The Big Conversation

The latest instance in Texas of an infection by Zika virus has surfaced in Dallas County. Grabbing headlines this time, though, were the circumstances of the infection.

The patient, The Dallas Morning News' Avi Selk and Seema Yasmin reported, "is 'the first U.S. case of Zika virus infection in a non-traveler in the continental United States.'

"Local health officials went even further. 'Zika can be transmitted from mosquito to humans, humans to mosquitoes — and now, we know, through sexual transmission,' said Dallas County health director Zachary Thompson."

The News reported that the patient was infected after having sex with someone who had recently traveled in Venezuela, one of the main countries affected by the virus that has been linked to birth defects where babies are being born with small heads.

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The Tribune's Edgar Walters reported that no cases have been documented of the virus spread in the continental United States through mosquito bite, which is the most common form of transmission. The outbreak has led leaders in some countries to caution women against becoming pregnant until the disease is contained.

In Dallas, local leaders were urging residents not to overreact.

“If I went outside to get the paper and forgot to spray myself and a mosquito bit me, do I need to run to a doctor and have myself checked for Zika?” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins asked himself, as reported by the News.

“No, you don’t,” he answered.

Jenkins added, “You don’t have any proof there’s any Zika-infected mosquito anywhere in Dallas County. If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant and you are considering going to Dallas, this is a safe place.”

Trib Must Reads

Across Texas, Uber Puts Cities in Tough Spot, by Madlin Mekelburg — Three Texas cities are facing serious questions about how much to alter local statutes in order to persuade Uber, an app-based vehicle-for-hire company, to continue operating.

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Lawyers for Texas Talk Strategy on SCOTUS Immigration Hearing, by Julián Aguilar — As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear a case challenging President Barack Obama's executive order on illegal immigration, the two top lawyers for Texas spoke to the Tribune about what the state is fighting for.

In Fort Worth House Race, Geren Faces Challenge From Family Friend, by Matthew Watkins — State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, is once again a target of conservative activists frustrated with House leadership. Geren says he's confident with his conservative credentials and will run on his record.

Molly White, Hugh Shine Get Personal in House Race, by Edgar Walters — Incumbent Tea Party darling state Rep. Molly White and challenger Hugh Shine are clamoring to tell voters about the personal experiences they say most qualify them as the most ardent foes of abortion and illegal immigration.

Analysis: Is Attorney General Ken Paxton Feeling Lucky?, by Ross Ramsey — It’s possible to imagine a way for the attorney general to raise money for a legal defense fund, but it’s perilous without a favorable advisory opinion from ethics regulators. And they decided this week not to approve such an opinion.

Texas Led Nation in 2015 Exonerations, Report Finds, by Johnathan Silver — A record number of people wrongly convicted of crimes were exonerated in 2015, with 42 wrongful convictions in Harris County drug cases boosting the nationwide tally to 149.

Four Texas Colleges Reach Carnegie "Tier One" Status, by Matthew Watkins — Four Texas universities — Texas Tech University, the University of North Texas, the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Texas at Arlington — have reached a major milestone in their quests to join the top tier of universities in the nation.

Ted Cruz Apologizes for What Ben Carson Called "Dirty Tricks”, by Jamie Lovegrove — Ben Carson's campaign said it has accepted an apology from Ted Cruz over messages Cruz's campaign sent to supporters Monday evening in Iowa suggesting that Carson might be about to drop out of the race.

Indicted Border Patrol Agent Has Two Birth Certificates, by Jay Root — In an unusual twist to an already unusual case, federal immigration authorities are questioning the nationality of a U.S. Border Patrol agent accused of capital murder and drug cartel ties in deep South Texas.

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Analysis: Iowa Clears GOP Skies, Darkens Democratic Outlook, by Ross Ramsey — The Iowa caucuses started to winnow things down. Texas has a chance, along with the other March 1 primary states, to decide who the major-party nominees will be. That’s relatively rare.

Marco Rubio Announces Texas Leadership Team, by Abby Livingston — The Rubio Texas team now includes current and former state representatives James Frank, Larry Gonzales, Jason Isaac, Linda Harper-Brown, Martha Wong, Peggy Hamric and Myra Crownover.

The Day Ahead

•    The Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee meets at 8 a.m. at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville. The committee will hear testimony on how the state can be better prepared for natural disasters.

•    The House Energy Resources Committee meets at 11 a.m. in the Petroleum Museum in Midland. The committee will hear invited testimony on the impact of declining oil and natural gas prices on the economy, examine if current laws are enough for the prosecution of oilfield theft and conduct oversight of agencies and programs under its jurisdiction.

Elsewhere

With water issues on tap, House committee looks at statewide solutions, Austin American-Statesman

Report: Jeb Bush Campaign Paid $2,800 For Every Vote In Iowa, Talking Points Memo

Stage set for ultra-expensive shoot out in San Antonio's Senate District 26, San Antonio Express-News

7 Democrats running for Austin House seat differ on style, strategy, Austin American-Statesman

McClelland to retire as Houston's top cop after six years, Houston Chronicle

Texas cedes No. 1 spot in small biz jobs rankings, The Dallas Morning News

UTSA Students Fight for Child Care at Downtown Campus, Texas Observer

Frullo edges Landtroop in most recent campaign contributions report, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Quintanilla takes in large campaign haul, El Paso Times

Austin clerk validates petition seeking election on Uber, Lyft rules, Austin American-Statesman

Quote to Note

“This is a big deal.”

— Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, discussing how two Hispanics, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, were able to be two of the top three presidential candidates in the Iowa caucus.

Today in TribTalk

Using new tools to fight human trafficking, by John Cornyn and Ted Poe — While we have already seen positive outcomes in the first eight months following impactful changes in federal law to combat human trafficking, the work is just beginning in the fight against 21st-century slavery in the United States.

Trib Events for the Calendar

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

•    The 2016 Elections: The Republican Race for Railroad Commissioner forum on Feb. 8 at KLRU Studio 6A in Austin

•    A Conversation with Sen. José Menéndez on Feb. 11 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

•    Live Post-Primary TribCast on March 2 at the Austin Club

•    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