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Duncan Hunter Resigns, What's Next For The 50th District? San Diego Unified Sues Vaping Company Juul, California’s New Privacy Law, Feeding San Diego Goes To Congress

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California Governor Gavin Newsom's office said that no special election will be called following the resignation of Rep. Duncan Hunter. Also, the San Diego Unified School District is suing vaping company Juul Labs over what it calls a youth vaping “epidemic.” We’ll also tell you how California's new privacy law works. Plus, the struggle highly skilled immigrants face finding new jobs. The CEO of Feeding San Diego testified before Congress saying that the government needs to do more to address hunger among veterans, and author Kiley Reid talks about her debut novel "Such a Fun Age."

Speaker 1: 00:00 It will be more than a year before the 50th district will have a vote in the house of representatives. The 50th district includes East County, some of North San Diego County and a small portion of neighboring Riverside County. This comes after governor Gavin Newsome said he will not hold a special election following the resignation of representative Dunkin. Hunter Hunter pled guilty to misusing campaign funds in December and has since not had a vote in the house. His resignation will be official on Monday. Joining me to discuss this is KPBS news reporter, Prius breather. Priya, welcome. Thanks. I mentioned that governor Gavin Newsom declined to hold a special election for the 50th congressional district. Why was it up to the governor to decide whether or not to hold a special election?

Speaker 2: 00:41 So if Dunkin Hunter had resigned before December six and that would have been shortly after he pleaded guilty in federal court to the one conspiracy charge, a state mandate would have required that a special election be held. But because he didn't resign until actually it won't be effective until Monday, January 13th at the end of the business day, it was up to governor Newsome as to whether or not there should be a special election. And his office told me, uh, the governor's office received representative Hunter's resignation letter based on the timing of the resignation, a special election will not be called. So essentially, logistically it would have been very complicated. And I got a chance to speak with the registrar voters, Michael WGU about that. And he actually was all ready to send out the overseas and military ballots next Friday for the March 3rd election. And so what a lot of people were hoping for was that the special election could have been consolidated with the March 3rd election.

Speaker 2: 01:37 But because Dunkin Hunter waited so long, it essentially got to the point where it would have been logistically impossible. So why couldn't the governor then just appoint someone to the seat? Yeah. A lot of people have been asking me that question. You know, we saw when Senator John McCain died that the governor of Arizona was then able to appoint another Republican to serve out the rest of his term until they were able to hold an election. However, that's not what's allowed legally when something happens with the representative. So essentially the governor's office had two choices. One was to hold a special election and the other was to leave the seat vacant as you mentioned until next January. And go through the process that had already been scheduled with the general election, which is a primary on March 3rd and then the general election in November.

Speaker 1: 02:21 And before we go any further, can you give us some background on what happened before? Hundred pled guilty to misusing campaign funds?

Speaker 2: 02:27 Right. So this all stems back to uh, the indictment. A Hunter and his wife were charged in August of 2018 with 60 counts of using campaign funds for personal expenses and some of those expenses included family vacations, school tuition for his kids. And then he went a step further allegedly and falsified federal election commission campaign reports. So he would say that these personal expenses were for campaign travel or toy toy drives or dinner with volunteers and gift cards, things like that. Initially he said that the charges were politically motivated. You know, I think you remember some of his famous quotes. He said this is a witch hunt and that was right before his last election, but then he obviously did a one 80 his wife actually decided to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors. And then as we saw in December, he also changed his plea and entered a guilty plea and he set to be sentenced on March 17th he faces up to five years in federal prison and also a $250,000 fine.

Speaker 2: 03:32 You visited the 50th congressional district yesterday. What did you hear from constituents about that district not having representation for an entire year? So in some ways this is something that they've been used to. There's about 750,000 people who live in that district. But Congressman Hunter, when he had been indicted, he was stripped of many of his committee assignments. And then after he pleaded guilty, he received a letter from the house of representatives, I believe it was speaker Polosi essentially telling him that he can no longer vote. So in many ways, he's sort of been a defunct congressmen up until this point for the last year as he was facing these allegations. But a lot of the constituents said it would be a real shame to not have a special election and have to wait an entire year until they have representation. So let's take a listen to what some of them had to say. I think there should be a special election. We can go without a representative for a year.

Speaker 3: 04:26 Well, I think our community should be represented at all times by a rep, by a Congressman. So if we don't have a Congressman for a year, I mean, that's not really fair for the people around here who, who vote

Speaker 2: 04:40 have somebody represent the people. Sure. Yeah. So in order of how you heard those people. The first one was Lori fountain, Joseph knob and William Phillips there. But as you can see, and actually Joseph who told me that he's a Democrat and the other two a Lori said she's an independent and William said he's a Republican, but across party lines, all of them agreed that they wanted representation. Now Hunter changed his plea to guilty in the campaign finance case in early December. Do we know why Hunter may have waited to resign until January 13th so that's kind of the million dollar question here because what many political analysts that I've spoken to have said is that gen a special elections generally favor Republicans because there's a lower turnout. So what's interesting is, you know, we heard from Dunkin Hunter's senior after his last court appearance that a Dunkin Hunter jr was going to be meeting with Republican leaders in Washington to discuss exactly the timeline of when he was going to resign.

Speaker 2: 05:36 So we can only imagine that Republicans were putting pressure on him to resign sooner so that they would have probably most likely another Republicans serving in the house from Southern California for the rest of this year. So it's really unclear as to, you know, why he decided to wait this long? Because people say that it favors Democrats, that the seats going to be vacant for, for a full year. And so the seat isn't going to be filled until the winner of the 50th district race takes office in January of 2021 who is vying to represent the 50th congressional, yet this is a pretty stacked race. There are three Republicans with strong local name recognition. One is the former representative Darrell Eissa, who represented a neighboring district. Um, he's always been a very strong opponent to president Barack Obama. Um, Carl DeMilo, who many people know he was a talk radio host and a former San Diego city Councilman and then also state Senator Brian Jones.

Speaker 2: 06:35 Um, those are the three on the Republican side. On the Democrat side. We have 30 year old Amar Campanis Shar, who was a former Obama administration official. You guys might remember his name because he actually ran against Dunkin Hunter last year and, and came dangerously close to actually beating him. But I should point out that the 50th district is extremely Republican. It's one of the reddest districts in Southern California. So most people think that this is going to go to one of those three Republicans that I mentioned, but we'll have to wait and see. And you'll have more on the 50th race at the end of the month, right? That's right. Um, I have another feature airing on January 27 that goes into a lot of these candidates more in depth. All right. I've been speaking with KPBS news reporter, Prius or either Priya. Thank you so much. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego unified school district is jumping on the bandwagon of lawsuits against the vaping company. Jewel. The district has filed a lawsuit claiming damages from absenteeism and the cost of outreach programs aimed at stopping student vaping. A state study has found that 4% of seventh graders and 7% of 11th graders in San Diego unified schools have reported using vaping devices. Jewel is the largest vaping device company in the U S it recently stopped selling flavored nicotine products. And joining me is Richard Barrera, a member of the San Diego unified school board. And Richard, welcome.

Speaker 2: 00:39 Thank you Maureen.

Speaker 1: 00:41 On what legal grounds is San Diego unified suing jewel?

Speaker 2: 00:46 Well, we see the practices of jewel as intentionally marketing to underage, uh, users as predatory and, and we will defend our students against, uh, you know, a, a major corporation that's trying to, uh, you know, targeted them and, and frankly attack their health and their future. And so, and so we are filing a lawsuit and that's consistent with other, um, school districts around California and around the country. And you know, the basic argument that we're making is by targeting our students. And by directly impacting their health and their ability to learn, um, they're also impacting the district. You know, we have to spend money on outreach programs, education programs on things like, uh, vaping detectors, uh, video surveillance. Um, but more importantly, when our students health stuffers, they're often missing school. I and missing school affects their learning and of course affects, you know, our, our, our funding. So, you know, we are defending our students and we are, uh, you know, sending a message, uh, to jewel that when you attack our kids, uh, our school district is going to fight back.

Speaker 1: 02:08 Does the district have a dollar figure on how much money it claims it lost from absences that are allegedly caused by jewel?

Speaker 2: 02:16 Yeah. Marine as our last season. Who forward, uh, you know, we will put together those numbers and that won't be obviously included in, um, in what we and what we bring. But what we do know for instance is, you know, the [inaudible] that you just mentioned, you know, about the wires, you know, numbers of students that are in our district that I would self reporting as, as, uh, using vaping products. And we also know that the increase in the number of students that has been using, uh, vaping products over the last year is a larger increase than we've ever seen with any other substance, whether it's tobacco or alcohol or you know, other, other types of drugs that the continued marketing and exploitation of our students by jewel and other vaping companies is not only having an impact now that we're seeing and that, you know, has been a rapidly rising impact over the last year. But if we don't do something, it's going to continue. And we're worried that, you know, we're going to see more and more students, um, you know, become addicted to these products and see their health and their education suffer.

Speaker 1: 03:23 Do we know if that state survey found that students were vaping, nicotine or marijuana?

Speaker 2: 03:29 It could be a combination of, of both. And, and the tools, you know, the, the, the products that, uh, you know, that these companies market, uh, you know, to young people, uh, you know, to be able to use vaping. It's very insidious. You know, we actually have students who are doing research and, um, you know, projects, uh, to help build awareness, you know, among their peers. But you look at the packaging for instance, of these products and it looks like, you know, it looks like an Apple product. It looks, you know, the boxes look like something that you might see an iPhone come out of. I mean, they're very, very intentionally, um, you know, packaging and marketing in a way that they know will appeal to young people.

Speaker 1: 04:15 Now in a statement, jewel says it's working to stop underage use of its products, saying it's working quote with attorneys, general regulators, public health officials and other stakeholders to combat underage use and convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes unquote. Now, if jewel is doing what it says and miners can't legally purchase these products, how could they be held accountable for teens if they are accessing them on the black market?

Speaker 2: 04:44 Well, it's obvious that what Joel is doing is marketing products, you know, intentionally to underage users. I mean, they can make these sorts of statements that they're working to combat underage, uh, you know, uh, vaping by that first of all is obviously in response to outrage, you know, that has been building up, you know, from local communities around the country as we've seen the impacts including fatalities in, you know, of, of, of young people from the use of these products. You know, it reminds me of the Joe camel, uh, you know, uh, effort, you know, by, uh, tobacco companies, you know, creating, you know, sort of marketing material that's obviously intended to reach and, and, uh, and subject young people to addiction so that they, you know, are forced to become lifelong customers to these types of products.

Speaker 1: 05:38 Later today, County board of supervisors, Fletcher and Jacobs, they're scheduled to discuss their proposal to crack down on the sale of a flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes. They're also expected to disclose the latest vaping related illness in San Diego County. And I'm wondering, what would you like to see local health officials take?

Speaker 2: 06:00 Well, I think, I think the fact that local health officials, including the County board of supervisors here in San Diego are stepping up with these types of proposals is exactly the kind of work, uh, you know, the kind of effort that we want to see in the schools. You know, the more that, you know, these types of products can be regulated and in fact, you know, severely restricted, um, you know, to be made available at all, you know, to anybody in San Diego is going to be extremely helpful in, um, making it a harder for young people, you know, to be able to access these products, were extremely supportive of those efforts by, by the County.

Speaker 1: 06:42 I've been speaking with San Diego unified school board member, Richard Barrera. Richard. Thank you.

Speaker 2: 06:47 Thanks so much. Maureen.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Are you worried about what happens to your data on the internet? Well, a new law that went into effect at the beginning of the year allows Californians to ask businesses to delete their data or be fined. KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina Chote Lani spoke to businesses and consumer advocates for this story ever stroll through Facebook or Instagram and seen an advertisement for, well that thing you looked up on Google just two minutes earlier. Targeted advertisements are commonplace on the internet where human behaviors and preferences can be stored and potentially sold by tech companies. Emory Rhone, an attorney at the privacy rights clearing house in San Diego says identity theft data breaches and these advertisements are among the many concerns residents have brought up.

Speaker 2: 00:48 Want them to have my information and now my debit card and my social security number and my driver's license are out on the internet. Apparently. What do I do and how did it get this bad?

Speaker 1: 00:58 A March ACLU poll show, 90% of voters in the state support more consumer privacy protections from online technology companies and last year residents got that when legislators passed the California consumer privacy act, the legislation says consumers can request from certain larger businesses to know how their data is being used and ask those businesses to delete it or acid and not be sold. Rowan calls it a landmark piece of legislation, especially in terms of the steps consumers can take to protect themselves.

Speaker 2: 01:29 Well now rather than saying freeze your credit or you know, take some remedial steps to try not to be low hanging fruit, we can say, look, why don't you go to that business, find out what information they have on you and then take that control back.

Speaker 1: 01:43 The legislation has many businesses focusing on getting their data assets in order, but the legislation is fairly vague. So Justine Phillips, a San Diego attorney specializing in data privacy for businesses

Speaker 3: 01:55 until CCPA was here, this was a wild West type world. You were allowed to amass data. Um, there was unregulated data. Now the definition of personal information under California consumer privacy act is really broad.

Speaker 1: 02:10 She says, now businesses will have to figure out what data applies and whether they even fall under the scope of the law. For example, a business partner that's just providing software support to a larger technology company could be subject to the CCPA like ESET, a company that produces computer antivirus products. Alexandra ALB, Rose and executive there. She says, even though East set only collects a limited amount of data from its consumers, staff had to have lots of meetings on it, spend thousands of dollars and hire a consultant to get prepared.

Speaker 3: 02:40 Well, first of all, I needed to educate myself on what, what is the act once I understood kind of what the act means, look at our business and the business model and how we communicate with our customers and put into place, uh, measures. Um, whether that is, um, changing things on the website or whether that's changing how our systems work.

Speaker 1: 03:03 All bro says it's important to protect consumers privacy. So the company's happy to comply. But she says East side is a medium sized business. So larger companies may have had to do more.

Speaker 3: 03:12 We need to keep certain amount of data to be able to conduct business. And the law had that in mind as well. So there are exceptions to um, deleting information. So while it's not gonna prevent us or other companies from doing business, it definitely is something where all the businesses have to think about, okay, what is it that we really need in order to, um, maintain business?

Speaker 1: 03:41 ISA wasn't hit too hard, but Phillip says that may not be the case with other smaller

Speaker 3: 03:45 companies. This is going to be a trickle down effect, uh, where the priority, uh, will be pushed down to organizations that may not just have the size, uh, to justify a large, uh, dedication of resources. And that includes many businesses in San Diego. Phillip says the city is home to a major tech industry, but despite the impending burden of data management, businesses will have to address consumer privacy rights. Attorney Emery Rowan says this is needed to happen.

Speaker 2: 04:15 And for awhile we have arrived at a point where consumers around the world are waking up to the realities of what it means to exist in a big data world and they're pushing back on that.

Speaker 1: 04:26 Both of these attorneys say they believe lots of California residents will exercise their new rights under this legislation. Joining me is KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina Chot Lonnie Shalina, welcome. Hey, glad to be here. What were some of the consumer abuses that led to this new law being passed? Um, probably the most famous one was the Cambridge Analytica scandal, uh, where it was found out that a company was taking a lot of data from Facebook and using that to make directed, uh, political advertisements online. Um, it was found out that one of the campaigns for Senator Ted Cruz, I was using that data. Um, during his campaign. Is this the first law of its kind in the U S uh, yes. I would say it's probably the first most stringent data protection law in the United States. And exactly what kind of personal information should consumers be asking these businesses about?

Speaker 1: 05:26 Well, the law gives you the power to ask for any information, like your email address or your browsing history that you might have on social media, for example. Um, your credit card information, those types of personal data assets. There's government records that are online as well. Um, that actually there's this thing called a data broker. There are companies that take these, this data and use it to sell it to other companies that would want to do things like market certain products to you. One source I found said that it's like a $200 billion industry. So these are the types of data that they're looking for that you might just be online not realizing that you are contributing this information. Um, but it really does go a pretty far. Ken consumers start right now asking those kinds of questions and demanding that their personal information be taken down.

Speaker 1: 06:21 They can and a lot of businesses have already been getting prepared for this law, which went into effect January 1st so if you're a online, you might notice that if you go to a website, it might come up with a disclaimer that says, Hey, if you want to continue using this service, by the way, we are going to be collecting this data. Do you agree with this or not? So a lot of businesses are already getting prepared for it because they know that consumers can start asking for that data. Now the connection between Googling something and then seeing an ad for it on social media happens without human intervention, right? I mean it's an algorithm. So our business is going to have to stop tracking on the internet. So what this law means is that if you are collecting lots of data online, if you are tracking data, you have to come up with ways to anonymize that data.

Speaker 1: 07:10 Giving people the option if they say that they don't want their data to be able to be accessed by a data broker, like I mentioned. Um, they, these companies need to have the resources to be able to make that data not connected to your individual person or they have to be able to get into their database, take it out and delete it if you want that. So while those might be algorithms, the data that's being collected still exists somewhere in a database and these companies are going to have to figure out what to do with it. Um, get it in order in case consumers decide that they don't want it to be used. You quoted that huge number, what did you say? 200. So one source I looked at said it could be around a $200 billion industry where these companies, these third party companies are buying data from sources like let's say Facebook that are collecting massive amounts of data and then selling it to other companies.

Speaker 1: 08:03 Um, it's so interesting. I looked at one chart and it has a, for example, video games that you might have or apps on your phone may be collecting data about your habits and then they might take it and then target that towards people who are experiencing depression or substance abuse or expecting mothers or um, compulsive buyers. Just by looking at the types of habits you have online. Um, it's like if you scroll through Instagram and you're, you were just talking about a pair of shoes that you wanted to buy and you see an advertisement about it. And so could this new law potentially have a big economic impact on business in California? Uh, so, uh, as I reported in my feature, it will definitely have an impact on businesses. Any business in California that is collecting data has had to, we'll have to spend thousands to tens of thousands of dollars to get their assets in order depending on what type of business you have.

Speaker 1: 08:58 So I interviewed a business owner in San Diego, um, that didn't really collect that much personal data on people just email addresses in order to be able to operate. It was a malware product and they still had to spend thousands of dollars to figure out how to anonymize the data, make sure that they could get it in order to put it in the right places. So it will cost businesses money. Um, just just to even get prepared. And if you are a business that has a lot of data and consumers do decide that they want their data back and you don't comply, you can be fined. So that's another economic issue here. Now as consumers, we've already received a lot of information about companies changing their privacy policies and those announcements. They come in either dense pamphlets, you get the mail or internet scroll full of legalees that you can understand and you don't have time to read.

Speaker 1: 09:53 Is that the way that we're going to be notified about our new rights under the California consumer privacy act? Well, I think it's going to be, like I said, these, these companies that do have interfaces online where consumers are directly browsing and putting in their information, they will probably have to have, um, a notice. Um, as soon as you go into the webpage, these are the terms of use. If you agree, then we will collect your data. The California consumer privacy act says people must not only opt in, but they have the right to opt out. I see. Okay. I've been speaking with KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina Chut Lonnie Shalina. Thank you. Thank you.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Immigrants who are physicians, engineers and lawyers and their home countries often face huge challenges when trying to find employment in the U S and the second part of a California dream series. We hear from an organization that helps immigrant healthcare professionals find work in California communities where they're needed more KQ EDIS for Rita Jampala Romero reports.

Speaker 2: 00:23 It's a bit of a miracle that Wilmer Garcia Ricardo is now a medical resident at the San Joaquin general hospital. South of Stockton

Speaker 3: 00:31 has been years of studying sacrifice

Speaker 2: 00:34 Garcia. Ricardo studied family medicine in Cuba and practiced for seven years. He came to the U S in 2012 through a now defunct humanitarian parole program for Cuban medical professionals, but he says he was then left on his own to figure out how to get licensed to practice again in America, buying medical textbooks on Amazon and

Speaker 3: 00:55 getting into blogs and forums online of different medical doctor for other countries who were doing the same process.

Speaker 2: 01:04 Meanwhile, he worked as a patient aid and a nursing home.

Speaker 3: 01:07 So that was like, you know, being a doctor in January, 2012 to be at the bottom of the health care system in America.

Speaker 2: 01:16 That's what [inaudible] the migration policy Institute calls brain waste. She estimates that in California it costs 9 billion annually in lost earnings and millions more in lost state and local taxes.

Speaker 1: 01:30 Half of immigrants who all come into the United States now have a lot of education that can become a, an important talent pool if their skills up to good use.

Speaker 2: 01:41 Got to Seattle. Ricardo spent five years and more than $10,000 to pass the tough licensing exams and applied to medical residency programs so he could work as a doctor.

Speaker 3: 01:52 I would say that I applied to 166 program and I receive one interview invitation.

Speaker 2: 02:00 He was not accepted anywhere, but he didn't give up. It was a unique program in California that finally gave him the help he needed to get into a residency. The international medical graduate program at UCLA gives Spanish speaking immigrant physicians classes and hands on experience with patients so they can better compete for residency spots. Spots that are extremely limited, especially in the places where they're needed most. If I had a magic wand, I would say, let us get some additional residency positions available in our most underserved areas in California. Dr Michel Boulet cofounded the program, the doctors commit to working at least two years in underserved communities and most of the hundred and 40 bilingual graduates still work in those areas. Says bullet. She has high hopes for dr Wilmer Garcia. Ricardo is going to be a role model to the Latino. He's going

Speaker 4: 03:00 to be a role model for those people to know that, you know what? I have a doctor that understands me. I have a doctor who's going to be there for my family

Speaker 2: 03:11 in a small exam room at the San Joaquin general hospital, Garcia. Ricardo is finishing up a consultation with a patient, Garcia Ricardo says, without the UCLA program, he wouldn't be able to work as a doctor here. He says, before this residency, he felt like a fish out of water, flopping around and gasping for air,

Speaker 3: 03:35 and then you put the fish back in. The water does this same feeling I had when I had a white coat back and I were as corrupt and I went to the ER, an urgent care

Speaker 2: 03:46 Garcia. Ricardo says he's found his calling as a doctor here in the U S with a patient population of many Spanish speaking agricultural and factory workers in the San Joaquin Valley and [inaudible] Romero [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 We've often talked about the challenges facing veterans transitioning from military service back to civilian life, jobs, housing, and sometimes mental health are among the issues most often mentioned. But today on Capitol Hill, a hearing focuses on another issue, veterans face, food insecurity, hunger, not knowing where their next meal is coming from. The CEO of feeding San Diego is among those testifying at the hearing today. And Vince hall joins us now from Washington D C Vince, welcome to the program.

Speaker 2: 00:33 Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:35 Now we know that San Diego County is home to one of the biggest concentrations of veterans in the nation. How big a problem is food insecurity for veterans here?

Speaker 2: 00:45 Well, one of the standing facts that came out of today's hearing is that we really don't know the scope of the problem because a lot of the agencies of the federal government that should be keeping track of our veterans are in fact not doing so. And so at feeding San Diego, we know that we serve thousands and thousands of veterans each week across the County through our feeding heroes initiative. But, uh, one of the message to Congress today was you need to take responsibility for making sure those who've served our country have enough to eat.

Speaker 1: 01:12 Is there a particular time that's most challenging for veterans, perhaps when they're transitioning from the military?

Speaker 2: 01:19 You're right, Maureen. There are in fact, two very vulnerable times and the average veteran's life, uh, one is as they are transitioning from the military to civilian life and they're going through a very significant transition from a highly structured environment with consistent cashflow to having to find their footing in the civilian world and find appropriate work and find a place to live. And, uh, when they have dependence, uh, as part of their family unit, those comp challenges become more complex. And then seniors who find themselves as all seniors do facing any number of challenges. Um, but many veterans haven't accessed any services until they are seniors and then suddenly find themselves in need of help.

Speaker 1: 02:01 Did you tell the committee's some examples from the experiences of vets here in San Diego?

Speaker 2: 02:08 Indeed, yes. Um, and we, uh, have, uh, stories from across San Diego County, from veterans of every age group and every walk of life who, uh, are struggling with San Diego's extraordinarily high cost of living 40% higher than the national average. But veterans are in effect, uh, trying to make very difficult decisions between paying for essential services like food, rent, uh, healthcare, uh, investing in their children's education, um, paying they're paying their rent is a, is a major obstacle. And when folks start to cut their budgets to make compromises, food is unfortunately, often one of the first things that gets cut. So we brought those stories to Congress today.

Speaker 1: 02:48 Could you share one of those stories with us?

Speaker 2: 02:51 Well, feeding San Diego, um, is working with both the veterans community and active duty military populations. And so I, uh, had the of telling the story of a woman named desert Ray whose husband makes about $34,000 a year in the U S Navy. And she, uh, is dealing with the fact that he's been on deployment for over eight months. And she came to us because frankly she was having trouble feeding her own children. The military provides folks who are not living on base with a basic allowance for housing. This is supplemental pay that's meant to help them find off-base housing. But the reality is it's not enough for San Diego's housing market and Congress counts that money as income for purposes of making these families in eligible for food stamps. So it begins a spiral of food insecurity that causes many of these families to need our immediate help and assistance.

Speaker 1: 03:41 So the issue of food insecurity that you spoke to in Congress today went beyond veterans to the larger military community.

Speaker 2: 03:50 It did. And a lot of the problems go hand in hand when you start talking about reservists who come in and out of active service, or you're talking about guards, members who get mobilized and their families, uh, have to struggle with the resulting financial insecurity as those reservists and guardsmen are taken out of their, uh, normal occupations and put into their military service. So when you add San Diego's high cost of living, uh, those equations become very complicated. Feeding. San Diego sees veterans every week who are referred to us by the VA hospital in the Hoya. It's not far to feeding San Diego and oftentimes these veterans come into our lobby and say, I just don't know how I'm going to feed my family tonight. Fortunately, feeding San Diego has emergency food boxes and access to local food resources to help those veterans.

Speaker 1: 04:34 What kind of impact has recent cuts to on to food assistance made by the Trump administration? What kind of impact has that had on your work with veterans here in San Diego?

Speaker 2: 04:45 There's palpable fear in the community because Congress is uh, watching the administration proposed new restrictions on the snap program, which in California we call CalFresh. It's also formerly known as food stamps and there's a great deal of apprehension because Congress is looking to, or sorry, the administration is looking to impose new rules without even considering the impact those rules are going to have on veterans. And Congressman Mike Levin of San Diego asked some very pointed questions today about the fact that the us department of agriculture is going to impose these cuts to the snap program. Forcing billions of Americans off the program, but they haven't even asked the veterans affairs department how many veterans are going to be removed from food assistance as a result of those cuts. That was really a very disturbing revelation in today's hearing.

Speaker 1: 05:32 And so what are you and the others who testified this morning actually asking Congress to do?

Speaker 2: 05:38 We're asking Congress to take care of those who have served in the uniform of our country. There is no reason in the wealthiest country in the history of this planet that anyone who serves in our armed forces or has served in our armed forces should be facing food insecurity. And we want Congress to pause on taking aggressive measures to cut food assistance to without really understanding the depth and complexity of the problems that those Americans face on a daily basis, particularly when it comes to veterans, because we all agree that veterans deserve our respect and our appreciation and a quality of life. They've risked their lives for our protection, but we don't have a Congress and an administration that has a unified vision for how to make those promises tangible in the real world. And as a result, organizations like feeding San Diego are left plugging the gap between what the government provides those veterans and what they need to nourish their families.

Speaker 1: 06:30 I've been speaking with feeding San Diego CEO Vince hall. He's in Washington D C just come from testifying before Congress today. Thanks for your time, Vince. I appreciate it.

Speaker 2: 06:41 Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Such a fun age is a novel about a young babysitter and her well-intentioned employer that dives into issues of race and privilege on the surface. Kylie Reed, author of such a fun age, joined us via Skype to talk about her debut novel. Kylie, welcome. Thank you so much for having me. So, okay. This is a novel that tackles issues of race, class, current trends, and even mothers and how they deal with their children. Tell us about the plot of this story and the main characters, if you can. Sure. So that the story starts with a Mira Tucker. She's 25 she's an African American babysitter and a temple university graduate, and she's at that point in her life where she really doesn't know what she wants to do, but she's about to go off of her parents' health insurance. And so one night, Alex Chamberlain, a wealthy white mother, asked her to babysit and take the child out because they've had a family emergency.

Speaker 1: 00:52 Amira is happy to do so. She takes little three year old Briar out to a grocery store and they're having fun. They're dancing until a Mira is accused of kidnapping the child. Uh, from there it turns into a comedy of good intentions as Alex and others tried to write the night's wrongs. So, and then right then in that moment, the story opens with that in all of these issues managed to collide at the same time. How do you pull all those issues together in one story? Is there a common thread that you use in your writing to do that? I think that the biggest comment that I can do is this, the three characters that I was most concerned about. I love starting with characters and as they reveal themselves to me and their tendencies, I try to let them show me where the story is going.

Speaker 1: 01:39 And this book also examines a type of, of prejudice and racism that doesn't get a lot of attention and that is liberal racism. Can you talk about about what that is and how it's explored in this book? Yeah. Um, as a person, I'm very interested in the systems at play that keep poor people poor like a Mira. And you know, she's a 25 year old woman who can't go to the doctor if she wants to. And I'm very interested in those boundaries placed on her life. But as a writer and a reader, I'm very interested in the teeny tiny little microaggressions that racism often, uh, lets it happen, kind of bubble up to the surface. Um, Alex wants to feel good and she wants her babysitter to like her. And so giving her a bottle of wine makes her feel really good, but she's not really doing anything to change a circumstance of her life.

Speaker 1: 02:27 It's a lot, a lot about individual actions instead of a community. Was there any particular experience in your own life that informed your storytelling about these issues and peaked your interest? There wasn't this specific incident. I'm sure every black person has moments that they can point to, of racism on an overt scale and a little bit smaller. I've definitely had, you know, the, uh, maybe you should fix your hair or wow, you're really articulate, but I'm way more interested in the more insidious, um, instances of racism. Like, you know, did I not get this job because of my hair or did I not get this apartment because of how I look? So I like to play around with both of those types.

Speaker 2: 03:06 Mmm. And what inspired you to write this book?

Speaker 1: 03:09 I think I was just drawn in by Alex and Ameera. Um, initially I love writing with characters who find themselves in a position of power that they weren't ready for. And I like watching the mental gymnastics of how they deal with that. And a lot of the times it's, it's denying that power. So I like power struggles on a really big level and also on a very domestic petty level is too.

Speaker 2: 03:31 Yeah. Well, and you know, once you identify characters it's, you can take a story in so many different directions, you know? Why was this story so important for you to tell?

Speaker 1: 03:41 I think I honestly just went in saying, I want a story with a very awkward triangle of people as some of my favorite movies have a triangle of people from movies like Moonlight to a romcoms. I think that it's possible to touch on class warfare. And have that awkward dramatic triangle as well.

Speaker 2: 04:00 And your book has released, received some I a claim. What do you, how do you feel about that?

Speaker 1: 04:06 I mean it's, it's overwhelming and really touching and exciting. I have to say that, you know, the messages I get from black women saying, you know, I read a lot, but this was the first time I read a black protagonist that's really touching to me. And the fact that they enjoyed it on top of that, it just, it makes me over the moon.

Speaker 2: 04:23 You know, I've read in some of the reviews that the way in which you tell this story dealing with such heavy issues, um, is a way that's sort of easily digestible for a lot of people and for a diverse group of people. Um, talk to me about that.

Speaker 1: 04:37 Yeah, I love writing and dialogue that looks in sounds exactly like it's being done. So I definitely like writing with a conversational tone. Um, and reading dialogue is sometimes a lot easier than reading really thick paragraphs. That said, my intention is never to make light of systemic racism. Um, and I'm super proud of the moments that I make readers cringe as well.

Speaker 2: 05:02 And talk to me about some of the other issues that you've tackled in this um, novel. I mean we talk about issues of privilege and race, but there were some other issues too.

Speaker 1: 05:12 Of course. Um, I'm super interested in domestic labor rights and I live in Philadelphia, that's where the book is based. And just in October, Philadelphia passed the domestic worker bill of rights, which is going to change things around a lot for a lot of women of color in the city. Um, Amir Tucker and my novel, you know, at one point she thinks about quitting, but she can't do that because she can't put into two weeks notice because the job didn't work like that. And I'm really interested in how emotional labor and working within a family, all of those things, how they can be better and how they're not serving us.

Speaker 2: 05:45 And what do you hope readers take away from your book?

Speaker 1: 05:48 I mean, the first thing is I just hope they enjoy it. I think as a writer, that's all that you can hope is that your story is gripping and, and readers connect with the characters. But I also really love when a book makes me zoom out and look at the boundaries placed on people and, and helps me see the world in a different way. So I hope I can do that.

Speaker 2: 06:05 And what's next? Will we see this story on the big screen?

Speaker 1: 06:09 That is the plan. Uh, two production companies including Lena waits, uh, Hilman grad ha have purchased the rights to the film adaptation, which was really exciting for me. So I can't wait to see what that looks like and I'll slowly be working on that. And probably novel number two at some point.

Speaker 2: 06:26 What do you think you'll tackle in your next novel?

Speaker 1: 06:28 Oh man, I've, I've been writing about class issues for a really long time, but I am sure that the very small crushes, jealousies, insecurities, all of those stuff. Well, we'll make appearances again.

Speaker 2: 06:42 Well, I have been speaking with Kylie Reed, author of such a fun age. Kylie, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much Kylie. Reed will be at Warrick's in LA Jolla January 14th at seven 30 to talk about her new book. It's such a fun age.

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KPBS Midday Edition

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