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Digital Dunkirk For Afghanistan

 August 27, 2021 at 6:13 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Friday, August 27th >>>> A digital dunkirk More on that next, but first... let’s do the headlines…. ###### Some Parent groups in San Diego have called on school districts to refuse to follow state health department rules requiring masks in schools. Yet, on Thursday, a student coalition held a virtual news conference to demand more covid-19 protections on campus, and to call on students to become more involved. The speakers included uc san diego sophomore genevieve koenigshofer. “i’m sad that not enough students have figured it out yet, but i’m hopeful because more and more students are learning how to raise their voice, how to make themselves heard and how to shape their own future.shape their own future.” The coalition includes groups called generation, Protectus and TeensForVaccines. They say they want mask mandates, on-campus vaccine clinics, testing and vaccine verification. …… Meanwhile, when classes start on monday for San Diego Unified school district, students will be required to wear masks inside the classroom and out... except for during lunch time. District officials say they're strengthening their mask policy because of the continuing surge of COVID-19. Students will also be socially distanced. ######## Earlier this week, KPBS reported that the Cajon valley school district had a number of Afghan students and families stuck in kabul. The district now says three families have safely made it out of afghanistan. Tamero Otero is the governing board president at cajon valley. “we do know about two more families that are out of afghanistan and are safe. i can't tell you anymore about where they are but they are safe.” Congressman Darrell Issa is also working with the district to help bring home the remaining 5 families. ######### From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. Afghans who worked for the Americans are increasingly desperate to flee their country. KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh says they’re reaching out to friends, volunteers and veterans groups ahead of the US deadline ending evacuations. And veterans here in the US are working to help them. “And he, ah, I’m going to have to make a change real quick. Go ahead and do what you need to do.” Shawn VanDiver, a Navy vet, is with the San Diego chapter of the Truman National Security Project. He’s a busy man -- he had to stop answering my questions to check in on Afghans trying to make their way to the US. “Nothing like this has ever happened before. This is the most uniquely American thing I’ve ever seen. People who don’t do this, just holding themselves up, getting out. I’m working from 4 am to midnight every day for people that we’ve never met.” Supporters call it a Digital Dunkirk -- when hundreds of pleasure boats were pressed into service to rescue British troops trapped in France during World War II. Vet groups like No One Left Behind - which has worked for years to bring military translators back to the US - are working alongside hastily assembled vet coalitions, like VanDiver’s. These groups are also discouraging American volunteers from making the chaos worse. Like chartering flights into Kabul without a clear plan to get people to the airport in time. …..It’s heartbreaking work. “For the humanity. For the sake of God. I am begging them. Save my children.” Desperate Afghans are reaching out, including one man who worked for an American contractor at Bagram Air Force base in the 2000s. We’re not using his name for security reasons...he’s still trying to figure out the visa process.(afghan)“I have a lot of friends, they know me…(sigh) I help them, I helped them. Now it’s my time for them to help me.” (Kris)“Afghan vets have contacts over there. They’re getting these messages. These desperate pleas for help.” Kristopher Goldsmith is a vet advocate and Iraq War vet. He lost touch with his unit’s translator when ISIS took over. A week ago, he created “Evacuate Our Allies.” “The uncertainty for me is heavy, but the certainty of knowing that these desperate cries help, suddenly go silent. That’s going to be unimaginably tough, for many more people.”---He says, for veterans, coming to the aid of their Afghan allies is possibly the clearest objective of the 20 year war. The group is urging the White House to extend the deadline and cut through the red tape so more people can be airlifted out of Kabul. Mohamed is a translator who came to San Diego less than 2 years ago. It took him more than three years to go through the Special Immigration Visa program -- he still has family trapped in Afghanistan. He’s also getting calls from other translators still there. One person spent 8 days in and around the airport before giving up and going back home. “Last night he talked to me. Do you know someone in the airport to help me. I said I can’t I don’t know someone, because right now everything has changed. Everything is in Taliban hands.” For years,advocates have been frustrated by the time it takes to go through the SIV process. The number of visa approvals jumped in the last week. Afghans finish the process at one of four US military bases, before quickly moving to their final destination. Etleva BAYko is with Jewish Family Services in San Diego. She says it’s a challenge just finding a place for them to stay. “We got a call this morning saying we had a family arriving at 8:30 tonight and that’s all the prep time we got. The biggest challenge remains housing. San Diego has a housing crisis so dealing with that in such an emergency situation makes it even more difficult.” They arrive with few belongings. Afghans receive government assistance, but groups on the ground in the US are scrambling for essentials, like pots and pans and kids clothes. Anything that says home. Steve Walsh KPBS NEWS ########## Finishing the job and protecting the homeland.. That’s what the secretary of defense says is behind his coronavirus vaccination mandate for service members. KPBS Health Reporter Matt Hoffman has details on how military personnel will get shots here in San Diego. Here at naval medical center San Diego preparations are underway to vaccinate the remaining sailors and marines in the county— This all happening after the secretary of defense announced mandatory vaccinations for all members of the military— A spokesperson for the medical center here says teams will “use shot exercises on the pier in San Diego and out in the field for the Marines at Camp Pendleton as well as our local military hospitals and clinics to vaccinate everyone... Navy officials saying they are prepared to execute up to 7,000 shots per day between Camp Pendleton and San Diego.” Sailors and marines can be vaccinated at other military medical facilities and they can also use the same sites open to civilians, but if they choose to do that they will have to provide proof to leadership. There’s more than 100,000 active duty military here but keep in mind Coronavirus vaccines have been available for service members for months now, but not all have elected to get them. The Secretary of defense says the mandate is necessary to keep a healthy and ready force.. calling this operating one that will finish the job. Service members are no strangers to vaccinations — and military officials say under this mandate they will only be using vaccines fully approved by the FDA which right now includes only the Pfizer vaccine. On the active duty force 68% is fully vaccinated and we estimate that just over 76% have at least one dose John Kirby, Pentagon Press Secretary Once you’ve mandate it as we’ve done it’s a lawful order it’s a lawful order and we fully anticipate that our troops are going to follow lawful orders The Secretary of Defense says he wants all service members vaccinated in a quote “ambitious” timeline with regular status reports. As it stands here navy officials say they are waiting for additional guidance for how to proceed with this vaccination mandate. Matt Hoffman KPBS News ######## San Diegans could soon be paying more for water and wastewater services. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen has more on the rate hike proposal and an unlikely way it could be stopped. AB: If you live in San Diego and pay your own water and sewer bills, you should have gotten a mailer recently from the city government. It was easy to miss, but it has important details on how much the city wants to raise its rates. And on the last page, there's a form you can sign and send to the City Clerk protesting the changes. This is mandated by the 1996 ballot measure Proposition 218. Adam Jones with the city's Public Utilities Department says if a majority of ratepayers turn those protests in, the rate proposal is dead in the water. ADAM JONES SAN DIEGO PUBLIC UTILITIES DEPARTMENT AJ: This council doesn't deliberate, they don't talk about it after the public hearing, of hearing all the feedback from the public. Everything ends and the department has to go back to the drawing board and see what additional things we may do. AB: For this to happen, though, more than 130,000 protest slips would have to be turned in. The last rate hike saw only about 20,000. So what would happen if the new rates aren't approved? Well, the water San Diego buys from its wholesalers is getting more expensive. So the department would eventually run out of money. And sewer rates haven't gone up in almost a decade. Jones says right now, they're just not covering the costs of maintaining the system. AJ: So you're talking pipeline replacements, repair and replacement of pump stations, treatment plants — we've reached the point where our financial metrics aren't where they need to be. AB: Under the proposal, wastewater rates would actually get cheaper for businesses and residents who live in apartments or condos. That's because the city determined it wasn't fair for those customers to pay higher rates than people in single-family homes. The rate changes are due for a City Council vote on September 21. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news. ########## Coming up.... New research predicts San Diego’s median home price will reach close to a million dollars this time next year. We’ll have that next, just after the break. It’s either great news for San Diego or a reason to think about moving away….depending on your circumstances. Research by the home improvement site PORCH predicts San Diego’s median home price will reach close to a million dollars by this time next year. Local real estate experts are not completely in agreement with that estimate - but they admit housing prices will continue their double digit increase and a million dollar median is not out of the question. Philip Molnar is the senior business reporter for San Diego Union Tribune. He spoke with KPBS midday edition host Maureen Kavanaugh. And that was Philip Molnar, senior business reporter for San Diego Union Tribune. He was speaking with KPBS midday edition host Maureen Kavanaugh. That’s it for the podcast today. Tomorrow we’ll have a special bonus episode of the podcast featuring KPBS’ Summer Music series. In the meantime, 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 wonderful weekend.

Veterans are raising money online and working connections to get former translators out of Kabul ahead of the American departure. They are calling it a digital Dunkirk. Meanwhile, the San Diego's Public Utilities Department wants to raise water and wastewater rates to cover rising costs. But customers could block the proposal if enough people submit written protests. Plus, most housing experts expect home prices to continue to rise.