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Independent military prosecutors to make charging decisions on crimes

 January 2, 2024 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Erik Anderson, in for Debbie Cruz…. Happy New Year! It’s Tuesday, January 2nd.


The military is making changes to who can make charges for sexual assault and other serious crimes. More on how this could impact prosecutions, next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


County health officials say if you used the Mission Valley Y-M-C-A last year, you may have been exposed to tuberculosis.

The dates of potential T-B exposure were between March 5th and October 30th of last year.

The exposures occurred mainly between 9 a-m and 11 a-m during those months

For more information on this potential exposure, you can call the County T-B Control Program, at 619-692-5565.


COVID, flu and R-S-V hospitalizations are on the rise in the county.

Health officials recommend being up to date on covid and flu vaccines.

As well as staying home when you’re sick, washing your hands often, covering your coughs and wearing a mask, especially in crowded indoor settings. 

According to the county Respiratory Virus Surveillance Report, from last summer until the end of last year, there were nearly 30-thousand reported cases of covid, more than seven-thousand flu cases and more than three-thousands cases of R-S-V.


We’re officially in the new year, and there are some new laws now in effect in the state.

Doctors in California who mail abortion pills to patients in other states will be protected from prosecution.

Workers in California who have been employed for 200 days will receive a minimum of five days of sick leave annually, instead of three.

And police officers are required now to state the purpose of a traffic or pedestrian stop before asking questions.

Unless there is an imminent threat.

This change is an attempt to prevent pretextual stops by police officers.


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


The military is taking charging decisions for sexual assault and other serious crimes out of the hands of commanders.

Military reporter Andrew Dyer explains how this change could impact the number of prosecutions.

On Thursday each military branch opened their own offices of special trial counsel staffed with trained military prosecutors and both military and civilian support staff. They’ll have independent authority to charge service members with 14 separate felonies including sexual crimes, domestic violence and murder. In 2021, Congress mandated the change after women veterans and victim advocates testified that commanders too often failed to act on sexual assault reports. In a statement Thursday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the change aims to strengthen accountability and increase the trust service members have in the system. Retired Navy judge Don King spent three decades advising commanders as a military attorney. Now in private practice in San Diego, King says the military has a low conviction rate with these kinds of crimes and that with this change people might be surprised that fewer cases go to trial, not more of them. “i would bet on it,that you're going to find the prosecutions are going to drop – not just a little bit but significantly – and convictions are going to go up.” Pentagon data shows sexual assault reports are up year over year since 2010. Andrew Dyer, KPBS News.


Many working parents are spending a large portion of their income on childcare.

And many are struggling to find care in the first place, as more providers close their doors.

Reporter Tania Thorne spoke with one provider about the year ahead.

The average cost of infant care in California is almost 17 thousand dollars a year—that’s 9 thousand dollars more than tuition for an in-state public college, according to San Diego County's Childcare Blueprint. Without a permanent solution, providers fear the industry will continue to melt down. Miren Algorri is a 20 year child care provider in Chula Vista, Our workforce as early childhood educators is going to continue to shrink. Family child care providers like myself are gonna have to decrease their capacity…..So that means that more families are going to be on that bind where they're not gonna be able to find childcare services. Algorri says the impact will hurt the economy because more parents will be pushed to leave their jobs to care for their children. While California allocated $1.6 billion dollars to child care over the next two years, it is unclear if the investment will continue or grow year after year. TT KPBS News.

TAG: Federal relief money was supposed to sustain the childcare industry, but those funds are once again set to expire this year.


The San Diego International Auto Show wrapped up yesterday (Monday) at the San Diego Convention Center.

Sci-tech reporter Thomas Fudge says all of the car brands on display were showing off new models of electric cars.

People streaming into the convention center were greeted with a view of lots of shiny new cars, including an all-electric Chevy Corvette. Auto show spokesman Richard Newendyke says it’s called the E-ray. “It’s an American icon, right? Corvette, corvette, corvette. Almost 70 years right? In fact, this is a little over 70 years of Corvette. So now we’ve added electric to it.” New models also included Honda’s first electric vehicle for the U.S. market, the Prologue and an electric VW bus. David Crow worked the part of the show floor called Electric Avenue. He says fear of a car’s limited range, how far it can go on one charge, are one the wane. “Every car you see here has a range of at least 200 miles.” Starting in 2024, people buying certain electric cars can claim a federal rebate of up to 75 hundred dollars at the point of sale. Soq. 


Coming up.... A look at local research aiming to turn plants into carbon super-scrubbers.

“So plants are the world record holders in getting carbon dioxide out of the air that causes the greenhouse effect and thereby climate change.”

We’ll look back at that story from 20-23, plus more, just after the break.


Ron Jackson is a filmmaker who lives in Little Italy.

He recently decided the best way to make a movie was to center all the action in his own condo.

Cinema junkie Beth Accomando takes us behind the scenes of Murder and Cocktails, which starts streaming later this month.

Writer Ron Jackson was inspired by the banter of William Powell and Myrna Loy in the old Thin Man movies and by the comedy style of George Burns and Gracie Allen. RON JACKSON: And in their tv program, he would walk out and he would break the fourth wall. But how could Jackson turn his love for these vintage shows and movies  into something that could play for a contemporary audience? Nick, are you recording us?...Not exactly… What are you doing?... I'm streaming us. Jackson’s solution was to create a witty married couple who decide to employ modern technology to make a little money. But their streaming content takes a surprising turn when a neighbor gets shot. Wait, I have an idea. We invite everybody over on the floor, one by one, and we give them drinks and we loosen them up… The result is Murder and Cocktails, a film Jackson produced for an amazing $75,000. RON JACKSON: I wrote it around my condo. I wrote it around Little Italy. The way this got done was really by kind of shrinking down the footprint. But Jackson’ condo provides plenty of room for Nick and Lana to host Murder and Cocktails. So pour yourself a martini and get ready to figure out whodunit when the film starts streaming. Beth Accomando, KPBS News.


San Diego scientists are advancing an effort to turn plants into allies in the battle to slow global warming.

I spoke with researchers at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies earlier this year, who are working to turn the world’s major crops into carbon-capture superheroes.

“Here you can see a fully grown pennycress plant.” Wolfgang Busch holds up a transparent pot full of pennycress roots.  He’s leading the effort to figure out how plants with deep root systems can help slow global warming. Wolfgang Busch, Salk Institute for Biological Studies “so plants are the world record holders in getting carbon dioxide out of the air that causes the greenhouse effect and thereby climate change.  And they grow everywhere.” And some plants are particularly efficient at transforming that carbon into stems, leaves, and roots. The root systems have the attention of researchers who see this trait as a key to getting carbon out of the air and stored in the ground.“Now the deeper you put that carbon into the root system the slower the decomposition gets.   So, carbon that is below 30 centimeters. Below a foot in the soil is much, much more stable, will hang around much longer in the soil.  So, by putting more and more of the root material deeper, you know deeper soil areas, will allow this carbon to stay there and the soil to store the carbon longer.” Busch says researchers have already identified more than 100 genes that guide the creation of  deep and robust root systems.  They hope to either breed those traits into crops, or use modern gene splicing technology to give those abilities to the most commonly grown plants. “If you just take five major crops, the most prevalent crops and you would pool the growth area it would cover the whole subcontinent of India. That’s so much soil being covered by these plants and even if plant will do very little on its own the massive scale of agriculture can make a dramatic impact.” The harnessing plants initiative was an idea germinated by Salk researcher Joanne Chory.  She thinks new and improved plants can increase crop yields, boost soil quality and scrub carbon out of the air. Joanne Chory, Salk Institute for Biological Studies “I think we could take out ten gigatons by this method.  That’s not the whole amount we need to take out every year, but we could make a big contribution to the whole.” 10 gigatons is about a quarter of the carbon dioxide humans put into the air each year.  One particular plant of interest is Typha, cattails.  The plant is robust and produces a prodigious amount of seeds. Todd Michael, Salk Institute for Biological Studies “It's one of the three species that grows almost in all wetlands.  And when you find it as a primary species in some of the wetlands here that were interested in storing.” Michael handles a mature cattail plant with a tightly wound ball of roots. “And the roots grow so fast.  This is an amazing plant.  It’s like a machine sucking up nutrients.” He says the plant is one of the best at moving carbon into a corked molecule known as suberin.  Michael is trying to isolate the genetic characteristics that allow cattails to do that and the hope is those abilities can be transferred to other plants. They grab onto the surrounding substrate and they build.  So, they are basically building land. 12:59:35 “And you can see that they’re sort of tight.  And this is actually what’s capturing the carbon and this becomes oxygen free.” And sealing out the oxygen keeps the roots from decomposing.  It essentially locks the carbon inside the root ball.  Two years of sequencing Typha genomes has pointed researchers in encouraging directions, but the goal of an army of plants fighting global warming remains decades away. “There are a lot of recent events that suggest that we need to be moving fast. And some of the solutions that we’re talking about are ten, twenty years out.  But we need to be working on them now because this is really what technology is really about. Right? We need to be working on every angle.  So not just carbon scrubbers but how do we use plants.  We need to cut down on emissions. All of these solutions come together.” The idea’s promise has attracted plenty of supporters. Energy companies like the  Hess Corporation and Sempra Energy are investing money.  So is the Bezos Earth Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  All hope to leverage their investments into strategies that will keep the planet from heating up. Erik Anderson KPBS News.


That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Erik Anderson. Thanks for listening, happy new year! and have a great Tuesday.

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The military is taking charging decisions for sexual assault and other serious crimes out of the hands of commanders. In other news, many working parents are spending a large portion of their income on childcare and many are struggling to find care in the first place. We hear from one provider about the year ahead. Plus, a filmmaker who lives in Little Italy decided the best way to make a movie was to center all the action in his own condo. We go behind the scenes of “Murder and Cocktails,” which starts streaming later this month.