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:Get a daily show update and special news. Subscribe to our podcast on Google Play or iTunes.  Or, use the links at the right.Visit the main SOT page.

Courtesy of Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Gabrielle Calvocoressi was born with nystagmus, a visual condition where the eyes are constantly in spasm. It took Calvocoressi a while to learn how to walk and balance, so the young child spent a lot of time sitting on the floor, daydreaming and observing the world. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., center, joins Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other GOP lawmakers to talk about the GOP tax plan.
J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

The U.S. Senate is busy debating its tax overhaul bill. A vote on the measure is expected later today. The bill has moved swiftly to the Senate floor, and Republican leaders say they are confident there are enough votes to pass it. 

man sitting at computer, stressed.
Time Gouw / Pexels commons

The Republican tax overhaul is a $1.5 trillion package that features a wave of tax cuts with the goal of spurring the economy. GOP leaders said the plan would pay for itself, but new analysis out yesterday shows otherwise. 

Courtesy of Professor Tune

Durham rapper Professor Toon has spent years performing music in the city. He has watched the hip-hop scene grow in the Triangle as he has continued to challenge himself as an artist.

The Dan River bank with residual dark grey coal ash.
Steven Alexander / USFWS

Duke Energy argued this week in hearings before the North Carolina Utilities Commission that the cost of cleaning up coal ash spills should be passed on to consumers. 

red wolf and pup
Brooke Gilley, US Forest Service / Flickr - Creative Commons - https://flic.kr/p/rT5zJf

In 1980 red wolves were declared extinct in the wild, but a special program to preserve the population helped stop the species from dying out. Now U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina is asking the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to terminate the program, and he is not alone in his desire. 

sun beams
fdecomite / Flickr - Creative Commons - https://flic.kr/p/rbz9L

Near-death experiences are undeniably difficult to study. And yet a passionate few scientists have dedicated their careers to understanding this phenomenon experiencers say creates an immediate and lifelong transformation. 

John Darnielle and Joseph Fink
Jeremy Lange/Nina Subin

Writer Joseph Fink is a big fan of the Durham-based band The Mountain Goats. Fink is the co-creator of hit podcasts like “Welcome to Night Vale” and “Alice Isn’t Dead” and says The Mountain Goats influences his creative process. For his new podcast, Fink wanted to explore the stories behind The Mountain Goats’ music, so he invited bandleader John Darnielle to dissect songs one at a time.

Naval History and Heritage Command

Starting in at least the 1920s, the U.S. Army recruited soldiers to test the effects of dangerous and powerful chemicals. 

Courtesy of Jeffrey Crow

The history of North Carolina goes back centuries, so how have the history books shaped our understanding of the state and its residents? 

geralt / Pixabay Commons

In 2015 the Federal Communications Commission solidified network neutrality rules that prevent internet service providers from blocking, slowing down or interfering with web traffic. Last week FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced a repeal of these rules, which would usher in a new era of the internet. 

Public Domain Pictures / Pixabay Commons

Scientists and researchers from major labs are putting their minds and grant dollars into gene editing tools like CRISPR, which enables humans to modify genetic code. 

Cover of 'Lending Power' by Howard Covington
Courtesy of Howard Covington

When founders Martin Eakes and Bonnie Wright started the Center for Community Self-Help in 1980, they did so with the fundamental belief that low and middle-income homeowners and small business owners would not only be a safe investment, but also a profitable one. 

Laura Pellicer / WUNC

Sijal Nasralla grew up hearing stories about the bucolic hills his father used to roam as a shepherd in Palestine. He also learned early on about efforts his family members had made to preserve access to land they had lived on for hundreds of years.

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.

Steven Diaz of Mountain Lions
Courtesy of Steven Diaz

Singer-songwriter Steven Diaz allows the natural world to both sooth and inspire him. Under the name Mountain Lions, Diaz creates intimate and introspective songs that reflect familiar people and places. In his debut EP “Calm Wind, Starry Night,” Diaz explores motifs of nature and personal identity. 

Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Brazzell / Wikimedia Commons -2017

Two-thirds of states used chronic absenteeism as a metric for school evaluation in recently submitted federal plans.

Actress Rose McGowan stands with Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo Campaign.
Paul Sancya / AP Photo

The number of women coming forward with accounts of sexual assault and harassment continues to grow.  The recent surge in allegations has put toxic masculinity in the spotlight, but many questions remain, such as: are black and white accusers are treated differently.

RuPaul Charles accepts the award for outstanding host for a reality or reality-competition program for "RuPaul's Drag Race" during night two of the Television Academy's 2016 Creative Arts Emmy Awards in 2016.
Phil McCarten / AP Photo

In art and pop culture effeminate men are cast in very different light. Some are revered, like artist Liberace or drag queen and TV star RuPaul Andre Charles. But other times, effeminate men are seen as simultaneously fascinating and grotesque.

When Connsuela Bautista got to school for her first morning class at Southeastern Randolph Middle School, she says she was immediately called to the principal's office. When she arrived, she saw sheriff’s deputies waiting for her. 

Women walking down a street.
Isaiah Rice

Isaiah Rice spent decades working as a beverage delivery man in his native city of Asheville, but around town he often went by another name: the picture man.

 Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin speaks during a press briefing in Bridgewater, N.J.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo

When service members are discharged from the military, the degree to which they can receive benefits from Veterans Affairs depends largely on their characterization of service.

Margaret Bauer had what many would consider an idyllic childhood. She was raised in a restored plantation house in southern Louisiana on the bayou and spent her time with either her feet in the water or her nose in a book. She came from a long line of notable figures, including state politicians and renowned attorneys, so her name often preceded her, but Margaret just wanted to fit in. 

Donald and Melania Trump take a tour of the Forbidden City while visiting Beijing, China as part of their five-country trip through Asia.
Andrew Harnik / AP Photo

President Donald Trump has returned from his five-country tour of Asia. He characterized the trip as a “tremendous success,” but political analysts say his exuberance does not align with the political accomplishments. 

Judge Roy Moore is facing new allegations of sexual misconduct from multiple women who say he tried to date them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. 

Tim Fain playing violin
Courtesy of Tim Fain

 Violinist Tim Fain is a classically-trained musician, but his talents extend far beyond a classical repertoire. 

In this Monday, Nov. 6, 2017 file photo, Native people from Fiji sit in the convention center during the opening of the COP 23 Fiji UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.
Martin Meissner / AP Photo

Nearly 200 countries are wrapping up the annual U.N. climate summit in Bonn, Germany this week.

 Pastor Mack Wolford’s rattlesnake slithers around his neck at an outdoor service, Panther Park, West Virginia, 2011
Test of Faith, Lauren Pond

Serpent handling is a religious practice where individuals hold and wear poisonous snakes during worship services to prove their faith in God.

President Harry Truman with his wife, Bess.
National Archives and Records Administration. Office of Presidential Libraries. Harry S. Truman Library. / Flickr - Creative Commons -https://flic.kr/p/bzswcq

In “The Gifted Generation: When Government Was Good” (Bloomsbury/2017), historian David Goldfield examines the baby boomer generation and argues that more than anything, the opportunities provided to them by the federal government created the conditions for unprecedented confidence and success. 

Robot from French technology summit
École polytechnique - J.Barande / Flickr - Creative Commons - https://flic.kr/p/UBfMcH

Despite the enduring narrative in pop culture of an impending apocalyptic robot-takeover, humans decided a while back to keep moving forward with plans to imbue intelligence into machines. 

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