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Wikicommons

The Asheville City Council this week approved a $175-million budget for the coming fiscal year which starts on July 1st.  The city police department was seeking an additional $1-million to hire more officers to patrol the downtown area which has seen a spike in crime.

Republican lawmakers are negotiating a final budget proposal behind closed doors.  Unclear is what will emerge from those talks.  Details could be released as soon as Friday with votes taken next week.  One proposal included in the Senate's budget has created uncertainty over food stamps.  It was put forward by Senator Ralph Hise of Spruce Pine.  For more on its potential impact, we spoke with Hannah Randall, CEO of MANNA FoodBank, a non-partisan group that serves 16 counties in western North Carolina.  

Architect of the Capitol

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee at 2:30pm ET today, as the investigation continues into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Sessions is expected to take questions about his recusal from the Russia investigation, his own meetings with Russian officials, and what if anything he knew about a private Oval Office meeting between President Trump and fired FBI Director James Comey. Here is Sessions' prepared opening statement to the committee, annotated by NPR journalists.

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

A needle exchange program in Asheville has been running out of supplies on a monthly basis for over a year.  That's according to Michael Harney, co-founder of the Needle Exchange Program of Asheville.  Harney says the group goes through about 60,000 needles a month but can't keep up with the demand for clean needles.  The program operated for years before the exchanges were legalized as a way to ensure those addicted to drugs don't share needles and spread blood-borne diseases like HIV and Hepatitis B and C, which are on the rise in North Carolina.  

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

The opioid crisis is taking an acute toll and nowhere is immune, including here in North Carolina.  North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein says four people die every day in North Carolina from an opioid overdose.  With that in mind, a mixture of lawmakers, law enforcement, first responders, health professionals and advocates of Buncombe County were on hand to hear from Stein recently.  He’s made tackling the issue one of his top priorities since taking office, spearheading a bipartisan bill called the STOP Act.

Blue Ridge Public Radio continues to invest in the development of local programming and content with the hiring of Matt Peiken as the NPR station’s first Arts Producer.

Peiken, whose entire journalism career has concentrated in covering arts and culture, will produce segments for Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and will develop a range of digital elements for BPR’s web and mobile platforms. He’ll also lay the groundwork for a new, weekly arts and performance showcase for BPR.

Dozens of electronic music players from around the world descended on the city of Asheville, North Carolina, to participate in the second annual Continuum Conference. The conference is dedicated to exploring the possibilities of the electronic Haken Audio Continuum Fingerboard.   

Smoky Mountain News

Joey's Pancake House in Maggie Valley, which first opened in 1966, will serve it's last breakfast this coming Tuesday June 13th.  Owner Brenda O'Keefe lists many reasons for why she's closing, including her health and increasing difficulty in keeping enough employees to ensure the restaurant runs to her high standards.  Joey's is an institution in Maggie Valley, regularly seeing lines of up to 50 people waiting for a table on the weekends.

The topic of climate change just got hotter on the heels of President Trump’s decision to pull  the U.S.  from the Paris climate agreement.   Retired Navy Rear Admiral  David Titley  is an international expert on climate change and national security .  He’s giving a talk at the Collider in Asheville.

Matt Bush BPR

Bars were opening early all across the U.S. this morning to show former FBI director James Comey’s testimony to a U.S. Senate panel.  Asheville was no different.  Asheville Brewing Company’s Merrimon Avenue location includes a movie theater with its own bar, and when it opened at 10 a.m., around 30 people filed into it to watch the proceedings in D.C.  Others slowly trickled in as the political theater unfolded in the nation’s capital.  “I think there is some drama and excitement to be able to watch this with other people”, says Anne Fitten Glenn, Asheville Brewing Company’s spokesperson.

Eric Thayer/Getty Images

Former FBI Director James Comey is testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence this week, speaking publicly for the first time since he was fired by President Trump nearly a month ago. On Thursday, June 8, Senators are expected to press Comey on the circumstances surrounding his dismissal as well as the investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election. The White House has given conflicting messages about the reasons for Comey's firing. Sources close to Comey say the President told Comey to shut down the Russia investigation.

North Carolina officials are investigating whether Russian hackers targeted state or local elections staffers by posing as a voting software supplier.

State elections board director Kim Westbrook Strach said Tuesday the move follows a leaked classified intelligence report suggesting election-related hacking reached further into U.S. voting systems than previously known.

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

Add North Carolina’s Attorney General to the list of those disappointed with President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord.  During a visit to downtown Asheville Tuesday, Josh Stein expressed his disappointment with the decision, saying it puts the nation’s economic future in peril.

Matt Bush BPR

Asheville no longer has a 'Pit of Despair' but instead 68 Haywood Street.  That's the name city lawmakers gave the prominent piece of unused real estate downtown after surveying residents.  Other name suggestions included 'Site 68' and 'The Pit' (had the latter won the references from the NBC sitcom "Parks And Recreation" could have been endless).

Matt Bush BPR

Asheville is Beer City USA, with more craft breweries per capita than anywhere else in the U.S.  Other towns in North Carolina have become hot spots for beer, but oat sodas are getting some competition in the craft alcoholic beverage market - in the form of spirits.

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