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Rooting out extremism in the military

 March 15, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Tuesday, March 15th>>>>

Looking at the military’s policies on extremism

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

Even before sanctions in response to the war in Ukraine, the U-S was seeing an increase in Russian Asylum seekers. Most of them came through the San Ysidro port of entry in San Diego. The Associated press is reporting that more than 8-thousand-six-hundred Russian refugees came through the US-Mexico border from last august through january. That’s 35 times the number of Russian refugees during the same period the year before.


Offering cash incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated can backfire if the amount isn’t high enough. That’s according to a new study from UC-San Diego. It found that paying people 10 to 20 dollars decreases the likelihood that they’ll get vaccinated. But paying people 100 dollars would increase vaccine intention by four point 5 percent (4.5%) ….Whereas, 500 dollars increased the likelihood of vaccination by 15 to 20 percent. The study is set to be published in the next edition of the journal Management Science.


Homeless residents in downtown san diego will be paid to pick up trash, as part of a new pilot program. people will be paid 2-dollars for every trash bag they bring to a large bin set up in the area twice a week. the union tribune says, a nonprofit, the lucky duck foundation, has agreed to provide 20-thousand dollars to fund the program over four months.


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

The Marines’ probe into whether the reservist son of former San Diego County GOP leader Tony Krvaric tried to join a white nationalist group is expected to wrap up any day now.

KPBS’s Amita Sharma says top brass recently changed policies to meet the moment … but some say they fall short.

”We need your help. I'm talking, of course, about extremism and extremist ideology, views and conduct that run counter to everything that we believe in and which can actually tear at the fabric of who we are as an institution.”

This plea…from the nation’s first Black Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin …weeks after the January 6th insurrection…came with a request for rank and file to…revisit their oath.

“ Read those words again. Consider what they really mean, and think about the promise that you made to yourselves and to your teammates and to your fellow citizens.”

With nearly 15 percent of the January 6th insurrectionists tied to the military, the Pentagon also turned inward. Late last year, the Department of Defense updated its policy on radicalism to ban service members from actively participating in gangs or groups that advocate extremist ideologies. The “active participation” part includes fundraising, attending rallies, recruitment and training.

”....What they didn't do, however, is add a prohibition of membership in white nationalist organizations.”

Devin Burghart is executive director of the Seattle-based Institute for the Research and Education on Human Rights. He says the military’s decision not to ban membership in extremist groups is a mistake.

“The act of joining an organization and making that leap to become a member is already a sign that you're deeply enmeshed inside that organization's ranks. “

The issue surfaced in San Diego earlier this year over reports that the Marine reservist son of former local Republican party leader Tony Kvaric tried to join a notorious neo-Nazi group. Twenty-one-year-old Victor Kvaric allegedly applied to be in the Patriot Front, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a white nationalist hate group.

Cristine Chvala, a Black Navy vet who served in San Diego, says racism and extremism remain present in the military,

” it's masked with things like favoritism, it's mass with some manipulation and different arenas. I won't go into too much details on that, but I just think that it's definitely still there. It's just well hidden.”

A Marine spokesman told KPBS that the corps is investigating Kvaric. But it’s unclear if he would be in violation of the military’s new policy unless he did more than just join the Patriot Front.

For example, the new rules forbid service members from liking or sharing extremist posts on social media. William Braniff is director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. He says the constant presence of social media makes this change vital. But he has heard concerns.

“There's a lot of pushback like this is overreach and the DoD is going to kick somebody out of the military for retweeting or reposting something. Isn't that silly? Well, no, not at all. I think what the DoD has recognized is that social media matters.”

However, the military is still not screening the social media of its service members even though polling of people in the military in recent years shows roughly a third have encountered racist and white supremacist views. Again Burghart.

“So the problem is endemic. But when those service members go to report that, it's unclear as to how that is handled as to whether or not there will be clear procedures for discipline and for response.”

Burghart says it’s a sharp contrast with the military’s policy on other conduct. Consider that proof of adultery by a service member can lead to docked pay, discharge and even confinement.

Chvala, the Navy vet, believes it will be tough to convince the military brass to take the same hard line on extremists.

“It’s so deeply rooted into everything that they do, if they started to unravel that thread, it’s going to break apart a huge structure they’ve already built, causing them to have to rebuild it all over again.”

Amita Sharma, KPBS News.


The county is shifting its focus on COVID-19 case investigations to help San Diegans most at risk.

KPBS Health Reporter Matt Hoffman says the move comes as the immunocompromised are finally getting the help they’ve been waiting for.

Only the high risk, including people ages 65 and older, will be getting follow up calls from the county if they test positive for COVID --

The public two years in knows what to do. We’ve been through this

Seema Shah is San Diego County’s medical director for epidemiology and immunizations services.. She says outbreaks will still be tracked--

Dr. Seema Shah, county medical director Epidemiology & Immunization

SNIFS and long term care facilities, we’re still looking at correctional facilities and jails obviously shelters, thinking about all the populations that would be at morbidity from this disease. Of course k-12 is still a priority and we are still seeing outbreaks in that community

COVID-19 related hospitalizations have fallen dramatically in San Diego, but case levels aren’t where officials want them to be.

We’re still looking at anywhere 3 to 700 cases per day that’s no where near where we should be. That means that omicron is still here, it’s still driving the disease

And those cases are from official PCR tests, they don’t include any of the increasingly popular at-home test results.

We don't have a good sense of how many more cases are actually out there -- any my guess would be it’s probably close to double.

We shouldn’t try to pretend that COVID is gone -- it’s absolutely not gone.

Christiam Ramers is an infectious disease specialist and chief of population health at Family health centers of San Diego.. He says they are still treating COVID patients everyday, less than during the surge, but he says the supply chain of treatments has greatly increased.

Dr. Christian Ramers, Family Health Centers of San Diego

We really have plenty of medicines to treat people that need it and we’re sort of moving toward a more normal phase where this is a disease that has a treatment and you can get diagnosed with it you can be treated with it and we’re beyond the time when we had to really triage and use a limited resource

Monoclonal antibodies and antivirals are proven to help keep people out of the hospital, but they have to be used within the first days of symptoms. Supplies of the antibody Evuasheld that offers protection for the immunocompromised are also increasing.


It’s really been approved by the FDA to be used as a preventive for people that are high risk or people that may not have responded to vaccines

The treatment could help those most-at risk ease into the “new normal”


These people have been kind of hung out to dry and they are feeling very anxious and vulnerable as the mask mandates come off

Ramers says they have given about 100 doses of evushield, but estimates they have at least 600 other patients who need it.. The county says there is plenty of supply--



Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion are having a difficult time requesting asylum at the southern border. KPBS border reporter gustavo solis spoke with one woman who waited nearly a week before being allowed in.

Nataliia Poliakova left Ukraine on the fifth day of the invasion. This is the second time she’ss fled Russian aggression.

“I born in Crimea, Yalta and Putin in 2014 stole my home and I run to Kyiev and now he has stolen my home again.”

Poliakova left Keev on a train with hundreds of other war refugees. She took a series of buses and planes to get to California. Her journey went through Moldovia, Romania, Germany, Colombia and Mexico.

She made it to Tijuana on March 8

Once here, she kept getting turned away at the border. Each time, telling border patrol agents that she couldn’t go back home.

“We cannot return back home because the war. The bombs and the rockets and Putin.”

And each time, they told her that she couldn’t cross because of the pandemic. But she kept trying.

“Again and again and again. Like 40 times. Per can and on foot. Different borders here but nothing.”

She was finally allowed in Monday morning. She said hundreds more are coming. Most of them with relatives in the United States.

Gustavo Solis KPBS News.


Coming up.... City Heights “farm hub” created to address inequality and climate change. We’ll have that story and more, next, just after the break.

Record breaking gas prices are making commutes an even bigger drain on driver’s budgets. Economists say the high gas prices will increase inflation, potentially pushing the high price of food, clothes and rent even higher. The public’s concern and growing anger over this economic squeeze has prompted attention from state lawmakers. UC San Diego political science professor Thad Kousser spoke with KPBS Midday Edition Host Maureen Cavanaugh about the political ramifications of high gas prices.


With gas prices continuing to rise, a San Diego group hosted a gas and food giveaway on monday to help those who need it the most.

kpbs reporter alexander nguyen says hundreds of people showed up.

It’s a little past 7 a.m. and Zach Brewster was the person first in line …

“I got up at five and drove up here.”

… as cars lined up around the corner of the Arco gas station in Allied Gardens for the free gas giveaway.

“You can't complain about free gas. It reminds me of when I was a kid — Jimmy Carter odd and even days sitting in the back seat with my dad. So I know how serious this is.”

He’s referring to the 19-79 oil crisis that saw gas rationing in the U-S.

The event was hosted by the People's Association of Justice Advocates … in partnership with several other organizations.

Shane Harris is the president of the People’s Association.

“The gas prices in California are too damn high. People are hitting an all-time low at the pump. They're struggling from housing affordability to gas prices.”

In addition to free gasoline … participants also got a 15-pound box of canned foods and dried goods. That should feed a family of four for several weeks.

About 300 people were helped and 27-HUNDRED gallons of gas were given away.


The San Diego City Council heard a presentation Monday on the city's downtown office space needs. Around a thousand city employees work downtown, many in drab and outdated office buildings where things like elevators, HVAC systems and bathrooms need constant repairs. Fixing the buildings would cost well over 100 million dollars. Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said that's scandalous.

MZ: “I don't know how we can't be alarmed when we look at the numbers that are here. Just walk into this building and look around. It's not in great shape. I think that's a product of failed leadership of the past. I'm glad we're having this conversation now.”

The city is currently crafting a remote work policy that would reduce some of its office space needs. In the long term, it's also considering building new offices on city-owned land.


Local farmers are addressing food inequality and climate change through a new “Farm Hub” in City Heights.

KPBS Speak City Heights reporter Jacob Aere says the center will provide fruits, vegetables, and eggs for up to 300 families a week.

The Foodshed Farm Hub in City Heights will provide a physical location where farmers can bring their fresh produce.

It’s also where community members can access it at an affordable price, even through an EBT card, according to the organization’s president and Pauma Valley farmer Hernan Cavazos

Hernan Cavazos | President Foodshed Small Farm Distro

“So we specialize in prescription boxes and boxes too. We have from 300 boxes to 500 boxes weekly to help 100 to 300 different families in City Heights.”

Tina Chitura is one of the farmers who will be providing her vegetables like cabbage, carrots and kale to the organization.

She started her journey into farming by working in community gardens with her sisters in City Heights a decade ago. For her, it's about giving back to the larger San Diego community and making sure no one has to settle for unhealthy food options.

Tina Chitura | Farmer in Ramona

“If you cannot afford food in the store it doesn't mean you have to starve. It doesn't mean you don't have to be healthy. You still have to be healthy, you still have to eat, you know? With us, as farmers providing that food, I just tell myself I need to grow more. I grow more and at a lower price, for everybody to afford.”

City Heights Promotora Miriam Rodriguez says the pandemic exposed already existing issues for San Diego’s most vulnerable, but this will help her local community.

Miriam Rodriguez | Promotoras de City Heights

“My family has really been able to really have that security to know that within walking distance they can get food that is good quality and no pesticides. ”

The Foodshed is located on Fairmount Avenue and is open to all San Diegans.

Cavazos says the Farm Hub also addresses climate change by promoting local, sustainable food production and the majority of their revenue goes back to the farmers. Jacob Aere, 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 Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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As the Marine Corps investigate extremist ties to the reservist son of a former local GOP leader, there are questions regarding the effectiveness of new policies aimed at rooting out white supremacy. Meanwhile, treatments are now available for immunocompromised to ease back into a new normal. Plus, local farmers confront food inequality and climate change through the creation of a “Farm Hub” in City Heights.