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

The new Rodanthe Bridge could go along the current easement for N.C. 12
N.C.D.O.T.

The N.C. Department of Transportation has been planning to put a bridge at Rodanthe for some time. N.C. 12 is particularly susceptible to storm water breaches there, and so a bridge looks like the only way to keep the road viable, long-term.

There are two options for the bridge. Option 1: Go straight through Rodanthe, alongside the current route of N.C. 12. A one lane service road would remain in place to serve the private property alongside the highway.

Option 2: Send the new bridge around Rodanthe, into the Pamlico Sound.

Children at the Greystone Rec Center in north Raleigh
City of Raleigh

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane has asked her staff to look for vacant commercial space that she might recommend for recreational development. 

McFarlane offered the idea of leasing space in strip malls and shopping centers to build recreational facilities. It's an attempt to kill two birds with one stone- build the recreational facilities the city wants/needs while also creating an anchor business in a shopping center that might otherwise be floundering.

State park in Hillsborough overlooking the Eno River, forest, trees
Laura Candler

North Carolina's state parks will offer free hikes on New Year's Day, along with educational opportunities for children and adults alike. More than 40 outings are scheduled, rain or shine, as a healthy way to ring in the new year. Some hikes will be only a couple of miles, while others will run as long as 5 miles.

It's the third year the state parks system has offered free First Day Hikes. Park officials expect thousands to attend across the state.

Unemployment Rate
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

In the never ending story that is "so-so" economic news, North Carolina's unemployment rate took a sharp drop in November, but that doesn't necessarily mean there are more people employed.

Here are the numbers up front:

Iron Man
Just_The_Way / Flickr

Iron Man 3. Homeland. Sleepy Hollow.

Those are just a few of the productions that took (or are taking) place in North Carolina. And when you ask an industry expert why producers choose a specific city or state to film in, the answer has very little to do with climate, or airport access, or number of available caterers.

"The only places they look to do business are places that have a [tax] incentive," said Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission. "That's the number one qualifying factor."

A Chapel Hill group is handing out stickers that look like this to restaurants and bars that want them.
emedco.com

A new law, which went into effect in October, makes it legal to carry a gun in the state's restaurants, bars, parks,  and public schools/universities (with a handful of caveats.)

You can't carry a weapon into a city government building, though.

Many of the laws opponents had one question on mind: Why? What evidence was there that guns were needed to prevent violence in local parks?

Llama
cogdogblog / Flickr

North Carolina's students are graduating with more debt than ever before.

The average student graduating from a public, or private-non-profit school will graduate with $23,893 dollars in debt. In 2008, the average student had just $18,000 in debt.

We wondered...just what could you buy with $24,000?

How about a Toyota Camry L with keyless entry?

Or perhaps you prefer more than 1,700 bottles of wine from GlenMarie Vineyards in Burlington, NC.

Congressman David Price
price.house.gov

Rep. David Price (D-NC) plans to vote for the budget agreement, proposed on Wednesday by representatives Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA). Though he's not convinced it will be enough in the long run.

"It's hard to imagine sequestration looming over us for ten years," said Price.  "We are going to need to do something bigger and ambitious at some point."

"It does not necessarily mean we're on our way to larger agreements," Price added.

North Carolina Air Pollution
Doug Bradley / Flickr

That's not an easy question to answer.

Earlier this week, eight Northern states filed a petition with the EPA alleging that states from the South and Midwest are producing enough smog that it's affecting the air quality downwind. But how much can be blamed on North Carolina?

On the face of it, it's likely that some of North Carolina's air pollution does seep across state lines.

Chapel Hill Car Accident
Triplezero / Flikr

After a six-year dip in the number of traffic fatalities in North Carolina, deaths in 2012 rose by 5.5 percent. That's according to data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The federal agency says 1,292 people died in car accidents in North Carolina last year, with 33,561 fatalities occurring nationwide.

SELC Logo
Southern Environmental Law Center

Despite a public blasting from state and local officials, the Southern Environmental Law Center says it plans to move forward with a lawsuit opposing replacing the Bonner Bridge.

"We have no plans to drop this lawsuit," said Derb Carter, Director the SELC North Carolina offices. "We're filing briefs next week. We are doing everything we can to make sure the case proceeds promptly to a conclusion."

Unemployment Rate
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

As jobless numbers continue to drop, North Carolina Department of Commerce officials are announcing new rules for people receiving unemployment benefits. 

Beginning next February, claimants will be required to present a photo I.D. at an in-person meeting within four weeks of receiving their first benefits. Currently, the meetings are done at random.  

Raleigh Police Memorial
Dennis Lane / Raleigh Police Memorial Foundation

In 2009, Major Dennis Lane and other police officers road their bicycles from Raleigh to Washington D.C., in honor of officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.  They stopped at various cities along the route. And they noticed something different between these cities and Raleigh; Many of them had memorials erected in honor of fallen officers.

"Of the 50 largest cities in the country, there were only two cities that did not have a police memorial of some sort; Raleigh and Indianapolis, " said Lane.

Urban Ministries of Durham, Names For Change
WUNC

Last year, Urban Ministries of Durham made national news with their online game, Spent. They teamed up with McKinney, an advertising agency, to help re-create the experience of living below the poverty line.

But, after playing Spent, "I think you get through...  and it feels pretty hopeless," said McKinney associate creative director, Jenny Nicholson. UMD and McKinney wanted to bring some of that hope back.

Siats
Jorge Gonzalez

Researchers from North Carolina and Chicago announced  the discovery a new dinosaur today.

Siats Meekerorum (known colloquially as "SEE-ahtch") is thought to have been one of the three largest predators in America, at one time even larger than the Tyrannosaurus. This particular specimen was 30 feet long... and it's an adolesent.

Dr. Lindsay Zanno, a paleontologist at N.C. State and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, is one of the co-discoverers. She told WUNC that we're still trying to figure out what led to Siats's demise. But there are theories.

Dean Smith Center, UNC Chapel Hill
Dave DeWitt

The University of North Carolina basketball program is considering renovating or possibly replacing the Dean Smith Center.

The school's Athletic Director, Bubba Cunningham, would like to add premium seating to the arena.  Similar changes were recently made to the football stadium in Chapel Hill to become what is now called the "Blue Zone." Cunningham said the seats may largely pay for themselves.

Alumni Game Dean Smith Roy Williams Michael Jordan
totomaru / Flickr

At a ceremony at the White House Wednesday, President Obama awarded former UNC basketball coach Dean Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The president bestowed the nation's highest civilian honor on a class of recipients including civil rights activist Bayard Rustin and women's rights advocate Gloria Steinem.  Smith was lauded not just for his many athletic achievements, but also for his impact on the community he calls home.

Nursing students working in the simulation lab during class.
Lower Columbia Community College / Flickr

Two North Carolina schools are partnering to provide future nurses with a path to a bachelors degree.

The new program is a joint venture of North Carolina Central University and Central Carolina Community College.  It's designed to allow students at the community college to take university-level nursing courses.  Betty Dennis is chair of the NCCU Nursing department.  She said many nurses never bother to get a four-year degree.

NFL Plays near the goal line
beefy_n1 / Flickr

The NFL Players Association announced a partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Thursday to provide medical services and support to former football players. 

The program is called "The Trust".  It's the result of a multi-million dollar collective bargaining agreement reached after the 2011 league lockout.  Bahati Van Pelt is executive director of The Trust. He said the UNC Brain and Body Health Program and its director, Kevin Guskiewicz, were natural partners for the NFLPA.

HealthServe is closing in Greensboro this week and 20,000 people will have to find a medical provider elsewhere.
Flickr.com

A total of 1,662 North Carolinians have signed up for a health plan in the federal marketplace.

That's according to numbers released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Of the 30 states that have signed up individuals, North Carolina has the fourth most, behind Florida (3,571), Texas (2,991) and Pennsylvania (2,207). 

United Community Ministries

Tonight's cold front will mean a push to capacity for many area homeless shelters.

At Urban Ministries of Durham, a process known as "White Flag" allows for some usual shelter rules to be pushed aside in the event of inclement weather. Typically, the shelter has a limit on the number of days any one person can stay there, and restrictions on what days they can check in.

Internet Summit

The sixth annual Internet Summit is in Raleigh this week, and organizers are hoping to leave conference goers a little starstruck.

Soldier saluting
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

First Lieutenant Nathan Rimpf of Raleigh lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan last year.  He received a Purple Heart and got two titanium legs when he returned. And on Thursday he'll be a new home owner.

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