Jail Visits, Deion Sanders, Frisco and Vaginal Mesh: Updates from 2014 Stories

Justin Renteria
The news just keeps rolling on, and not every story has a neat ending. Sometimes it pays to stop and take a look back to see what's happened with stories we reported during the year. That time is the day after Christmas, when all the new newsmakers are sneaking in an extra day off. So here are Amy Silverstein's updates from 2014.

Dallas Senator Tries To Keep In-Person Visitation at Jails
Next year people will be able to skip the lines at the Lew Sterrett Jail and talk to their loved ones from home, through a video chatting software. The catch is that it's going to cost $10 for a 20-minute visit, and the company installing the software, Securus, really wants to eliminate in-person visits to push everyone to pay that fee. At least five other counties in Texas have already eliminated in-person visits after they installed Securus' software.

When the Dallas County Commissioners voted to approve the video visitation contract with Securus in November, they promised verbally that Dallas would be the exception and keep in-person visits just as they are. But the written contract says otherwise, vaguely suggesting that Dallas County will have to restrict its in-person visits so that Securus can make back its money. The final decision on jail visitation is ultimately up to the Dallas County Sheriff's Office, whose spokesman never returned our messages inquiring about video visitation.

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Dallas Is One of the World's Sleepiest Cities

Gürkan Sengün
Yes, yes we do.

Using data drawn from what is admittedly a self-selected sample -- users of their UP fitness tracker -- Jawbone, a company famous for its Bluetooth headsets and speakers, has compiled some interesting findings about sleep habits and walking patterns from around the world.

You should check out and play around with the charts yourself, but the gist of the data is this: Dallasites go to bed early, sleep a lot when they do and don't walk very much, even if they fancy their health enough to wear a fitness tracker.

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Dallas Uber Users Can (But Probably Can't) Get a Ride from Optimus Prime (Sort of) Today

The Conmunity
A semi that looks like Optimus Prime could pick you up today.
Between 1 and 7 p.m. today, you can be picked up by Optimus Prime. More or less. Less, mostly. But more than usual, definitely.

As part of the promotion for the fourth installment in Michael Bay's Transformers series, the flame-specked semi is roaming Dallas.

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Here's Some Mesmerizing Aerial Footage of Dallas Covered in Snow

Remember Brian Aiken? He's the guy who shot the mesmerizing "Dallas From Above" video.

See also: A Photographer Used a Drone to Shoot a Video of Dallas, and It's Awesome

Well, he's done it again. And by "it" we mean use a camera-equipped drone to shoot incredible aerial footage of Dallas. The main difference: This time, there's snow.

You Can Now Go Fake Skydiving in Frisco

First off, let's make one thing clear. Contrary to what the company claims on its website, or what the above headline might suggest, iFly does not offer "indoor skydiving." There's no sky. No diving. Just a vertical wind tunnel and baggy jumpsuits.

That said, iFly Dallas, the company's brand-new facility at Stonebriar Centre in Frisco, does offer some pretty intense hovering. Observe:

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A Photographer Used a Drone to Shoot a Video of Dallas, and It's Awesome

This video is already up on Reddit, Frontburner, and Centraltrack, but it's worth a look. The video was shot by a guy named Brian Aiken using a DJI Phantom quadcopter -- basically a camera-equipped drone. You'd think that might make people nervous, but Aiken says that wasn't the case.

"No one stopped me," he writes on Vimeo. "People usually are too interested in the chopper to give me any grief."

It's a breathtaking video. Takes me back to my days as a kid taking those stomach-churning helicopter rides at the Omni Theater in Fort Worth.

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez Is the Unlikely Star of a Pretty Cool HBO Documentary

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez at The Out List premiere at the Angelika.
The new HBO documentary The Out List was supposed to be a response to California's Proposition 8. But it turned into something bigger, director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders told Vanity Fair, where he's a contributing photographer. What it became is a series of interviews with 16 openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people talking about marriage, coming out, parenting, and living openly.

Greenfield-Sanders got some pretty high profile names, including Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, and Suze Orman. He also got Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez.

"I asked the director how I got in it and he never really answered me," she told a crowd assembled at the Angelika Theater in Dallas for a screening hosted by the Dallas County Democratic Party and the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. "He just said, 'You don't know how popular you are.'"

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Take a Ride on Six Flags' Texas Skyscreamer, the "Tallest Swing Ride in the World"

Six Flags
Because clearly, you can't have the world's tallest swing set without the world's tallest cowboys.
We were sad, distraught even, when Six Flags announced that it was closing the Flashback last summer. The news that it would be replaced by the 400-foot Texas Skyscreamer, and that the Skyscreamer would stand as the tallest swing ride in the world, failed to move us. No matter how tall, we thought, a swing set is still a swing set.

We've since come to terms with our loss and are ready to give the Texas Skyscreamer a second chance. The ride had its ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday. (It was really more of a ribbon-branding since the fabric was severed using a Texas-shaped branding iron.) Video of the ride is after the jump. It's missing the Flashback's stomach-churning loop, but the views are fantastic.

See also
One Month Before Six Flags Shuts it Down, an Ode to the Flashback
Six Flags' New Texas SkyScreamer a Poor Substitute For the Flashback

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The Bizarre Tale of Sam Lone Wolf, the "Spiritual Elder" in the Case of the White Buffalo

photo (4).JPG
Hunt County Sheriff's Office
Sam Lone Wolf, aka a bunch of other names
Earlier this month, I wrote a cover story so bizarre, I had to periodically check official documents just to be sure I had not wandered into the realm of magical realism. Yes, in fact, a sacred white buffalo was born to a Greenville rancher named Arby Little Soldier during a lightning storm in 2011. Indeed, Little Soldier, as far as I know, still maintains said white buffalo was slain as a result of a Cheyenne conspiracy.

See also:
- A White Buffalo's Death Breeds Suspicion and Lies

I'm not spoiling much by saying we may never know the whole truth, but the white buffalo was not mutilated by conspiratorial Native Americans wielding skinning knives, perhaps at the behest of Ted Nugent.

There was another character, though, who I found even more fascinating, but I couldn't plumb his strange background as much as I would have liked, primarily for the sake of column inches.

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Blind People, Little People Both Have Conventions in Dallas This Week. (We Thought You Should Know?)

Painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec will not make it to this week's Little People of America convention. Because, you know, he's French.
It just so happens that this week, both the Little People of America, which provides support to people with dwarfism, and the National Federation for the Blind, which advocates for people who can't see, are hosting their annual conferences in Dallas.

A coincidence, no doubt, but it got me thinking about logistics, or how exactly a hotel or convention center accommodates hundreds or thousands of people who have the same physical limitation. MSNBC reported on the steps Dallas hotels are taking to welcome the short-statured attendees of the LNA conference, which is happening at the Sheraton on Olive Street. This includes stools at registration desks and beside beds as well as dowel rods to reach buttons on the elevator. And DFW Airport is permanently installing retractable steps in all of its bathrooms to make reaching the sink easier.

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