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SAGA Pod/Learning Curve: Schutze on Ebola and DISD

I think the headline is pretty straightforward. A few other things you should know:

• Jim starts off the podcast by coughing. He is so old and broken.
• We record it in his house, because he forgot that he didn’t have a car that day.
• At one point he tries to silence one of his dogs. I don’t even want to get into how he did this.
• If you’re wondering where ALL the antiques are, they’re in Jim’s house. I think you hear eight different clocks clang and ring and cuckoo during our talk.
• About Ebola, we focus on our officials’ reaction, the question of whether Presby can recover from its bad PR, and Peter’s question about how many will be infected before we panic. On DISD, we talk about the proper role of school board trustees, why black trustees ignore those rules, and how the city’s racial history fits into all this.

Here is the embed:

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Leading Off (10/17/14)

The Latest on Ebola. Nurse Nina Pham was transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland Thursday evening, with news copters following her trip every step of the way from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to Love Field, onto the plane and then off the plane to the NIH clinic. Just before she left Dallas, a video of her speaking with her physician was recorded and released to the public at her request. In it, she expresses her love for the Presby staff. Meanwhile, Dallas County leaders didn’t declare an emergency situation during their meeting yesterday, but they are requiring all health care workers exposed to Ebola to sign a document promising to avoid public transit and public places. If the workers don’t sign the “voluntary” agreements, orders will be issued restricting their movement. And, at the national level, President Obama called Gov. Rick Perry and vowed to offer Texas and Dallas all the help it needs in confronting the disease.

Superintendent Urged to Apologize to Trustee. At a meeting during which Mike Miles was seeking to explain his actions in response to what he termed a “crisis” at Dade Middle School, some in attendance pushed for the super to say he was sorry for having had district trustee Bernadette Nutall removed from the Dade campus on Monday. He did not.

Housing Prices Continue to Rise. The supply of available Dallas homes remains absurdly low, so the market values keep rising sharply, and now I’m feeling pretty screwed for not having jumped on the bottoming out a few years back.

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Parkland Hospital Releases Major Presby Diss Track

Today, Parkland released a video showing how to properly don and doff protective gear when caring for a patient who has (or is suspected to have) the Ebola virus.

“As a public safety net hospital, we believe it is our responsibility to care for anyone who presents at our doors. Part of that mission is to share with others in the health care industry our knowledge of best practices,” said Alex Eastman, Parkland’s Disaster Medical Director.

Definitely feels like a subtweet aimed squarely at Parkland’s well-heeled, previously-well-thought-of competitor Presbyterian Hospital, which apparently could use a brush up on best practices in this regard. Or, if you prefer, their version of Nas’ “Ether,” directed toward the former “Neiman Marcus of hospitals.” Maybe Presby has a “Takeover” in them.

UPDATE FROM TIM ROGERS (9:35 PM) I had a conversation this evening with a senior Parkland official who was really unhappy with the above post. He didn’t know what a diss track is or who Nas is or what “Takeover” sounds like. Honestly, neither did I when I read this post. Still don’t. But I got the gist. I thought it was clever. And I never for a second thought Zac really meant that Parkland was trying to diss Presby. He was just making a joke.

The Parkland official’s point was that this is not a subject to joke about. It’s not funny. One person in Dallas has died. Others are sick. People are working hard to save lives. Hospitals are not competing with each other or dissing each other. I told him that I understood his point and that I thought it could lead to a really interesting, worthwhile conversation.

Here’s the deal: I’ve been making Ebola jokes for a couple weeks. A coworker told me she had diarrhea. My first response: Ebola joke. My out-of-state friends are texting and emailing me Ebola jokes, saying they won’t see me at Thanksgiving unless I put myself in quarantine right now. Stuff like that. I think this sort of joking is a normal, natural, healthy human response. It’s a relief valve on a system that’s under a lot of pressure.

But you know what? I’m not a healthcare worker. I’m a civilian out here in the world, living under different conditions than hospital officials are experiencing right now. Our relief valve might come across like a guy running through a tense business meeting while firing off an air horn.

Or, you know, a better analogy. It’s late. Been a long day. It ended, for me, with two insane meetings on my children’s behalf (behalves?) at two different schools, followed by a lengthy conversation with a Parkland official, during which I’m afraid I raised my voice more than I ought to have.

For that, I apologize to the Parkland official. As for this post, it’ll remain up, and hopefully we’ll all learn from it.

UPDATE (9:56 PM) From the Parkland official: “I am aware of what a diss track is. And I am very familiar with Nas, as Illmatic came out when I was in college and is one of the most important hip hop albums of all time. I am actually probably more familiar with Nas than the guy who wrote this article. So that part is inaccurate.”

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Leading Off (10/16/14)

Your Daily Ebola Update. Presbyterian has apologized. Nurses are tired of taking the blame. Amber Joy Vinson is now at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital. County commissioners are meeting today to decide whether to declare a local state of emergency. Also, this quote, re: Presby: “It has always been considered the Neiman Marcus of hospitals, because a lot of wealthy people came here. Now we wonder if it’s going to become the J. C. Penney.” What a drive-by burn on Penney’s.

DISD Board Will Meet On Monday In Wake Of Dade Middle School Dustup. “My goal is that we come to a better understanding of our purpose, the line between governance and management, and how we can improve the lives of the nearly 160,000 students we serve,” said board President Miguel Solis. Eric has been writing about all this over at Learning Curve.

Highland Park ISD Still Battling Over Books. Come for the story, stay for the super smarmy comment.

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A Way To Help Support Nina Pham, The Nurse Battling Ebola

Nina Pham’s condition has been upgraded from stable to good, and — while she’s not out of the woods yet — it seems like she has an excellent chance of beating the Ebola virus. But, she has lost most of her belongings in the process. A couple of Pham’s friends have set up a Go Fund Me account to help replace her things, as well as help with the expenses that have accompanied all of this. It is here if you are interested.

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Leading Off (10/15/14)

Third Case of Ebola Confirmed. Another Presby healthcare worker who treated Eric Duncan has tested positive for Ebola. No identity yet, but decontamination units are doing their thing on an apartment at The Village, near Skillman and Village Bend. How could Presby healthcare workers have gotten infected? The AP reports that the nation’s largest nurses’ union is claiming that the hospital was unprepared for what happened: “Nurses were forced to use medical tape to secure openings in their flimsy garments, worried that their necks and heads were exposed as they cared for a patient with explosive diarrhea and projectile vomiting, said Deborah Burger of National Nurses United.”

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization reported new figures today about Ebola in West Africa. The WHO says the number of new cases could reach 10,000 per week by December.

There’s some other stuff going on this morning, but, honestly, given the Ebola news, none of it seems that important.

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Virgin America’s Straight Talk About Balance Sheets

It’s true that Virgin America has lost a total of $400 million since its founding. But it’s also true that the California-based airline made $10.1 million on $1.4 billion in operating revenue last year—and that revenue has been growing for the last five years at least. So when an incredibly downbeat AP story about the airline’s planned initial public offering appeared in the Dallas Morning News yesterday—the same day Virgin began flights out of Dallas Love Field—was Virgin America’s CEO upset? Not really, David Cush said last night at Virgin’s celebration party at the House of Blues: “I saw a lot of opinion in there, and I’ve seen lots of stories like that.” While the airline has moved in the past and is continuing to move to retool its balance sheet, Cush said, “The important thing is that when you’re a private-equity-owned firm, you don’t give a s*** about your balance sheet or your P&L” [profit and loss statement]. The key is keeping the investor-owners happy, the chief executive added. Virgin’s investors include a hedge fund called Cyrus Capital Partners, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, and Don Carty, former chairman and CEO of AMR Corp.

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How A. Maceo Smith High School Develops a Different Kind of Student

Two years ago, during D’s literacy program, Big D Reads, we tricked the students at A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School into thinking that their history books were being removed from their school—and burned. At an assembly, we explained that the initiative was being launched at their school first because they’re into technology and would understand why books are no longer needed. The longer we discussed the initiative, the more the students grew concerned. Finally, they started voicing their opinions. They said that not everything on the internet is true. That we need books to learn about mistakes we’ve made in the past. That reading was important to their education.

Finally, a student in the front row got up and stormed out. As she ran past me, I saw she was crying. At this point, we decided to tell the students that it was all a trick, and in reality, we were giving the students a copy of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, provoking a discussion about a world without books.

The great part about this whole thing: it was the librarian’s idea—and the principal, Lisa DeVeaux, supported it.

I’ve been a fan of A. Maceo since then, but today was the first time I spent significant time with Principal DeVeaux as part of Dallas ISD and the Chamber’s Principal for a Day program. Today, 160 people from the community spent time at Dallas ISD schools eating cafeteria food, performing spot observations, and making announcements.

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How Many New Ebola Cases Can We Handle Until We All Lose Our Junk?

So, Ebola is no longer a West African thing. We have the first U.S. transmission of the disease right here in Dallas. Officials are urging everyone to keep calm, but that’s probably difficult if you’re a neighbor of Nina Pham, the nurse who contracted Ebola from Thomas Eric Duncan, and police officers are knocking on the door at 5 a.m. with the message, “Good morning, Ebola’s on your block.” Then, I just saw some wacky, unreliable outlet reporting in my Facebook feed that Pham has a boyfriend who was admitted into the hospital. I can’t find any serious outlets reporting that news, but it was enough to get me thinking. It is probably likely that Pham is not the last case of Ebola in Dallas. We’re still waiting out the incubation period for Duncan’s family, and Pham’s infection starts a new cycle of friends and associates who may have had contact with infectious fluids. I could see this growing to 4 or 5 cases pretty quickly. So my question to you: at what point do we all lose our junk? How many cases of Ebola can we handle before everyone goes into panic mode? Five? Seven? Seventeen? Thirty-eight?

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New Movie Called The Triple D Is About To Get Real at the Magnolia

Come Thursday, the Magnolia will host the world premiere of a film shot in Dallas called The Triple Threat. It’s a gangster movie starring real-life Dallas rappers including, among others, Mr. Lucci, Pooca Leeroy, Hollywood Bay Bay, and T Cash, the guy in the above photo who is about to kill a cameraman, from the looks of it. I learned about all this from Central Track. I’m a little out of my element here. The closest Pandora station I have to this stuff is A Tribe Called Quest. But so here’s my question about this movie:

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Leading Off (10/14/14)

Nina Pham Gets Blood Transfusion. The Presby nurse who contracted Ebola got help from Dr. Kent Brantly, a health worker who survived the disease. Brantly traveled to Dallas Sunday to donate plasma to Pham, an experimental treatment. Dude isn’t afraid to bleed. This is the third time Brantly has donated plasma since recovering from Ebola. We’ll see how this plays out, but Brantly deserves way more than a high-five. (Also, if County Judge Clay Jenkins has anything to do with it, Pham’s adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Bentley, will not be destroyed.)

Tommy Lewis, R.I.P. If you don’t know the name, then you need to read this story about the Alabama player who jumped off the bench at the Cotton Bowl — “I was just so full of Alabama,” he later explained — to tackle a Rice player who would have scored a touchdown (and was awarded one anyway). I’m going to use that excuse sometime in the future. “I was just so full of East Dallas.”

Rogue Bull Injures Three at State Fair. “Farm Day at the Fair” didn’t go well yesterday. Two were treated on the scene, and a child was transported to a hospital. Question: how do you write that story without mentioning that this is the second time a murderous animal has wreaked havoc on the Midway this year? Wick was right without even realizing how right he was.

Michael Morris Needs Another Excuse for Trinity Toll Road. His most recent excuse for the toll road — after all the traffic numbers didn’t add up — was that it’ll spur economic development along the Interstate 35E corridor south of downtown Dallas. Except there’s no planned connection between the two roads and TxDOT would have to cough up $165 million to create one. The DMN’s Brandon Formby has been turning in some solid work lately.

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Jim Moroney Will Look Everywhere for New Revenue, Even Other Papers

I have a column coming out in a few weeks in which I argue that Dallas Morning News publisher Jim Moroney must get right the enormous task before him: finding a new editor to lead his paper for the next decade. I give voice to those who express concerns about Moroney’s track record, but I ultimately believe he’s doing the best job he can in such a turbulent industry. (I like the guy. SUE ME!)

Another example of his innovation (or his deck-chair rearranging, if you believe his critics): His efforts to partner with other top newspapers across the nation. If you’re a news junkie [...]

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