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

 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

It will feel a lot like a breezy spring morning across much of the state, but temperatures will turn icy this afternoon and into tomorrow.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Phil Badgett said temperatures will be in the 60s in some places early in the day, before an Arctic cold front moves in this afternoon.

“We're looking for lows tonight of between 5 and 10 degrees,” Badgett says. “And we haven't been that cold since January of 1996.”

Badgett says his colleagues call cold fronts like these "The Polar Express".

This is the acorn emblematic of Raleigh, North Carolina which usually sits on a pole in Moore Square but lately is removed, suspended from a crane, and lowered at midnight to mark the new year. It is a festive time ball.
Ke4roh / Wikipedia Creative Commons

New Year's Eve revelers will have plenty of options for live music across the Triangle tonight.

In true out-with-the-old sprit, The Casbah in Durham will host live jazz music. It's the last music show there, before the venue becomes a game room.

The Carolina Symphony begins early in the evening at the Meymandi Concert Hall. For less formal listening, Southern Culture on the Skids will play absurdist Rockabilly tunes at the Southland Ballroom in Raleigh.

Albemarle Sound, NC
NASA / PD-USGOV

Federal cuts mean the state will stop monitoring water quality at several dozen swimming sites along coastal rivers and sounds in the coming year. The Environmental Protection Agency cut $22,000 from a grant for the testing.

The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries uses a combination of state and federal funds to test 240 swimming areas for certain bacteria.

Director Louis Daniel says the division has notified county heath and summer camp directors that it will stop testing water quality at 41 swimming areas in coastal rivers and sounds.

NCSU students study an array of solar panels on top of the NSF FREEDM Systems Center.
Marc Hall / North Carolina State University

The North Carolina Solar Center has become the fifth lab in the country approved to test solar hot water panels to the market standard.

The federal government requires home solar water heating systems to have Solar Rating and Certification Corporation—or SRCC—certification in order to be eligible for a 30-percent tax credit.

The Center has also been recently accredited to test efficiency and calibrate panels according to international standards.

 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

Winter weather has made for treacherous roadways in the Piedmont over the last couple of nights.

Barrett Smith is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Raleigh. He says freezing rain is responsible for a number of traffic accidents in Chapel Hill and the Northern Triangle.

Smith says that freezing rain occurs when the air on the ground is colder than the air in the clouds.

The Virginia opossum, Didelphis virginiana
Cody Pope via Wikimedia commons

A Superior Court judge will allow Brasstown's annual Possum Drop to go ahead despite opposition from animal rights activists.

Judge Allen Baddour ruled in favor of the General Assembly's new animal display bill, which allows the state Wildlife Resources Commission to issue a permit for the event.

Each New Year's Eve, Brasstown revelers catch a wild opossum and lower it to the ground at midnight in a plexi-glass box. After the opossum is fed, it's released back into the wild.

Male Snowy Owl in the Adlerwarte Berlebeck in Berlebeck, Detmold, Germany
Michael Gäbler / © Michael Gäbler / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Nearly 600 North Carolinians are expected to get out into the woods and fields during the Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count. Volunteer bird watchers will join the coordinated effort to count as many birds and species as possible within designated areas.

Curtis Smalling directs Land Bird Conservation for Audubon North Carolina. He says the federal government surveys breeding birds in the summer, but the Christmas Bird Count compiles data going back 114 winters.

Traffic jam
epSos via Flickr, Creative Commons

Nearly 2.8 million North Carolinians are expected to travel for Christmas or New Year's vacations.

Gas prices and air fares are holding steady, but 48,500 more people plan to travel for the holidays this year than last, according to AAA Carolinas.

Spokeswoman Angela Daley says that could be due to the improving economy. She says the weeks that include Christmas and New Year's Day are the most popular travel time, and it's also the longest. Daley says that makes it easier for people to plan trips at their convenience.

The NCDOT is showing color coded routes under consideration for the 540 extension from Holly Springs to Knightdale.
NCDOT

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is considering 17 alternative routes to complete construction on the I-540 beltway around Raleigh.

Project Manager Eric Midkiff says that's down from hundreds of options the North Carolina Department of Transportation has already considered.

In the 1990s, the DOT established a likely location for the roadway.   The so-called Orange Route was protected from development in anticipation of the 540 loop.

Janet Cowell
nctreasurer.com

The State Treasurer's office is putting transparency reforms in place for contractors who manage some investments for the state pension fund.

The pension fund is worth about 83-billion dollars.

Treasurer Janet Cowell says independent reviews of NC Retirement Systems showed that until 2009, some managers hired third-party brokers, or “placement agents” to arrange investments, often without disclosing to the state.

A Duke University study found a link between poverty and smoking in adolescents.
Valentin Ottone via Flickr, Creative Commons

North Carolina doesn't spend enough to keep people from smoking or help them quit. That's according to a report from a coalition of health organizations.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids report ranked North Carolina 45th in the country for spending on smoking and chewing prevention or cessation programs. The report says the state spent none of its tobacco tax revenue on those programs in fiscal year 2013.

Ricky Diaz of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says the state wants to serve its residents.

NC State University

North Carolina State University recently beefed up its toxicology database, which could help revolutionize pharmaceutical research.

NC State's Comparitive Toxicogenomics Database already cataloged the harmful health impacts of environmental chemicals, like arsenic. Then pharmaceutical giant Pfizer collaborated with the CTD to add unintended side effects of therapeutic drugs.

Raleigh/Wake Emergency Communications Center
Dave DeWitt

If you use a cell phone to call 9-1-1 from your home or office, there's a good chance the dispatch center will receive inaccurate coordinates to your location. That's according to a report from the Federal Communications Commission.

Wireless providers deliver location information to 9-1-1 centers with each call. Land line calls include a name and address. The FCC established location accuracy standards when people generally used land lines at home and cell phones on the road. But now, 70 percent of 9-1-1 calls come from cell phones.

Soldier saluting
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans returning from deployment face a quickly-changing job market. Many have a difficult time explaining how their military experience has prepared them for the civilian work force. The unemployment rate for veterans is about 7-percent, on par with the national average.

The North Carolina National Guard Education and Employment Center helps guard members look for civilian jobs.

Manager and fellow veteran Austin Walther says they also help vets translate their military experience into civilian job skills.

Traffic jam
epSos via Flickr, Creative Commons

Increasingly congested roadways are worrying officials in Raleigh.

The City Council has submitted a "wish list" of road improvement projects to the North Carolina Department of Transportation. It includes a proposal to add lanes to I-540 on the north side of the city.

The council doesn't expect the state to fund the project, so it suggested paying for the 108 million-dollar expansion by setting up tolls on the roadway.

Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin says she knows tolls would not be popular, but she thinks breaking up traffic jams would be.

NOAA

The Atlantic hurricane season officially ended Saturday.

It turned out to be the quietest season since 1995, and it was first time in 19 years that no major storms formed in the Atlantic basin.

This came a surprise to forecasters.

Colorado State University predicted a higher-than average hurricane season. Researcher Paul Klotzbach says they estimated a 37-percent probability of a hurricane making landfall in North Carolina in August.

National Weather Service

Three people have sustained minor injuries after a tornado hit the North Carolina coast. The roof blew of an Atlantic Beach condo, with a couple inside, and flying debris hit a Carteret Community College student.

The National Weather Service office in Morehead City issued a tornado warning last night. Forecaster Lara Pagano said a water spout moved onto land.

Traffic jam
epSos via Flickr, Creative Commons

Cheaper gas prices and a recovering economy could mean more people hitting the road for the Thanksgiving holiday this week.

AAA Carolinas says gas is $.07 cheaper than last year, but almost $.30 less-expensive than it was Labor Day weekend. Spokeswoman Angela Daley says 36,000 more people plan to travel by car for the holiday this year.  She says the increase in traffic is most likely a sign of economic recovery.

NCSU students study an array of solar panels on top of the NSF FREEDM Systems Center.
Marc Hall / North Carolina State University

Raleigh might soon have a group-purchasing program that would make it cheaper for residents to install solar panels on their homes. North Carolina Solar Center Director Steve Kalland  says solar power is popular among state utilities. They save money buying the costly technology in bulk. Kalland says homeowners are also interested in using cheaper, greener energy.

"The opportunity to do this has been somewhat constrained in North Carolina because the cost of these smaller-scale projects is somewhat higher than the large-scale projects," Kalland says.

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