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The New Republic on What Makes Dallas World Aquarium Unique

Daryl Richardson is a high-end caterer turned zookeeper who opened Dallas World Aquarium in downtown’s West End in 1992. The New Republic‘s newly published deep dive on him and his menagerie shows how he eschews the normal model for zoos are run (not a nonprofit, unafraid to acquire any desirable animal from the wild), which has resulted in an international attraction for zoo aficionados.

But he also comes off as a hell of a hard man to work for, and some of his questionable practices have angered biologists and conservations. The article centers on the aftermath of Richardson’s failed 2013 attempt to get some rare sloths from Panama, an action that caused an international uproar:

Some zoo officials I spoke with were embarrassed by Richardson’s misadventure, but it does not seem to have caused much damage to his professional standing. In an image-sensitive industry, a rogue who collects and breeds exotic speciesanimals that can then be traded with more cautious zoos, at scant risk to their own budgets and reputationsplays a useful role. Last year, the AZA said it was looking into the pygmy-sloth controversy, but it never released any findings. It also renewed the Dallas World Aquarium’s accreditation last March, finding that Richardson’s zoo upheld the “practices and philosophies that are commonly accepted as the norm by the profession.”

“My story is really not that different than any other zoos that have their failures and their successes,” Richardson told me. “It’s just I happen to be the independent owner of this facility and I’ve been here for the duration, from day one to day now.”

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How TxDOT Justifies Demolishing 195 feet of the Historic Continental Viaduct

Here’s an interesting document that has turned up. Last November, Mario Sanchez, a historical architect with the environmental affairs division of the Texas Department of Transportation, wrote the Texas Historical Commission to lay out a preliminary design of the interchange between the proposed Trinity Toll Road and the Continental Street Viaduct. It offers a detailed account of just how the current design of the Trinity Toll Road – aka Alternative 3C, as it is called in official documents – will impact the Continental Street Viaduct, namely, by demolishing 195 feet of it.

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North Texas Drought Persists

Looking at the Texas Water Development Board’s weekly drought map, and noting that only 43 percent of the state is in the midst of a drought today as compared to 58 percent a year ago, it sure is unpleasant to see that dark red lingering over much of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Like we’re the bullseye on a dart board.

Of course, that NASA video that was going around online a couple weeks back says most of North America is likewise pretty well screwed, so we won’t be alone in our misery.

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SMU Earthquake Researchers Find Fault From Irving to West Dallas

This morning seismologists at SMU have released an interim report on their findings from installing 20 portable earthquake monitors around the sites of the Dallas area’s recent slew of tremors, which United States Geological Survey data previously indicated were centered around the former site of Texas Stadium.

But it appears we can’t blame Jerry Jones’ secret underground lair after all. The more precise data collected by the SMU team shows that the quakes have actually been concentrated along a two-mile line that indicates a fault from Irving to West Dallas:

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Leading Off (2/6/15)

Don’t Drive Interstate 35E to Denton This Weekend. At least not after 8 p.m. Saturday night, or all-day Sunday. The highway’s main lanes will be shut down in Corinth to take out a bridge as part of a major expansion project.

‘Frontier Disney’ Fraud Trial Starts Monday. Thomas W. Lucas Jr. is accused by federal authorities of having told investors he had inside information about plans the Walt Disney company had to build a theme park and resort near Celina. He allegedly tricked them into spending millions to buy land near the purported site, from which he pocketed sales commissions. Though it’s hard to imagine investing even $5 with this guy.

The Beetles Invade D/FW Airport. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency there announced Thursday that they’ve intercepted destructive Khapra beetles in passengers’ luggage five times in recent months and have stopped more than 70 of the creatures from entering the homeland since 2013. The insect can reportedly destroy supplies of grain, which makes me think they’re like a less cuddly version of tribbles. Lock up the quadrotriticale. (That joke would kill at Dallas Comic Con Fan Days this weekend.)

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Leading Off (12/12/14)

OSHA to Investigate Thanksgiving Tower Fire. Thursday’s blaze beneath the downtown Dallas building’s parking garage claimed the lives of three men working in a thermal storage tank. The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined. Officials don’t know if the workers may have been welding or cutting even though the company that employed the men hasn’t had a valid permit for that sort of work since 2009.

10th Irving-Area Earthquake in 2 Months. Last night at 9:25 p.m., a 2.6-magnitude quake struck near Spur Road and the Trinity River northeast of the former Texas Stadium site.

Dallas DA’s Office Dismissed Cases Without Informing Victims. WFAA reports on two family violence cases dropped by the district attorney in violation of the Texas Bill of Rights, which states that crime victims are entitled to be told about all proceedings involving their cases.

Former Fort Worth Cop Not Indicted For Shooting Dog. Kenneth Wayne Flynn shot a neighbor’s German shepherd back in September after being led to believe the dog had killed his cat. A grand jury yesterday no-billed him on animal cruelty charges.

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Yet Another Earthquake in Irving (UPDATE: Actually, Dallas)

The United States Geological Survey reports a magnitude 2.7 earthquake was centered around Irving at 9:36 a.m. this morning.

You know what questions I have about this.

UPDATE: Zoomed in on the epicenter on the USGS map and it’s actually near the intersection of Northwest Highway, Interstate 35E, and Loop 12, which is within Dallas limits. So it would appear we’ve got our fair share of sinners in the big city too.

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Questions About Jill Jordan’s Bewildering ‘Trinity Lakes’ Briefing

On Friday afternoon, a Facebook post by Robert “Fingers of Fury” Wilonsky captured my attention. Said Wilonsky: “If you read one Dallas City Council briefing all weekend, make it this one: the surreal Trinity Lakes Amenities Design Plan.” How could I resist? To the extent I had any lingering doubts, he helpfully provided two illustrations: one of an alarming number of people crowded under a freeway overpass, evidently engaging in some sort of hyper merry-making; and another of a small tree-lined four-lane boulevard. Hmm … I had the sense this would prove enlightening.

Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan’s cover memo to the briefing document helpfully closed with the statement “Please feel free to contact me if you need additional information.” After reading through the 99-page attachment, I actually had quite a few questions, so I prepared to contact her. Upon closer reading, however, I noticed that: 1) she didn’t provide her contact details; and 2) even if she had done so, the memo was addressed exclusively to “The Honorable Members of the Transportation and Trinity River Project Committee,” and I’m not a member.

Therefore, lacking such access, I am posting my questions here, in the hopes that they might reach Ms. Jordan and Judge Vonciel Jones Hill (the Committee chair) prior to the meeting:

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Storm Blows Through Dallas, Does No Small Amount of Damage

Our office is on the 21st floor of the 22-story Saint Paul Place. When the storm rolled over downtown Dallas, the wind made our building sway. This is not something I enjoy. It nauseates me. I bolted for the elevators (smart) as the building’s PA system was telling people to take the stairs to the lobby. I’m not sure why, but even sitting in the lobby, I felt like the building was moving. Anyway, I’m alive and unharmed. Thank you for asking.

The photo you see here was taken by a friend in East Dallas. I love the looks on the kids’ faces. Like: “That was fun! Adventure! The tree even fell down!” Meanwhile, someone just lost a 100-year-old tree. Now the afternoon sun will have no filter before it beats down on their house and yard. And, too, they’ve probably already had to call their insurance agent. There’s no telling what sort of carnage lies outside the frame of that photo.

Hope all FrontBurnervians made it through safely.

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I Am On The Front Lines Of Mankind’s War With Owls

If you know me — either IRL or on various social media — you know I recently had a problem with an owl. If you don’t, then you can read about it here. The video you see here is courtesy of my friend Bob’s girlfriend, who noticed an owl mean-mugging her and, while recording, captured an attack on an unsuspecting jogger. (Just hang with it for a sec.) Also, you may have seen this video (language alert) of a man using a Swiffer to get an owl out of his home making its way around the internet recently. This is how these things start! It’s like, haha, what a funny situation and then, boom, we’re all huddled together in a giant nest watching a buddy being fed to a bunch of owlets. DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU.

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Dallas Ranks Among 10 Worst Cities For Spring Allergies

I’ve mentioned before that this spring’s Pollen Vortex has been trying to kill me. I can’t remember a year when my allergies were so bad. Two symptoms I rarely suffer — itchy eyes and itchy roof of my mouth — have been common occurrences, and their presence would normally only make sense if I were walking through a cloud of cat dander.

Well, I was just checking out the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s list of the worst cities for spring allergies in 2014 (h/t Slate), and I find that Dallas is No. 7. We’re the worst Texas city on the list, and the biggest city in the top 10. Our pollen count, use of allergy medication, and number of allergists are worse than average.

Last year Dallas was No. 23. When our Liz Johnstone wrote about the reasons Dallas is so bad for hay fever sufferers like me, in 2011, Dallas was No. 35. The year before? No. 52.

You see what’s happening here, don’t you? The trees and plants have begun their siege to reclaim our region, then presumably the entire planet. Everybody laughed at M. Night Shyamalan, but maybe he was right.

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Leading Off (5/9/14)

Dallas Cowboys Pass on Johnny Manziel. The former Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner was still available when the team made its first-round pick — No. 16 overall. But despite the marketing bonanza that could’ve come from pairing Manziel with Jerry Jones in a Papa John’s commercial, the Cowboys selected Zack Martin, an offensive lineman out of Notre Dame. Johnny Football is taking his talents to Cleveland.

City to Award Love Field Gates to Virgin. According to WFAA’s sources, an announcement will be made today. City Manager A.C. Gonzalez made the call, which comes as no surprise, given the Justice Department’s stance on which carrier should get the gates the American Airlines is being forced to divest in order to have its merger with U.S. Airways approved.

Storms Flooded Streets, Downed Trees, Cut Power. Late Thursday, thousands of homes were still waiting for electricity to be restored. Though some places saw several inches of rain, officially (at D/FW Airport) the area got only a half-inch, leaving us still 8 inches below normal for precipitation this year.

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