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Dems Praise Biden But Urge More Progressive Agenda

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Above: An undated illustration of President Joe Biden.

President Joe Biden outlined a bold economic agenda during his first major address to Congress, earning praise from fellow Democrats but many in the party are urging the president to pursue more ambitious progressive policies in office. The Republicans, however, attacked Biden’s agenda as too expensive and too socialist. Plus, marine scientists say they have found what they believe to be more than 25,000 barrels that possibly contain DDT dumped off the Southern California coast near Catalina Island. Also, the Children’s Zoo is set to reopen at the San Diego Zoo and its new hummingbird and komodo dragon exhibits highlight the latest in technology and species management. And, a look at medical tourism, which is booming right now. First, the tragic story of a California woman who died on a Tijuana operating table after crossing the border for a cosmetic procedure. Then, our “Port of Entry” podcast is beginning a series on medical tourism, starting with the story of a San Diego woman who crosses the border for alternative cancer treatments.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The biggest takeaways from Biden's first address to a joint session.

Speaker 2: 00:04 As we opened the economy safely, that we also are addressing and making critical investments in our country.

Speaker 1: 00:10 I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS midday edition will Biden's legislative agenda get bi-partisan support

Speaker 3: 00:29 On the infrastructure bill. The Democrats have Peppa, a pretty big bill there. The Democrats, the Republicans came back with one substantially smaller, and maybe they can meet somewhere in the middle and get something done

Speaker 1: 00:40 And details on a newly discovered toxic dump site off the coast. Plus the pros and cons of crossing the border for medical procedures. That's ahead on midday edition and his first major address to Congress. President Biden outlined a bold economic agenda while assuring the nation that America is on its way out of the Corona virus pandemic

Speaker 3: 01:12 100 days of rescuing renewal. America's ready for a takeoff. In my view, we're working again, dream meet again, discovered again, and leading the world again.

Speaker 1: 01:26 And while fellow Democrats in particular praise the president's calls to action and addressing climate change and economic inequality, many in the party are urging Biden to pursue more ambitious, progressive policy. While in office joining me to discuss the democratic reaction to the president's address is chair of the San Diego County democratic party will Rodriguez Kennedy. Well

Speaker 2: 01:48 Welcome. Thank you for having me. What was your

Speaker 1: 01:50 Initial reaction to the president's speech?

Speaker 2: 01:53 I think it is quite the change from the last time we had a president, uh, addressed a joint session of Congress. It was historic in many ways. I just, from the beginning, noting that we had two Californians and two women occupying the two top seats, uh, as the speaker and the vice president, but generally it's a, it was a hopeful vision for the country. Although, you know, we, as a party are going to be wanting to push for more,

Speaker 1: 02:17 A lot of ground was covered in yesterday's address. What do you think were the most critical issues that the president brought up

Speaker 2: 02:23 President is looking to build back better? Which means he wants to make sure that as we get through the, uh, the recovery and that as we opened the economy safely, that we also are addressing and making critical investments in our country from looking at, uh, sort of economic investments, uh, to the family, to make sure that we can make broad investments into infrastructure and also addressing several reforms that have not been addressed. Things like immigration and, and police reform

Speaker 1: 02:49 His campaign for the presidency Biden often referred to as moderate political alignment as an advantage in pursuing bi-partisan legislative efforts. Did you hear any messaging in this speech that would signal an effort to work with Republicans across the aisle on some of that, that you mentioned?

Speaker 2: 03:05 Yes. Uh, the president made reference to productive conversations that are happening in the us Senate with the Republican caucus. Democrats have caused to be skeptical. Uh, Republicans have been obstructionist in the past and have failed, uh, when they had a majority in the Senate to address the economic and even health flows of this country. Um, but it does look like the administration is working in good faith to try and get the, bring some of the Republicans, uh, along, uh, whether or not they will be good faith partners as the senators are now starting to position themselves for their own political presidential runs. You know, you have to treat it with some skepticism.

Speaker 1: 03:40 And yesterday the president urged Congress to pass a police reform bill by the end of may, which would Mark one year since George Floyd died at the hands of police, do you think the president is setting the right tone and addressing issues of racial injustice in America?

Speaker 2: 03:55 I would say that it is a great thing for him to set a deadline and to want to honor the tragic anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. I am skeptical that Republicans will take this issue and work in good faith. I think that a lot of the things that we will run up against in terms of big policies like these like criminal justice reform, which is a very complex issue that needs to be addressed, we'll run into the fact that the Senate is 50 50. And so I think it will be difficult for the president to achieve anything without ending the filibuster, which is one of the proposals of our California Senator Alex Videa

Speaker 1: 04:30 Last night, Biden really leaned into tackling white supremacy and systemic racism. And during the Republican rebuttal, however, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, was very critical of it,

Speaker 4: 04:41 That people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven't made any progress at all. By doubling down on the divisions, we've worked so hard to heal, you know, this stuff that's wrong. Hear me clearly, America is not a racist country,

Speaker 1: 04:59 A lot to unpack there. What are your thoughts on that claim by Senator Scott?

Speaker 2: 05:04 I am hesitant to engage in, um, criticisms of, of, of black leaders who are, who are making, uh, who are speaking their truth from their perspective. What I will say is that it is a pretty objective fact that there is provable systemic racism in the United States, and that we have to, as a country address that systemic racism. And we saw that and things as evident as the COVID-19 pandemic, where communities of color, particularly the black and Latino communities suffered and died at greater rates than they're quite fellow Americans. We know that the criminal justice system has a disproportionate impact and disproportionate treatments of black and Latino Americans and API Americans. So it's a pretty objective fact that there is systemic racism in the United States. And I would agree with the president that we need to address it and address it soon. You know, the president

Speaker 1: 05:53 Also laid out and American jobs plan, the American family, the $1.8 trillion price tag that comes with it is something Republican say raises concern for them. Um, what's your argument as to why this money should be spent this way?

Speaker 2: 06:07 I think it's very interesting that the Republicans, you routinely talk about things like spending when they are out of office, but they added a normous amount to the national debt. The reality is, is that we, as a country can spend beyond our means for a short while and that that spending can stimulate the economy. And then in the end allows us to address the debt in a reasonable timeframe. The United States has a very strong economy, the strongest economy in the world. And therefore we can afford to make investments that pay off in the future and the Republican party, which is the party of business and the party of economics and financial conservatism or whatever. They should understand the concept of investments. And if they don't understand that, then they're being intellectually dishonest.

Speaker 1: 06:51 What's the strategy to get this agenda from legislation to law, for the Biden administration. What do you think will be key to get this through the Senate?

Speaker 2: 07:00 Well, a lot of these issues are very popular. If you look on an, on an issue by issue, uh, whether it's investing in infrastructure, whether it's investing in the family. And these are going to give you talking points that are very popular, particularly in red and purple, uh, Senate districts. So I think the initial approach is that the by the Biden administration is going to try and pull off some of the moderate Republican senators to support a broad, uh, agenda that will be popular with the American people. Um, if that is not the case, however, I would not put it past, uh, moving to filibuster reform, which will allow the Democrats to pass a legislation into law with a 50 50, uh, plus one majority which allows our, uh, vice-president and California native Kamala Harris to cast a series of tie-breaking votes. So I think those are the two approaches that the administration will take towards legislation.

Speaker 1: 07:51 I've been speaking with will Rodriguez Kennedy chair of the San Diego County democratic party will thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 2: 07:58 Thank you for having me

Speaker 1: 08:04 After president Biden, outlined expansive plans on jobs, infrastructure, and the American family and his speech to Congress last night, Republican Senator Tim Scott provided the GOP response.

Speaker 4: 08:16 President Biden promised you a specific kind of leadership. He promised to United nation to lower the temperature to govern for all Americans. No matter how we voted, this was the pitch. You just heard it again, but our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes. We need policies and progress that brings us closer together. But three months in the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further

Speaker 1: 08:47 Other Republicans attack the broad strokes of Biden's agenda as too expensive and too socialist. But the president did critics and olive

Speaker 5: 08:56 Branch. When he said last night, he was outlining his policies as a first step toward engaging in honest negotiations, with those who disagree and may be able to bring better ideas to the table. So the question is, will Republicans engage in good faith to make policy with the Biden administration? And do they have any better ideas joining me to discuss that is Republican strategists, Bob Schumann, Bob, welcome to the program. Thank you. Thanks for having me now as a longtime political observer, what did you think of the president's speech last night?

Speaker 3: 09:27 You know, in, in my profession, you look at things sometimes a little bit differently than, than someone else. And so you, you look at the presentation itself and the, you look at the optics of it, and then you look at the substance of it. And I think all three were kind of bad. You know, we've seen president Biden in the past, not the recent past, but in the past, we pretty fiery and pretty motivational and pretty inspirational. And last night he was just kind of monotone and kind of flat for the most part. And, and part of that may have to do with not being much of a crowd there. Well, the Epic part will look great was the vice president and the speaker of the house, both women for the first time sitting back there, that was pretty cool. But when they pan the gallery and there, he had everybody socially distance wearing masks, uh, after, you know, a pretty large drive to give people confidence in the backseat. And I think that sent kind of a mixed message, uh, because they were all vaccinated yet. They were still wearing masks and socially distance. And so it not sure that was the best option, but I don't know what their other options might have been either. Finally, the substance of it. I think you hit it when you said expansive. It is really big and it's, you know, it's higher taxes. It's much more spending, uh, more government in our lives, uh, kind of across the board.

Speaker 5: 10:49 What did you hear in Biden's speech that you think Republicans might be able to work on with Democrats?

Speaker 3: 10:56 You want me to take a step back? Both parties kind of do the same thing when they win. Even by the narrowest of margins, they think they have a mandate and they tend to overreach. And typically then what happens is the party not in power, puts up a bill that is substantially smaller than the one that was put up. And they, they sit together and they kind of work it out and they figure out where they have common ground and that's kind of where they end up going. But that hasn't been the pattern under the, at least the last two presidents. Hopefully they can do that. They can get together. I know that on the infrastructure bill, the Democrats have have a pretty big bill there. The demo, the Republicans came back with one substantially smaller, and maybe they can meet somewhere in the middle and get something done.

Speaker 5: 11:41 You think that's what is going to take to get both sides working together again, to pass laws that help the American people?

Speaker 3: 11:48 Yeah, I mean, that's their jobs and I think both sides want to do it. I, I think that what's, what's changed in recent history is that both parties used to want this same goal. They wanted the same thing. Everybody wanted, you know, full employment without inflation. They wanted everybody to get the best education possible. They just disagreed on how you get there. But now we don't even necessarily agree on what we want America to look like. And I think that's really the crux of the problem that we're going through right now. And I, I think it's something we'll work through and something we'll get through, but that's the biggest problem right now is whole different vision of what we are.

Speaker 5: 12:25 Okay. So even though Americans remain deeply divided politically, it seems that president Biden's polling remains above 50% approval and it seems Americans are becoming more disenchanted with the Trump legacy as his approval rating is going down. Is this a political problem for the Trump loyalists in the GOP?

Speaker 3: 12:46 That's a little hard to tell us a little early to tell, but with Biden's numbers, the real clear politics summary, uh, is at 43%. And that's the second lowest number a hundred days in since 1945. So he's not wildly popular, but I do think it's reflective of where we are as a country. And I'm not surprised that Trump's numbers are slipping. He's not been in the public eye very much and other others are stepping forward as potential presidential candidates. And I think as that happens, uh, and people start to think a little bit about who they may want their leader to be next time around. It's only natural that he would slip.

Speaker 5: 13:26 Speaking of polling here in California, Gavin Newsome's poll numbers are steady or actually improving. It looks like winning a recall will be an uphill battle. How much time and money do you think is the GOP willing to put into this recall?

Speaker 3: 13:42 You know, I don't really know. I think they'll put in the time, but I think you hit the kind of the weak point, which may be the money. Uh, even, even as Gavin Newsome has recalled. There's a very good chance that a different Democrat will win to replace him the way that it's set up and typically, and recalls the motivation is much more with those who want to remove the governor as opposed to those who want to keep on, but the Republicans have a real uphill battle trying to take it. We don't have a superstar. I think we have some solid candidates, but you know, we're just going to have to wait and see what happens.

Speaker 5: 14:19 I think you're right about that. I've been speaking with the Republican strategist, Bob Schuman, Bob, thank you so much.

Speaker 3: 14:25 Thank you. Appreciate it.

Speaker 5: 14:32 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade. Heinemann a decades long suspicion that barrels of DDT had been dumped off. The coast of Catalina Island is now closer to being proven. DDT has been banned as a pesticide for agricultural use in the U S for nearly 50 years. But environmentalist say the dumping may have gone on for years before the ban scientists from scripts have captured images that resemble more than 25,000 barrels of suspected DDT waste on acres of sea floor, between Catalina and Los Angeles. High amounts of DDT contamination have been found in the regions, ocean sediments and Marine mammals for years. But this is the first time that the exact location and extent of the dumping has been discovered. Journey may as Eric Terrell, he's chief scientist of the expedition and director of the Marine physical laboratory at Scripps institution of oceanography. Eric, welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. How did you conduct this search on the sea floor?

Speaker 6: 15:37 So we used robotic tools, which really would not have been even available 10 years ago to try to conduct this type of survey where, um, these autonomous underwater vehicles were able to be launched and recovered from our research vessel Sally ride and Sally ride actually provided very high precise navigation signals down to these robots as they were conducting the surveys using a sonar technique called side scan, sonar and side scan. Sonar is a type of imaging sonar that's really advanced through the years. And in this case, we were looking to the right and the left of each vehicle out to 150 meters down to, you know, tens of centimeters of object detection scale. So we, we had, uh, no objects as small as a coffee cup, but that's in CMSE bed with tools like this. And I want to say, and we saw coffee cups out there. I'm just trying to give you a perspective of the size of objects that we could actually detect with this type of sonar.

Speaker 5: 16:35 What kind of images did you see?

Speaker 6: 16:38 First activity we did was really to get on station? Well, um, there were some known barrels and began mapping it with the summer and, you know, the, the sheer numbers that we began seeing in the data, um, you know, indicated that there was barrels located there and have the shape and dementia. And the acoustic brightness associated with the barrels, you know, really was first pulled us whole. We need to make sure sonar is working properly. So we had to, uh, do some various calibration and, you know, convinced her. So listen, I was working right, there's this, this many barrels on the seabed and the quarter of the two weeks, a story began to unravel of the full spatial extent of the debris field, uh, that, you know, went on for, you know, the dumping from the historical records, which went over for decades, you know, seemed to be concerned, concerned by the data that we saw

Speaker 5: 17:30 And how wide an area are we talking about?

Speaker 6: 17:33 So one of the unique features of the dumpsite while we know debris field dumping, not only just by the acoustic targets, is that they have brains that are distributed on the seabed and in linear fashion, you know, consistent with a ship underway, copying things, um, as it's sailing along and some of those, uh, kind of fields that are our long linear features, you know, extended up to 11 miles a like

Speaker 5: 18:00 Now the barrels you discovered seemed likely to have contained a DDT, but you're still not sure is that right?

Speaker 6: 18:08 Well, I think first and foremost for the public, it's really important to realize like this dump site was used for a lot of industrial purposes. So we don't know what's inside these barrels because one example of that historical document in 1949, where, you know, barrels send the Montrose chemical corporation, which was the producer of DDT in the LA basin had dumped 20,000 barrels during that year or that salvage company dumped 20,000 barrels down. But the petrochemical industry in the same area, also the same salvage company dumped, you know, an excess of 140,000 barrels. So, so it's, yeah, as a scientist, we gotta be very careful how we project our data and what the nuances are of it. And, you know, kind of my message to the, to the public is there's a lot of barrels on the seabed, more than likely there was some faction of those have DDT or were associated with a DDT manufacturing, but there was a lot of other industrial uses. And we just don't know what's contained within all those barrels.

Speaker 5: 19:12 Do you know if this side could possibly be cleaned up,

Speaker 6: 19:18 You know, that, that, that would be a stretch for me to extrapolate at this point. What we're hopeful for is knowing where to look on the C4, because we know we're 13 days, we're able to kind of unravel the full extent of the debris field and what we need to do next is start conducting scientific studies. You know, I think there's a whole of government and a whole eScience community response here. It's really required to go after understanding the, the impacts and condition of the waste field and how that might be impacting the environment.

Speaker 5: 19:52 What's it like for a Marine scientist to see the ocean use this way as a dumping ground,

Speaker 6: 19:59 You know, as a, uh, as an oceanographer and assigned group, you know, we're, we're charged with having very objective looks at and interpreting the data and presenting it accurately to the environment now as a ocean it's easiest and, and how to another planet, you know, it did begun a little depressing or humbling while we were out there. Um, yeah, I would say the, the entire scientific team as we began unraveling kind of the full field, you know, it's, you know, I think at the time people probably thought they were doing the right thing in terms of where they were dumping and fast-forward, and you know, what we now know, um, you know, maybe maybe changes that, that outlook on, you know, that sort of management, uh, approach it was taken back then. And it is certainly humbling. See what man can do to the environment. And the positive step is I know we've got capabilities in science that can be applied to these problems and hopefully, you know, right. Some of the potential losses that happened in the past,

Speaker 1: 21:01 I've been speaking with Eric Terrell. He was chief scientist of the expedition and director of the Marine physical laboratory at Scripps institution of oceanography. Eric, thank you.

Speaker 6: 21:12 Oh, you're very welcome.

Speaker 1: 21:24 As California opens hundreds of investigations into fraudulent unemployment claims that could cost the state billions of dollars, lawmakers are eager to fix the holes that made it easy to game California systems. As we hear from the California reports, Mary Franklin Harvin, a bill making its way through the legislature is facing tough criticism from advocates who say it's language is too broad and could end up penalizing already vulnerable people

Speaker 7: 21:52 Around Thanksgiving. Last year, DA's from across the state came together to announce that over 30,000 fake unemployment claims had been filed in the names of people incarcerated in California, both DA's and the state auditor have said that part of the reason it was so easy to do California's unemployment system is that unlike at least 35 other States, we don't cross match unemployment applications against our prison roles. And that's what Bakersfield Senator Shannon Grove is hoping to change with SB 39. So SB 39 requires CDCR and EDD the employment development department to cross reference our cross-match social security numbers. For those that are incarcerated in the CDFC our facilities, Katie Dickson is a community organizer with legal aid at work and was formerly incarcerated. She's concerned about recent data that show holes in the state's arrest record keeping. We just don't believe that CDCR is capable of disseminating accurate information for anyone, let alone someone outside of, you know, their already complicated landscape in 2019.

Speaker 7: 23:03 For example, the California department of justice estimated that up to 60% of its arrest records were incomplete. Meaning EDD could be flagging people based on inaccurate information. Grove says she doesn't want to keep benefits from people who need them, but the state is already facing a fraud bill in the tens of billions. That number is going to be paid back by small businesses that have been shut down over the last year. And haven't been able to have revenue well up to 2 billion out of the potentially 30 billion in total fraud could be linked to incarcerated people. It's unclear how many were active participants in the scams versus those whose identities were used by scammers folks feel like we're low hanging fruit. It's easy to go after, you know, folks that has already been identified as what a criminal worth of like that SB 39 made it through the labor committee earlier this week and is now heading to appropriations. I'm Mary Franklin Hartman

Speaker 5: 24:06 More than two years since the children's zoo closed for a major renovation at the San Diego zoo KPBS environment, reporter Eric Anderson says new hummingbird and Komodo dragon exhibits highlight new high-tech and sustainable technologies.

Speaker 8: 24:25 This corner of the zoo is a bundle of activity. Construction crews are working to get the old children's zoo area ready for visitors. The Southeast corner of the zoo has been closed since February, 2019, the children's zoo. Isn't the only renovation project underway here. Crews are putting, finishing touches on a new sustainable hummingbird habitat here, right here. A birds David Remlinger says San Diego is among only a handful of zoos that keep hummingbird collections. I think how many birds did one of those few birds, like a penguin where even if you've never seen one, you know that it's a hummingbird hummingbirds thrive in San Diego, but don't exist in many parts of the world. The new habitat offers a chance for people to see the birds up close and green walls. Like this will not only enhance the experience for people walking through the exhibit, but it's also better for the hummingbirds that'll live here. Remlinger says keeping the birds on display requires a significant effort. They're not an easy species to keep they, um, more often than any other type of bird, they feed mainly on nectar that have to be replenished twice a day and fruit flies. So we raised fruit flies for them, especially when they're raising baby. And the new habitat will help some of the walls resemble pillows. The rugged plastic is translucent and it traps air in the wall.

Speaker 5: 25:52 The ETFE pillows, we call them are double layer with air in between. And so that also helps us regulate the thermal control on the environment.

Speaker 8: 26:02 The next endeavors is one of the projects architects. She says the enclosures were designed to take advantage of San Diego's unique environment to help regulate the habitat. She says, it's part of the sustainability underpinning of all major projects at the zoo.

Speaker 5: 26:16 Yeah. Sustainable design is becoming more prevalent and much more common practice. Um, and lot,

Speaker 8: 26:23 Yes, construction manager aim on Farrell says the sustainability discussion was underway long before the first shovel cut into the earth. And the process took everything into account. What we've done

Speaker 5: 26:35 Uh, now versus years ago is we box trees. We safely put them in a location so we can bring them back in with the demolition instead of loading it all and taking it all off.

Speaker 9: 26:44 We separated into concrete glass steel. You know, we take the time to do that. That's all recyclable. Um, and we send it to a source close by

Speaker 8: 26:53 Farrell, says the designers, builders, and keepers all got together early on in the discussion to see what new habitats would need to serve. The animals housed there for the Komodo dragons. Heat is important. Herpetology and ecclesiology curator. Kim gray says heat rocks, infrared lights, and even the natural environment will help keep the lizards toasty.

Speaker 9: 27:16 Tell us a little bit overcast today, a little bit cooler temperatures in Indonesia. It might not be this cool. So we might allow them to just spend more time indoors in a nice warm environment.

Speaker 8: 27:25 Grace says the new exhibit will have a separate indoor area and outdoor space and a nesting area in the back. And gray says, that'll give the Komodo dragons a choice

Speaker 9: 27:35 Habitats, give them that opportunity to be together or not depending on the animals and the time of year. And if they're breeding,

Speaker 8: 27:42 The new habitats require integrated systems that Pharaoh says could be controlled by a smartphone. That'll make it easier for keepers to manage the two new exhibit spaces, but that ease of operation masks. The challenge of making the habitats work

Speaker 9: 27:56 Four walls, a roof. It's not, we've done this before. Let's just repeat that construction process. No we're dealing with live animals and they all have different needs. And the collection is very dear to us.

Speaker 8: 28:07 The hummingbird and Komodo exhibits are scheduled to be open to the public this summer. Eric Anderson, KPBS news.

Speaker 1: 28:22 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh. People have long traveled across the border to save thousands of dollars on medical procedures, including cosmetic surgery, which is an industry that's seeing a boom, but one California woman Kiana Weaver died on the operating table after crossing into Tijuana for a cosmetic procedure. She's not the only one, two others had been rushed to the hospital with life-threatening complications and are still recovering. They all went to one clinic where Dr. Hasan Manuel BICE Lopez performed cosmetic surgery in January of this year as Wendy fry, a reporter for the San Diego union Tribune, watchdog and accountability team reports. Lopez is not actually a plastic surgeon and there's little oversight in Mexico to stop them. Wendy, welcome. Hi, thanks for having me. So you start your recent report talking about how medical tourism is seeing an uptick across the border in Tijuana, what's driving this recent interest rate and that boom is not just in cosmetic surgery. Although there has been an increase in that, uh, what's called the zoom bull, which comes from people basically wanting plastic surgery because they're been spending more and more time staring at their faces

Speaker 10: 29:42 On zoom. Also a lot of them, I think maybe a lot of women might have more downtime that not having to go into the office and explain sort of the aftermath of the surgery also might be driving it a little bit, but there's also the fact that overall in general, Mexico is been striving for many years to become this world-class leader in medical tourism. And to keep on it is kind of at the center of that. And so how much

Speaker 1: 30:07 Cheaper are these cosmetic procedures in Tijuana?

Speaker 10: 30:10 Women are, have been able to save depending on exactly what they're having done. Thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. So as surgery that would cost me $30,000 in the United States is maybe six or $7,000 there. But

Speaker 1: 30:26 Three women who went to get cosmetic surgery at one clinic in Tiquana, none of them left unharmed.

Speaker 10: 30:32 What happened? That's the key question right there is what happened, you know, on this one day at the same clinic that all three women went to and basically all three women, according to what they've told us had varying degrees of what seems to be the same, because the way that doctors were able to explain it to me is that basically when the surgery was over and they went to close them back up, they did it too tightly in a way that squished all their organs together. And so their organs were no longer able to continue functioning. So like the digestive organs, those functions weren't able to continue happening, which is obviously very serious and for Kiana fatal and

Speaker 1: 31:16 For the family of Kiana Weaver, who you briefly mentioned, um, she actually died on the operating table and it's been difficult to find out what went wrong with her surgery specifically. Can you talk about that?

Speaker 10: 31:28 Sure. So the problem is right now, there does not exist a death certificate at all, or any kind of record whatsoever of Kiana Weaver's death within bar California's tracking system within their medical examiners data, basically. So there was no autopsy on, and there's just no records whatsoever. Other than this one form that Kianna's mother had to fill out to transfer her body back from Baja, California, to California, which does list a cause of death on it. And what it lists on that document is cardio respiratory arrest. So basically her heart stopped. She's not breathing.

Speaker 1: 32:06 So is there any investigation into the medical malpractice for her?

Speaker 10: 32:11 No, not as far as we know, there's no investigation going on. We followed up again with the facility, with the attorney general after the article ran to see if there had been any movement and no, we have not heard of any agency investigating. In fact, Dr. B's was still operating. Actually his receptionist told me he was in the middle of a surgery when I went in person to seek comment from him and

Speaker 1: 32:33 Davis, uh, and a friend also went to see Dr. His Zeus, Manuel Baez Lopez for a tummy tuck and liposuction Davis, who was a nurse, said she saw red flags and ended up in the hospital what happened?

Speaker 10: 32:47 Right? So she said she wasn't hooked up to any monitors during the surgery. And just as a nurse, she felt something wasn't going on correctly in her body. And she knew she would not have released a patient that was in her condition. She was dizzy. She couldn't walk when she arrived in the ER, she actually, she waited for a long time at the, in the ER, because she wasn't able to pull to really articulate what was wrong. She just felt like things were off. But once they ran a cat scan, things started moving very, very quickly because they told her she had a hematoma and was very close to death if she hadn't come in when she did. And if she hadn't gotten medical care when she did,

Speaker 1: 33:24 And there was a somewhat similar experience for Esmerelda [inaudible], uh, where did her procedure go wrong?

Speaker 10: 33:31 Basically, it's the exact same story, except she has not yet been able to regain any function of her kidneys.

Speaker 1: 33:38 Oh, wow. So how has that impacted her life?

Speaker 10: 33:41 So she's still on dialysis and she was starting to recover. And then in April, her wound got reinfected and she's been in and out of the hospital. Tell me more

Speaker 1: 33:51 Or about Dr. Buys, Lopez. I mean, what kind of credentials does he have?

Speaker 10: 33:56 He is a doctor. He is a general physician, but he only has a two year master's degree in aesthetic surgery, which we're told by other doctors and other surgeons that that's not really surgery at a, they market it as surgery, but it's not actually surgery. It's like getting Botox or aesthetics. And he does not have listed among his credentials, any training or education as a plastic surgeon, which I understand is a six year process that you have to be in school, do training, do testing for six years before you become a surgeon.

Speaker 1: 34:27 So how is he able to operate then as a cosmetic surgeon in Mexico?

Speaker 10: 34:32 My understanding is that there's just a lack of oversight that allows people to do these procedures. And if they go well, then no one asks any questions and they're able to get to new operating their business that way.

Speaker 1: 34:45 Have any of his patients been able to hold him liable for these botched surgeries?

Speaker 10: 34:50 Not that I'm aware of there hasn't been any civil litigation.

Speaker 1: 34:54 So what would you suggest someone do if they are considering going across the border for cosmetic surgery?

Speaker 10: 35:01 Great. So, I mean, even with the savings, you know, whether it's 20,000 or whether it's $7,000 is still a significant amount of money, right. To invest. So you'd want to do all the research at least that you would do when you're buying a car or making a huge purchase, right? You want to compare different doctors, talk to people who have had surgeries with them, but then also you definitely want to look on this site. That's the Mexican association of plastic surgeons and reconstructive surgery. The link is in the story that I did put in Baja, California, and that lists all of the surgeons who are part of this.

Speaker 11: 35:38 And they cannot be a part of the association if they do not have the actual training as a surgeon,

Speaker 1: 35:44 I've been speaking with Wendy fryer, a reporter for the San Diego union Tribune, watchdog and accountability team. Wendy, thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 11: 35:52 Thanks Jake.

Speaker 1: 36:12 Well, the story we just heard is a tragic example of medical tourism gone wrong. Crossing the border into Tijuana for medical procedures and medications is not new to many San Diego. Ans KPBS is border podcast. Port of entry is kicking off a new series zooming in on medical tourism at the border. Each episode in the series will tell the personal stories of medical tourists crossing for things like weight loss, surgery, fertility, treatments, insulin, and more here's port of entry hosts, Alan Lillian Thall with a peak at episode one, which follows a San Diego woman, Maria Davis, cherry, as she crosses to Tiquana for alternative cancer treatments,

Speaker 11: 36:54 [inaudible] medical tourism is blowing up. Mexico is striving to become a worldwide leader

Speaker 12: 37:03 In medical tourism about 1 million people. Mainly Americans traveled to Mexico every year for all kinds of medical treatments have dentists, pharmacies and other medical services that cater specifically to America to one is actually something you can afford is it was like $4,000 to get it done. And here, I don't even know. It's probably like 12 to $15,000.

Speaker 11: 37:22 The entire [inaudible] landscape immediately surrounding the border has just completely transformed.

Speaker 12: 37:32 Margarita flashy,

Speaker 11: 37:33 Blinking digital billboards, advertising dentists, cosmetic surgeons and cancer clinics are everywhere. But towering over them is a huge new medical center and hospital that just opened its doors. There's a lot of talk about how this new medical center is going to be the most technologically advanced hospital in all of Latin America. I actually went to the launch party for another newish center called new city medical Plaza in 2019. It was crazy. There was wine cheese, a huge stage with a Wildlight show and like a 13 person band ton of politicians and business people were there. It felt like a fancy wedding. These shiny new medical buildings stand tall here at the border poised for a future where the billions of dollars being spent by lots of people from the U S and beyond just keeps

Speaker 13: 38:46 Ballooning [inaudible]

Speaker 11: 38:51 And the pandemic it's barely put a dent in the industry's growth. In fact, COVID-19 is actually driving a big boost in plastic surgery procedures in the Quanta. Thanks in part to people staring at themselves in zoom meetings all day,

Speaker 7: 39:08 And it's causing people to see themselves on screen and not the most flattering light. Many are now getting Botox, fillers and facelifts keeping some plastic surgeons, very busy. It's called the zoom boom.

Speaker 13: 39:23 So yeah,

Speaker 11: 39:24 The Quanah is big time when it comes to medical tourism. Most people are crossing South to save money on medication and medical procedures, but some people folks like Maria Davis cherry, they aren't crossing the border to save dollars on things like nose, jobs and dental veneers

Speaker 7: 39:44 For three weeks. I think it's about 23, 22,000. And some change

Speaker 11: 39:53 People like Maria are crossing the border, hoping to save their own lives.

Speaker 7: 40:00 We are in Tijuana, Mexico right across the border. And I just finished my last natural holistic cancer treatment at immunity therapy center.

Speaker 11: 40:20 So when Maria gets a headache, she doesn't reach for Tylenol.

Speaker 7: 40:25 I just put like peppermint oil across my, my temples or lavender oil and drink more water. I go for like the natural stuff before.

Speaker 11: 40:33 She's what some people might call crazy

Speaker 7: 40:36 Tumeric and mushrooms and alkaline water. You know how to keep your alkalinity in your body. Um, I started looking at now even more at elderberries vitamin B 17, which is apricots seeds, you know, uh, so just a lot of natural oils, frankincense essential oil,

Speaker 11: 40:57 Maria believes 100% in the power of holistic healing, healthy, clean, eating exercise, natural remedies, those kinds of things. And she's kind of the perfect poster child for it. Maria was 49 back in 2019 when my producers and I first talked to her, but she looks way younger. She's one of those people who somehow always looks like she just stepped out of a spot or something like her skin just sorta glows, which is worth noting because at the time she was in the middle of a battle for her life.

Speaker 7: 41:36 I was in the doctor's office at the oncologist office. And I was sitting there with my husband again. So they just, they said, yeah, unfortunately as breast cancer, again, it came back. You know, they call it coming back. I don't think it ever left, but it came back. So, um, I mean, you, you feel disappointed and irritated and sad and a bunch of different emotions at the same time, but you go, okay, let's do this again.

Speaker 11: 42:03 And look, I want to say this right upfront. I am most definitely not a doctor. And this is not some kind of hardcore investigation into the efficacy of alternative cancer treatments. We're not recommending or warning anyone about anything here. Instead, this is a story about one woman's experience and her own personal convictions.

Speaker 7: 42:36 [inaudible]

Speaker 11: 42:36 Maria lives in Otay, Mesa, a city really close to the U S Mexico border.

Speaker 7: 42:41 I just go out from my yard and you can see all the little lights it's an open field. And then right after the open field, you can see all the lights and you can see Mexico from the OTA border. Pretty much

Speaker 11: 42:52 One of the first things you notice when you meet Maria is her sorta stoic look. It's like being cool, calm and collected is her natural state. She's strong and also a little emotionally guarded, at least with me and my producers, Emily, Jen Koski and Kinsey Moreland,

Speaker 7: 43:11 Man. How do you stay so tough? Did you like build a wall around your heart? Stay so strong? No, I mean, the only thing we can do now is to educate ourselves, to keep pushing forward. So another day the Bible says, you know, if you pray, don't worry, but if you worry, then why pray? So I just don't worry anymore. I think stress is going to probably even cost bigger things. So I think the more you stress, the more you get things in your body and worrying about is not going to change that. I got cancer twice. You know, where'd you get mad though. Oh yeah, of course. I've just got mad right now.

Speaker 11: 44:08 So for this Maria's second battle with cancer, she's built herself. What she feels is an impenetrable suit of armor armor. That's made up of her faith in God and her new found faith in holistic healing. And that was port of entry, host Alan Lillian Thall talking with Maria Cherry

Speaker 1: 44:32 Davis. You can follow their cross-border journey by finding port of entry or on Apple or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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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.