Republican National Convention Starts, Students Returning To Campus At SDSU, Tony Krvaric Old Hitler Video Resurfaces And Derby United Pivots To Keep Skating And Carry On
Speaker 1: 00:00 Governor Newsome says California has two major fights on its hands. Speaker 2: 00:05 We continue to MATLAB stork wildfires, but we're also battling this historic pandemic. Speaker 1: 00:12 I'm Maureen, Kevin I'm with Mark Sauer. This is KPBS midday edition Hopes for the Republican national convention include a vision for the future. Speaker 2: 00:29 So I want to see a conversation that's focused on the future of the country on the second term agenda and on tackling many of the big issues that bring Republicans together, Speaker 1: 00:39 How to keep college students safe is the question as SDSU opens for a limited in-person classes and a study on what the pandemic is doing to the wiring in our brains. That's a head on mid day edition. Governor Gavin Newsome gave an update on both the COVID-19 pandemic and the wildfires burning across the state. The number of major wildfires has decreased from 24 to 17 since the weekend, but the two biggest wildfires, the LMU and the SCU complex fires are now the second and third largest wildfires in modern California history. Seven people have died in the fires. Newsome says the fight against the wildfires includes new COVID-19 precaution Speaker 2: 01:30 As we continue to map store wildfires, but we're also battling, uh, this historic pandemic COVID-19, uh, that has not gone away. I, that makes some of our wildfire efforts a little bit more challenging, but we are up to the task. Speaker 1: 01:48 The governor says the state's numbers on the pandemic, including positivity rates and hospitalizations are continuing to trend downward. Speaker 1: 02:00 The Republican national convention was officially gaveled into order this morning after a number of false starts and pandemic resets convention events will now take place mainly between Washington DC and Charlotte, North Carolina, like the democratic convention last week, there will be no big halls filled with delegates, but the GOP reportedly is hoping to give their four day event more of a typical convention feel among the not so typical events planned our president Trump accepting the nomination from the white house grounds and Trump speaking on every night of the convention, joining me with a preview of the RNC are my guests fad Couser is political science professor at UC San Diego and chair of the political science department and fad. Welcome back. Thanks for having me, Maureen and Ron nearing former chair of the San Diego County Republican party and former state Republican party chair, Ron, welcome to the show. Thank you very much. Now, let me start with you. What differences do you expect to see between this convention and the democratic convention we saw last week? Well, the Republican Speaker 3: 03:08 Has had less time to plan a virtual convention because it has a, it was planning even through the pandemic. There was a lot of, a lot of excitement about trying to do an in person event and that pivot came later than the democratic party. So the question is will the Republican party either, uh, find ways to, to bring virtual and recorded events that generate excitement, sort of like the parade of States that the Democrats have, or will they take a very different tack? And I think this is what's what they're signaling of having more live events and having more things that look like a traditional convention. And I think that's certainly, uh, the, the era, the place in which Donald Trump, uh, is most comfortable with with live and impromptu events. I think that'll have more of that field and the Democrats have, Speaker 1: 03:55 Yeah, around the venue for the convention was changed from Charlotte to Jacksonville. Then back to Charlotte, were you getting nervous about how this whole thing would turn out? Speaker 3: 04:04 Well as a Republican, my concern has been the number of process related stories that have, uh, really dominated the news. You know, when I was the presidential campaign spokesman for Senator Ted Cruz, one of the things that, uh, that was clear to me is that process stories don't win votes. And so when we're talking about moving convention venues, or we're talking about the post office, or we're talking about things like that, but none of that moves the ball, you don't win any votes with those conversations. And so part of the challenge, uh, I think before the Republican team is to put a, put a stop to the process related stories so that we can spend that limited bandwidth of voter retention, uh, on issues related to the future and to the country. So to the extent that we can succeed in getting that done this week, I think that will be helpful. Speaker 1: 04:55 So, Ron, what would you like to see the convention highlight? Speaker 3: 04:58 Well, to continue what I, what I was saying, and that is that there has been too much conversation over the last several months about the election itself, Malin voting, uh, you know, sending law enforcement to polling places, things like that. Those are all stories about the election and that doesn't win the election. The side that gets bogged down in talking about the election, is that a disadvantage? So I want to see a conversation that's focused on the future of the country on the second term agenda on, uh, and on tackling many of the big issues that brings bring Republicans, uh, together. Uh, and, uh, I think that's, uh, that is an important strategic communications imperative coming out of this. Uh, I think a related issue is that when we look at the democratic convention, it was very clear that the Democrats are very focused on building a majority. Speaker 3: 05:49 Uh, and that's why they dedicated, you know, one of their convention nights just to having Republicans come up, who, uh, you know, who would, uh, were supporting Biden, uh, on the Republican side, you see an approach that is mainly focused on activating the base on mobilization, on turnout, on getting, uh, the Republican team really excited, but we already have an advantage, uh, in the excitement, the enthusiasm level among Republicans is higher than among Democrats. So I would like to see, uh, some, uh, additional effort on building an electoral majority, uh, going beyond what the Trump brand can bring to the party. Uh, and, uh, and both at the convention and in the weeks to follow, I think that's right. There are essentially two ways to win elections. One is by persuading voters in the middle. And the second is by mobilizing your base Democrats held the persuasion convention, right? Speaker 3: 06:38 They were building a big tent. They had Republicans, they had, uh, they had every part of the democratic party on display. What the Republican convention is really going to be about is about mobilizing the base. It's going to be about Donald Trump. It's not going to have the last, you know, the, the last Republican president in, in, in George W. Bush, uh, it's not going to have the last Republican nominee in Mitt Romney. None of those people are on the invite list. It's not going to have many swing state leaders because many of them don't want to be part of, of this convincing and associated right now with a president who brings political risks along with political benefits. So it's really going to be focused on the base, and that's a very different strategy than what we saw last week in the DNC. Speaker 1: 07:24 And apparently along the lines of what you're saying, that is also going to be focused on president Trump, himself. He apparently is planning on appearing and speaking each night of the convention. Usually the nominee gives his or her address on the last night of the convention. So does this indicate that a TV veteran Donald Trump believes he's the reason most people would tune in? Speaker 3: 07:47 Yeah, I think he's right, right. He's the writing's leader of the Republican party. Uh, it's also, the party become the very much the party of Trump at this moment. Uh, and it's the party of Donald Trump and Donald Trump jr. And so you're going to enlarge, you're going to see lots of Trump family members highlighted in a way that, that I can't remember ever seeing in, in, in a, in, um, a national convention. And so that is, is going to make this have a very different feel to it. Speaker 1: 08:15 Ron is that are there rising stars to watch at this convention from the Republican party, Speaker 3: 08:23 Rising stars, uh, and the future leaders and presidential candidates and Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, uh, and, uh, and others, not all of them, uh, you know, there are many more aspirational Republican leaders who will not be on the, on the convention agenda. And I think the organizers of the convention are right to focus on, uh, on, uh, on winning this election. And that's going to be defined by Donald Trump. And I, I agree that he is the ratings driver. There will be far more, more people watching the convention, uh, when Donald is speaking, then, uh, then when anyone else is speaking for sure, for the same reason that people always do it because you don't know what he's going to say. Uh, and that has really worked very much to his advantage. It's why in 2016, for every one minute that another Republican candidate in the primary has got on television, Donald Trump got 10, uh, because he's very, very good at commanding that, that media attention. And I think that works, but to certainly it works to his advantage. Speaker 1: 09:22 Now, one of the many differences between this Republican convention and the one in 2016 is that Donald Trump is now running as an incumbent, usually incumbent president's campaign on how much better off people are now than they were four years ago. But Ron, that's a difficult message now, isn't it? Speaker 3: 09:40 Yeah, certainly the entire, uh, foundation and design of the president's reelection campaign was, was blown up in the first quarter of this year when the country was hit by, uh, the covert pandemic and by the economic consequences of that pandemic, uh, and therefore all of the themes, which they had been planning to run on. And even the management that had been brought on to, to run that campaign, Brad, Parscale all of that had to be changed up. Whereas the Democrats they've had to change, but they haven't had to change as much because they started as a challenger. There's still the challenger and it's still a referendum on the incumbent. Although the issues that'll be on people's minds will be very different than what anyone had earlier planned Speaker 1: 10:24 Fed the polls have not been good for the president in recent months. What, in your opinion, does this convention have to do for president Trump? Speaker 3: 10:32 He asked to seal the deal with voters in the battleground States that can still win him this election. So Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, there is a route to an electoral college victory for Donald Trump, uh, by, you know, justice. He won by a very narrow margin electoral college victory, and a popular vote law with a popular vote loss in 2016. So he's going to get there if he does by, by locking down voters who are concerned about some of the same things that they were concerned about four years ago, uh, you know, he's gonna, in some ways he's gonna run still as the change agent who wants to fix what's wrong and law and order is going to be a prominent theme in that. So you're going to see the McCloskey is tonight who are the couple who brandished guns at protesters outside their, their, their Manson, and in st. Speaker 3: 11:25 Louis during the social justice movement, that's going to be juxtaposed to the news coming out of Wisconsin about another police involved shooting, and it's going to help Donald Trump drive home a law and order theme. And I think he'll all, you'll also see him talking about the wall and talking about how well, if you elect him for another four more years, he'll finish the wall, uh, that he started with with, with, uh, with a few hundred miles of border construction. So I think it's gonna, he's going to be running as the change agent, even though he's the incumbent because Speaker 4: 11:54 With the pandemic and the economic losses, he can't say you're better off today than you were four years ago. Speaker 1: 12:00 I've been speaking with that. Couser political science professor at UC San Diego and chair of the political science department. And with Ron nearing former chair of the San Diego County Republican party and former state party chair, Ron and Thad. Thank you very much. Speaker 4: 12:14 Thanks for having me. My pleasure. Thank you. Speaker 1: 12:17 PBS FM will broadcast nightly coverage of the Republican national convention from six to 8:30 PM. Speaker 4: 12:28 The fall semester starts today at San Diego state university. While most classes will be held online due to the coronavirus pandemic about 2,600 students moved into campus housing as universities across the country are learning careless young people. Socializing on campus is an ideal environment for a highly contagious virus to spread and warnings often go unheated. Joining me to assess the situation at SDSU as reporter Gary Robbins, who covers science and technology for the San Diego union Tribune. Gary, welcome back to mid day edition. Good to hear your voice Mark. Well, a you're on campus over the weekend, observing students. What did you see were most following social distancing rules and wearing masks? The only place that I saw people really following the rules was on college Avenue, Montezuma where like broken yolk and trader Joe's was once we got beyond that area, I saw very, very little of it. Speaker 4: 13:21 We were there between 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM. Even over on the South side of previs student union on that green green area. There are a lot of kids sitting in clusters, but virtually none were wearing masks and people were sitting close. You know, so there wasn't a lot of social distancing going on going on in a hot summer night. And the university has been clear in instructions to students who are coming on to campus now, right? Uh, what, what the rule should be and what you have to do to stay safe. They have been hyper clear about it. Um, you know, uh, I spoke on Friday to Libby Skiles, who's a director of the student health center and to care about her who is, um, she oversees residential education for their, for the dorms. And they kind of went back and explained all of the things that the university had done and the ways they had communicated, you know, from Eve, uh, through email and videos and how they reached out to parents. Speaker 4: 14:11 So they did a great deal, but I kind of walked away from the evening thinking a couple of things. I wondered how effective the messaging was. You know, the question becomes, how do you connect with an 18 year old who probably has never been away from home, uh, who has been cooped out during the pandemic and suddenly aren't there on this wonders campus and their life is kind of beginning. How do you really get their attention? And this will sound maybe peculiar, but I think the answer was on television this morning. I saw this ad that everybody sees from Geico commercial, where a guy standing in front of a mirror, brushing his teeth and someone named DJ Collin, who is very popular among kids right now comes in and tells him how to his teeth more effectively. And it's sweet. And it's funny. And it's meant to connect with people on, you know, in their own place. And I wondered why San Diego state and a lot of other universities aren't doing that. They're sending out messages, but are they speaking in the language of 18 and 19 year olds? Speaker 5: 15:09 Basic question, most classes are online. Why did SDSU allow some students to move into campus housing anyway? Speaker 4: 15:15 Well, there are some, there were several reasons. Um, there is good evidence over time that shows that if students are on a campus around people like themselves, particularly in their freshmen and sophomore years, it helps people, um, stay in college longer. So, you know, we all remember what it's like. Uh, the beginning of college can be very difficult. So they're, you know, they do it because it creates a sense of stability and parent pattern and routine for students. That's very helpful. Um, and a lot of people, you know, dorms have always been there. And many of these, there are 2,600 students in the dorms. 2000 are freshmen. Many of them are from outside of San Diego. So it's not like they could commute here to take classes. I need a place to live and the dorms are a good place to do that. Speaker 5: 15:59 Yeah. And that, as your story noted today, that represents about a third of the students normally housed on campus. Now we've seen Kobe 19 outbreaks at college campuses around the country, the student newspaper, Notre Dame published a dramatic editorial about not wanting to write obituaries. How's the return to campus playing out nationally in general. Speaker 4: 16:18 So what's happening here is what's happening everywhere. This is actually just the latest example of it. I saw the stories from the university of North Carolina and something provocative that the student newspaper did there to grab people's attention after that happened. Um, I went to Northeastern in Boston. They're really worried. They've been kind of sending, sending out these threatening emails to students who said on social media that they intended to party. Notre Dame had the same problem in North Carolina state. These are good schools, Mark, and these are good kids. Um, but we're dealing with human nature. I mean, all the people listening to your broadcast, many of them went to college. Think back for a moment what that first semester was like and how it would have been difficult to catch your attention when a public service announcement about health. What are the Speaker 5: 17:03 Students have to say? That the ones that you were able to tell? Speaker 4: 17:06 I had a conversation with Devin Watley. Oh, I think it was, yeah, it was yesterday and he's on the student newspaper. He was a senior, he's very engaged in the community there. And he came back to this whole thing saying, you know, it's going to take one thing to shut the university down. Speaker 5: 17:21 Right. And one expert you quoted in your story said, well, most students follow the rules in the classroom. Not necessarily after 5:00 PM and residence halls and fraternities, a university prepared to take disciplinary action against students. You mentioned that was the case in a university back East. Speaker 4: 17:38 Yeah. You know, I talked to Kara Bower about that and she was very clear that the university would take disciplinary action if people did not a Bay, the rules in the dormitories. And she, you know, again, they were, they more preferred the soft stick, but the university made a point of saying that. And they also said that all students who went into student housing signed an addendum or COVID-19 in which they agreed to follow the policies of the university on this. So, you know, you're signing a document committing to it. But then in the end, though, Mark, it comes down to a Tuesday night and September when there's an RA trying to take care of this or that. And how do you keep, watch over a dorm? You know, that has a lot of students in it. Can you police or parent what's actually going on in the dormitories? Speaker 4: 18:23 So while everybody agreed to everything, how do you police it? That's a big problem. Now what's the plan at UC San Diego, university of San Diego, other local colleges. So over the past week or so, UC San Diego has done a really poor job of communicating, not only with the campus, but with the public on this issue. They have things online and that's as good as, as far as it goes. But you know, I've been trying to get some of their health officials to sit down and say, okay, you, you know, everybody's read what happened at UNC and Notre Dame and whatnot, are you adjusting what you're doing and learning from what you're doing and how will you apply it? So for example, how will you enforce the wearing of mask in dormitories? Even if you're going in to the bathroom indoors, how do you enforce that? And they haven't been willing to answer these basic public questions. It's kind of ironic because they're asking the public for money to fight COVID-19 and to support a public health school, but they won't answer basic basic health questions. I've been speaking with reporter Gary Robbins of the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks Gary. Thank you, Mark. Speaker 1: 19:33 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Mark Sauer, Tony Lavarack the head of the San Diego County Republican party announced earlier this month that he would be stepping down from that position. At the end of the year, he's been the local GOP chairman since 2007, but a video made years earlier showcasing Tony [inaudible] has no surfaced, which is garnering condemnation from many San Diegans, including at least two prominent Republicans. The amateur video features a young Tony Guevara and two other young men making gestures and faces while a repeating image of adult Hitler bounces overhead. There was also a brief image of a swastika KPBS investigative reporter on ether Sharma worked with investigator producer, JW August on this story on a Metha joins me. Now I'm either welcome. It's good to speak to you Marine, give us a bit more detail about this video, when and why was it made? Well, the video was put together sometime in the early 1990s in Sweden, maybe even in 1990. Cause I know when Tony Gavaria refers to it, he says 30 years ago Speaker 4: 20:44 And what the video shows, isn't almost continuous Speaker 6: 20:49 Image of Hitler pumping his right arm, which has a swastika band around it. And he's floating up and down amid the heads of three young guys. These are images of three young guys, and one of those guys is Tony [inaudible]. The video lasts about two and a half minutes and it also has a scroll that is hard to read, but at least part of it says now don't think that we are mega Nazis just because of the Hitler Sprite as to why this video was made. What the purpose of this video was, who the intended audience of this video was. We don't know because Tony covered refused an interview. He refused to answer any questions about the video. What's the purpose of the Nazi imagery. That is a huge mystery Marine. You know, we've watched the video repeatedly to see it. Perhaps we could figure that out. I can tell you that Jim McElroy, he's a local civil rights lawyer. And he was also a board member at the Southern poverty law center and chairman of the board at one time. And here was his takeaway of that video. Speaker 2: 22:09 It's pretty serious stuff. We're talking about genocide. We're talking about the deaths of millions of people. That's not something to joke about. Speaker 6: 22:19 Has anything else surfaced with the same kind of imagery or Hitler references since Tony Guevara has been head of the local GOP? Not that we know of Maureen, you did get some reaction from a couple of local Republican leaders about the video. What did they have to say? That's right, supervisor Diane, Jacob said she didn't know about the video, but she called it a disturbing video, congressional candidate. Darryl. Eissa had this to say about the video. Speaker 2: 22:50 His video was inappropriate, uh, and just plain wrong then. And now, and that, uh, for mr. Guevara, he truly has to explain why that doesn't represent who he is today. Speaker 6: 23:03 I want to add that, uh, JW artist again, who worked with me on this story, contacted several Republican leaders in the County, including mayor Faulkner San Diego, mayor Faulkner, um, and other members of the board of supervisors. I contacted the current chairwoman of the state Republican party. All of these people either refused comment or they didn't respond. But after the story came out, mayor Faulkner came out with a statement that read quotes, the images and messages displayed in the video were wrong then and are wrong today and should never be tolerated. Now, in your report, you included some about Speaker 1: 23:46 The public political expressions of [inaudible] two sons and one of those sons as apparently associated with the griper army. Tell us what that is. Speaker 6: 23:56 Well, groupers are a loose group of white nationalists and here's lawyer McElroy explaining what exactly the grippers want. They advocate for white American advocate at the end of all immigration. Speaker 1: 24:12 And during this time of racial justice reckoning in the United States, Tony [inaudible], other son, Oliver has written about his concern that we maintain quote, reverence for our history and an effort to uphold our national and cultural identity. Why would that be suspect? Speaker 6: 24:31 That is more along the lines of what we are discussing. McElroy says that there are these soft code words that white nationalists use in their attempt and their efforts to push the Republican party to the right and to, to create a path for themselves to go mainstream. And so he says when words like reverence for our history or preserving national and cultural identity are used, the underlying message is the belief that societies thrive when there is racial, ethnic, and cultural purity. And the underlying goal is to create that in the United States for the white race. Speaker 1: 25:18 Now Amica after this story was posted Tony [inaudible] tweeted quote for the record, any Nazi imagery is disgusting. I didn't create the computer animation, didn't choose the graphics. And I obviously don't support anything like that, which would be obvious, had KPBS bothered to talk to anyone that knows me or looked up my statements over the years, unquote, Amica. How do you respond to that criticism? Speaker 6: 25:48 When the image of the leader of a major political party appears in a video alongside images of Hitler and Nazi symbols, which in disputed brain invoke a racist anti-Semitic genocidal history filled with pain, filled with horror, filled with destruction. We as journalists are obligated to go to that leader, no matter how long ago that video was created and ask him, how did this video come about? Why were you a part of this video? What was its purpose? Who was your intended audience? How do you view the video? Now we did that. We tried to do that. He wouldn't give us an interview. He wouldn't answer our questions. Now I have to add this. Tony Kovacic as head of the Republican party is probably a brilliant strategist. Why he thought it was a good strategy not to speak to us is for him to answer. I can tell you that rabbi Cooper at the Simon Wiesenthal center disagreed with that decision. Here's what he said. Speaker 7: 27:20 I believe he owes everyone in San Diego and beyond an explanation. Speaker 6: 27:25 I've been speaking with KPBS, investigative reporter AMECO Sharma, and you can see the video on the full report on our website, kpbs.org, Amica. Thank you very much. Thank you Marine. Following my interview earlier today with Ron narrowing, the former chair of the San Diego County and state Republican parties. I asked him to respond to the KPBS story about Tony Guevara. And here's what he said. Speaker 7: 27:51 Quark is a very well known public figure in San Diego. It's very easy to find people who know Tony very well. I've known Tony for 15 years and no one came to me to ask me or no one asked anyone else, uh, about the man that Tony [inaudible] is to provide some context to this. And, uh, and I think that's very much missing from, uh, uh, from that story, Tony, Clark's a good guy. And I think that he's been woefully mischaracterized, uh, by KPBS his reporting on the matters so far. And that should be corrected Speaker 6: 28:25 Attempts to reach Ron nearing for comment, prior to the publication of this story were unsuccessful. Speaker 7: 28:44 Southern California got a taste last week of the explosive wildfires that are possible. This time of year hot and windy conditions can turn a spark into a firestorm, putting homes and lives at risk KPBS environment. Reporter Eric Anderson says the situation isn't any easier when there's also a global pandemic to contend with the Apple fire in Riverside County, roared through rugged back country. Earlier this month, blackening more than 33,000 acres in just two weeks, nearly 8,000 people were evacuated. Two weeks later, a second major fire hit the region in the Angeles national forest. The Lake fire, California, governor Gavin Newsome says this is a much more active fire season. The total number of fires last year, it was substantially lower than the activity we're experiencing this year. Since January, there have been more than 6,700 fires in the state up from just over 4,000 the year before with the hottest months of the year, just to head safety is a key priority. Speaker 7: 29:54 Yes, we get a fire, tired fatigue. Sometimes it makes us a little woozy or Cal fire. Captain. Danny Ramirez is huddled with about a dozen firefighters under a shade tree near the humble fire station. It's the safety briefing before a mid day hike in 100 degree heat, the big lessons today be stay safe, stay hydrated and communicate or going out when it heats up in the middle of the day at two o'clock at those triggers, get back in their mind, say, Hey, that's what we talked about this morning, the heat, uh, the probability of ignition, and then there's the threat of COVID-19. Everyone on the crew is wearing a face mask in an effort to keep from spreading the infection. Ramirez says, firefighters are taking the advice of public health officials because they can't afford to lose anyone doing our best with the, uh, the distance, uh, warrant our mask, taking our temperatures every morning. But Ramirez concedes that staying safe in the firehouse or during training is much easier than when the crew is battling flames in the midst of a wildfire. Sometimes we get engaged in this firefight saving your structure or, or life. Um, yeah, that Kobe kind of takes a backseat to that. The Apple fire was the first major fire incident where Cal fire also dealt with the pandemic Speaker 8: 31:12 Being up there in Riverside at the base camp, uh, things were different. It was, it was a different experience. Speaker 7: 31:18 Cal fires. Thomas chutes says there were actually two base camps. So firefighters didn't congregate and just one area food service was prepacked and crews that came together, fought the fire together and stay together. Fire officials want to keep the virus out of their ranks. And that's tough because some local firefighters have already been infected. Speaker 8: 31:40 We're really lucky down here in San Diego County with Cal fire and San Diego County fire. We have a lot of folks to draw from. We have 40 stations. And so, um, even these small little, uh, blips where we have folks go out, it's not devastating to us. We're able to work through it. Speaker 7: 31:54 Or official is one to avoid is creating a super spreader event during a battle against a major wildfire. The agency can't afford to lose lots of firefighters just as the wildfire season heats up. One Ramirez from Irvine and his hand crew are hiking through the East County near Hummel. He's carrying plenty of water and a heavy hand tool. Speaker 8: 32:20 Use it to strike vegetation and tear because our goal is to scrape down the bare mineral soil. Speaker 7: 32:28 The idea is to cut through the fuel that might feed a wildfire. The fast paced hike is designed to physically prepare the crew for line work in dry hot conditions. But Ramirez Speaker 9: 32:40 Knows a wildfire will make it worse. You know, it's a little hotter, it's a little drier and you got that smoke and that low visibility, the wind and heat are already issues in the back country, especially when there's a fire as part of the equation. COVID-19 now exacerbates that situation. Eric Anderson KPBS news. Speaker 9: 33:08 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Mark Sauer with Maureen Kavanaugh. If only the brain were smart enough to figure out how the brain works. There is so much that we do not know yet. Brain research has greatly expanded in recent years, including advanced knowledge of how it's wired as our next guest will explain. David Eagleman is a neuroscientist professor at Stanford and author of the new book live wired. The inside story of the ever-changing brain. Welcome to mid-air edition. Hi, great to be here, Mark. We'll start with how the brain is wired. Unlike the hard drive on my computer here, our brains don't come entirely preprogrammed, right? That's right. It turns out that DNA is only, let's say half the secret of life and the other half is everything around you. All of the experiences that you absorb, this is what causes the brain to wire up in the particular ways that it does. Speaker 9: 33:59 We are essentially like sponges human brains in particular, we drop into the world half baked. And then from there, we, um, we absorb everything around us to finish that wiring and you, right? That the brain's wiring changes one day to the next often in subtle ways, sometimes dramatically explain how that works. You know, you've got 86 billion neurons. These are the main brain cells. And each one of these has about 10,000 connections to its neighbors. So you've got, you know, like 0.2 quadrillion connections in the brain. And these things are changing all the time. You know, when, when you learned that my name is David, there's a change in your brain, such that if in a week from now, you say, Oh, I talked with that guy, David, that's represented by a physical change in your brain. That's what it means to remember something. And so we are a constantly changing dynamic system. Speaker 9: 34:53 And, um, and I think this is the really important way to think about and to understand the brain is not as a collection of pieces and parts that you draw on a map, but instead to understand it as a living dynamic electric fabric and what happens when suddenly nothing is normal, such as in a pandemic, when we all suddenly become like shut-ins, I'm thinking of kids, not in school because of the pandemic, that's a problem, vexing societies everywhere now, and fears over not just the lack of learning, but the disconnect from socializing and how does the brain adapt to such dramatic life changes or does it ever really adapt? Yeah. Well, I tell you, that's the thing we are so adaptable and strangely, I think that this whole issue about brain is the single silver lining to 2020. And here's what I mean by that. Speaker 9: 35:44 Um, you know, normally what the brain is trying to do is establish an internal model of the world so that we can operate in it effectively. And that's essentially what we've spent our whole lives doing is figuring out, okay, look, I get this, I know how to, how to optimize my performance in this world. And then suddenly 2020 comes along and all of us are kicked off the hamster wheel and the things that we thought we knew exactly how to do in situations, how to function in and so on, we suddenly are off that path of least resistance and we have to rethink things afresh. And that's actually what brain plasticity is really good at doing is figuring out, okay, whoops, this model doesn't work anymore. Let's generate a different model. Let's think of new things. And so despite how lousy this year has been for everyone, it's been an extremely creative time. Also everything from individuals to businesses have been figuring out new ways of doing things that they wouldn't have thought of. Uh, even recently Speaker 5: 36:46 Course, we're all individuals with individual brains. I'm wondering what happens in people where the wire wiring just fails to adjust Speaker 9: 36:53 That's right. I mean, people have a different capacities to deal with anxiety and stress. And so this is a really lousy time in terms of, you know, everything from alcoholism and drug addiction to suicide. Um, this is a really tough time on people. As I said, from the point of view of brain plasticity. The reason this matters is because we know from decades long studies, that the most important thing is to challenge the brain is to have it facing novel challenges and circumstances all the time. And where we see this, especially is when people retire. Often people will retire and their lives will shrink and they'll end up sitting on the couch, watching Jerry Springer and that's all they do. But you can contrast that with, um, with groups of people that have been studied, who have stayed cognitively active to their last days. And it turns out some of those people have Alzheimer's disease physically in their brain. And yet nobody knew it. They didn't show the cognitive deficits that are typical of Alzheimer's. And the reason is even as their brain was physically degenerating, they were making new roadways between a and B and C and D. They were constantly making new things happen in their brain specifically because they were being challenged with novel circumstances. Speaker 5: 38:14 Keep thinking, stay busy as the message there. I wanted to shift gears a little bit. Yeah, lots of us dream, or we remember dream sometimes interpret dreams, but what do we know really about dreams and their function in the brain wiring involved? Speaker 9: 38:26 Yes. So in this book in Livewired, I propose a completely new hypothesis about dreams and, and I think this is correct actually. Um, essentially it has to do with how rapidly parts of the brain takeover other parts. So for example, when a person goes blind, other areas like touch and hearing ended up taking over the real estate that used to belong to vision. But one of the surprises in neuroscience has been how rapidly this sort of encroachment happens. So it turns out that if you blindfold somebody to be tightly and put them in the scanner, you start seeing touch and hearing have some influenced in the visual area of the brain after about an hour. And so when I saw that data a few years ago, I realized, ah, the issue is every night when we go to sleep because of the rotation of the planet, we're cast into darkness 12 hours of the night, um, when it's dark, you know, your hearing and your touch and all that still works, but your vision does not work. Speaker 9: 39:29 What I realized with a student of mine, Don Vaughn, is that we need to have some self defense system built in to keep the visual cortex, uh, to keep it having its territory during the night. And that's what dreams are. You have this very specific circuitry that looks at how much activity is in the visual cortex. And then essentially just slams it with activity every 90 minutes. And our hypothesis is that this is simply to keep it defended against takeover from the other senses. I've been speaking with neuroscientist, David Eagleman whose new book live wire. The inside story of the ever changing brain is published this week. Thanks for joining us today. Great. Thanks so much. Speaker 10: 40:15 Derby United headquarters opened its outdoor two rink facility for roller Derby bouts in San Diego earlier this year, but a week after its grand opening, the coronavirus pandemic forced to, to close KPBS arts reporter Beth haka, Mondo headed over for escape lesson to see how the organization is pivoting in the pandemic. She spoke at the outdoor rank with Derby United's owner and general manager, nearly Goldfarb, better known by her Derby name as Isabel ringer. So Isabelle, last time I spoke to you, you were just about to have the grand opening of Derby United, and that was back in March. So what's been happening here. We did have our grand opening and it was amazing ribbon cutting. Our council member was here. Folks from the planning office were here. We had a huge celebration. Hundreds of folks came out for roller Derby game. And a week later, we closed for the pandemic and we stayed close for a number of months. Once outdoor recreation was able to open, we started taking a good look at what we do out here and what we could do out here with the space and the resources we have. And that's what led to our reopen and a heavy focus on recreational rollerskating. Now, originally this was designed for you have roller Speaker 11: 41:34 Derby bounce. Speaker 10: 41:35 The facility was specialty designed to roller Derby tracks. We were out here training every night games, almost every weekend. Um, but one of our two roller Derby tracks is a super smooth concrete pad. That's just perfect for any kind of roller skating. So why let it go to waste? We can't play contact sports. We do some fitness training for roller Derby, but for the most part, it's a team sport we like to play together. So instead we started making a focus on what kind of recreational offerings could we put out there that would engage the community and our skaters and use the beautiful concrete pad that we have. Speaker 11: 42:16 So what kind of classes or lessons can people take here? Now Speaker 10: 42:19 We have a wide range of offering from really little kid glasses. We call it little rollers to adults who are opening their very first pair of skates and need to learn to roller skate or more experienced folks who want to learn things like jam and freestyle and dance that can come out and really hone their skills and feel good on their skates. Speaker 11: 42:40 Now, this was a facility that you put together. It took a lot of work. So what is it like trying to pivot during this pandemic? Speaker 10: 42:52 I'm not going to lie. It's been really hard. We built this place to have big roller Derby programs. It works on volume and here we are saying, okay, we're going to have 12 people per class in a limited time slot with online reservation. And so we see so many less people per day, we're able to host no events. And so it's just a different situation. It's taken a lot of work, um, both with the new safety plan in place and a new financial plan in place to be able to get to the other side of this. We are a tiny business, uh, and we just don't have the resources to be able to not be in business for a year or longer. Speaker 11: 43:39 Part of what Derby United is about is this sense of kind of empowerment for young girls, especially and for women. And how is that carrying over into kind of this skate lesson and, and, you know, more recreational skating, Speaker 10: 43:55 Just like with Derby. We hope that when people come to this property, they're able to escape whatever's going on in the outside world and just spend some time focusing on themselves on roller skates. It's good for their physical health, their mental health, their emotional health. So we hope that when you come here, you get a break from that outside world. And that when you leave here, you feel ready to take on whatever comes next. We want to be the best part of anybody's day. Speaker 11: 44:21 And what kind of practices do you have in place to make sure that people stay safe with the pandemic going? Speaker 10: 44:28 Absolutely. So we put a number of safety protocols in place. We are extremely fortunate to have an outdoor facility. So we are open air to start with. We do still require masks for everyone on the property. All of our activities are taking place six feet or more apart. We limit our class numbers. So even though we have 9,000 square feet of concrete pad, we still only have about 12 people per class, so that there's plenty of room for your own space and that you can feel like you're in a safe place. Even when you need to get a sip of water, we have a safety protocol in place for you to leave the rink area, take your mask off, have your own ventilation and water break, and then put it back on and go back out there. Speaker 11: 45:09 I am going to partake in your class. And you were telling you that you had to search for a instructor for these classes. So who did you find Speaker 10: 45:20 When we did this pivot to recreational skating, we really wanted to get folks inside that community coming out to instruct not just our folks from Derby. And so we found people from throughout the spectrum of roller skating today's instructor. Kara Lee is a figure skate coach by trade. She's been in ice forever and spent some time in roller. And she got really into roller skating during the pandemic. And a friend said, you know, this woman's fantastic wanting to talk to her. And we brought her out here and she was such a great fit for what we're doing. She teaches twice a week, teaches learn and return to skate. So either folks that are opening skates for the first time, or maybe it's been a few decades and they're returning to skate and she just does fantastic with these folks and just gets them Speaker 11: 46:03 I'm rolling. So people should not be afraid to come out here and give this a try. If they either haven't been on skates or it's been like, you know, like you said, decades, Speaker 10: 46:13 Absolutely no skating experiences needed. We have hundreds of pairs of roller skates. So even if you can't get your hands on a pair of roller skates right now, we have some that you can borrow with any class or session that you come here, please bring your own protective gear for beginners. I especially recommend at least wrist and knee pad and we'll teach everything from that. Speaker 11: 46:33 And how has it been going now that you've opened up for a skate lessons? Speaker 10: 46:37 We started this reopen. We started really slowly. We wanted to make sure that we felt comfortable with the safety level, with the courses we were offering the price point, all of it. And for a few weeks, we tinkered with that. And once we set a schedule, we felt really happy with we just spread the word and we've just seen classes selling out, which has been fantastic. So we're seeing folks coming to these courses, getting a lot out of it, returning, coming back for open sessions, it's been really great. Speaker 11: 47:03 And you said there's been a kind of a run on skates during the Panda. Speaker 10: 47:06 There's been a massive revival of roller skating right now. So our good friends at sensity skates who run the specialty, one of the specialty roller skate shops in town, they just fly off the shelves. They get a truckload in and a truckload blows out the door. You can't get your hands on roller skates. People are even scalping them on the internet. Speaker 11: 47:25 And how is this plan working in terms of keeping the going, because it's obviously not the same kind of flow of people coming in. So are you going to be able to survive through this? Speaker 10: 47:39 We are extremely resilient. We will survive through this no matter what. However, this still doesn't touch having hundreds of people for events every weekend. So we have these offerings and that helps, but it also takes a lot of creative, financial planning, a landlord who's willing to be flexible, taking on more debt, a lot of different programs that we're applying to. And we're going to have to piece that whole thing together to make it to the other side of this, but we will, we'll be here. All right. Well, I want to thank you very much. Thank you for being here. I'm so excited to see you. Rollerskate Speaker 11: 48:13 Derby United headquarters is located on federal Boulevard in Encanto and is open for recreational skating.