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

Fiddler Bobby Hicks
Eric Mennel / WUNC

Bobby Hicks had no intention of playing fiddle as a kid. He was playing mandolin in a band with his brothers when one of them asked for some help.

"My brother had a friend he wanted in the band, but he couldn't play anything," said Hicks. "So he talked me into teaching him to play the mandolin, and then they fired me."

It was to all our benefit.

keith crisco
criscoforcongress.com

Democratic congressional hopeful Keith Crisco has died.  He was 71 years old.

Crisco was set to be involved in a possible runoff with Clay Aiken in the 2nd congressional district.  He died reportedly after a fall at his home in Asheboro Monday afternoon.  The death was confirmed by an employee at Asheboro Elastics, the company Crisco co-founded. 

The state Board of Elections released a statement on Crisco's passing.

graduation
Duke University

Several universities are holding their commencement exercises this weekend. Here's a look at what's in store.

The Speakers

UNC Chapel Hill: Dr. Atul Gawande.

Dr. Gawande has become a household name for fans of science and medical journalism. He's a leader in the field of how to make health care more efficient and more effective on an institutional level. He also gave a TED talk, which makes him pretty hip.

Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan
NC General Assembly/US Senate

Biggest Stories

Thom Tillis bested the wide field of GOP contenders for U.S. Senate with 45 percent of the vote. It was a wide enough margin to avoid a runoff -  a scenario many in the Republican party are glad to have avoided. He'll now turn his attention to incumbent Democrat, Kay Hagan, who won her primary (as expected), taking 76 percent of the vote.

Jacinta White, Poet
PoetryHeals.com

For National Poetry Month, we talked with four different North Carolina poets about their work and their relationship with the art form.

Name: Jacinta White

Location: Kernersville, NC

Organization: The Word Project, using poetry workshops to help with personal and community healing.

Fisherman catches Red Drum of the NC Coast
Flickr user, creative commons

When the state announced earlier this month that the Red Drum fishery was closed, it was problematic for commercial fishermen. Commercially speaking, Red Drum is a bycatch fish, meaning it's only ever caught on accident, when trying to catch other fish. The fisherman are allowed to take in a total of about 250,000 a year -- a limit they hit much more quickly this year because Red Drum numbers are up.

electronic cigarettes
dikiy via Flickr, Creative Commons

Shortly after the F.D.A. announced newly proposed regulations of the exploding E-Cigarette market, Greensboro-based Lorillard released  a statement on the matter:

map, states, veteran education assistants
Student Veterans of America / StudentVeterans.org

North Carolina is one of only eight states in the country where none of the state's schools offer in-state tuition or residency exemptions for veterans. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, the number of veterans living in the state is expected to balloon by as much as 60,000.

This presents an opportunity for the state to change course and join the rest of the country in training service members who have called North Carolina home while in the military, though are technically residents of the states from which they enlisted.

A preliminary flood maps show gains and reductions in base flood elevation along the coast.
NC Department of Public Safety

It would be easy to look at the newest round of floodplain maps and think that we've been wrong about the Outer Banks all this time.

For the past decade, the standard line has been that things on the coast are getting worse. Sea levels are rising; the shoreline is eroding; flooding is becoming a bigger threat. Flood risk is largely determined by a series of maps produced by the state of North Carolina. Those maps then make their way to FEMA, who administer the National Flood Insurance Program. Basically, the higher your risk, the more you pay in flood insurance.

UNC Athletics

Sylvia Hatchell still watches practice. The school has a satellite link that feeds to her iPad.

She still gives the post-game talks. Two minutes after the Lady Heels beat South Carolina on Sunday, she was on speaker phone in the locker room.

The player text her photos from the road. She says she works two to five hours every day, a lot of which is with Associate Head Coach Andrew Calder, who's been in charge since Hatchell took a step back the year to undergo treatment for Leukemia.

American Tobacco Trail
Eric Mennel / WUNC

For residents of the Triangle, it's no secret that a certain portion of the American Tobacco Trail has an image problem.  Here's a selection of comments on stories about the trail:

We have been hearing about the high crime rate on this trail for a while now. It amazes me that anyone sets foot on it, especially in the Durham area.

yMusic
Eric Oberstein / Duke Performances

Scott Lee grew up on the Gulf coast of Florida. Once in a while, on a clear night, at the right time of year, he could walk outside, look 150 miles to the East, and see the glow of a shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral.

"As they rise upwards, they kind of start to curve," Lee said. " And it's a really interesting phenomenon, because they're still just going straight up. But to you, it looks like they're coming back down. So you start to wonder... 'Is something wrong?' "

LeVelle Moton
LeVelle Moton via Twitter

Updated Saturday March 22, 2014:

LeVelle Moton's Twitter profile says it all:

"Basketball is what I do, not who I am. Child of God, Hattie Mac's Baby boy. Head Coach At North Carolina Central University."

Moton seemed destined to be the head coach at NCCU. He grew up in Raleigh, and lived with his mother in a housing project. He was a McDonald's All American Nominee at Enloe High School, was Wake County Player of the Year, and was selected for All State.

Coates
The Lavin Agency

Last month, Michael Dunn was convicted of attempted murder, after firing several rounds into an SUV of young black men. Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old, was killed in the incident. Dunn is 47, and he is white. Dunn invoked the "Stand Your Ground Law" to defend his actions, and the jury was deadlocked on whether to charge him for Davis's murder. He'll face a retrial this summer.

NCDPS

This month, North Carolina launched FRIS, the Flood Risk Information System. It's the first system of its kind in the country to put all of the state's flood risk data, county-by-county, building-by-building, into one digital initiative.

It's not the prettiest map ever designed, but it's full of all sort of information that used to require a lot of manpower to produce for whoever wanted it.

After the ceremony, people headed down the American Tobacco Trail, flanked by police officers.
Laura Candler

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in an 8-1 decision, that just because the government had been granted a federal right of way for building railroads, doesn't mean the government gets to keep that right of way after the railroad is no longer in use.

At issue was whether or not the land the rail line sits on should go to the property owner adjacent the rails, or if the government can allow other groups to use it for such projects as rails-to-trails.

A picture of a woman photographing a beach house on stilts.
Eric Mennel / WUNC

I moved to North Carolina last July. I moved to Durham. Directly to Durham. Did not pass go. Did not collect $200. And for all intents and purposes, I’ve stayed in Durham.  What I’ve known of life outside the Triangle has been limited to Instagram photos from vacationing friends (#OBX #Sunrise) and the occasional press release on highway construction (#NC12FeetBelowSeaLevel).

'Belle Knox'
Belle Knox

Update 3/5/14: In a new op-ed on xoJane.com, Lauren revealed her stage name and image:

“Today, I am choosing to reveal my porn identity to the world. My name is Belle Knox, and I wear my Scarlet Letter with pride.” Knox also gave an interview to Playboy magazine's website.

Here is our original story:

Pigs just before auction, hogs,
Chris Cioffi

North Carolina's pig industry is under assault. A new virus, that just arrived in America last spring is spreading through the pork population, causing as much as 2% of the herd to die. What's most alarming is how fast Porcine epidemic diarrhea, or PED, takes hold.

"I mean you can go in and see a house that looks completely normal, running around, feeding everything. You can come back this afternoon and half the pigs are dead," said Dr. Tom Ray of the state veterinary office.

Erika dashes on to the 36-seat passenger bus. She's exasperated, but remarkably well put together. She's young, and afraid.

"Prescott... I'm late," she says, her hand gripping a rail for balance.

"... No you're not." He replies. "With the GoLive Real-Time Arrival System, you'll never be late for the bus again!"

"No..." she says. "I mean... I'm late."

Also, Prescott has an identical twin, Sebastian, who might be the father.

a pharmacist
NC Department of Health and Human Services

This week, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina announced that 6,400 people went all the way through the process of enrolling for a plan on the federal exchange, but never paid their first month's premium. Thus, they were never eligible to receive benefits. The federal government, however, has been including those people in its tally of newly enrolled individuals.

The Affordable Care Act requires that individuals pay their first month's premium before they can receive benefits.

trees down wilmington
Jason Tyson / Twitter @JTysonWrites

The city of Wilmington prides itself on its "urban forest." Beautiful Oaks, Myrtles and Dogwoods line the historic streets. The Wilmington Tree Commission hands out awards to properties with particularly good preservation and landscaping policies. It's consistently named a "Tree City USA" by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

But when an ice storm hits, limbs begin to fall. And so do power lines.

Santa Charlie Easton
Eric Mennel

Content Advisory: If Santa is real to your kids, this story may not be suitable for them.

It was a normal night at the Golden Corral Buffet and Restaurant off Highway 65 in Durham, North Carolina. Men and women just getting off of work were there to have their dinners, with families taking advantage of the all-you-can-eat dessert line.

NC State University
NC State

It's been a big year for NC State - and it's only February.

ferry toll rates
NCDOT

The NC Department of Transportation is holding hearings this week on whether or not to raise the cost of riding the state's ferries (even in places where it's currently free). Here are five things you should know about the plan.

1) Nearly everyone would pay a little more; Some would pay a lot more.

There are four ferry routes at play here. Two of them don't currently charge passengers at all. Under the new structure, rates would go up anywhere from $0.50 to $28, basically everywhere, depending on your route and the size of your vehicle.

US 64, Wendell
NC Department of Transportation

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is all hands on deck this morning.

More than four hundred trucks have been in action over the last 48 hours pre-treating and clearing roadways of snow from the mountains to the Outer Banks.

The western piedmont got about an inch of snow, and some areas of the Triangle near I-95 have seen 5 inches. Snow accumulations in Easter North Carolina could exceed six inches.

Most schools across the region are closed today.

Lake Mattamuskeet Wildlife Refuge

The annual migration of waterfowl to Lake Mattamuskeet is underway in Swan Quarter. Roughly 200,000 birds were counted in the National wildlife refuge this month, continuing a rising trend over years past.  That means visitors to the lake are in for some noise for the next month or so. The  birds have made the refuge their temporary home.   John Stanton with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service said it's a remarkable sound, followed by a remarkable silence:

A new study looks at the availability of caloric information from fast food restaurants online.
jasonlam via Flickr, Creative Commons

It's easy to point the finger at fast food joints. A decade after the breakout documentary, Super Size Me, the cheap, un-nutritious, happy meal is a go-to candidate for public ire when it comes to childhood obesity.

But a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina says that explanation might be too easy.

House Wade Avenue Pump Station
Eric Mennel / WUNC

What's Inside This House On Wade Avenue?

If you live or work in Raleigh, there's a reasonable chance you've driven by it. Maybe hundreds, or even thousands of times. And, chances are, you've never noticed anything out of the ordinary. In most ways, it's wholly unremarkable.

The house at 3215 Wade Avenue, about 15 minutes from downtown Raleigh, looks just like the rest of the houses in that neighborhood. A nice metal roof. Forest green window shutters. Doric columns line the front porch.

Greensboro City Council
City of Greensboro

In a unanimous vote, the Greensboro City Council agreed Tuesday that its definition of a sexually-oriented business was too broad.

The problem stems from some businesses not realizing they were sexually-oriented. Spencer's, (the black light infused, sort-of-ironic t-shirt and chain wallet store often found in malls) was cited by the city as violating it's definition of "sexually-oriented." Of course, Spencer's pushed back, arguing that the items in its store that are explicitly for adults can also be found in a drug store.

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