Innocent couples out to dinner. Children in the streets. People who just want to enjoy a Friday night with their friends. There will be more death, and Abbott, a devoted man, doesn’t want that for the people of Texas. That’s not wrong.

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Leading Off (11/11/15)

Anachronistic Bandit Terrorizes Fort Worth Horse Riders. Fort Worth police are looking for a man who has been hiding along riding paths, then jumping out and sticking up riders at gunpoint. Police say the suspect has struck at least four times in the last two months. Two men have been shot during the robberies. “It sounds like he has no care for anybody,” said one of the victims.

Arlington Says No to New Fracking. The city council there voted last night to deny a new oil and gas lease to Vantage Energy, the company responsible for a spill in April that involved tens of thousands of gallons of fracking water leaked into local creeks and sewers. Council members were apparently most bothered by the fact that it took the company two hours to call 911 after the spill.

Charles Barkley Thinks You Should Give Greg Hardy a Chance. “I believe that there are way too many black men we’ve just thrown away,” the basketball legend wrote for Bleacher Report. “Shouldn’t we get him some help, instead of kicking him out of the NFL? Shouldn’t we do everything possible to prevent it from happening again?”

U.S. Soccer Association Wants to Ban Headers for Kids. Citing concussion risks, the Frisco-based organization wants to ban headers for kids 10 and under, and limit them through age 13. Experts say it’s not the heading, per se, that causes the danger, but rather the risk of two heads colliding. (Disclosure: I had two diagnosed concussions playing soccer as a teenager. I wouldn’t recommend it.)

Stars and Mavericks Both Lose to Terrible Teams. A late third-period goal gave the last-place Toronto Maple Leafs the win over the first-place Stars. The middling Mavericks were never really in the game against the previously winless New Orleans Pelicans. Not a great showing.