Skip to main content

ACLU Challenges New Asylum Rules, Del Mar Horse Racing, Comic-Con 50

Cover image for podcast episode

President Trump’s new asylum laws have gone into effect, and opponents are suing. Also, nuclear fuel transfers have resumed at San Onofre, state leaders are trying to reestablish a sexual harassment tracking system in the “Me Too” era. Del Mar’s horse racing season begins in the shadow of Santa Anita’s horse deaths, NASA Ames is helping the FAA brace for the rise of delivery drones, and a suggested guide of interesting panels at Comic-Con 50.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Migrants waiting to state their claim to asylum in the u s remain in uncertain territory. There is no sign that many of the thousands at the Tijuana border are giving up in light of the new asylum restrictions announced by the Trump administration when the new policy was announced Monday a lawsuit challenging. It was expected quickly and yesterday the American Civil Liberties Union led that effort filing a suit in federal court in San Francisco. Joining me as attorney legal learnd, he is deputy director of the ACLU immigrants rights project and Lee, welcome to the program.

Speaker 2: 00:32 Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:33 Can you first explain to us the substance of this new asylum restriction policy? As you understand it, does it only apply to the US Mexico border and if so, why?

Speaker 2: 00:43 It only applies at the southern border and I think that's where the administration has focused its attacks. What essentially this will do is eliminate asylum or virtually eliminated at the southern border, which seems to have been the administration's intent all along. What the, what this says is if you've come through another country, you cannot apply for asylum. Well that's virtually everyone other than Mexicans. And so what, what we'll see essentially is people not being able to apply for asylum and only limited forms of relief that are extremely difficult to get. And these are people who are fleeing serious, serious danger. And that's why they're willing to wait in Mexico if they absolutely have to because it's just too dangerous to go home. And what we have said is, look, this is ultimately a fight between the president, the administration and Congress. Because Congress passes the asylum laws.

Speaker 2: 01:41 Congress made it absolutely clear that transiting through another country does not render you ineligible for asylum. You administration is ultimately simply on happy with what Congress has done. And that's really where they need to focus their attention that they want the laws changed. They need to go to Congress. I mean this is the second time that the administration has enacted an asylum ban. We got the first one and joined. And what the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said is, look, your fight is not what the court's, your fight is not with immigrants. It's with Congress. Congress wanted people to have the ability to seek asylum. If you want this almost change, you need to go to Congress. And that's what we're saying. Again, Congress has laws are clear. If the administration doesn't like them, they need to lobby Congress to change them.

Speaker 1: 02:29 Do you also claim that this uh, restriction violates international law?

Speaker 2: 02:35 We believe it does violate international law. And one thing that's important to know is that after World War II, the entire world came together and passed international laws saying, look, we're not going to let people fleeing persecution be sent back any longer. So all of these international treaties were passed. Congress then said we need to build those into our domestic laws and them after international laws. So we have now had asylum laws that run parallel to international laws for decades. So we believe it violates both domestic and international law. But our lawsuit focuses on domestic law. What Congress has done.

Speaker 1: 03:14 Is it clear to the HCLU at what point US asylum officers are applying this new policy?

Speaker 2: 03:21 Well, that's a very good question because what we've seen from this administration over the past two and a half years is often policies that get pushed out quickly and they're not explained to the people on the ground. The policy went into effect yesterday. We are not sure what's happening on the ground now where we're doing our best to find out, but in theory it should be being applied by asylum officers. Right now, a notably the, the head of the solemn officers union spoke out publicly and said, this is going to put people's lives in danger and they are very opposed to it. I think that makes sense. They've known, you know for decades that their job is to process asylum applications regardless of whether someone came through another country. What's critical for people to understand is that the administration's claim that you can simply apply for asylum and other countries is not factually accurate.

Speaker 2: 04:15 Many countries that individuals will walk through, particularly in Central American Mexico, do not have a genuinely functioning asylum system, so it will not be possible for them to seek asylum. Moreover, it'd be very dangerous for them to wait around in those countries to even try to apply for asylum. So this notion that we'll just simply apply in any country you come to is really not factually accurate and we've put in evidence to show that. But ultimately that's a decision Congress has made is, look, we, we don't care whether you've come through another country, if you're in genuine danger, we are gonna look at your asylum application. It doesn't mean that everyone's going to get asylum, but congress has said, we will look at it regardless of what other country you've come through. And I think Khan wars knows full well that these other countries in Central America do not have functioning asylum systems and it's too dangerous. I think that's why Congress hasn't changed the laws. Congress didn't change the laws. The administration is simply trying to unilaterally rewrite them.

Speaker 1: 05:15 Now, you mentioned a previous lawsuits like the Muslim ban, the ACU and partner organizations. One lawsuits did temporarily stop the band, but a modified version was approved by the u s supreme court. Do you think this change in asylum rules might go the same way?

Speaker 2: 05:31 You know, I, I never would predict what will happen in court, but I think we are hopeful that this one will be enjoying like prior asylum. And I think w the prior assignment I was mentioning was not the Muslim ban. It was a ban on seeking asylum at the southern border. And that was last November. And that was for people who enter between ports of entry and that was struck down. We think this is more similar to that than the Muslim ban. So we're hopeful this will be struck down.

Speaker 1: 05:59 Now KPBS and other news organizations say that in recent days, interviews by U s officials with those waiting in Tijuana have ground to a standstill even before this new policy went into effect. If you win an injunction against the new regulations, would you also request that asylum interviews be resumed at border crossings?

Speaker 2: 06:18 Well, we will have to find out why those interviews are not taking place. And in one of the unfortunate things is this is just one of the many policies the ACLU was fighting in court. The administration has tried to block asylum in a variety of ways. So we will have to find out which particular policy is causing the those asylum interviews to be on hold. But we will try and make sure that people are getting their asylum process one way or the other. You know, the administration has been attacking Central American families now for two and a half years, taking their children away, trying to deny them fair or silent proceedings, holding them in horrendous conditions. So we're fighting on multiple fronts. We will try and get to the bottom of why those asylum interviews are not occurring and see which part of the many lawsuits we're involved in is responsible for that.

Speaker 1: 07:12 I've been speaking with ACLU, attorney legal learnt and Lee, thank you.

Speaker 2: 07:15 Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 1: 07:17 We reached out to the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department for comment on the ACL use lawsuit. They did not respond by air time.
Speaker 1: 00:00 In North San Diego County workers at San Onofre nuclear power plant are once again transferring canisters filled with nuclear waste from wet to dry facilities. San Onofre is in the process of being decommissioned, but a near miss accident halted work last August. KPBS science and technology reporters Shalina chat. Lani has been following this story and joins us now with more Shalina welcome. Hi. Thanks for having me. Remind us why the transfer of the canisters stopped in the first place. Yes. So in August last year, there was a near miss accident. What happened was that some workers, uh, from Holtec International, which is the company that, uh, is working with the canisters for a socal Edison, he was supposed to be monitoring the canister being downloaded into the storage vault. And what happened was that the slings that were holding the canisters up actually ended up going slack. And so the canister had caught on a ring that was inside the storage vault and it was suspended there 18 feet above the bottom of the storage vault for nearly an hour.

Speaker 1: 01:04 The Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave Addison the green light though to restart the transfers back in May. Why is Edison doing it now? The Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave, so cal Edison the greenlight months ago, but Edison decided to hold off a little bit because they decided they needed to ramp up their training process and, and invest in technologies that can allow them to monitor the downloading process more effectively to avoid an ex a near miss accident like that in the future. So what's our sort of safeguards has Edison put in place to make sure a similar incident doesn't happen again? Yeah, so in the press release that they had just on Monday this week, a socal Addison sort of goes through it. They said that they have been, um, integrating a, a more robust training process for the employees that they have there. They're specifically going to be doing the canister downloading. And I, and I also spoke with John Dobkins. He's the public information officer for Santa No fray.

Speaker 2: 02:02 We've made some, uh, some comprehensive changes to the entire fuel transfer operation process that included updated procedures, updated training, new equipment, uh, that we brought in to help us visualize the downloading process. And through those changes we concluded after many rigorous internal readiness reviews that we are ready to proceed with, uh, field transfer operations.

Speaker 1: 02:34 So, you know, they've also been incorporating that with recommendations from the NRC. The NRC did its own a review of, of the canisters as well. Has Edison said what would have happened if that initial canister had fallen? Yeah, so initially Soquel Edison said that the canister would have been cool and safe and it would have been fine. Um, to an extent that's kind true. But, um, there's also the reality that the NRC came out and said that the fuel inside the canister would have been damaged. So it's true that the outer casing of the canister probably would've been fine, but there is a big challenge in that the fuel inside would've been damaged. And then, so cal Edison would have had to deal with that because when the cladding on fuel is damaged, then you get rid of the first protective layer that blocks radiation from leaking.

Speaker 1: 03:27 Did Edison face any repercussions or fines for that incident? Yes. So because the utility did not promptly report the incident within 24 hours as required by the NRC, they faced a $160,000 in civil penalty fines. Critics of Edison are still not convinced, though they've raised concerns about scratches on canisters and there was a loose pin that officials have said posed no safety risks. How are critics responding to the new transfers? Yeah, so a lot of community groups right now are mostly concerned about the longterm impact of keeping this spent nuclear fuel on the beach. So the NRC has come out and said the canisters are safe. You know, the way that it's being stored right now is safe. But I think the big question these community groups are having is what happens 40, 50 years from now. Um, with climate change as sea levels rise, uh, as a number of different environmental factors happen. And Shalina you actually heard from a community group, right? Yeah, that's correct. I spoke on the phone with Chelsea Sparty from the Samuel Lawrence Foundation, which here's from folks in the community.

Speaker 2: 04:36 This is an issue of concern here at Santa no fray and also around the nation, the idea that we're stranding waste without a solution or real thoughtfulness about what to do next as a nation. It's a, it's unacceptable.

Speaker 1: 04:51 So I think the, the main issue here is now there are 44 canisters that are going to be moved after the, after the 29 that have already been moved. And that's sort of creating this more permanent issue of what's going to happen in the longterm. I mean, once you put them in, what's going to happen then meanwhile, the NRC is considering cutting back inspections at the nation's nuclear sites. But uh, even if that goes through, that won't apply to Santa, no free. Is that right? That's correct. So the, a inspections that they were referring to are for commercial operating nuclear reactors. So that won't impact said, I know for a, it's been decommissioned since 2012 but Linda Howell, who was part of the NRC in a public webinars said that there would be surprise investigations into San Antonio phrase, a transfer of, of spent fuels. So there will be some inspections that the NRC is planning to do sort of unannounced.

Speaker 1: 05:50 And do you know how many canisters have been transferred so far? Any idea when work might wrap up? Yeah. So 29 have already been transferred and there are 44 remaining. And socal Edison says they expect the final transfer to happen in the last quarter of 2020. And what's the longterm storage side? What's the plan there? Yeah, so that all depends on federal regulators. Uh, the, the US Department of Energy has been given this task of finding a permanent storage solution for spent nuclear fuel for all of the nuclear reactors across the country. And there simply isn't a solution yet. So, TBD. All right. I've been speaking with KPBS science and technology reporters. Shalina chat, Lonnie, she, Lena, thank you so much. Thank you.
Speaker 1: 00:00 When allegations of sexual harassment rocked Sacramento in 2017 questions were raised about how frequent such incidents were. Those answers were nowhere to be found because several years before the state eliminated its system for tracking harassment and discrimination claims. The reasons why and how state leaders are working to reestablish a tracking system or the subject of a new report from Capitol public radio. Joining me as Scott Rod, he is state government reporter with Capitol public radio. And Scott, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me on. Now, when this sexual harassment system was up and running this tracking system, how did it work and how was the information used?

Speaker 2: 00:41 So they had a tracking system in place up until 2012 and the state personnel board collected information about the number of complaints that were submitted based on a department and agency. And they took this information, they analyzed how long it took for complaints to be evaluated and if necessary, investigated and resolved. And it also compiled, uh, information in such a way that you could see trends where there may be problem spots in government and where there may be increases. Uh, from year to year,

Speaker 1: 01:13 why did the state decide to get rid of it in 2012,

Speaker 2: 01:17 it was part of a much larger effort to reorganize human resources in state government. Governor Brown decided to create a new agency that would oversee all human resources in state government and that required a lot of changes, reorganization and cuts to government programs. And this was one piece of that much larger puzzle in terms of a specific answers to why they eliminated this exact program. I couldn't get a clear answer on even the folks who were involved in this decision to eliminate it. They didn't have a very clear recollection.

Speaker 1: 01:54 So from your reporting though, cutting the program apparently didn't cause much of a stir back then, did it?

Speaker 2: 01:59 No, it was something that seemed fairly noncontroversial. Um, they saw it as just kind of one more program in this much larger effort, um, that, that they decided to eliminate

Speaker 1: 02:11 when the, we said enough letter and of course the me too movement brought attention to harassment at the state capitol back of 2017 were state leaders surprised that they had no tracking mechanism in place.

Speaker 2: 02:25 I think a number of them were surprised. Yeah. Um, this was something, as I said, uh, w that was eliminated years ago and in the shuffle of a much bigger effort to reorganize government and when this information was needed, most they looked and saw that they didn't have it, but not only that they could have had it if they kept the system. So for um, you know, legislators but also, uh, folks in human resources, uh, that took a look at this issue. A number of them were surprised to find out that the state did have this very valuable information at one point, but decided to get rid of the program. Why is the tracking data on sexual harassment allegations valuable when it comes to reducing incidents? The way that a [inaudible] attorney with a group called equal rights advocates put it is you don't know what you can't see and there's still individual complaints that are collected and reviewed and if necessarily investigated.

Speaker 2: 03:22 But what they aren't seeing is the big picture that, uh, the, the larger trends that may show if there are departments where there are a high number of complaints. And if perhaps that needs to be addressed in looking at leadership changes, looking at training changes, uh, and also it's harder to identify repeat offenders or serial offenders. This information allows the state to take proactive steps to figure out, well what is our experience been so far and what can we do to change it based on these larger patterns. And without this information over the last seven years, what's been the impact for people investigating sexual harassment complaints across state agencies? So it's been very difficult for them to see that bigger picture. It's been difficult for them to figure out what sort of policies should be established moving forward to prevent these incidents from happening and to identify problem spots.

Speaker 2: 04:21 And again, individual complaints are still examined and still if necessary, investigated. But it's much harder for agencies like the Department of human resources to identify those bigger patterns and see any trends that are happening. Now Governor Brown's administration was working before he left to bring back the complaint tracking system for sexual harassment. Apparently it was supposed to be up and running by the end of last year. So what happened? I think there was an ambitious timeline. Um, the, the head of cal HR has since said that it was probably an unrealistic goal to try to have this thing up and running. It's fairly complicated to make sure that agencies across such a large body as California state government are on the same page about reporting complaints. Um, and, and essentially getting a system like this up and running it is going to be a fairly sophisticated system. This information will be collected automatically and will be processed through, um, a software program that requires training. And that requires kind of relearning how to process these complaints and how to file them so that they're all in one location. So that timeline seemed like it was a bit ambitious, but now they're setting their sights on early 2020 to have this system up and running. I've been speaking with Scott Rod state government reporter with Capitol public radio. Scott, thanks for your time. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 00:00 No doubt you've seen that Amazon and Uber eats want to send you everything from sneakers to pizza by drone. The question is, how is that not going to be a complete mess? Researchers at NASA Ames research center in Northern California are working on that question right now as KQ Edis, Rachel Myro reports. I feel like

Speaker 2: 00:20 one of those insurance commercial people warning you, the unthinkable happens every day. And frankly, the idea of an army of drones buzzing overhead is they deliver millions of retail orders. Sounds like a bad idea. It only takes one 55 pound drone to land on your head to ruin your day. But Ron Johnson of NASA Ames reminds me, drones are already in the skies for all sorts of uses ranging from search and rescue to firefighting even journalism.

Speaker 3: 00:50 So there's this tremendous market out there that's gonna be growing. They're just chomping at the bit. But I think from the human side of it, the safety and security and the acceptance from the public is going to be key.

Speaker 2: 01:01 And that's where Johnson and his team come in from their project command center and mountain view filled with massive humming computer screens. They've been developing a cloud based software system for the Federal Aviation Administration. This software does with those folks in control towers do for planes, but without the control towers. NASA Ames researcher obey Bharati promises me. He's thinking about what happens when things go wrong.

Speaker 3: 01:28 You know, not everything goes to plan, whether it's weather, birds, maybe there's a miscommunication. The technology itself,

Speaker 2: 01:35 they show me a demo. Every drone operator has to log in with a flight plan for every flight so they don't conflict on the screen. You can watch your drone move through space in real time carrying your goods to the customer. What happens if there's a law enforcement emergency? Again, Ron Johnson

Speaker 3: 01:54 packaged delivery drones and the building inspection drones. Yeah, for lower priority. And so they need to get out of the way.

Speaker 2: 02:00 And if a drone operator behaves badly, everybody else can see that, including law enforcement. So when is this software system launching? It's going to be awhile.

Speaker 3: 02:10 So we finished our, our major testing this summer. It will take us several months to document what we found. And the FAA has, has their processes, perhaps less than a decade, but the more than a couple of years,

Speaker 2: 02:24 that should give us all time to get used to the idea of drone delivery highways in the sky. Really like something out of a science fiction movie.

Speaker 1: 02:32 That was KQ Edis Rachel Meirow in mountain view.

Speaker 4: 02:38 Uh.

Speaker 1: 00:00 After 30 horses died at Santa Anita Park earlier this year, there are concerns about how safe the track will be at del Mar this season. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman says on this hope opening day at del Mar, officials are confident. Recent improvements will result in fewer horse deaths.

Speaker 2: 00:18 The scene during a march race at Santa Anita Park in Los Angeles was gruesome. A horse going down with a broken leg as others. Thundered by that horse, which was later euthanized was one of 30 horses that died after racing or training at Santa Anita del Mar. Thoroughbred club officials are hoping that doesn't keep people away from their track. Oh, I think that we've been very busy in the last month trying to tell everybody that we're not Santa Anita. Joe Harper is CEO of the del Mar thoroughbred clubs. There's a quarter of a mile to go. He says, a rainy winter is likely what contributed to the number of deaths at Santa Anita. There is a point there where the track and get over soup saturated, and you, when you see it, make it harder, uh, and then have horses run on it. You're, you're probably asking for trouble. Del Mar has had its share of problems in the past.

Speaker 2: 01:05 In 20 1623 horses died after training or racing in del Mar making it one of the deadliest years ever. We had to take a hard look at the track. Harper says, it's not clear why so many horses died then, but one thing they did do was redo the dirt track. Re Bank the turns a little higher. We Kinda, it's like picking up a carpet and fluffing it and putting it back down. This led to far fewer deaths in 20 1712 horses died after training or racing in del Mar and nine were lost in 2018 Harpur says keeping a track safe is a science kind of dirt science. I mean this thing out there, it looks like it just a bunch of dirt, but it's alive. During the off season, the track made up of dirt and sand is compressed and sealed. Then tractors begin the work of rehabbing the dirt,

Speaker 3: 01:51 right?

Speaker 2: 01:51 [inaudible] says you want to have the right amount of padding so that the track isn't too hard without that cushion accidents. And injuries can happen. And after each injury at del Mar, horses are evaluated and, and examined by a veterinarian. So then a decision is made as to whether or not the horse can be saved. Uh, if it's a bad break, usually the most humane thing is to euthanize

Speaker 3: 02:12 yours.

Speaker 2: 02:15 During the recent deaths at Santa Anita state racing officials will now require a pre-race evaluation of del Mar horses. State veterinarians will have the power to stop a horse from running. Still something courses shouldn't be racing at all.

Speaker 4: 02:27 What happened out at Santa Anita is not unusual. This happens every year at every racetrack, including del Mar. Horses are dying there for pure entertainment of the humans.

Speaker 2: 02:40 Ellen Erickson regularly protests the races in del Mar.

Speaker 4: 02:43 We are fighting to ban horseracing.

Speaker 2: 02:45 She says tracks can implement all the safety measures they want. If horses are still running, they will die.

Speaker 4: 02:50 There's no middle ground reform doesn't work. They've been trying to for years.

Speaker 2: 02:55 Erickson wants people to be more aware of the deaths and is hoping lawmakers will take notice. I think, um, legislation has to happen. One Dead Horse is too many at any racetrack ever. The Santa and Nita deaths did get the attention of lawmakers. New legislation signed by Governor Gavin Newsome says racing may be suspended at any time to protect the safety of horses. Harper insists that the safety of horses is a top priority.

Speaker 5: 03:18 There is no cruelty to animals going on here, you know, and uh, we just want to make sure that we're doing everything. So we know that that horse is healthy enough to be out here.

Speaker 2: 03:30 Jack officials say that the nine deaths in 2018 came as horses raced or trained on the del Mar track, an estimated 75,000 times. Harper says getting to zero deaths is a long shot.

Speaker 5: 03:40 That zero is probably a difficult number, but it's when we're all striving for

Speaker 2: 03:44 del Mar says in general, there are two types of people that attendance races.

Speaker 5: 03:47 We have the hardcore racetrack guy who comes out just to bat, look at the horses and then we have everybody else that comes out to wear hats and, and have a party.

Speaker 2: 03:56 And it's that casual patrion that the race track is afraid of losing.

Speaker 5: 03:59 We kind of expected some kind of negative impact from Santa Anita. Our, our sales are down slightly, um, seats and stuff. Some are up, some areas are up. Um, that, uh, it was less than I thought.

Speaker 2: 04:13 [inaudible] says he hopes people will see that del Mar is doing what they can to prioritize horse safety.

Speaker 5: 04:18 Uh, I have some good friends who say, I just, you know, makes me nervous to watch your race. You know, sometimes it makes me nervous to watch the race too. I want to get over that. I want to make sure we've done everything. So these horses are out here, you know, we all feel comfortable. Hey, they're good.

Speaker 2: 04:33 Sure. And Amy is KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman. Matt, welcome. Hi Maureen. Now those 30 horses that died during Santa Nita racing season really shook people up. Is that a record for California tracks? No, actually it's not a record. And even just in the last couple of years, there's been much more deadlier seasons. Even at Santa Anita. I mean, if you look back within the two years, we're talking 37 deaths, 54 deaths. So there's been a lot more deaths and then you kind of wonder, well, why all this outrage now, why all these protests while this national news, when you talk to people in the racing industry, they just say that there's just a new awareness of, of these deaths. But it's unclear why, you know, this year at Santa Anita, uh, there was this, this massive outrage. Um, some people say it's because that the deaths were very close together, but other seasons have been much deadlier.

Speaker 2: 05:22 Well now, besides redoing the track, has del Mar made any other changes as a result of the terrible season at Santa Anita? Yes. So this year they have made a couple changes as well as a going back a few years, but so this year Delmar's implementing a veterinarian's during their morning workouts that are going to be monitoring the horses to see if they appear to be injured. And if they do think that one's injured, they can pull them off the track for further evaluation, kind of check them out. Um, they've also created a stakeholder advisory committee, which is made up of trainers, jockeys, veterinarians that are gonna constantly monitor what's going on during the season. So like if had a rash of deaths at the beginning, they could say, okay, what do we, what are we doing here within the last couple of years? Um, they've made some changes including reducing the number of racing dates, uh, limiting the number of horses that they have.

Speaker 2: 06:09 Stabled their, uh, they have about, they had about 2000, now they have about 1800 and after 23 deaths in 2016, they changed their track. I mean, we talked about this in the story of they brought in some new people to maintain the track and they, obviously we did that. There's also some new state regulations, right? Yeah. So after Santa Anita, it really did catch the attention of lawmakers. The big one that's happening at del Mar this year, and that happened at the tail end of Santa Anita season, uh, is this entry review panel. Um, this is made up of state veterinarians and state racing officials. They're basically gonna look at every single horse before it races. Um, and the horses have to already be entered into the race. So it's not like somebody can just pull them out. Um, and, uh, basically, uh, it's an independent body that's going to be doing this.

Speaker 2: 06:52 They're not necessarily going to be physically looking at every single horse, uh, but they're going to be reviewing like their past races, uh, their medication history. And if they want, they can go down and they can actually inspect a horse. Uh, but they're going to be looking for things like, oh, you know, if this horse hasn't run in nine months and he's all of a sudden running, or he's taken a lot of medications in the past couple of weeks, um, then they can actually go down and say, we want to check out this horse. And during the last two weekends at Santa Anita, they, they pulled over 30 horses from racist. So we'll see if that happens in Delmore. Now it's not just for love of the horses that del Mar is doing this, making these changes. It's also a pretty big business for the therapeutic. Yeah, it's a very big business and it's a big business for the state because the thoroughbred club has a contract with the state where they say they give after they pay all their people, they pay all their vendors.

Speaker 2: 07:39 Uh, that money goes back to the state, which has then dumped back into the state owned fairgrounds. Um, it's probably one of the largest income generators if not the largest income generator at the fairground. But del Mar says that they are not a non for profit but there are not for profit, meaning that they try to dump all their money back in. But yeah, it is a very big money making business for them at the fairgrounds. And they were apparently worried that concern for horse safety could keep some people away this year. Did the CEO tell you how much sales are down? Uh, he didn't specifically say how much sales are down, you know, in the store. He kind of said, you know, sales are down a little bit, but then they're up in some areas. He didn't elaborate on that. But what I thought was interesting as he did say that they were expecting much more of an impact from Santa Anita and they really haven't, uh, seen that large impact yet.

Speaker 2: 08:24 It's also worth noting too, when we talk about them making money, Santa Anita track is not a state owned fair rounds. I mean, it's a privately on track. It's a private business. Um, so you can kind of gather from that that they're trying to make more money and whereas the Damar thoroughbred club, they're on a state owned track, they don't own the track. Uh, they just sort of use the track for part of the year. Now I want to ask you about a related matter. Uh, there's a bill in Congress that would regulate what medicines and drugs are given to horses before racing. The allegation has that injured horses are doped up so that they can run, even though it's making their injuries worse. Supporters of the bill say this doping is also a reason that horses die on the track. Is Del Mar addressing this issue in any way?

Speaker 2: 09:09 Yeah, so actually this year they have a rule change. Um, at these anti-inflammatory drugs, they were previously allowed up to 24 hours before a race and that's now changing to 48 hours. So they've doubled that time window. Now from a day to two days, animal rights groups say that these medications are used to mask injuries when horses should not be racing. Um, and the CEO of the del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Joel Harper says if one good thing has come out of Santa Anita, it's kind of brought more awareness to not only the safety measures but to this, um, medication, uh, these anti-inflammatories. Because from what he tells me, it's different from track to track. I mean, when you go to one track, it's these regulations. You go to this track, it's a different regulation. There's no kind of uniform a level. One other thing you talk about, that entry review panel was established at the direction of governor Gavin Newsome.

Speaker 2: 09:54 He also signed a state law saying that, uh, the California horse racing board has the authority to stop racing at any time if they feel that horses are in danger. And so the Delmar race track opens for the first day today. It's their new season. When does the racing season and this here? Yeah, so there's actually a lot of people, I'm kind of, I don't know if they're super aware this, but there's two racing seasons. So there's the summer meeting in the fall, meet the summer meet runs through September 2nd and the fall meet runs from early November to the beginning of December. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, Matt Hoffman. Matt, thanks. Thanks, Maureen.

Speaker 1: 00:00 It is preview night at comic con tonight. KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando Amando talks with comicon spokesperson David Glanzer about what to expect and how the show has evolved over 50 conventions.

Speaker 2: 00:12 David, this is the 50th comic cons. So how does that feel?

Speaker 3: 00:17 It feels really great. I feel old but really fantastic. I don't think that we ever thought we would be at this milestone, but we're happy we're here.

Speaker 2: 00:27 And is there going to be anything different or has anything changed this year from previous years that people need to be aware of?

Speaker 3: 00:32 There'll be some really cool retrospective panels on the past 50 years. We've invited some past, uh, stakeholders, uh, officers, committee heads and I think we'll do a lot of reminiscing about, you know, the way things used to be. Some of it seems like it was just yesterday, but some of it seems like it was eons ago when I first, uh, struggled for volunteering. I think we had 6,000 people and you know, it's a lot more than 6,000 now.

Speaker 2: 01:00 One thing that is new this year is there is the comic Con Museum, which is not officially open, but how is that going to come into play this year? Uh, during comic con,

Speaker 3: 01:11 the things that we're doing this year, which is something we've, we've long wanted to do and we have the, the ability to do that now is to have what we call community programming. So this year the comicon museum will have its first ever really gala fundraiser on Wednesday night, a first night of a comicon and there'll be at the museum. But what we'll be able to do was to have programming throughout the weekend at the museum. And you don't need a comic con badge for that. The same is true for Barrio house. We have a, um, a facility in Barrio Logan. And the same will be true that there'll be a programming that's open to the public. And if you go to our website, you can look at the programming schedule there. But that's something new and very exciting. We're hoping to get more community involvement. Even if you don't have a comic con badge, hopefully you'll be able to partake in some of the programming.

Speaker 2: 02:00 And has this been a response to the fact that you've had to cap attendance at the Convention Center and is this your way of trying to let more of San Diego get to experience the comical?

Speaker 3: 02:10 It really is. We had to cap our attendance years ago and that's not just attendees but exhibitors as well. So you'll see those will be called interactive activations outside. It's oftentimes exhibitors who want more space and we just don't have in the building or new exhibitors who want to exhibit at the show and just can't. There is no retail outside, but at least we have some space where we can accommodate them having programming offsite. We already do programming at the San Diego Downtown Library, a couple of other off site locations. This extensive footprint a little bit wider. We're trying to make the best of a really challenging situation. It's kind of a a bandaid, but so far we're, we're holding it together

Speaker 2: 02:50 on social media. I've seen some discussion about the fact that some major studios are not there. And in some of the comments I notice people had certain ideas about how these panels are run, that studios pay for the time or that you pay for celebrities to be there. So can you clear up exactly how these panels are actually run and put together?

Speaker 3: 03:11 Of course. I think there's a, there is a misconception that a a, we either pay for celebrity appearances or that a studio pays for a time slot. Both of those are or are not true. We have good relationships with, with, with the studios and networks and if a studio doesn't come, often times it's because whatever projects they want to promote either aren't fully developed, they don't feel strong enough to present it to our fans who are really very good about above viral marketing, about, you know, engaging in social media. I think a smart studio knows that if they want to engage our fans instead of just bringing a placeholder, they bring something that is at least somewhat developed so that it can generate interest. But there are I think a some conventions that pay celebrity parents. Is that not something we do on sometimes studios comments, sometimes they don't. It's really less of a, of a indicator of um, their desire and more of a, I think savvy understanding of the fan community and making sure that what they want to bring is something that the fans will, will enjoy and, and be able to, you know, get excited about.

Speaker 2: 04:22 And also there seems to be more comic cons and Disney having their, a event where it's not like we're comicon was kind of like your one shot to reach that kind of a fan base. It seems like there are more places to debut things throughout the year.

Speaker 3: 04:39 Right. Uh, you know, there's, there's really one comic con it's, it's, it's our show. There are other, uh, pop culture conventions and I think it is a very different landscape than it was, you know, even 10 years ago or 15 years ago or 20 years ago when we started in 1970, one of the things that we've always done is tried to put on the type of event we want to, to uh, enjoy ourselves cause we're all fans. There are opportunities to engage with the fan public at, at other, uh, pop culture events. But you know, if you look at our guests list, if you look at our programming, we're, we're an educational organization. Um, you can have fun at comic con, but you're probably going to learn something. To me that's very important to us. Our reason for existing isn't to generate income. It really is to promote comics and related popular art forms.

Speaker 3: 05:27 I think people forget that when we started, you know, our main focus was comic books, films and science fiction and fantasy literature, three areas of entertainment that we thought of as art. A lot of people didn't. They thought of it as just disposable entertainment. I think that's why there's a lot of comic books that don't exist. People read them and threw them away years ago. They didn't think anything was intrinsically artistic about it to keep it. It was just entertainment. We're very proud of our heritage. We're very proud of history of really, you know, saying look popular art may be popular but it's still art and that's one of the big focuses of comic con. So I think when you go through the program book and look at the different programs, you know, drink comicon, you'll see we're a little bit different than other conventions because we really do focus.

Speaker 2: 06:13 I saw that and this being the 50th comic con, looking back at how the convention has changed in terms of the makeup of the floor, I mean now there is video gaming on the floor. There's even virtual reality and all sorts of things. Does that really kind of parallel what's going on? Also in the comics world, because it used to be DC comics and marvel comics, now it's DC entertainment and marvel entertainment. I'm, they've changed too. So do you feel that comic con and and the comic industry have both kind of changed along parallel lines?

Speaker 3: 06:45 That's a great question. And I think the, the, the simple answer is yes. I think one of the things that's kept us vibrant, one of the things that's kept us as popular as we are is that we do change. Um, and it's really a reflection of art. You know, like I said, we're fans ourselves and try to put on the type of event we want to attend. Well, we have new people who come in all the time and say, Oh, you know, what about this and we should have a panel on this. And, and that's great because that stuff, it's speaking to a new younger audience. Like I said, I'm being introduced, you know, more and more to video games. I mean, I played video games when I was younger, but it's nothing like what we have today. So yes, I think there is an evolution, if you will. I don't think we'll ever lose the essence of what comicon is, which is a love of forms of art that people may not realize her art. But while the, the horizon is certainly, you know, vast in terms of what the future holds and what is art. I'm excited I won't be around for another hundred years, but it'll be interesting to see of comic con last another 50 years. Uh, what the, the big things will be that

Speaker 1: 07:52 comicon runs on tonight through Sunday. And you can look for more comic con coverage@kpbs.org.

KPBS Midday Edition podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.