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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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Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper warming up prior to their performance.
Carol Jackson

Concurrently with the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) week-long World of Bluegrass, WUNC produced a special live broadcast with WAMU's Bluegrass Country in Washington, D.C. The program was hosted by Katy Daley of WAMU's Bluegrass Country and featured exclusive performances from three IBMA Award nominees:

A map of North Carolina Infant Mortality Rates 2009-2013
NCDHHS

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported Tuesday that infant mortality is at its lowest level in state history.

For the past two years, infant mortality rates had risen -- going from 7.0 per 1000 live births in 2010 to 7.4 in 2012. But last year, the numbers shot back down, returning to 2010 levels, the lowest in history.

The current Wallace Wade Stadium
GoDuke,com

Duke University announced today three new projects for modernizing it's football facility, the 85-year-old Wallace Wade Stadium.

A look at some of the Apple Health apps that are part of the HealthKit bundle.
Apple.com

Duke University Hospital is testing a new Apple product called HealthKit. The feature was announced as part of Apple's new operating system last week.

It allows users to share personal health data, like blood pressure or workout times, between apps. The trial with Duke University is an attempt to connect that personal health data with the hospital's records system.

Fayetteville VA building
VA.gov

The Fayetteville VA is closing its emergency room  as of 8:00 a.m. Friday.  The emergency room will be converted to an urgent care clinic until further notice.

The hospital says a lack of doctors is to blame for the cut back.

"If there's a veteran out there in the community, or a family member of a veteran who is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, they should not, and I repeat, should not come to the Fayetteville VA emergency room," said Public Affairs officer Jeffery Melvin.  "They should dial 9-1-1 and ask them to take them to the nearest emergency department."

Soldier saluting
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

NC Veterans Affairs and American Legion 9/11 Remembrance

8:15 a.m., corner of Saunders St. and N. Salem St., Apex

NCDVA Director Ilario Pantano, a former US Marine and witness to the attacks, will give remarks and introduce Speaker Pro Tempore of the NC House of Representatives Skip Stam.  Representative Stam, also a former US Marine, will headline the ceremony and speak to the events of 9/11 and the courage of past, present and future generations of Americans.

NCSU player in a black uniform
www.gopack.com

Old Dominion vs. NC State 6 PM

North Carolina State football will host Old Dominion University this weekend in Raleigh. It's the second home game for the Wolfpack this season, after barely scraping by for a win against Georgia Southern last week. This year is Old Dominion's first season as part of Conference USA, and they're led by senior Quarterback, Taylor Heinicke. Wolfpack Coach Dave Doeren  thinks Heinicke is a big threat.

A package of Zonnic gum
cigarettesreporter.com

It might seem counterintuitive: a tobacco giant jumping into the pharmaceutical market. But with the national launch of Zonnic, Reynolds American thinks it can redefine an area typically controlled by drug companies.

Zonnic is Reynolds's nicotine gum. It sells for cheaper than other nicotine gums, and comes with the marketing muscle of the company responsible for Camel and Pall Mall. Reynolds has been testing Zonnic for two years in Iowa and Nebraska, and has determined its time to go national.

(Left) An Image of the original Orange County Training School, Circa 1916. (Right) The new Northside Elementary School
Rootsweb.ancestry.com, Chapel Hill, Carborro Schools

The site of an early 1900s training school for African Americans is now one of the most technologically advanced, energy efficient buildings in the state.

Northside Elementary School, in Chapel Hill, has been awarded Platinum LEED certification from the U.S. Green Buildings Council. It's one of only 40 schools in the country to achieve such status.

Duke University Chapel
OZinOH / Flickr/Creative Commons

Duke University has added a question to its undergraduate application regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

The question is an optional essay on the Duke-specific section of the Common App: a generic application used by more than 500 schools. The question allows respondents to discuss personal experiences based on their upbringing, sexual orientation, gender identity, or cultural background.

Prison cell
DOliphant via Flickr

This November voters in North Carolina will decide whether people accused of felonies should have the opportunity to decide whether they want a judge or jury to decide their case. Jeff Welty, an associate professor in the School of Government at the University of North Carolina, has been studying the potential implications this constitutional amendment may have on the state.  He talked with Phoebe Judge.

Conversation highlights:

Why has it taken North Carolina so long to address the issue?

Chapel Hill Car Accident
Triplezero / Flikr

AAA Carolinas has labeled rural North Carolina the "killing grounds" for drivers in accidents.

More than 1,100 people died in traffic accidents in North Carolina last year, though the number is lower than in years prior. A new report from AAA Carolinas shows the continuing trend of fewer fatalities on the road since 2010. The number is dropping, but slowly.

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

Researchers are raising questions about malnutrition among North Carolina's senior citizens. Doctors at UNC Hospitals report, over a two month period, more than half of patients ages 65 or older who came to the emergency department were either malnourished or a risk of malnutrition.

The study looked at about 140 older patients and saw no notable difference in the nutrition of rural versus urban seniors. There was also no noticeable difference between genders. The greater discrepancy came with access to proper food.

A busy Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill.
Town of Chapel Hill

Forestry experts and urban designers are gathering in Raleigh this week to discuss the effects of climate change on the urban landscape. The North Carolina Urban Forestry Conference is centered on how to design city spaces to cope with and help prevent rising temperatures.

It's not just about finding more places for shade trees (though that's something forestry types would certainly applaud). Scientists are also considering how to combat an increase in pests that prey on trees not suited for greater temperatures.

Laptop computer
Ian Usher / Flickr

Universities across the country have made it clear that providing health coverage for temporary employees -- like adjunct professors and grad students -- is prohibitively expensive.

Early Voting
Leoneda Inge

Opponents of the state's new voting law are planning their next steps after a judge refused to put the law on hold for the November election. A district judge on Friday denied a preliminary injunction for a law limiting the number of early voting days and getting rid of same-day registration at the polls.

Advocates will decide this week whether or not to appeal the decision. Either way, leaders say they are directing their attention to boots-on-the-ground efforts.

Pigs on a Farm
Eric Mennel / WUNC

Last year, according the State Department of Agriculture, North Carolina exported about $3.7 million in meat products to Russia. So far this year, that number has increased ten-fold, to $40 million. Now that Russia has banned the import of American beef, pork, and poultry products, that surge will come to a halt.

A grand jury in Orange County has indicted two men in the robbery and death of a UNC Chapel Hill professor. 

Troy Arrington of Chapel Hill, and Derick Davis II of Durham are both charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery in the incident that led to Feng Liu's death. 

The News and Observer reports that evidence is still being gathered in the case according to Orange County D. A. Jim Woodall. 

Photo: The Daily Show
Comedy Central

As North Carolina lawmakers are wrapping their “short” legislative session, which dragged on more than a month longer than they’d originally anticipated, they struck a deal on a plan to raise public school teacher pay. They also agreed to replace the state’s expiring credits for movie and television companies with a more modest grant package.

Anne Firor Scott
Les Todd / Duke Photography

Earlier this week, President Obama awarded Chapel Hill historian Anne Firor Scott the National Humanities Medal.

She was honored "for pioneering the study of southern women. Through groundbreaking research spanning ideology, race, and class, Dr. Scott’s uncharted exploration into the lives of southern women has established women’s history as vital to our understanding of the American South."

Diane Rehm awarded National Humanities Medal
Jocelyn Augustino / NEH

Diane Rehm was awarded the 2013 National Humanities Medal Monday. The awards recognize  "outstanding achievements in history, cultural studies, filmmaking, cultural commentary, and historic preservation."

Recipients are selected by the President of the United States in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Humanities:

photo of NC Legislature
creative commons

    

Senate and House leaders have announced the framework of their $21 billion dollar state budget deal. One of the biggest sticking points was over teacher pay; the compromise offers public school teachers an average seven percent raise. Senate leader Phil Berger touted the plan at a press conference earlier today.

"The $282 million dollars invested in teacher pay with this budget will be the largest teacher pay increase in state history, moving North Carolina from 46th in the nation to 32nd in the nation in national teacher pay rankings," Berger said.

Shana Carignan (left) and Megan Parker with Jax
North Carolina ACLU

Some are saying it could be a matter of weeks before North Carolina's ban on same sex marriage is overturned. A ruling in the 4th Circuit court in Richmond Monday declared Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. That ruling is binding on the entire 4th circuit, which includes North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Maryland.

Neil Siegel is a professor of law at Duke University. He says assuming the case is not retried, the outlook for North Carolina's ban is rather clear:

Professor Fend Liu Photo
UNC

Update 7/25/14 3:30 p.m.:

The Chapel Hill Police Department has charged the two suspects, Derick Davis II and Troy Arrington Jr., with First Degree Murder in the death of UNC Professor Feng Liu.  The two are being held in the Orange County Jail without bond.

Original story:

A DNA rendering
YNSE / Flickr

An international team of researchers has made landmark progress on the study of Schizophrenia.

A consortium co-founded by the University of North Carolina's Patrick Sullivan reports that it's identified 108 points of genetic variation in people with the illness.

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