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Remembering Pendleton Marines killed in Kabul

 August 29, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Monday, August 29th.

New details emerge about the Camp Pendleton Marines killed in Kabul last year. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….

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Students in San Diego County’s largest school district are going back to school this morning.

San Diego Unified’s middle and high schools now have later start times…as required by a new state law.

The district is also welcoming a couple thousand 4-year old children, who are entering the new T-K programs.

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But, most of those pre- K students aren’t vaccinated.

Just over 9 percent of kids six months to 4 years old have received one dose of the vaccine.

San Diego County public health officials are encouraging parents to change that by getting their children vaccinated.

Vaccination rates for older youth are significantly higher with more than 47 percent of 5 to 11 year olds receiving one dose of the vaccine and 85 percent of those 12 to 17.

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U-C San Diego announced last week that next fall it will offer guaranteed housing to all incoming undergraduate students.

The university reduced the amount of guaranteed housing during the pandemic to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The new ‘Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood’ will open next fall.

That’s when the university will start offering guaranteed two-year on-campus housing for incoming undergrads.

Undergrads who started school this fall and are on the housing waitlist will also qualify.

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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.

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A year ago, 13 service members mainly from Camp Pendleton died along with more than a hundred Afghans… when a bomb exploded at the Kabul Airport.

New details emerge about how the Marines took it on themselves to rescue a group of young female Afghan skateboarders.

KPBS Military reporter Steve Walsh has the story.

It’s August 2021. Hundreds of Afghans crowd the Abbey Gate at the airport in Kabul, desperate for a way out as the Taliban takes over the city. The Afghans are forced into a canal, as they press to get inside. “It smells of desperation…. It's dirty sewage runoff and it's just filthy and they're just trying to get out.” Marine Captain Andres Rodriguez is part of security at the gate. Scores of Marines have been rushed in from Jordan, just days before the Americans were scheduled to leave Afghanistan after 20 years. Several units decided to help Afghans desperate to flee. “It just devolved quickly where it's like, well, if no one else is going to do it, the Marines of two one are going to do it…they're just going to screen. They're going to help people, they're going to provide aid. They're going to do everything that they're being asked of.” Back in the US, Marine vet Jeff Phaneuf (Fan-iff) is getting calls and texts from Rodriquez and other Marines he knows at Abbey Gate, asking his help locating paperwork for people outside the airport. Phaneuf tweets advice for getting into the airport. Then his phone starts to ring. ZOOM Jeff 6:05;01“I found myself having to ask again and again those Marines...hey you can go out into the crowd and try and find so and so I was fielding requests from everyone from you know, local Afghans, whose husband or wife was trying to get through the crowd. To colonels at the Pentagon who somehow got my phone number.” “I was like crying, texting, you know, begging the girls to stay at the gate that I would. We would figure it out. We would get them through.” Cori Shepherd Stern is a film producer from San Diego. In the days before the bombing a year ago - she began searching how to get a group of Afghans out .. who had been educating young girls there - using skateboarding. The women gained global fame after being featured in an Oscar winning short film called Skateistan. Shepherd Stern wasn’t involved in that film but the group reached out to her. Many of the Afghan organizers felt it was time for their families to leave, including Zainab ZY-Nab Hussaini, who is now living in the US. “When I was at work I heard the Taliban had entered the city, and everything just changed, and me and my husband decided to leave the country.” Zainab is speaking publicly for the first time about their experiences then. She made it through the airport gate once, but was turned back, when there was no room on an Australian flight. The next day, she took a red umbrella - a signal for the Marines to spot her in the crowd. “Whoever entered the airport was safe. It was under control of the US government. And it was like guaranteeing your life.” Back in the US, Cori Shepherd Stern and Jeff Phaneuf were celebrating getting one last group into the airport, when news came that 13 American troops and more than one hundred Afghans died in an explosion outside the airport. “And then, when the bomb went off at Abbey Gate. And just this, like terrible,You could feel this like empty, echoing canyon of void, just of, like everyone terrified about what it meant for the people that had just helped us do this incredible thing.” That evening, Alicia Lopez, the mother of Cpl. Hunter Lopez, was coming back to their home in Indio California when saw two Marines in a white truck. “I pulled into my driveway and they asked if I was Hunter’s mom.” Herman and Alicia Lopez’s home has become a shrine to their son, 22-year-old Hunter, who was killed in the bombing. They’re still trying to understand what happened to their son that day. “Hunter and some of his brothers and his brothers and sisters were able to do great acts in their last few minutes on this Earth, But you, of course, wish that they were here with you.” Strangers sent artwork, including a painting of Hunter carrying a child, made from pictures they found on Hunter's social media. Hunter told them some of what he saw. “I know he understood the seriousness of what was going on, the despair and the hearts and the minds of a lot of the people that were trying to get out and get their families out. (Alicia) the desperation of the parents.” They’re just now finding out more about those final moments, which, a year later, gives them some comfort and solace. Steve Walsh KPBS News

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New details emerged Friday in the high-profile rape case involving current and former S-D-S-U football players.

Thursday, a civil suit was filed identifying the players who allegedly gang-raped a teenage girl last October.

But no criminal charges have been filed.

KPBS reporter Alexander Nguyen talked to a longtime lawyer about the unusual legal strategy taking place.

The suit alleges former Aztec and current Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza had sex with the then-17-year-old girl and gang-raped her with three other men, including Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa-a” eh-WAH-lick-o. All were on the S-D-S-U football team last season, though Leonard is the only one who is still on the roster. All have proclaimed their innocence through their attorneys. Criminal defense attorney Gretchen von Helms says it’s rare for the civil case to be filed before the criminal case. “Her civil attorney may want to just get the ball rolling because we don't know what's true or not true, and we don't know all the facts. If true this is a very egregious case” The D-A’s office has yet to file any charges. A spokesperson says the office is still reviewing the case and there is no timetable for when charges will be filed. AN/KPBS

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Pope Francis officially made San Diego’s former Bishop Robert McElroy a Cardinal on Saturday at the Vatican.

KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado has details and a message from the Cardinal to San Diegans.

Cardinal Robert McElroy has led the San Diego diocese of 1.3 million Catholics as Bishop since 2015. He had these words of gratitude for San Diegans. Thank you for having been a grace to me in these past seven years of my life while I’ve been a Bishop of San Diego, thank you for showing me so many stories of heroism lived in the life of faith of often so many difficult circumstances. McElroy is the only American out of the 21 who became cardinals on Saturday. In the U.S. he’s the only one on the West Coast, the first ever from San Diego and the only one from  a border city. a major element of our element of our outreach is centered on migrants and refugees … it’s a great source of joy,... and I know it’s a tremendous element of why Pope Francis appointed me to be a cardinal McElroy celebrated his first mass as a Cardinal on Sunday at the St Patrick's American Church in Rome. Kitty Alvarado KPBS News

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Coming up.... Parents struggle to find after-school care for their kids. We’ll have that story and more, next, just after the break.

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Not every kid is guaranteed a spot in after-school programs.

KPBS Investigative reporter Clarie Trageser says this is becoming a big problem as California expands Transitional Kindergarten classes..

On a hot Sunday afternoon, Sara LaPietra and her husband Vince follow their 4-year-old son Teddy around a playground in Balboa Park. “Tell me a message. I don't know. Go down the side. Do you want to go back on the dinosaur? Very indecisive.” This is a relaxing day. But there’s a lot of uncertainty in Teddy’s future. The LaPietra’s learned in WHEN?? that he got a spot in their local school’s Transitional Kindergarten, or TK, class. They felt like they’d won the lottery – they could stop paying $2,000 a month for his preschool, and the speech therapy and occupational therapy Teddy receives would be on site at the school. Unfortunately, the lottery ticket turned out to be a dud. “We found out everybody had signed up for the after school care months and months ago.” While Teddy had a spot in TK, he didn’t get a spot in after school care. That meant the LaPietras would have to pick him up at 2 p.m. every day, and noon on Wednesdays—impossible given their work schedules. “I just feel like we've been tearing our hair out for three months trying to figure out what to do…. It just seems like there's no solution. And so I really do think unless something magic comes along, we're going to have to keep him in preschool.” Parents here and throughout California are in similar predicaments. Starting this school year, California expanded the number of kids eligible for TK, with the goal of providing TK to all 4-year-olds by 2025. But the program is missing a crucial piece – after-school care. “We also know that working parents were really looking forward to being able to enroll their children in a 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. day” Nancy Gannon Hornberger is CEO of SAY San Diego, which provides after care at many local schools. She says staffing shortages and licensing delays mean SAY San Diego is limited in how many students it can serve. “It's frustrating, I know, for parents who were counting on that longer day of care. And we're here to help them navigate to preschool or some other form of care for their TKers.” The San Diego Unified School District has more than doubled the number of TK classes this year to more than185 classes across 118 schools. And the waitlists at aftercares have shot up, too. Across all the programs run by SAY San Diego, there are 2,085 kids on waitlists, almost twice as many as last year. It's incredibly frustrating. It's been making us crazy for the last since the idea ever came out. Kim McDougal is executive director of the San Diego YMCA Childcare Resource Services. She says after the state announced TK expansion, the YMCA looked at whether they could get licenses to care for younger kids at their afterschool program sites. “We would have to do all kinds of facilities renovation. We would have to have child-sized toilets. We would have to have an age-appropriate playground. It would be really close to impossible for us.” Democratic Assemblymember Kevin McCarty authored  the TK expansion law..“One of the biggest things lacking, that we need to make sure we complete, is having universal PreK for all 4-year-olds to show up at Kindergarten ready.” One San Diego school district has taken matters into its own hands. Cajon Valley Union in East County  is providing free after school care for all students. Superintendent David Miyashiro says it started during COVID, and he plans to continue it as long as possible. “Pending some type of fiscal cliff in California, where we'd have to go into a cutting situation, we're planning to provide this for years to come.” Meanwhile, LaPietra had heard that Teddy might get into an aftercare class run by the YMCA, but she’s still waiting to find out. And school starts on Monday. CT KPBS News

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The new school year brings some new transit opportunities.

KPBS reporter Jacob Aere says the Youth Opportunity Pass Pilot program offers free public transit rides to those 18 and under.

Karina Sandoval is a senior at Hoover High School who’s been riding public transit since 9th grade. She says expired fares made her miss classes and even a test … but the new, free youth opportunity pass has gotten rid of those issues and expanded her world. “I did an internship in Chula Vista and because I was able to have the youth opportunity pass I was able to do like buses and I had to take the trolley and then more buses. So without the youth opportunity pass it would have been so expensive and I wouldn't have been able to do the internship at all.” The SANDAG Youth Opportunity Pass program offers completely free rides on buses, the Trolley, the COASTER and SPRINTER for those 18 and under … and it runs through June 30, 2023. For youth to take advantage of the free rides, they need a Youth PRONTO app account, or a PRONTO Youth card. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.

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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.

New details emerge about the 13 Camp Pendleton Marines killed in Kabul last year. In other news, Pope Francis officially made San Diego’s former Bishop Robert McElroy a Cardinal at the Vatican. Plus, the new Youth Opportunity Pass Pilot program offers free public transit rides to those 18 and under.