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Navy Bribery Scandal

 June 16, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Thursday, June 16th.>>>>

The Navy bribery scandal case nears its end. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

San Diego County health officials have identified two probable cases of monkeypox.

If confirmed by the CDC, they would be the first cases in our county.

Monkeypox is a viral infection that can spread through contact with bodily fluids, sores on the body or shared items.

Symptoms include fever, headache, chills and a rash.

Anyone who thinks they may have symptoms of monkeypox, should contact a healthcare provider right away.

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The neurological impact of “long-haul” COVID is significant, even six months after an infection.

That’s according to research published yesterday (Wednesday) by UC San Diego scientists.

The study found that the majority of patients continued to have various short and long-term symptoms half a year later.

Additionally, a sub-set of people also showed significant coordination and cognitive issues, which had not been previously described.

The UCSD team plans to continue monitoring participants' symptoms annually for up to 10 years.

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San Diego-area Congressman Mike Levin is speaking out about San Diego Gas and Electric’s plan to raise rates in 20-24.

He says average bills will top 230-dollars a month if California regulators approve the company’s 20-24 budget.

The Democrat is calling out the company for asking for higher electricity rates, when some of their customers can’t pay their bills on time now.

Levin says he hopes state officials hear him.

Levin says S-D-G-and-E should prioritize customers over executive compensation.

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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.

The Fat Leonard Navy bribery scandal is about to wrap up in San Diego.

KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh says the Navy has been slow to change, despite the publicity.

It was a corruption scandal of epic proportions. Malaysian defense contractor Leonard Francis used US Navy officers to steer ships to his ports in the western Pacific - greasing the wheels with gifts, sex workers and lavish parties with scantily-clad women. Vice Admiral Craig Faller attended at least one party as a ship’s captain. Sen. Elizabeth Warren pressed him about it, during a confirmation hearing in 2018. 1:05:22“What do you say to women officers when they see this is the kind of event you have attended? Senator, I have always had the utmost respect for all service men and women.” The Navy cleared Faller and other officers of wrong-doing. Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to defrauding the Navy out of at least $35 million. Dan Grazier is with the Project On Government Oversight. He says hundreds of officers watched Francis – widely known as Fat Leonard for his size – lay out the red carpet. 5:12“It just became kind of the way business was done within the Seventh fleet and you know the longer it went on the more people got involved in it, and the more normalized that behavior became, and so we ended up with a massive scandal that we have.” Among the Navy officials Francis’ payroll was an agent for the Navy’s criminal service, who pleaded guilty taking bribes to keep Francis up to date on the Navy’s own investigation. Still, Senator Warren’s exchange is one of a handful of times the so-called Fat Leonard case has come up on Capitol hill during the nearly decade-long probe. Again Dan Grazier. 20:31“It's shocking how little people even today in Washington really even know about Fat Leonard. It rarely makes the news here.” Once the scandal broke, the Navy took away some of the authority officers have to decide which ports to use. Though the Navy tightened up the paperwork, it hasn’t taken a hard look at underlying culture which allowed officers to condone the party atmosphere. Pauline Shanks Kaurin teaches ethics at the Naval War College. 5:12;00“It’s not something, at least in my circles, the Navy is talking a lot about and so I'm not sure that we've learned the lessons or have thought about what this means for navy culture.” Francis was eventually arrested in San Diego in 2013. But Pauline Shanks Kaurin says the war college still hasn’t incorporated a case study about the massive bribery scandal into its ethics curriculum. 11:11“One senior leader said to me, ''Listen like I know people who were involved.” And I've heard from other senior leaders things like well, I had a you know, a friend, a good friend, whose career was ruined because of this, you know. So … people don't want to talk about it.” When students talk about it in class, they talk about “different spanks for different ranks” - The notion that higher ranking officers were treated differently. Ron Carr, a retired Navy captain, says the case cast a long shadow over everyone who served in the Pacific during the 2000’s and early 2010’s. 28:45“It really has put mud on all of us. For all of us who were not involved with this, because there's always that assumption that potentially maybe we just didn't get caught.” Carr was a logistics officer on board the USS Blue Ridge. As the flagship for the US Pacific Fleet, the Blue Ridge which was at the center of the federal indictments. Given the size of the problem, Carr is disappointed that the Fat Leonard case hasn’t shined a brighter light on Navy corruption. 21:20“I think the challenge from a publicity point of view is that it just dragged out for so long, here we are having this conversation when he was arrested Nine years ago.” Nearly a decade later, as the Fat Leonard case draws to a close, it’s still unclear how much the scandal has changed Navy culture. Steve Walsh KPBS NEWS

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A memorial is growing in Mission Beach, where an 18-year-old swimmer disappeared on Tuesday.

KPBS reporter John Carroll says lifeguards and members of the Coast Guard were on the scene within seconds, trying to save the young man.

It happened Tuesday afternoon in the waters just off of Lifeguard Station 16. Three young men went into the water, and soon they were in trouble, caught in a strong rip tide. A lifeguard saw what happened and immediately alerted a lifeguard rescue boat and a nearby Coast Guard vessel. They were on the scene quickly, but couldn’t find the still-unidentified 18-year old man. Now, San Diego Lifeguard Chief James Gartland says everything possible is being done to recover his body. “So right now we are diving and we are essentially dragging and mapping the bottom with sonar for positive targets. We have the Coast Guard and other federal agencies helping us out.” Gartland says no one should go all the way into ocean water unless they’re a strong ocean swimmer. JC, KPBS News.

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Interest rates are going up again.

Yesterday (Wednesday), the Federal Reserve raised its key rate by three-quarters of a percent, in an effort to fight inflation.

It’s the biggest such increase since 19-94.

KPBS reporter Jacob Aere looks at what the rising cost of living means for San Diegans.

With the housing and rental market near all time highs, and the cost of gas prices, food, and utilities also sky high… many San Diegans are starting to cut back. Caroline Freund is UC San Diego’s Dean of Global Policy and Strategy. She says the Federal Reserve has to be careful not to create drastic changes with its rate hikes. “What we don't want to see, but could very well happen is if interest rates go up too fast, it pushes us into recession. If interest rates don't go up fast enough, the inflation continues.” Freund says there haven't been inflation rates like this since the 1970s and 80s. While there are some parallels to that time period, she says the big difference is this time inflation was driven by the pandemic… and government stimulus payments that put more money into the market. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.

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Gas prices keep going up and small businesses are having a hard time keeping up.

KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne takes a closer look.

Leonardo Hernandez owns Los Reyes Landscape and Maintenance in Oceanside. He says the high gas prices are forcing him to raise his rates for maintenance service. (SOT in Spanish) We want to increase our price but the clients think twice about going with us. Its because of gas, everything is expensive and we also have to raise our rates.” But he’s losing business because clients don’t want to pay more. And if the job is too far he has to add an extra fee or turn the job down because there’s no profit after having to fill up his tank. Aside from his work trucks, his machinery also runs on gas. He says that as much as he’d like to switch his gas-run equipment to electric, they’re too expensive. He wants to know what the governor is doing about lowering gas prices because he feels the economy isn’t getting any better. TT KPBS News.

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Coming up.... Ideas on how to replace your lawn to cut back on water usage.

Tougher water restrictions are now in place across San Diego County, which is leading a lot of people to pull out their lawns.

KPBS reporter John Carroll says there are colorful options for replacing your lawn, and financial incentives to help.

Amidst the third year of a severe drought, Californians have not cut back on their water use. So now, tougher water restrictions are in place across the state… including in San Diego County… and that has motivated people to start pulling out their lawns. But Scott Lawn who owns Greenway Irrigation Lawn and Landscape in Escondido… yes Lawn is his real name… says if you really want to keep your lawn, you can use a lot less water these days to keep it green.

“We can reduce irrigation use on almost any property by 50 to 70% with proper irrigation tools.”

If you do decide to replace your lawn, there are all sorts of colorful plants to put in its place. Some great examples are found at the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College… and in front of the headquarters of the Helix Water District on University Avenue in La Mesa. And… Efren Lopez with the San Diego County Water Authority says there are financial incentives as well.

“We have some of the highest rebates in California to take out your turf grass, to replace an irrigation controller, to replace your washing machine - really we have some of the best rebates in the state.”

JC, KPBS News.

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Members of the LGBTQ-plus community are celebrating their PRIDE this month with parades and festivals across the country.

Some of those celebrations have been disrupted with threats of violence by groups opposing the community.

Over the weekend in Idaho, 31 men identified with the white nationalist PATRIOT FRONT were arrested and charged with conspiracy to incite a riot near a local PRIDE event there.

One of them allegedly is a man from the San Diego chapter of the group.

Here in San Diego, the PRIDE celebration happens in July, with plans for a full in-person return next month.

KPBS Education reporter M.G. Perez spoke with executive director of San Diego PRIDE,

Fernando Lopez on KPBS Midday Edition.

Here is their conversation.

That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

The Fat Leonard Navy bribery scandal is wrapping up in San Diego. Meanwhile, high gas prices are affecting local small businesses. Plus, some people are ripping out their lawns as water restrictions are put in place across the county.