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by Special to    Wed, Apr 5, 2006, 06:09 PM

Gene Pitney
American singer-songwriter Gene Pitney, whose biggest hits included "Four Hours from Tulsa", "Town Without Pity", and "I Wanna Love My Life Away" was found dead this morning in his hotel room in England. He had been on a lengthy tour in Great Britain where he had remained a popular singer over the decades.

He got his start in the music business writing songs for such well-known American singers as Ray Orbison and Rickey Nelson, for whom he wrote "Hello Mary Lou".

The cause of death of the 65 year old singer has not been disclosed, but initial press reports have ruled out foul play.

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by Trey Garrison    Wed, Apr 5, 2006, 06:09 PM

The City Council heard argument today from the Dallas Police Department to consider a $10,000 police recruit incentive – a way of sidestepping a 1979 judicial order that prevents increasing recruit pay without subsequently increasing veteran officer pay in the city’s uniformed services.

The council is scheduled to vote on granting the incentive – retroactive to April 1 to cover both enrolled police cadets and those finishing their probation period – at next week’s full council session. It appears likely to pass.

“This is not a problem faced by Dallas alone, it’s something nationwide. Also it’s not just the suburbs we are competing against,” said an officer in the DPD research department, speaking to the council.

The DPD has a current staffing of 2.4 officers per 1,000 residents, and the goal of the department is to increase that to 3 officers per 1,000. Over the last five fiscal years the DPD has had a net gain of 96 police officers. Further, the department expects to see an increase in attrition over next several years due to a large block of officers due to retire soon.

The average starting salary in the 10 largest departments around Dallas is $42,538, while for DPD recruits the amount is $38,640.

“We’re competing with city’s that will do everything we can to recruit our best and our brightest, and this is a good start to competing with them,” said Councilmember Steve Salazaar.

The proposal is to pay recruits $6,000 upon graduation from the 32-week police academy, and the remaining $4,000 on completion of probation, which is 82 weeks after signing up.

“When I hear that we don’t pay our officers as much as other cities, it should take into account payment years into service and retirement benefits. The taxpayers still have to fund that,” said Councilmember James Fantroy. “I haven’t seen us put this much emphasis on our civilian employees, and they make up just as much of our city as our uniformed employees.”

“The average we are below over the following up to 15 years for officers is about $8,000,” the DPD representative at the council briefing said.

Councilmember Ron Natinsky noted that the city of Dallas’ benefits are worse than most surrounding cities, but the pension plan is better.

Councilmember Angela Hunt said, “There is absolutely nothing more important the city does than protect its citizens. This is an important first step but it’s not the answer. We need to figure out a way to recruit more police officers and pay them better. We need to look at all our options to make sure we are fully funding the best police force we can.”

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by Special to    Wed, Apr 5, 2006, 02:32 PM

Former Tx Supreme Court Justice, Steve Smith
Steve Smith's Statement:

On Friday, March 31, I filed an election contest in Travis County. I did so because of irregularities in the count of the ballots. As is well known by now, Tarrant County "counted" close to 100,000 votes that were not cast by actual voters. Less well known are other irregularities, including the exclusion of seven entire counties from the statewide vote canvass by the Republican Party of Texas, the refusal of the Galveston County Party to certify the results, and the literally unbelievable canvass from Winkler County, in far west Texas, where Smith's vote went from 74% in 2002 and 65% in 2004 to 0% in 2006.

I have been unable to get a full and accurate response from government agencies without filing a lawsuit. I have been told that in order to examine ballots to be certain mistake and fraud were not committed that I had to have a court order. I am seeking such a court order now, in order to protect the integrity of the ballot process. The margin between me and my opponent decreased by more than 13,000 votes in Tarrant County alone within 48 hours after the initial election results were announced. The final statewide tally shows a margin less than half that. I owe it to my supporters all across the state (where I won 152 of 254 counties, and at least 49.5% of the vote) to make sure that the final result is the correct result.

The bottom line is - every candidate has a right to know that all the votes were counted correctly. Every voter has a right to have his vote counted correctly. We have good reason to believe that the vote total is incorrect, and we believe that the election must not be finally decided until all the votes are correctly counted.

Steve Smith served on the Texas Supreme Court from Nov. 20 of 2002 until Dec. 31, 2004.

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by Special to    Wed, Apr 5, 2006, 02:24 PM

William F. Buckley Jr., the longtime conservative writer and leader, said George W. Bush's presidency will be judged entirely by the outcome of a war in Iraq that is now a failure.

"Mr. Bush is in the hands of a fortune that will be unremitting on the point of Iraq," Buckley said in an interview that will air on Bloomberg Television this weekend. "If he'd invented the Bill of Rights it wouldn't get him out of his jam."

Buckley said he doesn't have a formula for getting out of Iraq, though he said "it's important that we acknowledge in the inner councils of state that it (the war) has failed, so that we should look for opportunities to cope with that failure."

The 80-year-old Buckley is among a handful of prominent conservatives who are criticizing the war. Asked who is to blame for what he deems a failure, Buckley said, "the president," adding that "he doesn't hesitate to accept responsibility."

Buckley called Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a longtime friend, "a failed executor" of the war. And Vice President Dick Cheney "was flatly misled," Buckley said. "He believed the business about the weapons of mass destruction."

National Review

Buckley, often called the father of contemporary conservatism in America, articulated his beliefs in National Review magazine, which he founded in 1955. His conservatism calls for small government, low taxes and a strong defense. Both Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater said they got their inspiration from the magazine.

In the interview, Buckley criticized the so-called neo- conservatives who enthusiastically embraced the Iraq invasion and the spreading of American values around the world.

"The neoconservative hubris, which sort of assigns to America some kind of geo-strategic responsibility for maximizing democracy, overstretches the resources of a free country," Buckley said.

While praising Bush as "really a conservative," he was critical of the president for allowing expansion of the federal government and never vetoing a spending bill.

The president's "concern has been so completely on the international scope that he can be said to have neglected conservatism" on the fiscal level, Buckley said.

Appraising Presidents

Buckley also offered his perspectives on other recent presidents:

-- Richard Nixon "was one of the brightest people who ever occupied the White House," he said, "but he suffered from basic derangements," which precipitated his own downfall.

-- Ronald Reagan "confounded the intellectual class, which disdained him." Every year though, Buckley said, "there is more and more evidence of his ingenuity, of his historical intelligence."

-- Bill Clinton "is the most gifted politician of, certainly my time," Buckley said. "He generates a kind of a vibrant goodwill with a capacity for mischief which is very, very American." He doubted that "anyone could begin to write a textbook that explicates his (Clinton's) political philosophy because he doesn't really have one."

Buckley exalted in what he sees as the conservative success stemming from his call a half century ago in the National Review to "stand athwart history and yell stop."

That, he remembered, was when Marxism was widely considered "an absolute irreversible call of history." The folly of that notion was demonstrated by the demise of communism a decade and a half ago, he said.

Buckley said he had a few regrets, most notably his magazine's opposition to civil rights legislation in the 1960s. "I think that the impact of that bill should have been welcomed by us," he said.

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by Special to    Wed, Apr 5, 2006, 01:04 PM

John Snow
Rumors began flying last weekend that the new White House Chief of Staff, Joshua Bolten, wanted John Snow out as the U.S. Treasury Secretary. Administration sources have blamed Snow "off the record" for the failure of the Bush Administration to sell its economic policies to the American public. Those reports of Snow’s imminent departure took on added life yesterday as the President gave what could only be characterized as lukewarm support for his beleaguered Treasury Secretary: When asked about Mr. Snow’s status, the President replied that John Snow "has been a valuable member of my administration, and I trust his judgment and appreciates." That sounds like a "vote of confidence" by the owner right before the coach or manager is about to be fired.

Speculation is rampant as to who will be Snow’s successor at Treasury. Bolten, who formerly worked at Goldman Sachs, reportedly would like to recruit a prominent Wall St. name such as Henry Paulson of Goldman Sachs or John Mack at Morgan Stanley. But, both the Financial Times and the Wall St. Journal say that neither Paulson nor Mack is interested in the job. The Financial Times quotes a Wall St. Republican as saying, "No A-grade person on Wall Street will go for this, given the state of the Administration."

Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Robert Kimmitt, appears to be out of the picture because of Snow’s opposition to his appointment and because of Kimmitt’s key role in the Dubai ports debacle. That leaves two other insiders as the leading candidates to succeed John Snow. Alan Hubbard is the director of the White House National Economic Council and a longtime friend of the President’s. Robert Zoellick is Deputy Secretary of State and a close friend of Joshua Bolten, the new White House Chief of Staff. Hubbard and Zoellick have to be considered frontrunners at this time.

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by Scott Bennett    Tue, Apr 4, 2006, 10:03 PM

 The Texas Department of Transportation has released an environmental impact statement for the proposed Trans Texas Corridor.

The proposal outlines a road parallel (to the east) to I-35 from San Antonio to Dallas, and merged with I-35 between San Antonio and Laredo.

“The Trans-Texas Corridor will provide unprecedented trade opportunities, a faster transportation system that moves freight and hazardous materials out of city centers, and thousands of new jobs,” Gov. Rick Perry said. “Today we take an important step toward realizing this goal.”

Bashing the plan was Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who called the project a "land grab down the heart of Texas."

“Gov. Perry and his highway henchmen might as well split Texas in two,” she said. “This is a 10-mile swipe down the heart of Texas, running from Oklahoma to Mexico. It will suck up 2,400 square miles of prime farm land and 13 square miles of parks, and nearly a million people will be impacted by its route.”

Strayhorn vows to quash the program if elected.

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by Brian Bodine    Tue, Apr 4, 2006, 10:00 PM

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has been left out of the proposed path of the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC-35). City and county officials from the Metroplex and some surrounding towns showed their dissatisfaction on Tuesday with the proposed location for the 10 mile wide study area for the corridor’s placement.

The decision for the location of the study area was made by the Texas Department of Transportation and marks the completion of the first “Tier” of the process. “Tier Two” would further narrow the 10-mile wide corridor for the final alignment of roads, rail, and utilities for the TTC-35.

The map presented by the TxDOT showed a corridor that passed about 50 miles to the east of the City of Dallas. The chief concern among the officials at the press conference was the proposed path of the corridor being so far away from the Dallas Fort-Worth area.

“When you look at what is taking place in Hill County and in Dallas County, it does not make sense because the entire northern half of Hill County and the entire southern half of Dallas County is underdeveloped,” said Dallas City Councilmember Bill Blaydes. “We already have a transportation pattern that is set through Dallas County and the majority of Hill County that meets the obligations of what the Trans-Texas Commission is attempting to do. We will not accept the plan as it currently exists and we will be working with state officials.”

“This plan does not do that, it takes away from what we’re trying to do,” Blaydes later added.

At the press conference, Blaydes stood with a handful of participants from the Dallas NAFTA Trade Corridor Coalition, which mostly consists of city council members from Hill and Dallas counties.

Under TxDOT’s proposal, most parts of Hill County would not benefit if the corridor is built to the east of the Metroplex. In addition to being disappointed with the location of the Tier One study area, Hillsboro Mayor Will Lowrance thought that the decision for the placement of the corridor did not involve enough public input. “As a Texan, I am first concerned about the process. Texas not only has a major transportation problem, it has a major leadership problem,” said Lowrance.

“Texans are accustomed to collective decision making,” added Lowrance.

Dallas County Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield agreed. “There’s so much wrong with this entire process,” said Mayfield. “We need public hearings and I believe we’re going to get public hearings.”

Mayfield also said that the coalition will be looking to allies in the state legislature for help on the corridor issue. He suggested that the new chair of the House Committee on Transportation could aid Dallas County’s efforts to bring the corridor closer to Dallas.

“We want to be heard,” said Mayfield. “Hopefully we can have true public hearings so we can turn this thing around.”

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by Brian Bodine    Tue, Apr 4, 2006, 09:03 PM

 Dallas County Commissioners discussed raising the cost of e-filing with the Dallas County Clerk to five dollars on Tuesday. A proposal to raise the fee charged by the county, however, was declined by the court. County Clerk Cynthia Calhoun spoke before the court about e-filing and said that the Clerk’s office would like to see more e-filing and keep the fee low at the same time. The fee was set at two dollars, but will be lowered, according to Calhoun.
The County Clerk is responsible for record keeping and clerks the county’s courts, ensuring their efficient operation.

Judge Keliher spoke out against raising the fee and said that if it was not necessary to do so at the current time, then the court should not raise it yet. “My feeling is if this is so far down the line, I’d rather wait and do it down the line,” said Judge Keliher. Keliher demanded to know when the county would see the benefit of raising the fee.

Another concern the judge raised was the cost of e-filing and if raising the cost might discourage people from e-filing. “If someone wants to e-file, it should be cost-effective to e-file,” said Keliher.

Calhoun later spoke to the DallasBlog and said that the county will no longer charge lawyers - who usually pass the cost on to their clients - anything for filing documents through e-filing. Calhoun said that the county found a way to charge less for e-filing when Budget Officer Ryan Brown suggested that another source could be used for paying the costs of the e-filing. Calhoun and Brown agreed that the Records Management department at the County Clerk could provide for the costs of e-filing.

Calhoun also said that e-filing makes it easier for lawyers to file documents from anywhere and that e-filing reduces the amount of labor needed in the office.


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by Mike Fisher    Tue, Apr 4, 2006, 08:21 PM

For assorted barstool musings scribbled down Tuesday night while I scribble down my coverage of Ron Artest's Kings vs. Dirk Nowitzki's Mavs, click into the 'School of Fish':

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by Carolyn Barta    Tue, Apr 4, 2006, 03:29 PM

Findings of the Newspaper Association of America suggest Web sites are breathing new life into the nation’s newspapers, creating a vehicle for advertising that can keep newspapers profitable. The NAA says one in three Internet users -- or 55 million people – visit a newspaper Web site over the course of a month. Unique visitors to such Web sites jumped 21 percent during 2005, and page views increased by 43 percent.

The new figures come from the spring 2006 Newspaper Audience Database released Monday. The database provides advertisers with measurement data that reflects the reach and audience of newspapers. An association official said the data indicates the industry is leveraging the power of Web sites to broaden newspapers’ appeal to today’s audiences. "It is critical that the newspaper media be able to report information on consumers of all ages and across the full portfolio of print and digital products that we distribute every day," said NAA President and CEO John F. Sturm.

According to the report, eight in 10 adults – or 116 million people – are reading a newspaper over the course of a week, and newspaper Web sites are increasing the total newspaper audience, particularly among younger readers by attracting 14 percent more 25- to 34-year-olds and 9 percent more 18- to 24-year-olds in calendar year 2005.

The 116 million newspaper readers comprise 78 percent of the 149 million who live in the top 50 markets that were analyzed by Scarborough Research.

Meanwhile, data from Nielsen//NetRatings for NAA shows that unique visitors to newspaper Web sites in 2005 represent on average more than one-third of all Internet users over the course of a month.

The NAA report provides yet another look at the changing media market. The Project for Excellence in Journalism recently reported, in its State of the Media, a continued loss of readership at big-city newspapers. That report also said that about 7 of 10 adults (roughly 137 million Americans) were using the Internet in some way in 2005 and that 70 percent at some time go there for news, with one-third of Internet users going online everyday for news.

NAA is a nonprofit organization representing the newspaper industry. Its members account for nearly 90 percent of the daily circulation in the United States and a wide range of nondaily U.S. newspapers. Read the report at

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