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Controlled burns for California

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Monday, October 11th

More controlled fires in California. More on that next, but first... let’s do the headlines….

San Diego county public health officials reported 528 new covid-19 cases on Sunday and no new related deaths. Hospitalizations continue to dip, according to state figures. Last week an unvaccinated woman was the first pregnant woman in San Diego to die from covid-19 along with her unborn child, according to the county’s health and human services agency. The county HHSA issued a health advisory to the local medical community last week, alerting them about an increase in cases and hospitalizations of unvaccinated pregnant women, and encouraging them to urge their patients to get vaccinated.

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Encintas beaches stayed open over the weekend, despite reports last week of tar balls on the shorelines. The tar balls are suspected to be from the oil spill in Orange County last week but teams are still assessing if that’s the case. Crude or processed oil can be carcinogenic. A public advisory was issued to notify people about the presence of tar balls at local beaches, urging people to avoid contact.

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Toy manufacturers are concerned about the upcoming holiday season. Around 85% of toys come from China, but ship traffic is backed up at southern California ports, and there are few shipping containers available.

miro copic is a business analyst for KPBS. he explains how the pandemic affected toy demand.

toyshortage (0:17)

“as kids were at home during this pandemic period. parents are trying to figure out, well how do i entertain these kids? and so toy sales across the board last year and this year to date have been really really robust. and so toy manufacturers were really looking forward to a huge holiday season and it may not be as happy as they were hoping.”

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation last week that encourages setting more controlled fires in California’s forests. capradio’s scott rodd reports.

Low-intensity fire is an integral part of California’s wildlands. It has been for thousands of years...until the last century, when the priority has been to put all of them out.

The lack of fire has left forests overgrown and ready to burn out of control.

Prescribed burning aims to reintroduce fire in a safe way. But according to Lenya Quinn-Davidson...area fire advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension...it comes with a lot of risk.

“There’s really no one to do that work. Because there is no insurance for prescribed fire. People who lead that work are taking on immense personal liability every time they do a project, even though it benefits everyone.”

Senate Bill 332 reduces liability for prescribed burning. If a project burns out of control, gross negligence must be proven for a person to be held responsible.

Quinn-Davidson says that will hopefully encourage more people to set so-called “good” fires in the near future...to prevent destructive wildfires down the road.

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Newsom also signed a bill that protects journalists covering protests. kpbs’s debbie cruz, says the new law means unrestricted access for working media at closed-off demonstrations.

governor newsom signed senate bill 98 on saturday which exempts media professionals from having to comply with police dispersal orders while covering protests, marches and rallies. the legislation states that ``law enforcement shall not intentionally assault, interfere with, or obstruct journalists'' covering protest demonstrations and other civic actions. it also prohibits officers from citing journalists for failure to disperse, violating or interfering, if the journalist is solely gathering, receiving, or processing information. the bill had been opposed by the california police chiefs association and other law enforcement groups, who supported adding an amendment requiring journalists to seek the permission of a police commander before entering closed areas around protests. the amendment was eventually dropped.

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Californians can continue to take their favorite cocktails to-go under a new law signed Friday by Governor Gavin Newsom. Here’s CapRadio’s Scott Rodd again.

It started as a way to help restaurants generate revenue during the early days of the pandemic.

COVID-19 restrictions meant fewer customers, and indoor dining wasn’t an option. So the state allowed restaurants to sell their mixed libations with takeout orders.

Senate Bill 389 keeps that provision in place for at least the next five years. The cocktails must be sold with food...and they have to come with a sealed cover or lid.

Customers are limited to two alcoholic beverages per takeout meal...and must pick up the order in person.

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Coming up.... some Afghans are just starting settling into their new country.

"To be honest, I'm still not normal. I can't even sleep."

One former Afghan interpreter who had settled San Diego is rebooting his life after a harrowing escape. That’s next, just after the break.

Caught up in the chaos of the last days of the US engagement in Afghanistan, one former interpreter is getting back to the difficult task of creating a new life in his adopted country.

KPBS Military reporter Steve Walsh has more.

GPS: “Turn right on North Carolina 150”

Lucky, a former interpreter for US forces, sits in the passenger seat of a tractor trailer on a drive through North Carolina. We’re only using his nickname -- one provided by US troops - since he still has family back in Afghanistan.

“So how do you like trucking? It’s good. I like it. It’s not that bad. Thing is, I had no other option.”

Lucky is training to be a long haul truck driver. He settled in San Diego after receiving a visa in 2017. Now he’s rebooting his life in America, after a recent harrowing escape from his former homeland.

“I was stuck there. I tried to get out as soon as possible.”

Lucky hadn’t expected to return to Afghanistan, but his mother fell seriously ill.

“My brother called saying she is asking for you. She’s in hospital. I don’t know if she’s going to make it. So I just decided to go there in an emergency for a week or 10 days.”

So he took a chance, thinking the US wouldn’t pull out until September. He even brought his young children. But things changed almost overnight. By mid-August, Lucky was trapped when his village fell to the Taliban. True to his nickname, Lucky and his family were helped by American veterans who stepped in to guide their former translators out of the country. He made it out - although many didn’t.

“The Afghans, like other refugee groups will become you know important contributors to American society.”

Eric Schwartz is president of Refugees International.

“Help address Labor shortage issues. In places like the middle of the country where there are real challenges in that regard, so this will be a good news story.”

They are one of the groups calling for a pathway to citizenship for Afghans being processed through US military bases, but who do not qualify under other programs, like Special Immigration Visas. Also $5 billion to aid in resettlement. They also want the president to raise the total number of refugees allowed in the US to 200,000 for the next two years -- A relatively modest increase, given the tens of thousands of Vietnamese who immigrated to the US after the war.

“We have a small refrigerator here. Let me show you. My wife cooked some food for me and I put it here in the refrigerator.”

Lucky gives me a virtual tour from inside the truck. As the sun was going down in North Carolina, we talked as the truck was being unloaded.

“To be honest I’m still not normal. I can’t even sleep, only two hours, three hours, after the situation that I went through and my kids.”

In San Diego, he had been a translator for the Afghan community. That ended while he was trapped in Afghanistan. His new life is now in Texas, where he lives with his brother in law. He says it’s been tougher on the kids, especially his young daughter.

“They don’t go out. They don’t play with kids. They’re scared. I even took her to a doctor, cause she was not eating. She jumped when she was sleeping. She jumped when she feels she was still in Afghanistan.”

Still in Afghanistan - like Lucky’s mother, who did pull through. Although Lucky doesn’t think he’ll ever see his home country again - he’s focused on his family’s future here.

Steve Walsh KPBS News

This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

Low intensity burns or prescribed fires are necessary to keep a forest healthy and to prevent large wildfires, many forest managers now believe. A new law in California is encouraging more controlled burns in the Golden State. Meanwhile, Californians can continue to take their favorite cocktails to-go also under a new law. Plus, one former military interpreter from San Diego is rebooting his life after a harrowing escape from Afghanistan.