Texas Cops Are Going to Fight Like Hell Against Cell-Phone Privacy Protections

Categories: Legislature

Mark Fahey
Last night in Houston two masked men, armed with a revolver and a shotgun, stormed a Denny's and raided the cash register. The same scene has played out on security footage at dozens of Houston-area IHOPs and Denny's, albeit occasionally with bloodshed.

Houston police officer James Taylor, testifying before a Texas Senate committee this morning, said the department's investigative efforts have been fatally hamstrung by its inability to acquire cell-phone location data without a warrant.

"The inability for us to access data has led us to being unable to catch them," Taylor told the committee.

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Star-Telegram's Mac Engel Says Adrian Peterson Just Got a Little Carried Away

Categories: Media

Joe Bielawa
Not a child abuser, says Mac Engel.
Some situations are not nuanced. That didn't keep Mac Engel from making excuses for Adrian Peterson in this morning's Star-Telegram. Peterson, he says, may have abused his two sons when he allegedly beat them to the point of bleeding and scarring, but he is not a child abuser -- which is kind of like saying one isn't really a murderer if he or she only commits one or two murders.

"What Peterson did strictly comes down to where you stand on corporal punishment, because there are a lot of good people who administered similar whuppins before, even breaking the skin, and generations who turned out fine after having received them," Engel says.

Ignoring the massive post hoc fallacy about people turning out "fine" after receiving lacerations from their parents, there are a significant number of people who would assert that caregivers who administer those sort of whuppins -- to use Engel's clever euphemism --- are not, in fact, good people.

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Dallas Police Association President Wants More Ethical Behavior and Transparency in the Department

Categories: News

Thumbnail image for dallaspoliceassociation.jpg
The buzzword is "transparency."
The Dallas Police Association has a 10-point plan for reforming the department to help fix a problem with low moral among its members. Among other things, the plan calls for changes to policies regarding when police can use force, and new rules for foot chases and job transfers. And in an interview Tuesday, association President Ron Pinkston emphasized the importance of being transparent about the department's inner workings and of maintaining department ethics by following policy, reformed or not.

"You have to have ethics," Pinkston says. "You can't just worry about the officer at the bottom. You got to have the same at the top. Your leadership has to show they have ethics. You have to adhere to all the policies and guidelines of the Dallas Police Department, not just the guys at the bottom but the people at the top who are writing those policies. They have to follow those policies too."

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Two Legislative Hacks Are Bragging They Will Scare Off Witnesses in UT Law School Probe

Categories: Schutze

This is state Representative Trey Fischer sitting across the table from you when the detective asks you if Trey Fischer ever put the arm on you. What a smile, eh?

You have to take a deep breath first. Anchor yourself. Pinch your nose. Then you might be ready to contemplate the sheer unadorned shamelessness of the Texas Legislature in its confrontation with University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall of Dallas.

See also: Wallace Hall Was Right.

Back story: After an abortive in-house cover-up, the emergence of an insider whistle-blower and a series of sudden top-level resignations, the university system was forced to bring in a private company to look into reports by independent journalists that the UT Law School was providing student admissions to influential Texas legislators in return for favors.

Latest unbelievable instance of shamelessness: Two legislators, Democrat Trey Fischer and Republican Lyle Larson, both of San Antonio, are insisting that they be allowed to sit on all interviews of potential witnesses by Kroll, an international risk assessment investigations company headquartered in New York. What's more, they have served notice that they themselves are talking to potential witnesses before Kroll can get to them.

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Texas Judge Backs School District That Suspended Boy for Refusing Handshake

Seth Anderson via Flickr
Buck up, P.M. Someday you may be on a mural.
A kid who was suspended 10 days from high school is super awesome, according to a federal lawsuit filed by his parents. "He is currently taking honors classes and a higher level math class than most of his peers," says a suit filed by his mother, Tiffany Macklin. The boy, identified in court documents only as P.M., was valedictorian of his eighth-grade class in the Petrolia Consolidated Independent School District, a rural district about 140 miles northwest of Dallas. The suspension, his parents warn, could be disastrous.

"P.M. will likely be labeled a 'troublemaker,'" the suit says. "P.M. is going into high school with new teachers that do not necessarily know he has never been in trouble before."

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Surprise Bills from Texas Emergency Rooms Enough to Give Even the Insured a Heart Attack

Categories: Healthcare

Taber Andrew Bain
If you're in the back of an ambulance and have control of your hand, you should probably try to call the hospital and find out if the on-call ER staff are in your network.

What's that? Your arm just fell off? Naturally your first reaction might be something along the lines of, "Thank goodness I'm insured!" Your next reaction might be to scream in agony, but instead you might want to suck it up, save your breath and tell the ambulance driver not to take you to Baylor University Medical Center.

Don't misunderstand -- Baylor doctors will probably patch you up just fine. But according to a new report, even insured patients are more likely to be saddled with horrendous bills after visiting the emergency room at Baylor or dozens of other ERs across the state. On Monday, the Center for Public Policy Priorities outlined "balance billing" problems in Texas. That's the bill insured patients are saddled with after they unknowingly accept care from an out-of-network physician.

The report focused on emergency room care, and cited Baylor as one major in-network hospital that works with the three largest state providers -- Humana, BlueCross BlueShield and United Healthcare -- but does not have any in-network emergency room doctors.

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Proposed Texas Social Studies Textbooks Get Climate Change Wrong Too

Gavin Schaefer
Researchers say climate change has a valuable place in social studies classes. But that doesn't mean students should debate the cause or even existence of global warming.

As if Texas social studies textbooks haven't been getting enough flack for pointed political and religious biases, a report released Monday by the National Center for Science Education highlights inaccuracies about climate change in proposed state textbooks.

See also: SMU Academics Speak Out Against Political and Religious Bias in Texas Social Studies Textbooks

This fall marks the first time in 12 years that new social studies books are being adopted, and between a politically motivated review committee and publishers trying to balance Texas curriculum requirements with substantial material, the debate is heating up.

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Among Very Few Other Things, Cowboys Actually Good at Not Getting Arrested

Categories: Crime, Sports

The team that plays here is pretty disciplined. Off the field at least.
Since 2000, Dallas Cowboys players have been arrested only 14 times, well below league average, according to a report compiled by The New York Times' The Upshot blog from USA Today data.

NFL players have had 713 reported legal run-ins since USA Today started the database in January 2000. (It's maintained by sports writer Brent Schrotenboer.) The average squad has seen 22 incidents, while players for the most-arrested team, the Minnesota Vikings, have been on the wrong side of the law 44 times -- including the child abuse arrest of Palestine's Adrian Peterson last week and the four Vikings accused as part of the infamous "love boat" party in 2005.

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DMN Says Fired School Sleuth Didn't Break Rules. Maybe They Should Read DISD's Report.

Categories: Schutze

Wow, I am having major cognitive dissonance problems with a story in The Dallas Morning News today under the headline, "Breaking news: Report on fired Dallas ISD investigator Jeremy Liebbe does not find he violated laws or policies."

The first paragraph says, "A report on fired Dallas ISD investigator Jeremy Liebbe is critical of various decisions he made, including looking into his boss' criminal history, but it does not state that he violated any laws or policies."

But a copy of the report is attached to the story. I read the report. Unless the report was written in some kind of new hyper-ironic not-really language, it says plainly that Liebbe, a civil investigator for the district who was sacked and frog-walked out the door last July, violated both laws and policies.

See also: Lots More To Come In Saga of Suspended School District Sleuth

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The Future of Women's Healthcare in Texas Looks Bleak. What's Next?

Stephen Young
One of two Dallas clinics that will remain open.
Listening to the oral arguments before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday confirmed what advocates for reproductive rights feared upon seeing the three-judge panel selected to hear the Texas' appeal of a lower-court ruling striking down two sections of House Bill 2, the 2013 legislation enacted to restrict access to abortion. Two of the judges, Jerry E. Smith and Jennifer Elrod, seemed ready to rule in favor of the state, as they did in a previous challenge to HB2. They peppered Stephanie Toti, the attorney representing the clinics bringing the challenge, with questions about whether reducing the number of abortion providers in the state to eight would actually pose an "undue burden" to women in the state seeking abortions.

As defined in federal case law, a law fails to meet the undue burden standard if it is too restrictive of one's fundamental rights. The standard has also been applied when a law lacks what former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens called a "legitimate, rational justification."

No major medical organization has ever agreed with the contention made by proponents of HB2 and similar laws that its major requirements -- that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and that clinics providing abortions meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers -- make women safer. In fact, as Dr. Hal Lawrence, the CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said, the full implementation of the law could lead to women seeking out illegal abortions or failing to get necessary prenatal care, endangering themselves in the process.

See also: How Texas' New Abortion Restrictions Have Actually Impacted Access to the Procedure

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