NC In June: Fewer Employed, Jobless Rate Flat

More than 8,500 fewer people in North Carolina were employed in June compared to May, although the state’s jobless rate remained flat, according to the state Department of Commerce.

North Carolina’s 6.4 percent seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in June is now 0.3 percent higher than the national average and ranks the state tied for 32nd with Alaska. Bordering states South Carolina and Virginia are tied at 17th with 5.3 percent, Tennessee at 36th with 6.6 percent, and Georgia at 44th with 7.4 percent.

Unemployment claims in North Carolina fell by more than 2,100 people from May to June. Over the year, the number fell by more than 89,000 people, dropping the jobless rate from 8.3 percent in June 2013 to 6.4 percent this year.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate saw a small increase in May from its lowest point of 6.2 percent in April. That marked a low of more than five years, dating back to the start of the Great Recession.

County-by-county unemployment rates in North Carolina are scheduled to release July 30. To see the full breakdown of the state’s unemployment rate, click here.

Lottery and Drones Bring Bipartisan Divisiveness

Are you tired of the partisan divisiveness that is poisoning the political environment of our state and nation?

Do you wish that the politicians from the two parties would work together more often on issues of common concern?

Me too.

Maybe we are getting what we wished for, thanks to the North Carolina lottery and our country’s use of unmanned drone aircraft to target and kill our enemies throughout the world.

Welcome to the world of bipartisan divisiveness?

You might get tired of this form of divisiveness, too.

The legislature, then controlled by Democrats, established the state lottery at the urging of Democratic Governor Mike Easley, whose pro-lottery positions were major campaign planks.

It was a popular issue for the governor, too. Schools needed the money. People wanted to play the games and were going across state lines to buy lottery tickets. A lottery would be a voluntary tax. Free money. 

Most Republicans opposed the lottery’s establishment. So did lots of Democrats. Liberal Democrats agreed with libertarian Republicans that running a gambling business is not a proper function of government.

Government, they said, should encourage its citizens to work and save for their future, not on fostering dreams of getting rich by winning the lottery. Certainly, they continued, government should not stoop to the low level of a carnival barker selling chances on games in which the odds of winning are stacked against the player.

Some lottery opponents argued that having state officials deal with the gaming industry would have special pitfalls. Don’t expect to lie down with dogs and not come up with fleas, they warned.

Today, the lottery is an established part of state government, and there have been fewer fleabites than expected.

But, with Republicans now in charge of state government, they could ditch the lottery.

Will they?

Governor Pat McCrory recommends only a first step, suggesting that the state “reallocate a portion of money away from the bloated and frankly annoying advertising and the large administration costs of the lottery commission.”

Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger and one-time vigorous lottery opponent Representative Paul Stam are not pushing for lottery repeal, only reducing advertising and administrative expenses and fees.

Even these modest proposals have put the lottery back in play. Some Democrats will join Republicans to cut the lottery’s wings. And some Republicans will vote with Democrats to maintain or enhance the lottery’s profits.

More lottery divisiveness, but it is bipartisan divisiveness.

Similarly the bitter partisan divisions in Washington collapsed for a moment last week after Senator Rand Paul filibustered the nomination of John Brennan to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Paul used his speaking time to call for accountability and clear policy for the use of drone aircraft for targeted killings. Specifically, Paul demanded to know whether the U.S. president has the authority to direct the killing of some presumed enemy within the United States.

Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham denounced Paul for trying to tie the president’s hands in the fight against worldwide terrorism. Meanwhile, liberals like Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson supported Paul. Robinson wrote, “The way we use drones as killing machines has to be consistent with our freedoms and our values. For grabbing us by the lapels, Rand Paul deserves praise.”

How much authority should the president have to call for drone strikes against suspected enemies of the country?

The question is divisive.

Bipartisan divisive.

Enjoy it while you can.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch.” During UNC-TV’s Festival, the program airs Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at
Next week’s (Thursday, March 21 at 5 p.m.) guest is Terry Roberts, author of “A Short Time to Stay Here.” (Note the Sunday airing will be preempted by UNC-TV’s Festival programming). The program will also air at Wednesday March 20 at 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on UNC-MX, a digital cable system channel (Time Warner #172 or #4.4). In addition, airing at 11:30 Wednesday on UNC-MX will be a classic Bookwatch program featuring Haven Kimmel author of The Solace of Leaving Early.
A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch.
More about Terry Roberts:
Madison County, north of Asheville and up along the Tennessee border, has been the location of two novels featured recently on Bookwatch: Ron Rash’s “The Cove” and Wiley Cash’s “A Land More Kind than Home.” Now there is a third fine Madison County novel. Terry Roberts’ “A Short Time to Stay Here” is a story of World War I and more than 2,000 Germans interned in a resort hotel in Hot Springs. It is a story of love, killing and conflict of different cultures that come together in explosive and surprising fashion.

A Coach's Perspective

Following football in the Triangle will be hard for me this season.  I’m taking a year off from coaching since being fired by UNC.  I won’t be watching many games on TV but will be getting game films weekly to study.  Watching the more sterilized game film copy may ease some of the pain of not coaching a team. 
I have some great friends on the Duke and State coaching staffs that I will be able to root for in a way I never have before, and that will be pleasing. Most importantly, there are many fine young men on the Carolina team in whom I have deeply invested feelings.  I hope great things happen for each of them. 

In this column, I will provide a coach’s perspective this football season. Since I’m not calling plays for now, I will, for once, look forward to all your comments.  
N.C. State v. Tennessee (Friday night)
In 2010, I had the chance to coach in the Chick-fil-A bowl when UNC played LSU.  We were without 14 starters who were suspended but gave the Tigers all they could handle behind T.J. Yates’ memorable performance. It was a very exciting atmosphere, and the State fans are in for a treat. 
This is a great match-up between two similar QBs and two accomplished play callers.  Tyler Bray and Mike Glennon are both tall, lanky QBs with strong pocket presence and good production.   The difference is that Bray will have to throw against one of the best secondaries in the country.  I know from experience (bad experience) that David Amerson is an All-American.  If this becomes a pass fest, which it may, you can bet that Amerson will get his hands on two or three balls.  What separates him from common corners is that when he touches it, he catches it.  Some corners are satisfied with PBUs (pass break ups).  Not him.  He has the hands of a great WR.  His playmaking ability reminds me of Dre’ Bly.  I’m setting the over/under for combined pass attempts at 92.
I also think this is a great match-up of play callers. I have a profound respect for Dana Bible, the OC at State.  Jim Chaney, the OC for UT, loves to call passes and is good at it.  After all, he was Drew Brees’ coordinator at Purdue.  However, I know UT has a seasoned and talented OL and some strong RBs.  If the Vols can run the ball, control the clock and keep the ball out of Glennon’s and Amerson’s hands, they have a shot at winning.  But I think State will be tough to beat because of strong senior leadership and a staff that is seasoned and able to handle the inevitable unexpected that comes with a big time opening game. 
UNC v. Elon
I think Elon has a chance to contend for a conference title, but will run into too much talent in Chapel Hill to open the season. 
UNC has great talent on offense. It starts with Bryn Renner.  He was the most efficient QB in the conference and averaged 8.91 yards per pass attempt last season.  Steve Young once said the most telling stat for a QB is yards per attempt and anything over 8 yards is special.  I think Bryn is special and a future NFL player.  And Bryn played all of his record-breaking last season with three bone spurs the size of grapes in his foot.  The trainer told me he had never seen a person able to play with such an injury.  His amazing toughness, uncommon leadership skills, and humble demeanor make him a person the entire Carolina community can rally around.  He stands for what is right in college sports. 
Bryn is lucky to have six offensive linemen on the team that will make a living playing football on Sundays.  James Hurst, Jonathan Cooper, Russel Bodine, Travis Bond, Brennan Williams and Landon Turner are all NFL prospects.  I’d challenge anyone to find a better-looking offensive line in college ball.  They are big, strong, and athletic.  But most important, they all love one another and have uncommon chemistry. 
A guy just as lucky as Bryn to have these giants in front of him is RB Gio Bernard, who is strong, powerful, fast and quicker than a hic-up.  He is also a wonderful person. I will bet that Carolina doesn’t lose a game in which he has 25 carries or more.  Gio also had 45 catches last year.  If he gets 30 touches a game, he will be in the Heisman conversation. 
Finally, a sleeper to keep an eye on is Eric Ebron.  He is the most talented player UNC has had at TE since I started coaching here, and that includes a couple of NFLers in Zach Pianalto and Ryan Taylor.  If you are in a fantasy league, you want Eric on your roster.  Trust me on that one. 
Duke v. FIU
Florida International is a team I’m glad we never had to play.  I watched them a number of times against a common opponent and remember thinking they had fine athletes and were well coached.  This is a tough draw for Duke.  I think FIU has a great coaching staff and athletic administration, led by AD Pete Garcia.  They are aiming high.  Some in the coaching world believe FIU could overtake the U in coming years.  I wouldn’t bet against Pete Garcia and Mario Cristobal. 
I think Duke has an outstanding staff, too.  OC Kurt Roper is bright and creative.  I have always valued studying his schemes when we played common opponents.  He will draw up anything to score some points including sets with three QBs.  Duke will be fun to watch on offense this year.  
On defense, they play solid zone football.  In zone, eleven pairs of eyes are on the ball creating more gang tackling.  You can play fast in zone because you’re never the last line of defense.  FIU will have a new OC this year as Scott Satterfield left to return to Appalachian State.  But the schemes should be the same.  Rest assured it won’t be something Jim Knowles, Duke’s DC, hasn’t seen before.  Duke’s staff has marvelous chemistry that will continue to serve them well on their march to a bowl game this season.  This would be a quality win for Duke.  Those in the coaching business know how good FIU is even if the rest of the country doesn’t yet.

The Uncertainty of Fantasy Football in the 2011-2012 NFL Season

As we enter the second week of byes, it is interesting to note how much has changed in the NFL and thus in Fantasy Football since this time last year.  An inordinate number of early Fantasy draft picks have, so far this season, fallen short of their projected performances.  And some of these players are not likely to turn it around anytime soon either.  There are Fantasy follies in every season, but with the unpredictability of the early NFL season, having a few on your roster is nearly unavoidable. 
When comparing the expectations held before 9/8/2011 with how the 2011-12 season has played out, one of the most shocking mismatches is undoubtedly the Tennessee Titans and their 32nd ranked rushing offense –that’s right, DEAD LAST in rushing in the NFL.  Chris Johnson was projected to be one of the top running backs in the league, if not the very top depending on where you projected Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster.  Johnson was within the first 5 players selected in almost every single Fantasy Football draft this year.  While some did postulate that his hold out for contract negotations would influence his early season production, no one could have foreseen the Titans with Chris Johnson active and actually playing to be last in the league when it comes to carrying the rock.  If someone had walked up to you before the season started and said, “I bet you 20 bucks that 5 weeks into the season Tennessee will have the worst-ranked rushing offense,” wouldn’t you have taken it?  I know I would have. 
And I will keep it rolling with the preseason hypotheticals: if I had asked you to pick which team offense would be ranked 5th and which would be ranked 30th between the Panthers and the Colts entering Week 6, what do you think you would have said?  The Colts’ glitch of a Peyton Manning-less season is not as much of an enigma as the Panthers and their record-breaking beast of a rookie quarterback, Cam Newton, but this just goes to show how important quarterbacks have become in this pass-happy league. 
Other anomalies of this season include both the Bills’ and Lions’ winning records (the latter more impressive by a game), the Packers shoddy pass defense, and the Texans’ complete 180 on both defensive fronts (kudos to Mr. Phillips). Whether these are just prolonged deviations from the norm or long-term transformations must be proven on the gridiron, but the clock is ticking faster for some than others.  
One of the most publicized stories throughout the offseason, and perhaps the best example of the volatility of this year, was the Eagles’ acquisition of several top-notch players to work alongside Michael Vick and the Vince Young coined “Dream Team.” As we all know, and 800 sports analysts have so uncleverly remarked, the dream is over (make that 801). But what I think is interesting is to consider where the Eagles stand now as compared to last season heading into their match up Sunday with the (my) Washington Redskins at FedEx Field, and what is widely thought of as a “make or break the season” game.  
As all Fanagers who owned Michael Vick last season remember (myself included), his performance at FedEx against the ‘Skins was that of Fantasy legend, ultimately setting the record for the most points scored by a quarterback in Fantasy Football history! This year, well, it is not looking so good.  To give my guys some credit, the Redskins have significantly improved in multiple areas, but their defense is looking especially impressive.  They have allowed only the 27th most points to opposing QBs and haven’t allowed more than 10 fantasy points to any opposing quarterback since week 2.  Not only are the Redskins playing well, but they are also well-rested. Last week they had a bye and undoubtedly put some extra emphasis into preparing for the division rival who absolutely humiliated them in their own house last year. 
With all of these factors working in the Redskins’ favor, there is one thing to remember, this is not just a “make or break” game for the Eagles.  The Redskins have just as much to prove or, as in recent decades, disprove.  
The time to define the season is here and some teams have already taken the reins (glad to see you finally showed up, Pittsburgh). As the formidable separate themselves from the flukes, some players will step up and others will inevitably fall behind, but the successful Fanager is prepared for both.

In the shadow of Cold Mountain, a real Inman

Driving south on Lake Logan Road, in the Pigeon River Valley and the shadow of Cold Mountain, headed towards Inman’s Chapel the other day, I could not help wondering whether or not the Inman in Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain” was a real person.

The dedication of a highway marker at Inman’s Chapel that day gave me some idea that somebody named Inman was important enough to have a chapel named after him.
As I neared the chapel, I passed Inman Branch Road and then Frazier Road. Good evidence that Inmans and Fraziers lived close by—and that they were real.
Other “Cold Mountain” readers and moviegoers may also wonder about the lead character, W.P. Inman, that strong-willed, determined, and principled North Carolina Civil War soldier and his odyssey from battlefield, to a hospital, and a long walk across the state towards his mountain home.
But was he a real person?
Charles Frazier insists that his Inman was a fictional character. But he concedes that family stories about his great-great-grandfather and his ancestor’s brothers inspired the novel.
At the highway marker ceremony, I met two Inman family historians, Cheryl Inman Haney and Phyllis Inman Barnett. Both have written books about the Inman family. I learned from their books that W.P. Inman was indeed a real person. Like the fictional Inman, he fought in the “Battle of the Crater,” was wounded, deserted from a hospital in Raleigh, and made his way back to his mountains.
According to the family historians, in December 1864, the real William Pinkney Inman went to Tennessee, where he signed an oath of allegiance to the United States. On his way back home, he was killed by the Home Guard at a place called “Big Stomp.”
Someone complained to Charles Frazier that the title of his book should have been “Big Stomp,” not “Cold Mountain.”
The family histories report that a few months before his death, W.P. Inman and Margaret Henson had a daughter, Willie Ida Inman. She grew up, married, and had five children and a host of descendants. Thus, the real W.P. Inman’s descendants are scatted across North Carolina and the rest of the world.
W.P. Inman and five of his brothers went to war. Only two survived.
Although W.P. Inman is, thanks to Charles Frazier’s book, by far the best known of the brothers, the attention at the dedication of the historic marker at the chapel was focused on his oldest brother, James Anderson Inman.
James Anderson and two other Inman brothers were captured early in the war and sent to a prison at Camp Douglas in Chicago. Conditions were harsh. Although James Anderson survived, the other brothers died in prison.
When he returned to the Pigeon River Valley, James Anderson became a minister in the Universalist church. Universalism was a form of Christianity that emphasized a God of mercy, rejecting the idea that God would condemn any soul to an eternity of suffering in Hell. This and other liberal Universalist beliefs were foreign to the fire and brimstone image of the Bible belt and conservative mountain religion.
Like Cold Mountain’s fictional Inman, James Anderson Inman was ready to stand up against cultural norms if he did not think they were right. Over time he built a loyal congregation, had the chapel constructed, and won the respect of the people of the valley. His successor in the pulpit, a woman named Hannah Powell, carried on and expanded programs of education and social service that people in the valley still remember.
Inman’s Chapel no longer hosts an active congregation, but it can still inspire and remind us that there was indeed a very real Inman.
In fact, more than one.

Help for farm fresh food eaters—part one

What is North Carolina’s most widely available summertime pleasure that we most often pass by without partaking?

It is the bounty of delicious fresh foods that are available throughout the state all summer long.

I have been spoiled by the year-round availability and wide selection of fruits and vegetables at our grocery stores. So I sometimes forget how much better foods are when they are fresh from the field, tree, or vine.

Then somebody shares a fresh-picked ripe strawberry or peach or tomato.

And I remember joyously the pleasures of in-season eating.

This year I have help. It comes from four new books from food experts who celebrate the value of farm fresh eating. Each author takes a little bit different approach to getting the food from farm to table.

James Beard award winning chef Andrea Reusing organizes her recipes and advice by seasons of the year. Sara Foster catalogues her favorite recipes and stories by types of dishes, from hors d’oeuvres to sweets. Watauga County native Sheri Castle puts her collection of recipes in separate chapters for about 40 vegetables and fruits. They are in A to Z order from apples to zucchini. Finally, travel writer Diane Daniel organizes by geographical location the farms, markets, restaurants and other places where we can find and buy in-season fresh vegetables and fruit.
We will take up the Reusing’s and Foster’s books in this column and follow up next week with a discussion of those by Castle and Daniel.

Andrea Reusing owns of the acclaimed Chapel Hill restaurant Lantern, one of the former Gourmet Magazine’s top fifty restaurants. Her “Cooking In The Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes” takes its readers through every season, showing how to shop for and prepare the variety of local foods that are available in North Carolina during different times of the year. Reusing’s restaurant is known for its complex Asian inspired flavors. There is some of that influence in the recipes in her book.

But, for the most part, the foods and the directions are simple and designed to take advantage of what is fresh and available. I loved her great advice about my favorite food, the tomato: “The secret to eating great tomatoes all summer long lies not in which variety…, but in watching them—making space for them to lie flat someplace cool near the kitchen, checking them daily, eating the ones that need eating and continuously making plans for the ones that are getting there. Even tomatoes that are picked ripe need a little time out at room temperature to reach their peak flavor. It is shocking how long it can take even a just slightly firm tomato to get there … and how fast a perfect one rots.”

Many folks in the Research Triangle area know Sara Foster for the wonderful food and fellowship at Foster’s Market in Durham and Chapel Hill. Fans throughout the country admire her as a communicator about southern foods, wonderful teacher, and author of lovely and understandable cooking books.

She grew up in Tennessee in the country surrounded by family and other rural and small town characters and family. Her recipes reflect southern cooking traditions familiar to North Carolinians.
Foster also worked for and with Martha Stewart. The elegant photography to illustrate the recipes, the photos and stories about old time home cooking restaurants throughout the South, and the overall presentation of the book show that Foster knows how to produce a product Martha Stewart-style. As a result, when you have finished looking through her book, you will want to stand up and give an ovation for the production.

More next week.