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The Brief: Texas Has Its First Zika Birth Defect Case

Health officials said Wednesday that the first baby with Zika virus-linked birth defects in Texas was born a few weeks ago outside Houston to a mother who had contracted the virus in Colombia.

Under a sign warning about Zika virus, Josseline Lopez, 22, gets an ultrasound from technician Ivonne Murillo at Legacy Community Health Clinic in Houston on Feb. 25, 2016.

The Big Conversation

Health officials said Wednesday that the first baby with Zika virus-linked birth defects in Texas was born a few weeks ago outside Houston to a mother who had contracted the virus in Colombia.

As the Tribune’s Isabelle Taft reports, the infant in Harris County was born with microcephaly, a birth defect characterized by an underdeveloped brain that Zika can cause in babies if their mothers come down with the virus while pregnant.

State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt described the news as heartbreaking” in a statement. “This underscores the damage Zika can have on unborn babies,” he said. “Our state’s work against Zika has never been more vital.”

The state knows of 59 cases of Zika in Texas, all of which were contracted abroad, where the virus is actively circulating. State health officials believe local transmission of Zika is likely in Texas, though not on a large scale, based on previous experience with dengue, which is also a mosquito-borne virus,” Taft writes.

The news alarmed some experts who noted that Texas is awaiting more federal funding to help it prepare for a local Zika outbreak. A proposed Zika funding plan has stalled in Congress amid partisan gridlock — and Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, invoked the news of the Zika-affected baby to criticize Democrats,” Taft writes.  

Trib Must Reads

Patrick to Attend Town Hall With Obama, by Patrick Svitek — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is heading to the White House to participate in a town hall on race relations with President Barack Obama.

Cornyn Bill Would Make Killing Police Officer a Federal Crime, by Johnathan Silver — Days after five police officers were killed by a lone gunman in downtown Dallas, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced legislation Wednesday that would make killing a police officer a federal crime.

UT-Austin Faculty Can Ban Guns in Offices, by Madeline Conway — The University of Texas at Austin will give its faculty and staff the option of banning guns from their private offices when the state’s campus carry law goes into effect next month, under regulations UT System regents passed Wednesday.

Diagnosed With Leukemia, U.S. Rep. Ted Poe Ready to Fight, by Abby Livingston — U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, announced Wednesday morning that he was recently diagnosed with leukemia and will spend the rest of the summer concentrating on this battle.

Amid VP Chatter, Castro Defends HUD Program Changes, by Patrick Svitek — U.S. Housing Secretary Julián Castro on Wednesday defended his overhaul of a federal program that sells bad mortgages to private investors, rejecting the idea it was driven by politics.

Rate of Prison Spending Growth Outpaces Schools, by Khorri Atkinson — Over three decades, the amount of money Texas spends on jails and prisons has grown at a much faster rate than what it spends on public schools, a new federal study finds, but schools still receive significantly more money.

Summer School a Tossup After Testing Mishaps, by Kiah Collier — After the state decided standardized test results for 5th and 8th graders were unreliable, it said failing students didn't have to retake the tests to advance a grade. But districts were given wide discretion on what to do next.

See Which Texas Schools Have High Vaccine Exemption Rates, by Morgan Smith and Annie Daniel — The number of Texas students with non-medical exemptions to school immunization laws has soared statewide in the last decade. How does your school district fare? Check out our handy search tool to find out.

State Rep Seeks Investigation of Charter School, by Kiah Collier — Two months after lawyers for the Republic of Turkey filed a complaint against Harmony Public Schools, a high-ranking state representative has asked the Texas Attorney General to investigate allegations against the state’s largest charter school network.

Amid Scandal, Baylor Names New Athletic Director, by Madeline Conway — Baylor University has named a new athletic director, Mack Rhoades, to oversee a sports program mired in scandal over the school's handling of sexual assault allegations involving student athletes.


(Links below lead to outside websites; content might be behind paywall)

Republicans turn up heat in climate change caseHouston Chronicle

Texas Reps. Hurd, Jackson Lee will examine police, community relations as part of task force, The Dallas Morning News

Did Dallas have fewer 2016 shootings by police than other big cities?, Politifact

In race to fill Sen. Rodney Ellis' seat, tenure a top issueHouston Chronicle

March marks 1-year anniversary of Sandra Bland’s death, Austin American-Statesman

Operation Streamline crackdown on illegal immigration costly and ineffective, new report claims, San Antonio Express-News

Army launches internal review of Dallas shooter Micah Johnson’s military recordThe Dallas Morning News

Dallas shooter's parents say his Army discharge was honorable, he didn't have bomb materials, The Dallas Morning News

Black Houstonians use spending power to create change, Houston Chronicle

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick starts fundraising campaign for families of fallen Dallas police officers, The Dallas Morning News

Transgender bathroom issue headed to SCOTUS, Politico

Race Relations Are at Lowest Point in Obama Presidency, Poll Finds, The New York Times

On the stand: a Zetas figure who helped indict San Antonio smuggling rings, San Antonio Express-News

Quote to Note

As our country continues to grieve following last week’s tragedy in Dallas, we must come together in support of those who risk everything to keep us safe.” 

 — U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, in a statement introducing a bill that would make killing a police officer a federal crime

News From Home

•    Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the 2016 Libertarian Party nominee for president; Grammy Award-winning musician and Alamo enthusiast Phil Collins; Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick top the list of new speakers added to the 2016 Texas Tribune Festival lineup this week. Early bird pricing ends on Thursday so register today.

•    In the last week, we've published several investigations into what happens when border watchdogs turn criminal — from smuggling drugs and immigrants to getting mixed up with Mexican cartels. Revisit our Bordering on Insecurity project.

•    Some pundits are convinced a purple Texas is around the corner due to the state's burgeoning Latino population. Yet Texas gets redder and redder. Visit Pasadena, Texas, where Oscar Del Toro is registering potential voters as he plans his own city council race, in this installment of Postcards From The Great Divide, a series of short films about politics in nine states.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•   Life on the Border: Rhetoric or Reality? on Aug. 4 at The Centennial Club in McAllen

•   The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 23-25 at the University of Texas at Austin

•   TribFeast: A Dinner To Support Nonprofit Journalism on Sept. 24 at the University of Texas at Austin's Etter-Harbin Alumni Center

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