By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Scareline: Federal investigators are called in to determine what caused a foot-wide hole to blow open in a Southwest Airlines jet cruising at high altitude above West Virginia. Officials with the Dallas-based carrier praised quick-thinking flight attendants for averting disaster on the flight. While one attendant calmed passengers by singing "Nearer My God to Thee" over the cabin sound system, a second moved quickly to plug the hole with 47 half-ounce packets of salted pretzel bits.
...A warm gun: Gun dealers report a surge in the demand for guns and ammo, spurred in part by fears the Obama administration intends to push for stricter gun control laws. "It's crazy out there," one local gun dealer tells reporters. "We've had a bunch of people so desperate for new guns that they offered to trade Kroger gift cards as down payments on new pistols."
Cluck, cluck: A boom in the number of urban chicken-raisers in Dallas sends the city scrambling to establish rules for where chickens may be sold or raised. The issue arose when North Haven Gardens scratched plans to sell chicks at the popular North Dallas nursery once a month. A city planning official tells the Morning News that the sale or barter of chickens is prohibited unless it's for educational or scientific purposes. "Well, that's just a Catch-22," one would-be chicken farmer says. "I was going to get some chickens to teach my teenagers about sex, which would be an educational purpose, but then it turns out that I can't have roosters in town. I don't want any damn lesbian chickens."
Blood and suckers: About 3,000 devoted fans of the Twilight series of vampire romance novels flock to the Sheraton Dallas Hotel for Twicon, a convention featuring Twilight merchandise, a ball and actors from the Twilight movies. Fans shell out $255 to attend the sold-out event. "I haven't seen this many overheated virgins in one place since I flunked out of convent school," a female guard working security at the event says.
Sis-boom-bah: Five Lewisville Independent School District cheerleaders are suspended for three cheering events after they're caught using an illegal drug at a private cheerleading camp in August. School officials decline to specify what type of drug was involved, though rumors persist that the incident involved ecstasy. Odd behavior among the teens alerted camp leaders to the alleged drug use. "I haven't seen this many overheated hugs from non-virgins since the last time I was at XTC Cabaret," a camp counselor says.
Excuses, excuses: Dallas City Council adopts stricter attendance rules for its members, requiring council persons to remain at scheduled council or committee meetings for at least half their duration in order to be paid. Under the new policy, council members would be required to obtain an excused absence to be permitted to miss meetings, and "the dog ate my briefing book" and "I slept in because I was up late collecting envelopes of cash in a church parking lot" would no longer be considered legitimate excuses for non-attendance. Council members with too many unexcused absences would be required to stay 45 extra minutes at City Hall and sit quietly and think about what they've done.
More baaaad news: Dallas leads the nation in the percentage of teens giving birth multiple times, according to a review of 2006 data from 73 major cities. Twenty-eight percent of teens giving birth in the city in 2006 already had given birth once. Texas has the highest repeat birth rate among states at 23 percent. Critics blame the figures on Texas' emphasis on abstinence-only education, though local city and school officials say the blame lies with the fact that Dallas is an urban area. "Unlike those more fortunate country kids, our children don't grow up watching cows and goats screw, so they tend to be behind in understanding the birds and the bees," a DISD spokesman tells reporters.
Provocative: Disgraced Colorado preacher Ted Haggard travels to Irving's Calvary Church to apologize for the scandal that ended his popular ministry in 2006. Haggard, who preached often about the evils of homosexuality, was outed when it was learned that he'd taken methamphetamine and had a sexual relationship with a male prostitute. In his apology, Haggard declines to rehash the details of the scandal. "I'd say more, but I'm a little pressed for time," Haggard tells church members. "I'm supposed to meet a friend at the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth. Can anyone tell me how to get there?"
No boom, no foul: Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year-old Jordanian citizen, is arrested by FBI agents in late September after he parked a vehicle loaded with a government-supplied fake bomb in the parking garage of the Fountain Place office tower downtown. Authorities say Smadi was a jihadist devoted to Osama Bin Laden who expressed a desire to kill Americans. Controversy erupts when the Dallas Police Department categorizes the thwarted attack as "illegal parking" for the purpose of crime statistics. "Look, he didn't really have a bomb, so we don't really see how that should count against us," a department spokesman says.
Oops: A conservative group led by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich rescinds an "entrepreneur of the year" award given to Dawn Rizos, owner of The Lodge, a popular Dallas topless bar. The cancellation comes just weeks after the group, American Solutions for Winning the Future, rescinded a similar invitation to the president of a porn studio. A red-faced spokesman for the group says the two invitations were sent out in error when a staffer printed what he thought was an invitation list for the awards dinner. The list was in fact Gingrich's most recent credit card statement.