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Local Syrians Want Action, Military Suicides And Insurance, Plastic Bags May Get Tossed

Roundtable September 13
Local Syrians Want Action, Military Suicides And Insurance, Plastic Bags May Get Tossed
HOSTMark SauerGUESTSSusan Murphy, KPBS News Tony Perry, LA Times Erik Anderson, KPBS News

Syrians In San Diego Want Action

Many members of the local Syrian-American community, fearful for friends and family back home, are urging U.S. to launch air strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, as KPBS reporter Susan Murphy told us this week.

Murphy interviewed several San Diegans originally from Syria who still have extended family in the country. She also spoke withone man who was born in the U.S., but lived in Syria and escaped after the civil war began.

All were worried about loved ones they cannot contact and were hoping for some kind of U.S. action against Assad. Their hopes contrasted with the majority of Americans who want the U.S. to stay out of Syria for a variety of reasons.

Of San Diego’s congressional delegation, so far only Democratic Congressman Juan Vargas has come out in support of President Obama’s proposal for limited air strikes.

Of San Diego's other representatives, Democrats Susan Davis and Scott Peters are awaiting for more information, as is Republican Darrell Issa. Republican Duncan Hunter, Jr., who earlier called for the U.S. to train and arm the Free Syrian Army, has said President Obama will “invite impeachment” if he uses air strikes without congressional approval — an opinion that so far appears unique.

Does Life Insurance Affect Military Suicide Rate?

A new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reveals that many of the causes for the high rate of suicide among the military are the same as in civilian life: mental disorders, alcohol issues and financial and relationship stress.

Deployments are often not a cause of suicide; More than half of those who committed suicide from 2008 to 2011 had never been to either Iraq or Afghanistan.

But the possibility of life insurance policy payouts may cause someone having a hard time to take the fatal step.

Many civilian policies do not cover suicide until two years after a policy goes into effect. Military policies will cover beneficiaries of a suicide just one day after enlistment. In 2005, Congress raised the standard coverage from $250,000 to $400,000. Some psychologists say this causes some to believe they are worth more dead than alive.

The military is currently suffering a suicide epidemic: 352 service members killed themselves in 2012.

San Diego Could Toss Plastic Bags

This week, the City Council Rules and Economic Development Committee unanimously voted to have staff draft an ordinance to ban the use of plastic bags at grocery and other retail outlets in the city. This would include drug, hardware, convenience and clothing stores.

The proposed ordinance would mandate charging customers 10 cents for a paper bag. Those who rely on food stamps would be excluded from this fee.

Restaurants, nonprofits and produce and meat products would be exempt from the plastic ban.

The city estimates that it spends about $160,000 annually to round up stray plastic bags from the beach, watersheds and city streets. Scientists say that plastics, including bags, kill vast numbers of marine life and have collected in continent-sized patches in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

In San Diego, Council Member Sherri Lightner said she favors the ban; Council Member Mark Kersey wants to study the cost before deciding; and Sarah Sheehy of the California Grocers’ Association is fine with a ban, as long as it covers all retailers equally.