This is a weekly feature produced by my friend Ginger. Let us know what you think.
This week, in news from Dallas-Fort Worth, two big local stories: an update on the Dallas ransomware saga and a nationally-breaking saga about a federal judge’s ruling against Southwest Airlines. Also: updates on Clarence Thomas, Houston-Dallas high-speed rail (it’s not dead yet, friends); Dallas city budget; various climate change issues in Texas; ongoing problems at the jail in Fort Worth; the DMA has an architect for its expansion; and get your mouth and your arteries ready for the State Fair’s finalist food choices.
This week’s post was brought to you by the music of Berlin and Culture Club (tonight’s show is Culture Club/Howard Jones/Berlin).
The biggest news in town this week is the ongoing revelations about the data hackers may have gotten through the Dallas ransomware attack. Remember that this attack happened back at the beginning of May and it’s now August and this news started coming out this week. The most recent number we have for people whose data was stolen is more than 26,000 people, and come to find out this was news to City Council as well as you and me. We’ll get back to the budget later, but one item is $8.6 million for dealing with the attack including services like credit monitoring, replacement costs for equipment, recovery and restoration services, and additional security. It’s a start.
The other big story is a federal district judge’s order that Southwest Airlines needs to send its lawyers to religious liberty training from the Alliance Defending Freedom. First broken by Chris Geidner’s newsletter, which I commend to your attention if you’re into legal nerdery, this would be less of a big deal if the ADF weren’t designated a hate group by the SPLC. The details of the offense and the long-running court case leading up to it are in this AP article, which, by the way, the Dallas Morning News ran without additional investigation, which is why a newsletter broke this story instead of Southwest’s hometown paper.
Since Geidner broke this story, it’s started moving through liberal outlets like Judd Legum’s newsletter and Talking Points Memo. It’s too early to know whether Southwest is going to appeal this case or an appeal will rein in Judge Starr, but it’s another example of a Federalist Society Judge coming out of Ken Paxton’s office and making people’s life miserable.
In other news:
- Speaking of Collin County’s favorite son, KERA has a good explainer about how his lawyers are trying to kill the impeachment case against him.
- One of my favorite beats is active this week: Six Degrees of Clarence Thomas. ProPublica broke another story on luxury vacations Thomas has taken with his rich buddies and the NY Times has a piece on the cool quarter-million-dollar RV a friend in the health care business financed for Thomas. The debt for the RV was declared “satisfied” but there’s no record of Thomas repaying his buddy. And most interesting to me, here’s a piece of detective work demonstrating that a stolen letter by Christopher Columbus, recently returned to Italy, had ended up in Harlan Crow’s collection. I didn’t expect to run into Crow when a friend who talks about art crime linked this piece, but when you’re poking around big money, you often find the same handful of rich folks.
- Just when we all thought high-speed rail between Houston and Dallas was dead, it’s trying to rise from the grave one more time. Texas Central has roped Amtrak into a study to advance the project. Here’s Amtrak’s PR item on the subject.
- It’s budget season in the City of Dallas. Here are some highlights: a property tax cut and more money for public safety (Dallas Observer; KERA). Another item in the budget: $41 million to decommission homeless encampments, which the article assures me includes services for unhoused persons as well as razing, cleaning, and fencing their camps. This week I learned that the Metroplex is one of the three US metro areas with the biggest long-term housing shortage; the other two are San Antonio and Orlando.
- A series of news articles on heat and climate change, mostly in North Texas or related to Texas, that are worth your attention, and are collectively a little alarming:
- World has first real taste of life at 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial times.
- North Texas summers are getting hotter. That puts outdoor workers at risk.
- Lack of rain is fueling Fort Worth heat wave. We’re now up to 30 100-degree days this year.
- Texas congressmen push USPS to give mail carriers bottled water, breaks from extreme heat. (Reminder: as mentioned in the article, we had a mail carrier collapse and die recently here in Dallas.)
- 174 Texas counties under burn bans as state wildfire danger rises.
- North Texas wildfire grows to over 1,400 acres in Johnson County, forest service says. (DMN coverage)
- Electricity prices in Texas sometimes get really high in the summer. Don’t fear your next bill. (Ha)
- Dallas Congress Members Want to Help Low-Income Texans Pay Power Bills. They’re urging extra funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
- Texas could be required to connect with other states’ electric grids. Interview about what federal regulators are up to on this subject.
- Is it cheaper to refuel your EV battery or gas tank? We did the math in all 50 states. Turns out it’s cheaper everywhere to fill up your gas tank.
- Health care news that’s also climate-related: we’ve had our first death from West Nile in Dallas County in 2023; we’ve had seven cases locally so far this year. Mosquitos in my ZIP code have tested positive for West Nile, which is scary to me because I’m the average mosquito’s favorite flavor.
- In Tarrant County this week, another inmate has died in county jail custody (Star-Telegram coverage). As noted in the KERA article, this is the sixth death at the jail this year. Last week local activists went to Austin to ask the state for more oversight of the jail. The stories mentioned in the last article are pretty awful; I’m glad folks are drawing attention to conditions in the jail.
- You may remember that Fort Worth atheists were suing over being denied the use of banners to publicize “Keep God out of our Public Schools” this month; they didn’t get their injunction and bought some billboards to publicize their event instead.
- Good news for a Texas agricultural favorite: Pecans coming out of their shell amid a surge in consumer demand, product launches. My husband loves pecans and most of the trips we took from Austin to Houston in our Austin days ended up with a trip at the Berdoll Pecans outlet for fresh nutty goodness. Now we have to get them at Buc-ee’s.
- If you’re out and about in North Texas, check out the local book this interview is puffing. I learned a lot just from reading the interview!
- The Dallas Museum of Art has chosen their architect for their upcoming expansion and the DMN’s architecture critic has thoughts, which are mostly positive. They went with a small Spanish architecture firm and the first woman architect to design in the Arts District. In particular, I like that they’re getting rid of the drive in the front of the museum and opening up to Klyde Warren Park, although I hope they have a place in mind already for the mural along the wall that used to protect the museum from the Woodall-Rogers freeway bypass.
- A Dallas woman who shepherded a Facebook group for parents of queer kids into huge growth is the subject of a PBS documentary called Mama Bears. It’s nice to see a story about people supporting LGBT folks coming out of North Texas for a change.
- If you’re interested in fashion, you’ll enjoy this interview with Tejano couturier Nico Lee, who’s in Austin.
- In local food news, Jerry Jones’ hospitality company is taking over the Discovery District and its food hall.
- Also, the DMN would like you to know there are eight Dallas-area joints (for an expansive meaning of “Dallas-area”) in the Texas Monthly list of 25 new and improved BBQ joints. Only one of these places is in Dallas proper. It’s the Douglas, I’ve eaten there, and I give it a strong recommendation. If you’re there on Tuesday night, get the special with the brisket ragu.
- And Big Tex has picked his ten finalists and here they are, with some pictures. On the savory side, I’m here for the Deep-Fried Cheesy Crab Tater Bites; on the sweet side, the Trail-Ade actually sounds better than the food. Eater Dallas thinks Big Tex is playing it safe but I’m ok with safe if it’s yummy.