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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Child prays at vacation bible school.
Lance Cpl. Joseph Abrego / Dept of Defense

For parents who like to provide concrete answers when their children ask questions, the topics of God, faith and spirituality can be especially tricky. Parents who themselves are not sure what to believe are sometimes at even more of a loss when talking to their children about religion.

Men drinking beer.
Max Pixel / Max Pixel - Creative Commons

Women live longer than men in many countries around the world. In the United States, women outlive men by an average of five years. Scientists have long attributed this divide to genetics and biology, but a physician at Duke University is posing an alternative theory: toxic masculinity. 

Barak Richman
Barak Richman

New York City’s Fifth and Sixth Avenues are home to some of the world’s biggest, richest retailers and financial giants. But on a stretch of 47th Street that connects these two thoroughfares, an ancient barter economy for diamonds still holds sway. The diamond industry is built on family relationships and ethnic networks, and it operates independent of modern legal and financial institutions.

'Lord of Monsters,' written by John Claude Bemis
John Claude Bemis / Disney-Hyperion/ 2017

 

In his “Out of Abaton” series, North Carolina author John Claude Bemis has created a fantastic twist on an ancient Venetian empire. But it is one in which monsters and a once-servantile robot-puppet push the boundaries of reality.

The second book in the series, “Lord of Monsters,” (Disney-Hyperion/ 2017) brings youth into a new, more regal landscape for the character Pinocchio. It also thrusts Pinocchio and other characters into a battle against ancient monsters. 

Public Domain / Wiki Creative Commons

In the 1930s, the federal government started to map out regions deemed financially stable enough to receive mortgage assistance through a process called “redlining.” The areas identified as “too risky” for loans were largely concentrated in minority and low-income neighborhoods. During the same time, the City of Durham implemented tree-planting programs across various neighborhoods.

Elsa Loissel

Bird brains are the size of a nut, or possibly even smaller in some cases. But a plethora of new research shows that despite their small brain size, birds are actually among the most intelligent members of the animal kingdom.

“The Genius of Birds” (Penguin Books/2016) profiles a range of winged-beasts who are expert problem solvers and mappers with their own social networks and cultural traditions. Host Frank Stasio talks with science writer Jennifer Ackerman about her new book.

Kathy Cowell

A childhood spent in downtown Manhattan did not dampen Adam Summers’ passion for the outdoors. His family took yearly trips to Canada’s woods and streams, which instilled in him a special passion for marine life. Now a comparative bio-mechanist, Summers is an expert in the evolution, anatomy and movement of fish.

Image of scholar William (Sandy) Darity
Duke University Sanford School School of Public Policy

Why are some people rich and others poor? Answering this elusive question has been the lifelong work of economist William (Sandy) Darity. Darity was an observant child, and from an early age he picked up on how wealth disparities divide communities. 

Image of Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie
kenrudinpolitics.com

Elements of President Donald Trump’s travel ban went into effect Thursday evening. The Supreme Court determined the modified ban can apply to foreigners who do not have a “bonafide relationship with any person or entity in the United States.” This applies to foreign nationals of six majority-Muslim countries and refugees from any country. 

Cast of 'Space Girl' rehearses.
Katy Koop

In the new play “Space Girl” by Mora V. Harris, 16-year-old Arugula Suarez wants to be just like everybody else. But she is an alien from the planet Zlagdor, so it is not always easy for her to blend in. Arugula and her father Nancy have been sent to Earth to see if the planet is worth saving. As they decide Earth’s fate, Arugula must also navigate the social politics of high school without blowing her cover. She finds comfort in a wacky blend of things, including roller derby and salad. 

Band, 'Added Color'
Daniel Freiberg / Daniel Freiberg

Brothers Dan and Kiko Freiburg grew up subconsciously absorbing the rhythms and beats of the music from their mother’s native Brazil. But their own musical tastes range from death metal to gypsy jazz. They moved to New York and found two other musicians with an equal desire to create a new group and a new sound. The band, which changed its name to Added Color in 2017, began writing music, touring and releasing EPs – all mostly on its own. 

North Carolina State Legislative Office Building.
W Edward Callis III / Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers are rushing to tackle a large number of bills in an effort to wrap up their legislative session for summer break. One of the top priorities for Republican legislators was to override Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget bill. That override passed through the House with a 76-43 vote on Wednesday. 

Cover of Hope Larson's new book, 'Knife's Edge.'
Farrar, Straus & Giroux/2017

Twin siblings Alexander and Cleopatra are back on another big adventure. In the graphic novel “Knife’s Edge” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/2017) the duo pair up to find a hidden treasure they believe is rightfully theirs. But their voyage to track the prize reveals new mysteries about their family and its potentially nefarious past. 

Ted Alexandro
Eric Korenman

Coming up as a comedian in New York City, Ted Alexandro has long appreciated the city’s diverse comic scene. On any given night, he says you can see acts ranging from comic newbies to veteran comedians like Chris Rock who are trying out new material in underground clubs. 

Chance The Rapper accepts the humanitarian award at the BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Sunday, June 25, 2017, in Los Angeles.
Matt Sayles/Invision / AP - 2017

Earlier this week, the BET Awards recognized some of the best in black entertainment. At the awards, Chicago-based artist and activist Chance the Rapper delivered a stirring speech after receiving the BET Humanitarian Award. Chance the Rapper was praised for recently donating $1 million to Chicago Public Schools. 

Movies On The Radio: Vacation Time

Jun 28, 2017
Reza Vaziri/Flickr-Creative Commons

Pack your bags people. It’s summer, and you know what that means: Vacation time! 

 Do you vicariously sip sangria through watching Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” or  practice your moves along with Baby in “Dirty Dancing?” Do you re-live the dog days of summers past with the gang in “The Sandlot?” 

 Maybe nothing reminds you of how good you have it now like cringing over the Griswalds’ family road trip to Wally World. 

IV fluids
Mads Bodker / Flickr - Creative Commons

North Carolina has been battling a growing opioid addiction epidemic. New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from North Carolina hospitals show the rise in intravenous drug use is also causing a sharp increase in the rate of heart infections. 

Worker at a vaccine manufacturing facility.
Sanofi Pasteur / Patrick Boulen / Flickr - Creative Commons

When German measles, or rubella, broke out in the U.S. in the 1960s, women were terrified about the disabling effects the disease could have on their unborn babies. Clinicians eventually developed a vaccine but would not administer it to pregnant women, believing it was too risky – a decision that led to thousands of abortions and a huge amount of stress and fear. 

Icy waterside
Belinda Novika Follow / Flickr - Creative Commons

A range of national and international events in the past decade have thrust conversations about race into the forefront of public consciousness. And with these conversations come questions about terminology like ‘whiteness’ and ‘blackness’. What is ‘whiteness,’ where did the idea of a ‘white race’ come from, and how has that idea changed over time? These are questions explored in “Seeing White,” a miniseries that is part of the podcast “Scene On Radio,” produced at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.  

An image of the gospel singer Mary D. Williams
Charlie Shelton-Ormond / WUNC

When Mary D. Williams was a kid growing up in Garner, North Carolina, she often visited her grandparents in Johnston County. She remembers passing a sign that said, “You are in the heart of Klan country” along the way. The sign was a visible example of the racism her grandparents endured in rural North Carolina.

Image of Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie
kenrudinpolitics.com

Senate Republicans released their plan to roll back the Affordable Care Act this week. The measure was drafted in secret and comes after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own version of a health bill last month. The bill is expected to come to the Senate floor next week.


Picture of Margaret Maron
Bob Witchger / Margart Maron

In 1981, Margaret Maron published a mystery novel about NYPD homicide detective Sigrid Harald and her investigation of a poisoning. More than 35 years and 31 titles later, Maron felt she had one more story to tell before retiring from novel writing.


Loamlands

Kym Register and Will Hackney are Loamlands, a folk-rock band whose often dark lyrics focus on local stories like urban development in Durham and overlooked queer history. The title track off their newest album, “Sweet High Rise,” is a direct reflection on watching the One City Center on Main Street in Durham climbs upward, forever changing the city skyline. Register’s thoughtful lyrics are supported and sometimes played off against contrasting layers of Hackney’s arrangements.


Soldier training with firearm
Edward Johnson / Flickr - Creative Commons

We often think of the battlefield as a place of chaos, where the explosive sounds of gunfire ring out over commands. But the technology of warfare is changing and so is the sound.


Cover of 'Bohemian South: Creating Countercultures, from Poe to Punk.'
UNC Press

When it comes to bohemian art scenes and creative subcultures, the South has often been overshadowed – or sometimes even dismissed – in favor of metropolitan areas like New York or San Francisco. But a new book seeks to highlight the creative thinkers and diverse art scenes that influenced culture in the South, as well as those that permeated into the art, literary, and food scenes in northern states.


Cover of 'The Whole Way Home' by Sarah Creech
William Morrow/2017 / William Morrow/2017

Over the years, country music has seen iconic women like Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn become legends in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Nevertheless, country music remains a boy’s club for many artists. In her new novel “The Whole Way Home” (William Morrow/2017), writer Sarah Creech tells the story of one woman’s road to country music stardom.


 Gal Gadot arrives at the world premiere of "Wonder Woman" in Los Angeles.
Jordan Strauss/Invision / AP - 2017

Superheroes have captured the American imagination since the 1930s. Characters including Superman, Batman and Spiderman represented men of strength and moral fiber who inspired as they fought the forces of evil. It was an easy jump to the silver screen, where today, multiple superhero films are released every year, blowing up box office records as often as they do the bad guys.


House and Senate Republicans detailed parts of their compromise spending plan on Monday, June 19, 2017.
Jeff Tiberii / WUNC

Yesterday evening, the North Carolina Senate and House leaders reached an agreement over how to spend and raise state funds. The compromise deal lays out a 3.3 percent increase in teacher pay for the coming year, and raises pay for most other state employees by $1,000. 


Cover of 'Be Free Or Die,' written by Cate Lineberry
St. Martin's Press - 2017 / St. Martin's Press - 2017

 In May 1862, Robert Smalls became a Union hero overnight when he stole a Confederate steamer from the Charleston harbor. Smalls had been enslaved his whole life and decided to free himself and his family by stealing the Planter and piloting it to the Union fleet outside Charleston, South Carolina. 


A plate of Soul Food
Laylah Amatullah Barrayn / Byron Hurt

Soul food has been a culinary tradition for centuries. While it remains an important source of community for many African-Americans, the way certain soul foods are prepared can increase chances of cancer and other health issues. In his documentary “Soul Food Junkies” (2012), filmmaker Byron Hurt examines his family’s history with soul food and the impact of the cuisine’s traditions.


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