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. 

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Numbers show a much tighter presidential race than anyone might imagine in what's often considered to be the reddest of red states. The Texas Lyceum released its closely watched polling results yesterday, showing that the race to the White House is still neck-and-neck.


World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Since the 1970s, federal law has stated that all children with disabilities are entitled to a free public education appropriate to their needs. Nationwide, the percentage of kids who receive special ed services is around 13 percent.

But in Texas, that number is substantially lower. Just 8.5 percent of all public school kids in Texas are enrolled in special ed programs – the lowest percentage in the country. That number appears to be no mere accident – instead, it’s a rather specific objective.


Ken Piorkowski/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

For years, Texas has led the nation in the number of executions, but the state's death chamber has been idle since April, and there have been several high-profile stays of execution. 

Could this be a sign of something broader going on when it comes to the death penalty in Texas?

 

 


U.S. Army/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

In Rosa Brooks’ new book, “How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon,” she writes about how a post-9/11 U.S. military is embroiled in three, not two wars:

"If I were a member of Congress right now, I would be hopping mad."

 


Dave Miles/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

On September 11, 2001, Margaret Mathers was living in New Jersey and her husband Charles was on his way to a meeting at the World Trade Center.

Mathers had scheduled a dentist appointment that morning but stayed home when a neighbor told her to turn on the TV after the first plane hit. They watched the second plane hit and Mathers remembers thinking, "We're at war. Somebody is at war with us and I don't know who it is."

 


Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The Dallas Morning News is making some news of its own: the editorial board announced Tuesday that it recommends Hillary Clinton for president.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

From Texas Standard:

The debate over campus carry across Texas has been a noisy one – and nowhere’s been noisier than the University of Texas at Austin. You've likely heard about the student protests, the counter-protests, and, of course, the sex toys.

But now a YouTube video has upped the ante on the outrage scale.


Robert W. Hart for The Texas Tribune

From Texas Standard:

After the tragic sniper shooting of police officers on July 7, Dallas Police Chief David Brown was thrust into the national spotlight. Brown's tenure as Dallas' top cop has been tumultuous at times. But after the shootings, the 33-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department suddenly became a rock for the city's recovery.

Courtesy Texas Tribune

From Texas Standard:

Police shootings from around the country have often topped the news for the past year, but details about how much they happen, and who these shootings affect most, have been sparse. The Texas Tribune spent nearly a year putting together a digital project exploring the number of shootings they could independently confirm have happened between 2010 and 2015.

"Unholstered: When Texas Police Pull the Trigger" looks at officer-involved shootings in 36 of the state’s major Texas cities with over 100,000 residents. The project comes complete with data visualizations and six in-depth articles that dig into the data’s implications.


Michael Rose/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The Texas Department of Public Safety is asking for $1 billion to fund its border operations next year. But the state comptroller has been issuing warnings about a possible need for budgetary belt tightening.

But the department says it needs the money to buy new border cameras, replace aging vehicles, buy two helicopters, four planes and, perhaps most significantly, double the number of troops at the border – upping the number of troops at the border to 500.

 


Courtesy Amber Briggle

From Texas Standard:

Earlier this week, a federal judge sided with Texas' request to block a federal directive for schools to accommodate the bathroom choices of transgender students. Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was pleased – but not surprised – by the court's order, and subsequently filed suit to remove discrimination protections against health insurers.

The Human Rights Campaign, among others, blasted that move as shameful, cheap and political. Others have been far more harsh in their assessments – both of Paxton and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who says he's not sure he's ever known a transgender person.

 


Pexels (Public Domain)

From Texas Standard:

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has an idea to lower college costs across the board: get rid of what's called "tuition set-asides" for students who need financial help. Generations of Texans have benefited from the financial aid program, but Patrick calls them a hidden tax that unfairly burdens the middle class.

Yesterday, lawmakers began exploring the merits and demerits of Lt. Gov. Patrick's plan, but reporters David McSwane and Lauren McGaughy of the Dallas Morning News have crunched some numbers of their own.

 


Michel Marizco/Fronteras Desk (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

When Sasha Von Oldershausen moved from New York City to Presidio, Texas, a few years back, her friends told her to get a gun and lock the doors. They imagined her moving to the stereotypical lawless Southwest.

But Von Oldershausen knew better – in the vast majority of the tiny Texas towns that dot the borderlands, crime rates are low, the landscape is indescribably beautiful and the sense of solitude is profound. Then ,she discovered she wasn't nearly as alone as she thought. Texas Monthly writer Sasha Von Oldershausen recounts her experience in her article "Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself."

Von Oldershausen says she experienced firsthand the capabilities of Border Patrol's surveillance methods while walking on a trail near the Rio Grande one day.

 


IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Omran Daqneesh is in the back of an ambulance, sitting alone in a padded orange seat. The young Syrian's hair is a messy mop of dust. There’s blood on the seat’s headrest behind him. Blood masks half his face and his entire body is covered in dirt. The video circulated by Aleppo Media Centre shows a man in a reflector jacket carrying Daqneesh into the ambulance amidst shouts. He places the boy down on the seat, where Daqneesh wipes his hand over his face. He takes his hand away and looks at the blood that's left there.


Jaime Chapoy/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

East Texas has seen multiple deadly downpours this year. Yet in south Texas, Brooks County Sheriff-elect Benny Martinez says he wants it to rain along the border to alleviate the unbearable heat. “I’m hoping the rains continue,” Martinez said Monday. “I’m hoping we get a hurricane.”

The heat index down south was over 100 degrees for most of July, which has in part contributed to the hundreds of migrant deaths. Kristian Hernandez, with the McAllen Monitor, says the sheriff’s bold statement comes from his experience with the effect the heat can have on migrants crossing the Texas-Mexico border.


Project 404/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

It's been a long time since kids sat with parents on living room couches watching live pictures from Mission Control in Houston. Even though NASA no longer looms in the American imagination as much as it once did, with a Mars expedition in the works and the rise of Space X and Blue Origin among others, a powerful case can be made that a renaissance is just around the corner.

Houston-area U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, who's chair of the House Space subcommittee, has launched a new mission on Capitol Hill.


Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Lucy, Flo and the Old Man are not content to rest in museum collections. Sure, they’re known for their places in the evolution of humanity, but they, too, have their own Facebook and Twitter followers. They’re also known for something more: they have a role in the evolution of the evolution narrative.

Johannes Jander/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Houston Democrat Rep. Jessica Farrar is calling on the State Auditor’s Office to review a $1.6 million state grant awarded to a group she says funnels money to an unlicensed medical provider with an anti-abortion agenda.

Heather Cortright for Army ROTC/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Every year thousands of veterans benefit from the so-called post-9/11 GI bill, which pays for tuition to help vets afford college.

The original GI bill was credited with lifting many families into the middle class after World War II. Texas has a similar version of the bill, called the Hazlewood Act and the Texas Comptroller – Glenn Hegar, the man with the state's check book – says the act is too pricey.

The act goes back to 1943 and Hegar says three factors have contributed to the rise in expenses in providing this service to Texans.

 


Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

From Texas Standard:

Federal funding will be an integral part of controlling Zika in Texas. But promising funding may be easier said than done. Congress left Washington last month for a seven-week recess without passing legislation that would have provided additional funding to combat the virus. Senate Democrats now lead a growing chorus who say Congress should cancel the recess to pass Zika legislation.

Jamie Lovegrove, the Washington correspondent for the Dallas Morning News, tells the Standard that now Texas Republicans are also asking the Obama administration to step up their efforts. They're requesting more transparency about the administration's use of the $589 million that it re-purposed from other areas of the budget in April.

 


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