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City, County Leaders Call For Federal Aid As Migrants Fly To San Diego And More Local News

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In today's San Diego News Matters podcast: the latest on the migrant influx from Texas to San Diego, the future of Horton Plaza and the zoo's efforts to revive the nearly extinct northern white rhino.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Good morning. It's May 21st I'm Deb Welsh and you're listening to San Diego news matters. Dozens of immigrants started arriving by plane in San Diego last week. KPBS reporter Andrew boy and says federal immigration authorities for the immigrants and from Texas where there are more illegal crossings, customs and border protection. Send a flight of around 120 migrants to San Diego on Friday. They were all families taken into custody and the Rio Grande Valley, which includes Brownsville and McAllen, Texas last month, that sector of the border sound more than six times the number of apprehensions than San Diego. Mayor Kevin Faulkner says, San Diego needs more resources from the federal government to help deal with the new arrivals. It's incredibly important that the federal government jump in, uh, and to provide help and support. And that is a message that I will continue to be advocating in Washington DC. It's not clear when or how the migrants will be released here. Since last fall, a group of local nonprofits as run a temporary shelter for migrant families released from federal custody. It's partly funded by the county and state. Andrew Bowen K PBS News Downtown San Diego's Horton Plaza Mall is on its way to being transformed into a high tech hub. KPV As reporter John Carroll says, the campus at a Horton project got unanimous support from the city council

Speaker 2: 01:18 work will soon begin to turn what is now a floundering mall into a high tech hub in the heart of downtown San Diego. The San Diego City Council voted Monday to approve a proposal from La based Stockdale capital partners to turn them all into a mixed use center. Few people who attended the counsel meeting spoken opposition. One Who did was the owner of Jim vose grocery store located in the mall who said he felt Stockdale would try to force him out. The new plan, we'll cut the current amount of retail in half. In the end, the council vote was unanimous. The developer says the new facility will create up to 4,000 well paying jobs spread over 700,000 square feet. They say the first phase should be complete by late 2020 John Carroll. KPBS news,

Speaker 1: 02:05 some of the most expensive medications in the country are those for auto immune disease, cancer and hepatitis. There are called specialty drugs and there's a debate about the best way to get them to patients. Capitol, public radio, Sammy Kay o lakes planes. Some health systems are opening what's called the specialty pharmacy, either a physical location or a delivery service for these expensive drugs that not all basic pharmacies can dispense. Dignity health opened one in Arizona and we'll expand to Sacramento this spring. The hospital system says they're able to get lower prices by negotiating directly with the drug maker instead of going through a middleman. They say this will lower the cost of care overall. Some groups are concerned if you have two different pharmacists, information about your meds can fall through the cracks. Supporters say it will lead to improved care since the hospital will oversee the patient's drug plan from start to finish in Sacramento.

Speaker 1: 02:56 I'm Sammy Kay Yola. A bill making its way through the statehouse would provide funds to help shelters better serve homeless pet owners. KPBS reporter Lynn Walsh says this funding could help a lot of people in San Diego. Senate bill two 58 would make $5 million in grants available to help cover the costs of providing shelter, food, and basic care for pets whose owners are homeless. State Senator Bob Hertzberg who introduced the bill, says five to 10% of the 3.5 million homeless Americans own pets in San Diego. Alpha project chief operating officer, Amy Gonio estimates 10% of the people in their shelter own a pet. She says they don't have specific funding to cover the costs of caring for the animals. So this grant funding would go along way.

Speaker 3: 03:43 The more services that we can give people the better. So even when it gets cold out and you doggy jackets cause your dogs outside in the rain and it's cold. Um, so there's a lot of ancillary things that we could purchase and get for the clientele supply wise, um, and even to provide some more help for the animals themselves.

Speaker 1: 03:59 The bill is expected to be heard on the Senate floor this month. Lynn Walsh, KPBS news Monday was the official grand opening of the connect all business accelerator at the Jacobs Center for neighborhood innovation. KPBS reporter Malena Spitzer says the accelerator is the first of its kind. It reaches traditionally underserved communities in Southeast San Diego. The 2019 cohort at the connect all accelerator is made up entirely of minority and low income entrepreneurs like Kelvin Crosby. Crosby is blind and says he created the smart guide or cane using autonomous technology found in self driving cars to give independence to others like him.

Speaker 4: 04:39 Losing my vision has been a journey. I come here to lose Warren. The more independence I lose, I want to gain that independence guy. Well, how do I do that?

Speaker 1: 04:49 Business accelerators provide mentorship, workspace and access to investment for entrepreneurs. Crosby's company is one of 13 selected for the accelerator. San Diego may or Kevin Faulkner says, this type of investment has been a long time coming.

Speaker 5: 05:03 We know how to compete. Uh, we know how to start these businesses and it's, it is about time that we take this, this opportunity to communities that traditionally did not have access to these types of services.

Speaker 1: 05:14 The city has committed two point $5 million to the initiative over the next four years. Melina Spitzer, KPBS news, San Diego Zoo's effort to revive the nearly extinct northern white rhino is getting a boost from a UC San Diego robotics lab. KPBS reporter Eric Anderson says, researchers are developing the tools to help implant a northern white rhino embryo into a southern White Rhino female. So this is Victoria Barbara Duran

Speaker 5: 05:43 points to a southern White Rhino at an off exhibit area at the San Diego Zoo safari park.

Speaker 1: 05:49 And you can't tell from the outside that she's pregnant unless you're lucky enough to see the baby

Speaker 5: 05:53 kick. The baby she's carrying is the product of artificial process being developed by Darren's team. She wants all six to have a successful insemination. Eventually, the reproductive physiologist wants to do something that's never been done before. She wants to implant a rhino embryo, but Duran says the rhinos, birth canal presents a problem.

Speaker 3: 06:16 It's very deep within the abdominal cavity, which makes it difficult to access as well. But it has a number of cartilaginous rings, the interlock this way. So there's no clear pathway through the cervix when you want to deposit seaman or an embryo into the uterus.

Speaker 5: 06:33 The cervix opens up a bit when the Rhino was in heat allowing to rant to use a long straight metal catheter for artificial insemination, but that won't work for embryo implantation.

Speaker 3: 06:45 The embryo is going to be growing in vitro or in the lab for about 10 to 12 days. So the cervix of this animal, these recipients is going to be closed. So the only way we're going to be able to get through that cervix is with something that's not rigid and something that we can steer from outside the animal.

Speaker 5: 07:03 That's something is being developed about 30 miles away in a robotics lab on the UC San Diego campus. Professor Michael Europe is working on a tool that will help navigate the rhino cervix and delivering embryo to the animals. You get a red heart.

Speaker 3: 07:19 The idea is that you have a long flexible device, uh, with tendons that run through, um, the end all the way to the handle. And we can pull on those tendons like you would marrying at a puppet. But in this case, we're actually deflecting the end of this robotic tool.

Speaker 5: 07:37 Yep. Is modeling the new tool on endoscopes that can be used to inspect a person's colon or lungs without creating an incision. The Rhino version is much smaller. Once the devices inserted, the catheter can be maneuvered until it reaches a target location.

Speaker 3: 07:54 The animals might have several different pathways for their reproductive system, much like the Rhino, where they have two different uterine horns and you're trying to make sure that you're entering the right channel versus the other.

Speaker 5: 08:06 Right. So for this demo, we're using this kind of three d pen. So the idea of undergraduate student Renal Virgie's is helping you work out different controllers. The finished product could end up being like a gaming controller and electronic pen or a small knob on a handheld device, which seems to be the most promising prototype for, he says the camera plays an important role. Yeah. So we actually use the camera as part of our control system. Um, and because these things are so hard to control, using that camera gives them a little bit of feedback and it gives us a little better idea of how we're moving. The narrow tube on. This device is hollow and the tiny camera is threaded through it. Yep. Says that allows the team to see the rhinos narrow and twisting cervix as it moves along.

Speaker 3: 08:52 Once you get the device articulated into the right location, uh, past the cervix into the uterine horns of the rhino, you can actually use that hollow channel to flush through, um, uh, the, the genetic material.

Speaker 5: 09:07 If successful, the procedure will be groundbreaking because it's never been done on a rhino. Duran says the first attempts will be with southern White Rhino Embryo is conceived in the lab.

Speaker 3: 09:17 Once we've gotten the efficiency, worked out the kinks, so to speak with the instrumentation, and we feel confident in our technique. That's when we'll take one of those very precious northern white rhino embryos and put it into one of these southern white rhinos.

Speaker 5: 09:32 Duran says the zoo has cell lines from 12 different northern white rhinos stored in a repository known as the frozen zoo. Geneticists are working on the protocols that will turn the frozen tissue into reproductive cells. If both teams are successful, the project could help bring the northern white rhino back from the edge of extinction. Eric Anderson, KPBS news

Speaker 1: 09:57 tourist heading south into Bajas, neighboring Mexican state of Sonora are running into trouble when they arrive at a toll booth. Not long lines, but demonstrations. Protestors are condemning the booths and saying they're unconstitutional. Kindled. Blessed reports from Kj is easy for terrorists desk at air. Maseo Mexico,

Speaker 6: 10:17 it's me. I'm not. Paula Contreras waves a car with Utah plates through a toll booth near the little town of Magdalena Sonata. It's about 60 miles south of the Arizona border on a route familiar to tourists bound for beach towns like Keno Bay or San Carlos protestors like Contrarez had been shutting down or liberating Sonoran toll booths like this one for nearly 10 months. Now I want everybody to know why we're right here, but many of us travelers have no idea. You tell us why, what's going on? I waved down carry Carlson and his wife Cathy as they pass through the toll booth on their way to send Carlos on a recent Friday afternoon lights above the booth glowed with big red x's and Feed Jersey barriers, blocks traffic through all but one lane. The protesters waved people through holding out plastic jars for drivers to toss donations into the couple from Washington state's as they're used to seeing protesters on their drive through Sonora, but they usually have no idea what they're protesting. Sometimes they have signs. These guys don't even have signs that I can take a toll. Booth protests are common in Sonora and across Mexico. Oh, to bring attention to all kinds of causes from high gas prices to insecurity to education reform. But since July demonstrators have been shutting down the CASITA's stick cobra to push back against the tolls themselves. [inaudible]

Speaker 6: 11:42 Miriam Marietta and Martinez or leaders with the movie Man [inaudible] or the Sonoran free transit movement there at another toll booth just north of the Sonora and Capitol City. Most CEO, they want to get rid of tollbooths all together in the state of Sonora. They say the Mexican constitution guarantees freedom of movement and charging tolls doesn't match up with that promise. A few bucks might not seem like much to beach down tourists, but del Gallo says the cost whilst noticed on those who have the least for people who live outside of Air Maseo just entering and exiting the city costs almost $10 round trip or nearly twice Mexico's daily minimum wage pay them. The Sonoran protest started as an appeal to then candidate and now President Andres Manuel Lopez, Obrador or Amla, many see him as a champion of the people, but his administration hasn't been quick to respond to the protesters demands and as the protests were on their costing, the government millions of dollars in lost toll revenues. In the first six months of protests in Sonora, the government lost more than $30 million according to data obtained by Kj,Z , Z. Instead, the protesters ask for donations. They say they're using the money for supplies or donating it to members of the community that irks some snoring ones. They say protests are cutting into funds that should go to improving roads are keeping drivers safe. People who don't want to pay the fee can you alternate routes? But supporters of the movement say they haven't seen much benefit from the hefty toll. [inaudible]

Speaker 6: 13:16 was traveling south from Nogales to I go on with his family. He says he'll hit four or five toll booths on the way the cost really adds up. He says he hopes protesters get their way and Delgado thinks they will. He's been to Mexico City to meet with government leaders twice this year. They're working on a compromise that would give, some are in residence, a free passes through the toll booths and [inaudible] purchasers won't be going anywhere until the plan is implemented. He says, [inaudible] come rain shine or scorching summer days. They'll be there until the tolls are lifted. He says, as for travelers, they should just go with the flow. Says Jan Lampkin. She was heading south from Green Valley to San Carlos with her dog. I just keep some change handy and throw it in the bucket for him and hope for the rest. Besides, she says it's nice not having to pay the tolls from see. Oh, Mexico. I'm Kendall blessed. Thanks for listening to San Diego News matters. Yeah. More KPBS podcasts at k pbs.org/podcasts.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.