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The Brief: Sept. 17, 2015

A couple of stories — the GOP presidential debate and the arrest of an Irving teenager for bringing a homemade clock to school — dominated the day on Wednesday.

The GOP presidential debate in Simi Valley, California on Sept. 16, 2015.

The Big Conversation

A couple of stories dominated the day on Wednesday. One of them — the GOP presidential debate — had been hotly anticipated for weeks while the other — the arrest of an Irving teenager for bringing a homemade clock to school — quickly grabbed the spotlight for how unexpected and seemingly unreal the story was.

GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina received much of the accolades for their performances at the debate Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

The Tribune's Abby Livingston reported that Texas presidential hopeful Ted Cruz mostly kept a low profile in the encounter among the top 11 contenders for the GOP nomination for president.

"Cruz's clear insistence that he will not alienate Trump meant that in this context, he was left on the sidelines for much of the night," Livingston wrote. "CNN moderator Jake Tapper did not ask Cruz a question until nearly thirty minutes into the two-hour debate, and even before the night began, it was clear there was little upside for Cruz to to engage with Trump, or anyone else."

Meanwhile, reaction to the Monday arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old student at MacArthur High School, hit critical mass on Wednesday with public figures from President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg all offering statements of support.

Irving police on Wednesday continued to say their decision to arrest Mohamed was "appropriate," and that Mohamed's race had nothing to do with his arrest, as the Tribune's Jordan Rudner and Madlin Mekelburg reported. Others said the arrest raises troubling questions as to whether Mohamed was treated more harshly because he is Muslim.

"Instead of encouraging his curiosity, intellect, and ability, the Irving ISD saw fit to throw handcuffs on a frightened 14 year-old Muslim boy wearing a NASA T-shirt and then remove him from school," Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement.

The arrest of Mohamed even earned a mention Wednesday evening in the undercard debate for the four GOP candidates who failed to qualify for the main stage. One of those candidates, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, said, "I don't think a 14-year-old should ever get arrested for bringing a clock to school."

Trib Must-Reads

Texas to Injured State Worker: "You Have Been Sued", by Jim Malewitz – Teresa Hammond, who was injured on the job at a youth lock-up, thought she had won her more than two-year battle against the state’s workers' compensation insurer. But last month, the state sued her, leaving her scrambling to find help.

Experts: Expect Early 2016 School Finance Ruling, by Kiah Collier – Citing past rulings and politics, experts and insiders are predicting the Texas Supreme Court will rule in the latest school finance appeal early next year, with some predicting a summertime special legislative session.

A Look at How Texas' Uninsured Rate Has Fallen, by Edgar Walters and Jolie McCullough – While Texas' rate of uninsured people has fallen below 20 percent for the first time in more than a decade, new U.S. Census data released Thursday shows disparities in access to health insurance.

Rate of Poverty Dips in Texas, But Some Metro Areas See Rise, by Alexa Ura and Annie Daniel – The share of Texans living in poverty continued to dip slightly in 2014, according to census figures released Thursday. But poverty is prevalent in many parts of the state. Take a closer look at poverty rates for several metro areas in the state.

Abbott Opens Grassroots Tour in Rio Grande Valley, by Julián Aguilar –  Saying he was making good on a promise he made to the supporters who helped usher him into office, Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday launched a nine-city tour of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley.

Sandra Bland Grand Jury Judge Faults New Selection System, by Terri Langford – A Waller County judge who helped choose grand jurors to consider the evidence in the death of Sandra Bland is not happy about the state's new grand jury selection process, saying it unfairly puts too much of the selection process on judges.

CIA Declassifies Kennedy, Johnson Documents, by Jordan Rudner – The CIA on Wednesday unveiled roughly eight years of presidential daily briefings from the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson — the largest-ever release of such material.

Texas' Uninsured Rate Dips, Remains Highest in Nation, by Edgar Walters – For the first time in more than a decade, Texas’ uninsured rate dipped below 20 percent, analysts said Wednesday following the release of U.S. Census data.

Relationships Key to New UT-Austin Athletics Director, by Matthew Watkins – In a contrast with his predecessor, interim athletics director Mike Perrin is known for the relationships he has built across the University of Texas at Austin campus. He said Wednesday that he hopes to use those relationships to rebuild fan support.

The Day Ahead

•    The Texas Association of Business hosts its Higher Education Conference from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. a few blocks east of the Capitol. A press event beforehand will take up TAB's proposal to have 60 percent of Texans, ages 25-34, with a postsecondary degree or certification by 2030.

•    UT-Austin's 29th president Gregory Fenves has his inauguration ceremony at 3 p.m. in Bass Concert Hall on the university campus.

Elsewhere

GOP candidates weigh in on Ahmed Mohamed arrest for ‘hoax bomb', The Dallas Morning News

Handcuffed for Making Clock, Ahmed Mohamed, 14, Wins Time With Obama,  The New York Times 

Trump leads GOP candidates in personal attacks during televised debate, San Antonio Express-News

It’s still Trump, but he gets as much as he gives at second debate, Austin American-Statesman

For UT’s Gregory L. Fenves, it’s a time of promise and many challenges, Austin American-Statesman

Bus crash reignites seat-belt debate, Houston Chronicle

In a first, Texas court recognizes same-sex common law marriage, Houston Chronicle 

Quote to Note

“The marketplace was not friendly and I can’t figure out why not. We all know he was a great governor. We all know he was a proven conservative. We all know that he could get the job done in Washington like he did in Texas.”

— Gov. Greg Abbott to conservative radio host Mark Davis on Wednesday morning, on Rick Perry's short-lived run for president.

News From Home

•    Check out our latest reporting collaboration, a seven-part series done in partnership with the Beaumont Enterprise on the "Road From Rita." Here's the second installment:

Many Southeast Texans who evacuated before Hurricane Rita in 2005 weren't clear on how to prepare before fleeing a storm. Next time, they will have personal experience to pull from.

Today in TribTalk

Austin's lawsuit is an abuse of the property tax code, by Paul Bettencourt – Instead of waiting to see the positive effects of new legislation, the city of Austin is twisting the state's decades-old property tax code into a grandstanding attack on commercial property owners.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation with UT-Austin President Gregory Fenves on Sept. 21 in Austin

•    A Conversation on The Road from Hurricane Rita on Sept. 22 in Beaumont

•    A Conversation on The Environment: The Next Five Years on Sept. 28 in Corpus Christi

•    A Conversation on Criminal Justice: The Next Five Years on Oct. 6 in Huntsville

•    A Conversation on God & Governing on Oct. 7 in Austin

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

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