BPR News

UPDATE 12:00 AM Saturday - UNC-Asheville reached an agreement with the state department of insurance late Friday evening to re-open The Woods complex.  In a statement the DOI said it was satisfied that the school was addressing its concerns and supported students moving into the buildings.  

EARLIER STORY - Five new residence halls on the campus of UNC-Asheville are closed to students Friday by order of the state of department of insurance. 

Sen. Burr Facebook page

WASHINGTON (AP) — For much of the last two years, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr has been the Russia investigator who is seen but rarely heard on Capitol Hill.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, the North Carolina Republican opened up about the investigation that has now consumed 19 months of his life. He says it has been "frustrating as hell" and much more difficult than he originally envisioned. But he says the integrity of the investigation — and its importance to the institution of the Senate — is something he has labored to protect.

Cathedral of All Souls Facebook page

The Cathedral of All Souls has hired Reverend Naomi Tutu, the daughter of famed South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  The younger Tutu begins her tenure at the church in Biltmore Village this fall. 

Reverend Tutu’s work at All Souls will focus on social justice.  That’s according to the Very Reverend Todd Donatelli, the dean of the church that serves as the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina.

“We realized we are a predominantly white congregation, and we need to be engaged with folks whose stories are different than ours," says Donatelli.

Courtesy of Western Carolina University

Just as it was thinking of getting out of the public utility business, Western Carolina University will instead be expanding its offerings to include improved internet service in the area around its Cullowhee campus.

 

USFS

An increase in bear encounters has prompted  the U.S. Forest Service to consider clamping down on food storage rules for campers in parts of Western North Carolina. BPR's Helen Chickering has details. 

Courtesy of Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University classes start on Monday August 20th. The school is expecting a record number of new students in both the freshman class and overall.  This is due, in part, to the launch of the NC Promise program which lowers tuition to just $500 for in-state students. Today, Interim Chancellor Alison Morrison-Shetlar welcomed back staff and faculty at the opening assembly by reflecting on the past year, remembering former Chancellor David Belcher who passed away this summer and looking forward.

Buncombe County commissioners voted Tuesday afternoon to terminate all contracts the county has with a consultant tied to the indictment of three former high-level county managers.  The county will also sue all involved in the alleged scheme.  Board of commissioners chair Brownie Newman made the announcement of the lawsuit at the very end of a special meeting that lasted about 20 minutes.

Election Day is less than three months away, and the stakes are pretty high for both Democrats and Republicans in this year's General Assembly elections.  The GOP holds veto-proof majorities in both chambers, which the party has used on numerous occasions to override vetoes from Democratic governor Roy Cooper.  Democrats only need to flip four seats in the House of Representatives and six in the state Senate to end those super-majorities, and the party is off to a good start in achieving that at least in fundraising.  Smoky Mountain News reporter and BPR contributor Cory Vaillancourt

Meadows Says He Won't Support Privatizing Vets Health Care

Aug 13, 2018
Cory Vaillancourt

Western North Carolina Republican Congressman Mark Meadows is playing a leading role in the national health care debate.  While back home in his district on recess, Meadows engaged in a series of events with veterans, talking about benefits and health care.

But not everyone was happy to see him.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — State commissions that regulate child care, hand out clear-water grants and license private investigators are the latest flashpoint in a power struggle between North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the Republican-dominated legislature.

A three-judge panel heard arguments Friday about whether six boards and commissions are unconstitutional because Cooper lacks control over them in part because the legislature makes the majority of appointments to each.

How This Small Mountain Town Got Internet Access

Aug 9, 2018
Lilly Knoepp

 It’s no secret that access to  internet in western North Carolina is a big problem. A recent study found that 73% of people in the area find that their internet access or speed does not meet their needs.

 

Thousands of customers were without power in Asheville following a short but powerful storm that passed through the city Wednesday afternoon.  Blue Ridge Public Radio lost power around 2:50 p.m, but it was restored around 5.  At the height of the storm, more than 20-thousand Duke Energy customers were without power in the immediate Asheville area.  By 6:30 Wednesday evening, that number was down to about a thousand.  

UPDATE 10:00 PM - A statement put out by Buncombe County commissioners Tuesday evening seemed to name the contractor in the indictment as Joseph Wiseman.  The full statement reads -

AP/GETTY IMAGES

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish officials say a government delegation will travel to the United States for talks aimed at ending a rift between the NATO allies over the detention of an American pastor.

The United States last week imposed sanctions on two Turkish Cabinet ministers over the treatment of Andrew Brunson, the pastor of an evangelical church in Turkey who is on trial on espionage and terror-related charges.

The dispute caused the Turkish currency to dip to record lows.

The 'Human Stories' Of David Joy

Aug 7, 2018
Garret K. Woodward

Author David Joy has been gaining recognition for a pair of critically acclaimed novels, both set in rural Appalachia.  With a third on the way, Joy has also been gaining national and international recognition as an essayist on Southern culture.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and other opponents of legislative Republicans filed a flurry of late-hour lawsuits Monday to block referendums on constitutional amendments and to let a Supreme Court candidate disclose his party affiliation on ballots.

The lawsuits filed in state court against GOP legislative leaders mark yet another round of litigation in the power struggle pitting Cooper and his allies against the GOP-dominated General Assembly that began when Cooper was narrowly elected governor in late 2016.

Associated Press

A leader of a secretive evangelical congregation has persuaded a magistrate to issue trespassing charges against a North Carolina state Senate candidate who brought supporters and a TV crew along to a scheduled meeting at the church.

Cory Vaillancourt

The harm caused by intravenous drug use extends far beyond the user, sometimes even to innocent bystanders, like hikers, boaters or young children on playgrounds.  But the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, along with volunteers in Haywood County, are becoming more active in efforts not so much aimed at winning the drug war, as containing it.

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry held a town hall event in Asheville Wednesday.  The packed event at the Riceville Volunteer Fire Department was dominated by questions about President Trump's behavior and the Russia investigation.  BPR's Jeremy Loeb was there and videotaped the event.  

Courtesy of Mission Health

As Mission Health negotiates a deal for sale with Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), one of the biggest concerns for the Western North Carolina community is the closure of small rural hospitals within the system from Franklin to Spruce Pine.

Mayor of Franklin Bob Scott and Mayor of Highlands Pat Taylor have both called for greater transparency from Mission and HCA during the current due diligence process. Mission has answered that call with Facebook Live panels to share finding from Mission representatives during visits to HCA locations and meetings with HCA officials.

The first month of the fiscal year for both the city of Asheville and Buncombe County governments has passed.  Both cut arts funding in their budgets for the year, and in particular, money to the Asheville Area Arts Council (The council is a business sponsor of Blue Ridge Public Radio).  BPR's Matt Bush spoke with Jason Sandford of AshVegas about the reaction to the cuts from the arts community in Asheville.

INTERVIEW EXCERPTS -

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Power bills are going up slightly for Duke Energy households in central and western North Carolina this week.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission last week ordered that new rates for Duke Energy Carolinas customers can take effect starting Wednesday.

The order means residential customers will see a tiny increase on power starting this week. The typical household will start seeing bills rise by about 84 cents a month from around $104. Residential power bills will increase an extra 1.2 percent after four years.

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has spoken to his Turkish counterpart about an American pastor detained on terrorism and espionage charges.

It could be a possible indication the NATO allies are trying to ease tensions that flared this week after President Donald Trump said the U.S. would impose sanctions in retaliation. Turkey has called that a "cheap threat."

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday vetoed legislation approved by Republicans during this week's special session that alters North Carolina ballot language for constitutional referenda and a state Supreme Court race this fall.

Cooper's vetoes of the two bills were expected. His office and legislative Democrats blasted the changes as reversals on previous legislation and ways to hide the content of proposed constitutional amendments and interfere in this year's most important court election.

UPDATE - FRIDAY 12:30 P.M. - Michael Greene plead guilty Friday morning in federal court in Asheville to one charge of conspiracy, related the charges that he and his mother Wanda Greene misused Buncombe County-owned credit cards for thousands of dollars of personal purchases over a 10-year period.  He faces up to five years in prison and up to a $250-thousand fine when he's sentenced at a later date.  Michael Greene has also been ordered to forfeit $11, 732.21 that prosecutors say represents the amount of "proceeds obtained, directly or indirectly, from the offenses plead

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein was among a bipartisan group of twenty attorneys general to urge Congress this week to do more to improve election security.  The move comes in the wake of President Trump's widely-condemned news conference in which he appeared to side with Russian President Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence agency conclusions that Russia attacked the 2016 election.  Stein told BPR's Jeremy Loeb the president's behavior was "disgraceful."

Photo courtesy of Mission Health

Highlands-Cashiers Hospital will stick with Mission through its potential sale to Hospital Corporation of America.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina legislature returned briefly to business Tuesday so Republicans could wrest the seemingly ordinary work of adding titles to proposed constitutional amendments on November ballots out of the hands of a state panel controlled by Democrats.

Folkmoot's Cultural Exchange Goes Both Ways

Jul 23, 2018
Cory Vaillancourt

You can’t just invite several hundred foreign performers to a festival in Western North Carolina without showing them some good old-fashioned Southern hospitality.  And that’s just what many local volunteers do each year, serving as a bridge between cultures at Waynesville’s Folkmoot Festival.

NC Insider

Voters in North Carolina will decide the fate of six constitutional amendments on their November ballots.  Among them is one requiring photo ID to vote, one that takes the power of commission appointments from the governor and gives it to the legislature, and one that caps the income tax rate.  Colin Campbell is editor of NC Insider.  In his latest column, he says voters will be asked to approve the amendments before knowing fully how they'll be implemented.  He spoke with BPR's Jeremy Loeb.

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