Chasing The World: One Man's Crazy World Cup Quest

Categories: Cover Story

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Catherine Downes
Mexico v Croatia, Ojos Locos

The roof of my car has sprung a leak in the middle of a tropical rainstorm, and the backseat is rapidly flooding. I'd pull over, but I've been stuck on an under-construction highway for the last half hour, and time is slipping away.

We're two weeks into the World Cup. At the behest of my editor, I have agreed to search Dallas for 32 people from the 32 countries competing in the tournament, in the spirit of North Texan multiculturalism. Moving here from Europe, I figured that right-wing, gun-toting Texas would be wall-to-wall with rich, angry white people. What I've found over the last two weeks is that it's far more diverse and interesting than England. I should have looked at Wikipedia.

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How Congress Offers the Worst Job in America, Starring Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Former Dallas Mayor and Others

Categories: Cover Story

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Scott Anderson
Imagine, in a moment of suspended disbelief, that your job pays 174 grand a year. And comes with a $1.3 million expense account. And a staff of eighteen Ivy League yes-men whose sole duty is to bray loud and wide about the miracle that is you -- when they're not babysitting your kids or fetching your dry cleaning, that is.

You get free travel to anywhere on the globe. A private dining room and a private gym replete with swimming pool, sauna and steam bath.

Best of all, you're only required to show up for the equivalent of four months per year.

Former congressman Tom Tancredo had this life for a decade. By the time it was over, he'd caught that affliction known to anyone who hates his job: a fear of Monday mornings. "As I drove to work, I'd get a knot in my stomach, and it would just start to grow," Tancredo says.

Here's why:

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Adventures in a Car-Free Dallas: The Great Race to the Bar

Categories: Cover Story

You know how the Amazing Race works? Well, this is like that, but we could only get Observer staffers to do it if we promised alcohol at the end. Tracie, our art director, takes her car, Gavin, the web editor, takes a Yellow Cab, Catherine, our editorial assistant, takes Lyft, Eric, our fearless news blogger, cycles to Deep Ellum, Amy takes DART, and Marie will eventually take Uber if Warren ever shows up. Who will make it first? Will everyone like their beer? There's only one way to find out.

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Academic Postmortem of Tornado that Killed Tim Samaras Is Chilling

Categories: Cover Story

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Charity Head/KWTV News 9
Tim Samaras' Chevy Cobalt on Reuter Road, southwest of El Reno, Oklahoma.
The American Meteorological Society has released a preliminary version of its after-action report on the El Reno, Oklahoma, tornado, which killed noted storm chaser Tim Samaras, his son Paul and chase partner Carl Young. The result, even in dry, acronym-heavy academic language, manages to serve as both an enlightening and horrifying account of storm chasing's worst day.

See also: The Last Ride of Legendary Storm Chaser Tim Samaras).

A storm chaser who heeded the bad feeling in his gut and decided to hang back that day told me the tornado was "designed to kill storm chasers." This report indicates he's more right than he could have known. Doppler imaging pegged the tornado's width at 2.5 miles, the widest ever documented. But the main circulation was crawling with smaller tornadoes, some moving at speeds of 260 feet per second (177 mph), according to the report. The authors conclude, "it is likely that no clear direction to safety was apparent."

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National Weather Service Downgrades the Monster Tornado that Killed Tim Samaras

Categories: Cover Story

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Charity Head/KWTV News 9
Tim Samaras' Chevy Cobalt on Reuter Road, southwest of El Reno, Oklahoma.
In this week's feature, we tell the story of Tim Samaras, one of the most respected tornado scientists in the country. On May 31, he, his son Paul and chase partner Carl Young navigated back roads southwest of El Reno, Oklahoma, beneath dark, circulating clouds. Just after 6 that evening, as they tracked parallel to a rain-shrouded tornado, it wheeled on them.

As fellow chaser Dan Robinson was pummeled by its outer circulation just a half mile or so ahead of them, he unwittingly captured their final moments with his rear dash cam. Samaras' white Chevy Cobalt was found later that evening, a compacted, unrecognizable hull. Samaras, his son and Young did not survive.

Initially, the National Weather Service classified the El Reno tornado as an EF-3 on a scale of one to five -- five being the most powerful and destructive. It received this designation because the tornado passed largely through the remote farm country. The Enhanced Fujita Scale is based entirely on damage, and with little of it for the survey team to observe, it received a middling rating.

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Hostess: Dead by Murder, Suicide, or Natural Causes? Uh ... Yes?

Categories: Cover Story

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Catherine Downes
In this week's cover story, we examine the demise of Irving-based Hostess, purveyor of Wonder Bread, Ho Hos, Twinkies and Ding Dongs -- basically all the stuff you should never put in your body. These days, pretty much everything is political, even the fate of snack food.

Can blame for the company's ongoing liquidation following nearly a year in Chapter 11 proceedings be placed at the feet of the unions, which some say are grand, burdensome anachronisms in a contemporary marketplace? Others pin it on Wall Street. Like all the other companies that have been Bain Capital-ed by private equity barons, they say, Hostess got ransacked, and no wonder it went under. Look at all that debt. The company was completely upside-down!

Over the course of my reporting, however, I reached a different conclusion. There's nuance (shocker!) in the tale of the Twinkie's last, rattling gasps. Rest easy, everybody. There's plenty of blame to go around! Oh, and you probably won't be without you cream-filled sponge cake for long, if you actually eat that stuff. Like Jesus, Twinkie will almost assuredly rise from death.

In the meantime, take a look at this brief history of its storied life:

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

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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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Co-Creator of White Buffalo: An American Prophecy: Investigation into Animal's Death a "Crock of Shit"

Categories: Cover Story, Film

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Tristan Elwell
In this week's edition, the cover story chronicles the short life and ambiguous death of Lightning Medicine Cloud, the rare white buffalo born to Hunt County rancher Arby Little Soldier. To the Lakota Oyate, the animal was prophecy, heralding the return of the prophet White Buffalo Calf Woman, and a crossroads for mankind.

The white buffalo died in April before its first birthday, and what followed can't be good for any of us if you believe in the prophecy. I won't spoil the story here, but suffice to say the means by which the white buffalo met its untimely end are ... murky. Little Soldier, of the Lakota Oyate and the Sahnish people, claims the calf was murdered in a Cheyenne conspiracy. Investigators from the Hunt County Sheriff's Office and Texas Rangers think it probably died of natural causes.

So it will be interesting to see what brothers/filmmakers Richard and Ethan Marten do with this unsettled, acrimonious tale. Broadly, their film, "White Buffalo: An American Prophecy," is about galactic alignment, the cataclysm predicted by the Mayan calendar in 2012 and the white buffalo, herald of a transformative era. The film is slated for release sometime during the first quarter of 2013, funded segment by segment via Kickstarter.


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Jury Convicts Steven Lawayne Nelson of Arlington Pastor's Murder

Categories: Cover Story, Crime

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Tarrant County Sheriff's Office
Steven Lawayne Nelson, photographed in a Tarrant County jail, following a fistfight with deputies.
Steven Lawayne Nelson was found guilty Monday morning in the slaying of Clint Dobson, a 28-year-old pastor who was discovered in Arlington's NorthPointe Baptist with a plastic bag clinging to his face. Investigators say Nelson wielded a Daisy air pistol during the March 2011 robbery that ended in Dobson's murder. The pastor was severely beaten with some blunt object, but he died of suffocation.

His assistant, Judy Elliott, 67, was bludgeoned half to death; her husband was unable to recognize her at first. Nelson, 25, stole a laptop from the office, along with credit cards and Elliott's Mitsubishi Galant. He later sent a text message to a friend that read, "I did some shit the other day, cuz. I fucked up, cuz. Real bad," according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Whether he was expressing guilt or fear of arrest, it didn't stop him from hitting The Parks at Arlington mall with the stolen cards. Cashiers later identified him.

Nelson swore on the stand that two accomplices did all the killing, but the blood spatters found on his counterfeit Air Jordan's, the print the sole left behind, and the testimony of the man who bought the stolen laptop said otherwise. It took the jury just over an hour to reach a guilty verdict, according to Star-Telegram reporter Dianne Hunt's tweets. Now comes the penalty phase, where prosecutors will seek death.

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Dallas Stripper Sues Baby Dolls, Claims Club Shorted Her on Wages and Overtime

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Forget about worker's comp if you slip in those heels.
Strip clubs are the brave new frontier in employment lawsuits. Women who were for years treated as "independent contractors" are filing suit in droves against their current or former employers. All of them want basically the same thing: the minimum wage and overtime money they feel they should have gotten while lap-dancing and pole-swinging for tips alone. Many also want compensation for years of unfair "house fees" and the tips they say they were forced to share with D.J.s, "house moms," valets, waitresses and sometimes even their bosses.

Esther Sue Eliazo is the latest dancer filing a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claim against her former employer, local topless joint Baby Dolls. In her suit, filed this morning in federal district court, the Tarrant County woman claims the saloon let her work over 40 hours a week without paying her minimum wage or overtime.

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