The State of Things

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Host Frank Stasio.
Credit Ben McKeown / For WUNC

We bring the issues, personalities, and places of North Carolina to you. We are a live show, and we want to hear from listeners. Call 1-877-962-9862, email sot@wunc.org, or tweet @state_of_things. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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Image of a nuclear bomb test explosion in the Pacific in 1958.
Nevada National Security Site

More than 500,000 American veterans were exposed to nuclear weapons tests from the 1940s to the early 1990s. These so-called “atomic veterans” were not permitted to speak about their participation in the tests until 1996 when the Nuclear Radiation and Secrecy Agreements Laws were repealed. Now the veterans who were exposed to the radiation from the weapons program will be offered a certificate marking their contribution.

Volunteers in blue vests escort women into a clinic in the face of protestors.
Lindsay Beyerstein & Martyna Starosta / ReWire.News

In their budget, Republican state lawmakers proposed $2.6 million in funding for crisis pregnancy centers and anti-abortion organizations. This funding would quadruple the amount given to one particular nonprofit, despite a report from the state Department of Health and Human Services that does not recommend expanding the program.

Image of soul and hip hop artists Sonny Miles performing with a guitar.
Kai McNeil

Artist Sonny Miles is on a journey back to himself. After a year spent refining mixtape collaborations, he is dropping a new EP: “Gamma.” It is a return to his roots in acoustic soul and pays homage to the last three years he spent learning beat making and hip-hop performance.

Toni Morrison passed away August 5, 2019.
Wikimedia Commons

Last month, President Donald Trump called Baltimore a “rat and rodent-infested mess” and told four Democratic Congresswomen of color to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” These are just the latest examples of a repeated tactic: the president denigrates women and people of color who oppose him and his policies. What power do his words have and how do they affect the people and the cities he attacks? Popular culture experts Mark Anthony Neal and Natalie Bullock Brown take on that topic with host Frank Stasio in the latest installment of #BackChannel, The State of Things’ recurring series connecting culture and context.

Image of hydrocodone pills.
USDA

The opioid epidemic has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans in the past few decades. A newly-released Drug Enforcement Administration database provides insight into how and why this might be happening. The database tracks 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills distributed from 2006 through 2012, and new analysis from The Washington Post draws connections between the number of pills shipped to a particular area and opioid overdose deaths.

Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Orrin Pilkey was sounding the alarm about climate change and sea level rise long before the topics were part of public consciousness. As an early whistleblower, his work was not always well received, but he pressed on and has authored and edited dozens of books about the environment in the past few decades. His latest book, co-authored with his son Keith, takes a look at some of the unexpected ways climate-related sea level rise will affect the lives and livelihoods of people across the United States.

Image of Harper Lee at a desk.
Donald Uhrbrock / The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

What lessons can the now-deceased Harper Lee teach a modern-day investigative journalist? Writer Casey Cep retraced Lee’s footsteps to a small town in Alabama to find out. She reopened a 1970s murder case that Lee had once obsessively followed: a rural preacher named Reverend Willie Maxwell who was accused of killing five of his family members for insurance money.

www.ncleg.net / NC General Assembly

More than 40 days have gone by since the North Carolina budget was supposed to be enacted. Since the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, negotiations between Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper have barely budged. Cooper vetoed the latest Republican House budget citing low pay increases for teachers and the absence of Medicaid expansion.

Yolanda Rabun is a talented singer and storyteller.
Courtesy of Curtis Brown Photography

The musical legacy of Nina Simone is celebrated throughout the world, but to North Carolina she is a special treasure. Simone was born in the town of Tryon, where efforts are underway to turn her childhood home into a space that reflects her dynamic, complex legacy. Last year the National Trust for Historic Preservation officially designated it a “National Treasure.”

Courtesy of Kamal Bell

Sankofa Farms was originally supposed to be a school garden in which middle school students could get away from the pressures of the classroom and get their hands dirty in the soil. After the proposal was rejected by the school’s principal, middle-school science teacher Kamal Bell made a much bigger investment in the idea.

News & Observer

Martha Mobley just cannot stay away from the farm. She grew up on a 1,000 acre livestock operation in Franklin County started by her grandfather in the early 1900s. Some of her earliest memories are of joining her father to deliver sows in a building still standing behind their house.

A vigil in Dayton, Ohio.
Mega Jelinger / AFP/Getty Images

With the nation still in shock and mourning over back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio last weekend, political leaders are being forced to address gun control. President Donald Trump spent the week speaking out against hate and visiting the impacted areas while also attacking any naysayers on Twitter.

Image of Ralph Snyderman with the Dalai Lama.
Courtesy of Ralph Snyderman

Ralph Snyderman is known as “The Father of Personalized Medicine.” He used to oversee the selection of medical students at Duke University in his role as chancellor for health affairs at Duke University and Dean of the Duke School of Medicine. He focused on admitting students who showed a clear desire for empathy and to serve the needs of others.

Image of Harvey Dalton Arnold
Courtesy of Harvey Dalton Arnold

Harvey Dalton Arnold found fame on Southern stages, rocking out in bell-bottoms topped with big buckles. But before he opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd touring the country with The Outlaws, Arnold was helping his dad sell Ford tractors and raise chickens in Duplin County. He grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Rose Hill, a town of just over 1,500 that breaks out the world’s largest frying pan for its yearly Poultry Jubilee.

Image of the North Carolina State Legislature Building in Raleigh.
Wikimedia Commons

A disagreement over who should control settlement money from Volkswagen could cost North Carolinians $92 million. Volkswagen agreed to pay the state that money for selling cars that cheated on emissions tests, but both Governor Roy Cooper and the Republican-led legislature are claiming the right to dole out the funds. 

The sign of the Ocracoke Health Center.
Erin O'Neal

Ocracoke Health Center CEO Cheryl Ballance estimates that anywhere from 8,000-10,000 people visit Ocracoke Island on any given summer weekend. Many visitors catch a ferry back to Cape Hatteras after less than a day, but hundreds of vacation rentals and hotel rooms are consistently filled from late spring to early fall. During those months, the staff of the tiny clinic are stretched to their limits.

Image of 2019 WUNC Youth Reporting Institute students and leadership.
William Cumbo / WUNC

WUNC’s Youth Reporting Institute wraps up its summer program this week and the offerings from this year’s cohort reflect many of the complex problems our nation has been grappling with — immigration, LGBTQ rights and mass shootings.

A black and white photo of the cast of The Wizard of Oz in costume.
Library of Congress

Somewhere over the rainbow, The State of Things is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the film adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz.” The 1939 movie is best known for its hit musical numbers, fantastical plotline and use of Technicolor. Judy Garland’s career took off after she portrayed Dorothy Gale on her journey through the magical land of Oz, and the film has since become an American cultural touchstone.

Image of the North Carolina State Legislature Building in Raleigh.
Mark Turner / Wikimedia Creative Commons

After two mass shootings this past weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and President Donald Trump joined in support of states passing “red flag” laws. These laws allow a judge to order a temporary removal of firearms from a person threatening violence against themselves or others.

Image of the Appalachian Mountains.
Flickr Creative Commons

Many Americans spend more time looking at screens than they spend outside — or even looking out a window. This increased disconnect between humans and nature comes at a time when scientists warn that the environment is especially vulnerable: the recent National Climate Estimate estimates that annual average temperatures in the U.S. are expected to rise by about 2.5°F in the next few decades. A new collection of nature writing from Appalachia aims to bring readers closer to nature through stories about both the splendor of the mountain region and clear examples of how humans are changing the planet.

Image of the Simmons family.
Courtesy of Melody Hunter-Pillion

The number of black farmers in the United States has dropped exponentially since the beginning of the 20th century.  2017 data from the Department of Agriculture shows African Americans make up less than 2 percent of the country’s 3.4 million farmers. That year, there were just over 2,000 black farmers in North Carolina.

One of the three voting systems being considered for certification by the State Board of Elections.
Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

The response to mass shootings in Texas and Ohio this weekend illuminated stark differences in state and national political candidates’ stances on gun reform. Among those were Dan McCready and Dan Bishop, two men running in a special election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.

A woman holds a black-and-white photo of her grandmother.
Courtesy of Digital Diaspora Family Reunion LLC

Family pictures often illustrate everyday milestones — like birthday parties, weddings or family reunions. But they can also illuminate deep and complex stories about communities, values and identity. The new three-part PBS documentary series “Family Pictures USA” follows people from southwest Florida, Detroit and North Carolina as they search to discover what surprising things they can learn from stashed-away images.

University of South Carolina Press

More than thirty years after his death, James Baldwin is recapturing the American imagination in politics and popular culture. Black Lives Matter, “Moonlight,” “Between the World and Me,” and Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” all resurrect Baldwin’s voice. The major themes of his writing are also evident throughout today’s headlines: police malfeasance, expansive sexuality, class struggle, and the marginalization of black Americans. Baldwin drew on his struggle of overlapping marginalization in his writing — in one interview he described being born poor, black, and gay as “hitting the jackpot” for sourcing material. But his intersectional politics made it hard for the author to find a home with the political movements of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Baldwin was an exile who remained intensely realistic, patient and hopeful about his country’s transformation.

Ernest Grant standing at a podium.
Courtesy of the American Nurses Association

As a boy Ernest Grant was enchanted by the nurses who attended his church in Swannanoa, a small area in western North Carolina. He often overheard them talking about their work at a local tuberculosis sanitarium and vividly remembers their stories of caring for patients.

A closed group home for children with mental disabilities originally run by New Horizon Group Home LLC in Lumber Bridge.
Greg Clark / WRAL

The federal government has awarded billions of dollars to nonprofits and businesses across the nation to house the overflow of migrant children coming into the country. Data reporting from the investigative news publication Sludge revealed the only company in North Carolina that received one of these grants is New Horizon Group Home LLC.

A man rides a tractor on his farm.
Courtesy of Charity Moretz

In the summer, roadside stands full of seasonal produce and signs pointing to “pick-your-own berry” fields line North Carolina country roads. Hayrides and pumpkin patches are a fall staple. These farm activities make for a fun Saturday with the family or a bucolic addition to an Instagram grid. For many farmers, however, they are the legs they stand on. Agriculture is a big industry in North Carolina, yet an increasing number of small farms cannot afford to engage in only crop or livestock farming.

Press photo of Shay Martin Lovette
Courtesy of Shay Martin Lovette

Shay Martin Lovette grew up paddling and playing soccer in Wilkesboro with his brother Chad. Every spring, Lovette watched musicians and their followers flood his little mountain town for Merlefest, the popular roots music festival. More and more came each year as the festival grew. Lovette took notes from legends like Doc Watson and young arrivals like the Avett Brothers. He also listened to his father strum, and decided to pick up a guitar himself.

An older couple holds hands.
Pxphere

The myths and realities of aging have created an industry rich with people offering a fix to stop or slow down the inevitable. Inevitably, the body changes and so too do relationships. On this episode of the series “Embodied: Sex, Relationships and Your Health,” The State of Things guest host Anita Rao explores the impact aging has on intimacy, and offers a decade by decade look at shifts in bodies, relationships and attitudes.  

Diagram of a pet-related ethical dilemma.
Photo used with permission of Azim Sharif / MIT Media Lab

A self-driving car hurtles toward an individual and their dog. The car’s brake-lines are cut and the machine must decide — kill the person or the pet. What would you do? What if the dog were yours and the person were a stranger?

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