Laura Rice

Producer, Morning Edition

Laura joined the KUT team in April 2012. She works with Jennifer Stayton each weekday morning to bring you the latest local news during Morning Edition, hosts the noon newscast and reports for on-air and online. You'll also hear Laura with the morning news headlines on KUTX and filling in for Jennifer during the morning drive-time. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.

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Laura Rice/KUT

The United States is taking on Ghana today in its first game of the World Cup. The two teams have only met twice before – and Ghana has won both times.

I was in Ghana earlier this year for a journalism exchange program sponsored by the U.S. State Department. There, I met Gary Al-Smith a journalist at Citi FM  – who, though only in his 20’s, is considered his country’s foremost soccer – or football – expert.

Jack Plunkett

Henry Winkler – better known as Arthur Fonzarelli in iconic 1970s sitcom “Happy Days,” and Barry Zukerkorn in cult favorite "Arrested Development" – was in Austin recently, accepting the first-ever Achievement in Television Excellence Award from the ATX Television Festival.

Winkler talked about his battle with dyslexia, the struggle to get casting directors to see beyond the Fonz, and his love for Austin barbecue. He also offered a lot of advice.

We've collected his best advice in this 90-second clip. Listen: 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Update: Check out our photos from the first ever Austin X Games in the slideshow above. And see more on the KUTX Flickr page.

Original Story (June 6): The X Games are underway for the first time in Austin.

Most of the extreme sports events are happening at the Circuit of the Americas track.

Morgan Wade has competed in the X Games before. But this year will be different… because he’s practically a hometown boy.

“It’s always nice to have a hometown crowd cheering you on," Wade says. "It’s different than all the other places we’ve been, obviously, because Texas is bigger and better than everywhere else we’ve already been.”


Update: The City of Kyle has banned the possession of e-cigarettes by minors.

The Kyle City Council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance – making it illegal for minors to use e-cigarettes and for businesses or individuals to sell or distribute them to anyone under 18.

The ordinance was researched and development by the Kyle Youth Advisory Council – made up of local high schoolers – who say they were concerned about the trend.

Those who break the rule could face a fine of up to $500 and be required to perform community service or attend a tobacco-awareness program.

Television is getting a bit more respect these days. For one, it’s where Academy Award winners such as Matthew McConaughey and Kevin Spacey have recently focused their talents.

TV’s resurgence includes getting its very own festival – which kicks off today in Austin.

Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson founded the ATX Television Festival. They talked with KUT about the third annual fest – which they’re calling “Season Three.”

Tina Rowden

Texas is the setting of a new AMC show touted as the next “Mad Men.”

Halt and Catch Fire” made its television debut last night. The show follows an unlikely group of computer geniuses in the early 1980's in the so-called "Silicon Prairie."

KUT talked with the show’s creators – Chris Cantwell and Chris Rogers – at a busy downtown Austin restaurant when they premiered the program at South by Southwest.

National Weather Service

Update: A Flash Flood Watch remains in effect for much of Central Texas until noon.

Original Story (5:44 a.m.): Central Texas is getting some much-needed rain. The numbers and affected areas are changing constantly. So here's a roundup of how to find the latest information for your neighborhood:

1. Road Closures/Low Water Crossing Closures Current flood information and emergency road closures in the City of Austin, Travis County, Sunset Valley and Cedar Park. Information is automatically updated. Red dots indicate low water crossing closures and the list on the right provides details. Updates are also posted to Twitter.

2. Rain Totals

Some parts of Central Texas have received as much as an inch and a half of rain since midnight – including Llano and Elgin.

There’s no shortage of news on how rapidly Austin is growing, but a new report puts that expansion in a larger context, dubbing Austin "the nation’s capital for population growth."

New U.S. Census data shows much of the nation's growth is concentrated in Texas, with Austin at the epicenter. Austin-area cities San Marcos, Georgetown and Cedar Park are all recognized for high percentage growth.

For the city of Austin, that growth meant 21,000 new residents between 2012 and 2013. State Demographer Lloyd Potter says it doesn't look like that growth will slow down anytime soon.

Update: Annie Silverstein's "Skunk" won first place in the Cannes Film Festival Cinéfondation competition.

Her film was singled out from 1,631 entries coming from 457 film schools worldwide. Silverstein's win comes with a €15,000 prize – that's more than $20,000. She is also guaranteed that her first feature film will be presented at the Festival de Cannes.

Original Story (7:17 a.m.): The Cannes Film Festival is one of the world’s most prestigious. Films that screen there are often instantly propelled to a level they might otherwise never reach.

Annie Silverstein is learning all about that first hand. She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in UT's Radio-Television-Film Department in 2013. Her thesis film “Skunk” was one of 16 chosen from over 1,600 film school submissions.

Silverstein will find out today if “Skunk” will be picked as one of the top three.

Annie Silverstein stopped by KUT to talk about the journey of “Skunk.”

Early voting starts today for the May 27 primary runoff election.

What's on the Ballot:

The Republican ballot includes a runoff for the Lieutenant Governor nomination between incumbent David Dewhurst and State Senator Dan Patrick and also runoffs for Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture and Railroad Commissioner.

On the Democratic side, voters will pick a U.S. Senate candidate and a candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture.

Who Can Vote:

Those who cast a ballot in the March 4 primary election can only vote in the same party’s primary runoff. Those who didn’t vote in the primary may choose which primary to vote in.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

The Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office says the deaths of 12 people responding to last year’s explosion at the West Fertilizer plant could have been prevented.

The Fire Marshal’s report [PDF] released Thursday night says the first responders killed in the April 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in West,Texas  were not prepared or equipped to deal with such a dangerous situation.

The report says that is not because the first responders failed to perform their duties as they had been trained, but due to a “systemic deficiency in the training and preparation” of the firefighters.

Attempts to lure the makers of Sriracha to Texas aren’t going unnoticed – although this latest round of attention may not be what the popular hot sauce is after.

Yesterday, a bipartisan group of Texas politicians, business people and agricultural representatives visited Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale, California – the company that makes Sriracha sauce.

The company is staying in California for now, despite complaints from neighbors. But it may open a second plant in the Lone Star State.

National Weather Service

Update 6:45 a.m.: The City of Austin has now opened all of the low water crossings on Spicewood Springs Road around Loop 360. Low water crossings at Terry-o Lane near Ben White Boulevard.

The Lower Colorado River Authority says some rain did fall in the watershed, which will help with low lake levels. Right now, Lakes Travis and Buchanan are still sitting at about 36 percent full.

Austin Firefighters are blaming lightning on at least three overnight fires – including one at an apartment building in southeast Austin. No one was injured in the fires.

About 1,500 Austin Energy customers are without power this morning.

Reddit user TheKnitro,

Here's a reason to avoid the Seaholm area near Cesar Chavez Street tonight: over 1,000 concrete trucks from Austin and surrounding cities constantly rotating through the area for over 24 hours.

The City of Austin is building a new central library at 701 W. Cesar Chavez, near the former Seaholm power plant. Tonight, construction crews are putting in a five-foot deep concrete slab to create the building’s foundation. That’s a big project – requiring a total of 1,020 concrete trucks.

Cine Las Americas

Update: Today Cine Las Americas announced the award winners for the 17th Cine Las Americas International Film Festival. The grand jury awards went to:

  • Best Narrative Feature: MATEO, Dir. María Gamboa, Colombia/France
  • Best Documentary Feature: ROQUE DALTON, ¡FUSILEMOS LA NOCHE! (Roque Dalton, Let's Shoot the Night!), Dir. Tina Leish, Austria/El Salvador/Cuba
  • Best Narrative Short: PADRE (Father), Dir. Santiago 'Bou' Grasso, Argentina/France
  • Best Documentary Short: TRAZOS EN LA CUMBRE (Drawing on the Heights), Dir. Alejandro Victorero, Carlos Alejandro Molina, Venezuela

There's details on other winners and the audience awards on the Cine Las Americas website.

Original Story (April 22, 2014): The 17th Cine Las Americas film festival gets underway today.

The nearly week-long fest focuses on films by or about Latinos, indigenous peoples of the Americas and those from Spain and Portugal. They’re films you probably won’t see making the rounds later on in theaters.

KUT sat down with the festival’s Executive Director – Eugenio del Bosque to learn more.

Sam Ortega for KUT News

How is Mack Brown spending his free time theses days? Check out his Twitter page for an update.

At a charity event for his Mack Jack and McConaughey foundation, joined by county musician Jack Ingram and Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, the former UT-Austin head football coach admitted he's enjoying some of the free time and freedom that comes with no longer coaching the Longhorns. And Twitter is a big part of that.

Early voting starts today for the May 10 municipal elections in cities across Central Texas.

Voters in Bee Cave, Manor, New Braunfels, Round Rock and West Lake Hills are choosing mayors and city council members. Several school districts are also holding bond elections. 

Early voting continues through Tuesday, May 6. Election Day for the municipal elections is Saturday, May 10. A valid photo identification is required to vote in person.

Elizabeth Chatelain

It has been a good several months for the University of Texas at Austin's Radio-Television-Film Department. Recent graduate Brian Schwarz won a Student Academy Award for his short film "Ol' Daddy," Texas Ex Elizabeth Chatelain won a prestigious documentary award for "My Sister Sarah" (story below) and now Annie Silverstein is going to Cannes with her thesis film "Skunk."

"My Sister Sarah" and "Skunk" are among the short films chosen to be highlighted in this year's Longhorn Denius Film Showcase – which features work by graduate and undergraduate students.

The showcase is free and open to the public. It starts at 6 p.m. at the Student Activity Center Auditorium on the UT campus.

Original Story (March 3, 2014): Elizabeth Chatelain graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Master’s degree from the Radio-Television-Film Department last May. In December, she won an International Documentary Association Award for her short film – "My Sister, Sarah."

The documentary follows Chatelain’s sister – Sarah – a recovering meth and crack addict who has felt true pain and tragedy. 

Laura Rice, KUT News

Three of Austin’s most famous residents kicked off an effort last night to raise money for charities that help young people.

Former UT-Austin Head Football Coach Mack Brown, county musician Jack Ingram and Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey make up “Mack Jack and McConaughey" – or MJ&M.

The trio’s inaugural fundraising campaign in 2013 raised more than $1 million.

"We thought this would be a home run," Mack Brown said. "Because when you get Jack Ingram and Sheryl Crow and when you get Matthew McConaughey to come in, it's special. And it's all for kids."

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

Most Austin area school districts are closed today for the Good Friday holiday. But some students will be attending class.

That’s because they’re making up days off for bad weather earlier in the school year.

DO have school:

  • Burnet ISD will have regular school hours today.
  • Del Valle ISD is holding classes today.
  • Dripping Springs ISD is holding classes today and on Memorial Day to make up for canceled classes.
  • Eanes ISD is holding classes today. The rest of the school year will continue as planned.
  • Lockhart ISD will hold regular school hours today and on Memorial Day.
  • Manor ISD is holding classes today as a make-up. There will not be classes on Memorial Day.
  • Texas School for the Deaf will have regular school hours today.
  • Wimberley ISD is also holding classes this Good Friday.

DO NOT have school:

  • Austin ISD is off today. AISD has no make-up days scheduled for the rest of the school year.