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Asheville city council has called a closed session special meeting for Monday evening to discuss a video released this week showing a then-Asheville police officer beating an unarmed black man last August.  The video, published by the Asheville Citizen-Times, shows officer Chris Hickman beating and shocking with a stun gun Johnnie Jermaine Rush.  Hickman had stopped Rush for suspected jaywalking and trespassing August 24th. 

Leonardo da Vinci may be best known for his artistic masterpieces, but he was also an accomplished engineer and scientist.  That mix of science and art helped inspire a local group of artists, scientists, teachers and citizens to launch the area’s first arts and science festival.  BPR’s Helen Chickering caught up with one of the organizers, biologist Jason York.

Asheville’s first Arts and Science Festival will be held on Saturday, March 31 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Salvage Station.  The event is free and welcomes all ages.

Matt Bush BPR

Candidate filing for the 2018 North Carolina General Assembly elections ended this week, and both parties will field enough candidates to ensure all 170 seats will be contested this year.  It’s making Democratic Governor Roy Cooper very happ - and confident.  Cooper has been in office for 14 months, but his legislative power remains quite limited.  That’s because Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly allowing them to override any vetoes from Cooper, something they did nine times last year.  But the Governor is confident that will change next year, in par

Candidate filing for the 2018 election wrapped up Wednesday afternoon.  A flurry of late filings - mostly Republicans in Buncombe County - ensured that all of Western North Carolina's General Assembly seats will see a contested general election.  That's a step up from two years ago, when five of the seats featured unopposed general elections or only one candidate from a major party.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Everywhere you turn inside Sassy Frass Consignment, your eye catches bejeweled, gleaming crosses and other Christian symbols sprinkled among t-shirts, furnishings, glass baubles and other nicknacks.

Then there are very different signs about one special chapter in the store’s history -- the charred doors left behind by a firey Molotov cocktail and the giant block letters that temporarily hung on the building’s facade, spelling out Ebbing Police Department.

WCU

 North Carolina election administrators are asking state lawmakers for additional money and changes in the law to improve the security of registration and balloting from external and internal threats.

State elections board Executive Director Kim Strach wrote Tuesday to General Assembly elections oversight committee leaders.

Strach's requests follow warnings by federal officials nationwide about Russian hackers during the 2016 elections. Two local election workers also pleaded guilty last year following separate investigations.

Cory Vaillancourt/Smoky Mountain News/BPR

Winning an election is just the beginning for a public official – governing is challenging, ever-changing and can become extremely technical in a legal sense.  So newly elected officials go back to school to learn what they can and can’t do, and what might land them in jail.

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina's schools chief is opposed to arming teachers in classrooms, an idea President Donald Trump and some legislators in North Carolina and other states have suggested following the shootings at a Florida high school that killed 17 people.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have released their rebuttal to Republicans' memo about the Russia investigation and Justice Department surveillance practices. President Trump agreed to declassify and release the Republican document, which raises concerns about partisan influence in the FBI’s probe of Russian contacts with the 2016 Trump campaign. Democrats requested the release of their longer counter-memo and President Trump initially denied that request, sending it back for redactions.

A busy basketball weekend in Asheville will now be even more so.  Not only will the Southern Conference host both it's men's and women's basketball championships at the U.S. Cellular Center, but the quarter and semi-final rounds of the Big South men's basketball championship will be played at the Kimmel Arena on the campus of UNC-Asheville.  That's because the Bulldogs clinched the Big South regular season championship over the weekend.  Doing so means the Bulldogs will play at home during the Big South tournament as long as they are in it.

BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Michael Jefry Stevens stuttered badly when he was young, nearly died 20 years ago in a mugging and once declared bankruptcy.

So it’s a little odd to hear Stevens say he believes he’s the beneficiary of good karma.

“Basically I have a spiritual philosophy that if you do the right things, the universe will help you at the appropriate time,” Stevens said. “So far in my life, that has happened.”

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

President Trump is speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. His comments come amid a debate about gun laws after a shooting a high school in Parkland, Fla. National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre spoke at CPAC on Thursday, warning conservatives of a “socialist agenda” to take firearms from law-abiding citizens. Trump called the NRA and LaPierre “Great American Patriots” in a tweet Thursday morning and later said the organization “is ready to do things” to address the problem of gun violence.

AP Photo/Nell Redmond, File

Reverend Billy Graham passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 99 at his home in Montreat.  The most prominent American Christian preacher of his era was ordained in Southern Baptist church, but it was his ability to blur the denominational lines of Protestant Christianity that built his large following says Reverend Dr.

Matt Bush BPR

Reverend Billy Graham passed away Wednesday morning at his home in Montreat.  He was 99.  A family spokesman told the Associated Press Graham had been suffering from a variety of ailments, including cancer and pneumonia.  His wife Ruth died in 2007.  Funeral services have not been announced, but Graham will be buried next to his wife at the Billy Graham Museum and Library in Charlotte.

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein sent a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen looking for information on election security in North Carolina.  This comes on the heels of last week's indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller of 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian businesses for interfering in the 2016 election.  Stein joined BPR's Jeremy Loeb to discuss that and other matters.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

In a way, Honor Moor has Donald Trump to thank for becoming a playwright.

“You asked me why I wanted to write a play. I think it’s more I had to write this play,” Moor said. “All the news was so compelling that I felt I wanted to get it down and I wanted to get it out. For me, probably, I felt like many people, hey, it was a way to digest all of it.”

Old Timey music and Bluegrass fans won't want to miss Country Roots this week! Tune in Sunday night at 7 for two hours of live music from some great, local musicians. Host Wayne Erbsen will welcome Old Chevrolet, Frank Lee and Allie Burbrink, and The Warren Wilson College Bluegrass Band. 

That's this Sunday night, Feb. 18, from 7 - 9 on WCQS!

Smoky Mountain News/Donated Photo

The squabbling within the Haywood County Republican Party is showing no signs of stopping.  Last year, four members of the county GOP were officially kicked out of the party.  Now, a the vice chair of the Haywood County Republican party Debbie King is suing the faction of the county party those members belonged to over some internet memes.  Smoky Mountain News reporter Cory Vaillancourt has been following this story from the start and joined BPR's Matt Bush in studio f

JamesBeard.org

Two Asheville chefs, a baker, and a brewer have been named semi-finalists for prestigious James Beard Foundation awards.  Katie Button of Nightbell and Curate and Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani are semi-finalists for the Best Chef of the Southeast.  Six of the 20 semi-finalists in the category hail from North Carolina, with other nominees coming from Raleigh, Davidson, Winterv

Climate City is just one of Asheville’s many nicknames.  A local nonprofit is working to elevate that moniker to a new level.  In March,  the climate innovation center,  The Collider, is kicking off ClimateCon 2018.  The business of climate is the headline event of the conference that organizers say – has something for everyone.  BPR’s Helen Chickering spoke with Megan Robinson, The Collider’s Executive director.

The Asheville Moth StorySLAM series will continue in 2018. The StorySLAM is a monthly competition, where the stage is open to any and all with a story to tell on the evening's theme. The SLAMs are production of The Moth. The schedule and themes [as posted] are listed below.

Public Schools First NC

The North Carolina legislature is adjourned until May.  Or are they?  BPR's Jeremy Loeb and Western Carolina University political scientist Chris Cooper talk about the latest in North Carolina politics, from a loaded class-size bill critics call a "poison pill" to a stand-off over Gen-X, the latest in the neverending gerrymandering saga, and the 2018 midterms.  

Wikicommons

Efforts to promote racial and ethnic equity in Asheville should include community forums focusing on traffic stop data from city police.  That’s one of many recommendations a study group that’s proposing a ‘human relations commission’ in Asheville gave to city council Tuesday.  That group is also asking the city to expand its Office of Equity and Inclusion from one to four employees.  The current head of that office, Kimberlee Archie, was just hired last year. 

President Trump’s annual budget proposal recommends eliminating funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). CPB funding, which amounts to .01 percent of the federal budget, is important seed funding that enables local stations like Blue Ridge Public Radio to provide you with the programming and services you value and trust. Multiple studies confirm there is no replacement for federal funding.

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

Buncombe County Democrats showed a united front as candidate filing began.  The four Asheville-area legislators, Democrats John Ager, Susan Fisher, Brian Turner and Terry Van Duyn filed for re-election together as filing got underway at noon Monday at the Buncombe County elections office.  Reps. Ager and Turner are likely to have competitive elections in 2018.  Rep. Fisher and Sen. Van Duyn are in districts more favorable to Democrats.  Fisher noted the strong presence of women candidates running in Buncombe County and statewide.  

The 2018 Fed Cup brings international professional tennis competition to  Asheville  Feb. 10-11 for the USA vs. Netherlands World Group First Round.

The weekend competition features tennis star Venus Williams and her sister Serena, who is making her debut after maternity leave and who, on Friday, made an Asheville teen’s dream come true. 

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

A North Carolina appeals court should keep alive a five-year-old lawsuit because it increases the pressure on Duke Energy Corp. to clean up groundwater contaminated by its coal ash pits, environmental lawyers argued Thursday.

The Charlotte-based electricity utility admits coal ash has tainted underground water supplies, but says the potentially toxic brew hasn't harmed neighbors using water wells. Coal ash, the residue left after decades of burning coal to generate power, can contain toxic materials like arsenic and mercury.

sarahshawphotography.com

Democratic Rep. Mickey Michaux, currently North Carolina's longest-serving state legislator and a fixture at the General Assembly in the fight for voting rights and funding historically black colleges, said Thursday he won't seek re-election.

Michaux, a Durham attorney, first joined the House in 1973 and has been elected to 20 two-year terms, with a stint as a federal prosecutor and unsuccessful runs for Congress sprinkled in between.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Nina Kawar’s studio is the former principal’s office of Marshall High School, but her artwork gives this room the air of a science lab.

As the opioid epidemic deepens, the need for foster parents has exploded in Western North Carolina.  That was one of the findings of a series of stories from the Asheville Citizen-Times that explored many topics and issues around opioid abuse in the region.  Reporter Alexandria Bordas joined BPR's Matt Bush in studio to discuss the series, which took 5 months to compile.  

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