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His son was kidnapped, and no one knows where he is. He has a doctorate but no work as an architect and lives off Social Security and food stamps. And he finds it hard to imagine returning to his home country of Iraq anytime soon.

But 66-year-old Thabit Khalaf, who fled Baghdad in 2008, has the spirit and the energy to appreciate his new home in El Cajon, where thousands of displaced Iraqis have settled.

People say “Hi, how are you today?”, he tells us in this weekend’s Q&A feature. “I find that really beautiful.”

And he would love to build here. “Every time I go to San Diego,” he says. “I feel like a little boy jumping, because of so many great details to please the eye. San Diego is romantic. It is delicate. That is my impression.”

And it may be yours too after seeing our community through the eyes of this man.

In other news:

  • Mark Fabiani, special counsel for the Chargers, accuses voiceofsandiego.org of “checking only part of the facts and thus missing the point” in Friday’s analysis showing that his estimate of Qualcomm Stadium’s cost to local taxpayers is based on uncertain numbers.
  • Our story, which drew a flurry of comments from readers, suggested that the Chargers estimate — that the status quo will cost city taxpayers more than $300 million between now and 2020 — “isn’t based on hard data, but rather on drastic shifts in city policy and fuzzy estimates.”
  • Is Fabiani right? You be the judge. As Liam Dillon’s dissection of the response shows, there are a number of holes in it.
  • You know how negotiations work: Both sides ask for more than they actually want. That seems to be going on in the San Diego school district: it has backtracked on a request that teachers absorb 8 percent pay cuts.
  • The Photo of the Day captures a downtrodden hotel building downtown.

Elsewhere:

  • UCSD continues to be torn by the fallout from a racially offensive student party. In a forum Friday, KPBS reports, black students blasted the chancellor and administrators “in an emotionally charged campus forum. Students say the campus climate allows for racially offensive incidents to take place.”

    The students also issued a list of demands. Among other things, they want a safe space on campus for black students.

  • The Koala, an alternative student newspaper with a decades-long history of gleefully offending people, made matters worse by reportedly making racially inappropriate remarks on UCSD’s student TV station, which has since been shut down.
  • Yesterday, we linked to a story in CityBeat that said an appellate judge suggested San Diego police had lied in a home-search case. CityBeat now says its story was wrong. The case involved a man and the police from the Imperial County city of Calexico, not San Diego.
  • Finally, 10News says a North County coffeehouse is drawing attention because of its name: “Bad Ass Coffee.”
  • Apparently, the name has something to do with Hawaiian donkeys that carried coffee beans.
  • Oh really? Hawaiian donkeys, my — um — mule.

What We’ve Learned This Week

Dollars Have Been Set Free: As the U-T put it: “A federal judge has struck down three city laws that place strict limits on campaign contributions, a decision that could pave the way for political parties and other donors to pour vast amounts of money into San Diego elections.”

It just so happened we covered this issue in San Diego Explained this week before the judge handed out her ruling. Watch it to get up to speed.

Yes or No? Not Applicable: Could the city of San Diego actually run out of money? The answer isn’t an easy one.

And the question of whether the city could get rid of its hefty pension obligations by going bankrupt isn’t a simple one to answer either. (Our commenters, by the way, were all over this story.)

The Coffee Collection: Stories to read over a cup of joe.

Absolving Kate Moss & Co.: Skinny supermodels and a society obsessed with thinness get the blame for eating disorders, but UCSD research is suggesting the fault is genetic and based in the brain.

He Lived to Give: Whether he was cuddling premature babies or searching and rescuing until the age of 75, Point Loma’s Walter Bailey Jr. devoted himself to others.

Chalkboards Are So 1986: Computerized whiteboards are in now, but there’s controversy in San Diego schools over whether spending money on fancy technology is a good idea.

Quote of the Week: “It’s on now more than ever.” — Corporate fraud investigator Barry Minkow on resurrecting his takedown of the Medifast company after it sued him for $270 million.

— RANDY DOTINGA

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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