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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Cover of 'Guantanamo Diary' by Mohamedou Ould Slahi
Little Brown-2015 / Little Brown-2015

Mohamedou Ould Slahi is an innocent man who spent 14 years detained and tortured in Guantanamo Bay.

Cover of 'No Bull'
Ron Morris / Baseball America-2017

The Durham Bulls are one of the most well-known teams in minor league baseball, in part because of the hit movie “Bull Durham.” But the team was a success on the field and in the stands before the film.

Image of Lisa Hightown-Weidman and her family
Courtesy of Lisa Hightow-Weidman

Lisa Hightow-Weidman grew up with her nose always in a book. She majored in English in college and had aspirations of becoming a writer.

the.myrmldon / Flickr/Creative Commons

Any military veteran who commits a crime must do the time. But veterans who are not U.S. citizens face a special sentence: deportation. Even after serving their sentence, they may be kicked out of the country they served. Some find their way to a makeshift shelter and support center in Tijuana, Mexico that was set up by another deported veteran.

Picture of Nina Riggs
Toni Tronu

Nina Riggs was not surprised when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. She knew the disease ran in her family, and she’d spent years watching her mother battle cancer. Once Riggs’ cancer turned metastatic and incurable, she decided to reflect through writing.

Shana Tucker poses with her cello
Lei Rivera Photography

For cellist and singer-songwriter Shana Tucker, the last two years have been a whirlwind. She has been busy promoting her first album "Shine" which received widespread recognition for its original songwriting and distinctive sounds. Tucker recently left her job performing with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas to pursue new opportunities in her independent career.

Jordan Green / Triad City Beat

Triad City Beat Senior Editor Jordan Green spent a year investigating housing ownership in lower income neighborhoods of High Point, North Carolina.

Host Frank Stasio speaks with Green about the racial lines of poverty in lower income neighborhoods, and how nearly more than 80 years of racial economic housing policies has limited access to loans and squashed opportunities for upward mobility for many African-Americans in High Point. 

Courtesy Rob Dunn

The banana is always in season and always available at the grocery store. A new book explores how the prevalence of the popular fruit is a model for the dangers of a food system that is increasingly dependent on fewer food staples.

“Never Out Of Season” (Little, Brown, and Company/2017) by biologist Rob Dunn, a professor in the department of applied ecology at North Carolina State University, walks readers through the precarious corporate food system and explains how diversity is crucial to crop survival.

A book cover
Princeton University Press

Since the beginning of a capitalist economy in the United States, business endeavors have been fraught with examples of fraud and deceit. In his new book, “Fraud: An American History From Barnum to Madoff” (Princeton University Press/2017), Edward Balleisen chronicles the history of fraud in the U.S., from mail-order scams in the 19th century to examples of corporate fraud in the late 20th and early 21st century. 

Mitch Prinstein / Penguin Random House/2017

Popularity is often a concern for teenagers, but research shows it also influences life outside the high school cafeteria. Children as young as four years old can identify their most popular peer, and one’s popularity growing up can even predict his or her lifespan.

In the new book “Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World” (Penguin Random House/2017), Mitch Prinstein teases apart the distinction between two different types of popularity: likability and status. 

Joan Marcus, 2016

Ariana DeBose has been moving up in the Broadway world by leaps and bounds. The North Carolina native got her start in showbiz with a role on the television show "So You Think You Can Dance" when she was only 18 years old. Just a few years later, she became one of the original ensemble cast members of the hip-hop Broadway sensation "Hamilton.”

Image of teacher Angie Scioli
At Large Productions

Teachers are a common subject in Hollywood films. Portrayals of teaching range from the unorthodox style of Robin Williams’ character in “Dead Poets Society” to the dull and droning econ teacher in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” A new documentary film about a veteran North Carolina teacher explores how popular culture’s portrayals of the teaching profession are a far-cry from what happens in most classrooms around the country day-in and day-out.

Chuck Liddy / Charlotte Observer

A five-part series in the Charlotte Observer reveals the corruption and abuse that remains disturbingly commonplace in North Carolina’s state prisons. Reporters Ames Alexander and Gavin Off spent two years reporting on officers who smuggled cell phones and drugs into prisons, assaulted prisoners and perhaps even colluded with inmates on a homicide. 

Betsy Blake / American Friends Service Committee

Juana Luz Tobar Ortega is a mother of four and grandmother of two who has lived in Asheboro, North Carolina for more than 20 years. Tobar Ortega works, pays taxes, and is active in her local church. She is also undocumented. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ordered Tobar Ortega to return to her native Guatemala by the end of May 2017. Instead, Tobar Ortega made the radical decision to take refuge at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greensboro, where the vestry voted to shelter her and protect her from deportation.

rapper 9th wonder on a stool
Creative Silence

Patrick Douthit has been making music as hip-hop producer 9th Wonder for nearly two decades. In the early 2000s Douthit gained recognition for his work with the North Carolina hip-hop group Little Brother. He went on to produce music for Jay-Z’s 2003 release “The Black Album” and Destiny’s Child’s 2004 album “Destiny Fulfilled.” He won a Grammy for his work on Mary J. Blige’s 2005 album “The Breakthrough.” Douthit grew up in Winston-Salem and remembers hearing his first hip-hop song in 1982 with Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock.” 

Image of young black kids in Chicago with a police officer.
Patricia Evans

In the mid ‘90s, writer Jamie Kalven became immersed in Stateway Gardens, an impoverished and embattled public housing community on the South Side of Chicago.

photo of Gigi Dover & the Big Love
Gigi Dover & the Big Love

For Gigi Dover & the Big Love, Americana isn't limited to American styles of music. The group hails from Charlotte and composes Southern folk using worldly instruments like the sitar and rebab.

Through its latest album, "Travelin' Thru," the band continues to strengthen the grassroots music scene in Charlotte.

North Carolina State Legislature
Dave Crosby / Flickr

The North Carolina House outlined a $22.9 billion spending plan that calls for about $350 million in tax cuts. It allots funding for pension adjustments for state retirees and $181 million for teacher raises. 

Jason Thrasher

John T. Edge is a James Beard award-winning writer and author of the new book “The Potlikker Papers” (Penguin Press/ 2017). Edge grew up in rural Georgia eating biscuits and drinking sweet tea. He spent his career amassing stories of Southern food and the people who cook it.

Riverhead Books/2017

Patricia Lockwood grew up in a Catholic family in the Midwest. But her family’s circumstances were a little different: Lockwood’s father was a priest. Throughout her upbringing, Lockwood navigated her father’s larger-than-life personality and the institutional bindings of the Catholic church.

Movies on the Radio
Keith Weston / WUNC

Film remakes can introduce a beloved film to a new audience or take a mediocre movie to a new level of greatness. But when a remake is badly executed, it can butcher a cherished classic. On this edition of “Movies on the Radio,” film experts Marsha Gordon and Laura Boyes pick apart the artistry of a remake.

 Donald Trump
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Seismic blasting is a controversial technique used to map offshore oil reserves. In January of 2017, the Obama administration officially denied applications for seismic blasting in the Atlantic, but the Trump administration reversed that decision with an executive order a few months later. The announcement brought many in coastal communities out to protest, stating concerns about the impact of seismic blasting on marine life and tourism.


sugargliding / Flickr/Creative Commons

Part guidebook, part preservation effort, "Living at the Water's Edge: A Heritage Guide to the Outer Banks Byway" (The University of North Carolina Press/2017) takes visitors to the proverbial porches of those who live along the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway. The 21 unincorporated communities from Whalebone Junction to North River Bridge are unique.

St. Martin's Press

In his new novel, “Extraordinary Adventures” (St. Martin’s Press/2017), writer Daniel Wallace features the story of a middle-aged man who lives an “extra-ordinary” life. But one day, Edsel Bronfman’s mundane routine takes a turn when he receives a free weekend at a beachfront condo. But there is a catch: Bronfman must find a partner to accompany him on his trip within 79 days.


An image of veteran farmer Alex Sutton
Courtesy Alix Blair

Note: this segment is a rebroadcast from November 10, 2016.

A new documentary explores the personal journey of North Carolina veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Alex Sutton. Sutton carves out a life as a farmer after three military combat tours in Iraq. But his path to healing is marked by stark contrasts between bucolic farm life with his wife and children, and the challenge of grappling with both post-traumatic stress disorder and his own post-war identity.

Bobbie O'Brien

An average of 20 military veterans commit suicide each day. While men and women killed in combat are remembered as heroes, those who take their own lives after returning home are rarely glorified. 


The Honor Was Mine: A Look Inside the Struggles of Military Veterans
Grand Harbor Press

 Note: this segment is a rebroadcast from September 7, 2016.

Image of Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie
kenrudinpolitics.com

President Donald Trump jets around the world on his first foreign trip while back in the U.S., the G.O.P.’s American Health Care Act is under review. The Congressional Budget Office released a report this week that claimed 23 million Americans would be left uninsured under the new plan.


Courtesy Jane Williams

In her practice as a psychologist, Jane Williams counseled people dealing with grief. She came across many patients who experienced a spontaneous thought that brought them comfort and peace. Williams collected some of their stories in a new book, "Mysterious Moments: Thoughts That Transform Grief." (Library Partners Press/2017).


BJ Leiderman
Paul Howey

BJ Leiderman has made a career of creating the well-known jingles for NPR shows like Morning Edition. But Leiderman has also lived a double life and spent his nights jamming in rock ‘n’ roll bands, often writing original songs.

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