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Stories, features and more by WUNC News Staff.  Also, features  and commentary not by any one reporter.

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Patches relaxes at the zoo.
NC Zoo

The North Carolina Zoo's popular polar bear, Patches, died on Sunday.

In recent weeks, Patches had become uninterested in food, and was lethargic, according to Ken Reininger, the zoo’s general curator. Tests revealed the female bear had an extensive lung mass which was likely cancer.

“In the wild the average life span of a polar bear is 15-to-18 years old,” said Dr. David Jones, director of the zoo. “Patches was 26-years-old. She exceeded wildlife expectations by living a long life.”

the WUNC audio board with a paper version of the new NPR clock
Carol Jackson

Beginning Monday, WUNC is changing its newscasts in Morning Edition.  This means more news about North Carolina throughout the morning hours.  You'll now hear newscasts at :01, :19, :31 and :42 minutes past each hour. 

This does mean that some of the sounds that mark your morning routine are shifting slightly - so please watch that clock.

This is part of a larger change in all the NPR newsmagazine programs. 

Craig Bromby
Hunton & Williams LLP

A lawyer advising North Carolina's environmental agency on rewriting clean-up rules for Duke Energy's coal ash dumps previously represented the electricity company on the same issue.

Craig Bromby was hired in June at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He retired in March as a partner at the Raleigh office of Hunton & Williams, where his corporate clients included Duke.

The odorous house ant (Tapinoma sessile) was the most common species found in parks and forests, but was absent in street medians.
Adrian Smith

A new study out of North Carolina State University suggests there's a remarkably high diversity in the types of ants found in cities.

Published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity, the paper looks at different environments along Broadway Avenue in Manhattan. Researchers found more than 20 different species of ants in the median of the road alone. They found more than 20 other species in the surrounding parks and urban forests.

A pedestrian bridge under construction collapsed on Wake Tech campus.
WRAL via Twitter

Officials say one worker has been killed and four others were hurt when a pedestrian bridge under construction on Wake Tech Community College's northern campus collapsed. Wake County EMS officials say the four men suffered injuries Thursday that were serious enough to send them to a hospital trauma unit.

Jeff Hammerstein with Wake EMS says he thinks the highest point on the bridge was 40 feet above the ground. 

Some North Carolina legislators say they were surprised and upset to hear that their House Chamber is undergoing renovations.

They say they didn’t green light the $125,000 expense, and that it didn't go through the legislative services commission. The project received approval from the office of House Speaker Thom Tillis, who is transitioning to U.S. senator.

“Quite a surprise,” said House Republican Representative Julia Howard. “I am shocked that they’re taking the red curtains down, that’s a piece of our history. It does disturb me.”

BB&T Logo
Wikipedia Commons

Winston-Salem based BB&T has announced a today to buy Susquehanna Bank. The $2.5 billion deal adds 245 new branches to BB&T, and extends the bank's reach into Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Much of Susquehanna's growth comes in more rural markets - something BB&T hopes to capitalize on:

A group of faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are pursuing the idea of a new ethics policy.

At a Faculty Executive Committee meeting Monday, epidemiology professor Jim Thomas proposed developing a comprehensive ethics policy for the university as a whole. Thomas says he first suggested the idea a decade ago, but the recent scandal involving sham classes has allowed the proposal to gain traction.

As many as 40 percent of the approximately 2 million military children in the United States are under the age of 5.
Breaking Ground / WAMU

  

The United States has been at war for more than a decade and the men and women that protect our country overseas are not the only people making sacrifices. Tens of thousands of children have watched as their parents get deployed into dangerous conflict zones and have been dealing with the reality that they may never come back or that they may return as someone different.

New Right: Judge Or Jury

Nov 5, 2014
Picture of gavel
Flickr.com

State voters passed a constitutional amendment that would give people accused of a felony a choice to have a judge hear their trial rather than a jury of their peers. The amendment was approved with about 54% of the vote. 

Up until last night's vote, North Carolina stood alone in refusing to allow that choice.  The option will only be available to persons not facing the death penalty. 

Man sitting on a park bench
Grant MacDonald / Flickr/Creative Commons

Raleigh voters have approved a $92-million bond referendum to improve parks and recreational facilities in the capital city.  The measure was solidly supported, 68 percent to 32 percent.

Voters' approval will mean a rise in property tax of 1.72 cents that will go into effect next July.

Funds from that tax increase will also pay for acquisition of new park land and new construction.  The plans for improvement are detailed in a new System Plan adopted by the Raleigh City Council.

Here's what NC's early vote looks like http://wapo.st/1x8ulLQ
@PostReid via Twitter

This is our election night blog. Complete election results can be found here.

NPR Politics Desk
NPR

This is NPR's blog following the hotly contested 2014 election:

Alana Hadley after setting a course record in the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon
Twitter

A 17-year-old Charlotte girl is continuing her march towards the U.S. Olympic Trials in marathon running.

Alana Hadley set a course record this past weekend at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. At 2:38:34, Hadley solidified her time as the second youngest female to ever qualify for the U.S. Trials.

Here are the latest 2014 mid-term election results from the North Carolina Board of Elections. (See a wider version of this information).

Photo: A Massachusetts voting station sign
Katri Niemi / Flickr

Saturday marks the final hours of early voting ahead of Tuesday's election. Polling sites across the state will close at 1 p.m.

The number of early voting days was reduced this year from 17 to 10, leading to a series of lawsuits fearing a decrease in voter opportunity and turnout, particularly among minorities. But State Board of Elections spokesman Josh Lawson says African American turnout has already been high.

The abandoned railroad corridor that has become the American Tobacco Trail.
Durham Trails and Greenways 2011 Master Plan

Lawmakers are considering an incremental plan to build faster rail lines between Raleigh and Richmond. While officials in North Carolina and Virginia had hoped a high-speed rail might be feasible between the two capitals, funding obstacles remain in the way.

One major  challenge is creating grade separation, keeping tracks from crossing existing roads. The basic tracks that cross over regular roads are limiting.

"You never reach a higher speed than 79 mph," said North Carolina Rep. Bill Brawlyer, who co-chairs the commission working on the rail project.

Partial solar eclipse
T. Ruen / NASA Goddard via Twitter

There will be a partial solar eclipse tonight at 6:00. The eclipse is expected to last about three hours. Such an eclipse occurs when the moon obscures part of the sun.

There is a comprehensive, interactive Google map that shows early voting locations across the state.

Click here to see precise locations and hours, even directions. Most locations are open Monday-Friday until close of business. Saturday hours are also available.

You can vote in any of the early voting locations in your county.

Early voting continues until 11/1.

#SocialMediaNC via Twitter

On Wednesday, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced the results of an independent investigation conducted by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein into past academic irregularities at Carolina. WUNC's Jeff Tiberii was at the press conference. Here are his tweets, along with some others (most recent tweet first):

City of Fayetteville Police Department
bethebadge.com

The U.S. Department of Justice will spend the next several months reviewing the policies and practices of the Fayetteville Police Department. The review comes at the request of Fayetteville Police Department as part of the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services program. They'll be looking at the use of force and deadly force by the police, as well as community interaction.

Flyer that includes image of a lynching, placed on cars in Fayetteville on Sunday.
Paul Woolverton, The Fayetteville Observer via Twitter

A controversial flyer was placed under windshields at a predominantly black church in Fayetteville on Sunday.  On the front, was a historic photo of a group of white men; it was a lynch mob.

ABC 11 reports that the photo image was from 1920.

Two men marry on one of the first days that same-sex marriage was legal in N.C.
Alex Miller via Twitter

North Carolina's Republican legislative leaders plan to appeal a ruling that struck down the state's gay marriage ban. Legal experts, though, say any appeal would face an uphill battle.

NC State Fair
Wendy via Flickr/Creative Commons

It's time for the North Carolina State Fair  again.  The 11-day festivities kicked off in Raleigh Thursday, but the fair has been in the headlines a lot these past months. 

Black Tip sharks feed on the coast near Cape Lookout.
Shark Attack News

A series of videos and photos show masses of sharks on the North Carolina shoreline. Two videos posted online this week show what appear to be blacktip and/or spinner sharks in a feeding frenzy near Cape Lookout.

The sharks are further ashore than usual, feeding in just a few inches of water.

Nancy Fish, with the state Division of Marine Fisheries, said it's a migratory season for fish, which can lead to shark activity closer to shore.

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