Jorge Valencia

Capitol Reporter

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.

Ways to Connect

Photo: The Department of Public Instruction revealed a dramatic drop in student performance on standardized tests Thursday.

The number of North Carolina students passing state reading and math exams dramatically dropped this year, reflecting a change in performance under higher test standards and a new curriculum, according to education officials. 

 Across the state, 44.7 percent of students passed exams, down from 77.9 percent the previous year,  the Department of Public Instruction said Thursday. 

A plane lands at Piedmont Triad International Airport.
redlegs21 via Flickr, Creative Commons

Researchers at Duke University are developing radio wave scanners that could dramatically increase the speed at which travelers are checked at security points in airports.

The scanners, which researchers say could be tested in as soon as 12 months for airport use, were one of the developing technologies that scientists showed three North Carolina congressmen in a tour yesterday of laboratories at Duke’s Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.

Photo: Death row inmates are housed at Central Prison in Raleigh. No executions have been carried out in North Carolina since 2006.
North Carolina Department of Public Safety

The North Carolina agency responsible for managing executions in the state has changed its procedures  to  use a one-drug lethal injection, potentially affecting litigation that for years has challenged the state’s use of a three-drug mix as cruel and unusual punishment.

 The Department of Public Safety changed in late October its procedures to use in executions only the drug pentobarbital, said department spokesman Pamela Walker. Late last week, the attorneys in a case centering on the state’s use of a three-drug solution asked the North Carolina Court of Appeals for the 10th Judicial District to postpone a hearing scheduled for today so they could review the new procedures. 

Photo: Michael Shannon, an U.S. Coast Guard marine science technician, takes a water sample near a damaged tank at an oil refinery in Sewaren, N.J., which leaked after Hurricane Sandy struck the region.
U.S. Department of Defense

Some of the country’s top scientists in mass-disaster clean-up are meeting in Research Triangle Park this week to talk about decontaminating materials laced with biological, chemical and radiological agents. 

The gathering, scheduled for today and tomorrow at the EPA’s facilities in RTP, is expected to include about 200 scientists who design response tools and the professionals from agencies such as FEMA that use them, said Gregory Sayles, who heads the EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center.

Photo: The Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half-Marathon
Competitor Group

On a Sunday morning in early June, thousands of endurance athletes ran through downtown Raleigh in the city’s Ironman Triathlon. This Sunday, thousands are expected for the City of Oaks Marathon. And on a Sunday next April, many more could show for the first Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon. 

Hundreds of downtown churchgoers, whose churches are surrounded by street closings for event routes, have wound up in gridlock.  For the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon, which features live bands and cheerleaders, even more worshippers than usual will be looking for a way in because the event is scheduled for April 13th -- Palm Sunday.  

Gov. McCrory signs tax reform into law.
Dave DeWitt

The state’ sales tax holiday on appliances that are certified as energy efficient starts Friday, runs through Sunday and will be discontinued after this year.

The annual moratorium, on appliances such as clothes washers, dehumidifiers and air conditioning units marked with an "Energy Star” label, cost the state an estimated $12.5 million in uncollected taxes since it was implemented in 2008, according to the state Department of Revenue.


A federal appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments today on whether North Carolina can offer license plates with an anti-abortion message without making an alternative available to supporters of abortion rights.

The deliberations, set for the U.S. Court Of Appeals for the Fourth District in Richmond, Va., center around the question: Does a license plate represent the speech of the state or of the driver carrying it on a vehicle?

The memorial commemorating the victims of the 1983 bombing in Beirut
Michael D. Dunn / Flickr Creative Commons

Marines at Camp Lejeune are remembering the 1983 bombing of their base in Beirut, Lebanon.

It was 30 years ago Wednesday that a truck loaded with explosives crashed into the barracks and killed 241 service members. Dan Joy was a corporal there. He says he and other surviving veterans have been gathering this week.

"When we started talking, little tidbits of things that we did sort of all came back, you know, and they were just young kids," Joy said.

Several feet of flood waters trap cars on West Franklin St. in Chapel Hill Sunday afternoon.
Bart Smith / Facebook

Residents of Orange and Durham counties are cleaning up after torrential rain led to flood waters several feet deep. 

Officials in Chapel Hill say rescuers evacuated at least 40 people Sunday from flooded homes and vehicles.  They were taken to a Red Cross shelter at Smith Middle School.