Rebecca Martinez

Morning Producer

Rebecca Martinez produces WUNC’s broadcast of Morning Edition. She reports breaking news as well as feature stories and interviews about a range of subjects, including immigration enforcement and environmental sustainability. She knows a lot about municipal solid waste.

Rebecca is also the co-creator and founding producer of The Civilist with Steven Petrow. The podcast is a partnership between WUNC and PRI, and it explores how people can talk respectfully about controversial and awkward topics.

Before coming to North Carolina, Rebecca was a reporter and host at Wyoming Public Radio, where she created the "Upstarts" entrepreneur profile series. She won a PRNDI award for soft feature reporting in 2012 and has edited and produced several PRNDI award-winning stories and episodes of "Open Spaces." Rebecca has reported on agriculture and community issues at The News Leader in Staunton, VA. She spent two years cutting tape, booking interviews and running scripts at NPR's Washington, DC headquarters. Her reporting has aired on NPR, the BBC, PRI, Marketplace and National Native News.

She lives in Durham, where she volunteers on the crisis line at Durham Crisis Response Center. She also occasionally leads bike tours of the city’s murals.

Ways to Connect

A picture of Nash Health Care
Nash Health Care System

Nash Health Care in Rocky Mount is the newest hospital to join the UNC Health System. Their affiliation agreement allows UNC to manage operations at Nash.

Nash Health CEO Larry Chewning will now be on UNC Health's payroll, but Nash will continue to be governed by its independent board of directors.

A picture of a scientist examining lionfish eggs in a beaker.
NOAA

If Congress passes the president's proposed 2015 budget, North Carolina's coast could lose a century-old marine lab.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's lab in Beaufort is on the chopping block.

Ciaran Clayton is a spokeswoman for NOAA.

“The current cost per year to operate and maintain the facility (is) about $1.6 million per year,” Clayton said. “It's an aging facility and would require additional funding to make those improvements, something that is just not currently in our current budget or in our future budgets.”

A picture of flattened soda cans
gfpeck / Flickr

A growing contingent of manufacturers is working to make products with packaging that won't end up in a landfill.

They'll have a workshop devoted to education and idea-swapping at this week's Zeroing in on Waste Reduction event in Asheville. Carolina Recycling Association hosts the annual conference and trade show, which will gather 700 exhibitors, businesses, speakers and participants.

Diane Davis is the executive director of the CRA. She said making products that limit waste can be cost-effective while being environmentally friendly.

A picture of young people in downtown Raleigh.
Leo Suarez / Flickr

North Carolina's dozen metropolitan areas are growing faster than the country as a whole. That's according to US Census Bureau's county and metro area population estimates from 2012 to 2013.

During that time, the US population grew by .7 percent. Wake County had the second-highest growth – after Mecklenberg – with 2.3 percent.

Rural counties, including Pasquotank and Halifax were among those losing the most residents.

Bob Coats works in the state budget office and the State Data Center. He says people are migrating to urban centers with more robust economies.

A picture of a woman using a tablet next to the SAS Analytics U logo.
SAS

A Cary-based software company is offering a free service to university students and professors.

SAS Analytics U will allow them to use statistical tools to manage data, identify trends, and make decisions in their research and class work. Analytics U also allows them to share their work in online communities.

A picture of Bill Bell at a podium.
durham.gov

Durham Mayor Bill Bell has set in motion his campaign to reduce poverty. 

Bell said Durham has a lot of resources: good universities, a creative class, and a growing number of jobs. He believes that by using UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies data about distressed neighborhoods, surveying residents, and planning area specific solutions, this push could make a difference.

“Poverty is an issue that I think we should be able to deal with in this community in a much more collaborative way than we're doing now,” said Bell.

A close-up picture of a snowflake
Alexei Kljatov / Creative Commons 2.0 http://earthdesk.blogs.pace.edu/files/2013/12/snowflake.jpg

A storm system is moving up the East Coast, but it's not likely to have a heavy impact South of Virginia.

Ryan Ellis is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Raleigh. He says we should expect some light precipitation and temperatures in the 30s this morning.

“Still cold enough to get some snow, but certainly not cold enough to cause major impacts,” said Ellis. “And this time of year, in late March, we know, from climatology, that it's just very hard to get a significant event here in North Carolina this late in the year.”

The Soar logo
Soar

A new program in Durham is seeking to help female entrepreneurs close the gender gap in securing startup money.

Google is putting up $15,000 to fund the new organization called Soar, which will help women-led start-ups connect with venture capitalists and similar businesses that have gotten funding.

The non-profit Kauffman Foundation says only 5 percent of all venture capital goes to fund women-led start-ups, even though companies with female leaders are found to be more efficient and bring in bigger returns.

A picture of the newspaper want ads
Creative Commons / http://mycareerinfo.ca

The state unemployment rate is dropping, but the labor force is also shrinking. 

The North Carolina Department of Commerce reports unemployment fell from 8.8 percent in January 2013 to 6.7 percent in January 2014.  But that number doesn't include people who have stopped looking for work.  The state's labor force is made up of people who work or are trying to find jobs, and that pool shrank by more than 60,000 people during the year. 

North Carolina State University Economist Michael Walden said 2013 was somewhat of a disappointing year for job growth.

 Image of a branch that has been subjected to freezing rain within the previous 24 hours. Note the branch is completly encapsulated in ice. Some melting has occurred as temperatures were around 0 Celsius
David Park, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on 27 Dec 2009. / Wikipedia Creative Commons

A low-pressure system moving up from the south brought rain and sleet to Central North Carolina, and high pressure air from the North is keeping cold air in the area. The result has been freezing temperatures and icy roads.

A winter weather advisory is in effect for most of the state west of the Interstate 95 corridor until noon.

Ryan Ellis is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh. He says ice is especially bad in the Triad.

A picture of women in Africa.
RTI International

RTI International has recently created a Global Gender Center to study and find solutions for imbalances of power against women around the world.

Wendee Wechsberg directs the new organization and is doing field work in South Africa. She said many universities have researchers who study individual communities but the Global Gender Center will work to connect those experts. Priority issues include HIV, domestic violence and economic development.

The 'Old Well' UNC-Chapel HIll
Caroline Culler / Wikipedia

Individuals are enrolling in health care through the federal online marketplace, but thousands of North Carolinians might find themselves with employer-sponsored health plans next year.   

In January, the Affordable Care Act will require businesses to offer health insurance to full-time employees working 30 hours a week or more. This would now include graduate teaching assistants and visiting faculty at the University of North Carolina.

A picture of an intravenous drip bag of saline.
Harmid / Wikipedia

Medical facilities are facing a national shortage of intravenous drugs, especially saline IV drips. Saline is used to treat dehydrated patients.

Manufacturers are stepping up production to meet need, but the shortage has presented problems to hospitals since December, when flu season began.

Zack Moore is an infectious disease epidemiologist with he North Carolina Division of Public Health. He said this is an especially bad time of year to have a limited saline supply for two reasons.

A picture of a stethoscope.
jasleen_kaur / Flickr/Creative Commons

A new online guidebook aims to help connect doctors with public health agencies to fight chronic illnesses like diabetes.  Those illnesses make up 80-percent of health care costs today, compared to only 20-percent in 1900.

Duke's Department of Community and Family Medicine partnered with the de Beaumont Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch "Public Health and Primary Care Together: A Practical Playbook.” It suggests ways primary care and public health providers can better manage chronic disease and combat rising health care costs.

A picture of cats
Jeffrey W www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreyww/4544016041/ / Flickr

Orange County Animal Services is looking for ideas from the public to handle the pet-overpopulation problem.

Director Bob Morotto said many cats are "unaffiliated" with a specific owner and haven't been spayed. They have high mortality rates and can spread disease to domesticated cats.

Morotto said the coming warm weather means "kitten season" is around the corner.  That's when cats begin having litters on litters, causing the population to spike.

Icy Road
Danielle Scott http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielle_scott/ / Flickr Creative Commons

Temperatures dropped into the teens across the Piedmont overnight, freezing yesterday's rain and snowfall. Now roadways are covered with black ice.

Gail Hartfield is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh. She says temperatures will be in the 20s all morning and won't warm to freezing or above until lunchtime.

“Just encouraging people to take it easy this morning,” Hartfield said. “If you can postpone travel until after noon, that's great and better. You'll see road conditions much improved over what they'll be this morning.”

 Image of a branch that has been subjected to freezing rain within the previous 24 hours. Note the branch is completly encapsulated in ice. Some melting has occurred as temperatures were around 0 Celsius
David Park, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on 27 Dec 2009. / Wikipedia Creative Commons

Updated 10:48 a.m.:

A cold front is moving into the Triangle and creeping eastward toward the coast. Temperatures are expected to drop into the 20s later today.

Scott Sharpe is a senior forecaster at the National Weather Service in Raleigh. He said a wintry mix is expected across the region sometime after lunch.

Fish and Wildlife Service worker on boat checking gill net full of fish
Pedro Ramirez, Jr. / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A trade group of North Carolina commercial fishermen has proposed that the General Assembly raise their fishing license fees to pay for regulatory measures.

Flounder fishermen sometimes get endangered sea turtles caught in their gillnets, so federal law requires that the state hire trained "observers" to check nets regularly. The General Assembly only funded the observer program until next summer, but if there's no observer at all, the state will be required to stop all gillnet fishing.

Triangle Transit Authority

The Federal Transit Authority (FTA) has given the green-light to begin the first steps of a 17-mile light rail project connecting Durham and Orange Counties.

The decision authorizes Triangle Transit to begin development on the project, by studying the potential environmental impact of two proposed rail routes.

Triangle Transit has put together this video "fly-through" of the proposed light rail route:

US Department of Housing and Urban Planning

Several social justice groups are asking the federal government to reject a Raleigh Housing Authority plan that would sell off 175 public housing units.

Housing authority director Steve Beam has said the plan would save the city money, and that the current residents of the units would receive vouchers to subsidize their rent if they moved elsewhere.

But Bill Rowe of the N.C. Justice Center wrote to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and said this plan could result in further segregating Raleigh neighborhoods.

The Chatham Park project could boost Pittsboro's population to 60,000 people
Screen shot from online video / Preston Development Company

Preston Development Company has big plans for Pittsboro, but an urban planning consultant says it isn't very clear what they are.

The Chatham Park project is meant to turn thousands of acres into full neighborhoods of residences and office space just 15 miles from Chapel Hill. It could turn the town into a sizeable city. The project is controversial, and Pittsboro hired the Lawrence Group in Davidson to review its master plan.

M&P .45
Daniel Weber's photo stream / Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Daniel Weber’s photostream

Residents of Wake County can now apply online for a permit to own a hand gun or to carry one concealed. Instead of going into an office, they can fill out the permit application and pay the fee online.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said the online service makes the process more user-friendly, but just as safe as before.

The state's nursing homes and elder care facilities are improving, according to a new study.
SalFalko / Flickr

After a hospital stay, many seniors on Medicare will go to a nursing facility to rehabilitate before going home. But a new study from Duke University, UNC Chapel Hill and the Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence shows many of them return to the hospital before long.

Mark Toles teaches at UNC's Nursing school and is a co-author of the report. He said nursing homes often provide good care, but the transition back home can be difficult.

Sweet potato fields in Eastern NC.
Bob Is Traveling / Flickr Creative Commons

Many farms spread human waste on cropland to fertilize it. In this case, the waste is called "biosolids". It can carry household chemicals that affect important bacteria, and that can hurt soil health.

The government has had a hard time regulating chemicals in biosolids, because the equipment that measured bacterial gases was very expensive.

But a new report from Duke University's school of engineering shows that bacterial reactions to chemicals can be assessed by changes in color. That's a cheaper test to administer.

http://www.wikihow.com/Treat-Meningitis-%28Spinal-Meningitis%29
WikiHow: Creative Commons.

A Chapel Hill teen died suddenly on Wednesday. The Orange County Health Department suspects it was caused by a bacteria called meningococcus. It can lead to meningitis and blood infections. Both bring body aches and a rash among other symptoms.

The Chapel Hill boy only noticed symptoms a day before, but health officials estimate he was exposed to the bacteria last week.

Zack Moore is a medical epidemiologist with the state Division of Public Health.

North Carolina Association of Educators

Some teachers and advocates with the N.C. Association of Educators are asking the Durham Board of Education to follow Guilford County's lead and decline to comply with a new state education law.

The General Assembly passed a budget that eliminates tenure in 2018. Meanwhile, school districts will offer the top 25 percent of teachers four-year contracts and $500 raises to relinquish their status.

Hillside High School teacher Nicholas Graber-Grace said the model is stacked against teachers with disadvantaged students, and it discourages collaboration among colleagues.

Rocky Mount Police http://www.rockymountnc.gov/police/gangawareness.html

Rocky Mount community members and leaders are gathering at Word Tabernacle Church tonight for a public forum. This comes just weeks after four boys were shot on the church basketball court, and another was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Word Tabernacle Church Pastor James Gailliard said the tragedies have been a catalyst for social dialogue. He said he sees people crossing the aisle politically and having constructive discussions about how to combat gang violence, poverty and joblessness in the community.

Danielle Scott / Flickr Creative Commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielle_scott/

The two-day snow and ice storm has finally stopped, but hazardous road conditions remain.

Kathleen Carroll is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Raleigh. She said temperatures rose into the upper-30s yesterday, causing the snow to start melting.

“The problem is that it didn't really dry out a whole lot before the sun set and temperatures started to fall again,” Carroll said. “So what's we've seen over night is a pretty good development of black ice on area roads.”

'Icy trees are not good for power lines.'
Lee J. Freedman (@leefreedman via Twitter)

Yesterday's winter storm slowed North Carolina to a halt. Most schools and many businesses have closed. The weather is crippling other infrastructure, too.

Snow turned to freezing rain, making for slippery roadways across North Carolina. Plows and salt trucks are working around a graveyard of abandoned cars this morning. Hundreds of cars got stuck on shoulders and ramps, and many drivers have set out for shelter on foot. Now, the National Guard is picking up stranded motorists and taking them to emergency shelters. People stuck in cars should be ready to accept rides.

ice on everything
Justinsomnia / licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License

Forecasters say a serious ice storm is headed our way.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Moneypenny says conditions could be similar to those of a 2002 ice storm that caused long power-outages across the state.

Ice increases the risk of branches snapping power lines, and of motorists sliding off the road into utility poles.

Moneypenney says parts of the Piedmont could receive up to five inches of snow. It will fall on ground that's already frozen, and the air isn't likely to warm up until the weekend.

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