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The Brief: Houston Iraqi Refugee Is Charged as Terror Suspect

Federal authorities in Houston announced on Thursday the arrest of an Iraqi man who immigrated to Houston four years ago, charging him as a terror suspect allegedly aligned with the Islamic State.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) speak at a press conference in the Capitol about Sen. Cruz’s Terrorist Refugee Infiltration Prevention Act of 2015 (S. 2302), in Washington, D.C., Dec. 8, 2015.

The Big Conversation

Federal authorities in Houston announced on Thursday the arrest of an Iraqi man who immigrated to Houston four years ago, charging him as a terror suspect allegedly aligned with the Islamic State.

Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan was one of three suspects arrested nationwide. The others were detained in California and Wisconsin, respectively.

The Tribune's Terri Langford reported that Al Hardan will appear before a federal magistrate later this morning. Al Hardan entered the country as a refugee sometime around November 2009 and was given permanent legal status in August of 2011.

Both Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz responded Thursday night with calls to tighten up the procedures on allowing refugees into the country.

Abbott said, "I once again urge the President to halt the resettlement of these refugees in the United States until there is an effective vetting process that will ensure refugees do not compromise the safety of Americans and Texans.”

"Cruz," according to the Tribune, "also called for a 'retroactive assessment' of refugees that have already been let into the United States. He said the government should especially focus on those from countries with 'high concentrations of radical Islamic terrorism.'"

Trib Must Reads

Texas Will Begin Tracking Pregnant Foster Youth, by Edgar Walters — Until this year, Texas had not kept track of how many children in the state's foster care system were pregnant or parenting — though experts estimate the rate is well above the general population's.

Analysis: The Future of the Texas House Could Be Seen in Eight Races, by Ross Ramsey — Will bragging rights in the Republican primaries for Texas House seats go to the management now in place or to those opposed to the current leaders? Watching these races involving incumbents will provide some answers.

Wayne Christian Resumes Railroad Commission Run, by Jim Malewitz — Wayne Christian has resumed his campaign for Texas railroad commissioner, ending a short hiatus that shook up the Republican primary contest.

Retirees Group Spars With Hunt Over Oncor Sale, by Jim Malewitz — America’s biggest retiree group wants state regulators to reject oilman Ray L. Hunt's proposal to buy the state’s biggest electric transmission company, suggesting it will shift wealth from everyday Texans to rich folks in suits.

Ted Cruz Links Marco Rubio to Citizenship Questions, by Patrick Svitek — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is tying questions about his citizenship, most recently raised by billionaire Donald Trump, to another foe in the GOP presidential field: Senate colleague Marco Rubio.

Indicted Trooper Surrenders, Will Plead Not Guilty, by Johnathan Silver — Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia, indicted Wednesday on a perjury charge related to his arrest of Sandra Bland, surrendered to Texas Rangers Thursday afternoon and was taken to the Waller County Jail.

Patrick: School Choice A Top Priority in 2017, by Kiah Collier — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday vowed to pass a bigger and better tax credit scholarship program — and possibly other school choice legislation — out of the Senate in 2017 and this time get it to the Governor's desk.

Abbott's Office Touts Business Tax Incentives, by Jim Malewitz — On the campaign trail, Greg Abbott suggested government should get "out of the business of picking winners and losers.” But his office strongly supports the taxpayer-funded incentives Texas uses to lure in businesses.

Cruz: Davis Showed Abortion is Losing Issue for Democrats, by Patrick Svitek — Ted Cruz on Thursday reached back to the 2014 election cycle to argue abortion is a losing issue for Democrats, holding up the race for Texas governor as prime evidence.

The Day Ahead

•    We're livestreaming Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's keynote address scheduled for 1 p.m. before the Texas Public Policy Foundation, where he is expected to make a major policy announcement. The livestream is courtesy of the conservative think tank.

•    And if you're up early enough, TPPF hosts a breakfast keynote, “Strategy and Democracy: A Conversation on the 2016 Presidential Elections,” at 8:30 a.m. at the Hilton Austin. Advisors from the Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal presidential campaigns are all scheduled to be on hand. The organization will also livestream this discussion for those unable to attend in person.


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott retweets woman's rape allegations against Bill Clinton, San Antonio Express-News

Ted Cruz wrestles with birther debate, Politico

Steve King as Cruz Iowa co-chair riles some conservatives, Politico

Phil Gramm, a role model for Ted Cruz, is backing Marco Rubio for president, The Dallas Morning News

Local governments prohibit guns despite attorney general's opinion, Amarillo Globe-News

Federal indictment details life, self-law of Bandidos, Houston Chronicle

Law may wrest school finance case from Travis County judges, The Dallas Morning News

Harris County officials outline plan to curb jail population, Houston Chronicle

Joe Allbaugh Named Interim Director of Oklahoma Corrections, The Associated Press

Hank Greenberg Gives $10 Million to Super PAC Backing Jeb Bush, Wall Street Journal

Juárez seminary readies for Pope Francis' visit, El Paso Times

Quote to Note

“It was easy in the early days to laugh off birthers as crazy or being on the fringe, but when a lie is repeated enough, people start to believe it. I realize they have this ‘frenemies’ pact, it’s served them well, but once you start to get down to the last weeks of the campaign, that’s when everything starts getting thrown up against a wall."

— Former Obama staffer Tommy Vietor on Donald Trump's decision this week to raise the issue of Ted Cruz's Canadian birth

Today in TribTalk

Inviting Texas women into politics, by Susan Combs — Politics is often viewed as a particularly brutal combat sport, and not many women want to engage in it. But because the power to tax, regulate and change lives comes from and through politics, it is imperative for women to be well represented at all levels.

Texas' foster care system needs help, not condemnation, by Darlene Byrne — Every child deserves safety, permanency and loving care, but can we expect as much from any state agency — let alone one that is stretched so thin and faces so many obstacles in its efforts to care for more than 30,000 children?

News From Home

•    Tune in for the latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUT. In this week's segment, KUT’s Ben Philpott and The Texas Tribune's Jay Root hear from Tribune reporter Patrick Svitek on what it's like to cover the Cruzin' to Caucus bus tour in Iowa.

•    You've made it through your first post-holiday week — and so have we! Check out the Tribune's ambitious coverage plans for 2016, and lend your support today!

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation with state Reps. Celia Israel, Eddie Rodriguez and Paul Workman on Jan. 14 at St. Edward's University in Austin

•    A Conversation with Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Jan. 21 at the Austin Club

•    Symposium on Urban Public Education on Jan. 22 at the University of Texas at El Paso

•    The Texas Tribune's second Texas-centric Trivia Night on Jan. 31 at The Highball in Austin

•    A Conversation with Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer on Feb. 4 at the Austin Club

•    The Ticket: A Live Recording and Democratic Primary Debate Watch Party on Feb. 11 at KUT Public Media Studios in Austin

•    A Conversation with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and Rep. Jose Manuel Lozano on Feb. 25 at Texas A&M University-Kingsville

•    A Conversation with Sen. Carlos Uresti and Rep. Poncho Nevárez on March 23 at Sul Ross State University in Alpine

•    Symposium on Transportation on March 29 at Texas A&M University in College Station

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