Eric Mennel

News Producer

Eric Mennel prepares the afternoon/evening "drive time" newscast on WUNC. Previously, he was a producer for The Story with Dick Gordon. Eric has reported for All Things Considered, This American Life, 99% Invisible and other radio programs. He covered protests and security measures at the 2012 Republican National Convention for WUSF Tampa and NPR News. One day, he hopes to own a home with a wrap-around porch.

Eric left WUNC in January 2015.

Ways to Connect

Ebola Sign
Leoneda Inge

North Carolina boasts many resources when it comes to combating the Ebola Virus outbreak in West Africa. Two pharmaceutical companies are developing potential vaccines. Duke University Hospital has proven its ability to treat potential Ebola patients, while UNC has students helping to track the spread of the disease in Liberia. Soldiers from Fort Bragg have been enlisted in the ground effort.

All these resources are part of not only fighting the virus overseas, but protecting North Carolinians.

Tonya Rush is an analyst at the crime lab. The NC General Assembly recently added funding for 30 more analysts to help with the backlog.
Eric Mennel / WUNC

We've been looking at the problems in the State Crime Lab this week, particularly the backlog in evidence testing. A group of judges, lawyers, and scientists came together in recent months to suggest solutions for clearing up the backlog, but inside the lab, some efforts are already under way.

One of the refrigerators at the NC State Crime Lab
Eric Mennel

Like many crime labs across the country, the North Carolina State Crime Lab in Raleigh has a serious backlog. One reason is finding and paying qualified staff. But a new report issued by researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Government shows a second, more complex problem.

The report goes into detail about the effect a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Melendez-Diaz, had on the way forensic evidence gets admitted at criminal trials.

Blackwater helicopters in Iraq
Heath Powell / Flickr Creative Commons

A U.S. congressman from North Carolina has reintroduced a bill to clarify how American laws apply to overseas contractors. Democratic Congressman David Price of Chapel Hill originally submitted the legislation in 2007 after contractors with the company Blackwater were accused of shooting up a public square in Baghdad. The law met resistance from the White House at the time and was never passed.

Debra Blackmon, 56, is requesting compensation for a sterilization performed on her in 1972.
Eric Mennel / WUNC

In 2013, North Carolina lawmakers set up a $10 million compensation fund for victims of state-sponsored eugenics. More than 780 people applied, claiming they had been forcibly or coercively sterilized by the state. Now, after an initial review, the state has decided only about 200 of those claims are valid, while more than 500 have come up short. The applicants are either denied outright or are asked for more information.

Today, the World Health Organization reported more than 2,900 people have died from Ebola in Western Africa. Amidst the growing epidemic, Nigeria has managed to escape much of the havoc.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country by far, with more than 170 million people. Yet there have been only 20 confirmed cases and eight confirmed deaths from Ebola since July.   How has the country escaped widespread infection?

The Memphis Belle is one of 10 B-17s still flying in the U.S.
Eric Mennel / WUNC

The Memphis Belle, one of the last remaining B-17 planes from World War II, is making a stop this weekend in the Triangle.  The bomber was made famous in the movie, The Memphis Belle.  The United States built more than 12,000 B-17s beginning in the 1940s.  There are only 10 left that can still fly. [Click on the photo gallery above to look inside the plane.]

George Hamilton IV

George Hamilton IV was a student at UNC Chapel Hill when a friend approached him and asked him to sing the song "A Rose And A Baby Ruth." Hamilton didn't like the song, but after some nudging from a local record executive, he relented. The song shot to number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and launched a career marked by a string of chart successes.

A champion tiger shark at a fish rodeo in 1988
Joel Fodrie / UNC IMS

Over the past 30 years, the size of sharks in the Gulf of Mexico has been shrinking. Drastically. Some sharks are 70 percent smaller.

The findings come from the University of Alabama and the University of North Carolina's Institute of Marine Sciences.

Researchers came up with a novel way of gathering the historical data. While there wasn't any academic database that collected such information, local newspapers in the Gulf region have been publishing the results of fishing competitions for years.

a map of Ebola deaths in Liberia, broken down by county.

From his office in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Steven King has no illusions about his efforts on the Ebola front as compared to those on the ground. His role was made clear on  a recent conference call between him and his counterparts in the country.

A composite image shows the facial differences between an ancient modern human with heavy brows and a large upper face and the more recent modern human who has rounder features and a much less prominent brow.
Robert Cieri / University of Utah

About 50,000 years ago, people started developing tools. They started making art, in caves. And they started cooperating. Simultaneously, that's when our faces went from looking like the skull on the left, to the one on the right.

A group of researchers from Duke and the University of Utah are theorizing that the correlation is not coincidence; that, in fact, the changing shape of skulls signals a change in something else that would have made cooperation more likely: A drop in male testosterone levels.

wind turbines
Board of Ocean Energy Management

On Monday, the Obama administration announced about 300,000 acres of land of the North Carolina coast that will be explored for possible offshore wind development. The announcement includes three locations for potential development - two near Wilmington and one about 30 nautical miles off the coast of Kill Devil Hills.

Skulls at Choeung Ek Memorial, (AKA "The Killing Fields") outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Newport Preacher / Flickr

When people started mentioning the possibility of using tribunals to bring justice to leaders of the Khmer Rouge, not everyone was thrilled. A 1999 headline from the Phnom Penh Post reads "Khmer Rouge Trials Could Renew Trauma."

A chart showing the where there is a risk for CRE infections

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) are organisms that do not respond to antibiotics. They're mostly picked up by patients while in the hospital, and have a mortality rate ranging from 48% - 71%.  What's more, between 2008 and 2012, reports of CRE jumped five-fold in the southeastern United States.

A picture of a man charging an electric car.
David Dodge / Green Energy Futures via Creative Commons

Eight different auto manufacturers and 15 different utility companies are teaming up with the Electric Power Research Institute to test technology that will allow them to determine when electric cars can recharge.

Morning on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Outer Banks Real Estate / Flickr Creative Commons

A provision in the proposed budget deal would allow the governor to bypass environmental reviews for road projects along the coast.

It indicates that during a state of emergency, the governor could issue an executive order to waive the required environmental permits to replace state highways along the Atlantic.

The provision is said to be a recourse for municipalities whose sole access to the mainland is a state highway.

A child lays a candle around a fountain in memory of Dr. Feng Liu
Eric Mennel / WUNC

More than 200 people gathered outside on the UNC campus Wednesday night, less than a mile from the spot where Feng Liu was robbed and beaten last week. The vast majority in attendance were part of the Chinese-American community and UNC’s Pharmacy Department, where Liu was a professor.

The evening began with remembrances from friends and colleagues. UNC Chancellor Carol Folt offered condolences to those who knew Liu best.

A picture of Mark Eitzel.
Merge Records

Merge Records is well into it 25th birthday party. The North Carolina-based label is taking all of 2014 to celebrate its silver jubilee. There've been reissues of classic recordings and a 25K run already, but this week is a big one for the music, with a series of concerts. Tonight, Mark Eitzel will be at Baldwin Auditorium on the Duke University campus:

Mark Eitzel

Known for: Melancholy tunes and witty lyrics

Showhomes, Home Staging
Eric Mennel / WUNC

About a year ago, Cora Blinsman’s mom passed away. Needless to say, it was a really hard on her. She started taking stock of her own life. Cora had been a full-time, stay-at-home mom for 20 years, and she was feeling burnt out. She needed space. So … she got a lot of it.

North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program

Monday marked the last day to apply for victims of state-sanctioned sterilization in North Carolina to apply for compensation. In case this is news to you here are the basic details:

The World Health Organization has reported the largest outbreak of Ebola ever: more than 330 deaths in western Africa, and the number is rising.  Dr. William Fischer is an infectious disease specialist at the UNC School of Medicine. He has just returned from Guinea, the epicenter of the outbreak.  Fischer admits he was scared at first. He wore protective clothing and a mask that made him look more like an astronaut than a physician. 

When asked about one of his most memorable experiences, he told this story:

Eric Mennel

My dog. Hands down - that's the picture I'm sending to Mars. No questions asked.

There's a group of students at Duke who are trying to give me the opportunity for about $1. Time Capsule To Mars is a several-years-long project that is crowdfunding to cover much of the cost of sending a satellite time capsule to the Red Planet.

For now, they're accepting picture uploads. But they plan to expand all sorts of media.

Goathouse Refuge Cats
Eric Mennel / WUNC

Siglinda Scarpa walks me through the main house at The Goathouse Refuge, when a golden yellow cat that looks a lot like all the other 200+ cats starts rubbing against both of our legs, purring the way cats purr.

"Hey, Mimi," says Scarpa (presumably this is the cat's name), "What do you say? Stop that shooting range!" Scarpa chuckles.

[Video] Inside Fullsteam's First Frost Beer

Jun 16, 2014
David Huppert / UNC-TV

For the past several months, WUNC has been working on a new multimedia project on the state of teaching. A sort of "End-Of-The-School Year" report on education in the state. That report, "Outspoken: The State of Teaching in North Carolina" is out today. 

In it, teachers tell stories that show the complexity of their jobs. Like Chris Reagan, who has had to prepare middle schoolers for both standardized tests... and how to go on a date: