The State of Things

WUNC's The State of Things brings the issues, personalities, and places of North Carolina to you.  The State of Things Podcast presents new stories every weekday with topics from our show.  To subscribe:

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An image of former state senator Josh Stein
Public Doman

Democrat Josh Stein and Republican Buck Newton are vying for the open seat left by Attorney General Roy Cooper who stepped down to run for governor.

A gif image of a timelapse of host Frank Stasio's right underarm microbes grown at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences' Genomics & Microbiology Research Lab.
Courtesy Julie Horvath

They live in every nook and cranny of your body, from your belly button to your armpits. A new exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences explores the secret world of human microbes. Host Frank Stasio speaks with biologists Julie Horvath and Rob Dunn about the implications of microbial diversity for human health, and about Frank’s own armpit ecosystem.

Black On Black

Oct 25, 2016
Saba Taj

Artists of color share their thoughts on race and identity in a new exhibit at Raleigh’s Visual Art Exchange called “Black on Black.” A range of community programming expands the artist’s ideas beyond the gallery walls with educational events about music, film, justice, dance and preserving family history.

Cover image of Wedding Bell Blues, a new mystery novel by Ruth Moose
Courtesy Ruth Moose

An eccentric yet beloved, homeless bride-to-be, her freshly-murdered fiancé and an evasive white rabbit are some of the residents of Littleboro, North Carolina, a town where mysteries abound. They are also the conjurings of author Ruth Moose, that come to life in her new book “Wedding Bell Blues” (Minotaur Books/2016).

Host Frank Stasio talks with Moose about developing her cast of characters, and about picking up where her last book left off, a book she first wrote more than 25 years ago. 

Front pages of the News and Observer
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

For the majority of libel claims, the case never goes before a jury. However, in cases where the libel claim goes through to trial, juries tend to give big awards, something the Raleigh News & Observer found out this week when a jury delivered a verdict that could run north of $6 million.

Headshot of Roy Cooper
Courtesy of Roy Cooper

With the election less than three weeks away, the national spotlight is on North Carolina as a key swing state in this election. The latest polls in the governor’s race show incumbent Governor Pat McCrory head-to-head with democratic challenger Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Image of Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump battled it out on the podium earlier this week in their third and final debate of the season. It was the first time a Fox News anchor moderated a presidential debate.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Ken Rudin, the political junkie, about the candidates’ debate strategies and about their comedic spar at an annual charity roast. 

Political pins show off the name and campaign slogans of former US Congressman Nick Galifiniakis.
Courtesy Ken Rudin

The son of two Greek immigrants, Nick Galifianakis was a surprising pick for politics in 1960s North Carolina. "Pick Nick", a new book by former UNC history professor John Semonche, published by Tidal Press, takes an intimate look into Galifianakis’s rise to political prominence, first as a member of the North Carolina General Assembly and later as a United States Congressman.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Semonche and Galifianakis about his political legacy and the infamous battle against former US Senator Jesse Helms.​

Judge Mike Morgan, a candidate in the N.C. Supreme Court race, standing by an American flag.
Courtesy Mike Morgan

The race for a seat in the North Carolina Supreme Court is one of many down-ballot races that may not be top of mind for most North Carolinians. However, this year’s race carries the potential for a significant political shift.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Mike Morgan, a registered Democrat, says the N.C. Supreme Court is becoming increasingly politicized. He is fighting to win the seat of incumbent Justice Bob Edmunds, a registered Republican. 

Headshot of N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds.
Courtesy of Justice Bob Edmunds

Down-ballot races in North Carolina do not generally conjure the hearty debate and civic attention of higher profile elections. But this year, the race for a seat on North Carolina's Supreme Court may also carry a significant ideological shift.

An image from Bright's series '#1960Now' that explores the parallels between the Civil Rights Movement and the current  #BlackLivesMatter movement today.
Sheila Pree Bright

Photographer Sheila Pree Bright first picked up a camera in search of a means of personal expression. After her first public exhibit, it was clear that not only did she have a gift for making beautiful images, but her work also sparked thoughtful and unexpected conversations about race, politics, and justice. Bright first came into the national spotlight with the series “Suburbia,” which explored black suburban life in Atlanta.

Eric Loewen

America’s reliance on fossil fuels is contributing to global warming, posing a threat to the future of the planet. Much of the discussion around mitigating climate change centers on sources like solar and wind power, while nuclear power is often left out of the conversation. Fear about safety and expense have hindered the development of nuclear power as a sustainable energy source for the United States, but Eric Loewen hopes to change that perception.

Image of Reginald Newberne, a former North Carolina State Trooper, against a brick wall.
Laura Pellicer

A former North Carolina State trooper won a $3.75 million verdict in a long-running whistleblower case. State trooper Reginald Newberne claims that in 2000, a fellow officer told Newberne he injured his hand while punching a teen suspect. Newberne says he was hesitant about filling out an official report, but he later offered a detailed account of the incident to his superiors. Newberne was subsequently fired from his position in the Highway Patrol for a violation of the “truthfulness directive”.

Headshot of Eric Fair, a former interrogator at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Amy Cramer

In 2004, photographs capturing extreme abuse of detainees at the American-controlled Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were released to the public, sparking a humanitarian outcry. That same year, Eric Fair was working as an interrogator at the prison. Fair's new memoir, "Consequence" (Henry Holt/2016) is an unflinching look back at his time at Abu Ghraib and the mental and physical pain he inflicted on detainees as part of military-sanctioned interrogations.

Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature. The prolific musician is the first Nobel winner to have forged a career primarily as a singer-songwriter. What's more, he's also the first American to have won the prize in more than two decades. Not since novelist Toni Morrison won in 1993 has an American claimed the prize.

Courtesy of Perfecta Visuals

What happens when women get up on stage dressed to the nines and are judged not for their beauty, but for their strength? Groups of women around the country have been exploring just that with competitive arm wrestling leagues. Two of these leagues are based in North Carolina, the League of Upper Extremity Wrestling Women in Durham (LUEWWD) and the Greensboro Arm Wrestling League (GRAWL).

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Roy Cooper, left, and North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory participate in a live televised debate at UNC-TV studios in Research Triangle Park, N.C., Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016.

With his back against the political ropes, Governor Pat McCrory was ready for a fight on Tuesday night. The Republican incumbent looked energized, confident, and threw jabs, hooks and overhand rights at his challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper.

When Children Become Consumers

Oct 11, 2016
Courtesy of the Lois Lenski Collection of Early American Children's Literature, UNC-Greensboro

Within minutes of watching weekend morning cartoons, viewers see a range of commercials targeting children. Social scientists have long been outspoken about the effect these kind of advertisements can have on children’s psyche and development. 

Image of Dan River Girls
Dan River Girls

Each of the Winston-Salem sisters Fiona, Ellie and Jessie Burdette started taking music lessons at five years old. When the youngest sister, Jessie, turned 7, the three decided that it was time to combine their musical talents and form a band--the Dan River Girls. Their music ranges from traditional bluegrass to pop-rock. They released their first album last year and continue to play at venues and festivals around the state.

Image of Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie

Vice-presidential candidates Mike Pence and Tim Kaine sparred earlier this week in their only debate of the season.

What did their interactions demonstrate about both campaigns, and how do the vice presidential candidates affect the race? And in the state's gubernatorial race, ad spending reaches new highs. Host Frank Stasio talks with political junkie Ken Rudin about the latest. 

Worst. President. Ever.
Lyons Press, 2016

 With just a month to the election, both sides are on the attack, highlighting the shortcomings of their opposition.

Accusations fly as Clinton and Trump vie for the highest office in the country.

But as voters assess who should lead modern America, author Robert Strauss takes a look back at the nation's 15th president, James Buchanan. Strauss traces Buchanan's presidency and declares him the worst president ever. Host Frank Stasio talks with Strauss about his book,"Worst. President. Ever." (Lyons Press/2016). 

Jim McKelvey

The Piedmont Melody Makers has been jamming together formally and informally for years. The band is a who’s who of North Carolina old time and bluegrass musicians, and in the past year they decided to formalize their musical union and record an official album. “Wonderful World Outside” is a 16-track record with a blend of original tunes and covers.


Courtesy of Zanele Muholi

In 2006, South Africa became the fifth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. While social justice activists around the world saw this event as a tremendous victory, the country was still in a lot of turmoil. Homophobic hate crimes and violence were on the rise, and many individuals reported being subject to “curative rape,” a hate crime in which someone is raped to “cure” them of their sexual identity.

Image of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel García Márquez was a Colombian writer and journalist best known for popularizing the form of magical realism. His work blends the fantastical with the real and political, and there is no better example of this than his seminal novel “100 Years Of Solitude” (Harper And Row/ 1970). The book is considered by many to be the most influential piece of Spanish fiction since “Don Quixote.”

Image of Michelle Moog-Koussa with the minimoog.
Courtesy of Michelle Moog-Koussa

More than 50 years ago, Robert Moog revolutionized electronic music with the invention of the Moog synthesizer. It was one of the first widely-used electronic instruments and has been featured in music by artists ranging from The Beatles to jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. But despite his immense career success, Moog kept his professional and personal lives separate. In fact, it was not until his death that his daughter, Michelle Moog-Koussa, began to learn about his professional influence.