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San Diego Still In Red Tier, Local Scientist Reacts To Changing CDC Guidance, New Bill Makes Military Sexual Harassment A Crime, And George Takei

 September 22, 2020 at 11:46 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego narrowly avoids renewed shutdowns as new COVID-19 numbers are released. Speaker 2: 00:05 Our adjusted case rate it says is 6.9. And so the bar for the red tier is seven. So we slid in just under that bar. Speaker 1: 00:13 I'm Alison st. John, and this is KPBS midday. Speaker 2: 00:25 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 00:25 What to make of the CDCs latest vacillation on the role of aerosols in spreading COVID-19. We all agreed. It is in the air. We know it is in the air. San Diego superior court is planning to resume jury trials. Next month. What they're doing to prepare and George Takei tells us why his book they called us enemy is so relevant in today's changing world. That's ahead on KPBS midair. San Diego County is hovering perilously close to the line between the red tier and the purple tier of COVID-19 restrictions. The latest news is that the region has not been moved down into the more restrictive purple tier, but here to bring us up to date on the latest news is KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman, Matt, thank you for joining us. Speaker 2: 01:20 Hey Alison. Speaker 1: 01:22 So now the San Diego County supervisors met last night and it does look like San Diego has dodged a bullet. Do we know how close we came to being moved from the red tier down to the purple tier? Speaker 2: 01:33 Well, it looks like we came really, really close. Cause if you look at the state's website, which was just updated just a few minutes ago, um, our adjusted case rate it says is 6.9. And so the bar for the red tier is seven. So we slid in just under that bar. Now we had a week where we had seven, uh, our adjusted case rate was 7.9, which was, that was a week of purple data. But keep in mind, we need two weeks of tier data to move to your, so that's why County officials were thinking with some of these San Diego state cases that we could be moving to that purple tier today, but it looks like we just slid right under the bar 6.9, whereas you needed a 7.0 or higher to move out of the red tier. Speaker 1: 02:12 Okay. Okay. Remind us, what would it have meant if we had dropped to a different tier and it's something that we're trying to avoid in the future? Speaker 2: 02:20 Yeah. If we had dropped to the state's most restrictive tier, we would have seen a clamp down on indoor businesses. So that means everything from nail salons to tattoo shops, massage parlors, uh, restaurants, uh, churches, movie, theaters, gyms, they would all have to close down their indoor operations. Now some places would still be able to stay open like hair salons and barbershops, indoor retail, and some indoor shopping centers at a very limited capacity, but it would really clamp down on indoor operations and drive a lot of, uh, business operations outside, which some business owners are a little wary of, especially as we get toward, um, some expected, uh, wet, wet months ahead. Speaker 1: 02:54 Okay. Now we know that Los Angeles is already in the purple tier. Uh, do we know how other counties around the state are doing in this latest, uh, reassessment of the data? Speaker 2: 03:05 Yeah. So just looking at the state's latest assessment, I mean, Riverside County, they are in the red tier, uh, orange County is in the red tier, but yeah, you mentioned it above us, you know, Ventura County, LA County, Santa Barbara County, uh, County all in the purple tier. And then obviously as you move up to the top, there's a lot more orange, but, uh, so we're not completely isolated down here in Southern California as the only County in the red tier. Speaker 1: 03:30 No, the governor turned down the county's request last week to separate out the COVID cases of San Diego state university students from the overall count. And there's growing concern that the number of students testing positive for COVID could push us into the appropriate tier. What are the SDSU numbers looking like now? Speaker 2: 03:48 So w we know that they have been growing. I mean, right now it's at 880 students to faculty and staff on the main campus. Now it's not growing as fast as, as it was before, but yeah, you heard County officials saying last week, Hey, this, these cases from SDSU are pushing us over the top. Now SDSU has sort of pushed back on that a little bit, but it really all at this point seems to not matter at all, because, uh, we've slid under that bar, so to speak where we're staying in the red tier, um, and what that could mean for the County. That could mean no legal action from the board of supervisors who have been meeting in closed session to discuss what their next steps would be should, uh, you know, another round of closures, a third round becoming four San Diego businesses, Speaker 1: 04:30 One of the supervisors who was most opposed to going to the purple tears supervisor Jim Desmond, and he's launching a petition drive today. What effect, if any, could that have? Speaker 2: 04:39 Yeah. So supervisor Jim Desmond, he is looking to take back local control on some of his other board colleagues. Majority of them actually have said that they don't want to count these San Diego state cases because they believe it's an isolated population just blocks away from the university and they think there's been minimal transmission, uh, to non-students. So he's advocating for local control. Let the County board make the decisions in terms of reopening. They know the situation on the ground. Uh, you know, he was up in North County today basically saying, you know, why should businesses way up here in Carlsbad Encinitas, you know, have to suffer for, you know, uh, an explosion of cases, um, in the college area. So he, he just wants to take back local control from the state. Speaker 1: 05:18 And it does appear that our board of supervisors is somewhat divided on this issue of reopening businesses. Tell us what to Nathan Fletcher, supervisor Nathan Fletcher did yesterday. Speaker 2: 05:28 Yeah, we, we saw him, uh, he was leading a coalition basically saying, Hey, look, the state has said that they are not going to knock off these San Diego state cases. They are a part of our community. And he's saying, look, we're not fighting the state. We're fighting a Corona virus. And, uh, he sort of, you know, says that a supervisor Desmon, um, is misleading people and sort of like praying on their emotions, um, to, uh, to try to get them fired up about an issue. But, uh, he says that, um, they're going after the wrong issue, you know, it shouldn't be fighting the state. It should be let's work on a longterm plan to keep virus rates transmissions down so that we're not going on this roller coaster ride. You know, this would have been the third closure, uh, for restaurants and other indoor businesses. And they say that it's just not sustainable. You know, the food and their walking spoils. Um, they, it's so hard to, to bring back staff. And they're just a lot of them probably happy that we're staying in the red tier. Now a lot of them say 25% capacity for restaurants, 10% for gyms. It's not sustainable, but it's better than nothing. Speaker 1: 06:25 And Matt, when do we run this gauntlet? This data goes into it as it were again. Speaker 2: 06:30 Yeah. So every Tuesday the state releases its numbers and keep in mind, we have to have two weeks of data to move tears. Um, so like, like dr. Wooten was saying the County public health officer, we had one week of purple tier data last week. And if we had that, uh, next week of purple tier data, which came out today, then we would have slid into that purple tier restrictions would have come on Friday. Um, so we'll see next Tuesday where we stand, but we have to have two straight weeks of data to move tears. Okay. Speaker 1: 06:57 We've been speaking with KPBS reporter, Matt Hoffman, Matt, thanks so much for joining. Speaker 2: 07:01 Thanks, Alison, Speaker 1: 07:12 In order to defeat a virus, you need to understand how it spreads, but the CDC, the U S centers for disease control has changed its COVID-19 guidance several times on what is safe and what is not leaving Americans confused and uncertain about what to believe the latest change came about yesterday. When the CDC removed recently added language about how the virus spreads through the air in aerosol particles, one of many scientists reacting to the administration's confusing message is Kim Prater, who is distinguished chair in atmospheric chemistry at UCFD Kim. Thanks for joining us. Speaker 3: 07:48 Thank you for having me. Speaker 1: 07:51 So when I described to us what the CDC website on COVID-19 a last change, how it changed last Friday. Yes. Speaker 3: 07:59 So I got on Friday CDC, um, sort of quietly put up some changes, some very important changes, um, and how they believe this particular virus is being spread. So they added the fact that it is, can be, um, and is likely largely transmitted through the air in the form of aerosols and then on, um, you know, so then there was a very positive reaction in the community because that support that is supported by the science. And this was, we were very excited because this provides super helpful guidance to those opening schools and businesses. And then Monday mornings where I'm just as quietly, they took it off and went back to the old guidance, which quite frankly, doesn't help as much, um, in providing guidance on how to end this virus. Speaker 1: 08:46 Okay. Can you clarify how aerosols differ from droplets? Speaker 3: 08:51 Sure. So aerosols are really tiny, um, and they float, they're invisible. You don't see them and they tend, they're so small that they, when they're released, they're produced in your speech. And when you talk, when you breathe, they just come out and lots of aerosols come out. Um, and largely for this virus, they come from people who don't know they're sick. And so these will just get in the air and float for hours. And anyone particularly indoors can inhale and be potentially infected, um, by these aerosols. Whereas droplets are just bigger, much bigger. And when they come out and they're largely producing coughs and sneezes, which isn't as much of an issue for this virus, but nevertheless, there's droplets. Those are really big. And those have like a, almost like a Cannonball ball trajectory, right. They come out and they fall to the ground within six feet. And so, um, you know, we don't worry as much about inhaling, uh, those as we do the aerosols. Speaker 1: 09:51 So now in view of the CDCs actions, tell us what is the scientific evidence that aerosols are a significant mode of transmission? Speaker 3: 10:00 Well, they're the, you know, the evidence that's out there, the scientific evidence, which is growing almost daily shit, all of, all of the studies have detected it only in the aerosols. Um, they're really just, there isn't that many droplets as I mentioned. And so it's in the air, the scientists don't question that we just had a national Academy workshop by distinguished scientists from around the world. We all agree it is in the air. We know it is in the air. And so that is what we need to be out there clearly, um, for public guidance. Speaker 1: 10:33 But do the scientists agree that aerosols are more likely to be the cause of spread than droplets? Speaker 3: 10:38 Yes. I mean, basically what comes down to what the, one of the big debates quite honestly is between different communities that Devon the defining, let's say this sort of arbitrary size of what is an aerosol, what is a droplet? So in this national Academy, a workshop that we did, we finally defined it very clearly a hundred microns. So that's, you know, anything smaller than that will float in the air. You can inhale it and get infected anything bigger than that, we'll settle within six feet. And so, you know, basically that you have to sort of touch a surface, right? You're back to contact. Um, whereas the smaller stuff floats around. So sometimes people will call aerosols droplets and some people call droplets aerosols. They're all things, you know, in the, at the end of the day, what matters is that it's in the air and you can inhale it and get sick. Speaker 1: 11:32 Although there does seem to be a difference in the behavior of the aerosols and the droplets. And I wondered if you could answer how the CDCs change affects the idea of, of whether it's a good idea to wear a mask. Speaker 3: 11:44 So masks work for both droplets and aerosol. So they would argue, and I just heard dr. Fowchee talk this morning. He basically said, nothing changes. You still masks. You still need to be, you know, at least six feet apart, the further, the better you still need, good hygiene. Um, you know, sort of all the things work for droplets or aerosols ventilation actually works better for aerosols. There's a little hint that it's aerosols. You want to be in more ventilated places. Um, you know, things that have better filtration, you can filter them out. Um, so there's, you know, there's extra layers. What I see I'm helping schools reopened right now and giving them advice. And one of the biggest things that we're protecting against is exposure indoors. So we're suggesting that everybody wears masks indoors all the time. There is no safe social distance, right? So that's one big, one better ventilation, open the windows, open the doors. Those will have a tremendous effect on reducing the concentration of aerosols. They have virtually no effect on the droplets. The droplets just few out hit the ground within seconds. So we don't see that big of an effect, but for the aerosols, which we really believe in, it's really been shown so far. In many cases, acquire restaurants, bars, where people are talking and not wearing masks. That's where we see these big super spreader and cluster events. And those are aerosols without question. Speaker 1: 13:11 Okay. The CDC says it changed the language over the weekend because it had not been properly vetted. What's your assessment of why it changed the language Speaker 3: 13:21 Know, I don't know until I see how they change, how you know, what the changes are. Uh, I will tell you that in reading, it, it, it looked quite honestly a bit like a rough draft. So maybe they're just my hope, our hope as scientists is that they're just polishing it more, um, to make it a little clearer for the public, but we will see, I w you know, I won't be able to know for sure until we see the new version. Speaker 1: 13:46 Okay. Now you were quoted in the LA times as suggesting that it was dangerous to go surfing and swimming because of COVID, um, and even dangerous really to be at the beach. But I don't know if we've seen any data to suggest that surfers are getting sick from COVID. Do you still hold that position? Speaker 3: 14:04 Uh, let's just say that I was misquoted very comment taken out of context, unfortunately, which, um, basically I'll clarify here. Um, my concern when I saw people at the beach was that people were super crowded at the beach at that time. You know, everybody was too close to each other. They were not social distancing. And that was my concern. I have a separate project in San Diego, actually in Imperial beach that looks at sewage going into the ocean, right? And so we are in the process actively looking to see which viruses and bacteria make their way into the ocean and into the air. It's a complete, like a research project, you know, still in process. Um, we are looking to see, as I say, which viruses make it their way in, but the beach closers closures have largely Speaker 4: 14:52 Focused on what's in the water. And our question is which, which, you know, which of any of these viruses and bacteria could get into the air and people could inhale. So that's a totally separate issue. You know, the beach being outdoors is one of the safest places you can be. Speaker 1: 15:09 So what should the average citizen do to respond to this ever-changing news? I would hope that the public will Speaker 4: 15:15 Continue to trust the scientists that are not influenced by any politics masks are really, really important. You know, the guidance is being given to avoid places right now where the community spread is high indoor locations are not as safe. I can tell you that as scientists, we haven't flipped our message. We've Speaker 1: 15:37 Speaking with Kim Prager. Who's distinguished chair of an atmospheric chemistry at UCS D Kim. Thanks so much for joining us. Speaker 4: 15:44 Thank you for having me. Speaker 1: 15:58 I'm Alison st. John infer Morian kavanah and you're listening to KPBS midday edition, California employment development department, or EDD is the agency tasked with getting unemployment checks to people, but it's had a huge backlog of cases since the pandemic began an audit by a state strike team released over the weekend, recommended lots of changes at the EDD to fix that, including revising how the agency focuses more on preventing fraud than paying out benefits. The California reports, Mary Franklin Harvin has more. Speaker 4: 16:31 In addition to the technological shortfalls and lack of staffing, the strike team report. Also highlighted how EDD priorities have informed its approach saying the agency's culture shift from reactivity to rationality, as it relates to fraud. Daniella urban is an attorney with legal aid at work and founder of the center for workers' rights in Sacramento. EDD has had a history and it's pointed out in the strike team report of their belief that their need to combat fraud is of utmost importance. And we see that come into conflict with a claimant's ability to access benefits. In many ways, one of the biggest drivers of bottlenecks cited in this report is linked to EDDM efforts to prevent fraud. And it's a problem. Urban confirms is one of the most common she sees in her work. They were right on and, uh, identifying the identity verification issue as the number one most burdensome process for claimants, as well as what's backlogging the system so much assembly member. David Chu says 40% of Californians who apply for benefits have to mail in hard copies of their identification to verify their claim, right? There's no Speaker 5: 17:50 Option for digital uploading. On the one hand, the current identity verification processes have not been able to address existing fraud efforts by sophisticated criminals. On the other hand of the identity verification has blocked honest Californians from being able to access the benefits that they're due. So it has been the worst of both worlds. EDD says it will implement a new digital identity verification system in the next few weeks, which will allow applicants to submit ID materials online for the California report. I'm Mary Franklin Harpen. Speaker 1: 18:37 As we gradually discover ways we can live with the COVID-19 virus safely, some things which came to a grinding halt are beginning to start up again. The virus slowed the wheels of justice when San Diego superior court shut down March 17th, since then some services have resumed online, but no one has received a jury summons until this month. Next month, jury trials are scheduled to begin again with safety measures in place. And joining us now is superior court presiding judge, Lorna, Oxnard. Thanks so much for joining us, Jeff Augustini thank you for having me. So now court cases were backed up before the COVID-19 virus. How, how are you doing now? How backed up is the superior court as a result of the pandemic? Speaker 5: 19:20 Well, the, the biggest backlog is in jury trials. We have essentially caught up on all the other kinds of things that we, uh, stopped doing. And then beginning of the pandemic, when we closed the courthouse and what Speaker 1: 19:33 The spinny, the effect of delaying so many jury trials what's happened to the people whose cases have been delayed. Speaker 5: 19:39 Well, uh, you know, there's that famous saying justice delayed is justice denied, and I'm mindful of that. Uh, in civil cases, they have just been completely delayed in criminal cases. Some defendants have remained in custody since March 17th. And, uh, we were given the authority from the chief justice of the California Supreme court to extend the time for a speedy trial. And, uh, we have continued to extend that for serious and violent felons that are alleged to have committed. Those crimes are still in custody and everyone else is out. So we have about 300 people in custody, awaiting trial, which normally would have already occurred. And then we have about 2000 that are out of custody that were given a site and release and, or there was a stipulation with the prosecutor and the public defender and, or their criminal defense attorney to be out of custody while they wait for trial. That's fine. Speaker 1: 20:31 Pretty daunting backlog. Isn't it. How are you going to prioritize the cases as you, as you ease back into doing business? Speaker 5: 20:37 Well, the, the district attorney's office is prioritizing cases with defense counsel. Uh, that's not something that we get involved in there. I think looking at a serious, uh, a series of factors, um, seriousness of the crime, the amount of time the trial will take the, uh, number of witnesses. Um, the likelihood that the witnesses will disappear if they don't do the trial. Now, things like that we used to do about 90 trials a month countywide, including civil and criminal and all the different branches. And what has happened is now we have this backlog of 2,400 cases, but for us to, to, uh, try to even make a dent in that backlog is going to take a lot of time, because what I'm proposing in October is that we're going to be doing one or two trials the first week that we're reopening for jury trials. And you can imagine if we have 2,400 trials, how long it's going to take, if we're only doing one or two a week, Speaker 1: 21:32 Right? So for people who are receiving jury summons this month, um, for many of them might be the first time that they've ventured out into a public space, uh, you know, doing some public service here, what has the court done to make sure that people stay safe on jury? Speaker 5: 21:49 We did was we waited until it was safe to bring people back out of their homes. I didn't want to be in conflict with what the governor and or our local health authorities were saying. Number two, we're asking folks to, um, be on telephone standby. So when you get a jury summons, you're not automatically gonna come to court, you're gonna call in and, or log in to the court's website to communicate with the court, to find out if you have to come. Uh, thirdly, we're going to only be doing this in central, where we have a very large jury meeting room, and we'll only bring in people, uh, enough people that they can be, um, physically distanced, six feet apart. So approximately 70 people will be brought in on the very first day after those 70 are have been brought in. They've all been, uh, uh, screened. Speaker 5: 22:36 Um, a random number of 25 will be sent to the, uh, a very large courtroom. Uh, we have three X, double sized courtrooms here in central, and they will be six feet apart. Those 25, the lawyers will then have a traditional opportunity to avoid near them. However, the jurors will all have masks that they plexiglass around the tables. The judge will be behind plexiglass and, um, once the Quadir has concluded and whether they have to bring up several groups of 25, it'll be a slow kind of jury selection process. It may take several days, those 12 jurors, and however many alternatives will go to what we call the plexiglass courtroom. And it's got a jury box that is, each seat has got three sides on it. So when the juror sits down, they'll have plexi glass behind them and on both sides of them. Speaker 1: 23:27 Okay. And I assume that everybody will have their temperature taken when they first come into the courthouse, right? Speaker 5: 23:31 Yes, absolutely. Even now, if you needed to come in, because you wanted to file for a restraining order, a file for divorce file, any paperwork, drop it off in the lobby. We have drop boxes. You still have to have your temperature checked and you have to answer the CDC questions. Have you tested for COVID? Is there any, have you recently been, um, been around anyone, those kind of questions, all jurors will have to answer those questions, Speaker 1: 23:55 And then we're all familiar with those juries sitting around a table debating, um, the case. Is that something that will change its format? Speaker 5: 24:04 Yes. We're going to use an empty courtroom for jury deliberation. So they'll have the entire courtroom just, you know, just spread out and to discuss the case. No, Speaker 1: 24:15 Well, often jurors are people who are perhaps older, perhaps retired, which is of course the most vulnerable group. Are you calling on people over 65 to serve on jury duty? Speaker 5: 24:24 You know, the way the random jury selection occurs through the voting rolls and through California driver's license. We can't self select people that are under 65. So we will send out a regular, um, jury summons to a group of 900 jurors. And if they don't feel safe in coming for any reason, they have a comorbidity they're over 65. They have small children at home. They're homeschool, they're, they're taking care of their kids for school. They just don't feel comfortable coming out. I don't want anybody afraid here. I want the folks that want to go to the movies that want to go to the beach that feel comfortable using the hand sanitizer, washing their hands and wearing masks that are willing to do their civic duty and come down and be jurors. If, if you're, if that's not you, you should go online and ask to postpone your service. Speaker 1: 25:15 Are you concerned that you may not get enough jurors? Speaker 5: 25:18 I am. And that's why I'm doing kind of a personal pitch for people that do feel like they can, maybe they've had it and they feel like they can serve now. Um, maybe they're not in that, um, that group of over 65 and they've never done jury service because they had, um, a job that kept them away from doing it. Now, maybe they're not working as much. Maybe there's some other reason why they have the ability to serve. And it, every single person that I've ever spoken to that's gotten to serve. That's gotten to deliberate, has found it to be a very meaningful experience, to be a part of this kind of civic duty. And so I would encourage those folks that feel like they can serve to serve, because I do have criminal defendants that have been charged with a crime that are in custody that have a right to a jury trial, and we need to have those cases heard. Speaker 1: 26:07 We've been speaking with San Diego superior court presiding judge, judge, Lorna, Oxnard, judge, Oxnard. Thank you for being, Speaker 5: 26:13 Thank you very much. Speaker 1: 26:19 A new bill introduced in Congress would make sexual harassment, a crime under military law. The measure is a response to the killing of Fort hood army soldier, Vanessa Guian the summer support has hope. The legislation will prevent more violent offenses and force a military culture shift Carson frame reports for the American Homefront project. Please join me in welcoming the and family, Speaker 4: 26:44 The family of slain Fort hood soldier, Vanessa Guian stood before the Capitol Stony faced in resolute. Ready? After months of battling the army for answers about how it handled its investigation into the 20 year olds case before Gideon went missing in April, she told her mother she was being sexually harassed by a fellow soldier that was afraid to report it. Officials later discovered she'd been killed in an armory on post. Then dismembered. The suspect later killed himself. He and 16 year old sister loopy said the army failed to protect her and kept their family in the dark about what was going on. Speaker 6: 27:14 It's disgusting how a part of an armor goes missing and they do everything to find it well when it comes to a life like Vanessa, they do nothing. I, life is more valuable than an object. Now it happens once and there's no going back Speaker 4: 27:32 Surrounded by Guian sisters and her parents, California Democrat, Jackie spear, chair of the house, armed services subcommittee on military personnel unveiled the ion. Vanessa Guian act. It's a long way to build it, defines sexual harassment and makes it a crime in the military. The Pentagon's own reports tell us that sexual harassment creates Speaker 6: 27:51 Climate that makes sexual assault more likely. This culture is broken. The rod has festered for generations and the data proves what survivors have been telling us for years. What we have been doing is not Speaker 4: 28:09 Working advocates and victims have long called for stronger action against sexual harassment and assault in the ranks. Under the current system, service members who grope catcall or create hostile work environments, often don't face punishment. And when they do, it's usually a slap on the wrist without any lasting effect on their career. They may get a write up in their file, but that may go away after a year. So the next assignment doesn't know they did. That's Diana, Dennis, and advisor, with the women veterans social justice network. She says making harassment a formal crime will lead to more punishments and more victims coming forward with reports. But perhaps most importantly, it could discourage offenders from committing more violent acts like rape sexual harassment is a lead up because these are crimes of power and control in an environment that prides itself on good order and discipline and good order. Speaker 4: 29:02 And discipline very often takes advantage of vulnerable people between the ages of 18 and 24, which is the predominant age of people in the military. The bill also would take away commander's authority to make prosecution decisions in cases of sexual harassment and assault. Right now, they have a lot of discretion over how those cases are dealt with, but that can create problems, especially when a victim is abused by someone higher up the chain of command in a recent Pentagon survey, 64% of women who reported a sexual assault say they faced retaliation or backlash most often from their superiors. Deshauna barber is the CEO of service women's action network, cliques and groups of people that socialize with one another. And sometimes that does include people. That's private chain of command, or the person that you're actually recording is your chain of command. What if it is your commander or your, your, uh, your, the XO of the unit? Speaker 4: 29:56 What if it is your platoon leader? You're putting the Sergeant you're reporting to the person that's harassing you. You're reporting to the person that's under the legislation. Sexual harassment and assault complaints would go before each services, chief prosecutor for review, and in the future, each military branch would be required to create a special legal office for handling and investigating those crimes. It's the latest in a long line of bills to try to change the military's legal structure. But as recently as July military brass have pushed back arguing for the integrity of the chain of command. This is Carson frame reporting. This story was produced by the American Homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting. [inaudible] a new farm in the South Bay aims to increase community access to affordable and fresh fruit veggies and flowers, KPBS reporter max Rivlin Nadler tells us about this farm's unique business structure and how it could point a way forward for urban agriculture. Speaker 7: 31:10 On a Tuesday afternoon, the Pisco farm stand is open for business. It's one of the few places where people can buy fresh fruit and veggies directly from a farmer in the South Bay. Well, smaller farms are typically owned by families who often manage their workers. Pisco farms is different. The workers are the ones who own it. Everyone's a leader here or that's how it worker co-ops typically are. We all have a decision on our production. We have that control and immediate control. We decide what to do as a collective and how to proceed as a business. Jose Alcaraz grew up in Santa Sedro. He has a degree in environmental engineering, but decided to become a farmer and part owner of a farm. After he found out about Pisco two years ago, I found this place and I just never left around a mile from the border of the ocean. Speaker 7: 32:03 And the desert Pisco sits in the Tijuana river Valley. The year round growing season means farmers can pack in a lot of produce inside its small footprint and experiment with what will flourish and what won't go. This is where we do all our seedlings. We got some beats, some fennel Leonard Vargas is a third generation farmer in Southern California. Vergus started the farm in 2017 with the idea of making fresher food available to communities that lack access to it. Really. One of the things that we wanted to do was to start to provide vegetables to some of those communities that are in food deserts. This gives us kind of a, a real close proximity to that. So we can start to move that into those communities, particularly in the South Bay, seems to be struggling with that. Shortly after Vargas began leasing the land from the County. He was joined by Christina Juarez. Who's from Tijuana. The farm like the surrounding area is bilingual together. They realized that a workers cooperative was the best way forward for the farm [inaudible]. Speaker 7: 33:03 She said, I believe he could do work with more heart. When you feel equal to the other person, when you don't expect orders from them, when you feel like they won't schooled you because something is different. And so you're putting your heart and your soul and your knowledge into something, but it hasn't been easy with four worker owners. They're just beginning to pay themselves minimum wage and nature. Hasn't exactly been cooperating when the Tiguan or river Valley floods all the produce, it touches has to be thrown out. We had a, a little flood that came through here, uh, early December of last year and took out all our vegetable crops. So Pisco had to get creative. So at that point, we decided to go ahead and add, cut flowers to our mix so that we could be more sustainable case of anything else that came along like that. Speaker 7: 33:46 Cause we are in a flood plain. And then we found that people really liked them. And so we continued to grow them and keep them in our mix. They now sell their flowers at the farm stand and at shops like gem coffee in city Heights have a bag. The newest worker owner, Eric Rodriguez also grew up in South San Diego. He was furloughed from his longtime job at the beginning of the pandemic. He started helping with [inaudible] and like Jose soon, couldn't bring himself to leave for him. Connecting the community to agriculture is a huge part of what Pisco does they sell and give away saplings for people to plant in their home gardens. A child came and bought a pepper plant. And then he came back like every week showing me the progress of his pepper plant. And then finally, when he harvested the paper plan, he ate it. Speaker 7: 34:29 And I was just, you know, like I was just like, so into it, he was so into a Pisco whose farm stand is open Tuesday, Friday and Saturday afternoons in the South Bay is hoping to kick off the local urban farming movement. Following the worker cooperative model, especially among people of color were an example to other POC that we, they can be part of a business and part of an industry because we, whether we want to or not, we're still part of the system, but in our own way with our ownership and it feels really good. And I feel a lot more people, more, more farmers should totally feel that maximum Lynn Adler, K PBS news. Speaker 8: 35:24 I'm Alison st. John in from Maureen cabinet and you're listening to KPBS midday edition. He's famous for his role as Lieutenant Sulu in the iconic star Trek series. But George Takei has been on a mission to the world Speaker 1: 35:38 About the incarceration of Japanese Americans by the U S government during world war two, his graphic novel, they called us enemy tells the story of his childhood imprisoned in an American concentration camp. The book has been chosen as this year's KPBS one book, one San Diego selection, and George Takei joins us now. Welcome to midday, George, Speaker 9: 36:00 Thank you very much. Yeah. I love the, the, a name that you have for this program. One book, one, San Diego, one San Diego suggests the whole city coming together. It's a diverse city. It's a military city and it's a, uh, it's a tourist city. It's a business city as, as well as, uh, a culture, a cultural city, so many theaters. As a matter of fact, I did a allegiance, a musical. Would you believe on the internment of Japanese Americans there back in 2012? I think it was in San Diego at the wonderful old globe theater. Speaker 1: 36:44 How do you feel about having San Diegans come together in this one book program to read your personal story? Speaker 9: 36:51 Well, it's that coming together part that I am really struck by because the story I tell in a, they called us enemy is one where the polar opposite happened. We're a small Japanese Americans are a small part of, uh, the United States, uh, certainly a much more significant and on the West coast. But, uh, it was a time when w the whole nation was terrorized by the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And we, Japanese Americans happened to look exactly like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor. We had nothing to do with it, we're Americans, but we looked like them, uh, were the descendants of the immigrant generation that came here from Japan and, and overnight, this country looked at us with suspicion and fear and outright hatred, simply because of the way we looked Speaker 1: 37:59 The reaction was to imprison, uh, thousands of Asian Americans. So, do you have any thoughts? Speaker 9: 38:05 Asian Americans know specifically Japanese Americans and Chinese Americans, because they look like us or forced to wear buttons that said I am Chinese. And so that kind of a terror swept through this country and every legislative body in this country from city councils to state legislatures, to the United States Congress, we had a attorney general here in California, the top, uh, lawyer who, um, was to eventually, um, become a historic figure as the chief justice of the United States. But at that time, as the attorney general, did he had his eyes set on the governor's seat. He found that the single most unifying political issue was the lockup, the Japs issue. Speaker 1: 39:03 George, what, what do you remember the most about, about your personal experience in there? Speaker 9: 39:08 My personal experience, I was, I just celebrated my fifth birthday, April 20th, 1940 42. And I I'll never be able to forget that morning. My parents got us up very early that morning. Uh, my brother and I, my brother, Henry and I were in the same bedroom, our baby sister Nancy was a, uh, an infant. And she was in a crib, uh, in my parents' bedroom. And we would dress hurriedly. And my father told my brother and me to wait in the living room while our parents did some last minute, uh, packing back in the bedroom. And so the two of us, my brother and I were just gazing out, uh, from the front window out onto the neighborhood. And suddenly we saw two soldiers marching up our driveway. They carried rifles with shiny bayonets on it. And just that site was a scary, they stomped up the front porch and with their fists began pounding on the front door. Speaker 9: 40:22 It felt like the walls were trembling. My father came rushing out of the bedroom and answered the door. And literally at gunpoint, we were ordered out of our home. My father gave my brother and me a little boxes, said they had, uh, my parents had prepared and we followed them out onto the driveway and stood there, waiting for our mother to come out. And when she emerged from the house, our baby sister was being carried on, on her left arm. And a huge duffel bag was in the other and tears were streaming down her cheeks. It was a terrified morning that I'll never be able to forget. We were loaded onto trucks, uh, that had, uh, other Japanese American families, uh, uh, already gathered. And we were driven down to downtown Los Angeles to, uh, the, uh, little Tokyo area. And we were dropped off in front of the, uh, Buddhist temple there. Speaker 9: 41:27 And there were, uh, hordes of people already, uh, uh, who had been brought there and a row of buses waiting for us. We were loaded onto those buses and driven out to Santa Anita racetrack. And we were unloaded hurted over to the, a stable area. And each family was assigned a smelly horse stall, still pungent with the stink of horsemen newer. And so that was the memory I have for my parents. It was a degrading, painful, humiliating experience, but for me, I thought it was fun. We get to sleep where the horses sleep. So that's my little boys, uh, view and memory of, uh, uh, the, uh, Santa Anita racetrack. We were in prison for about four months. Speaker 1: 42:26 Let me bring us up to the present moment because the world is in a lot of turmoil at the moment. And we have seen Asian-Americans have been the targets of hate crimes and racism and discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic, which must be particularly distressing. Speaker 9: 42:45 Well, it originated in a rule China and our president as decided to call the Corona virus, the Chinese virus. And he repeated it repeats that every opportunity he gets or the, uh, Kung flu, uh, and, you know, there are easily excitable, racist, ignorant people that pick up on it. Uh, we were in, we were bi-coastal. We have an apartment in New York because I work in the theater as well. And, uh, in New York, um, the subway is a way to get some mobility at that period. And, uh, this poor Asian woman, uh, she wasn't, uh, the Chinese ancestry, I don't think, uh, uh, she was accosted in, uh, a subway station and spat on and chased and, and they caught up with her and she was beaten and it was the people around who, uh, uh, broke it up. And, uh, that was the first time I, uh, became aware of it. Speaker 9: 43:52 But subsequently there have been many, many reports of people being assaulted in San Francisco and Seattle a year in Los Angeles, uh, in no, that's a horrible situation happening, but it's, uh, it's a small echo of what happened to 120,000 Japanese Americans on the West coast. All Japanese Americans on the West coast were summarily rounded up. And when the camps were built, we were packed into railway cars and transported two thirds of the way across the country to the swamps Arkansas. There were 10 camps, uh, throughout the United States and all the most desolate godforsaken places in the country. There were two in the swamps of Arkansas. There were two on the blistering hot desert of Arizona. Can you imagine what it must have been like in the summertime? There, there were camps in the high Plains of Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and two here in California, one called Manzanar a and the other called 2d Lake, right by the, uh, Oregon border to the far North. Speaker 1: 45:12 And your book really makes the point that even, although it seems shocking now, what happened then could happen again, Speaker 9: 45:20 It is happening to another, another group of people on the Southern border here are these, uh, Latino people, uh, Mexicans and, uh, El Salvadoran, a Guatemalan fleeing the chaos and the terror of a crime and, and dysfunctional government. Some women have seen their husbands shot right before their eyes and with their children. They fled to, uh, our Southern border they're seeking asylum, which is a human right. And our president, uh, condemned, condensed them as, uh, uh, murderers, drug dealers, rapist. I mean, you know, with no basis. In fact, in fact at that, uh, at the I right after Pearl Harbor, they said we were all spies and saboteurs. We were all innocent. Speaker 1: 46:20 What do you think is the most potent force to help combat racial division? Speaker 9: 46:26 When we were incarcerated, the whole nation was swept up in that, uh, uh, hate against us, but what's happening. Uh, now on the Southern border is not the whole nation, uh, coming together against them. Uh, yes, the, our government is, uh, tearing children away from, uh, these mothers that are flooded with their children, but there are those of us who, uh, are working against that kind of outrage. These are people who are asking for asylum, they're entitled to it. And, uh, rather than accepting them with humanitarian compassion, their children torn away from them. In our case, we were always together with our parents and these children separated from their parents are put in these cages, these bins, uh, and these sports children have been there for months now. And it is, it is I'm going, I'm sure going to affect their lives completely. They they're, they're going to have problems throughout their lives. Speaker 9: 47:32 In our case, we were always together with our parents. And I w I really consider, uh, given the conditions that, uh, the, uh, uh, Latinos are being subjected to that we were an ironic word, but we were very lucky to not have been torn away. We were together with our parents, and we had a sense of security. You know, when you're very young, your parents are the most important people in the world. And we grew up with that security, despite the barbed wire fence and the century towers, and the, uh, searchlights from the century tower that, uh, followed us when we made the night runs to the latrine from our barracks. But even that intimidating, uh, uh, Searchlight, which my mother, especially, uh, uh, detested, she said it was invasive and it was humiliating, but for five-year-old me, I thought it was nice that they lit the way for me to pee. So again, a five year old kids reaction to something that's good test Scully, uh, abnormal. Speaker 4: 48:43 So, George, how do you think that reading your graphic memoir the book they called us enemy? How can it help people prevent what happened then from happening again? Now, Speaker 9: 48:55 I think we, humans are actually the human animal, and we do, uh, revert to primitive reactions when something horrific happens and that terrorist sweeps across the country, we were seen as dangerous. We were innocent, absolutely innocent American citizens. My mother was born in Sacramento, California. My father was a San Franciscan, although he was born in SA, uh, in Japan, he was brought to San Francisco as when he was a very young man. And so he was raised and, and educated all the way to college in, uh, San Francisco. You considered him himself, a San Franciscan. They, they met and married, and we, the children were born here in Los Angeles. And yet we were all categorized as enemy alien. That's where the title comes from. They called us enemy, but I wasn't an enemy. I was a five year old kid and I wasn't an alien. Speaker 9: 50:03 I was born here in Los Angeles that kind of irrationality, uh, happened in the United States and the purpose of my, uh, writing this book. And I've gone on a speech that I've been speaking on the subject ever since my late twenties. And we, uh, developed a Broadway musical on the interment with the, that we cannot let that kind of irrationality sweep over our country. Again, we, it, something irrational is happening again in our country, not just what's happening with the Latinos on the Southern borders, but also the black lives matter protest, racial injustice, and all of the various, uh, horrible things that's happening right now. The impoverishment and the hunger people lining up for food, this kind of thing can happen, but a nation of people that is mindful of their history that know our history will try to prevent that bringing rationality, uh, to our thinking and not let allow a thing like that to happen. Speaker 9: 51:18 And so that's why, uh, I, uh, I, um, I wrote, uh, they called us enemy as a graphic memoir. My intent because we had a, I've written my autobiography, which was, uh, published in 1994, um, that was called to the stars, a very optimistic view of our future. But the first third is about my childhood and determined. And with this book, they called this enemy. It, I, we did it as a, a graphic memoir. I'm not a graph, um, graphic designer. So I worked with, uh, people who, uh, are professionals at it. And we found, uh, enormously gifted, uh, uh, artist, harmony, Becker. I love her name harmony. She did the, uh, the drawing and with just the squiggle or a line here, she's able to capture human emotion on a, on a face. This is to reach people on many different levels with the autobiography. Speaker 9: 52:23 I wanted to reach adults and star Trek fans on the cover. I am most seen wearing my captain pseudo uniform. My Starfleet uniform, looking to the stars, a Broadway musical, which has a different audience. And with the, they called us enemy. I wanted to reach the youth readership, the young people, because I used to love comic books as a, as a teenager. And when you're that age, you're absorbing information and you'd retain it. It stays with you. And so I wanted to reach young people so that they get this information at that very formative stage and become the voters of tomorrow, the citizens of tomorrow, and, uh, contributing to making a better, uh, United States. And I think we are learning from all of these, uh, uh, opportunities to know something about our American history. Speaker 1: 53:29 George, thank you so much for spending this time with us. Speaker 9: 53:33 Oh, thank you very much. Um, I'm looking forward to returning to San Diego and sharing my thoughts with, uh, the young leadership there. Speaker 1: 53:42 George Turkey's book, they called us enemy is KPBS has one book, one San Diego pick this year. So get ahold of a copy and join in. George will be part of a virtual panel discussion on Tuesday, September 22nd at 7:00 PM. And you can find out more information about that on our website,,

It was a welcomed surprise for many businesses in San Diego, the county remains in the red tier Tuesday under the state’s color-coded four-tier reopening plan. It was in danger of slipping into the state’s most restrictive tier. Plus, a local scientist says despite the CDC’s retracted guidance, there is evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through the air. Also, the coronavirus has slowed the wheels of justice, but starting next month jury trials are scheduled to begin again with safety measures in place. And, in response to Vanessa Guillen’s death, a newly introduced bill makes sexual harassment a crime under military law. Finally, a preview of this year’s One Book, One San Diego.