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Leading Off (10/1/14)

Dallas Officials Seek to Quell Ebola Fears: I’ll let D Healthcare Daily’s Matt Goodman take it from here. CBS interviewed random people from West Africa, because why the hell not they must know about ebola, right?

Keller “Black Widow” Sentenced to 60 Years in Prison: A Tarrant County jury handed down the maximum sentence Tuesday. She’ll be behind bars until 2044 before she even gets a shot at parole. Something tells me she’ll get a different nickname.

Denton Sued Over Fracking Moratorium: “Denton lawyer Charles Chandler Davis filed a lawsuit in Denton County earlier this month on behalf of Arsenal Minerals and Royalty, NASA Energy Corp. and his son’s trust fund, claiming more than $1 million in damages.” I would usually insert a joke here, but.

Rangers Interview Internal Candidates For Manager: Because if anything says “Let’s turn this thing around after losing 95 games,” it’s promoting the people who steered that ship.

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Ebola Case Confirmed in Dallas

Tim mentioned in Leading Off that a patient at Presbyterian Hospital was being tested for Ebola. It’s being reported just now that the case has been confirmed. This is the first confirmed case of the disease in the United States.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said the patient recently traveled to West Africa and developed symptoms days after returning to Texas. The adult was admitted into isolation Sunday at Presbyterian. Health officials notified the public Monday night and the results of the test, which was conducted in Austin, confirmed Ebola Tuesday afternoon.

Hang tight, everybody. We’re not all going to die. This is how people get infected by Ebola:

When an infection does occur in humans, the virus can be spread in several ways to others. Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with

  • blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
  • objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
  • infected animals

Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats.

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Leading Off (9/30/14)

Keller ‘Black Widow’ Convicted of Murdering Husband. The jury delivered its verdict shortly before 6 p.m. yesterday. Punishment phase for Michele Williams begins today. If you have never heard of this case, Claire St. Amant can fill you in. She has covered the Keller Black Widow like no one else.

Spooked Steer Goes Rogue, Nearly Kills Thousands on State Fair Midway. Am I overstating what happened? Yes. Yes, I am. But so, too, is the one State Fair employee who had to be treated for anxiety.

Ebola Case in Dallas? Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has isolated a patient who is being tested for Ebola. This patient’s symptoms and travel history made the docs cautious. We should know more today from the Centers (not Center) for Disease Control and Prevention.

Highland Park ISD Reverses Decision on Banned Books. All’s well that ends well. The kids got themselves several real-world lessons in the process, not just about literature but about community activism, about how the media work.

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Are We Witnessing The Fall of the House of Michael Morris?

As Liz mentioned in Leading Off, a planned toll road connecting Garland to Greenville has sparked a statistical feud between the Texas Department of Transportation and the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Last week, when 1,500 people showed up at a public meeting in Rockwall in opposition to the proposed road, one citizen brought to light the fact that the numbers the NCTCOG used to justify their new toll road are dramatically larger than traffic predictions made by TxDOT. If you want to dig into how much larger they are and why, read the well-reported DMN story. What interests me is what this current standoff reveals about how our region’s transportation policy is made.

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Dallas City Council Could Vote Against Funding Trinity Toll Road

On Wednesday, DMN editorial writer Rudy Bush dropped a bombshell. In a blog post, he reported that the city attorney, in response to a request from Councilman Scott Griggs, issued a memo saying that the city’s contract with the North Texas Tollway Authority to build the Trinity toll road isn’t the ironclad agreement that we’ve all been led to believe it is. In short, the contract is old, many of the dates mentioned for getting work done have come and gone, and there are too many “agreements to agree,” something the city attorney says are generally not enforceable. The Council could vote to walk away from this contact. It likely could do so without legal consequences. This is huge news. As Bush noted, “It’s hard to overstate how important this is, both from a political and policy perspective.”

Hours after that post went up, the Observer took note of it and had reaction from Angela Hunt. The next day, Thursday, another editorial boarder, Sharon Grigsby, put up a post saying, in so many words, “Wow. That’s big news. We’re talking about it here at the office.”

Today is Friday. News of the city attorney’s memo still has yet to appear in the newspaper or in the main news feed of the paper’s website. I can only assume that Sunday’s front-page story will be amazing.

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Leading Off (9/26/14)

Wylys Must Pay More than $300M in SEC Case. In May, a jury found that brothers Sam and Charles Wyly, founders of Irving-based Michaels Stores Inc., were guilty of fraud. They were found to have hidden their holdings in offshore trusts and to have engaged in illegal trading. On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Sam and the estate of Charles (who died in 2011) must pay $187.7 plus interest, which could bring their total obligation to between $300 million and $400 million. The Wylys had argued their total net worth is only $119 million and that any punishment greater than that amount would bankrupt them. Tough, said the judge.

Need to Borrow Millions? Gov. Perry Can Help. You don’t even need to ask. The Texas Enterprise Fund, which the governor’s office oversees, even awarded $170 million to recipients who never officially applied for it. That’s just one of a number of troubling findings in a state audit report released Thursday.

UT Dallas Repaid State $4.3 Million. The university’s calculation error related to employee benefits is similar to the same one recently discovered at UNT, which has to repay almost $76 million. Maybe the Texas Enterprise Fund can help them out?

Enterovirus-D68 Cases Confirmed in Dallas County. Ten cases of the respiratory illness have been detected in children, which has symptoms much like those of the flu or a cold. Wash your hands regularly. Hand sanitizer is powerless against it, apparently.

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Why Texas Rangers Fans Need to Root Against the Rangers This Weekend

The Texas Rangers have been having a lousy season. That much you know because you checked out on baseball season back in July, when the team (beset by injuries) collapsed to the bottom of the standings. You probably also heard something about manager Ron Washington resigning because he cheated on his wife.

Fans could take some solace this season in the fact that the Rangers weren’t just playing mediocre baseball — they were terrible, laying claim to the worst record in all of MLB. That meant they were in line to get the No. 1 pick in the 2015 first-year player draft because those selections are awarded to teams in reverse order of their win-loss records from the previous season.

At the time of Washington’s departure, the Rangers’ record stood at 53-87, a .379 win percentage that made them a safe bet to finish with 100 losses, the standard measure in MLB for separating bad seasons from god-awful ones.

Then interim manager Tim Bogar took over, and it all fell apart.

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D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: The Devil, Doyle Davidson, and Dena Schlosser

It’s hard not to have a visceral reaction to reading about what Dena Schlosser did to her own child one morning in 2004. While the sound of hymns filled her Plano apartment, she went to the kitchen, got out a 9-inch knife, walked to baby Maggie’s crib, and cut off her daughter’s arms.

She believed that God wanted her and Maggie to go to heaven.

In his June 2006 article, one of the 40 greatest stories ever published in D Magazine, Paul Kix wrote about the church at which Schlosser worshipped — Water of Life in Plano — and of the domineering pastor whose influence, particularly in pushing for prayer rather than medication and blaming mental illness on demonic possession, may have contributed to a worsening of the postpartum psychosis Schlosser was suffering at the time of her crime.

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Leading Off (9/25/14)

Prosecutor Resigns Because, She Says, Craig Watkins Stopped Investigation Over Re-Election Concerns. Becky Dodds, a supervising prosecutor, resigned from the DA’s office after being told, according to her, that “we’re not going to pick fights with judges during an election season.” Watkins’ first assistant, Heath Harris, strongly disputes that notion. The whole thing stems from a relatively minor assault case and involves a rejected plea, missing paperwork, courtroom theatrics, and is explained by Jen Emily here. (You can catch the live act here.) I saw part of it play out in court last Monday, and I doubt we’ve heard the last of it. Especially since it is — dun dun dun — an election season.

State Auditor’s Office Says UNT Should Repay the State Almost $76 Million Over Next 10 Years. Auditors say the excess funds came from a “coordinated effort at the university” to manipulate its payroll. My analysis: THAT IS A LOT OF SCRATCH.

Vote On Proposal to Rename Lancaster For Nelson Mandela Pushed Back To November. Councilman Dwaine Caraway thought he had the votes to push the proposal through, but a contentious public hearing made that seem less likely. He got the vote pushed back, but there are a lot of people to convince in the meantime. He did succeed in getting in a few solid burns on Vonciel Jones Hill, though.

Highland Park Kids Protest Location of New Swim Center. They have already collected more than 500 signatures on their petition. Dibs on writing the screenplay. Gonna call it Playing in the Deep End. No, too wordy. Workshopping it!

Witnesses Take Down Carjacking Suspect. Good job, crimefighters.

Prosper High Football Team Parodies Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” Good job, teens.

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Leading Off (9/24/14)

Colleyville Police Investigate First Murder in 20 Years: Time to turn that “7300 Days Without a Murder” sign back to zero.

Man Dies After Altercation With University Park Police: No suburb is safe. 

Balch Springs Police Chief to Lose Job, Claims Racism: Something tells me there’s more to this story than the city councilwoman’s “the chief failed to perform his job properly” argument and the the chief’s “I’m losing my job because I’m white” argument. But the city’s plan—to just straight-up eliminate the city’s police chief position—seems a little short-sighted.

Plan to Sell Alcohol at Texas Gun Shows Withdrawn: The proposal came at the behest of the Dallas Safari Club, which hoped to sell alcohol at its annual convention. Traditional gun show operators opposed the idea. I don’t know, it seems like it could’ve worked.

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Is There Any Building In Downtown That Can Escape the Wrecking Ball?

I’m not asking that rhetorically. I’m actually wondering. And though I, like many people, am not thrilled that Tim Headington tore down those buildings on Main and Elm streets, I’m not asking that question wild-eyed, flapping my arms about, because I’m pretty calm right now and am also not a frightened cassowary, even though I phrased the question in such a way that might imply otherwise. (That I’m wild-eyed and/or flapping my arms about, not that I’m a frightened cassowary.)

So, what can we safely say will still be around in 50 years, or a 100? I think I have an unassailable answer: Dallas City Hall. Here is why:

  • It has an iconic function. It’s the center of city government. It wasn’t just an auto parts store or something like that.
  • It has a celebrated architect. I.M. Pei, who has done more in Dallas than I ever remember.
  • It doesn’t look like anything else. At least any other building. It sort of looks like the sort of impractical structure the 10-year-old that lives in my house built out of Legos when he was the 4-year-old that lived in my house.
  • It’s also on the end of downtown no one ever goes to, unless they’re going to City Hall.
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DART Is Asking Itself the Wrong Questions About Expanding Funding

There’s a good article in today’s Dallas Morning News which digs into how rival transit organizations are grafting business from DART in suburban cities that never elected to become DART members. The DART board now fears that without continued expansion of the DART system, the region will become a patchwork of independent and competing transit systems, rather than a single — and presumably more efficient — system.

However, the problem, as the article clearly spells out, is that suburban cities don’t see the value in dedicating a one percent sales tax to be part of a transit system that only marginally serves their community.

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