Rhonda Fanning

Producer, The Texas Standard

Rhonda  joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?”  She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio. 

Flickr/Ira Gelb (CC BY-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Last week Amnesty International joined a chorus of other human rights groups, including the United Nations and the World Health Organization, in calling for the decriminalization of sex work.

Joining us in the studio is Angel Daniels, Assistant Professor in the Department of Forensic Psychology at Marymount University. Daniels teaches and studies the psychology of sex work, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, violence and abuse.

change.org

From Texas Standard:

Thursday, the University of Texas at Austin made headlines when it decided to relocate the statue of confederate leader Jefferson Davis from the university’s main mall to the Briscoe Center for American History. But the Sons of Confederate Veterans blocked this action by filing a request for a temporary restraining order.

As a result, the removal of the statue planned for this past Saturday has been delayed to allow a court to review the request.

Bertram Hayes-Davis, the great-great grandson of Jefferson Davis, says he agrees with the decision.

Flickr/Chris Miller CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

For 35 years, Jerry Hartfield sat in a prison awaiting trial — and now he’s finally getting one. Hartfield was convicted in 1977 of murdering a woman in Bay City. He was sentenced to death, even though by today’s standards, his IQ of 67 is considered mentally impaired.

Three years after that conviction, in 1980, it was overturned because of problems with jury selection. The governor of Texas at the time, Mark White, commuted the sentence to life in prison. The problem? The underlying conviction has been invalidated, so there wasn’t even a conviction to commute. Hartfield waited for years in prison for a trial that never came.

Flickr/thomashawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The highly publicized shootings of Michael BrownSam Dubose and several other African-American men has shined a spotlight on how the criminal justice system interacts with men of color. But with Sandra Bland’s recent death in the Waller County Jail, some are now asking how that same justice system treats women of color.

On the cover of the largest African-American-owned paper in the City of Houston — The Houston Forward Times — the headline reads, “The New ‘Jane’ Crow: Black Women Are The Target For Mass Incarceration.” Jeffrey Boney is the author of that article, and he lays out some pretty staggering statistics on African-American women being involved with the criminal justice system:

  • 1 in 100 African American women are in prison.
  • African-American women are seven times more likely to be incarcerated than White women.

Flickr/edenpictures (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

How many little kids – after watching movies like “Indiana Jones” or “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” – dream of growing up exploring little known parts of the world, risking life and limb in search of long lost treasure? How many people actually end up living that dream? Not many. But W.C. Jameson has lived that dream for six decades on and off.

Jameson is a Texas author, historian and treasure hunter, and he’s detailed some of his adventures in a book, “Treasure Hunter: A Memoir of Caches, Curses, and Confrontations,” he was willing to share some of his rich wisdom with the Standard.

Cody Duty/Houston Chronicle

From Texas Standard:

Sandra Bland’s case has made international headlines. But as the Houston Chronicle reported this week, Bland’s suicide is hardly a one-off incident in Texas county jails. Since 2009, 140 inmates in Texas jails have died by suicide; that’s when the state started tracking those numbers. Journalist Sinjin Smith has been following the issue for some time. His most recent article on this issue focuses on the methods and ways that inmates complete suicide in jail. He investigated the case of Danarian Hawkins, who was found last year hanging from a noose he’d made from a bed sheet tied to his cell’s sprinkler system.

Flickr/cellculture (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Planned Parenthood is under scrutiny over their alleged involvement in fetal tissue research. The Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, has now released three different secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood employees discussing fetal tissue. While the videos don’t provide any concrete evidence that Planned Parenthood is illegally profiting from fetal tissue donation, critics say the video certainly raises questions about how fetal tissue donation is done.

NASA

From Texas Standard:

Big news this morning from NASA’s planet-hunting mission: The Kepler Space Telescope at the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory has revealed the most Earthlike planet found to date, researchers say. The planet, called Kepler-452b, lies in the constellation Cygnus, about 1,400 light years from Earth. It qualifies as super-Earth-sized, as it's about 1.6 times larger than Earth, and its orbital period is quite similar to ours, at 385 days.

The Kepler scope was launched in 2009 to detect Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zones of distant stars — planets that have the potential to sustain life like that on Earth.

“We are pushing toward Earth 2.0,” McDonald Observatory astronomer Michael Endl said in a press release. “This planet is probably the most similar to Earth yet found.”

Flickr/punchup (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

On July 10, 28-year-old Sandra Bland was arrested and charged with assaulting a public servant. She was taken to the Waller County Jail; three days later, she was found in her cell dead from what officials called suicide. Both the FBI and the Texas Rangers launched investigations trying to find out what happened.

Dashboard camera footage from Bland’s traffic stop was released on Tuesday.  (Note: The video was uploaded to YouTube Tuesday evening; it has since been taken down, after people pointed out errors and inconsistencies in the video, which led many to believe it had been edited. A DPS spokesman denied editing the video, and re-uploaded the footage without errors or omissions this afternoon.)

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From Texas Standard:

The effort to put distance between government and symbols of the South’s Confederate past continues to gain momentum from public schools to statehouses. The South Carolina Legislature moved one step closer to removing the Confederate flag from its capital this week with a resounding 36-3 vote in the Senate – the issue now goes to a more divided House.

There’s a similar debate underway this week in Texas.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From Texas Standard:

Recent polls suggest the majority of Americans agree with the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, but opposition to same-sex marriage remains prevalent in southern states like Texas and Louisiana.

Just this week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that county clerks don’t need to issue marriage licenses if doing so goes against their faith. Paxton and other opponents of same-sex marriage argue that the government shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with how someone practices their faith.

Texas for Marriage/facebook

From Texas Standard:

The Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling in favor of same-sex marriage today. All 50 states are now required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Ronald “Ronnie” Macklin and his partner, Fritz Johnson-Macklin, are one of those couples. From the Austin suburb of Pflugerville, Ronnie joined Texas Standard to talk about his family’s story –  just minutes after learning about the Supreme Court decision.

barackobamainvirginia-august2nd/flickr

From Texas Standard:

Austin Bennett Tice has been missing since August 12, 2012.

The 33-year-old Texas veteran was working as a freelance journalist in Syria when he was kidnapped while reporting on the war. His whereabouts are still unknown.

To bring their son home, Tice’s father secured a meeting with President Obama. He had heard that the administration was going to review the U.S. hostage policy and wanted a chance to influence the President’s decision with his family’s story.

cipher/flickr

From Texas Standard:

The Environmental Protection Agency recently concluded that contamination of drinking water from fracking isn’t as widespread as previously feared. But is the panic over water contamination a thing of the past? A new study is re-igniting the fears of some.

The recent study checked the water quality at 550 wells across 13 Texas counties along the Barnett Shale. It’s one of the largest independent surveys on water near fracking sites ever conducted in the U.S., and the conclusions are alarming.

The Barnett Shale, a gas reservoir located near the Dallas-Forth Worth area, spans at least 17 counties. It’s believed to have more usable natural gas than any onshore oil field in the country. But the shale in the area has a reputation for being naturally hard to drill into, so it was largely untapped — until hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, came along.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

From Texas StandardNot all of the women and children that try to cross Texas’ Rio Grande Valley from Central America make it into the land of the free. Instead, they end up in one of three family detention centers that are used to house illegal immigrants. The centers are run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and they currently hold about 2,000 women and children awaiting either release or deportation.

The detention centers are getting the spotlight in D.C., with calls to either improve or abolish the centers. Now eight Democratic lawmakers are making their way to privately run Texas detention centers in Karnes City and Dilley. Among the Texas contingent are Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) and Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio).

nasahqphoto/flickr

Neil deGrasse Tyson may be the biggest celebrity astrophysicist working today. In addition to hosting the reboot of the TV series “Cosmos,” he is also active on Twitter, where he makes science jokes, ruminates on the universe, and offers up physics-related facts. Now, Tyson is taking his ideas on the road. He'll be appearing across Texas this month, and today, he spoke with Nathan Bernier about the upcoming tour.

veggies/wikimedia commons

From Texas Standard:

Television is supposed to draw people closer to the action and make them feel like they're there.

But it doesn't quite feel that way watching footage of the Baltimore riots. It's out there — distant — as we observe and decide for ourselves what went wrong from the comfort of our homes.

Ideum/flickr

From Texas Standard

As we look back on the last five years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, some big questions linger: What will the next disaster be, and can we prepare for it?

Lucio Eastman/Wikimedia Commons

From Texas Standard

The open carry of handguns has gotten a thumbs up from the Texas Legislature this session – not too much surprise there.

But one unexpected amendment would prevent police officers from stopping those who carry openly just to check for the proper licensing. 

US Dept of Education/flickr

From Texas Standard:

In a letter presented Tuesday, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s Grassroots Advisory Board called two pre-kindergarten enhancement bills in the Texas Legislature “a threat to parental rights.”

The letter also called out the bills for being “godless” and “socialistic" — a take that's at striking odds with that of Gov. Greg Abbott, who made pre-K funding a priority during his campaign.

Pages