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Services Cut For Migrant Kids Tracking Pollution With Artificial Intelligence, D-Day 75 Years Later

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Immigrant children in the care of the U.S. government may no longer have access to English-language courses and legal services. Also, a Bay Area tech nonprofit says it plans to use artificial intelligence to track power plant pollution, D-Day veterans in their 90s parachuted into Normandy 75 years later to mark the invasion anniversary, a new VA program helps vets seek care from outside doctors, journalist Scott Pelley discusses his book, “Truth Worth Telling” and San Diego is now home to a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:01 The Trump administration cuts back on services for young migrants in custody and a new way to track power plant pollution. I'm jade Hindman. I'm Maureen Cavanagh. This is KPBS midday addition. Yeah,

Speaker 1: 00:23 it's Thursday, June 6th the money is running out. That's the claim us health and human services is making as it prepares to cut funding for services for unaccompanied minors in federal shelters. The agency notified shelters that it's canceling funding for English classes, recreational programs and legal aid for the teenage migrants held in custody. The move comes as the number of apprehensions of the illegal border. Crossers has soared in May alone. The border patrol reports more than 144,000 were taken into custody. There are three shelters for unaccompanied minors in San Diego County, including one in lemon grove and another in El Cahone. Joining me via Skype is Washington Post reporter Maria said, Cathy, who covers immigration and customs enforcement. Maria, welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. The Washington Post obtained an email notifying shelters of the funding cuts. What did it say?

Speaker 2: 01:23 The email was from HHS and it said that all costs that are budgeted for recreation or education, including staff associated with those activities are unallowable. So, and that email was sent, um, on May 30th and it was retroactive to May 22nd. So that means that the government won't pay you for those costs.

Speaker 1: 01:44 Do we know how many unaccompanied minors are being housed in shelters across the country and where most of them are coming from?

Speaker 2: 01:52 So on any given day, shelters could have 12,000 to 13,000 minors and they're coming from the northern triangle countries of Central America. So Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. These shelters are supposed to be family friendly, you know, child appropriate places, not jails, uh, not detention centers. They're supposed to be places where kids can be kids while they wait for the government to find them. A place to stay in the United States to await the outcome of their court proceedings. And how long do they usually remain in the shelters? So there is an average of about 44 or 48 days, but some spend months there, um, if not longer than that. There are nonprofits that run the shelters generally and there are case workers there who try to find the child's parent or Guardian in the United States to place them with them.

Speaker 1: 02:42 Isn't the federal government mandated to provide a basic level of services to these young people in detention?

Speaker 2: 02:48 Well, that's what advocates say. You know that there's a, uh, 1997 federal consent decree known as the Flores settlement agreement and that calls for providing that kind of services, education, play, all the things that kids and teens need in their lives. But what the government is saying is, look, we're running out of money. We told Congress we were running out of money for months and that not could happen this month. So they need to provide essential care, they say, which is food, water, shelter, things like that. I cut the other stuff. Well that's what they say. I mean they say federal law obligates them to make sure they have funding for those essential services. But advocates for immigrants say that the government is spending a lot of money in enforcement and they should make sure that they have money to treat children. You, mainly they say, and part of that is making sure that children can play and that they can study, um, and not just be sitting in their rooms or on bunk beds.

Speaker 2: 03:43 What reaction have you heard to these cuts from the people who run the shelters? Well, their shelter folks are very concerned. I mean, I'm at least one Bethany Christian services told us in an email that they would continue to provide services because they consider that fundamental. I'm another shelter I talk to today. I'm said similar things, but some shelters really do need this federal funding to provide these services, to pay their staff, to buy new equipment for the kids. So they're worried about it. They feel like education, schooling and just play are really important to children's physical and mental health, but also just keeping things in order at the shelter. Can you tell us more about the surge of arrests at the border? We hear so much about people from Central America seeking amnesty who are awaiting in Mexico, who are the people who were crossing illegally.

Speaker 2: 04:34 So overwhelmingly now the migrants are families and unaccompanied children. Really families for the most part. If you take the number of children and families and you add that to the number of unaccompanied minors, those are people traveling without their parents. You can see that 40% of those apprehensions at the border or minors and, and a lot of them are 12 and under, which is just such an incredible change in the trajectory of migration. And Homeland Security will say, you know, this is a clear smuggling tactic. You know, this is a way to get into the United States may tell us it was safe way, um, in a cheaper way than it has been in the past. Um, but advocates were immigrants that are saying that people are leaving for important reasons. Um, and then, you know, the United States keeps focusing on enforcement, but that doesn't change the conditions of Guatemala and other parts of Central America that are so dangerous or poor that they're compelling people to leave. It seems as if the Trump administration and some Democrats in Congress basically agree that more money is needed for the surging numbers of people in detention at the border. Is there any political move to make that happen? There have been negotiations, um, and there's a lot of discussion about it, but it's not clear where that stands. I mean it's definitely under discussion and you know, a lot of people are concerned. Children have have died in custody. I mean, uh,

Speaker 3: 05:57 everyone on all sides are expressing concern about the safety of children, but they have very different solutions for it. I've been speaking with Washington Post reporter Maria said, Cathy, Maria, thank you very much. Thank you very much.

Speaker 4: 06:11 [inaudible]

Speaker 5: 06:20 the announcement is startling air pollution including carbon emissions from every power plant in the world will be precisely tracked in real time. This comes from a Bay area nonprofit called Watt time with a one point $7 million grant from Google. What time plans to use satellite imagery and artificial intelligence to track plant volution and then make its data public as part of coverage from the KPBS climate change desk. Kyle Bornstein operations and partnership associate at what time spoke to Kay PBS is Mark Sauer by Skype. Here's that interview.

Speaker 6: 06:55 Well, let's start by describing how, what time? We'll track greenhouse gas emissions, what high tech tools are used.

Speaker 3: 07:01 So what we're going to be doing is actually leveraging existing satellite technology. Uh, one of them being the Copernicus, which is the satellites that, uh, Europe launched. And we're going to be using a infrared sensors and image detection kind of coupled with artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to sort of measure based on the heat rate coming out of the actual smoke stacks of fossil fueled power plants, what the total emissions are of, of virtually every power plant in the world.

Speaker 6: 07:32 And, and why do you think a database like this as needed

Speaker 3: 07:35 in the u s and Europe and maybe Australia, you have bodies that are regulating this, but in places like Russia, Saudi Arabia and India, person x on street, why doesn't really know what's causing the health hazards and the damage to their own life and to their own ecosystems. So if we can open source that data, people will be held accountable and everyday citizens will really know what's going on

Speaker 6: 08:00 and how reliable we'll the pollution data be. I imagine there will be a lot of skepticism that these precise readings and power plants can actually be done continuously.

Speaker 3: 08:09 Yes. There, there, there's, there's definitely gonna be, you know, a level of precision there that over time will become better and better. But, but we believe the, with the three different groups involved world resources as you watched time and carbon tracker and sort of the NGO approach to this, the, the, the nonprofit approach to this, we're going to be as precise and as analytical and empirical as possible to really make sure that the data that's open sourced can be used in such realms. Like, I don't know, maybe the Paris Agreement, uh, to hold accountable people on, on their, their actual power plant emissions

Speaker 6: 08:44 and what pushback can be expected from the power plant owners themselves.

Speaker 3: 08:49 So there could be some pushback, but we've actually seen our plants responding fairly where they're interested in this data. Now they could be interested in it for purely financial reasons, but some actually want to know, hey, how am I doing relative to my neighbors in an emissions, uh, perspective? Uh, so, so limited push back. But the pushback could be, well, hey, now I might not be able to make as much money if the power plant that operates a few miles away from me can kind of know what's going on in, in, in my emissions because they can get a sense of, hey, at these moments, what am I bidding? Or what am I effectively selling power and the type of that power.

Speaker 6: 09:31 Right. And uh, you would wonder, not only I'm worried about your competitors finding out data about you, but you'd also wonder if in certain places there might generate lawsuits saying, as you said, we're polluting this particular region, people are having asthma attacks, for example, and suddenly their spotlight shined on you because they're looking at the pollution you're generating.

Speaker 3: 09:52 Yeah, exactly. I mean, you really hit it head on there. I'm mark because the people can effectively now hopefully have this reliable data set. And again, this is only one of the many different types of sectors, power plant emissions that are involved in such accountability in, in, in, in standards like the Paris agreement and other sort of environmental regulations. But really now plaintiffs in cases will effectively have that data. And yeah, there will be some scrutiny on how precise, but before this data is no longer, you know, wasn't available.

Speaker 6: 10:24 And, and what's known now about the amount of pollution that comes from power plants around the world. And again, we're talking about fossil fuel plants

Speaker 3: 10:30 in the United States for example, you have a body set up by the EPA. And this system, uh, is, is effectively sensors that are at the actual power plants, the fossil fuel power plants. And this is measuring sort of the total emissions coming out of sort of the plumes of smoke stacks. And they need to report this to the EPA every 30 to 60 days. So the equivalent of that also goes on in Australia, in Europe, but it doesn't go on everywhere else in the world.

Speaker 6: 11:02 Now, how big a problem, uh, do you, uh, determine it is that emissions are underreported or folks who are illegally polluting a certain places? How bad a problem is that?

Speaker 3: 11:11 So, um, you know, my background is a environmental economics and policy and global environmental governance and out energy and climate policy. So from, from the perspective of, of what I learned, uh, in, in, in what I think a lot of, you know, researchers and professors are preaching and regulators is that if we don't get warming under control, if we don't effectively curb any greenhouse gas emissions at an accelerated rate, climate change and global warming is here, it's now, but the actual magnitude of the potential harmful effects is what's coming. And if we don't act now, we could effectively have the ice caps melt at a pretty rate.

Speaker 6: 11:53 The United States, as you mentioned, the EPA tracks is pretty well in other developed countries and countries that are allies and in compliance with this. But it might be startling for people to see in black and white just what this data shows as you start looking at every power plant everywhere.

Speaker 3: 12:08 Exactly. Right. And if we can somehow put it, uh, you know, this mechanism in place where that data can be not only readily access but understood by an everyday citizen, well then, hey, they can hold their, their, you know, stakeholders accountable. They are the rate payers ultimately painting to have energy in, in, you know, a great, wonderful life in, in utility to do and basically the freedom to do anything they want. But if that's having negative consequences on their health and imposing a sort of a, of an appeasement on their lives, well we'll then, hey, they should be able to do something about that

Speaker 6: 12:46 and be need to know it to uh, the, the first thing about getting a solution is to figure out the problem is

Speaker 3: 12:51 yes, exactly.

Speaker 6: 12:53 And finally, what's the timetable here? When will this data on power plant pollution begin getting posted?

Speaker 3: 13:00 So I think we're about six to 12 months from sort of having a, in a natural sort of way to measure that and to actually have sort of an idea. Let's say we pick one country first to really lock down the measurement that's needed for this or the so called equation, if you will. And then eventually we're going to be rolling that out to the remainder of countries. I think maybe you know, a year and a half to two. Uh, but the project is supposed to be funded for three years. But in terms of what's available now, I don't know what time we have this core sort of, uh, of technology around knowing when energy, every five minutes is better or worse for the environment. And that's available today. And, and, and consumers and corporates and regulators that we work with know about this. Um, and we're trying to make it more and more readily known to the public because they can actually do something about, hey, how clean is my energy right now? How much pollutants are in my, my, uh, you know, if I flip a light switch in my home, what is the energy doing that I'm getting from the power grid? And how dirty is that?

Speaker 5: 14:09 That was KPBS as mark sours speaking with Kyle Bornstein operations and partnership associate. At what time? This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh and I'm jade Hindman. Today marks the 75th anniversary of d day when American and allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, marking a defining moment in World War II and the fight to defeat Hitler's forces. Survivors of d day are now in their nineties that includes cornetto resident and former paratrooper. Tom Reiss, who returned to France this week for a commemorative parachute jump after landing safely. He compared yesterday's jump to the one he made in 1944

Speaker 7: 14:56 that's great. Beautiful drive, beautiful job, beautiful flight. Everything was perfect. Ed Rizza morning here, dark their hair. That was hard going. Oh No, the you're the DJ. Jump landed standing up for the most part. She demand went down to my knees and bounced a couple of times because I have those loans, so much equipment and I had a difficult time getting out of that equipment yet.

Speaker 5: 15:24 KPBS reporter Susan Murphy spoke to Tom Rice about his d day experience in 2014 here's more of his story.

Speaker 8: 15:33 Well, what is that in our steel bucket seats and a, the takeoff time was uh, 10 41

Speaker 9: 15:40 Tom Rice has vivid memories of that night. 70 years ago when he flew across the English Channel in the predawn hours of d day.

Speaker 8: 15:48 I can't recall exactly how long the flight was, rather than maybe 57 minutes, 59 minutes,

Speaker 9: 15:54 only 22 years old. Rice was among the oldest of the 18 paratroopers onboard the sea. 47 military transport plane, all were part of the 101st airborne division 501st parachute. Infantry companies see the ones avid runner and lifelong cornetto resident says he had no time during the flight to worry. He was busy assisting has jumped master with equip

Speaker 8: 16:16 miss then I moved up to the front, make sure that everybody was a alert and awake and cigarettes route.

Speaker 9: 16:23 Their mission dubbed Operation Overlord was to parachuted behind enemy lines and German occupied France near the beaches of Normandy. They were to secure bridges, roads and canals just hours before a massive sea and land invasion of 5,000 ships and nearly 140,000 American and allied troops for rice. The mission was the culmination of a year and a half of intensive training. Yeah.

Speaker 8: 16:46 You know, we were 45 aircraft. Uh, you know the a v shape I within the third one for the right

Speaker 9: 16:54 in all more than 1000 planes stretched for miles across the sky from the plains open back door. Rice watched enemy fire streaking up from the ground as they approached their jump location. Yeah,

Speaker 8: 17:05 we were young and pitching, trying to get out of the way from the flak on all of a candle works coming up at us.

Speaker 9: 17:12 Heavy fog in enemy fire caused pilots to panic and break up their formations. Still Rice says the red light above the back door of the plane came on.

Speaker 8: 17:21 That means we got five minutes ago. So we got on like a lieutenant down whole fending. Oh in the order there. Stand up and hook up.

Speaker 9: 17:31 Rice was always the first jumper out of the plane. So when the green light came on, he jumped and got snagged. Yeah.

Speaker 8: 17:37 My arm pit got caught in the lower left hand corner of the door.

Speaker 9: 17:42 He swung himself out with a load of gear on his back that outweighed him.

Speaker 8: 17:45 Well, I normally wait 137 pounds, uh, that I went to. 76

Speaker 9: 17:50 he says, he twisted freedom, self open to shoot and plunged in pitch darkness toward heavily armed Germans. Miles from his intended drop zone. He made a hard landing in the fields near Utah Beach. Many paratroopers died when they fell into rivers and drowned from the weight of their gear. Others were shot and killed during their dissent. By nightfall on June 6th more than 9,000 American and allied troops were dead or wounded

Speaker 8: 18:16 Davao, we were spread over 400 square miles. Only 15% of us got together for the first five or six days.

Speaker 9: 18:25 Rice spent 37 days fighting in Norman, Normandy, living out of holes and equipped with just three days of food. He says he lost many friends and saw things. Eyes weren't meant to see. He's never forgotten.

Speaker 4: 18:38 No,

Speaker 8: 18:40 no, that stays, yeah.

Speaker 9: 18:42 His living room mantle is filled with memorabilia and awards, including a bronze star, Oak leaf cluster and purple heart.

Speaker 8: 18:48 This is the two metal does that are French Department of Ancient Warriors. The uh, gave me,

Speaker 9: 18:56 he hasn't always openly shared his war stories after retiring from the military. He got married, had five children and was a history teacher in Chula Vista for 44 years. But his students were never aware. Their teacher was a walking history lesson. They figured out

Speaker 8: 19:12 within the military, but I never told him a word about, I wasn't in an airborne,

Speaker 9: 19:18 not even when he taught lessons about world war two and d day.

Speaker 8: 19:21 The stuff is still too heavy in,

Speaker 4: 19:25 okay.

Speaker 8: 19:26 We just didn't do it.

Speaker 9: 19:27 Now at 92, rice uses every opportunity to share his accounts of d day in World War II. He knows his aging generation of d day veterans is failing.

Speaker 8: 19:37 I develop a lot of comradery with those guys. Have, they have a lot in common with them.

Speaker 9: 19:44 Rice plans to commemorate the 70th anniversary like he does every anniversary by jumping out of an airplane this year over Oh, tie lakes in south county. Okay.

Speaker 8: 19:55 Haven't done it yet then we're going to do

Speaker 4: 19:57 [inaudible]

Speaker 9: 20:00 rice was among the first American troops to set foot in Normandy. Young, scared and unsure. He'd survive even at a distance of seven decades. The day continues to shape his life. Susan Murphy Kpbs News

Speaker 4: 20:16 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 20:28 today the Veterans Health Administration is rolling out a major new program that will allow more veterans to see a doctor outside the Va. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says the VA officials from Washington to San Diego hope to learn from past mistakes starting this week. The mission act is changing way. The VA works

Speaker 10: 20:48 with outside doctors. Va San Diego, director Robert Smith says some services are brand new.

Speaker 11: 20:54 Under the Michigan Act. There is an urgent care benefit where veterans can seek care at an urgent care center, a contracted urgent care center, um, with no pre authorization, no referral. They can simply drop by and, uh, get care for, you know, a bee sting, uh, okay.

Speaker 10: 21:10 Or bronchitis or a stomach flu, just go right to urgent care. Veterans still have to be enrolled in VA care to qualifying the Michigan Act is a followup on the choice act. Va Secretary Robert Wilkie says Congress quickly pass choice in 2014 in the wake of the wait times scandal where veterans languished for months on long waiting lists and Phoenix and other vas around the country.

Speaker 12: 21:33 Veteran's choice was a very hasty response to the problem in Phoenix. This department was given 90 days to change its direction, change its ethos, and that was absolutely impossible to do.

Speaker 10: 21:48 There were problems with billing and lost referrals. Some doctors dropped down this time. Congress gave the VA a year to work out the details of the mission act choice also relied heavily on being managed by private contracts.

Speaker 13: 22:00 Yes ma'am. If you don't mind, I'll let me put you on a brief hold. I'm just gonna check with the point of contact and podiatry. Okay.

Speaker 10: 22:09 The VA is taking back some of that control. Tasha Jones is a former army medic who works as a section chief in customer service.

Speaker 13: 22:16 Uh, it is a lot of work. It is, but long as we have the resources and the staff that we need, I'm confident that the VA can do the things like customer service and care coordination better. I'm actually excited that it's coming back.

Speaker 10: 22:29 Va San Diego hired 60 new people to manage the program. Many of them schedulers like Jones who arrange appointments and answer billing questions. The Va is also deploying new software to make it easier for doctors this year. Patient records with the Va VA says the program roughly doubles the number of veterans who can go outside the VA for primary care or mental health. Veterans only have to show their wait time was longer than 20 days or they live more than a half an hour drive from the Va facility.

Speaker 11: 22:58 Those are a small number of veterans though, so about 90 95% of the veterans who were under our care would still have the bulk of their care or their coordination of care provided by the Va.

Speaker 10: 23:11 Smith says the VA is banking on most people's sticking with VA care even with a year to prepare. It's all coming down to the wire. I interviewed the head of VA San Diego Monday. Some of the details about which providers would be part of the new urgent care benefit still hadn't been nailed down.

Speaker 11: 23:28 Oh, there's been a lot of contracting that's been going on in the background and kind of filling in the gaps and I actually have not yet seen it. I have a promise of an email later today have not seen the complete list for the San Diego community. Okay. And so if you're, but it will be there. June 6th veterans

Speaker 10: 23:45 lobbied heavily

Speaker 1: 23:46 to replace choice with the system, more responsive to events like the VA itself, the VFW and other groups are waiting to see what happens after the new program goes live. On Thursday, Jamie has KPBS military reporter, Steve Walsh. Steve. Hello. Hi Maureen. So the mission act replaces the choice act, which was put into place because of the long wait times at the Va. Can you remind us about those wait times that prompted all these changes?

Speaker 14: 24:15 Well, this was a nationwide scandal. Veterans were kept on waiting lists, waiting for months, if not over a year for care at the Va, uh, in places like Phoenix. But really it was happening in Ed vas around the country. There was a very long wait time in San Diego for mental health care back in the day.

Speaker 1: 24:34 Is the fundamental problem here that there are too few VA doctors and clinics available to give care for the increasing number of veterans?

Speaker 14: 24:43 Well, well some of this could be, um, they're just, they just need to have more doctors and nurses and staff at the Va. But uh, you know, for certain specialties there, the VA ever since the really the founding of the Va, they've always used, um, the private sector for at least a portion of their care.

Speaker 1: 25:01 Now you mentioned that the outside healthcare providers are available to vets if they wait longer than 20 days or if they're more than a half hour drive to a VA facility. Based on what you said, what if a veteran just thinks they can get better care somewhere else with the VA ever foot that bill?

Speaker 14: 25:18 Well, that's not really how the whole system works. Uh, and there have been efforts to basically do medicare for all four for events. Um, they've resisted that a, a lot of um, the, the big veterans organizations and a lot of Democrats don't like the idea of shifting so much money into the private sector that it could actually damage care at the Va. So this is, you still have to be enrolled in VA care. You still have to be a part of the system. A Va doctor is still going to oversee the care. They're still going to coordinate the care, but in many cases it's going to be much easier for many more vets to go see a doctor in out in the community assuming one is available.

Speaker 1: 26:01 Yeah. It's kind of unsettling that with a year to prepare. The VA here didn't have a list of providers just before the rollout of this new mission act program. Any reason for that delay?

Speaker 14: 26:12 This is all still new. There's a brand new it system that goes along with this that will be tested as soon as this goes live. The benefit that you're mentioning is a new urgent care benefit where you might be able to go to, let's say a Walgreens or some of those places if you have a stomach flu or something without checking with your VA doctor. And they had a, they were working with a number of providers to create those contracts. And you're right, when I talked to the director of the San Diego VA on Monday, they still didn't have a completely lists and we know, you know, the Va is an incredibly large system. Um, any change, uh, there will be a, without a doubt a number of hiccups.

Speaker 1: 26:54 I get the feeling of from listening to your story and hearing you talk right now, that there is a lot of politics involved in making these changes to the veteran's administration healthcare program. Can you talk to us about that a little bit?

Speaker 14: 27:08 The politics are involved. I think it basically comes down to the reason the choice act was called. The Choice Act is one of the original ideas out there by Senator John Mccain when he was still alive was to have that sort of veterans care for all where that that a veteran could go out in the community with a VA card and get care wherever they want. Basically just like Medicare and there has been an enormous amount of pushback. A lot of the large veteran organizations like the American Legion and the VFW, they worry that if you take too much money from the system that it starts to damage the system as a, as a whole. And keep in mind, uh, the private sector is no panacea. They don't necessarily have a shorter wait times and the care in many cases and in and for many specialties is actually more expensive than just using a VA doctor.

Speaker 1: 27:57 Now you said the VA was beefing up its resources and staff for customer service, I guess better customer service. What kinds of services will they be providing?

Speaker 14: 28:07 Well, this is one of the real problems. And we reported on this, um, during the early days of the choice program to get this up and running in 90 days, which was with, that was their mandate to do this within 90 days they decided to farm out a lot of this to third party contractors at Tri West in the west and on the east coast, uh, an organization called health net. And they found over the first couple of years that maybe the VA had given away too much control. You had outside schedulers who are in charge of scheduling the appointments. They were the ones that were being the liaison between patients and those doctors instead of somebody at the Va and under the mission act to try to correct that by bringing a lot of that back in house. So there were a number of people who are hired even in San Diego to do this. And for most, most of those people, their role will be that kind of basic scheduling being that liaison between the patient and the VA and the outside doctor.

Speaker 1: 29:09 Now the VA says it's still believes that most veterans will stick with the VA for their healthcare. And I wonder even with all the problems it's had, does the VA still get high marks among vets?

Speaker 14: 29:21 Well that has always been the sort of duality of this story. The the Va does have a lot of problems and rollouts seem to be among the worst. It takes him a very long time to get new programs up and running. But once a veteran gets into the system, and I can tell you this anecdotally, just from talking to local events, local vets who use VA care for the most part are very happy with it and they give it very high marks and they don't want to go to a private doctor. They want to go where someone understands their needs and honors their service.

Speaker 1: 29:55 I've been speaking with KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh. Thank you.

Speaker 14: 30:00 Thanks Maureen.

Speaker 1: 30:07 60 minutes corespondent than former CBS evening news anchors. Scott Pelley writes that there was a time he was really looking forward to the 21st century, but after nine 11 and the war against terror and the hyper partisan swing in politics, everything seemed to change everything he says, but the fact that truth and values matter, the veteran newsman and correspondent is out with a book documenting his experiences around the world, following the major stories and the people affected by them. The book is called truth worth telling. A reporter search for meaning in the stories of our times. Scott Pelley is in San Diego speaking about his book and he joins us now. Mr Peli. It's an honor.

Speaker 15: 30:50 Maureen, thank you so much. I'm delighted to be with you on KPBS.

Speaker 1: 30:55 So far, this century has not quite turned out the way that you were hoping. How have you coped with that?

Speaker 15: 31:02 Oh, you know, a doctor, Martin Luther King Junior, as you know, marine was, was fond of a quote from a 19th century ministry. He said the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. So that's, that's how I cope with it. I take the long view. Uh, I think, uh, the, the history of humanity is one of constant progress, but it's kind of three steps forward, one step back. But if you take a, if you take the long view, I think you can be filled with faith and hope

Speaker 1: 31:33 in truth worth telling. You talk about many of the stories you've covered in the places you've been, but the book is organized around not events but people and the attributes you've observed them to have. Why did you choose to do that?

Speaker 15: 31:46 You don't, Maureen, I wanted to write a memoir, but I didn't want to write a memoir about me. It occurred to me that I had met the most interesting people in the world in my 20 years at 60 minutes and 30 at CBS News. And I had seen them discover the meaning of their lives during the historic events of our time. So for example, the first chapter is entitled Gallantry and it's about what I saw at the World Trade Center when the buildings came down. And it's a tribute to the members of the FD and y the fire department or the city of New York.

Speaker 1: 32:21 And one attribute that you write about is Hubris that you observed in both presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and you worry about Americans developing a tolerance for poor leadership. Can you tell us more about that?

Speaker 15: 32:36 Well, we live in a time now where the truth can be made to seem a lie and a lie can be made to seem the truth. And I don't think that's what any of us as Americans expect from our leadership. Uh, we had the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 I think that was the beginning of this lying from the White House problem that we have seen so much of. And now we have president Trump. I'm the most nonpartisan person you're ever going to meet. I don't have that gene. I don't care whether the Democrats or Republicans are in power in Washington. I've met many great republican presidents in my view, in many great democratic presidents in my view. But what I do care a lot about marine, his character, if you have character, you can work out just about anything. If you don't have character, nothing is going to work. And I'm hoping in this next election, uh, the American people will be looking at character more than anything else in choosing a president,

Speaker 1: 33:37 even though you don't have the partisan gene was the political state of art that our nation is in right now. Part of the impetus for writing this book,

Speaker 15: 33:47 the political state, yes, but also something that worries me a great deal in the information age. I believe that we've moved from the information age seamlessly into the dish information age. Never before has more information been available to more people and that's a great thing. But it is also true that never before has so much bad information been available to more people. What's the fastest way to destroy a democracy is a terrorism war and other great depression? I don't think so. I think the fastest way to destroy a democracy is to poison the information. And as you and I sit in the studio right now, that's exactly what's happening in our world and in our country, our adversaries, the Russians and North Koreans or Chinese, they've all figured this out. Cynical actors here in our own country, politicians and businessmen are poisoning our information just to win an election or to make a buck. And I think this is something that needs to be shouted from the rooftops. The American people, the listeners at KPBS need to be tuned into this, what I consider to be an information emergency in our country.

Speaker 1: 35:03 And how much responsibility do you think the news profession bears for the public snack, lack of knowledge on issues and their distrust of the information that report is provided. You know I,

Speaker 15: 35:16 this is a little self serving and nobody who hears this is going to like hearing it, but I think our readers, viewers and listeners and bear a great deal of that responsibility. When I was coming up, there were three television networks as God intended, but today we have limitless sources of information. I'm telling my audiences today that they have a responsibility right now that they never had before. And that is to choose reliable, independent reporting and not believe just anything that happens across the Internet. You know, all of us every day make choices about what we eat because of our health will now for the first time, we have to make choices about what is good for our brains and what's nutritious for our brains. I tell people, they, people say, well, what do I do? I say, go to name brand news organizations. Go to KPBS, go to CBS, go to NBC, go anywhere you want to go. And the Nice thing about it today is you can do that on the internet, but choose a reliable organization that you know is working hard to try to get it right

Speaker 1: 36:34 after the 2016 election, you said in response to the question, will we be okay that our constitution and institutions would remain solid no matter what? My last question to you, do you still think so?

Speaker 15: 36:46 I absolutely think so. You know, Walt Whitman said of poets, he who sees the farthest has the most faith though. So again, I take the long view of friend of mine before the election asked me a question I had never considered and that was are we going to be okay? And what I told her and what I told the viewers of the CBS evening news is that the founders were not surprised by the 2016 election. They knew that was coming someday and the constitution that they built is a circuit breaker that prevents real damage.

Speaker 1: 37:22 Scott Pelley, we'll be speaking about his book. Truth worth telling tonight at the University of San Diego's Kroc Institute for Peace and justice. Thank you so much for coming in and speaking with US

Speaker 15: 37:33 Marine. Great to be with you on KPBS. Thank you.

Speaker 4: 37:37 [inaudible]

Speaker 16: 37:45 this is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh and I'm jade Hindman. San Diego has reached a culinary milestone. We are finally home to a Michelin Star restaurant. The honor was given to Addison, which is now a one star restaurant. Eight other restaurants were also recognized as affordable hidden gems. Michelle perente covers food and dining for the San Diego Union Tribune and joins us to talk about what this means for fine dining and America's finest city. Michelle, welcome. Thank you so much, Jay. How big of a deal is this for San Diego to have a Michelin Star restaurant? I think it's a huge deal. Michelin is probably the most prestigious rating organization in the world and the fact that Michelin has now included San Diego amongst its rated restaurants means an entire global community of food lovers are going to be aware of San Diego as a dining destination. And so that people really understand this. I mean, tell us more about what the Michelin rating system is all about and what it means to in the culinary world.

Speaker 16: 38:52 Right. Well, it's very secretive. They've got this army of anonymous inspectors that go into restaurants and um, they are, uh, France based organization that started by the Michelin Tire Company as a way to get the French driving around the countryside. So they started rating restaurants and little ins around France to get people to drive more and I guess to buy more tires. So in the years that it's been around the decades that it's been around, it has really, um, risen to the top of ratings organizations and there are global culinary tourists who will travel hundreds, thousands of miles just to go to a famous Michelin starred restaurant and plunk down hundreds and hundreds of dollars for these meals still, you know, as you wrote in a recent piece, you're surprised Michelin gave Addison a single star. Why is that correct? Well, I've eaten it Addison about 20 times. It is an amazing, delicious experience to eat there. It is not a one star restaurant.

Speaker 16: 40:03 I'm very happy it got a Michelin Star, but it is at minimum a two star restaurant, but by Michelin giving Addison just one star. What it was saying to San Diego is that no other restaurant deserved a star. Addison is the best. I believe that Michelin clearly believes that, but then it shut the door to really worthy restaurants. So if it had been more generous with Addison, there would have been a whole crop of one star restaurants that would have been in contention. And earlier in the week, eight other local restaurants were recognized by Michelin with a bib Gourmand designation, which, uh, our restaurants, they deemed more affordable hidden gems. Who made that list? Let's see. So that's what I'm calling the Atta boy or Atta girl list. And, um, three of the restaurants just made me completely scratch my head. Juniper and Ivy l, her dean and Ketner exchange, none of them are hidden gems and none of them are relatively affordable.

Speaker 16: 41:08 They're pretty expensive. Um, they're not Addison expensive, but there's no way you can go into the those restaurants and have two courses and a glass of wine for under $40, which is what a Bib Gorman is supposed to signify. In fact, the owner, um, of juniper and ivy, um, even admitted to me, and I put it in the original story when the announcement came out that, you know, he's really honored that juniper and Ivy got Michelin recognition, but people are gonna start coming in looking for a $40 bargain and that's just not going to happen there. And why do these guides, stars and ratings even matter? Do they really matter? I think what matters is what you personally think about a restaurant. People are always apologizing to me and saying, Oh, I'm sorry. I know this isn't a restaurant that you would like, but I really love x, y, or z restaurant.

Speaker 16: 42:06 I was like, never apologize for what you like. Ratings are a tip sheet. There are guide. Um, they're also very insular. They're very political. Um, and so you could completely ignore them and just go out and discover the, your own restaurants that you love. You don't need other people, myself included, telling you what's good. Your Palette will tell you what's good. Where do you see San Diego's food scene at this moment compared to other major cities? Um, well, I really think that San Diego right now is at a critical turning point. I think it is very exciting in, in how it is improving and uh, how chefs are elevating what they're putting out there on the plates. And so while it is still not New York, San Francisco, Chicago or la, which probably is the most exciting dining city in America right now. Um, I think it's improving in a way that it hasn't in years.

Speaker 16: 43:06 And I think it's attracting new talent. I'm a new place just opened up in banker's hill called Il Dundee, the Dandy, um, in Italian, which, um, has, uh, a father and son Michelin starred chef team. They have the first Michelin Star in Calabria and they want to make a name for themselves in the u s and they decided to do it in San Diego. And, um, Michael Mina who was on the Michelin stage on Monday night, um, he's opening a place called international smoke with Ayesha Curry wife of Steph Curry, um, in, um, one Paseo, uh, in July. And, um, so there people are starting to pay attention to San Diego. It's not just a pretty little place to go to the beach and to go to the zoo. San Diego's B is becoming a really grown up dining destination and, uh, the world is noticing if Michelin is quite, not yet noticing enough. I've been speaking with Michelle Birthday who covers food and dining for the San Diego Union Tribune. Michelle, thank you so much. Thank you.

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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.