The State of Things

WUNC's The State of Things brings the issues, personalities, and places of North Carolina to you.  The State of Things Podcast presents new stories every weekday with topics from our show.  To subscribe:Get a daily show update and special news. Subscribe to our podcast on Google Play or iTunes.  Or, use the links at the right.Visit the main SOT page.

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?

Book cover of "What The Dog Knows."
Courtesy of Cat Warren

Humans have associated dogs with death for millennia. Ancient Persians believed a dog’s stare drove the demon Nasu out of a corpse. Some Mayan traditions say a black dog carries the newly deceased to the land of the dead.

Fort Bragg provides an ideal environment for the St. Francis Satry, a critically endangered species of butterfly.
Courtesy of Nick Haddad

Of all federal agencies, the Department of Defense manages the highest density of threatened and endangered species, more than even the National Park Service. The special relationship between the Pentagon and environmentalist organizations originates at Fort Bragg.

Darwin, Sinke & van Tongeren

Taxidermists can have a hard time finding a date. Stereotypes and disgust surround the practice, however Asheville film director Erin Derham doesn’t think that judgment is deserved. True, she was repulsed when a colleague initially pitched the idea of a documentary about taxidermy (Derham is vegan), but her reaction soon transformed into a deep respect for the field and its practitioners. Her journey led her down the rabbit hole to animal rescues and safaris where she discovered the significance of taxidermy in conservation efforts.

David Bjorgen

State Treasurer Dale Folwell wants to move the State Health Plan to a government-priced model he calls the Clear Pricing Project. As the debate escalates, the more than 727,000 North Carolinians on the State Health Plan face uncertain healthcare coverage and costs in the new year.

A child looks out a window at Knightdale High School, which has been converted into an evacuation shelter for people affected by Hurricane Florence in Knightdale, N.C., Sunday, Sep. 16, 2018.
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

It’s been nearly a year since Hurricane Florence slammed into North Carolina’s coast. After a major storm, the focus is often on the material needs of communities: food, shelter and clothing. But what about how these communities are grieving and coping with natural disasters?

Old photograph of women sitting together playing cards.
Courtesty of the Ocean City Beach Citizens Council

Ocean City Beach sits along a one-mile stretch of land on Topsail Island. A coalition of interracial business owners founded the community in 1949 as a vacation spot for black North Carolinians. Its establishment created the first beachfront town where people of color could purchase or build property in North Carolina. 

a colorful artists' rendering of the greenhouse effect
Jaime Van Wart

Eleanor Spicer Rice spent her childhood fascinated by ants, flies, maggots, bones and other natural curiosities. Her family encouraged that inquisitiveness — her father would take her on walks in the swamps near their Goldsboro home, and her parents never told her the bugs that enchanted her were gross.

Robert Mueller testifies before Congress.
Andrew Harnik / AP

What is the impact of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony in Congress this week? Since the seven hours of testimony on Wednesday, five more Democratic U.S. representatives endorsed the idea of impeachment: including Reps. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, Andre Carson of Indiana, Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware.

Press photo of Carrboro-based band Dissimilar South.
Hayes Potter

The Carrboro-based band Dissimilar South is focused on transitions right now. Their recent debut EP, “Treehouse,” tracks the bittersweet flavors of change as a relationship ends. It contrasts the desire for nostalgia with dreams of the future. All of the band members have recently graduated from college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where they met and began the band.

Creative Commons / https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1019274

Many people learn the basics in sex education classes — how men and women procreate and how to avoid contracting sexually transmitted infections. However, the science of sex goes well beyond basic textbook diagrams. In recent decades, researchers have developed a deeper understanding of the interplay between our brains and our bodies and about the mechanics of sexual desire.

Courtesy of Dan Ariely

Summer is filled with temptation. We know that fresh fruit is a healthier choice than ice cream. A ripe watermelon can be just as sweet, but often times we pass it by for a double scoop in a waffle cone. The barrage of pool parties and cookouts combined with summer vacation may leave many struggling to make and keep health commitments.

courtesy of Jennifer Dasal

It can be as difficult to explain why an artist is driven to paint or sculpt as it is to define what makes great art. But for some of the highest-achieving artists the motivation to create is clear: competition.

Courtesty of Drew Wilson / The Wilson Times

In the winter of 1976, Richard Hollomon was gunned down while closing up his gas station just outside of Wilson, North Carolina. Lester Floyd Jones witnessed as three black men robbed the store and engaged in a shootout with his boss Hollomon. Jones testified that Hollomon was shot from two feet away with a shotgun. Hollomon died from gunshot wounds. The quest for justice lead to another black man, Charles Ray Finch, spending more than four decades in prison for a murder he did not commit.

An illustrated mural showing Jesus with children on the left, a migrant housing facility in the middle, and the Virgin Mary on the right with a child.
Courtesy of Sarah Cornette

A giant, globe-trotting mural is linking displaced children from two different continents, across vastly different cultures, languages and experiences. “Same Difference: The Mural” is a 36-foot canvas with four different panels spearheaded by art educator Sarah Cornette. Four groups of children, from Chapel Hill; Thessaloniki and Samos, Greece; and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, put paintbrush to canvas and depicted stories from their own experiences of travel and trauma.

Courtesy of Nicole Zelniker

For Maia Dery, sitting still has never been much of an option. Her teacher had her sit out in the halls to not disturb other students, and as soon as she had her precious drivers license, Dery routinely skipped school to escape to Duke Forest. As Dery says, she never did well in boxes.

Press Photo of Nicole Byer
Courtesy of Nicole Byer

If you're an aspiring culinary artist, there are plenty of shows to watch for inspiration — “Chopped,” “Master Chef” and “The Great British Bake Off” let viewers watch kitchen magic unfold. But Nicole Byer's Emmy-nominated series "Nailed It" is gaining traction for turning the premise of cooking competitions on its head. Instead of dishing up exquisite treats, its inexperienced competitors fail spectacularly.

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