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Masks no longer required indoors for vaccinated people beginning Wednesday

 February 16, 2022 at 3:12 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:00)

The indoor mask mandate is lifted, but is it too soon?

Speaker 2: (00:04)

I think it'd be better to sit tight for a couple weeks at least, and see that circulating level of virus get down even lower.

Speaker 1: (00:11)

I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Henman. This is K P V S midday edition. San Diego starts a new effort to get homeless people off the street.

Speaker 3: (00:28)

The police are using a criminalization to drive people away,

Speaker 1: (00:35)

A new law in Carlsbad hopes to stop the thefts of catalytic converters and will hear the pros and cons of San Diego's expensive water projects. That's a head on midday edition

Speaker 1: (01:00)

Masks can come off day for vaccinated Californians. In many indoor spaces, signs of easing restrictions are popping up everywhere. Disneyland announced it's dropping its indoor masking mandate tomorrow. The music festival Coachella also announced it will be removing its COVID restrictions. This spring and nationwide new COVID cases are down 43% from a week ago, but the delay in authorization for young children's vaccinations is a reminder that life is not yet back to normal here to talk with us about those topics and more is Dr. Eric Topel director of the scripts research translational Institute in LA Jolla. And Dr. Topel welcome back to the program.

Speaker 2: (01:43)

Thanks Maureen. Good to be with you again.

Speaker 1: (01:45)

Now, today, the mask mandate is lifted in California for vaccinated people. The CDC says it's too soon. What do you think?

Speaker 2: (01:54)

Well, I'd have to agree with the CDC on this one. Um, the problem is we went to this back in may, as you recall, when we said, uh, mask could be, uh, beared and not necessary in people who were vaccinated and there's no honor system, uh, about people, uh, using mass and our case load is still high in this wave. I think it'd be better to sit tight for a couple weeks at least and see that circulating level of virus get down even lower before we loosen everything. I think the idea of having a date picked as the governor did of this date, rather than going through metrics, the latter is a much preferable approach.

Speaker 1: (02:34)

Now, tomorrow the governor is set to unveil his plan for moving the state into the endemic phase of COVID 19. Can you explain what transitioning to the endemic phase could mean for California?

Speaker 2: (02:47)

Well, I've reviewed that plan. It's called the smarter plan with each of those letters of smarter standing for something like shots S and, and mask. But this plan is a preparedness, uh, plan because endemic doesn't mean end. It means that we hope to get to a low level of virus that is achieve containment. Uh, and we expect that there will be more problems in the months ahead. And my critique of that plan, that's gonna be unveiled tomorrow. It's good, but it could be even more bold and more comprehensive. We are not doing well, uh, in my view for vaccination and boosters in California. And, uh, also we're not using the tools like, uh, digital surveillance through smart watches. And I'd like to see a more bold plan that incorporates these issues, as well as, uh, trying to get a lot more of our people in the vaccinated group.

Speaker 1: (03:41)

Now state health officials say it's not time yet to change masking rules for schools. They will reassess that at the end of the month. What types of metrics would you wanna see before removing the mask requirement in schools?

Speaker 2: (03:53)

Well, similar to the overall, uh, policy, if we can get the circulating virus at very low level, as we see by test positivity and, uh, the numbers of cases, then I think we are in great shape for, for everything that we're doing across the board, including schools, but it's still high. You know, there's this kind of premature jump to where we hope to be in the next couple of weeks. And since the, this has been going on for well over two years and everyone is so sick of this, what's a couple more weeks just to be safe.

Speaker 1: (04:27)

Now with numbers going down across the country, are you confident that the oon surge is on its way out?

Speaker 2: (04:35)

Well, sure looks that way. This has been the most rapid descent in cases and hospital that we've ever seen from the beginning of the pandemic. So it's very encouraging. I, I should say Maureen, we still don't really know the mechanism, how the, how we get this phenomenally rapid descent, uh, because of the asset that was this hyper transmission that it was seen in many countries throughout the world. So there's still some mysteries about this strain of the virus. Nonetheless, you know, we are not containing the virus globally no less, uh, in this country. So we face the evolution of another version of the virus in the months ahead. We may well have a nice quiet time for a stretch, hopefully a long stretch, but because we have still half of the population of the world to get protected, uh, and, uh, we don't have good containment. We face, uh, further troubles, unfortunately, uh, in the times ahead,

Speaker 1: (05:32)

Another often overlooked protection against COVID is one that you've been writing about. And that's natural immunity as the result of a past COVID infection. Now you say the us has not recognized the value of infection induced natural immunity. Tell us about that.

Speaker 2: (05:48)

No one wants anyone to get COVID intentionally, that would be reckless, but for those people, who've had it confirmed. They do have some immunity and the really best way to get rid of this divisiveness that we've had, uh, because a natural immunity can't rightfully says, Hey, we have some immunity from our infection is to make sure, and we're gonna see a lot more data from that today that they get one shot. Now, the real one shot and one in story, because that one shot gets them to the level of three shots. That is two shots in a booster. So we can just get the people who had prior, uh, infections with a single dose of a vaccine. We can get so much better protection for them and for everyone.

Speaker 1: (06:34)

Now last week, the food and drug administration announced at delay in the authorization for Pfizer ion COVID 19 vaccine for children under five. How long a delay do you expect?

Speaker 2: (06:45)

Well, it's probably gonna be at least a couple of months. And the reason being is that unfortunately when Pfizer went ahead with this trial in less than age five, they used a dose. They wanted to go for safety and it proved to be very safe, but not that effective in bringing up a, a, a strong immune response against infection. So I think it's the right choice. Uh, in the meantime, you know, we do know that having everyone else in the household, parents, uh, older children, teens getting them vaccinated has much protection that it provide for the younger children.

Speaker 1: (07:20)

I wanna circle back on something that you've been bringing up. You know, we are looking at another spring with great hopes of getting back to normal. We know what happened to that hope last year. What do you think we should be prepared for? Do you think this virus will take another turn?

Speaker 2: (07:36)

I think it's pretty likely, uh, but obviously we all hope it won't. Uh, but because we have just so many people in whom the virus can evolve within that is the immunocompromised. Uh, and because there's just so many people out there that are still unprotected throughout the world, uh, we, we face more evolution of the virus and potentially we've been very lucky so far that our vaccines might not hold up nearly as well, certainly against severe disease that causes hospitalizations and deaths. On the other hand, if we can get these pills at scale production and everybody had access to them quickly, if need be when they had a pot positive test, which can abort the, uh, the infection and, and drop the viral load dramatically and quickly, basically we could get to a point where even a new variant wouldn't be a significant threat. So I'm actually quite optimistic if we get our drug story straight, particularly on the pill, it, uh, and that we are able to eventually have a variant proof vaccine. So we don't have to rely anymore on boosters that were directed to the original strain. So I think the tools are getting assembled now that we will get back to a very positive comfort zone, uh, not just for the next few months, but durably, uh, but we will have to coronavirus out there for years to come. That's why we need strategies like, uh, better drugs, uh, wide scale availability, those drugs, and a better that will get really, uh, uh, a variant proof, uh, story for years to come.

Speaker 1: (09:22)

I've been speaking with Dr. Eric Topel director of the Scripps research translational Institute in LA Jolla. Dr. Topel. Thank you very much. Thank

Speaker 2: (09:29)


Speaker 4: (09:42)

Residents. Living at the sports arena Boulevard, homeless encampment are now being cited for living out on the streets. San Diego mayor to Gloria ordered the sweep, which started on Monday, but some advocates are questioning the timing of it. Uh, head of the San Diego homeless count next week, joining me is KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman, who has been covering this story, Matt, welcome. Hey Jade. So why are city officials increasing enforcement and handing out citations to people living at the homeless encampment right now

Speaker 5: (10:12)

In short, they say it's because they're space inside of shelters. And they say is long as there's space inside of shelters. They will be doing progressive enforcement going back a little bit on this Jade. Uh, the city started this big push to clean up this midway homeless encampment about two weeks ago, similar to what they do downtown. You know, they send in police and they send in, uh, some city crews with the trash trucks and they have people move their stuff whatever's left over. They end up throwing away. Now they're not making people leave. They're not citing anybody. But since then, that was about two weeks ago. Uh, the city shelter beds, they weren't accepting a lot of intakes because they had a lot of outbreaks from homeless residents who were staying there. Um, that's now changed. They're now accepting people again. And so the city's saying, Hey, this is part of the normal process in terms of when we have shelter beds available, we're gonna be going out and doing this progressive enforcement. It goes from citations and you can work your way up to possibly getting to arrest. So a lot of focus on this right now, because this cleanup recently started, uh, but the city's saying, Hey, this is the normal process.

Speaker 4: (11:08)

Colleen Kosac, who's an attorney representing some of the people living at the sports arena. Encampment suggests the city has decided to increase enforcement to alter the upcoming homeless count

Speaker 3: (11:19)

All so that what on February 24th, when they come around to do the point in time count, and the mayor has chased everybody off the street, he's gonna what pat himself on the back.

Speaker 4: (11:30)

So Matt, what does she mean by that?

Speaker 5: (11:32)

Well, her and some other advocates that really work on the ground with these people that are out there, you know, the numerous times during week, giving them food and water, different things. They think that this, uh, could be part of an effort to, uh, scatter homeless residents ahead of the, the point in time counts coming up next week. Um, and that gives a regional view of where we're at in terms of homelessness, there's federal funding. That's tied to the number of people that they find that are living on the streets. And they're saying that it's so much easier to count all these people when they're right here in this encampment. Um, and by scattering them, it's gonna make them harder to count. And then the mayor might be able to go back and say, Hey, look, there's lower number of people living on the streets. Um, I'm reducing homelessness. So that's sort of their point there

Speaker 4: (12:10)

What's the city's reaction to that accusation.

Speaker 5: (12:13)

They say that it's simply just not true. You know, again, they say this is part of the normal procedure, um, in terms of, Hey, we have shelter beds available now. And so that's why we're doing this enforcement again. Um, and they also point out that, like I mentioned before, there's federal dollars that are tied to the count here. Uh, so they say that it's in their best interest to have a very, very accurate count here. Um, so they say that this is just totally not true.

Speaker 4: (12:37)

How are community members and other advocates reacting to this situation?

Speaker 5: (12:41)

Well, we know that, uh, miss Cusack, she's an attorney, she's representing quite a bit of people down there. Um, and she's actually according to a voice of San Diego article, she's actually met with San Diego mayor, Todd, Gloria, uh, she's been threatening some legal action regarding some of the enforcement there. And they're trying to work out a middle ground in terms of this progressive enforcement. I don't know if that's stopping it entirely or maybe having it more drawn out like a drawn out process. She wants people to be able to, like, if you get a ticket for encroachment, go through the process before you reach that next tier in the, uh, progressive enforcement step. So, um, we're still seeing a lot going down there. You know, they're all out there with their phones, a lot of different advocates, uh, monitoring the police down there. A lot of people not happy with how this is being handled. Um, but trying to work with the police to come up with a better solution,

Speaker 4: (13:25)

The encampment was cleared out a couple of weeks ago. How many people are living there now?

Speaker 5: (13:30)

Yeah. So when the city started this process, they estimated there's probably about 180 or so people living there. Um, and that's kind of on both sides there of sports arena Boulevard, uh, in the back there. Um, since they started doing the cleanup, some of those homeless advocates that are on the ground, maybe estimate that maybe about a third of the camp have left. The, a third of the people have moved on. Um, but I will say there's a lot of people there who say, Hey, we set up this encampment because we had nowhere else to go. And this was our means to like set up a community to survive. And so a lot of them say that they don't plan on going anywhere.

Speaker 4: (14:01)

And how many people have been cited or arrested recently.

Speaker 5: (14:04)

So since they started doing this progressive enforcement on this, uh, midway encampment, um, it's kind of a slow process. They don't go out and hit everybody in one day on Monday, the first day, uh, they made set 17 contacts. Um, and from that, they wrote a few citations for people. And that includes things like encroachment, um, things like illegal lodging. Um, so they're trying to crack down there. Now. We, we did see some people who, who were arrested. We found out that one person was arrested, not because they refused to leave the encampment or like tied to encroachment. Uh, it was for a warrant, but we will see this enforcement continuing. Uh, this is just sort of the beginning of it for this midway encampment, which as we've seen in the last few weeks has gotten a lot of attention.

Speaker 4: (14:42)

You know, when police approached people during Monday sweep, were they offering them help to find shelter?

Speaker 5: (14:48)

Yes, they were offering them help to find shelter. And basically the way the city says it goes. So like, you know, if they know on a certain given day, they have 30 shelter beds available, they'll do enforcement until they can fill those shelter beds. Um, they don't wanna be doing enforcement, uh, when there's, uh, no shelter beds. That's actually part of like a, kind of a complicated legal settlement that happened recently. And there's also, I will say two Jade, the police when they're out there, uh, they say that they don't do these sweeps during inclement weather. So if it's like raining and stuff like that, they're not gonna be going out there. Um, but as long as shelter beds are available and the weather's good, they're gonna be going out there and doing this enforcement, not just in the midway district too, but this is happening across the city of San Diego. So, um, people that are living downtown, they may start to see more enforcement again. Now that those shelter beds are there,

Speaker 4: (15:31)

Some of the homeless population living on the streets say they do not want to live in a shelter. What are their reasons for that?

Speaker 5: (15:38)

Yeah, that's something that we hear, uh, quite a bit from people that they don't wanna live in a congregate setting. And that can be for a lot of reasons, you know, uh, some people say they just don't do well around other people inside a large setting. Um, some people, you know, have been incarcerated it before and say that that's a reason why they don't do well with people in those settings. But the kind of catch 22 is that's really the only thing that the city is offering here. And we're hearing from, you know, uh, miss Cusak, who's out there, the attorney saying, uh, that, you know, the shelters are dangerous. And, and as we've seen with these, uh, COVID outbreaks that are happening there. Um, so it's really gonna be interesting to see if there's some sort of middle ground that can be found there because you have, you know, on one hand the city saying, Hey, we have these shelters they're congregate and it's all we have. And then you have, you know, a lot of homeless residents saying, well, I don't want to go there.

Speaker 4: (16:23)

So what's the end game here. I mean, will this enforcement continue until everyone's off the streets?

Speaker 5: (16:27)

So we're hearing from the city that they're gonna continue their quote, compassionate approach here. Um, but they say that they still see a lot of health and safety issues that are happening at that encampment. And so they say that they will continue enforcement. Uh, they say a lot of different things from sanitary conditions there, uh, to reported crime that's been happening there. Uh, and the mayor says that that just can't happen. You know, he, he says he doesn't want this to blow up into a full blown crisis. So it's kind of, you know, what's the barometer. Is there like a line where one day they're gonna take their foot off the gas pedal in terms of enforcement. We really don't know, but as we know right now, you know, the city says as long as there's shelter beds available, they're gonna be going out there and continuing this enforcement, not just in the midway, but across the whole city.

Speaker 4: (17:06)

I've been speaking with KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman, Matt. Thank you.

Speaker 5: (17:10)

Thanks Jade.

Speaker 4: (17:16)

You're listening to K PBS midday edition. I'm Jade Henman with Maureen Kavanaugh in an effort to combat the growing theft of catalytic converters. Carlsbad has become the first city in the county to pass legislation aimed at addressing the issue. The new law would make it illegal for anyone other than in a licensed recycler to possess a catalytic converter without valid proof of ownership, the law, which will go into effect next month, coincides with a similar effort introduced by California, Senator Brian Jones of Sant to tighten up regulations on converter theft statewide. Joining me now with more on this issue is captain Christie Calderwood with the Carlsbad police department, captain. Calderwood welcome to the program.

Speaker 6: (17:59)

Thank you for having me. It's my pleasure.

Speaker 4: (18:01)

So how does this new law tighten up some of the issues surrounding the theft of catalytic converters?

Speaker 6: (18:07)

Well, we'd like to educate the residents in regards to protecting themselves, but we'd also like to bring sanctions to those that are victimizing our citizenry. And we hope that by having this new ordinance within the city of Carlsbad, that's prohibiting the unlawful possession of a catalytic converter, that it will not only bring education to people that could potentially be victim, but also the criminals that are roaming the streets particularly at night and are victimizing people by taking their catalytic converters.

Speaker 4: (18:38)

So will this new law make it easier for officers in your department to police this crime?

Speaker 6: (18:43)

We absolutely believe that it will. The challenge in this type of crime that we have seen is that it is difficult for our local DA's office to prosecute. And the reason for that is that these catalytic converters traditionally do not have any identifying information on them. They do not have any, um, plate numbers or VIN numbers. So when we pull people over and have multiple recovered catalytic converters that we believe are stolen, and we have detained somebody who we think is, uh, the suspect, the challenge is trying to locate an identified victim. So we're trying to move forward with an ordinance that if you come into Carlsbad and you try to steal a catalytic converter from one of our citizens, and we pull you over with the unlawful possession of one, we will be able to will convict you hopefully through our city attorney's office for a misdemeanor crime of possession of the catalytic converter.

Speaker 4: (19:37)

What advice would you give to people? Looking to deter would be thieves.

Speaker 6: (19:41)

We've held events where we have partnered with a local auto body shop so that citizens can come and get their catalytic converter engraved with either their VIN or a license plate number for free. We have had many events where we have our senior volunteers handout, flyers to potential victims. And the Toyota Prius is the most targeted vehicle in a crime like this. So we try to educate our citizens as well, so that they are not victimized. So the message to the would be criminals is don't come to the city of Carlsbad and, and think that you're gonna get away with it because we are out there looking for people with both uniformed and non uniformed officers. And we have a new ordinance that is going into effect to help us prosecute these crimes.

Speaker 4: (20:23)

So let's take a step back here. I mean, what is a catalytic converter and why are they so highly sought after, by thieves in the first place?

Speaker 6: (20:30)

It basically takes all of the effects that come out of your vehicle and create smog and dirty at the environment. So it's kind of a cleaning tool if you will. And there's extremely precious metals that are inside of these catalytic converters, that range, depending on, you know, at the height of odium, for example, you could get $30,000 per ounce. At one point in 2021, it's averaging about $11,000 per ounce, but the platinum palladium and odium is extremely expensive, so they can take them to recycling centers. And we're cracking down on the centers as well, making sure that they are in compliance, but they run anywhere between on the low end, very low end $300 all the way up to a thousand dollars a piece per converter.

Speaker 4: (21:17)

So you mentioned recycling places are buying these stolen converters. What can you do on that end to deter this type of crime?

Speaker 6: (21:24)

What we have learned is that a lot of the thieves are selling them to what, what are called fences. So it's kind of like a middle man who is then selling the precious metals to places outside of our county places outside of even our country. And the pandemic has played a lot into these precious metals increasing in price. So as everyone knows, there's been a lot of, um, supply chain issues. There's been a lot of, you could look at anything on the market, whether it's a vehicle all the way to things at the grocery store and supply chain. And so it's driving up the prices of these precious metals. So we're finding that they're selling 'em really to the fences. And so our goal is to find out who these people are that are acting as the middle men. And try to break that down.

Speaker 4: (22:11)

You mentioned that Prius's are targeted more heavily. Why is that?

Speaker 6: (22:15)

So the Prius one, it's extremely easy to get to it's takes, like I said, less than a minute for somebody to steal one of these, if they have the right tools and the Prius, because of the way that it's, um, made, that's a hybrid, the precious metals are more expensive.

Speaker 4: (22:31)

And what kind of recourse does the average citizen have if they find themselves the victim of this kind of crime.

Speaker 6: (22:37)

So at this point it's somewhat difficult. You know, what happens is most people will wake up in the morning and get in their vehicle and turn it on. And they will hear a loud deafening sound, which is how they realize that they have been victimized. They will then hopefully call the police and report it. A lot of times, they do not. And they'll take the vehicle to get fixed or have it towed to get fixed, which costs anywhere between a thousand and $2,000 to replace these. And then when we take the crime reports and work with our district attorney's office, we're doing everything we can to ultimately locate the suspect, but that's very challenging in itself. So as far as recourse for the victims at this point, there isn't a lot. And that's why we wanted to introduce this new ordinance so that when we have somebody that is detained and we have these catalytic converters are in our possession, we don't just have to release them because we don't have an identified Vic them. We hope that there will be further sanctions down the line for people that are in possession of these right now, for the ordinance in Carlsbad, it will be a misdemeanor charge, but there are also other charges that we plan on being able to book people for which can include grand theft, which is a felony possession of burglary tools. And anything else that fits the scenario that is occurring.

Speaker 4: (23:54)

And what type of charge does a recycling center who's taking in these stolen parts? How are they prosecuted? How are the middlemen in this prosecuted? It seems like the low person on the totem pole. We've got that, but what about the people who are really driving this?

Speaker 6: (24:11)

So the people that are really driving this, if like, if this, if a suspect states or somebody at a recycling center states anything about working on vehicles or taking in these catalytic converters and doesn't have the correct paperwork to show the, that they work for a recycling center or are transporting them for some legitimate reason, which it's very unlikely that somebody's be driving around with a used dirty detached cattle converter. So there is a California vehicle code for owning or operating a chop shop, which is something new that we are looking into as far as charge people with. If they possess burglary tools and have likely stolen catalytic converters in their possession, they may meet the criteria for operating a Mo mobile chop shop.

Speaker 4: (24:56)

And finally, what challenges do you see to actually finding thieves, driving down the street with stolen catalytic converters in their car?

Speaker 6: (25:05)

Sure. There that's always the challenge, you know, but we have some super smart, intelligent officers that are working day and night to combat this rising trend. This is extremely important to us in the city of Carlsbad property crimes are, you know, one of our highest crime trends throughout the years. So we have officers we're training them on to look for. We are deploying them in areas. There is an increase in thefts like this, and we're just telling them and showing them the right things to look for that are suspicious and don't seem right. And when they make traffic stops, that are proactive and they are detaining people that will have multiple catalytic converters in the vehicle with them. Then they now have a new tool to help combat the rising trend.

Speaker 4: (25:50)

Do you think this translates to pretextual stops?

Speaker 6: (25:53)

I don't think so. I don't wanna go down the road of, um, the pretextual stops. I mean, this is something that we hope is, is a, a tool that if somebody is found to be in the illegal possession, it just helps them be pro pull down the line. Because a lot of times we don't have that. Like I said, the identified victim, but we're not changing any way to go out and pull over people that we probably wouldn't have pulled over before. We're pulling people over for mostly moving violations, but these traffic stops will lead to other crimes and other types of arrest.

Speaker 4: (26:28)

All right. I've been speaking with Carlsbad police, captain Christie Calderwood. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Speaker 6: (26:34)

Absolutely. Thank you for your time.

Speaker 4: (26:39)

More than a dozen antitrust bills targeting big tech are in play in the nation's capital right now. And Silicon valley has gone full court press to kill or soften the legislative attack. This game is fast and confusing and hard to follow for the California report. K Q E D's. Rachel Myro gives us a courtside view from their Silicon valley desk

Speaker 1: (27:02)

Bills, primarily target Amazon, apple, Google, and meta. These four have become many things to many people, but they are all multi-billion dollar giants in advertising. Also other specialties like retail apps, entertainment, democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. One lawmakers leading the antitrust charge has acknowledged the odds are daunting

Speaker 7: (27:27)

Because we are up against a lot. We have two lawyers on our staff that do antitrust and the tech companies have 2,500 lobbyists and probably 10,000 lawyers.

Speaker 1: (27:38)

Also tech funded think tanks whose talking points are remarkably consist and also possibly accurate barren soca of tech freedom in DC, for instance, argues, many of the bills are rushed and poorly written, and he warns Democrats. The efforts to win support from key Republicans has meant there are ticking time bombs in the bills that could explode on Democrats and their allies. The next time Republican regain control of the white house,

Speaker 8: (28:06)

We are legislating the way that that cartoon shows the railroad bridge being built out over the canyon as the train is going, except we don't even know what the bridge looks like or where it's going.

Speaker 1: (28:18)

You'll hear remarkably similar concerns from many in the California delegation, including both us senators, as well as congressional representatives like Zoe Laron of Silicon valley. There's the rushed poorly written legislation argument. There's the weaponizing, the law in ways that could favor Republicans argument and last but not least, there's the worry that too many of the bills target just for self-dealing monopolies.

Speaker 9: (28:44)

One of the amendment that I offered was, uh, they had written it such a way that a very cleverly exempted Microsoft, even though Microsoft is as big as, you know, some of the other companies being targeted

Speaker 1: (28:58)

Loft grant and others who voiced objections continue to take money from the likes of Amazon, Google and meta, does that money influence her position? LaRonn says no. Well,

Speaker 9: (29:09)

I think that's obvious baloney. And if that were the case, Anne and I would not have introduced our privacy bill, which is, you know, would require actually a huge change in the business model of any, uh, tech company that uses, uh, relies on the data that users,

Speaker 1: (29:26)

The online privacy act Lakin reintroduced with fellow Silicon valley, Congresswoman Anna ASU is considered a serious attack on the trade and personal data. That's bread and butter for mega conglomerates these days. And it's not the only bill considered a serious threat by the likes of Google CEO, Sundar PJI speaking here during a recent earnings call,

Speaker 10: (29:47)

We are genuinely concerned, uh, that they could break a wide range of popular services. We offer to our users, uh, all the work we do to make our products safe, private, secure, et cetera. And, and in some cases can hurt American compete by disadvantaging solely us companies,

Speaker 1: (30:07)

Dr. Jennifer King follows data and privacy for the Stanford Institute for human-centered artificial intelligence. She's not holding her breath for this Congress to act on any kind of revolutionary reform. One big reason why she says as both political parties have grown, quite fond of using targeted advertising themselves.

Speaker 11: (30:27)

We now have a legislative structure that's just as dependent on those data practices that the commercial sector is dependent on behavioral targeting and marketing practices that are really at issue in all these cases.

Speaker 1: (30:40)

The only thing everybody seemed to agree on is some kind of new legislation is needed if only to bolster funding of federal regulators, but what kind of legislation exactly. That's where the consensus falls apart. I'm Rachel Myro in Menlo park.

Speaker 1: (31:02)

Yesterday's rain was a welcome change. Briefly interrupting a two month dry spell in San Diego state officials are predicting dire statewide drought conditions this year, which could mean more water use restrictions, but San Diego has gone a long way toward insulating itself from water shortages conservation efforts combined with project like Carlsbad's desalination plant, leave the county in a better position to weather a drought. It also leaves us with some of the highest water rates in the state higher than Los Angeles county. Joining me is San Diego union Tribune, reporter Joshua Emerson Smith, to talk about the pros and cons of the county's water policy and Joshua, welcome to the program.

Speaker 5: (31:44)

Good to be here.

Speaker 1: (31:46)

San Eggins have seen their water rates creep up year after year. About how much more are we paying in comparison to LA?

Speaker 5: (31:54)

Well, our wholesale rate, which for untreated water, which is $1,474 an acre foot right now, and an acre foot is about enough water to cover an acre foot deep. That's about $400 an acre foot more than what they're paying in LA. So quite a, quite a bit more.

Speaker 1: (32:13)

And of course, that kind of trickles down if you would, to the consumer and

Speaker 5: (32:17)


Speaker 1: (32:19)

San Diego has always been at the end of the pipeline for state water supplies. Is that why county water authority has launched its own water projects?

Speaker 5: (32:28)

Yeah, that's part of it. We're at the end of the pipeline when it comes to delivering water from the Sacramento bay Delta in the Colorado river, but we've also had a little bit of bad blood with our wholesaler, the metropolitan water district of Southern California after, uh, dust up in the early nineties, over drought restrictions. And ever since then, the water authority here in San Diego has been looking to develop its own supplies for water and use less and less of the met water.

Speaker 1: (32:59)

Tell us about the projects that it started and how they add to our water bills.

Speaker 5: (33:04)

Well, it's everything from the raising, the San Viente dam or the Han dam to other emergency storage projects to perhaps most notably the Carlsbad desalination plant, which, uh, has some of the highest water rates, uh, around.

Speaker 1: (33:23)

And apparently after taking on whopping debts to increase the water supply, the county found itself up against a decrease in demand. How did that happen?

Speaker 5: (33:35)

I mean, no one really saw this coming to be fair but said 2010. So over the last decade, demand for water from our wholesaler has decreased 40%. It's hard to overstate how significant that is. A lot of it is due to conservation. So people have ripped out their lawns with turf rebate program, mandatory drought conservation during the last, uh, drought was pretty significant. So people are just using less water. On top of that. Local retail agencies are developing their own resources, which is largely recycling projects. And so that means that are also demanding less from our water wholesaler here in the region.

Speaker 1: (34:26)

Even though the county's water projects may help us get through droughts without a water shortage, there are San Diegos who can't afford to pay their water bills right now. Is there any plan to help them?

Speaker 5: (34:39)

Yeah, I mean that, that that's the big issue, right? We have farmers who are saying they can't afford the cost of water and we've seen demand from the agricultural sector drop pretty severely, but now increasingly low income folks and even middle income folks are saying, they're having a hard time paying their water bills. And this is something that state and local officials are grappling with because it's hard to design these projects, uh, given the state rules around increasing water rates, you can't just increase water rates to redistribute the funds. So we're trying to figure this out. The state, the answers probably gonna come from the state in, in terms of relief programs, but it's one of those issues where we see, we see it on the horizon. People are increasingly unable to afford their water bills. It's pretty significant.

Speaker 1: (35:35)

Apparently there was some effort by the county water authority to try to, uh, market the water rates as something in comparison to other things people are paying for to be pretty good, but that didn't go over very well. Tell us about that.

Speaker 5: (35:49)

Right? So the water authority is under increased pressure to deal with the affordability issue. Something that it really hasn't been fo focused on in the past, in the past, the water authority has been hyper focused on reliability, building all of these different projects to ensure that we don't face significant cutbacks. So now it's facing this pressure to figure out how to keep rates under control. And at a recent meeting, they talked about a messaging campaign where they would compare the cost of tap water versus bottled water, gasoline milk, you name it. And a lot of the member, uh, a lot of the people on the board, right? These are the headwater officials for all of the retail water agencies across the region. That kind of baed at that idea. They said, you know, we should be figuring out not how to justify our high rates, but how to lower them, or at least keep them from raising even higher.

Speaker 1: (36:44)

Now, the city of San Diego's pure water recycling program is set to start in a few years. How will that affect water rates?

Speaker 5: (36:52)

That's gonna increase water rates pretty dramatically. Uh, not only is, does it mean that at the city will be buying less water from the wholesaler, which has this, this effect of driving up the price. But it also means that we have to pay for all the infrastructure for building the water recycling. And so it's kind of a double whammy for the rate payer.

Speaker 1: (37:15)

It certainly looks like we'll have a lot of water and we so certainly may need it as the effects of climate change increase. So could these high prices be seen as an investment in the future?

Speaker 5: (37:27)

Absolutely. Uh, right now we're in a situation where ironically, it seems like we have more water than we need than we know what to do with, even though we're in a drought, but going forward, this could pay dividends. Uh, we could see increased reliability into decades to come. The question is what will the cost of that be?

Speaker 1: (37:50)

I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter Joshua Emerson Smith, Joshua, thank you

Speaker 5: (37:56)

Always a pleasure.

Speaker 1: (38:08)

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Hyman on the outskirts of Oakland's Chinatown. You can hear the rhythmic pulsing of hot ovens and the steady screech of revolving griddles. The sound hits your ears before your nose picks up the smell of sweet cookie, better Alicia Wong and her mother Jamine say joy and positivity are the not so secret ingredients that have kept their business thriving. The California report magazine intern, Izzy bloom took a look inside the Oakland fortune factory where this mother daughter duo turns out thousands of handmade cookies. Every day.

Speaker 12: (38:49)

Lunar new year has kept Alicia and her mom Jaine busy working 20 hour days. Alicia says it all starts with that sweet batter.

Speaker 13: (38:58)

My mom makes a batter every morning. She puts all the ingredients into a giant mixer.

Speaker 12: (39:03)

When the batter is smooth, it gets funneled into a tube and then pumped out as circles onto hot metal plates. The plates revolve clockwise into a furnace where they bake for about three minutes.

Speaker 13: (39:15)

And as they come out of the oven, they are soft and pliable for a few seconds. And during that time we would quickly take a fortune, put it in the center, fold it up and pinch it into a fortune cookie shake. And then they are individually wrapped and

Speaker 12: (39:31)

Sealed. But these cookie is aren't made for the end of your meal at a restaurant they're carefully handcrafted with unique flavors from strawberry to shun, peppercorn, chocolate and ornamented with festive pearls and sugar crystals. And some honor the new year with the Chinese character for tiger embellished in shimmery gold, others have chocolate tiger stripes.

Speaker 13: (39:56)

The tiger is very special for me because it's my mother's year. And the tiger really reminds me of my mom because she's a very determined fearless woman who is very protective of her family.

Speaker 12: (40:14)

Jamine is sifting through the cookies and smiles up warmly at her daughter. As Alicia translates for her

Speaker 14: (40:21)

Happy together happy.

Speaker 13: (40:27)

She says that she loves that our cookies are a perfect union of Chinese American culture. It's like a, the cookie itself is the best of both worlds.

Speaker 12: (40:44)

Ja grew up in China, but she moved to the us in 1999 and raised Alicia in Oakland, not far from the Oakland fortune factory, which had a different owner at the time.

Speaker 13: (40:54)

One of my fondest memories is my mom picking me a up after school, uh, grabbing a $2 bag of the broken cookies, which we still have. And it's still $2. So I could just go ham eating, eating the cookies. It was so satisfyingly crunchy. I still love the texture.

Speaker 12: (41:14)

Six years ago, the Oakland fortune factory was about to close. So jamming decided to buy it. She'd never even run a business before and she doesn't speak English. So she'd rely on Alicia for help, but she was in college on the east coast.

Speaker 13: (41:29)

It was incredibly difficult trying to run a business that I am not there for across the country with a three hour time difference.

Speaker 12: (41:41)

After Alicia graduated from college, she decided to join her mom in running the fortune cookie business full time. Now it's a whole family affair. Alicia's husband and her sister are all involved as well. Alicia is taking the business in a whole new direction, infusing it with her passion to support social justice movements like black lives matter.

Speaker 13: (42:07)

We had the BLM stencil and gold under cookie and the insides were quote civil rights leaders to try to inspire discussion.

Speaker 12: (42:18)

Alicia says they were one of the first businesses in Chinatown to stand up and support the black lives matter movement. She says that's because of what her mom would always tell her growing up.

Speaker 14: (42:33)


Speaker 13: (42:35)

She says, well, aside from trying to make money, you have to do something good for society. You have to do something good for others. She wants our cookies to be able to promote, um, peace and joy love between people,

Speaker 12: (42:51)

But keeping that peace has been difficult over the last few years,

Speaker 15: (42:55)

A 91 year old man was violently shoved to the ground in Oakland's Chinatown. The attacks come as a growing number of hate incidents, target Asian Americans in Pacific Islanders. No,

Speaker 16: (43:04)

There's been a lot of like viral videos of like non-Asian individuals attacking or harassing Asian individuals.

Speaker 13: (43:15)

It really hurts every time I see someone in our community get hurt because that could have been my mom. That could have been my grandpa or my dad. And it makes me incredibly angry that it's still happening

Speaker 12: (43:28)

In 2020. Alicia said a group of people came in vandalized, Chinatown smashing the Oakland fortune factories front window.

Speaker 13: (43:36)

It was very distressing. It was very scary because we've never experienced our store getting penalized before. And we've always felt incredibly safe,

Speaker 12: (43:47)

But she says she doesn't wanna give into fear. So she's using the business to engage more with her community. Instead this year, they're donating a portion of the, a Luna new year cookie sales to the Asian Pacific fund, which works to address anti-Asian racism.

Speaker 13: (44:01)

I think the biggest joy that I get out of running the business right now is finally finding a sort of purpose and fulfillment in my cookies

Speaker 12: (44:13)

And sharing with her customers, the same joy she felt to as a kid, when her mom would pick her up from school and hand her a bag of those crunchy sweet treats. I'm Izzy bloom in Oakland.

Masks can come off today for vaccinated Californians in many indoor spaces, however, some restrictions still apply regardless of vaccination status. Next, police are now ticketing people living at a homeless encampment on Sports Arena Boulevard as part of the city’s progressive enforcement efforts to move residents into shelters. Later, Carlsbad has become the first city in the county to pass a law making it illegal for anyone other than a licensed recycler to possess a catalytic converter without valid proof of ownership. And, more than a dozen antitrust bills targeting “big tech” are in play in the nation’s capital right now. Then, water conservation efforts combined with projects like Carlsbad’s desalination plant, leave the county in a better position to weather a drought. It also leaves us with some of the highest water rates in the state. Finally, a look inside the Oakland Fortune Factory, where a mother-daughter duo turns out thousands of handmade cookies every day.