Rhonda Fanning | KERA News

Rhonda Fanning

Rhonda is the newest member of the KUT News team, joining in late 2013 as producer for KUT's new daily news program, The 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. 

From Texas Standard:

This morning the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the second and final felony charge of abuse of power against former Gov. Rick Perry.

From Texas Standard:

Falling gas prices is great news for us as consumers, yet some are panicking about the state's economy. But the future of Texas may not be so gloomy after all.

From Texas Standard:

Over this weekend the U.S. and its allies conducted 17 air strikes on ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. These strikes come shortly after the Afghan Air Force claims to have hit ISIS-related targets in eastern Afghanistan.

From Texas Standard:

If you want to understand what's happening in the nation at large, you need to understand the unusual politics of Texas. On Tuesday, a prominent advocate of the idea that "less is more" when it comes to government has a big head start on a voyage he hopes will end at the White House.

From Texas Standard:

House Bill 11, passed during the 2015 legislative session, is a sweeping law pitched as part of a broader $800 million border security effort. It expands the border presence of the Texas National Guard, green-lights hiring more troopers, and mandates an intelligence center to analyze crime data at the border.

One of the law’s other provisions has recently drawn a lawsuit that's just now making headlines. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, better known as MALDEF, has filed suit against Texas over what's called the “immigrant harboring” provision. They argue that it's unconstitutional under federal law.

 


From Texas Standard:

In November, state district Judge Judy Kocurek was shot in the driveway of her Austin home – a murder attempt that had been preceded by a phone tip to police. Kocurek was never informed of the threat against her.

Tony Plohetski, investigative reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, said it's unclear how many threats are made against judges in Texas and judges aren’t always informed of the threats to their safety.

 


From Texas Standard:

Gas prices are at the lowest they’ve been on average in about seven years, according to AAA. Today crude oil prices are near 2003 lows – under $27 a barrel – and lower gas prices will follow.

From Texas Standard:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has vowed to beat the odds and quash online sports gambling. Even if you don't play daily fantasy sports, you've probably encountered the names of the sites: Draft Kings, Fan Duel. They advertise incessantly so you might be tempted to admit that's a measure of their prominence and popularity.

Despite that popularity, those sites may soon be gone from Texas. Paxton says sites that charge players to compete cannot operate legally in the state.


From Texas Standard:

Gov. Greg Abbott is on his third official international trip since being sworn in last January. Yesterday in Jerusalem, the Governor met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last week Abbott said the purpose of the upcoming meeting was to promote business ties abroad.

However, since news broke over the weekend of the U.S. prisoner swap and an end to sanctions against Iran, Monday's meeting seemed more like a political trip. That’s left some scratching their heads, and others nodding in approval.

 


From Texas Standard:

The national debate over whether Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is eligible to be President continues. The fact that Cruz was born on Canadian soil to an American mother has constitutional legal scholars at odds over whether he meets the criteria for the nation's top office.

Now a Houston attorney has filed a suit further questioning Cruz’s eligibility and asking the Supreme Court to define the term, "natural-born citizen."

 


From Texas Standard:

HELP!

That's the message coming from two environmental groups petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency. The Environmental Defense Fund and the Caddo Lake Institute are asking the EPA to take over enforcing federal air and water laws in Texas. But why?

Environmental Defense Fund's regional director Jim Marston says the petition asks the EPA to take back authority that they delegated to the state "when Texas made certain promises about how they would run the federal programs."

 


From Texas Standard:

We often hear about achievement gaps and income gaps, but a new commission in Texas is tasked to address a “justice gap.” They warn that a growing number of people make too much money to qualify for legal aid but aren’t wealthy enough to afford legal services on their own.


From Texas Standard:

In a highly anticipated decision earlier this week, the grand jury refused to issue any indictments related to the death of Sandra Bland.

Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, was arrested and charged with assaulting a public servant on July 10 in Prairie View, Texas. She had allegedly failed to use her turn signal while changing lanes and was pulled over. After her arrest, she went through intake and was booked into Waller County jail. Three days later she was found dead in her jail cell.

 


From Texas Standard:

The next military conflict might not start with a bomb, but with a blackout.

National security experts have long warned that the United States’ infrastructure was vulnerable to hackers abroad. A few high profile cases have made headlines in recent years. In 2012 and 2013, Russian hackers were able to get into the U.S. public utilities and power generators to send and receive encrypted messages.

 


From Texas Standard:

The surge in immigrant children has prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to extend National Guard deployments at the Texas border. Paul Weber, a reporter covering the story for the Associated Press, says while the exact number of troops is unknown, it’s probably in the low hundreds.

“In December of 2014 when Gov. Perry first deployed the National Guard to the border, he sent up to 1,000 troops,” Weber says. “But as recently as February, state officials said that there's now only about 200 troops there. And that was in anticipation of an expected drawdown to eventually get the troops out of there.”

 


From Texas Standard:

After the Sandy Hook shooting, President Obama and his colleagues in Congress pushed to close what they call a loophole in background checks. They were not successful. The word loophole, it should be noted, is a political term, primarily used by advocates of gun control who say there's a gap in the law when it comes to the sale or transfer of guns between private citizens.

Under existing law, anyone who's in the business of buying or selling guns is supposed to have a federal firearms license. If you have a federal firearms license, then you have to have to run a background check on any gun transfer. But at gun shows, not everyone selling guns is in the regular business of selling them, and not all sellers have to run background checks. Neither do people selling online.

 


From Texas Standard: It's something that we do regularly, or should, to help keep up our health. Most would never imagine it to be a matter of life and death, but then again a visit to the dentist almost never is. As unreal as it sounds, deadly dentistry is more common that one might think.

From Texas Standard: 

During President Obama's Oval Office speech on Sunday evening, he laid out two gun control measures he wanted Congress to act on, one of them dealt with the nation's no-fly list.

"To begin with, Congress would have to make sure no one who's on a no-fly list would be able to buy a gun," Obama said in his televised address. "What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security."

But many, including the ACLU, have concerns about tying the no-fly list to a database for firearm purchases.

 


From Texas Standard:

Sunday, December 6 – a day before the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack – is no date that will live in infamy. But it may be remembered by historians as the date the 44th U.S. President tried to allay the growing fears of a nation and talk tough against terror.


From Texas Standard:

Gov. Greg Abbott used to joke when he was attorney general that he'd get up in the morning, go to work, sue the Obama Administration and then go home.  He’d wake up and do the same thing the next day.

The latest Texas suit by current attorney general Ken Paxton against the Obama Administration is not what you might describe as an everyday lawsuit. Indeed, newspapers across the country have taken note of Texas' decision to sue the Federal government over its plans to resettle Syrian refugees.

 


From Texas Standard:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been in Cuba this week talking trade. He arrived in Havana on Monday with a delegation of 25 people to explore business opportunities between the formerly embargoed country and the Lone Star State.

From Texas Standard:

Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz spent the weekend in Iowa, where questions about his eligibility to hold the nation's highest office still linger.


From Texas Standard:

State officials have upped the ante against groups that provide services for Syrian Refugees. Over the Thanksgiving holiday Texas Health Commissioner Chris Traylor sent a letter to one such organization, a Dallas branch of the International Rescue Committee – a group that helps refugees resettle in the state.

Brian Rosenthal of the Houston Chronicle reports that the letter says the Health Commission has been “unable to achieve cooperation” with the IRC, and is threatening to sue if the IRC does not comply with Gov. Greg Abbott's order to block all Syrian Refugees.

 


From Texas Standard:

A funny thing happened on the way to the U.S. House passing a bill called the “Safe Act” yesterday. Inspired by concerns after the Paris Attacks, this bill would extend background checks on refugees from Syria and put up major obstacles to the President’s plan to admit 10,000 refugees before he leaves office.

Congressman Henry Cuellar was one of 47 Democrats to OK the legislation, five of those Democrats from Texas. That helped lead the House to a majority to override President Obama’s promised veto.

 


From Texas Standard:

In the aftermath of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, two terrorist suspects were killed – including one woman who activated a suicide belt – and seven more suspects are being held by French officials as a result of a raid this morning in a suburb north of Paris.


From Texas Standard:

Since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson last August, the reputation and trust afforded to police officers nationwide has been questioned. Smartphone videos and body cameras have changed everything.

Despite the perception of an increase in complaints about the use of police force, the Dallas Police Department claims a dramatic drop in the number of complaints.

 


From Texas Standard:

France is in its second day of bombing ISIS targets after last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris. The country is targeting the group’s stronghold in Raqqua. Tuesday, Russia declared a downed passenger jet in Egypt the work of ISIS, due to what Vladimir Putin said was a homegrown bomb. The Russian government issued a $50 million reward for more information on who's behind the attack, and launched cruise missile strikes on the Syrian provinces of Aleppo and Idlib.

From Texas Standard:

Dallas-based Securus Technologies is one of the leading providers of phone services inside prisons across the nation. And now they could be responsible for what's being reported as possibly "the most massive breach of the attorney-client privilege in modern U.S. history."

Investigative website The Intercept is reporting the breach involves records from prisoner phone calls in 37 states, including Texas. The records were leaked by an anonymous hacker on the Intercept's secure and anonymous contact site SecureDrop.

 


From Texas Standard:

Last week, Texas Rep. Kevin Brady won over the chairmanship of one of the most powerful groups of congressional lawmakers, the House Ways and Means Committee.


From Texas Standard:

Following another legal setback to President Barack Obama's immigration executive action, the Justice Department says it plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the lawsuit.


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