The State of Texas: October 2, 2014
Ebola Watch: Day 2 — The U.S. first Ebola case might be contained to one person (so far), but the news has spread like a plague, with every major news organization going to full-coverage mode. At this rate, anything that could ever be said about Ebola will have been covered in the next 48 hours. For now, the U.S. patient zero has been identified as Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan. The New York Times has a pretty amazing story tracing how Duncan likely contracted the virus—assisting a sick family friend in Liberia’s capital Monrovia. While Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas said they had been prepared for an Ebola case, it appears Duncan might have slipped through the cracks the first time, having been sent home after his first hospital visit despite informing them of his recent travels. Right now, every official organization seems keen on getting this potential disaster under control. “Federal and state health regulators have yet to determine whether they will investigate why Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas didn’t hospitalize a Liberian man when he first entered its ER last week,” reports the Dallas Morning News. “You don’t want to pile on them, but hopefully this will never happen again,” said the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Right now, it’s all about containing panic, which isn’t easy since it appears that “five school-age children are under medical observation at home because they came in contact with [Duncan],” according to the Associated Press. Now the concern is all about the children, which, to be fair, are leaky buckets of disease most of the time anyway. “Some nervous Dallas parents picked up their children early from school Wednesday … indicating that they might take no chances and keep their children home the rest of the week.” As for a bit of good news, the government is stepping up production of the “most promising” experimental drug, ZMapp. In the meantime, try avoid any post-apocalyptic and/or zombie films, a la 12 Monkeys, 28 Days Later, or Children of Men.
South By Suck It — Almost equal panic hit the Texas Internet yesterday when it was declared in trembling headlines that SXSW might have to move out of Austin. The news is somewhat deflated once anyone reads the actual stories attached. The Houston Chronicle piece, for example, states in the first paragraph that the “festival’s co-founder also noted that he ‘can’t really imagine that happening.'” The fear-inducing headlines came from a report commissioned by SXSW organizers, and the document covers a whole host of problems and potential problems as the festival grows like an unstoppable blob monster. Texas Monthly‘s own Dan Solomon has a great breakdown of some of the reports highlights, some of which are arguably more frightening that the festival leaving Austin. Among the recommendations: “soft searching” people who want to enter the 6th street area, and essentially giving over the city to SXSW organizers near autonomous control of certain “Clean Zones.” Part of that includes making sure that only events, or even the poor busker, that are officially recognized be allowed to perform. What the report didn’t state expressly, but made pretty clear, is that the spirit of SXSW is dead and received a rather ignoble burial.
Billion Dollar Bake Sale — Texas schools took a beating from both Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott during their latest and last debate, but there is some good news for the system that’s continuously behind the nation. “The state-run public endowment known as the Permanent School Fund has reached a record-high value in 2014, making it the largest educational endowment in the country,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. “Funded by proceeds from the sale of sulfur and water royalties, oil, gas, lease rentals and other sources, the endowment has grown from its initial $2 million investment in 1854 to approximately $37.7 billion in market value as of June 30.” As the story explains, “Approximately $30.6 billion of the fund is managed by the State Board of Education and $7.1 billion by the School Land Board. Day-to-day oversight of the fund is handled by staff at the Texas Education Agency and the General Land Office. A portion of the fund is allocated every year to help purchase instructional materials and pay a portion of education costs in Texas school districts — with more than $23 billion distributed to schools since 1960.” If only Texas had, like, a billion more. Or, as Abbott proposed during the debate: build the program and then the money will come.
Found Girl — Missing children stories rarely have a happy ending, especially after the child has been gone for more than a decade. Fortunately, one such lucky case occurred recently. Greg Allen, whose daughter was kidnapped by her mother when she four years old, was found in Mexico and is en route back to her father, 12 years after she disappeared. Based on the Houston Chronicle story, Allen deserves a Dad of the Decade award. “[Allen] launched a site called FindSabrina.org and kept a bedroom ready for his daughter at his home,” according to the piece. “When he got a tip about her whereabouts in Mexico he moved to the country for a month to learn Spanish and launch an official search.” The rescue itself was “conducted by the Mexican Federal Authority, FBI and U.S. Marshals … Both Sabrina and her mother were discovered in a small town southeast of Mexico City.”
Free To Give — Good news for those San Antonio residents who occasionally like to give their spare change to the less fortunate: you won’t be arrested for the effort. “Police Chief William McManus has dropped a proposal that would have made it illegal to give money to panhandlers,” reports the San Antonio Express-News. Sometimes, it seems, the collective good really does win out. “The concept had initial support from some members of the council, but they backed away from it after significant public outcry.” But officials still want the alms-passing done in an orderly fashion. “The Police Department has since developed a different plan that doesn’t require passing an ordinance prohibiting giving. It’s mounting a public-awareness campaign that encourages people to give money to Haven for Hope, the city’s designated agency for addressing homelessness.”