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UC workers on strike share stories

 December 12, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Monday, December 12th.

We hear some of the personal stories behind the U-C picket lines.

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


The C-D-C has moved San Diego County into its medium-risk level for COVID-19 as the cases continue to rise.

The County is still averaging one death from COVID a day.

Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser says everyone should think about wearing a mask.

 “Masks and vaccinations are part of that comprehensive strategy for keeping yourself better protected from respiratory infections like COVID, flu and the respiratory syncytial virus that people have heard about this year, or RSV."

Just this week, there has been a 70-percent increase in COVID confirmed hospitalized patients.


The family of a woman who died along with her 2-year- old son in a fall from a third-floor walkway at Petco Park last year is suing the Padres and the city of San Diego for alleged negligence.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed last week in San Diego Superior Court

By Raquel Wilkins' parents.

The lawsuit alleges tables and benches at the ballpark were placed too close to a dangerously low railing.

In January, San Diego police announced the deaths had been ruled a murder-suicide.


The San Diego County Department of Animal Services is hoping to find homes for animals at their facilities.

So this holiday season they are offering a ‘Santa Paws’ adoption special.

To adopt a pet all December, it will cost you only 12-dollars.

There are different types of animals available to adopt, including dogs, cats, pigs, bunnies and more.

All animals will be spayed or neutered, have vaccinations, a microchip and a one-year license for dogs.


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


Striking U-C academic workers have put their picket lines on hold for the winter break… After agreeing to mediation with university negotiators.

KPBS Education reporter M.G. Perez introduces us to some of them who say they will not give up what they consider the fight for their lives.

25-year old Anoop Pratura is an accomplished musician…who riffs on his electric guitar in the comfort of his North Park apartment he shares with a roommate. He’s also an avid surfer…and he is one of the more than 7-thousand graduate, post-graduate, and academic workers on strike at UC San Diego. Anoop Pratura/UC San Diego Graduate Researcher “we’re doing world class research in our labs. We are providing some of the best teaching you can get anywhere in the country..all of that is given by graduate students…I wish I understood the disconnect of why I was forced to live in my car…other than the fact that the UC will do anything it can to not pay us the wages we deserve.” “I used to have a mattress up here…then down here I have a water tank.” Pratura was homeless and lived in his Toyota Tacoma for almost two months early this past summer…because the apartment near campus he shared with three roommates was destroyed in a flood caused by a sewer line break. “It was kind of like a week to week thing where I kept thinking …by next week, I’ll find a place I can afford and I can move out of here…with how little money I was making I couldn’t even afford to apply to most places.” …and while he was homeless living in his car he also got COVID. UC academic workers only make between 24-and-30 thousand dollars a year…that’s at the heart of the labor dispute. “it’s just very expensive to buy a car and keep it up…and I can’t do that financially.”  Ahmed Akhtar moved from Chicago to San Diego almost six years ago. He’s never been able to afford a car. He has been a UC teaching assistant, graduate researcher, and continues to work on a P-H-D in physics. His housing scholarship will soon run out…leaving him in limbo. That prompted him and his colleagues to form a new union called Student Researchers United. Teaching assistants and post doctorate researchers were already unionized under the United Autoworkers of America. The new union is also under the U-A-W …which offers significant financial and bargaining power. Ahmed Akhtar/UC San Diego Ph.D. Candidate Researcher “for the longest time student researchers didn’t have a union, we didn’t have the tool for getting rights, enforcing and protecting our rights …and now we do.” “I was told to announce, there’s going to be an info session…” The strikers are also fighting for better working conditions. They want learning and research environments free of harassment and bullying… alleged by union members to be common among tenured professors and administrators. International students want protection from unjustified threats of having their visas revoked without cause. Varun Ramaprasad is here from India. He is willing to accept the risk of joining the union and being visible on the picket lines. Varun Ramaprasad/UC San Diego Internationl Graduate Student “I think it will be worth it. We have already made high gains even though UC is trying not to give us what we deserve…but we are going to keep fighting for it!” “this is a fight for survival and this is a fight we’re going to win.”  Anoop Pratura is grateful to be housed, again. He’s not sure the dream of getting his doctorate is still moving in the same direction…it could be on hold for a bigger purpose to help prevent others from suffering his pain and past… “I want to fight to build a system …a coalition…a union where people don’t have to go through that.”  “if it wasn’t for my community, I don’t know how I would have made it…that’s why something like a union is so important to me…because that is the essence of community …and how community can be there for you.” MGP….KPBS News.


California utility regulators moved this month to prepare for the state’s transition away from natural gas.

KPBS Environment reporter Erik Anderson has details

The California Public Utilities Commission passed new rules that require utilities to seek approval for individual natural gas projects that are worth more than 75 million dollars.  Commissioner Cliff Rechtschaffen says requiring approval for each project gives regulators the chance to consider if the spending is needed.“We want to make sure that as we transition, we’re only investing in new gas projects that are critical for safety or reliability and we’re not throwing good money after bad. We’re not investing in new projects that could shortly become stranded assets that ratepayers are saddled with.” Before the rule change, natural gas projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars could be buried in expansive general rate increase requests.  The new rule requires additional scrutiny. Erik Anderson KPBS News


It may look like there’s a lot of construction underway in San Diego, but the city is far below the estimate of 13-thousand 5-hundred new housing units a year to keep up with the population.

A study commissioned by the San Diego city council looked into the reasons the city is behind.

The study blames San Diego’s building department and the myriad of permit regulations and lack of up-to-date equipment as some of the major speed blocks to more housing construction.

inewsource reporter Cody Delaney says lack of staffing is also one of the major issues.

"The city's building department has severe staffing challenges. One out of every three positions that deal with permit applications are unfilled, and close to half of the department staff have fewer than five years experience. On top of that, the staff members they do have, don't have the tools to most efficiently review these applications."

Some of the recommendations stated in the report, include technology upgrades and revamping the permitting process.

The city also hopes to hire 44 new positions by next month, to help process applications.


Would you swallow a small monitor to find out what’s going on in your gut?

KPBS sci-tech reporter Thomas Fudge tells us about a new way to see if your metabolism is working right.

It’s the size of an oblong pill and is an electronic monitor that runs on glucose. It  sits in your intestine and can track sugar levels and whatever else it’s designed to check. After a day or two, it comes out the other end. UC San Diego Engineering professor Patrick Mercier led the discovery team. He says the experimental device – it’s been tested in pigs – can chemically probe a part of you that’s very hard to reach. Currently, what goes on in the gut can only be tested with stool samples or by forcing a tube down your throat. He says a monitor can be faster and easier. “It goes into your stomach. Into your GI track. And it’s a wireless device so you can get real time information of what’s going on in the dynamical environment inside yer gut, and read it out on your phone.” He said the monitor can be designed to also test acidity levels in the gut. Mercier is the co-director of UCSD’s Center for Wearable Sensors. SOQ. 


Coming up.... We have details on some of the most popular holiday light displays around town. We’ll have that next, just after the break.


It’s the time of year when people all around the county decorate their homes with everything from lights, and tinsel to an inflatable reindeer pulling Santa Claus, and nativity scenes…

It’s all part of why so many people refer to this as the most wonderful time of the year.

KPBS arts producer, Julia Dixon Evans got into the holiday spirit and rounded up some of the most popular light displays around town, and she’s here to share them with us.

Hi, Julia.

Well thank you, Julia.

These all sound great.

For more things to do for the winter holidays, you can visit our special calendar listings at KPBS-dot-ORG-slash-WINTERHOLIDAYS.

Happy holidays!


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.

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Striking University of California academic workers have put their picket lines on hold for the winter break, after agreeing to mediation with university negotiators. In other news, California utility regulators moved this month to prepare for the state’s transition away from natural gas. Plus, we have details on some of the most popular holiday light displays in San Diego County.