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USO is changing with the times

 November 15, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Tuesday, November 15th.

A support organization for service members and their families has been closing some of its doors, but opening others.

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


Thousands of researchers and student employees who work for the University of California are on strike.

Yesterday morning, picket lines went up at all 10 U-C campuses across the state with demands for more pay and fair labor practices.

7 thousand 7-hundred employees walked off the job at UCSD.

Including Maddie Williams who’s also on the bargaining team.

“Obviously something we are fighting for at the table is increasing our rights and benefits for all academic student employees at the U-C….but this strike is strictly because the university has continued to play unfairly.”

A written statement from the U-C President’s office said that they look forward to continuing negotiations in good faith with the U-A-W and settling the contracts as quickly as possible


A long-awaited ban on styrofoam could be approved by the San Diego City Council today.

The proposal was initially brought to the council in 20-19, but was delayed by lawsuits from local restaurant groups and container manufacturers.

If approved, styrofoam food containers, coolers, pool toys and other similar products would be banned starting April first of next year.


Santa Ana winds are expected to start this evening and will become more intense and widespread tomorrow.

The National Weather Service says they could cause power outages, blow down trees and make driving hazardous in some areas.

The wind is expected to weaken Thursday, before completely fading away Friday.


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


The U-S-O– the iconic support organization for service members and their families, has quietly been closing dozens of airport lounges and on-base hospitality centers.

But it's also opening others, including some in the military’s most remote locations.

Here’s Jay Price with the American Homefront Project.

PRICE: The 81-year-old USO is KNOWN for traditions. Like care packages, airport lounges for transiting troops and celebrity entertainment tours.But… it has modern challenges. Its budget is down, in part because the number of Americans – and potential donors – with TIES to the military has been shrinking. And it's dealing with shifts in WHERE troops are deployed and WHAT THEY NEED in the digital age.REYES: We are trying to provide an impact in the places, and for those service members that need us most.PRICE USO Chief Operating Officer Alan Reyes says the changes are part of a long-range strategic plan.This year it will close about FORTY of those centers where troops can rest, grab a cold soda, play games and watch TV. Many of them at smaller domestic airports.But it’s opening 28 NEW centers, several in places where stress is especially high.REYES: We do pride ourselves with the fact that we have as a global organization, the opportunity to reach millions and millions of service members and families. But we want to make sure that we are reaching those that need us the most, and oftentimes, they are in more remote locations.PRICE: MANY of the new centers are in Eastern Europe, where troops are deployed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.Other new sites include Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert…And the military’s MOST isolated installation: Thule Air Base in northern Greenland … where temperatures can drop under 20 below and there's total darkness for months each winter.REYES: …So one that is fairly remote, away from a lot of a lot of creature comforts…PRICE: The USO’s mission is to boost morale by keeping service members connected with their families, home and country. …in short, it’s a mental health organization.WOLF: And I could attest to that because I was dealing with depression.PRICE: Sgt. Darien Wolf visits the bustling Fort Bragg USO almost daily. He was hanging out in a lounge area one recent day, sipping a Sprite, as other soldiers used computers, played video games or just sprawled on a couch watching TV.WOLF: Just coming here got me a chance to kind of get out of that mode. Kind of relax. It definitely feels like home, so that’s why I kept coming back.PRICE: He found the same comfort in Poland on a recent deployment. The 82nd Airborne Division soldiers had been ordered to leave their phones at home. But the USO provided secure call centers as well as its usual array of couches, games, and snacks.WOLF: My whole team was going every week.TAPE: Ladies and gentlemen, today we’re at Long Binh, 17 miles northeast of Saigon…PRICE: Bob Hope. You can’t mention the USO without at least a NOD to its most famous touring act. HOPE: I don’t care if Charlie is watching or I’m giving away military secrets. We’re on live TV today and we need the ratings….PRICE: That was 1969 and Hope, who did USO shows for half a century, was performing for a crowd of thousands.The USO is STILL sending celebrities out on tour, but it’s added another approach.HOST And if you’re a soccer fan or…football as they say in Europe … you’re going to enjoy our guest today.PRICE: THAT recent guest was U.S. soccer star Christian Pulisic.Instead of putting him on tour, the USO set up a live video appearance…PULISIC: We have two friendly matches coming up here in the next week to get us prepared for the World Cup…Pulisic, in Germany, chatted with soldiers in Turkey, Kuwait and Qatar.Online … where Reyes says young troops are used to spending time.REYES: That does not mean we’re gonna stop sending tours to bases and places as well. But we now have a way to serve in both capacities.PRICE: The video meet-ups aren’t the same as joining the crowd at a live USO show. But Reyes says they can be more intimate, allowing personal connections with the celebrities …And they STILL serve that USO mission - cheering up troops who are far from home.I’m Jay Price, reporting.

This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans.

Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.


The 49th congressional district race is still too close to call.

As of the latest update, Democrat incumbent Mike Levin is ahead of Republican Brian Maryott by almost 12 thousand 8 hundred votes

Alexander Nguyen reports that the balance of power in the House could be determined by a few key races in the state.

There are still millions of votes left to count … and while California is a Democratic stronghold. .. University of San Diego political science professor Casey Dominguez says Republicans can still edge out a few wins. there are about a half dozen races in California that are close enough, and the balance between Democrats and Republicans nationally in the House races is close enough that California's, races, will probably determine the outcome.” The GOP currently has 212 seats, Democrats 204. The number needed to control the House is 218. AN/KPBS


San Diego hospitals are preparing for what could be a busy winter.

There are still worries of a triple-demic with COVID, the flu and R-S-V cases surging at once.

KPBS Health reporter Matt Hoffman will take it from here.

We are on the upswing of things Dr. William Tseng with Kaiser Permanente San Diego says they’ve been seeing more San Diegans coming to the emergency room with flu-like symptoms.. They’re preparing for what could be coming and are reactivating some overflow tents used during the pandemic. We want to be ready for our patients  Dr. William Tseng, Kaiser Permanente San Diego And these tents are nothing new -- all the hospital systems have some type of tent formation the idea for the tents is really not for a place for patients to be cared for a on a long term basis, it’s really a screening tent  Scripps Health and Sharp Healthcare have had similar tents up over the last couple years and are still using them.. Flu season has only just started, but 3,000 cases reported last month already more than the last several Octobers..MH KPBS News.


Coming up.... How you can help the City of San Diego name its newest street sweeper. We’ll have that and more, just after the break.


A new 195-unit affordable housing complex is now open in City Heights.

KPBS reporter Jacob Aere says it’s making a difference for people who were able to move in, but there’s still a need for more across the county.

The Harris Family Senior Residence and Mid-City Family Apartments in City Heights are officially open. Aurora Anaya lives in the new complex with her family of six … after previously cramming into a one-bedroom apartment. “It was just too expensive for us to pay, to even afford somewhere to live. So now having to move into a three-bathroom, two-bedroom apartment is just amazing.” Like almost all affordable housing offerings in the region it's completely full … with a long waiting list. SANDAG says the region needs over 170,000 housing units built within this decade. Last year, just over ten-thousand units were built. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.


Last month we told you the City of San Diego needed your help naming its new electric street sweeper.

Now we know the top three names and the city is asking you to choose your favorite.

The sweeper prevents pollution from reaching waterways and the ocean and the city wanted its name to reflect that.

The top three name contenders are…drumroll please… ‘Sweep-E,’ ‘The Blue Broomba’ and TESS (tess like the name).-- which stands for, The Electric Street Sweeper.

I just love (insert favorite here and why). it’s got my vote.

You can vote for your fav at ‘think-blue-dot-org’ until next Wednesday.


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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The USO has been closing dozens of airport lounges and on-base hospitality centers, but it's also opening others, including some in the military’s most remote locations. Then, San Diego hospitals are preparing for what could be a busy winter, as there are still worries of a triple-demic with COVID, the flu and RSV cases surging at once. Plus, a new 195-unit affordable housing complex is now open in City Heights.