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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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Dallas Needs to Stop Looking for Silver Bullets

Last Thursday, Mayor Mike Rawlings was the keynote speaker at the annual Downtown Dallas Inc. membership luncheon. The mayor has a lot on his mind these days. The talk opened with a recap of the Ebola situation before Rawlings made a stump speech for the proposition on the November ballot that will raise the salaries of city council members. But the Mayor reserved the majority of his talk for boosting downtown, running through recent successes – Main Street, the Farmers Market, residential development, and plenty of commercial real estate activity – before focusing on two big ticket projects.

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Toll Road Backers’ Strategy: Pretend to Re-evaluate Its Worth

My column in the current issue of D Magazine tries to answer the question of why the Trinity toll road advocates won’t let this unpopular boondoggle die. Because I write these columns five to six weeks before they appear in print and online, time will always cause some portions of my column to be wrong/irrelevant/laughable by the time it appears. In this case, it’s the portion where I describe the strategy of the toll roads’ backers — the coalition of the willing.

Well, it’s not wrong. I say they will try to fund the toll road in phases. That’s still probably true. But it’s not the most immediate, important part of their strategy.

That would instead be the scenario currently being promoted by said coalition to various business interests around town, which goes like this: [...]

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Leading Off (10/10/14)

Baylor Hospital Could Lose Hundreds of Millions in Federal Funds. Inspectors for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently found several instances of psychiatric patients walking away from the emergency department at Baylor University Medical Center. The violations potentially could cost the hospital up to $300 million in annual revenue it receives from Medicare, though Baylor is devising a plan to fix its problems, which it will submit to Texas Department of State Health Services by Monday.

Judge Rules Texas Voter ID Law Unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued an opinion late Thursday holding that the 2011 bill requiring photo identification for anyone to cast a valid election ballot places an undue burden on the right to vote and has a discriminatory effect on Hispanics and African-Americans. Attorney general Greg Abbott, who is also running for governor (in case you haven’t heard), announced immediately that his office would appeal the decision. It’s not clear yet how the ruling will affect the election that’s only a few weeks away.

Dallas Stars Lose Season Opener. They played great against a great team, but fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout.

Scam Targets Morning News Subscribers. Do not send $600 to an Oregon post office box to get the newspaper.

Today is Double Tenth National Day in Taiwan. It commemorates the start of the 1911 uprising that led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and establishment of the Republic of China. It’s also an office holiday for D Magazine Partners, celebrated in lieu of Columbus Day this weekend because of the horrific crimes Christopher Columbus committed against the native peoples of the Americas. (To be honest, I think it’s just because we decided we preferred getting a Friday off to getting a Monday off.)

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