Tag Archives: North Carolina

Money For Nothing: It Might Set Your Kids Free

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Has the time come to offer a basic income to all? The easiest criticism is that people quit their jobs when they get free money, but as Issie Lapowsky reports at Wired, a new study reveals some intriguing positive effects of a basic income. In Cherokee, North Carolina, Eastern Band members receive hefty bi-annual payments from the local casino. The study shows that a basic guaranteed income helps kids stay in school longer, reduces their participation in crime, and can set them up for financial security in an era where if you lack specialized skills or education, you can no longer just fall into a job at a unionized mill for $50,000 a year.

Harrah’s, which operates the casino, takes 3 percent of the $300 million annual profits. The bulk is funneled back into the community, covering infrastructure, health care for every tribal member, and the college education fund. Casino funds have paved roads and paid for a new $26 million wastewater treatment plant. Half of the profits go toward the per capita payments. The casino has become the tribe’s most precious resource.

The Eastern Band’s change in fortunes also shifted the course of Costello’s research. “We thought it’d be interesting to see if it made any difference” to the children’s mental health, she says. They also started comparing the younger Cherokee children, whose families started accruing money earlier in their lives, to the older ones. They wanted to answer a simple question: Would the cash infusion benefit these kids in measurable ways?

Before the casino opened, Costello found that poor children scored twice as high as those who were not poor for symptoms of psychiatric disorders. But after the casino opened, the children whose families’ income rose above the poverty rate showed a 40 percent decrease in behavioral problems. Just four years after the casino opened, they were, behaviorally at least, no different from the kids who had never been poor at all. By the time the youngest cohort of children was at least 21, she found something else: The younger the Cherokee children were when the casino opened, the better they fared compared to the older Cherokee children and to rural whites. This was true for emotional and behavioral problems as well as drug and alcohol addiction.

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The Threat of Doing What’s Right

People often spoke of Pierce’s opponent, District Attorney Britt, in a whisper, as though he were the Voldemort of Robeson County. Stories of Lumbees and African Americans being coerced to plead guilty in court were as common as the ramshackle tobacco barns that dotted the landscape.

“It’s hard to comprehend how unwholesome and suffocating the system was,” testified Maurice Geiger — an attorney and founder of a nonprofit that monitored Robeson’s courts — in 1991. In a review of thousands of cases from the 1980s, Geiger estimated that at least 1,000 innocent people were wrongfully convicted every year; he also found that Britt’s office used a range of aggressive ploys to force guilty pleas. The court calendar was manipulated to make defendants appear in court for days or weeks on end while they waited for their cases to be called. Others were tricked into signing forms that waived their right to counsel — often easy to do, given the county’s adult illiteracy rate of 30 percent.

In a story co-published at In a story co-published at MEL Magazine and Narratively, TV producer Nicole Lucas Haimes details how one North Carolina man’s attempt to run an honest court entangled him in political corruption and the drug trade and got him killed. So far for him, there is no justice.

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The Story, and Sounds, of a Chapel Hill Church: Our College Pick

In her story about a tiny church for locals in a student neighborhood in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Megan Cassella merges the best of traditional journalism with the tools of today. Her narrative parallels a Sunday service, built on the familiar structural lessons of strong feature writing. She published the story on Creatavist, a publishing platform that allows journalists to create lush-looking multimedia pieces with limited technical resources. Cassella doesn’t use a ton of multimedia in the piece, but the strong photos and musical interlude complement her narrative without detracting from it.

The Little Church That Could

Megan Cassella | Synapse Magazine | November 3, 2014 | 13 minutes (3,285 words)