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. 

Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard:

With the president demanding $5 billion for his border wall and House Democrats refusing to budge, there's no end in sight to the political impasse that has led to the partial government shutdown.

Travelers may be noticing long waits in security lines at airports in Dallas, Houston and other parts of the U.S. as large numbers TSA screeners call in sick with the so-called blue flu, as they're forced to work without pay.

But this might be a moment of opportunity for those TSA workers, so says Barbara Ehrenreich, author of "Nickel and Dimed – On (Not) Getting By in America." She lays out the case in a New York Times opinion piece she co-wrote with Gary Stevenson.

Suburban Tourist/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

On March 29, the United Kingdom is set to pull out of the European Union – a decision made by the British people in a 2016 referendum. The end of March is coming up fast, and what's the plan for the pullout? There isn't one. Lawmakers bickering in the shadow of Big Ben have, for a second time, rejected a so-called "Brexit" strategy, and leaving the EU with no plan could cause major economic and other problems for Britain and its trading partners and allies.

Harold Clarke, professor in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, at the University of Texas at Dallas, and adjunct professor in the Department of Government, at the University of Essex in England, says a messy Brexit could also be destabilizing for the U.S. and Texas.

Bill Zeeble/KERA News

From Texas Standard:

Nine Texas freshmen were sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives last week. It was a celebration for all, especially Democrats who took back control of the House, and who elected Nancy Pelosi as speaker. But all this took place amid the partial government shutdown and President Donald Trump's fight with Democrats to fund his border wall. It's a fraught time for these newly-elected members of Congress to come to Washington, including for Dallas Democrat Colin Allred.

Allred defeated a longtime Republican to claim his seat, and says the shutdown isn't what he envisioned for the beginning of his term.

Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Our attention turns once again to the Texas side of the Rio Grande where President Donald Trump has doubled down on his plan build a wall along the border with Mexico. Over the weekend, Trump said he may declare a national emergency to secure the funding for the wall after White House officials and top legislative aids failed to reach a compromise about it, and also failed to end the partial government shutdown.

While politicians hash out immigration policy in Washington, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling deals with the day-to-day impact of immigration in the Rio Grande Valley – one of Texas' busiest border-crossing regions. Darling says he sees several hundred asylum seekers per day come to respite centers in the area. And while media have focused on the Central American migrant caravans moving through Mexico, he says they've missed what's actually happening at the border.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

From Texas Standard:

Top lawmakers are gathering at the White House again Friday to try to find a way to end the partial government shutdown. This comes one day after Democrats, who now have a majority in the House of Representatives, passed a package to reopen parts of the government until September, and passed a measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8. The effort also allowed more time for negotiations on border security.

While the measures likely won't pass in the Republican-led Senate, seven Republicans in the House sided with Democrats to pass the bills; Texas Rep. Will Hurd was one of them. His 23rd Congressional District stretches from El Paso to San Antonio, encompassing much of the state's border with Mexico.

Hurd says he voted with Democrats because he feels it's important to keep agencies like the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, open.

Mali Mish/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Where do tornadoes come from? It's not a riddle or a trick question, although the answer may seem obvious: the sky, right? Evidently, that's not the case.

Bob Jagendorf/Flickr

From Texas Standard:

It's something you don't hear often in the news: President Donald Trump is endorsing a measure that has the support of Democrats and Republicans in Congress. This rare occasion for bipartisanship represents what some consider the biggest overhaul to the nation's criminal justice system in recent memory.

Shaila Dewaun is national criminal justice editor for The New York Times. She says the bill would help people leaving prison with reentry into the outside world, including providing money for education and treatment programs.

pixydust8605/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The Texas foster care system is violating the constitutional rights of children, and Texas must improve its investigations of child abuse allegations – that is the essence of a new ruling by a federal appeals court panel. The decision affirms a lower court finding that used similar language in 2015, ordering Texas officials to reform the foster care system. But the ruling also stated that the original order demanding changes went too far. 

POMED/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The day after Jamal Khashoggi was reported missing in Istanbul, the global editor of The Washington Post received what appears to be Khashoggi's final piece for the paper for which he was a columnist. The editor at the Post held off publishing it in hopes she could talk with Khashoggi and they could edit it together.

From Texas Standard:

Labor Day once marked the traditional start of election season. That's hard to believe now with 24-hour news cycles, and more and more people tuned in to social media. These days, Labor Day signals the final sprint for those running for office to reach voters before they head to the polls in November. So, with campaigns already well underway, how are the midterms shaping up in Texas?

Ana Paula Hirama/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old political newcomer, socialist and former campaign organizer for Bernie Sanders, beat her primary opponent in a primary race in New York. Her victory over Joe Crowley, the fourth-highest ranking Democrat in the House, came as a shock to some.

From Texas Standard.

While it appears that border agents are no longer applying a zero tolerance policy, it’s been a different scene on the other side of the state.

Shannon Najmabadi is the higher education reporter at the Texas Tribune. She has been reporting from a privately-operated U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility 75 miles outside Houston where adult men are being detained.

Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard.

The nation is grappling with disturbing news of children separated from their parents at the border as a consequence of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy that calls for prosecution of border crossers. In Congress, multiple bills have been filed in response. A proposal by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz calls for doubling the number of immigration judges.

Pixabay

From Texas Standard.

As many reacted with shock this week to the deaths of designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, we also learned from the Centers for Disease Control that suicide rates have risen in nearly every state between 1999 and 2016, the latest year for which complete data is available. Though Texas remains below the national rate, suicides have been rising here, too. The state experiences 12.9 suicides per 100,000 Texans. Across the nation, there were more than twice as many suicides as homicides in 2016. The CDC says these trends cannot be linked to any specific medical diagnosis. 

Photo by James Tourtellotte/U.S. Customs and Border Protection

From Texas Standard.

Under federal law, anyone who reaches a U.S. port of entry may make a claim for asylum. But now it appears U.S. Customs and Border Protection has adopted a new tactic to keep out immigrants – telling agents to stop would-be asylum seekers before they reach a border checkpoint.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News.

From Texas Standard.

Tech transformations can have such a dramatic effect on the course of your day that it’s hard to remember your life before the latest gadget. When was the last time you used a paper map when your phone died or lost service? Though he admits his own sense of direction is lacking, Bill Kilday, in his new book, Never Lost Again, tells the story of how a small Texas tech startup named Keyhole eventually became Google Maps as we know it.

Travis Wise/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Something is happening in far west Texas that could be a harbinger for the rest of the state. El Paso has no place to send recycled trash. China, which is a destination for much of what we recycle in the U.S., doesn’t want it anymore.

House Intelligence Committee

From Texas Standard.

It was a cold rainy day back in February 2016 outside NFL headquarters in New York. Media crews were fluttering about in anticipation of a protest much buzzed about on social media. It would be a demonstration against Houston-born Beyoncé's halftime performance at the Super Bowl, which was memorable for costumes echoing those used in the 1960s by the Black Panthers and dance moves which included raised fists.

COMPADMIN /Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

From Texas Standard.

Today, the majority of headlines about the National Rifle Association involve a bit of controversy – debates over gun laws inevitably following mass shootings, or boycotts by citizens or businesses not wanting to be affiliated with the gun rights group. But it hasn’t always been this way. At its founding, the NRA was focused on firearms skill and safety, not politics.

Brianmcmillen/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0

From Texas Standard.

For many Texans of a certain age, learning civics and math and grammar began as we sat cross-legged on the floor in front of a big cathode ray tube on Saturday mornings. In between  The Archies, Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp, Josie and the Pussycats and Super Friends, we learned lessons that have stuck with us all our lives.

Molly Adams/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Young immigrants protected by the DACA program have been in limbo since the Obama-era program was canceled by President Trump last year.  Now we’re hearing rumblings of Republicans, including at least one from Texas, trying a new strategy to get a DACA vote in Congress.

Photo courtesy of Kathy McCullough

From Texas Standard.

This week’s deadly Southwest Airlines incident marked the first passenger death in U.S. commercial aviation since 2009. A mother of two was killed when she was partially pulled from the plane by decompression forces after a window was shattered by shrapnel from an exploding engine.

George Bush Presidential Library

From Texas Standard.

Back in the late '80s and early '90s, you could be fired if your employer discovered you’d done something like volunteering to work with AIDS patients. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome was, at the time, considered a death sentence, saddled with the stigma as a disease spread by drug users and gay men.

cool.as.a.cucumber/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Every time a vessel comes to a port of call, a local sailor takes command of the ship to maneuver it through the shallow water to berth, or out to sea. Those sailors are called “marine pilots” or maritime pilots, and they must be experts on their specific ports and waters.

Andrea Garcia for KUT News

From Texas Standard.

Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are all on Democrats’ short list to pick up House seats in the November midterms, but that’s expected when it comes to so-called battleground states. As Frank Bruni of The New York Times notes, Democrats definitely smell blood in the water this year.

U.S. Army/Maj. Randall Stillinger

From Texas Standard.

About 250 Texas National Guard troops have deployed to the Texas-Mexico border. Texas’ Gov. Greg Abbott says he’ll eventually send more than 1,000. But even with the state’s leadership so supportive of any appearance of cracking down on illegal immigration, are the Guard troops really doing immigration enforcement? And how do folks who already work on border law enforcement perceive the influx of military personnel?

YouTube, via PBS News Hour

From Texas Standard.

The first day of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress wrapped up Tuesday. Zuckerberg sat alone at a brown wooden table, surrounded by nearly half the Senate, and by the look of things, just as many photographers. He was there to answer questions about the social network’s role in presidential election meddling and the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

Charlie Jackson /Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

In February 2017, several newspapers in north Texas carried the story that 250 workers were being laid off from a General Electric facility in Fort Worth that makes locomotives. Now, that same plant has plans to bring back nearly double that workforce by the end of the summer.

Photo courtesy of Dorceal Duckens

From Texas Standard.

Fifty years ago today, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on a hotel balcony in Memphis. King was the preeminent leader of the American civil rights movement, and advocated nonviolent resistance to discrimination against black Americans. King had gone to Memphis to support sanitation workers who were in a labor dispute with the city.

Maciek Lulko/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Depending on your sense of community, and how intentional you want to be regarding whom you do business with, the ownership of your bank is not just a remote, esoteric question.

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