SDPD Chief Vows Probe Of Officer's Alleged Online Mockery Of Dead Suspect, Trump Derails 1st Presidential Debate With Biden, A Guide To Voting In 2020
Speaker 1: 00:00 A cop is suspended for a social media posting after a fatal shooting Speaker 2: 00:04 That a police officer would take somebody's life and then mock them on Instagram reinforces the worst opinions that people have. Speaker 1: 00:12 I'm Mark Sauer with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid day edition. The debate is anything but presidential is Donald Trump turns interrupting into low art, Speaker 2: 00:30 Either way, you know, looking at it, regardless of who you support. It wasn't incredibly ugly debate. If we could, even if we can even call it it, which I, uh, I, I think it's very questionable, Speaker 1: 00:41 Big changes and how San Diego will vote in this pandemic are reflected in a new voting guide. And youngsters can finally return to playgrounds though. COVID-19 rules are in effect. That's a head on mid day edition. Our top story, the San Diego police officer involved in the fatal shooting downtown of an alleged robber in June has been suspended. Jonathan Lucas is off the job without pay pending an investigation into a mocking photo posted on social media here to discuss these odd developments is KPBS reporter max Riverland Nadler, max. Welcome. Good to be here. We'll start by telling us what happened in June with the shooting of Leonardo Ybarra. Speaker 2: 01:28 So we borrow, it was a wanted in connection with a alleged robbery. Uh, this was at the height of protest against police violence across the country. Uh, officers shot a Barra downtown outside of a supportive housing unit that they apparently recognized him. Ed received a tip and recognized him as he exited, uh, within seconds, literal seconds of approaching him. He pulled something out of his waistband, pointed it towards them. They shot him multiple times. He died on the scene. Um, and what was recovered at the scene was a handgun. Speaker 1: 02:00 And so the shooting, uh, looked, uh, at least the investigation still going on. I know, but the shooting looked like it was, uh, it was up and up, not like a lot of these other shootings we've seen around the country, which were highly questionable. Speaker 2: 02:14 Right. So what was interesting about this was this was a part of a new practice by the San Diego police department to get out body camera footage as quickly as possible. Of course, that varies depending on, you know, necessarily how it lets has the police department look, but the photos and the video was released within 24 hours. And people were able to get a pretty clear look that he bar at that moment did point something at the officers. So, you know, if there is such a thing as a quote unquote justified use of force, um, this would qualify for it under a state law. Speaker 1: 02:47 And so a photo mocking, the makeshift Memorial for Ribeira was posted on Instagram. What did that look like? Speaker 2: 02:53 Yeah, so it was posted on this private Instagram account, uh, that, that did not have the name of the officer attached it, but it was a photo of the vigil that had taken place, um, at the scene where he Bauer was shot and killed, made by his loved ones. And it had a bunch of crying, laughing emojis, as well as a hashtag East side, making fun of something that somebody had written on the vigil. So it was posted by a private individual. Somebody online was able to link to this law enforcement officer because it identified themselves as a police officer and even included a photo of them. Speaker 1: 03:29 And how did it actually come to light? I mean, somebody passed this on to the police department, right? Speaker 2: 03:35 Yeah. Ultimately somebody did pass this on to a bunch of activists in the area. They put it out on social media and eventually wound its way to the police department Speaker 1: 03:43 And chief of police. Uh, David [inaudible] was not happy about the situation. Here's what he said yesterday. This unnecessary act only reopened wounds during an already painful time. I want to assure our community that they do not take these allegations. Lightly officers take an oath to protect and value all life and what our community activists saying about this incident and, uh, the Ibarra family, Speaker 2: 04:09 The Abara family is saying that this is reopening old wounds or fresh wounds really from, from the shooting that happened just, you know, a little over three months ago. Uh, the, the idea that a police officer would take somebody's life and then mock them on, on Instagram kind of reinforces the worst opinions that people have about police officers and how willing they are to use force. That's something I think newsline was really getting at during his press conference yesterday that, you know, basically this is so beyond the pale, in fact, you're seeing much quicker action in relation to this Instagram post than you would in other internal investigations. Cause a lot of what the San Diego police department does in terms of, um, any possible discipline for its members, uh, is always kept secret. So we don't know this is something that obviously there's like wanting to get out in front of and he's choosing to make it public. Speaker 1: 04:59 What other reactions are you seeing on social media for instance, and I'm very curious about police officers, if they're reacting, is the union said anything or is it maybe too soon for that? Speaker 2: 05:09 Yeah, I haven't seen any reaction yet. Obviously when something that [inaudible] was saying was that, you know, this officer is afforded due process. They're going to have a chance to defend themselves community activists. Again are just saying this fits a larger pattern of, of basic disregard for human life, by police officers across the country. Um, and again, whether it's justified or not, um, the, this shooting and whether that is something taking one's life could be justified taking another person's life could be justified. Um, the idea of mocking them and especially the people that love them, uh, is, is something that people can agree is reprehensible at every level. Speaker 1: 05:44 Right? And especially in this time, I mean, given everything that's gone on and the protest and reactions across the country, the other shootings, this, uh, you know, electrified atmosphere surrounding the election, it's just hard to imagine this could surface Speaker 2: 05:58 Like this to what purpose. Yeah, no, it's, it's upsetting. And again, it reinforces the worst, um, kind of opinions that people have of how police officers talk about them amongst themselves. Right? This was a private account. This was these. They had used a pseudonym to identify themselves. They were passing themselves off as kind of a fitness guru for police officers. It was, it was really showing that the police belong to a separate community and not the one that, that exists, you know, for the rest of us, if that's something that police officers want to bridge and law enforcement agrees and that's up in his light and the mayor has said that they, they agree that there needs to be a lot more work done. Um, even today the city announced, uh, you know, changes and, and new panels to look into ways to improve relationships between the community and police, you know, things like this can't happen. Speaker 2: 06:51 Yeah. It's interesting. The timing of that announcement that may have had something to do with this incident. So what happens next? Uh, how will the department proceed if we know, could officer Lucas be fired? Ms. Lake was chief Nez leg was strongly hinting that he would be interested in terminating this officer if, uh, the, these, uh, allegations were substantiated. Of course, he said, there's due process. The union is going to get involved on top of that. California law is very protective of law enforcement officers, especially those who are being disciplined. So, you know, whether the actual proceedings will come to light and whether we'll know the final outcome is entirely up to in his late, um, like he indicated yesterday during his press conference, he seems very interested in making sure the public knows as much about this as possible again, to kind of dispel. What are some of the worst impressions people have of law enforcement? Well, we'll certainly be watching and reporting on what happens next and how this case plays out. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, max rebelling [inaudible] thanks, max. Thank you. Speaker 3: 08:03 And rating last night's first presidential debate. It seems that the American people came out the losers voters, hoping to hear what policies and ideas, separate candidates, Joe Biden, and Donald Trump got to hear insults and interruptions instead Speaker 2: 08:21 [inaudible] we're done. We're done, sir. We're moving onto the next [inaudible] administration tells you the truth. There's a mass of bad ideas have no ideas. And Kiva is a danger gentlemen. We're now moving on to the Trump [inaudible] president. I'm going to ask you a question. Speaker 3: 08:42 The president did not abide by the rules. His campaign agreed upon to allow his opponent to answer questions. And Joe Biden was exasperated enough to tell Trump at one point to shut up moderator Chris Wallace lost control early on, and now many people are wondering if there should even be another presidential debate. Joining me is San Diego state political science professor, Benjamin Gonzalez O'Bryan. And welcome back. Thanks for having me again. Now, when we spoke yesterday in a debate preview, did you ever expect to see anything like the melee last night? Speaker 4: 09:16 Not really based on Trump's past performances, I expected him to be bombastic and perhaps even a little insulting towards Joe Biden, but I didn't expect what we saw last night, which as you mentioned, was a real new low for political debates in this country and was something that was incredibly hard to follow. And I'm not sure there's really much that the American public can take away from that performance on the part of either Joe Biden or Donald Trump. Speaker 3: 09:50 Now as a political science professor, can you figure out what kind of strategy was behind the president's rude, disruptive behavior? Speaker 4: 09:59 The strategy behind it was to try to take Biden off his game and perhaps through the, the interruptions and the talking over Biden regularly, the insults that were directed towards Biden. I think that the, the goal was to try to elicit some kind of emotional reaction from Biden, a burst of anger or something like that. Biden actually seemed pretty well prepared for what Trump brought into the debate. He did. Uh, he did get exasperate exasperated a few times. Uh, he did show a little bit of a temper on a few occasions, but overall he managed to keep his cool, despite the fact that the president was, uh, regularly cutting in when Biden was trying to make a point that, uh, Trump was talking over, but the moderator and Biden, and, you know, we launched a few of his own zingers back at, uh, back at the president either, you know, looking at it, regardless of who you support, it wasn't incredibly ugly debate if we could, even if we can even call it it, which I, uh, I think is very questionable. Speaker 3: 11:02 You know, when we spoke yesterday, you said you thought this debate might be more important for Joe Biden than for the president. How do you think that turned out? Speaker 4: 11:11 I think Biden did what he needed to do. He really couldn't control Trump. That's the job of the moderator and, uh, Chris Wallace lost control pretty early on the exchanges between Wallace and Trump dragged out on a few occasions and Biden did what he needed to do, which was, you know, there were no big gaffs, he didn't stick his foot in his mouth. On many occasions. There were a couple of points in the debate where he lost the thread a little bit, but overall he did exactly what he needed, needed to do, which was to kind of stay the course, uh, hit a few of his talking points. He spoken to the camera on a number of occasions and kind of speaking directly to the American people, which I thought was pretty effective considering everything else was going on. And I didn't see anything that should really change anyone's mind regarding Joe Biden. Uh, it didn't really say anything that's going to probably change many people's minds when it comes to Donald Trump. Speaker 3: 12:06 Did you get any substantive information at all out of this debate? Speaker 4: 12:10 It didn't really a lot of what both candidates said was known going in. I didn't really see anything that was new. There wasn't really any deep discussion and policy, uh, that occurred even those, those instances where there was a little talk about actual policymaking or Trump's record or the environment or anything like that. Everything else that was going on was so completely distracting from those moments. Then I think what's going to stick in the, in the minds of voters are, you know, both how ugly the debate was overall and how it broke with so many established norms of American politics and the history of presidential debates in this country. And also, um, the exchanges around, um, white supremacy towards the end of the debate. Speaker 3: 13:05 Yeah, I was going to say that was one of the headlines that came out of this debate that the president declined to condemn white supremacists. What was your reaction to that? Speaker 4: 13:12 Frankly? I found it both upsetting unpresidential and somewhat disgusting. Uh, he was asked on, uh, with a audience of millions, uh, to condemn a white supremacist groups and he refused to do so. There was a, you know, this odd pause after that, after Wallace asked that question and, you know, there were a few beats where Trump just didn't say anything. And, you know, it's clear that he knows that white supremacist groups are supportive of his presidency and his candidacy. And so he is didn't, didn't seem to want to rush to condemn him, but he ultimately didn't do anything. And that I think was, uh, it was really hard to watch. And it, as you mentioned, it's become the kind of headline post debate that, you know, the president of the United States, who's supposed to represent all Americans refuse to condemn racism and hatred. And that is a really dark day for the presidency. Speaker 4: 14:11 And, uh, was probably one of the most depressing things I've seen in a presidential debate. Now that said, uh, it shouldn't be surprising coming from Trump. He equivocated in the past about, um, when he was asked to this about the supportive David Duke, former a member of the KKK, uh, as well as some of his comments about Charlottesville and the white supremacist, uh, presence in Charlottesville. So it probably shouldn't have been surprising that he refused to condemn white supremacy. But again, I think, you know, if you consider the office and you consider, uh, the past norms that were established, um, you know, this a dog whistle to white supremacist groups, this was a, this was a Bullhorn showing that, uh, the president, uh, supports these groups at some level or at least refuses to condemn them and their beliefs. Now, Speaker 5: 15:03 The president also repeated the false claims Speaker 4: 15:07 Without fraud with mail in ballot. Speaker 5: 15:09 How do you think these statements impact Speaker 4: 15:11 Potential voters? If you're in the position that Trump is in, in terms of the, the polling that we're seeing both out of close States, uh, as well as nationally, uh, you want to plant that seed of doubt about the outcome of the election. And I think that that was the goal, uh, to undermine the results before, you know, the votes have even been counted. And I think that's incredibly dangerous, especially when you're making calls to groups like the proud boys to stand back and stand by encouraging her supporters to go to the polls to ensure voter fraud doesn't occur when you're undermining the results of the election. And when you're encouraging your supporters to try to protect the integrity of the election. On the one hand, it could demobilize certain groups of voters at both having large crowds of Trump supporters. As we've seen in places like Virginia outside of polling places could be seen as voter intimidation. Speaker 4: 16:10 Uh, it could lead some to believe that even if they do vote that their vote won't matter because of perhaps a delays in mail, mailing, boating, and, uh, deliveries by the United States postal service. And I think that that narrative is to a certain extent, um, meant to kind of tamp down, turn out. There are two more presidential debates scheduled. Do you think they'll happen? And should they happen? I'm not sure they should happen at this point. Um, what we saw last night, uh, didn't do anything to deepen our understanding of either candidates positions on really important policies, uh, or even, you know, the, the future path of this nation. I've been speaking with San Diego state political science Speaker 5: 16:56 Professor, Benjamin Gonzalez O'Brian. And thank you. Speaker 4: 17:00 Thank you for having me. Speaker 5: 17:10 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 17:19 You're listening to KPBS mid day edition. I'm Mark Sauer with Maureen Kavanaugh. It normally takes years to make significant changes to voting procedures in San Diego County, but like so much else these days, the COVID-19 pandemic acts as an accelerant. A lot of changes to voting rules have quickly been made for the November 3rd general election here. And I knew source investigative reporter, Mary Plummer is here to explain what's new and what's behind it all. Hi Mary. Hi Mark. Well, I knew source published a voter's guide. And in that guide, you described quote, massive changes. Voters will see as they vote by mail or head to polling places throughout San Diego County and start with those mail in ballots. Everybody's getting one, right? And the vast majority are going to vote by mail here. Speaker 6: 18:03 That's correct. Um, really a lot of changes coming up for voters. This election, um, traditionally in San Diego County, roughly three quarters of all voters cast their ballots, uh, via the mail. But this year, uh, due to the pandemic a lot is changing. And one of the changes is that all registered voters will now automatically receive a vote by mail ballots without having to specifically request them. Um, if you're already, what's called a, um, permanent vote by mail voter, this will feel pretty similar to business's usual. You'll still get your ballot, but for those who aren't, um, don't be surprised when a ballot shows up in your mailbox. Um, all of those ballots start going out next week. Speaker 1: 18:45 Now give us the nuts and bolts of voting by mail. What key rules does everyone need to be aware of? Speaker 6: 18:51 Uh, so you should fill out your ballot using a dark pen, ideally, a pen with blue or black ink, uh, avoid pencils. Um, if you need help voting, there are a lot of resources for those who need assistance or may have a disability. We have a link to where you can find that at our website, uh, that is I knew source.org. Keep in mind that you can get this help at home. It's not just for those who vote in person. Postage is paid. That's another tip. The returned envelopes don't need stamps. Um, if you would rather not mail in your ballot, you can give it to a trusted friend or family member to return it for you. There is a spot on the envelope where you can designate that you give permission. You can also visit I'm one of more than a hundred drop off locations around the County. The County has expanded this program. Um, we have a link to those drop off locations in our voters guide. And really the big key here is the deadline. Um, all ballots need to be postmarked by election day. That is November 3rd for this election ballots can arrive up to 17 days after the election. Typically it's just three. That's a change that state lawmakers made due to the pandemics. So there is more time for your ballots to arrive, but they've got to be postmarked by November 3rd. Speaker 1: 20:09 And I want to get into that in a second, but the I new source voting guide has a couple of really handy things. A map of polling places in the County, and a quick link to check your registration status, which I went on and did this morning and turns out I'm registered as I was fully confident about, but it's good to see it there in black and white. Tell us the rules regarding registering for those who still need to register. Speaker 6: 20:31 Uh, the deadline to register to vote is October 19th. That is really a key deadline. If you want to automatically receive a ballot in the mail, as we've been talking about, um, for most people, this will be the easiest method. So remember that deadline is October. Um, it is a good idea to check your registration as you did today. Um, keep in mind that if you've moved recently, you need to update your voter registration. Um, and lastly, I should note that California now has same day voter registration, so you can register at any time, but if you do miss that October 19th deadline, you will need to cast a provisional ballot. Uh, that means that election officials will verify that you're eligible to vote before counting your ballot. Um, so now is a good time, you know, check your registration, uh, before the October 19th deadline, Speaker 1: 21:21 Getting back to that extended counting period, I saw on a recent news story, California takes the longest to count votes and report results among the States. Talk a bit about why that is and why we all need to be patient as November 3rd comes and goes Speaker 6: 21:35 In recent years, California has been among the slowest States to count ballots. And this year we're really facing unprecedented changes to the election system, uh, experts and folks who monitor voting trends say, it's likely this will slow things down even further. Um, your listeners may remember that during the midterm elections, we had several congressional races in Southern California that were too close to call and took weeks of vote counting before the winner was clear. Um, this election is likely that we'll have even larger numbers of people voting by mail. And the time that ballots will be accepted, as I mentioned, has been extended to 17 days after the election. All of these factors are likely to slow down the count. Um, so voters should be prepared that not just nationally, but especially here in California, the results may not be immediately clear. It takes time to count votes here in California. Speaker 1: 22:28 And let's talk about those who want to vote in person, relatively few people. I, I see, but what's different about this election, about where people can vote and what to expect there. Speaker 6: 22:39 Uh, one of the, the big changes for this election is that the number of physical polling locations is dropping drastically, uh, because of the pandemic. Just to give you an idea, uh, in San Diego County, during the merge primary, there were nearly 1600 polling locations for this election. We'll have just 235 locations. So just 235 down from 1600, it's a huge change. Um, they are calling the polling locations this year, super polls, the County registrar, Michael VU told me that they'll have paid staff and more poll workers than normal to help voters. Um, for the most part, they will also be in larger physical spaces compared to prior years. They'll also be open longer. Uh, the super polls will be open Friday through Tuesday instead of just election day. So that's October 31st through November 3rd. You know, other changes masks. Certainly there are precautions in place for the pandemic. Mass are absolutely encouraged. Um, but accommodations can be made if they're requested, if for some reason you can't or don't want to wear one. I also to mention that if you can't get to your assigned polling location, you can vote at any super poll location around the County. Speaker 1: 23:52 Let's hear from Michael BU the registrar voters on the thought behind the in person changes. We don't want a crowding to occur. Uh, we want to be able to serve voters in a very efficient manner as well. That's why we have so many check-in stations and so many more voting booze. Now, based on your interview with voodoo, you expect a long lines at certain polling places on November 3rd. Speaker 6: 24:16 I think voters should approach voting in person knowing that a lot is really unknown for this election. We have never conducted an election quite like this before there are new safety precautions in place due to COVID. Um, it's, it's certainly possible that lines could be quite long. Uh, you want to check, you know, where you're headed to vote before you head out. And if you can vote by mail, um, election officials are encouraging folks to do so, because so much is unknown about how, you know, voting in person will play out this year. Speaker 1: 24:48 Donald Trump has made false claims that they're sure to be massive fraud with so many Americans voting by mail during this pandemic. What is the message remoters here who might be worried about whether there's potential for voting for us? Speaker 6: 25:01 I talked with County registrar, Michael VU about this, and he is reassuring voters that the process is safe. Uh, San Diego County has never experienced widespread or systematic voter fraud. Uh, in our voter guide, we have links to a lot of resources if you want to do additional research on this, on your own, but I can tell you that, you know, nationally as well, the claims of widespread voter fraud have been debunked. Speaker 1: 25:26 And you'll also find a link to the new source voting guide on our website, kpbs.org, and look for the KPBS voting guide to go live. Next Monday, October 5th, I've been speaking with a new source reporter, Mary Plummer. Thanks Mary. Thank you. Speaker 6: 25:53 If the state forgot that playgrounds had been closed for the last six months, KPBS reminded them. The result is playgrounds are reopening here in San Diego and across the state, regardless of the COVID tear. Each County is in kids and families are celebrating and epidemiologists say playing outdoors in a playground should be safer than many indoor activities. Joining me is KPBS investigative reporter, Claire Tresor and Claire. Welcome. Thank you so much. It was your original story that got people wondering why there were no plans for reopening playgrounds. What brought that story to your attention? Well, uh, I have a three year old at home who was frequently reminding me that playgrounds were closed the park by our house. You know, we shut down for a little bit, the beginning of the pandemic and then open back up. But everywhere we went, uh, there was caution tape and even a roadblock sign, like chain linked to the top of the slide at our park. And so, you know, after it seemed like, okay, you know, they're opening things, they're opening this, they're opening that why aren't they opening playgrounds? And he, he was asking and I said, you know what, I'm going to find out. Um, and I think that was actually his first understanding of sort of what I do for work, that I ask people questions and find out. So, uh, I owe it all to him, this story. Speaker 3: 27:20 So you found out that there were no plans in the works to reopen playgrounds Speaker 6: 27:26 Pretty much. Um, you know, we had the tier system, we had, these indoor activities can be open when we reach this tier, this tier and nowhere on there was playgrounds. And so I asked the state department of public health and they said, basically parks, when they reopened parks, they issued new guidelines and those guidelines included that playgrounds were closed, but that meant that there would never be a time that they would reopen because parks were open, but in those opening of parks, playgrounds were closed. And, you know, I kept asking saying, is there a point where this will change and they kind of wouldn't really answer that. Um, and so, yeah, that's, that's what I found. Speaker 3: 28:07 What did medical experts tell you about the safety of allowing playgrounds to open up again? Speaker 6: 28:12 Well, I think that, you know, early on when we didn't understand as much about COVID-19, there was more concern about surfaces, where people were, you know, spraying their groceries with Lysol and wiping things down. Um, and as, as we've learned more, we found that it's really spread through breathing, talking, being inside. Um, and so I interviewed a epidemiologist, Rebecca fielding Miller who's at UCLA. And she said, you know, now that we know more, it really shouldn't be that indoor activities are open, but then playgrounds are closed. So here's what she told me. Speaker 3: 28:49 If it's safe to go to a restaurant that's serving beer where you can hang out inside and drink with your friends and linger for several hours, it is certainly safe for your kid to go down and slide. Okay. So that's pretty clear. Now your story got the attention of assembly woman, Lorena Gonzalez, and what happened after that? Speaker 6: 29:05 Right. So I asked her, um, you know, do you know, is there anything happening at the state? And she said, you're right. And it was especially important to her because she represents, you know, parts of the region that a lot of people live in apartments. Um, maybe don't even have a backyard or a place to go outside. And so those playgrounds are even more important for those families. And so she wrote a letter right away to governor Gavin Newsome, asking, not for him to reopen them, but just to have a plan, you know, what's the plan for reopening. And then she again, wrote another letter and had it signed by a bipartisan of state representatives to the governor. And, uh, about a week after that, uh, some new guidance came down. So even though playgrounds are reopening, they won't be returning to pre pandemic normal. Speaker 6: 29:54 So what's the new normal, what are the new playground rules and regulations, right? So, um, there's, there's a few of them, everyone, age two and up must wear a face mask, which I know people who don't have kids think that that sounds crazy, but I promise you my three year old wears a face mask all day at preschool, and he's fine with it. Um, and then different households should keep six feet apart. And, um, if a playground is too crowded and you think, okay, you know, we can't really be on this and stay six feet apart, then you should come back later. And to go along with that, they're saying that families should limit their visits to 30 minutes. If there are other people there to give people a chance and the no eating or drinking on the playground, um, and wash hands before and after, and then obviously parents or caregivers need to be supervising children to make sure they follow these rules. Speaker 6: 30:45 And then, um, there's also a list of rules for the people who provide the playground. So whether it's the city or the County or whatever it is, and that's just increasing the cleaning, um, they want them to provide hand washing stations or sanitizer, um, and to post the maximum number of children allowed to help people kind of make those decisions about social distancing and then the max maximum occupancy of each place structure for this, those same reasons. Well, now mayor Faulkner says that all San Diego playgrounds should be open by this Friday. And I wanna thank KPBS investigative reporter, Claire Traeger, sir. Thank you, Claire. Thank you. This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Mark Sauer. Some visual artists and photo journalists are not just drawing inspiration from California's spectacular landscapes, but also from the States increasingly destructive wildfires. There's an exhibit at the California museum of photography in Riverside. It's called facing fire art wildlife, and the end of nature and the new West. The exhibit opened for a short while before the pandemic. And it's going to reopen next month. Reporters, Stephen Koivess went to check it out Speaker 5: 32:14 In 2017. The three story home she shared with her family burned to the ground in the ferocious Atlas peak fire from those ashes with black gloves covering her hands. She plucked the materials used to construct a deeply personal work. There's a Madonna or the top of a Madonna doorknobs. Some spoons veterans Southern California photographer. Douglas McCullough is the curator of the facing fire exhibit Speaker 7: 32:42 Out these things, Speaker 5: 32:43 Which for her really not objects, they're actually memories. And she set that on a black glove Speaker 7: 32:52 And she took a photo with the only camera that she had that survived, which was her iPhone. So there's an entire wall of iPhone photos of burned objects that she sifted out of her destroyed studio in house. Speaker 5: 33:05 Most of these artists and photo journalists created work reacting to fire, but Texas space sculptor and a mayor deliberately collaborated with fire for a series called fistful of fear. In 2008, she shaped 12 ceramic slabs, each one in grade with a different inscription, but instead of firing the pieces, the traditional way in a kiln, she carried the unfired ceramics into a potential fire Speaker 8: 33:31 In Oh eight. I placed them in the canyons in and around Malibu so that they might eventually be fired by a wildfire Speaker 5: 33:42 10 years after the ceramic pieces replaced the 2018 Woolsey fire swept through the Kenyans destroying hundreds of homes. Some of the ceramic pieces were also lost to the fire, but six survived. Speaker 8: 33:56 I felt really sick about it over the decade. I, I never wished for fire. Um, and the way that the project lived during that time was as a conceptual gesture. So it just kind of lived in people's imaginations. Yeah, it's complicated, but I really wasn't ever wishing for fire. And it actually took awhile before. I really started thinking about what it meant now that there were these objects that had been fired. Speaker 7: 34:27 I've been working with fires since 2006 and they've gotten worse every year. My name is Samantha Fields. I'm a painter living in Los Angeles. Um, I'm a professor at California state university Northridge, and I have three large paintings and 44 small paintings in the show. And the paintings are acrylic on canvas. I paint atmosphere with atmosphere. Speaker 5: 34:49 What if Samantha Fields is larger? Paintings was shot during a nasty brush fire that broke out at the edge of magic mountain. The canvas captures the moment that a little boy riding his bicycle stopped to watch the flames lick at the hem of the parks. Skyscraping roller coasters. Speaker 7: 35:06 You know, this child's the future. So this is the person that's going to be dealing with the ramifications of climate change and drought and heat waves and all of these different things that we deal with Speaker 5: 35:17 Fields also includes a series of tightly framed, six square inch canvases that focus on minute details of about 32 different California wildfires. The pieces mimic the hazy hallucinogenic effect experienced when in the midst of a wildfire, Speaker 7: 35:33 They moved to this kind of small square format because of the language use. When we describe Speaker 9: 35:38 Fire containment, the fires 80% contained, do you know, et cetera, Speaker 7: 35:42 Fire is an elemental force that humanity is directly linked with, Speaker 8: 35:47 Again, facing fire curator, Douglas, Speaker 7: 35:50 Other elemental forces. You could list like an earthquake or a flood or tornado. The difference is you can't like let a hurricane loose, right? But we can cause a fire mankind has this link with fire, um, as an elemental force, that is somehow beyond all these others. We are enabled by fire. We're created by fire Speaker 8: 36:15 Facing fire art wildfire, and the end of nature in the new West reopens next month at the California museum of photography in Riverside, it'll run through early 2021 with social distancing measures in place for the California report. I'm Steven crevasse in Los Angeles. Speaker 7: 36:35 On the third episode of rad scientists, season three, host Margo wall introduces us to an ecologist who grew up in Oceanside, but made her way to the university of Georgia, where she studies a relative of the pesky stinkbug Speaker 9: 36:49 Kelly Arnold. Now a PhD student at the university of Georgia grew up right outside camp Pendleton. Speaker 8: 36:56 I'm the Southern California girl. Speaker 9: 37:01 She says that growing up around so many diverse habitats, the ocean, the desert, the mountains, got her interested in studying biology, which she did at the university of Redlands, just East of LA. But when she got back home, she wasn't quite sure what to do next Speaker 8: 37:17 And decide what I want to do. If I want to go to grad school, sort of figure out my life. I was like a fresh 22 year old out of college. Speaker 9: 37:24 So she volunteered at the San Diego zoo. It's here that she learned about the field of wildlife disease science. After a one year master's program at Tulane, she decided to dig deeper by pursuing a doctorate, Speaker 8: 37:37 A little story, how I went from San Diego County all the way up to Georgia. Speaker 9: 37:45 Well Kelly's school is in Georgia. She does a critical part of her research in Panama, where she stays in Panama city. Speaker 8: 37:53 Cool mix of like, you know, like a city I'm used to, but then like surrounded by like tropical animal around. Like, I would see like sloths, like outside of my apartment and like monkeys, like coming through Palm trees everywhere. Speaker 9: 38:08 And those Palm trees are where her research subjects live way up in the crowns. Speaker 8: 38:16 We had a big ladder. Um, and then one of us would climb up kind of like hack at the Palm tree and to try to like pull away the fronds and like the lead. Speaker 9: 38:25 There was only one small problem with this scenario. Speaker 8: 38:28 I'm afraid of Heights. I only did it like a few times. I kind of like, let my lab mate do it a little more. Okay. So mostly Speaker 9: 38:36 Kaylee's research partner used the ladder and once they pulled away the frons they'd set the trap, nothing too fancy. Speaker 8: 38:44 It's just the TN of a PVC pipe. Speaker 9: 38:47 And they would cut holes in the pipe so that they're tiny squeaky bait. A mouse could breathe on the outside of the pipe. They put double stick tape, the CO2 and other mousey odors waft out of the traps, like pie on a window sale. So who are these blood sucking creatures that will follow the scent trail? The creatures that Kelly flies to Panama climbs up a tree to retrieve against her own body. Speaker 8: 39:16 Please they're called kissing bugs. Speaker 9: 39:19 Oh, that sounds nice. Speaker 8: 39:20 They actually get their name because they tend to bite kind of near people's like mouths or eyes. Oh. Typically people would get bit while they're sleeping. Speaker 9: 39:32 Okay. Um, probably won't get worse, right? Speaker 8: 39:35 Feed on this mammal, the human that will, uh, deprecate so poop on the mammal. Um, didn't expect that a parasite is found in the feces. Speaker 9: 39:46 Okay. Well, I'm starting to love these bugs. Speaker 8: 39:51 There's kind of like a little open wound from them feeding. And then what typically happens is that maybe someone will scratch or the animal were scratch and then they'll get the feces into their bloodstream. And then they become infected. Speaker 9: 40:07 This parasite that is passed from mammo to kissing bug to mammal causes what is known as Chagas disease. It's a neglected tropical disease and it mostly affects people in central and South America. And it's a really strange parasite because it can live in the body for years, without someone knowing it, it usually manifests like 20 to 30 years after infection and it can cause severe heart disease. And as Kelly said, the parasite lives in the guts of these unassuming Brown kissing bugs, but it's something else that lives in kissing bug guts that interest Caley bacteria, just like humans, insects have a microbiome, Speaker 8: 40:52 A combination of three, four, you know, tens of thousands, millions of bacteria, all kind of like working together. Speaker 9: 40:58 And there can be many different species of bacteria living in guts. Sometimes the diversity itself, the number of different kinds of species can impact an organism like the kissing bug, Speaker 8: 41:11 A more diverse gut typically means that the individuals healthier and then maybe less susceptible to parasites coming in and invading them. Speaker 9: 41:20 So if microbiome diversity is a key component of the kissing bugs ability to Harbor and transmit the parasite understanding conditions that might contribute to this diversity will be very important. Speaker 8: 41:36 I'm looking to understand if deforestation or any other variables associated with deforestation has an impact on this diversity of the gut bacteria. Speaker 9: 41:47 This question takes Kelly to different regions in Panama. Some that are pristine forest and others that only have a few trees, places where trees have been felled for agriculture or urbanization. And here's what she found Speaker 8: 42:04 Kissing bugs that we collected in our force of areas, um, have a greater overall like gut bacteria diversity versus in the pasture areas. I am finding that the overall gut bacteria diversity is lower. Speaker 9: 42:19 This made sense to Kaylee because the kissing bugs in the more forested areas have a wider range of animals to feed off of which could increase the species of bacteria. They ingest kissing bugs and more forested areas also seem to be infected less with the parasite. So it can be difficult to prove causality between all of these links. Sometimes all we know is that they go together and then we weave together the most likely scenario until we can test causality by changing just one factor in the equation and seeing what happens. Scientists like to say further research is needed, but this has been difficult recently, you know, because of coven, Kaley actually had to cancel a trip to Panama, to study kissing bugs in the lab to test some of those ideas. Instead she's had to continue her thesis without that data Speaker 8: 43:14 Kind of in the process of adjusting one of my dissertation chapters to basically just like compensate for the fact that I'm not going to have this experimental data Speaker 9: 43:23 Ecologists like Kaley, botanist, animal behaviorist, all sorts of scientists, conduct research outdoors in the field assets called. And that's been tough for some because of COVID derailing the research, but doing outdoor work, especially in the States has always been a challenge for black sign. Speaker 8: 43:45 Academia is not necessarily a safe space for black people. Um, you know, the outdoors is like not always a safe space for black people and we need to talk about it so that we can change it Speaker 1: 44:01 To hear more about how Kaylee along with other black scientists started an online movement to reclaim the outdoors, listen to our full episode, just search for red scientist and your favorite podcast app.