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

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.
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

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

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.

plastic grocery bags
Photo by mtsofan / John / found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

The National Weather Service is calling for an ice storm, not unlike one that crippled the state in 2002. Home and business owners are on the lookout for rock salt, but they're having trouble finding it.

Eileen Beatty manages Pope True Value Hardware in Durham. She says winter inventory has gotten slim since the last snowstorm.

“We don't have anything here. All the salt is gone. Kerosene heaters are gone. Electric heaters are gone. I got two snow shovels left... Two saucers and two sleds,” Beatty said. “And that's it.”

 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

While the state transportation department is already out salting roads, utility companies are closely monitoring the weather forecast today.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Ryan Ellis said light snow is likely this afternoon, getting heavy tomorrow into Thursday. By tomorrow afternoon, he said, ice will coat much of the state.

Jane Pritchard is a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives. She said it would take a heavy snowfall to mess with power lines, but just a half-inch of ice can do a lot of damage.

Judy Butler Flickr user mystuff1 / Wikipedia Creative Commons

Teacher and former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken announced he'll run as a Democrat for the state's second Congressional district.

In a campaign video, he described his humble beginnings, growing up poor in North Carolina. He said he's got leadership experience.

Elderly senior citizen hand on cane
Meena Kadri, Flickr, Creative Commons

Regulators who oversee quality at the state's long-term care facilities depend on trained volunteers to visit assisted-living and nursing homes and report back about conditions. But there are ongoing vacancies on the citizen advisory committees in the Triangle.

Dennis Streets is the director of the state health department division on Aging and Adult services. He said the job is more important than ever.

Raindrops falling on water
Juni from Kyoto, Japan / Wikipedia Creative Commons

The weather warmed up over the weekend, after snow, ice, and freezing temperatures deadlocked much of the state last week.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Phil Badgett said air flow from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic is keeping things warmer and rainy in the region today.

Community Care of North Carolina

North Carolina is enrolling more uninsured people than any other state that refused to set up its own health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

Health care policy director Adam Searing of the NC Justice Center says the state-run Medicaid system, Community Care, has made a big difference.

The state has encouraged social and health services to cooperate to provide Medicaid patients solid care up front, and now friends and family members who don't qualify for Medicaid have affordable options and guidance for enrolling in private healthcare.

MAYPORT, Fla. (Aug. 14, 2008) Bags and vials of blood await processing during the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) Blood drive at Naval Station Mayport. The ASBP program is different from other blood donations because all of the donations go straight t
Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Gay / United States Navy, ID 080814-N-0486G-006

The Polar Vortex isn’t loosening its grip on North Carolina. Freezing temperatures hit a record-low seven degrees in Elizabeth City this morning. Chowan County in the eastern part of the state had 9 inches of snow on the ground by yesterday afternoon.

But a series of cold spells and and days of icy roads have led to the cancellation of dozens of blood drives.

Lu Esposito of the Red Cross said the Triangle region is short 1,500 units of blood of all types.

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.

Pi, a Carolina Dog belonging to I. Lehr Brisbin.
D. B. Brisbin

Raleigh's Public Works Committee will hear a proposed ordinance that would govern where dogs are allowed in parks.

City rules require that dogs be on a leash in all public places, and that their owners pick up their pets' waste. But Raleigh's parks department is still getting complaints about dogs running loose and threatening children.

Parks Superintendent Wayne Schindler says visitors also say they're finding dog droppings on ball fields.

A view of Lumber Bridge, NC on NC Highway 71, after a rare snowfall
Gerry Dincher, Lumber Bridge Presbyterian / Wikipedia Creative Commons

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for much of the state today.

Raleigh Forecaster Scott Sharp says highs aren't likely to rise above the mid-20s today, and wind chill could make it feel like the teens.

Snow will start to fall this afternoon. Sharp says up to three inches could fall in the West, and up to six inches of snow is possible near I-95. The coast could see up to eight inches.

A solar panel, renewable energy

Renewable energy generators have channeled hundreds of millions of kilowatt hours into the North Carolina power grid. That's since the NC GreenPower program was founded 10 years ago.

The initiative collects donations from companies, citizens and utility customers to buy renewable energy and diversify the state's power grid.

NC Solar Center Director Steve Kalland is on the board for NC GreenPower. He said the program has also helped utilities warm up to renewable power providers. 

City of Raleigh

Federal budget cuts are influencing changes to subsidized housing in Raleigh.

This week, the City Council approved a Raleigh Housing Authority plan that would change the units in the Capitol Park projects away from the public housing model. Housing Authority Director Steve Beam says he's now waiting for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to weigh in:

National Weather Service

Rain became snow, and temperatures plummeted across much of North Carolina overnight. Most of the Triangle received a dusting, but areas north and west saw snow accumulations of up to 2.5 inches.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Barrett Smith said it's the latest in a string of Arctic cold fronts moving in from Canada.

“With the temperatures being in the low-to-mid-20s, where they are this morning, anything that looks wet on the roadway, you've got to assume that it's ice,” Smith said. “So, we're just cautioning everyone to be careful.”

Mars One

A North Carolina State University bioengineering student has made the first cut for a Dutch non-profit's mission to Mars. 

Of the 200,000 applicants for a mission to colonize the red planet, Raleigh's Charles Parrish made it to the recent cut of 1,058 candidates. The 23-year-old  has been passionate about space since childhood and has already done research for NASA and the Mars Society.

Martin Luther King Jr.
UNC Librairies

The Reverend Martin Luther King Junior is remembered today for his dedication to racial equality and social justice. Many groups across North Carolina are gathering to march, pray, and volunteer in their communities.

Students and faculty from Duke and NC Central Universities and Durham Technical Community College will gather to assemble dry food packages for Stop Hunger Now. That organization provides food aid to disaster victims around the world.

Lem Butler (left) of Counter Culture Coffee and Robbie Roberts (right) of Joe Van Gogh pose for a photo with WUNC Morning Edition Host Eric Hodge.

Coffee baristas and roasters across the East Coast are in Durham for a three-day regional competition that begins today. 

Competitors will make cappuccinos and come up with signature drinks. 

Lem Butler works for Counter Culture Coffee, the company hosting the competition.  He's also a former barista champ.  He said this weekend's events are really about taking care of the customer.

Leoneda Ingle reporting on Obama visit
Matt Shipman

Good morning. Here are some top stories from around the state:

Yan Liang / Energy Frontier Research Center UNC-Chapel Hill

The Frontier Research Center at UNC-Chapel Hill has built a system that converts solar energy into fuel, so power can be used even after the sun sets.  The US Department of Energy is funding the research.

Instead of storing solar electricity in an expensive battery, researchers use the sun's energy to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen.  Two of the Center's papers about the process were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Obama speaking in Mooresville, NC.
The White House

Good morning. Here are some of the top headlines from around the state that we're keeping an eye on.

Trash at a state landfill.
N.C. Division of Waste Management

The amount of garbage headed to the Wake County has dropped significantly in the past few years.

In 2009, the county buried 460,000 tons of garbage. That dropped to 400,000 last year.

Wake County Solid Waste Manager John Roberson says a number of factors impacted the reduction in waste going to the landfill: People bought and threw out less during the recession, recycling options improved, and commercial waste businesses disposed of garbage elsewhere.

Roberson says his division saw a $2 million drop in revenue over the past four years.

Wind knocks down building
Ed Braz

Strong wind gusts whipped across central North Carolina over the weekend.  National Weather Service Forecaster Mike Strickler says straight wind gusts in Wake and Johnston Counties reached 100-plus miles per hour.

Raleigh Durham International Airport recorded its fastest wind gusts ever. 

A residential building under construction was blown apart. Videographer Ed Braz captured this remarkable footage of the collapse:

National Naval Medical Center physician, Capt. David Thompson performs an ear tube surgery on a young hospital patient. According to Thompson, an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist, ear tubes are very common among children and dramatically reduce ...
Seaman Erica Mater / U.S. Navy 040203-N-4182M-001

Researchers at the University of North Carolina and RTI International have found that children who have tubes implanted in their ears to remove fluid pressure fare just as well in the long run as kids who wait out the symptoms under a doctor's care.

The small tubes are surgically implanted in a child’s eardrums to relieve the condition, called otitis media with effusion. Nearly 670,000 kids undergo the procedure in America each year, making it one of the most common surgeries for children.

The new process dissolves lignin into the PIL, leaving cellulose behind as a solid.
Ezinne Achinvu / North Carolina State University

As corn prices rise and ethanol production competes with food sources, the energy industry is looking for other ways to produce biofuels.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a simple, efficient and inexpensive way to extract energy-rich cellulose from non-edible plant matter, like corn husks, grasses, and wood chips.

PhD student Ezinne Achinivu  says labs often run into trouble trying to remove a protective material called lignin. It's bonded to the cellulose, but hinders its efficiency.