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Friday News Roundup

Pacific Grove’s Feast of Lanterns is out

fort ord 2.jpg
Ian E. Abbott
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Abandoned buildings at Fort Ord. A recent investigation from the Associated Press reveals the high rate of cancer among veterans of the former U.S. Army base. Their exposure to toxic chemicals at the fort may have played a role.

Plus, Fort Ord’s role in cancer rates among veterans, and the Monterey Conference Center’s virtual future.

Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup for 2/25/21. Here you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few national stories from NPR.

Did polluted groundwater play a role in the illnesses of hundreds of Fort Ord veterans? An investigation published by the Associated Press this week reveals that dozens of carcinogenic chemicals were detected as early as 1985 in the soil and groundwater of the shuttered U.S. Army base. Hundreds of veterans have contracted cancer since living there.

Those contaminants are still present today, in the soil and the aquifer below Cal State Monterey Bay and the surrounding land. So is the water that thousands of CSUMB students drink everyday safe? KAZU News asked Rem Scherzinger, the general manager of Marina Coast Water District.

“The water is safe,” he said. “We consistently exceed the California safe drinking water standards.” Scherzinger said water is not pulled from the shallow aquifer that Fort Ord once used, but from deeper wells that are far off campus.

We'll have more on this story in the coming weeks. The AP also published a companion video that you can watch here.

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Feat of Lanterns website
The annual Feat of Lanterns festival will no longer be held after complaints of racial stereotyping.

The board of Pacific Grove’s Feast of Lanterns announced this week it will no longer hold its annual festival. The event had come under criticism for what many Asian Americans called a racist depiction of their culture.

The modern version of the festival began almost 60 years ago. High school students from the overwhelmingly white community dressed up in stylized Asian costumes and participated in a weeklong festival that included food, a pet parade and a pageant with fireworks at Lover’s Point.

Last week, the Pacific Grove City Council cut off funding after more than 30 community members spoke out against the event.

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Doug McKnight
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KAZU News
The City of Pacific Grove is being sued by a former police officer who claims his first amendment rights were violated.

A former Pacific Grove police officer filed a lawsuit claiming his civil rights were violated when he was fired from the department last year. The suit was filed on behalf of Michael Gonzalez in federal district court in San Jose. Werksman, Jackson and Quinn, the law firm representing Gonzalez, is based in Southern California and alleges Gonzalez’s dismissal is a violation of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The lawsuit is seeking $1 million in damages.

KAZU covered Gonzalez's dismissal last year. He was suspended in the summer of 2020 for having allegedly pro-militia, anti-government stickers on his truck, which was parked in public view in the police lot. After being reinstated, he was suspended again for posting allegedly racist statements on a social media platform. There was an outcry from area residents: 19 people spoke out at a city council meeting and a petition gathered including a petition with over 2,000 thousand signatures.

After an investigation by the city, Gonzalez was told he could resign or be fired. He chose the latter.

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Doug McKnight
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KAZU News
Monterey Conference Center General Manager Doug Phillips, with microphone, stands in the middle of the Canvas Studio set.

The Monterey Conference Center is struggling to get back to where it was before the pandemic shut down much of the hospitality industry on the Peninsula. During lockdowns, most conferences were held online. Now, the 40,000-square foot building, owned by the city and supported by a hotel tax, is trying to figure out what effect online meetings will have on its business.

This week, KAZU’s Doug McKnight reported on how the center is experimenting with a technology called Canvas Studio. It uses a meeting room to create television-like online conferences. You can listen to his story and see photos of Canvas Studio on our website.

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UP9, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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Wikimedia Commons
A rendering of the Ukrainian flag

Sadness is gripping the world this week. The death toll is rising as Russian military forces continue their attacks in Ukraine. Photographs illustrate the pain and destruction. On Thursday, President Biden announced new sanctions against Russia’s economy and military. NPR is providing live updates. As Leon Panetta told KAZU in an interview that aired before the invasion, “Ukraine is a democracy and a sovereign country. And yet Putin's view is they have no business deciding what's in their own security and that they're really a part of Russia.” Click here to listen to the full interview, which aired on February 14.

As the situation unfolds, parents may be wondering how to deal with all the scary news. Click here for a list of helpful ideas and listen to what child development experts recommend.

The State of the Pandemic

That’s it for this week! You can sign up to receive the Friday News Roundup from KAZU, right to your inbox. Just visit kazu.org to subscribe.

Until then,

The KAZU Team