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Leading Off (2/20/15)

Killer Believed Chris Kyle Was a ‘Pig Assassin.’ A psychiatrist testifying for the defense said Eddie Ray Routh was schizophrenic and suffering delusions about man-pig hybrids taking over the world at the time he shot Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield.

Irving Strengthens Smoking Ordinance. But some restaurants are grandfathered out of the new restrictions.

911 Operator Helps Save Drowning Toddler. A Lewisville grandmother called after finding her 18-month-old granddaughter in the pool. The child is apparently doing well. Meanwhile another Lewisville family suffered a horrific loss after an unhinged door fell on a 2-year-old girl, killing her.

Woman Gets $109 Bill For Half-hour Trip to DFW. A Toll Tag glitch caused the mistake, which the airport initially refused to rectify with a refund, since it was reported to them more than 45 days after the incorrect charge was made.

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Things To Do In Dallas Tonight: Feb 19

It’s comforting to look at a 2,500-year-old play and see that ancient audiences also appreciated a heavy dose of sex, murder, and mayhem with their cultural programming. Some things never change, and it’s a testament to Medea, one of the Greeks’ more enduring contributions to dramatic bloodbaths, that the play is still being performed today. Gore and guts shouldn’t necessarily be a requirement for your Thursday evening entertainment, but they can’t hurt. Here are our picks for things to do tonight.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Why Does Dallas Adore Its Beer-Shilling Waterfall?

Question: What’s up with the beer/waterfall sign along I-35 on Goat Hill? How long has it been there? How is it still here? Why didn’t Trammell Crow tear it down when they built those apartments? Is it really that beloved of a Dallas icon? —Todd J.

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Leading Off (2/19/15)

NTTA Won’t Push For Toll Road If Dallas Doesn’t Want To Do It. Or, to put it another way: “Please, please, please give us any reason not to have to do this. Guys. Come on.” The May council elections are looking prettay, prettay, prettay important.

Irving City Council Will Vote On a New Smoking Ordinance Today. It bans smoking in most places, except for smoke shops and restaurants with ventilated smoking sections until those restaurants change ownership. Which seems like an odd, unwieldy compromise. But it sounds like they’re lucky to get that far: “The council has been wrestling with its smoking laws since 2013, when the city health board recommended a total ban. That prompted protests from restaurateurs, bingo players and hundreds of smokers.” You don’t want to be on the wrong side of bingo players.

Amar’e Stoudemire Is Officially a Dallas Maverick. He cleared waivers and signed with the team late yesterday, after the Mavs released Ricky Ledo to make room. “To play alongside Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler and other great players, I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for me to compete for a championship,” Stoudemire said in a statement. He should make his debut tonight against the OKC Thunder.

Steve Blow and His Wife Had the Flu Recently.Romantic? Let’s just say you have never heard such moaning coming from our bedroom. And whimpering, crying, coughing, hacking, sniffling, sneezing, snorting … This was Fifty Shades of Flu. And we were both in full submission.” Powerful take on an important issue.

Uh, What? “I have a lot of friends that don’t want to come on this side of 75,” says Rob Wilson of Times Ten Cellars in Lakewood. “Anything that brings awareness and brings more people over to East Dallas and lets them discover what we’ve known for years, I think is awesome.” White people are weird.

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Grapevine Charity GRACE Needs Help After Fire

One day when I was 7 and in elementary school, the apartment building where I lived burned down. The fire was started when the kid who lived upstairs was playing with matches, and it spread fast. We lost just about everything: clothes, furniture, even the dishes in the cabinets. All of my toys and video games were gone, and the few stuffed animals my mom tried to save were singed and smelled like smoke for years. I can still remember seeing my little piggy bank, melted into a strange new shape, with the small amount of money I’d collected sealed inside forever.

There were a lot of groups that helped us, including several churches and some of the teachers at school. But no organization helped more than Grapevine Relief and Community Exchange, better known as GRACE. They helped with food and clothing and furniture and dishes and, the thing that fixed most permanently in my 7-year-old brain: toys. Nothing grand, but when you have nothing, anything is great. And they gave me a new (to me) piggy bank.

I mention all of this because now GRACE needs help. Last week two men started a fire that destroyed the donation center, took out months worth of donations, and caused more than $75,000 in damages. Grapevine Craft Brewery (maker of the controversially delicious Sir William’s English Brown Ale) has already stepped in to help raise funds. (With beer!) But they need more help. There’s an event this Saturday at the GRACE facility in Grapevine, where you can drink beer, eat barbecue, and listen to music, all while helping an organization that has helped a lot of people. You can also donate through this GoFundMe page.

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Leading Off (2/18/15)

Testimony Resumes At ‘American Sniper’ Trial. Like, right at this moment.

Fly to Austin for $39. Virgin America today announced that come April, it will fly five daily nonstop flights from Dallas to Austin. Buy a ticket today or tomorrow, and it will cost you just $39 each way. A Southwest representative, reached for comment, said, “Oh crap.”

Paul Quinn College Announces New, More Affordable Tuition Plan. President Michael Sorrell says the new initiatives — one includes moving to a work-college system — will cut tuition by as much as $10,000.

Dez Bryant Not Super Happy About Cowboys Potentially Using the Franchise Tag On Him. He’d prefer a long-term deal, but he knows it’s #BUSINESS.

Maltese Co-Owned By Dallas Lawyer Wins Best In Breed At Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Her name is Princess and she’s a good dog, yes she is!

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Tony Romo’s Wife Candice Is a Mermaid

A Destin, Fla.-dwelling FrontBurnervian passed along the photo you see at right, which is the logo of Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill a chain of restaurants/bowling alleys attached to Bass Pro Shops stores in seven different cities (though not in Dallas-Fort Worth).

This image is of interest because the mermaid featured appears to have the head of Candice Crawford Romo, wife of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, former WB 33 TV reporter, and one of our own 10 Most Beautiful Women in Dallas honorees.

After an intensive Google Images search, I couldn’t find the exact picture that appears to have been used, but this one is pretty darn similar:

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Leading Off (2/17/15)

Amar’e Stoudemire Is Damn Near a Mav. Eddie Sefko says Stoudemire is “99.9 percent committed to joining the Mavericks.” I’m sure Zac will be along in a bit to tell us what we should think about this near-certain development, but I’d like to say, for now, on the record, that I am 99.8 percent committed to this blog. Start getting excited.

Should We Pay DISD Board Members? Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins thinks so. Maybe as much as $60k. It’s such a small price to pay to attract a better field of candidates. I’d honestly like to hear one good argument why this shouldn’t happen. (Meantime, Tawnell Hobbs and Matthew Haag are doing a victory lap over that whole HR scandal. Which I suppose they deserve.)

Eddie Ray Routh Confession Played in Court. “At the beginning of the 90-minute taped confession, Routh can be heard muttering about his soul and talking to several ‘Chrises.’ At one point, he said talking to Kyle was like ‘talking to the wolf.’ ” Just sadness.

More Details Emerge on Murder of Cop. Before she killed Officer Larry Tuttle and then herself, Otto Thomas said he was abusing her. Her journals paint a different picture of what was going on, suggesting that Thomas was a woman who “lost track of reality.”

8-Year-Old Golfer Is Better Than Tiger. I’m exaggerating a little. But just watch this.

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Some Things We’ve Learned in the Trial of Chris Kyle’s Killer, Eddie Ray Routh

We had a debate here about whether I should be down in Stephenville, covering the trial of Eddie Ray Routh, the man who killed Chris Kyle and Kyle’s friend Chad Littlefield. Part of me wishes I was there, because I’m obviously very interested in the story. (The part of me that sees the massive media presence, though, is happy I’ve got other things that need finishing.) But I’ve been following the coverage. And through the first few days of testimony we’ve learned some interesting new information. Here’s a quick rundown:

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Leading Off (2/13/15)

Guns to Fix What Ails Texas Education System. Apparently so, seeing as a Texas Senate committee voted Thursday to allow handguns to be carried on state university campuses, and Anna ISD is making plans to arm teachers at its high school.

Rats Broke Dallas Zoo Monorail. The train has been inoperative since last summer, the third time it’s been down for an extended period in as many years. The nonprofit that operates the zoo is planning a $3 million fix to the 25-year-old system, which has suffered repeated damage as rodents have chewed through the power cables.

Government Regulation Shutters Small Business. The organizer of the Eutopia swingers club — DFW’s newest Lifestyle Venue! —  says he’s decided to move his erotic parties out of Arlington rather than appeal the city’s order to cease operating out of a home there.

Video Shows Cop Car Driving Wrong Way. A woman captured cell phone footage of a Dallas Police cruiser reversing against the flow of traffic on the Central Expressway frontage road at Fitzhugh Avenue and posted it to the department’s Facebook page. The DPD asked for more details and has turned the matter over to a traffic supervisor.

New Revelations at Trial of Chris Kyle’s Killer. Michael J. Mooney, New York Times best-selling e-book author, will be along in a little while to weigh in on what we’ve learned so far.

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Dallas Police Water Rescue Caught on Body Camera

Last August, the Dallas Police Association pushed for the department and the district attorney’s office to provide all uniformed cops with body cameras. The DPD field-tested lapel cameras in 2014, with an original plan to equip up to 2,500 cops. These cameras have already proved useful in officer-involved shootings. But here we have something different.

According to the DPD blog, a man lost control of his car last Friday night near 5800 Military Parkway and plummeted 50 feet into a creek. As his vehicle flooded with water, officers from the department’s Southeast Crime Response Team (CRT) Unit were able to pull him out through the window. The body cam video was released as part to the DPD’s efforts to “enhance public safety and transparency.” Fortunately, the cops were nearby and able to respond when a witness called it in.

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The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Prison: I Tried To Eat a Mouse But It Didn’t Work

Three weeks ago, I was sentenced to prison, which in some ways was a great relief, as federal prison is said to be much nicer than the jail holding units and temporary detention centers where I have spent the last two and a half years of my life. And, really, I feel like I’ve done the whole “jail thing” by this point and can thus sort of cross that off my list. Now I’m jotting down all the touristy activities I hope to accomplish during my “real” prison sentence:

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Leading Off (2/12/15)

Trinity “Dream Team” Suggesting Meandering, Four-Lane Road. “Great,” you think, maybe adding a little fist pump, because you get emotional sometimes and you’re not going to apologize for it. “Yeah, I still would prefer no road at all, but this doesn’t sound too bad: ‘meandering, four-lane road pocketed with parking lots providing park access.’ And Larry Beasley says, ‘It would very fundamentally open up the consciousness of the people of Dallas about this magnificent park.’ Nice.”

Let me break it down like a fraction for you, jack. That meandering, gentle little country lane that, well, heavens, you’d barely call it a road much less a highway — that’s not what you’re gonna get. Oh, sure. Maybe in some sort of magic land where they can build a different road than is detailed in the plans already submitted (they can’t, but let’s just go with it for a moment) you’d get that road only for a moment. You’d get a fleeting glimpse, something you begin to forget before you start to remember. That road would be there just long enough to say they did it, before they went ahead with what they wanted to do in the first place.

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More Nature Destroyed in Trinity Watershed

Ben Sandifer had a couple hours to kill Sunday, so he went traipsing around down in the McCommas Bluff Nature Preserve. He found some tracks of heavy vehicles and followed them to the disturbing scene you see above. The “before” photo was taken in April 2014. The “after” picture was taken February 8. This place has been destroyed. It’s a county preserve. Ben has called around to all the various agencies — Trinity Watershed, Water Utilities, he even called John Wiley Price — but he hasn’t gotten an answer yet as to who did this and why. Read Sandifer’s blog to learn more about the sensitive area and what’s at stake (such as one of about 100 known trout lily colonies in the State of Texas).

Remember last year when Trinity Watershed Management officials apologized for their incompetence and invited a bunch of folks out to see their horrible stewardship of the land and promised it wouldn’t happen again? Yeah, well. So much for that.

“A half acre here, an acre there disappears,” Sandifer says. “Suddenly you don’t have anything left.”

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