The State of Things

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Litigation, legal, gavel
Joe Gratz / Flickr Creative Commons

A federal appellate court declared North Carolina's 1st and 12th Congressional Districts unconstitutional because they were gerrymandered on race. The court ordered legislators to redraw the districts within two weeks.

The ruling puts many issues surrounding the March 15 primary, including early voting and absentee ballots, in question.

Stefan Litwin is a piano composer and music professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Hans Joachim Zylla

For Stefan Litwin, playing the piano is personal. Litwin was born in Mexico City in 1960 after his parents fled from the Nazis in Europe years earlier.

He grew up speaking three languages but always felt like an outsider. He went on to study piano in Switzerland and the United States, all the while channeling his family's experience in the Holocaust through composing music.

New York Times reporter Adam Liptak discusses his career covering the Supreme Court of the United States.
Supermac1961 / Flickr Creative Commons

It takes a certain kind of reporter to cover the Supreme Court of the United States. Interpreting the Constitution is one thing, and interpreting complicated legal decisions is another. 

Adam Liptak of The New York Times has made a career out of dissecting SCOTUS, including the decades of legal battles over same-sex marriage and the court's place in the judicial systems of other developed countries. 

Image of 'Forsaken' cover by Ross Howell Jr.
New South Books

Virginia Christian is the only African-American juvenile woman ever executed in the state of Virginia. She was executed the day after her 17th birthday in 1912.

This fact is the backdrop for the historical novel "Forsaken" (New South Books/2016). The book tells the story of Christian through the lens of a young, idealist reporter Charles Mears. It's a tale woven with historical fact and fictional narrative that combines racial prejudice with hope and redemption.

Mallarmé HIP ensemble
Marc Banka Photography

The biennial North Carolina HIP (Historically Informed Performance) Music Festival hosted by Mallarmé Chamber Players is back this year with expanded programming. The festival features Baroque music played on period string instruments, which tend to sound richer, mellower and less edgy than modern counterparts.

The Mallarmé Chamber Players will play a two-part concert called the Biber Bowl featuring the Rosary Sonatas, 16 movements interpreting events from the lives of Jesus and Mary.

US Embassy Canada / Flickr Creative Commons

North Carolina is one of the leading states in solar energy. 

But the recent elimination of some tax credits and the possibility of solar permitting may slow the growth of solar energy in the state. And the Department of Environmental Quality is considering a change to the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards that could affect renewable energy production in the state. 

An image of the cover of "Harness the Sun: America's Quest for a Solar-Powered Future"
Beacon Press / Beacon Press

The use of solar energy is increasing in America, but the renewable energy source is not cost-free. Solar energy provides a cleaner alternative to other energy sources like coal, but still poses a threat to natural habitats and for homeowners who cannot afford initial costs.

Carla Buckley's latest novel is 'The Good Goodbye,' a story that explores how much parents want to know about the secret lives their children lead.
Brian Killian

Chapel Hill novelist Carla Buckley grew up in a family of secrets. When it was time to start her own family, she decided she would always be upfront and honest with her children.

North Carolina is considering changes to state health insurance plans that would eliminate the 80/20 plans.
TaxRebate.org.uk / Flickr Creative Commons

The Board of Trustees that manages the state health insurance plans for government employees is considering major changes to the state health plan.

The board is considering proposed elimination of the 80/20 plan. The measure is in response to a legislative order to reduce costs for the more than 690,000 employees and retirees who receive health benefits through the state. 

Asheville 'Bans The Box'

Feb 3, 2016
Asheville is removing questions from city job applications that ask about criminal convictions. The city hopes to remove this hindrance for job seekers who have a criminal history.
Kathryn Decker / Flickr Creative Commons

Asheville passed a policy last week that will remove any question about criminal convictions from city job applications.

Proponents want to “ban the box” that job seekers check for convictions because they claim it puts previous criminals at a disadvantage. Though this doesn’t preclude private companies from including questions about criminal histories, the city hopes to lead by example.

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