The State of Things | Blue Ridge Public Radio

M - F Noon - 1PM

The State of Things host Frank Statio
Credit WUNC-FM

WUNC’s flagship program, “The State of Things” covers many diverse issues and topics in North Carolina. Host Frank Stasio talks with authors, musicians, politicians, policymakers and everyday citizens about subjects that matter to North Carolinians. The program can now be heard in Western North Carolina, M - F from noon to 1, thanks to an ongoing partnership between Blue Ridge Public Radio and WUNC, headquartered in Chapel Hill.

The State of Things is a live show that welcomes comments, feedback and questions from listeners. Call 1.877.962.9862, email, or tweet @state_of_things. Follow The State of Things on Facebook or Tumblr.

Get a daily show update, and special news.

Or, join the live audience for remote broadcasts from Greensboro's Triad Stage and Raleigh's Museum of Natural Sciences. And you can listen to Political Junkie Ken Rudin Fridays on the program.

Tutu Alicante grew up in Equatorial Guinea, a small nation on the western coast of Central Africa. The country is one of the largest oil producers in sub-Saharan Africa, yet many of its citizens live in extreme poverty. The oil profits stay within the government, and long-serving President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo uses intimidation tactics like imprisonment or even execution to silence his critics.

The special election in Pennsylvania this week turned a reliably red district blue. Democratic candidate Conor Lamb beat Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. Is this a wake-up call for the Republican party?

Krish Mohan has been a comedian since his teenage years when he won a talent contest at high school. Looking for a way to finetune his craft, he wound up at a local club practicing his jokes between sets for rock bands. His early humor revolved around being from an immigrant family who moved from India to Pittsburgh when he was just 8 years old. 

Ned Ferm was only 4 years old when he decided to pursue a career in music. He grew up on a farm on Mount Desert Island near the coast of Maine and says he is a country boy at heart. But his knack for playing almost any instrument would eventually lead him to perform in New York City alongside renowned jazz icons like Roswell Rudd. Later, Ferm would study jazz at William Paterson University and the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Denmark, where he earned the equivalent to a doctoral degree in saxophone performance.

In 2014, the LGBTQ community rallied around students at Duke Divinity School after former Dean Richard Hays warned incoming students that under the rules of the United Methodist Church openly gay individuals would not be ordained and gay marriage is not accepted. Though Dean Hays is long gone, some students continue to voice discontent. During the state-of-the-school speech last month, Dean Elaine Heath was interrupted by LGBTQ students carrying bullhorns and chanting “I am somebody, and I won’t be stopped by nobody.”

North Carolina writer Sebastian Matthews was almost killed by a dead man. He and his family had a head-on collision on a North Carolina highway in 2011 when a driver in the oncoming lane passed away from a sudden heart attack. Matthews and his wife were left in wheelchairs with countless broken bones, bruised spirits and a healthy 8-year-old to manage.

For years, critics have contended that Hollywood films leave a lot to be desired when it comes to female representation. Analyses such as the Bechdel test suggest that too often the male-dominated screenwriting world puts women in passive, one-dimensional roles.

North Carolina law gives citizens the right to all sorts of government data, from state employee emails to the minutes of closed meetings. But how reliable are our state institutions when it comes to delivering that data? That is one question that North Carolina reporters hoped to answer this year for Sunshine Week, an annual nationwide event dedicated to holding government agencies accountable and making citizens aware of their rights to open government data.

When people gathered for the women’s marches of 2017 and 2018, they were joining a tradition that dates back more than a century. In 1913, thousands of women marched on Washington wearing purple and gold sashes instead of pink hats, and Rebecca Roberts says they were a lot more radical than today’s activists.

As a former English teacher and Ph.D. candidate, Whitney Wingate believes strongly that words, books and stories matter. So when she had her first child three years ago, it did not take long for her to realize that children’s literature left much to be desired.

North Carolina Rep. Duane Hall (D-Wake) was met with harsh criticism from other Democratic lawmakers, including Gov. Roy Cooper, when he refused to step down amid claims of sexual harassment by multiple women.

Before the University of North Carolina at Greensboro was a thriving liberal arts school filled with rich and diverse voices, it was Woman’s College. When JoAnne Drane stepped foot on the campus in 1956, the school was one of the largest women’s colleges in the country, but it was far from diverse. In fact, she was one of the first two black students.

Alexa Rose was singing before she could talk, but she did not sing or even listen to country music until she was a teenager. She starred in a country-inspired musical theater production, which opened her up to the sounds of the Carter family, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash.


As the Trump administration continues to chip away at Obamacare, many public health practitioners are left wondering how the changes will affect their clients. The statewide sexual health non-profit Shift NC has voiced particular concerns about how the administration’s policies could affect underserved teens and adolescents.

Last November, some voters in the small Eastern North Carolina town of Sharpsburg showed up to the polls but were unable to cast ballots. Due to a technical error, the Wilson County Board of Elections only printed 12 ballots for their precinct, even though that precinct has over 200 eligible voters. The mayoral race was decided by three votes, and the man who lost has since successfully challenged the results in court.

The world of academic publishing is all about credibility, and most scholars want to be published in the nation’s most reputable academic journals. But accessing those journals can be very expensive. While large universities can often afford to foot the bill, researchers at smaller colleges, or those in developing countries, may find themselves unable to afford access to the latest scientific research.

There have been more than 10 school shootings in the country so far this year.  As the gun debate rages on Capitol Hill, students around the country have taken things into their own hands staging walkouts and protests.

The latest episode of WNYC’s “On The Media” takes a critical look at how the press covers white supremacy and neo-Nazi groups. The episode stemmed from questions reporter Lois Beckett asked herself as she was covering white nationalist rallies for The Guardian.

Since the Valentine’s Day shooting at a Florida high school, President Donald Trump says teachers should be armed. Last week North Carolina State Superintendent Mark Johnson polled teachers around the state about the matter.

How long does it take the brain to input information and process it as fact or fiction? Not long, according to Brian Southwell. He is a researcher at RTI International and co-editor of the book “Misinformation and Mass Audiences” (University of Texas Press/2018) who looks at the science and psychology behind "fake news.” 

Richard Hartshorne, known internationally as “Dobbs,” left the classical music world in 2004 to play Bach for audiences who do not usually have access to it. The double bassist founded “Bach With Verse,” a non-profit that brings music to audiences that otherwise would not get it. Dobbs has played in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and in prisons around the United States.

In academic circles, Bart Ehrman is regarded as one of the world’s most influential New Testament scholars. But after publishing his first book designed for the masses, “Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why” (HarperCollins/2005), Ehrman’s reputation expanded beyond the academy and into many American households. His unabashed willingness to perform textual criticism on the Bible was offensive and polarizing for many believers. But perhaps Ehrman understood their viewpoints better than they understood his.

For more than 150 years, historically black colleges and universities have fostered African-American leaders and fueled social movements. Spurred by the release of Stanley Nelson’s new PBS documentary “Tell Them We Are Rising,” UNC-TV hosted a conversation with leaders of HBCUs in North Carolina on its weekly program “Black Issues Forum.” That episode, called “HBCU Legacy and Leadership,” takes a look at the continued relevance of HBCUs in today’s educational landscape.

For more than a decade, John Harrison was the frontman for the indie-rock band North Elementary. He has since left that gig to work solo, which he says gives him more flexibility and creative freedom. 

Democratic leaders in Raleigh are calling for one of their own to step down. According to reporting from left-leaning publication NC Policy Watch, five women say North Carolina Rep. Duane Hall (D-Wake) engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct. Hall denies the allegations, But Governor Cooper and other Democratic leaders say he must resign from his post.

There are not many superlatives left to describe the success of “Black Panther.” The latest Marvel movie has received glowing reviews, broken countless records, and is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. It is also well on its way to surpassing $1 billion at the global box office. And although it has reached screens in far corners of the world, questions remain about what its long-term impact will be. Can one successful film finally disprove the longstanding myth that black films don’t travel?

Van der Vaart Returns

Feb 28, 2018

Donald van der Vaart was North Carolina’s top environmental official under former Gov. Pat McCrory.  When Gov. Roy Cooper took office, Van der Vaart demoted himself and was later placed on suspension after writing a controversial opinion piece in an environmental law journal. However, he recently reemerged as a candidate for President Trump's Council on Environmental Quality.

Many Americans learn their history through teachers, textbooks and films. Personal histories, however, often come from stories told amongst families. But what if pieces of a personal history are still missing from those stories? And who decides which stories to pass on and which to bury?

When film aficionados around the state tune in to the Oscars this Sunday, there are a couple North Carolina connections to look out for. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was filmed in and around Asheville and is up for several awards. Another connection is in the short film category — a North Carolinian directed one of the films nominated for best short.

Football has remained one of America’s favorite forms of entertainment for years. Even as its ratings fall, the National Football League is estimated to have made $14 billion in 2017 alone. But science is finally catching up to the sport, and it suggests the big hits that delight fans do not come without a price.