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Leading Off (3/27/15)

Dallas ISD Approves “Interim Bridge Plan.” At about 1 a.m., trustees voted for a measure that provides $129.5 million in funding for fast-tracked improvements at a number of schools, while expanding pre-kindergarten offerings and reopening several campuses. The final amount was less than the $134.7 million initially proposed after a number of amendments were made. Lakewood Elementary was among the big winners, as the school will get $12.6 million for an addition and renovations. All of this discussion is, of course, a prelude to voters later being asked to approve a comprehensive bond package totaling as much as $1.4 billion.

Bridge Collapse Kills Arlington Man. Yesterday’s accident in Central Texas along Interstate 35 in Salado, in which a tractor-trailer hit an overpass and caused a beam to fall onto the highway below, claimed the life of 32-year-old Clark Davis. I-35 was closed in both directions around the site until well into the night.

Rain May Ease Water Restrictions. The abundance of wet weather the last few months has resulted in some area lake levels rising dramatically and most of Dallas-Fort Worth shifting from darkest red to light red or orange on the U.S Drought Monitor map. Lake Lavon, one of the North Texas Municipal Water District’s reservoirs, has gone from 46.2 percent to 77.5 percent of capacity. If the trend continues this spring, the district may ease tough restrictions on watering that have been in place almost two years.

World War II Vet Recovers Empty Duffel Bag. Waymon Blundell, 94, certainly seemed tickled to be reunited with the bag, which he’d carelessly lost when he’d jumped onto the beach at Normandy as part of the D-Day invasion in 1944.

Keller Student Denied “Promposal.” Sixteen-year-old Casey Akers says her school wouldn’t let her stage a public invitation to the prom because she and her chosen date are gay. The school district issued a statement saying that it doesn’t allow any students to plan such elaborate invites, as they are disruptive. Anyway, when did it become an expectation for kids to treat a prom invite like a marriage proposal? Sounds like an excruciating burden for both straight and gay kids.

Derelict 1955 BelAir Wagon For Sale. It’s up for auction on eBay. You have until 10 a.m. today to make a bid. JFK assassination historian Farris Rookstool III (!) says the car is unique because a fellow named Lee Harvey Oswald once rode in it with his rifle.

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Leading Off (3/20/15)

Thursday Was a Texas Basketball Massacre. All five teams from the state in the NCAA tournament lost. Baylor and SMU fans can argue about who suffered the more painful last-minute loss.

Irving Endorses Anti-Islamic Bill. Spurred by fears of nonbinding, voluntary mediation at a mosque, the city council, led by Mayor Beth Van Duyne, voted on Thursday to endorse a bill by State Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano that would forbid judges from using foreign law in their rulings. The bill’s language is nearly identical to a previous proposal by another lawmaker designed to limit the influence of “large populations of Middle Easterners.” Said Van Duyne, ““Why anyone would feel this is hatred or bigotry is absolutely beyond me.”

State to Audit DA’s Office. It’s the first time the state auditor’s office has used the authority the legislature gave it in 2011 to conduct such reviews. They’ll look into the alleged improper use of forfeiture funds during the tenure of former district attorney Craig Watkins. If violations of the law are found, the DA’s office and Watkins himself could be subject to a civil penalty up to $100,000.

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Let’s Send Crime-Fighter Richard Jefferson of the Dallas Mavericks Undercover

TMZ broke the story that Dallas Mavericks forward Richard Jefferson, at the behest of the FBI, recorded a phone conversation between himself and his business manager Ted Kritza, in which Kritza allegedly admits to having withdrawn $2 million on Jefferson’s bank credit line. The matter is still under investigation.

Now that we know Jefferson isn’t afraid to go undercover to fight crime, what other local Dallas notables should we maybe have him give a ring?

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Dallas State Rep Wants to Turn ‘Cop Watchers’ Into Criminals

One of the legacies of Michael Brown and Eric Garner is a network of so-called “cop watchers,” volunteer groups who police the police with video cameras. Locally, there are a few networks, including Cop Watch Dallas and Dallas Cop Block who have caught instances of questionable use of force by area police on camera. Needless to say, cop watchers make cops uncomfortable. Last year, Arlington police arrested three citizens whose only offense was filming officers. This was after the cop watchers rolled up on Arlington police arresting a man. As soon as the cops saw the camera, they let the man go, according to the Dallas Observer.

Some police departments and municipalities argue that filming police interferes with officers’ police work, while cop watchers say their actions are protected by the first amendment, an argument that was backed up last year by a ruling by a Texas judge. But if State Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) has his way, “cop watching” will become illegal. Enter House Bill 2918, which amends the state’s penal code, making filming within 25 feet of an officer “performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted by law” a class B misdemeanor. Video taping of police is allowed if you are a member of the news media, but as The Free Thought Project points out, the bill also defines the media in such a way that it excludes internet sites — not to mention documentary filmmakers. If this bill is passed, in Texas you would have to be a member of a law enforcement agency, or an employee of a radio station, television station, weekly or daily newspaper, or magazine in order to turn on a camera within 25 feet of a police officer.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: How to Have a Midlife Crisis, Dallas-Style

Question: When I turned 40 about a year ago, I just thought it was another day. But lately I’ve been asking myself a lot more of those introspective questions you normally wouldn’t ask unless you are really drunk or going through a midlife crisis. But can you still be going through a midlife crisis if you’re still in love with your wife, feel fulfilled in your career, have a full head of hair and don’t have any impulses to make expensive material purchases? Why can’t I just be happy that I actually made it to 40? Thanks in advance — Looking for the Beer Tap of Youth in Lake Highlands

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Leading Off (3/11/15)

Parker Rice Apologizes. We told you about Rice yesterday. The family of Levi Pettit, the other expelled OU student seen on the recent racist chant video (and a former golf standout at Highland Park), also issued an apology. “It was wrong and reckless,” Rice said in a statement issued through his father.

Why Haven’t Police Released Dash-cam Video of Grapevine Shooting? The District Attorney has reportedly asked that the video, taken moments before an officer killed an unarmed Mexican citizen, not be made public. I don’t understand the logic here. No matter what’s on that video, the public should see it, no?

Eddie Ray Routh Transferred to Correctional Psychiatric Facility. It appears the recently convicted killer of American Sniper Chris Kyle was transferred to the Jester IV unit, outside of Houston. Dr. Phil also spoke with Routh’s parents not long ago.

Kurt Eichenwald Thinks Hillary Clinton’s Email Woes Are a “Fake Scandal.” The Dallas writer begins his Newsweek column thusly: “When it comes to the teapot tempest that is the Hillary Clinton email imbroglio, the real controversy isn’t about politics or regulations. It’s about journalism and the weak standards employed to manufacture the scandal du jour.”

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Revenge Porn Is Protected by the First Amendment

You might not like it, I might not like it, but the Constitution’s free speech protections were devised to keep us from banning stuff just because we don’t like it. That’s why bills up for consideration by the Texas House that would criminalize non-consensual distribution of pornography likely run afoul of the First Amendment. As Grits For Breakfast notes:

[Houston attorney Mark Bennett] successfully convinced the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals – hardly a bunch of libertines – to vote 9-0 to invalidateTexas’ online solicitation of a minor statute. So it’d be wise for legislators to consider Bennett’s counsel. If they don’t, he may well be the guy knocking the law down on the back end.

With statutes regarding online solicitation of a minor and improper photography recently struck down by Texas courts over First Amendment problems, it’s clear there’s a tension over legislators’ desire to limit lewd pictures and dirty talk to a greater extent than the Constitution allows. If Bennett’s right – and his recent track record on these subjects has been excellent – these bills are unlikely to survive First Amendment scrutiny by the courts.

This is an ounce of prevention vs a pound of cure situation. It’d be a lot simpler to kill the legislation in committee than to make Bennett or some other criminal defense lawyer fight in court for years post hoc to reach the same result.

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Republic of Texas Has About as Much Authority as the United Federation of Planets

Members (Citizens?) of the Republic of Texas believe that our state never legally joined the union. They operate their own government, complete with executive, judicial, and legislative branches. Though there have been some violent incidents in the organization’s past, in recent years their activities have largely been limited to sending letters to government officials, including those of foreign entities like Oklahoma.

Based on this New York Times report, it sounds like we should take the group about as seriously as we do representatives of Starfleet. Yet some law enforcement officers, including FBI agents, appear to take them quite seriously, considering they raided the Republic’s Valentine’s Day meeting — at which the women in attendance had been given roses:

The Republic had ordered the judge in Kerrville to appear at the V.F.W. hall for a “court hearing” involving his role in the pending foreclosure of a member’s home. Two letters to the judge ordered him to present “proof of his authority for executing his claimed powers involving a foreign entity” and warned him that copies might be provided to the United Nations. The lawyer was sent a “subpoena.”

After the raid, the V.F.W. hall prohibited the group from meeting there again, so the Republic’s next congressional session will be held at Ace Buffet and Grill in Waco.

“They came in looking like John Dillinger and the gang were hiding out,” said Dave Kroupa, the Katy chiropractor who signed the letters to the judge as chief justice of the Republic’s international common law court. “The ladies were armed with roses. The most confusing thing I ever witnessed was this silly raid in 59 years of my life.”

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Leading Off (3/9/2015)

There Was Another Earthquake Saturday Night, And Guess Where The Epicenter Was. If you said anything that did not at least near-rhyme with “Flexas Titanium,” we’re sorry, you have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer is service. The magnitude was 2.3 for those keeping score.

Police Still Seeking Suspects In Last Thursday’s Murder Of An Iraqi Refugee. This story is sad and depressing and very troubling. Ahmed al-Jumaili had only recently arrived in Dallas, where he was reunited with his wife after staying behind in Baghdad last year to to try and save more money despite escalating violence there. He was shot outside his family’s apartment early Thursday morning, after he went outside to take pictures of the snow. The shooters fled, and al-Jumaili died at Presby. The police released a video of the suspects on Saturday. Vox has a longer piece on the shooting, which is recommended reading.

SMU Mustangs Win First Conference Title Since 1993. The Ponies beat Tulsa 67-62, with Markus Kennedy leading the team with 16 points.

Longtime KSCS Radio Personality Terry Dorsey Dies. He had just retired from the station in December of last year. He died Saturday night of a sudden illness on his farm in Illinois.

This Is The Most Dallas Thing Ever. Somebody rented a Bird Bird-infused Lambo (of course), drove it on the Tollway (of course), wrecked it after hitting a wall (of course), and then abandoned it on the shoulder (OF COURSE) late Saturday night. Even more fantastic: the luxury car rental company claiming the Lamborghini is Farmers Branch-based “Exotic Skittles,” because nothing says “luxury” like candy available in Fun Size. Personally, and sticking to the candy theme, I would have gone with “Exotic Green-Tea Kit Kats You Can Buy In Japan, But Also At That Grocery Store In Carrollton.”

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We Get to Pay For John Wiley Price’s Corruption Defense After All

Despite making $141,236 a year as a county commissioner and owning two Oak Cliff houses, John Wiley Price says he can’t afford to hire his own attorney to defend him against federal corruption charges. His previous attempt to get a court-appointed lawyer was withdrawn, but today the Morning News reports that he’ll get one after all:

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The Unraveling of Mookie Blaylock

I was aware that, a couple of years ago, Mookie Blaylock had been the driver in a fatal car accident near Atlanta. And I knew that Blaylock, who grew up in Garland, had been convicted of vehicular homicide. But I didn’t realize what a disaster his life had been even prior to that. This Sports Illustrated feature by Greg Hanlon goes deep on Blaylock and the mountain of bad choices he made. A sample:

It was both a blessing and a curse that Blaylock saved so much money from his playing career. He and his children never wanted financially, and he was able to live out the country boy’s dream by moving to a six-acre property in rural Pike County, 50 miles south of downtown Atlanta, and playing all the golf he wanted. Yet it also left him without structure, allowing his addictions free reign.

Six of his seven DUIs came after he retired. Between September 2010 and February 2012, he did three stints in jail for driving offenses, totaling more than four months. According to Solomon, he was going to the strip club “sometimes five times a week” during this time. In 2009, cops came to his house for a domestic disturbance after his girlfriend called them, though nobody was arrested, according to police reports.

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Cedar Hill Police Spoof Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln Ad

The Cedar Hill Police Department found special inspiration from Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln ads. The group parodied the work in a video that’s getting tons of play time on the internet. Sergeant Larry Wise, who’s shown driving around in a police car, posing existential questions in a thick Texan drawl, told CBSDFW that the video was originally just intended […]

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Leading Off (2/27/15)

Winter Is (Still) Coming. The forecast calls for snow this morning, freezing rain tomorrow.

Trustees Interrogate Dallas ISD Staff on Hiring. For more than three hours the board put questions to administrators over whether they told the truth about the purpose of $6.4 million approved in October for the hiring of teachers. Some believed the superintendent’s explanation, some did not.

And the Hits Keep Coming For DISD. The Morning News reports that Texas Education Agency investigators found 60 district employees had not been fingerprinted and that an additional 120 had been fingerprinted but not in the correct way. Proper fingerprinting is necessary to conduct criminal background checks. Furthermore, according to the TEA report, Superintendent Mike Miles submitted a statement saying that DISD was in compliance with fingerprinting requirements even though an internal district audit had indicated otherwise.

Lancaster Police Release Report on Dez Bryant Incident. Rumors of an incriminating video featuring the Dallas Cowboys receiver led to media requests for information about what happened in that Walmart parking lot in 2011. According to the cops, there was no offense committed, and they have no video of what occurred. Could there be any less news in this news?

Mockingbird Pedestrian Bridge May Finally Get Built. The project, providing a path for pedestrians and cyclists over the six-lane street, is a key link in the plan to extend the Katy Trail. City officials have said construction should begin this fall.

Congressman Pushes For Chris Kyle to Get Medal of Honor. Republican Roger Williams of Cleburne introduced a bill Thursday proposing the late American Sniper receive the prestigious award for his Iraq War exploits. He’s probably got a better shot at this than he did the Best Picture Oscar, anyway.

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Leading Off (2/25/15)

Eddie Ray Routh Convicted of Murdering Chris Kyle. The jury in Stephenville found him guilty as charged last night. Kyle’s wife, Taya, left the court during closing arguments and wasn’t present for the verdict. Routh will spend the rest of his life in prison. Expect video and audio from the trial to be released soon.

Wintry Mix Sux. More than one area child woke up this morning and said, “Where the heck is my 2 to 4 inches of snow? Huh, Pete Delkus?! It’s falling now, but it ain’t stickin.

Mysterious Booms Remain Mysterious. Yesterday what sounded like a series of bomb explosions were heard from Grand Prairie to Southlake. No one is certain what caused the noises, but the leading contender is demolition activity at a National Semiconductor plant in Arlington.

Southwest Airlines Grounds 128 Uninspected Planes. About 90 flights were canceled yesterday. The FAA says it’s working with both Southwest and Boeing “to evaluate a proposal that would allow the airline to continue flying the planes until the inspections are completed over the next few days.”

Fort Worth Didn’t Disinfect Drinking Water Last Week. The city has been cited by The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which is a thing. About a quarter of the water processed during a 24-hour period didn’t meet required standards.

Rajon Rondo Benched. The Mavs beat the Raptors last night, but the did it without the services of Rondo for the last 20 minutes of play. Rick Carlisle benched him after a “profanity-laced shouting match” about play-calling duties. At one point, an assistant coach had to step between the two men to keep them from yelling in each other’s faces. Instant analysis: this isn’t good.

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