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Biden’s new program leaves some Ukrainian refugees stranded at the border

 April 26, 2022 at 2:26 PM PDT

S1: Thousands of Ukrainian war refugees left in limbo at the border after a new policy change.
S2: Well , they're upset and they're frustrated.
S1: I'm Christina Kim in for Jane Hinman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. This is KPBS Midday Edition. Sandy Ito , school superintendent , says she's facing retaliation and won't resign after making racially insensitive comments.
S3: She feels that this is retaliation for that complaint that she made with the district a month ago.
S1: As the military tamps down on religious vaccine exemptions , we hear why some are worried about what other religious freedoms could be at stake. And we hear from San Diego based bestselling author Don Winslow on Retiring from writing to Focus on Politics. That's ahead on Midday Edition. Changes by the Biden administration meant to make it easier for Ukrainians to enter the United States have had the opposite effect for thousands of Ukrainians now stuck in Tijuana. Here's Enrique Lucero of the Tijuana Migrant Affairs Department.
S4: There's a really great temporal Ingresos de Granados.
S1: The border is now closed for Ukrainians , Lucero said. The reason ? A policy aimed at helping Ukrainians apply to enter the U.S. directly on airplanes called Uniting for Ukraine. But while this policy makes air travel easier , it means Ukrainians can no longer enter through land borders without a visa. And those changes have left thousands of Ukrainians rushing to cross local borders before midnight on Sunday. Here to catch us up on all these developments and how they're impacting our local borders is KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis. Hey , Gustavo.
S2: Hey , Christina.
S1: In making this change , the Biden administration is hoping to make it easier for Ukrainians enter the country , but it's had unintended consequences.
S2: But overnight , this migration route was closed. So it's really a bummer for people who arrived to Tijuana Monday and today instead of Sunday. Right. Just one day. A difference makes the change whether you can enter or not.
S2: But they can I mean , they can apply from anywhere , so they can just do it from Tijuana or anywhere in Mexico. The program is really meant to streamline the refugee process by connecting Ukrainians to sponsor in the U.S. and actually anyone listening. Now , if they want to get involved , they can register as sponsors for this program.
S1: For those Ukrainians of Tijuana who are unable to cross into the U.S..
S2: That's where Ukrainian volunteers are setting up a shelter where people can apply for this program. They can live and wait in Mexico City while they wait for an answer. The other options are to stay in Tijuana and hope for some change in asylum policies or just request asylum in Mexico.
S2: But legally speaking , there are two different groups. Right. Refugees get vetted in their country of origin or somewhere nearby. Once they're vetted there , they can come directly to the U.S.. Asylum seekers come to the U.S. and they're vetted once they get here. With asylum seekers , it's a bit more taxing on our immigration system because generally speaking , they have to be housed in government facilities and they add cases to an already overburdened immigration court. Politically speaking , Democrats don't want images of a lot of migrants at the border heading into the midterm elections. So it appears that the Biden administration is preferring the refugee process over the asylum process. But from the outside looking in , it looks like those are logistical and political reasons , not necessarily humanitarian ones.
S2: They hope the numbers go down and they can stop spending resources on the Ukrainians and focus more on the normal , quote unquote , migration in Tijuana , deportees and other asylum seekers. Whether that will actually happen or not is difficult to tell. I mean , that's one of the things of our immigration policy. Right , is based on deterrence , the idea that you can make it so difficult to cross that no one will come. But that philosophy doesn't really account for how desperate people are. Right. If you're fleeing your home because of a war or persecution or like narco violence , you're not going to sit there and look at things like Title 42 , an MPP , right ? You're just going to run for your life. So officially they're hoping. Yes , but I don't know. We're not sure yet.
S1: All eyes are on the Ukrainian refugee situation , but the reality is that U.S. immigration policies have long been a patchwork of confusing laws that are ever changing , and a lot is set to change in the coming weeks and months. Today , thousands of miles away from the border , the United States Supreme Court is taking up a case on remain in Mexico.
S2: Remain in Mexico is another Trump era policy that focuses on asylum seekers. In this case , it forces them to live in Mexico while their asylum cases are adjudicated. It's controversial because hundreds of migrants were robbed , beaten , kidnapped and sexually assaulted after being returned in Mexico. When Biden was campaigning , one of the things he vowed was to overturn Remain in Mexico as soon as he got in office. Also , another problem with it was that people enrolled in this program didn't have access to lawyers in Mexico. And as a result of that , the vast majority of them lost. Their asylum cases. The arguments that were heard today in the Supreme Court were largely procedural arguments that the Biden administration had the authority to terminate the program. The Supreme Court wasn't really evaluating whether the program is inhumane or not. They were mostly concerned with whether the executive has the authority to end it. Experts who followed the arguments said it will probably be a close decision , but we won't know until we get a final decision later this summer.
S1: In other border news , Title 42 , a public health order placed early in the pandemic that limited immigration is once again in limbo after President Biden said it was coming to an end in May.
S2: Technically , it's not a ruling , at least not yet. It's just the judge saying how he will likely rule. But it doesn't bode well for migrants who have been waiting for an end of Title 42.
S1: There's so many moving pieces and unknowns.
S2: Part of what that subcommittee would do is find a location for a temporary shelter and seek state and federal funding for more services to providers like the Rapid Response Network and Jewish Family Services.
S2: So we're kind of , you know , left to the whims of the political class right now. And it could go either way. There's a lot of moving parts , right , as you said. Our immigration system is a patchwork of different things put together over decades. So it feels like we're just on a roller coaster and have no real agency of of where we're going. It's just kind of wait and see what people in Washington decide they want to do.
S1: We appreciate you taking the time to help us sort through all that's happening at the border and making sense of it. I've been speaking with KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis. Gustavo. Thank you.
S2: Well , thank you , Christina.
S5: The controversy over racially insensitive comments made by the San Diego school superintendent is taking on a new dimension. Dr. Cheryl James Ward , who is now on administrative leave because of her comments , says board members are using the controversy as retaliation against her. And she says she has no intention of resigning the post she just took on last November. Dr. James Ward spoke to KPBS education reporter MJ Perez , and he joins us now. And welcome , MJ.
S3: Good to be here.
S5: This all stems from comments made by the superintendent two weeks ago about the academic success of Asian-American students.
S3: It was a meeting of a diversionary inclusion and equality conference. Basically what they were having a discussion about. And so it was in that setting that she said the following. They were talking about students and the bad grades of DS and FS and how Asian students seem to get less of those. And so then the question was posed to the group , why is that ? And what she said and I'm going to quote here so that we're accurate here in San Diego , we have an influx of Asians from China. And the people who were able to make that journey are wealthy. You cannot buy a house for $2 million unless you have money. That's something that Ward said. And the whole family , parents , grandparents , they support the kids at home. Whereas in some Latin communities , they don't have that type of money. Those are comments that can be very disturbing. And obviously when she said them , there were many who are in disagreement and of course , calling for her resignation.
S5: Since that time , Superintendent James Ward has repeatedly apologized. Tell us about that.
S3: She has. And the first apology came in a private meeting with representatives from the Asian community. And what she told me in an interview that I did with her is that she felt their pain , pain of all the discrimination that they've experienced , that they feel their children often do. And her statements just added to that hurt. And so she hit apologize then she then apologized in public at a board meeting where about 75 people spoke and gave comments. And she apologized in that setting as well. So she has apologized for the hurt that was caused by those comments. She still believes that what she said is a factor in how Asian students perform.
S5: But there were still calls for her to resign despite those apologies. And the board voted to place her on administrative leave now. In an interview with you , Maggie , she says some of that is retaliation.
S3: What we learned yesterday that we did not know is that back in March , Dr. James Ward issued a complaint , a formal complaint against the vice president of the board , Michael Ullman. What I've since learned is that that complaint has to do with harassment. Harassment of her staff. Bullying , homophobic slurs were also mentioned in the complaint , and she feels that this is retaliation for that complaint that she made with the district a month ago.
S5: And this is what the superintendent told you yesterday.
S6: And if Michael Armond could get rid of me , his hope was that that investigation would go away. So , number one , get rid of Dr. Ward , get rid of the investigation.
S3: And so she feels that Altmann has supported her being fired. And and that's retaliation for that investigation that is underway right now.
S5: Now , James Ward says there are several other reasons why what she calls a firestorm has been created around her comments.
S3: Her name is Maureen Mau Muir. And there are a couple of issues with her. You may remember back in November , when Dr. Ward was appointed to the position at the time , the board was considering a ban on critical race theory. It actually came before the board , but before it could be discussed , it was taken off the agenda. And that , you may remember , is the theory that so many people have called controversial. And so what happened was the board decided not to even address it. And she also believes that President Muir does not support ethnic studies in general and the discussion around various cultures and ethnic backgrounds. So she feels this is retaliation from the president. There's one more piece , too. There are accusations that President Muir does not live in the district and thereby is illegally on the board. And so she thinks. Dr. Ward , that this is a deflection to get away from that point , which , by the way , Mueller has not denied.
S5: Superintendent Ward also says that some of the firestorm , as she calls it , is a distraction.
S6: What the community has learned is that president manure does not live in the community. And so if we could distract from that , that would be good.
S5: Now , have either board members Michael Allman or Mo Muir commented on the superintendent's allegations.
S3: Since this happened last week and kind of broke. I have reached out to every board member. I've also reached out to the communications director for the district. And until Monday , there was no comment. And I finally got President Muir to respond in an email. But what she said was , because the issue is in litigation , they have no comment. And she spoke for the entire board.
S5: Is the board considering firing Superintendent Ward ? Yes.
S3: What Superintendent Ward told me in our interview is that they've made a financial offer to her , along with the caveat of dropping the investigation against Mr. Allman and thereby letting her go from the position.
S3: The timetable they gave me was somewhere between seven days and a month. So hopefully in the course of the next couple of days , that will be clarified. But right now , we just don't know.
S5: I've been speaking with KPBS education reporter Maggie Perez. Thank you so much.
S3: Thank you.
S1: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Christina Kim. San Diego will soon join a growing number of California cities that prohibit retailers from selling flavored tobacco products. That's after the city council voted yesterday in a 7 to 2 vote to pass the SAFE Act , which prohibits the sale of flavored e-cigarettes , cigars and menthol cigarettes. One big reason behind the ban to stop young people from getting addicted to tobacco at an early age. The latest data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey estimates that over 2 million children use e-cigarettes and that nearly 85% of them use flavored tobacco products. Joining me now with more is KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew , welcome back to the program. Thanks.
S7: Christina Hi.
S1: Hey , Andrew.
S7: You could still use them in San Diego , but stores that are caught selling those products would be in violation of the municipal code , and they could be fined up to $1,000. The implementation is set for January 2023 , and council member Marni Von WILPERT , who initiated this policy , proposed to the city council , said she wanted that sort of long implementation window to give stores that sell these products really ample time to plan for the change. Many of them , you know , depend on that revenue to keep their businesses afloat and just to offload their inventory. It wouldn't really be fair if they just made a big purchase of flavored vapes. And the next day , all of a sudden , they're it's illegal to sell them here. So she wanted to kind of give some deference to those stores who have maybe put up some money towards these products and won't be able to sell them in the future.
S1: Are there any notable exceptions to this new ban ? Yeah.
S7: So it doesn't apply to Sheesha or hookah. That was seen as a unique cultural practice among mostly Middle Eastern and South Asian communities. That is smoked pretty infrequently , also that the giant pipes aren't , you know , very discreet. One of the things about vapes is , you know , kids can hide them in their in their pockets in school. And and that makes it a lot easier for them to consume. It doesn't apply to loose leaf tobacco or premium cigars , and it also doesn't apply to unflavored e-cigarettes or those that are flavored like tobacco. And there's also an exemption for devices that are approved by the FDA for the purpose of quitting smoking. Many people say that vaping helped them quit smoking , but most vapes are actually not approved by the FDA for that purpose. So the law is really targeted at the types of tobacco and nicotine products that young people are actually using. You know , you don't hear about kids smoking up premium cigars or hookah pipes in the school bathrooms.
S1: Much has been said about the prevalence of candy like flavors , which you've just been alluding to in the advertising of flavored tobacco products.
S7: That would be illegal for them. Whether or not that's true , these flavors are much more appealing to kids than cigarettes or add flavor Atlas Vapes , they mask that naturally harsh flavor that young people are probably kind of grossed out by. So you see flavors like bubblegum , but like a blue razz , a strawberry watermelon. They sound like Jolly Ranchers , but they're actually extremely addictive nicotine products. And it's undeniable that youth vaping is a major public health concern. You noted in your intro it's been on the rise. The surgeon general reported vaping among middle and high school students increased by 900% from 2011 to 2015. It went down for a few years after that , but has been kind of creeping up ever since. And there's a lot of concern among parents and public health advocates that these products are basically creating lifelong nicotine addicts and that youth might be vaping now , but they could graduate to cigarettes later in life. And even if they stick with vaping , it's not a harmless product. Much of the long term health impacts of chronic vaping are really , really high doses of nicotine. I mean , many of these vapes have much more nicotine than a regular cigarette , particularly when you when you think about how much people are vaping relative to people , how much people smoke , those long term health impacts are largely unknown.
S7: And many of them said that these products are easy to get online or kids get them from friends or adults that they know. So banning them from brick and mortar stores won't actually prevent them from ending up in the hands of children. By the way , there was a website that somebody from the Neighborhood Market Association mentioned as a place where you can get e-cigarettes. I went to that website and couldn't find any on their on the website. So it's unclear to me exactly how easy it is to get them from online retailers. And the state is also cracking down on on delivery of those types of products. They want to make sure that when they're. A levered , you have to show an ID and make sure that , you know , that person is is purchasing them legally. But the retailers say , you know , this will push more sales online. It could lead to a growth in unregulated and less safe products getting into the hands of kids. They say it'll result in lost jobs , lost tax revenue , and they say that this should be decided at the state level. You know , if you ban stores in the city , if you ban this in the city of San Diego , it wouldn't be that hard for somebody to just cross over to the neighboring city and get these products there.
S1: I know we've heard some pushback from retailers and the tobacco industry saying that this is a racist law because it bans menthol and other flavored tobacco products , which market research shows that menthol cigarettes are the choice of 85% of black smokers and only 30% of white smokers.
S7: And that is really because of decades of very aggressive marketing from tobacco companies. The backlash that you're seeing to these bands are also helped by tobacco companies , you know , enlisting prominent black celebrities and personalities , claiming that they're motivated by racism. So this is a real concerted effort by tobacco companies to prevent these bans or restrictions on flavored tobacco from getting approved. Councilmember Monica Montgomery Step The only black city council member , only black elected official in the city of San Diego , supported this ban with gusto. And she said that those companies decision to hook black people on these very harmful and addictive products is racism. And it's really a perversion of that term to claims that an effort to undo those harms committed against the black community is racist , when in fact it's the opposite. The intent is to reverse the impacts of that racist marketing and the negative public health impacts on on black people.
S1: All right. An important distinction. So you already mentioned this. There is a statewide effort to ban flavored tobacco products.
S7: What happened after that was there was a signature gathering campaign that was successful in forcing it to a referendum. So voters will be deciding in November whether to ban flavored tobacco and vape products across the state of California. So we'll have to see if that passes and what the impacts on public health will be in the long term.
S1: I've been speaking with KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Thank you so much for your time , Andrew.
S7: My pleasure , Christina.
S1: Now to the Central Valley for an update on California's high speed rail project. It's supposed to one day whisk passengers from L.A. and San Francisco at over 200 miles per hour. You've probably heard the project is tens of billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. But for a lot of Californians , high speed rail can still feel like an abstraction because we just don't see it getting built with our own eyes. But that's not the case in the Central Valley , where high speed rail construction has been underway for years and where the first segment of the project will open. First for the California Report , co-host Saul Gonzalez got a status update on high speed rail construction and how it's affecting the people in the valley.
S8: On the edge of South Fresno next to Highway 99. I'm climbing up 40 feet of scaffolding to get to the top of a high speed rail construction site. It's a wide concrete bed big enough to fit future train tracks. This is the Cedar Viaduct , and my guide is High Speed Rail Authority spokesperson Augie Blancas.
S6: The Cedar Viaduct is a 3700 foot long structure. It will take high speed trains up and over Cedar and North Avenues and overstay about 99.
S8: The viaduct is just one of more than 30 active high speed rail construction sites up and down the Central Valley. Tony Tinoco is deputy director of the High Speed Rail Authority in the Valley and talked to me about the scope of the work.
S1: On any typical day on average. We have about 1100 dispatched workers on various sites. That's everything between Madera County all the way to the city of Moscow. That's 119 miles to cover. And we have a lot of men and women in different trades going to these sites , constructing these structures every day.
S8: Many of the components for high speed rail construction , like enormous precast concrete slabs , are manufactured at an open air yard surrounded by farm fields outside of the community of Hanford. They're then loaded aboard flatbed trucks and transported to building sites along 65 miles of the Central Valley. I asked Supervisor Craig what why do the work here versus a factory in the Bay Area or Los Angeles.
S3: Cuts down on shipping costs ? And a lot of the local suppliers for precast components in the state of California don't have the capacity to keep up with our demand.
S8: It's here that I also meet some of the people building the high speed rail project like Husband and Wife , Ironworkers , Keith Branham and Desiree Ruiz. Desiree says she and her husband feel like they're part of something historic by working on the project.
S6: I would love to see the finished product of it and being able to say I helped build that train with my husband. Like , that's something that you can hold onto and nobody can take it from you. So it feels good.
S8: What's also good , says Desiree's husband , Keith , is the years of steady work and generous pay that high speed rail creates for the tradespeople working on the project. I've actually made more money.
S4: Than I've ever made in the ten years I've been in the in my trade.
S8: So good for family finances. Yes , for sure. It's working for high speed rail authority.
S4: As has made a big difference in our lives. A very big difference.
S8: The High Speed Rail Authority's Tony Tinoco says that since groundbreaking seven years ago , the project has created over 7000 jobs and helped support nearly 700 small businesses across the state. She says the economic benefits for the Central Valley have been particularly important.
S1: Historically we've had very , very high unemployment rates here. High speed rail has been one of the drivers of getting that number down. Being able to employ people. I mean , our workers and our contractors are here. They're living here. They're investing. They're eating. They're purchasing different products outside of construction. So that's. Huge.
S8: Huge. But away from the building sites , it's easy to find people in the Central Valley who say they don't see or feel the benefits of high speed rail construction. I hear the words high speed rail. I think just a lot of wasted money. That's Michael Lopez , who owns Green and Clean , a small construction and landscaping business in the town of Selma. Lopez says he's pretty well connected to other small businesses in his area and no one ever mentioned high speed rail. Being an economic game changer for the Valley. I don't know who has these jobs. You know what I mean ? Who has these jobs ? I don't know anybody that works for the high speed rail. Personally , I don't hear anybody telling me like , Hey , I got this contract for the high speed rail. And like , here in Selma , where you have your your business , you don't feel like money's being pumped into the economy. No. Where where where's the high speed rail coming through here where we're almost getting any benefit from it ? I don't see it. And like other Californian , Central Valley residents are also worried about high speed rail as escalating costs , long delays and the plan to initially offer train service only to cities within the valley. FLAGSTAFF Running at a pioneer restaurant in North Fresno , about a dozen regulars gather early in the mornings to talk about the hot button issues of the day , including the train project. How often does high speed rail come up as a conversation ? Oh , every other day they.
S3: Go get.
S8: Started on that. But I do. And Fresno resident Jerry cartoon in like others around the table is ready to talk.
S3: What do I think about the high speed rail ? It's a it's a rail that goes nowhere. It's going from Bakersfield to Merseyside. Yes. It's supposed to go to L.A. all the way to San Francisco at , what , $300 billion cost in the next 35 years ? We'll all be dead and gone by ten. That thing's up and running.
S8: But the high speed rail authority's Tony Tinoco defends the now $100 billion plus project. She says it still has the support of a majority of coalition. Mormons , according to recent independent polling. And each day of construction brings the bullet train closer to a reality.
S1: You know , the fact of the matter is , is that high speed rail is getting done. So those who have said , you know , they haven't seen any progress , they're not seeing any , you know , light at the end of the tunnel. The fact of the matter is , is that we're in construction. So it is not an easy project. You're never going to get all of the support that you hope that you can get. But the fact is , is that California voted on a bond , voted on high speed rail to get this started. And we're trying to deliver what Californians voted for.
S8: The high speed rail authority says it hopes to have the first segment of the line between Bakersfield and Merced said ready for passenger service by 2030. But it also acknowledges further delays are possible. Until then , the most frequently heard locomotive sights and sounds in this part of California will be from the many slow moving freight trains traveling through the valley.
S1: That was KQED , Saul Gonzalez for the California Report.
S5: The military is taking a hard line on troops seeking religious exemptions to the COVID vaccine mandate. It has granted few exceptions and asked the courts to uphold its policy of discharging service members who refuse the vaccine. But KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says advocates worry the Pentagon's position could make it harder for other troops who seek different kinds of religious accommodations.
S3: Petty Officer First Class Juror Webb joined the Navy after September 11th , 2001. She's Muslim. But Webb was told that boot camp that she could not cover her hair with a traditional hijab.
S6: I felt naked. I felt like everyone was looking at me. I felt uncomfortable. But it just it was it took time for me to get used to it.
S3: She still covered her hair when she was out of uniform. As her faith deepened , she says she wanted to make the hijab part of her Navy life in San Diego. A few months ago , her command granted her request for an accommodation under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
S6: There's something I've always wanted to do. I was just worried about how people would perceive me. And also it made me feel very proud because now I feel like now I'm representing Muslims and they could see how we really are.
S3: Rafa has been in the spotlight as a number of troops , including a group of Navy SEALs , have filed lawsuits on religious grounds there , challenging the military's COVID 19 vaccination mandate. The Pentagon is discharging troops who refuse the shot. Attorney Daniel Bloomberg's firm handles religious freedom cases. He's not involved in COVID lawsuits , but he's worried his clients could be impacted. He says the Navy is bypassing the normal process for granting religious accommodations.
S4: The military normally gets it right. We have a heritage of respecting religious difference and religious freedom in the military. It doesn't always get it right. That's that's why we've had to litigate.
S3: Though mainstream Christian leaders support the vaccine , the most common objection is that the cells used to research the vaccine were ancestors of aborted cells taken decades earlier. More than 3000 sailors have applied for religious exemptions since the mandate took effect in November. A federal judge issued an injunction barring the Navy from discharging them , possibly until the Supreme Court rules. Blumberg fears those cases might make it easier for the military to deny other religious accommodations.
S4: I think the process itself is causing a significant part of the problem. But , you know , the big problem is that nobody is getting granted. Nobody is getting granted.
S3: Bloomberg has represented Sikhs who have filed lawsuits to wear traditional turbans and other sailors whose faith emphasizes wearing beards. He says the law is supposed to find reasonable accommodation wherever practical.
S4: If a service member has a sincere religious belief and the government substantially burdens it. Then the government has to have a really good reason to do that and a no other way of accomplishing the mission. They're going to be some environments that will not be as conducive for having a bearded Jew or sick or Muslim servant. They just won't. And so those individuals will have the opportunity to serve in other contexts.
S3: He says an unvaccinated CEO can work a desk job rather than in the close quarters of a rib boat. But they shouldn't be discharged. Navy leaders have told the course that they see vaccination as the way back to normal after crippling COVID 19 outbreaks sidelined ships. Navy Surgeon General Bruce Gillingham spoke to sailors in a video.
S4: COVID as a force readiness issue. And there's no better protection for an individual , a family or the community and getting the immunity that comes from being vaccinated.
S6: I do support the COVID vaccine , so that's why I'm vaccinated.
S3: Petty Officer Webb said. She asked the Council on American-Islamic Relations to write a letter to her command after she became more observant , even though she plans to retire from the Navy in little over a year. In her case , the Navy set limits on where she can wear her job , for instance , if she ever works on a flight line. Steve Walsh , KPBS News.
S5: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Christina Kim in for Jade Hindman. Novelist Don Winslow has used the San Diego Tijuana border locale as a backdrop for some of his most famous crime novels. Books like Savages and the Cartel Trilogy have gained both critical and popular success. Now , after plumbing the depths of Mexican cartels in his novels , Winslow has moved to an exploration of East Coast Mafia wars for a new trilogy. The first in the series is called City on Fire. It's a book that's already sparked praise , as well as controversy for its subject matter and language. And it's also led to a surprising announcement from Winslow , one of the most celebrated crime novelists in the country. He's retiring from writing. Joining me is Don Winslow , author of City on Fire.
S4: Thank you very much. Nice to be here.
S5: Now your story opens with a beautiful woman emerging from the ocean on a Rhode Island beach and a group of men and women evaluating her body. In this day and age , talking about women as sexual objects is a risky way to start a novel.
S4: And the Iliad is largely about the objectification of women. The the fight , you know , the Trojan War starts over sort of toxic masculinity over Helen of Troy. And there was a very similar incident when I was growing up in New England between the Irish and Italian mob that resulted in a war that went on for ten years and cost 30 something lives. And so I was trying to point out the objectification of this woman as the book goes on. Of course , you get to know her and a number of other women in a much more personal way.
S5: Now , at first blush , the Iliad doesn't seem to have much to do with Italian and Irish gangsters in Rhode Island.
S4: Love , lust , hatred , revenge , honor , betrayal , compassion , mercy. All done in the case of this long war that went on. And that war reminded me of the era of the New England crime wars. And so I was trying to think , could I write a novel ? Actually , three novels that would be completely contemporary. You could read them without reference to the classics at all , just as crime novels , but draw from those great themes and stories and characters.
S5: Now , Don , we've been calling you proudly a San Diego writer for many years , and now we find out you've got deep roots in New England.
S4: You know , up in Julian , we my wife and I started to go back to Rhode Island , oh , six or seven years ago to really help take care of my mom , who was in her declining years. And we would spend longer and longer periods of time there as necessity required. And I started to fall in love with the place again. You know , I left there when I was 17. I went back sometimes , but not all that often and not for very long. But then going back , I don't know. I started to find the the charm of the place and the soulfulness of the place. And it made me want to write about it.
S5: Let's talk about the language in the book. There's an offensive racial slur you've chosen to use in this book. You've also used racial slurs in your books before. Then , on the other hand , you've criticized celebrities like Joe Rogan for his past use of racial slurs.
S4: But if I'm going to write about racial attitudes and racism , I'm going to use racial words that are accurate to the people who are speaking them and thinking them.
S4: Responsibility. Sorry to portray racism accurately.
S4: Yes. Okay.
S5: Okay. Well , your new book , City. Let me just ask you one more thing about this.
S4: You know , I don't know. I write the stories that I write.
S5: All right. Well , your new book , The Story that you wrote , City on Fire , comes out today. Two more books in this series will follow , but they have apparently already been written. And you announced last week on TV that these will be your last novels.
S4: And primarily what I want to go on and do is to keep being active politically. You know , for the past four years , I've had a very active Twitter account opposing the Trump administration and Trumpism. And I feel that that's still an important battle that's not over. And I want to dedicate more time to that.
S4: You know , look , I think I've told the stories that I want to tell. It's time to do something else. I think this is an existential moment in American democracy , and I think I need to be in that fight.
S5: You say you'll be producing videos in support of Democratic candidates around the country.
S4: I think we were there in 2016. We were there in 2020 , and we're going to be there again in 2024. And also in these midterms. And so I know that the videos that we put out were effective. We know this from candidates talking to us. We know it from people talking to us. You know , we did a video for Pennsylvania that had 10 million views to it. We've had 250 million views on the videos that we've done so far. And so I think that that's what I want to do , and I think it's important.
S4: He's an A-list screenwriter and a talented filmmaker. And , you know , we we started to make these short videos and and they seemed to be pretty good and well-received. And so we've kept going.
S4: Not at all. No , no. Not even on the radar.
S4: I think that I'm better serving the cause , doing what I'm doing than running for office.
S4: But this is my decision , and I'm pretty sure I'm going to stick with it.
S5: How will we know what you're doing ? It's so easy to know what Don Winslow is doing because of the books he produces.
S5: I've been speaking with international bestselling author Don Winslow. He'll officially launch his new novel , City on Fire tonight at the Central Library in downtown San Diego. And you can find a link on our website. Don Winslow , thank you very much for speaking with us and good luck.
S4: Thanks for having me.

Changes by the Biden administration meant to make it easier for Ukranians to enter the United States have had the opposite effect for those stuck in Tijuana. Plus, the controversy over racially insensitive comments made by the San Dieguito Union High School District's superintendent is taking on a new dimension. Then, San Diego will soon join a growing number of California cities that prohibit retailers from selling flavored tobacco products. Later, an update on California’s high speed rail project. Meanwhile, the military is taking a hard line on troops seeking religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Finally, novelist Don Winslow has used the San Diego/Tijuana border locale as the backdrop for some of his most famous crime novels. But now he’s turning to the East Coast for his latest trilogy.