April 01, 2015
Texas has the third highest rate of HIV infections in the country, but that didn’t stop lawmakers from passing an amendment that defunds HIV/STD prevention programs Tuesday.
Texas has the third highest rate of HIV infections in the country, but that didn’t stop lawmakers from passing an amendment that defunds HIV/STD prevention programs Tuesday. The amendment to the House budget proposal—offered by Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R-Kaufman)—diverts $3 million over the next biennium to abstinence-only sexual education programs.
House Democrats fought against the amendment in a debate that rapidly devolved into awkward farce, with Rep. Spitzer revealing details of his own sexual history as proof of the effectiveness of abstinence. For those keeping tabs at home, he was a virgin until marrying his wife at age 29, although he declined to answer a question from Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) on whether she was the first person he propositioned. “Decorum,” shouted state Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs).
Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) asked Spitzer just how much money is needed for abstinence education in Texas, which receives more federal funding than any other state. Spitzer responded that additional funds are needed as long as people are still having sex before marriage. His goal, he said, was for everyone to know that “abstinence is the best way to prevent HIV.”
“My goal is for everyone to be HIV/AIDS free,” Turner said.
Turner said that while he thinks abstinence programs are valid, HIV and STD prevention programs are too.
“Does it make sense if you have two children to take food from one to feed the other?” Turner said. “You’re taking from one valid program in order to go to the other and I think that is wrong.”
March 31, 2015
Five of the six officers face life sentences for their participation in what authorities say is a corrupt organization whose members dangled a drug dealer from an 18th story balcony to get him to divulge the password to his computer
The trial of six former Philadelphia narcotics officers accused of robbing drug dealers in a 42-page indictment that read like a script for a Hollywood action movie is expected to begin in federal court Monday.
Five of the six officers face life sentences for their participation in what authorities say is a corrupt organization whose members dangled a drug dealer from an 18th story balcony to get him to divulge the password to his computer. Others were beaten with with metal bars, according to court documents, and kicked detainees in the teeth.
The officers, Perry Betts, Thomas Liciardello, Linwood Norman, Brian Reynolds, John Speiser, and Michael Spicer, were taken into custody July. All but Liciardello, the accused ringleader, have been out on bail.
Defense attorneys declined to comment on the case, citing a gag order. But court filings indicate that lawyers plan to challenge the credibility of witnesses, many of whom are criminals with unsavory pasts.
That list includes Officer Jeffrey Walker, a police officer who planted cocaine on a a drug dealer as a ruse to steal the dealer's house keys. He then stole $15,000 from the man's home in a 2013 sting orchestrated by an FBI informant. Walker pleaded guilty last year, but agreed to testify against these officers.
To convict the former officers on the most serious charges under racketeering and corrupt organizations, or RICO statutes, prosecutors have presented a list of more than 100 potential witnesses, along with bank records, credit card statements and casino receipts. They also say they plan to present text messages between Walker and Liciardello made after Walker became a confidential informant, and a recorded conversation between Liciardello, Reynolds and an FBI informant.
Prosecutors have been forced to withdraw a handful of counts against the six police officers, citing difficulties with witnesses. In one instance, prosecutors were forced to dismiss two charges against the police officers after the facts alleged in a lawsuit against the city did not match statements he made before a grand jury.