Five stories that have North Texas talking: a trip to the bar could cost you more in the new year; Nancy Brinker takes a big pay cut; musician Benjamin Curtis has died, and more:
- Benjamin Curtis, part of the Dallas music scene in the late ‘90s and 2000s, died this week in New York after battling cancer. He was 35. Curtis and his brother Brandon were members of UFOFU, a local rock group, the Dallas Observer reports. Then Curtis played drums for Tripping Daisy. In 2000, Curtis and his brother launched Secret Machines. “Their debut full-length project, 2004’s Now Here Is Nowhere, broke nationally to much critical acclaim,” the Observer reports. “It will long be remembered as a Dallas classic.” In 2007, Curtis formed School of Seven Bells. He announced his T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma diagnosis in February. “Musicians from Texas, Oklahoma and New York alike rallied around Curtis,” the Observer reports. “The Polyphonic Spree, The Strokes, and Devendra Banhart were just a few notable names who participated in fundraising events for Curtis this year.”
- “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” a novel by Dallas author Ben Fountain, will be featured on today’s Reader Review edition of The Diane Rehm Show on KERA 90.1 FM. The book discussion, a rebroadcast, airs at 9 a.m. The show describes the book: “A deadly firefight with Iraqi insurgents caught on video by Fox News has transformed eight U.S. soldiers into media stars. Nineteen-year-old Billy Lynn is the lead character in a novel about the surviving men of the ‘Bravo Squad’ and their brief return home. As the squad mourns the death of a fellow soldier, they are sent on a two-week nationwide ‘victory tour’ to drum up support for the war. But their painful reality is obscured as they are honored during a Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game.” Fountain talked about his book in 2012 with Krys Boyd on KERA’s “Think.”
- A change in Texas sales taxes could cost you when you buy a mixed drink at a bar in 2014. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that changes enacted by the state Legislature that take effect Wednesday cut the taxes businesses pay on mixed drinks sold, from 14 percent to 6.7 percent. But purchasers of mixed drinks will pay a new sales tax of 8.25 percent — the same tax on beer and wine. Lawmakers said the goal of the bill is to “reduce hidden taxes and make the taxes on businesses that sell only beer and wine more equitable with those that sell mixed drinks,” the newspaper reports. Michael Klein, president of the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance, told the Star-Telegram the new system is more complicated and creates room for error. But Richie Jackson of the Texas Restaurant Association says he thinks vendors now have more flexibility. Jackson predicts restaurants will handle the tax changes differently, with some choosing to pass along slightly higher taxes to customers and some not. This is one of nearly 50 new Texas laws that take effect starting Wednesday.
- Nancy Brinker has taken a big pay cut. Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced Monday that Brinker has taken a $159,000 reduction. She’ll still be paid well – she’s getting $390,000 in the new year, The Dallas Morning News reports. Brinker had earned $549,000 in 2012 as the group’s chief executive. Brinker’s high salary had been criticized during the controversy created in 2012 when Komen canceled its funding to Planned Parenthood. (The funding was eventually reinstated.) None of Komen’s employees got bonuses in 2012 or 2013, The News reported. Brinker, 67, is now the group’s chairwoman of global strategy. “Brinker’s new salary went into effect in June, when Judith Salerno was named the nonprofit’s new CEO,” The News reports. “Brinker’s current focus is on building Komen’s global outreach, with an emphasis on the growing cancer crisis in developing nations. She also continues to raise money for the organization.”
- Which city has better internet service – San Antonio or Riga, Latvia? The answer might surprise you. The New York Times reports: “San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the United States, a progressive and economically vibrant metropolis of 1.4 million people sprawled across south-central Texas. But the speed of its Internet service is no match for the Latvian capital, Riga, a city of 700,000 on the Baltic Sea. Riga’s average Internet speed is at least two-and-a-half times that of San Antonio’s, according to Ookla, a research firm that measures broadband speeds around the globe. In other words, downloading a two-hour high-definition movie takes, on average, 35 minutes in San Antonio — and 13 in Riga.” Oh, and internet service is cheaper in Riga – Riga’s service costs about one-fourth that of San Antonio. The Times continues: “The United States, the country that invented the Internet, is falling dangerously behind in offering high-speed, affordable broadband service to businesses and consumers, according to technology experts and an array of recent studies.”