CVIndependent

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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Features

13 Mar 2017
A thick fog is rolling in over Sunshine Week (March 12-18), the annual event when government transparency advocates raise awareness about the importance of access to public records. We are entering an age when officials at the highest levels seek to discredit critical reporting with “alternative facts,” “fake news” slurs and selective access to press conferences—while making their own claims without providing much in the way to substantiate them. But no matter how much the pundits claim we’re entering a “post-truth” era, it is crucial we defend the idea of proof. Proof is in the bureaucratic paper trails. Proof is in the accounting ledgers, the legal memos, the audits and the police reports. Proof is in the data. When it comes to government actions, that proof is often obtained by leveraging laws like the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state-level public records laws—except when government officials seek to ignore…
23 Feb 2017
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A growing number of young students are eschewing college in favor of vocational or certification programs—and as part of that trend, a new facility in Desert Hot Springs is offering classes that help underprivileged and at-risk men and women take steps toward vocational certification. The slogan of Smooth Transition Inc., located at 13070 Palm Drive, is “Believe, Achieve, Receive.” During a recent phone interview with executive director Robin Goins, she talked about the history of Smooth Transition, which has moved into a space where an alternative high school used to be located near Stater Bros. “We’ve been in Desert Hot Springs providing services for about five years—but on a small scale,” Goins said. “We were working with the Department of Social Services. We started working with the (DHS) Family Resource Center, and we grew into a small class space that was down the road. “Last August, the mayor said they…
16 Feb 2017
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Option Act in October 2015, and the law went into effect on June 9, 2016. But for many Coachella Valley residents who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and given a prognosis of less than six months to live, the end-of-life option remains out of grasp—that is, unless they switch health providers. Trust me, I know: I helped my mother-in-law through the end-of-life process last year. No statistics are available yet regarding the number of Coachella Valley patients who have obtained prescriptions for life-ending medications since the law took effect; the initial annual report required by the law will not be issued until later this year. But according to patient, doctor and advocate feedback, the refusal of some major health-care providers in our valley to support the new law has been keeping those numbers down. Eisenhower Medical Center (EMC), with facilities…
27 Jan 2017
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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often associated with members of the military, but the problem extends well beyond soldiers and veterans: According to the Anxiety and Depression Society of America, more than 7 million Americans currently suffer from PTSD. Dr. Jill Gover, of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert in Palm Springs, explained the difference between general trauma and PTSD. “A lot of people experience trauma,” Gover said. “It doesn’t mean they have PTSD. Most of us associate PTSD with war. War is such a huge, catastrophic event that is outside the general course of human experience. That’s one of the definitions that distinguish that kind of trauma as post-traumatic stress. Most of the time, it’s associated with war, extreme abuse or torture. The other large category (consists of) people who’ve been sexually or physically abused, especially as children. Mac McClelland is a journalist who went to Haiti after…
21 Dec 2016
Linda is my wife, my best friend. She’s the daughter of Annette, who had been battling cancer for years. Fifteen months prior to this August 2016 morning, Annette, then 93, had come to live out her last days with us in our Palm Desert home. Now, Linda stood at the foot of her mother’s bed and spoke softly to our cat, who had stretched herself out across Annette’s lower legs. “Lola, honey, come on now,” Linda cajoled. “You have to get up, sweetie. Mom-mom’s no longer here. She’s gone now.” Lola stayed put with her chin on her crossed front paws. It seemed that nothing or no one could disturb this quiet, calm and peaceful scene. Thanks to California’s End of Life Option Act, Annette had just left behind the painful captivity of the cancer that had progressively destroyed her quality of life. This peaceful day came after one of…
25 Nov 2016
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The documentary The Bad Kids begins as a probation officer follows up on a young man named Joseph McGee. McGee tells the officer that his father is currently serving time in prison, and that he’s having problems showing up to school. Soon, his mother—sitting across from McGee and the officer—begins sobbing and says she’s done everything she can—including taking away his bedroom door so she can keep a better eye on him. The probation officer asks McGee what he wants out of life. He’s then shown enrolling in Yucca Valley’s Black Rock High School—the subject of this powerful film by Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe. During a recent phone interview, Black Rock’s principal, Vonda Viland, described the kids who come to Black Rock High School, an alternative school that’s part of the state’s Continuation Education program. “Ninety percent of our students live below the poverty level,” Viland said. “They are…
23 Nov 2016
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There is a tropical garden up in the most unlikely of places—the high desert—that grows orchids, by the thousands. I discovered it by pure chance while on another assignment in Landers, located north of Yucca Valley about 55 miles from Palm Springs. As I drove on Belfield Boulevard, I saw dozens of cars in a busy parking lot next to a huge tent-like structure. I thought it might have been a celebrity wedding—but instead, it was the largest orchid nursery I’d ever seen. I grabbed my camera and started taking photos of the gorgeous orchids—and didn’t stop until I went through tens of thousands of square feet of absolute botanical beauty owned by Gubler Orchids company. It was a true photographers’ paradise. Any horticultural expert will tell you that orchids are among most elegant, most expensive and most sought-out flowers. It’s a fact that Charles Darwin was doing research on…
13 Oct 2016
Throughout its 40-year history, Project Censored has covered a lot of ground that the corporate mainstream media has missed. Begun by Carl Jensen, a sociology professor at California’s Sonoma State University shortly after Watergate in 1976, it’s become an institution involving dozens of faculty members and institutions working together to come up with an annual list of the Top 25 Censored Stories of the Year. The Watergate burglary in June 1972 “sparked one of the biggest political cover-ups in modern history,” Jensen later recalled. “And the press was an unwitting, if willing participant in the coverup.” “Watergate taught us two important lessons about the press: First, the news media sometimes do fail to cover some important issues, and second, the news media sometimes indulge in self-censorship,” he said. As with the Watergate story, these Project Censored stories aren’t censored in the overt, heavy-handed manner of an authoritarian dictatorship, but in…
07 Oct 2016
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Up on a plateau in the High Desert, about 50 miles north of Palm Springs in a small town called Landers, there’s a domed structure that’s been attracting buzz since the 1950s. Its builder was George Van Tassel, a UFOlogist, aviator and businessman who claimed that an alien from outer space, speaking in perfect English, told him how to build the structure back in 1953. Van Tassel named it the Integraton. According to writings by Van Tassel, who authored four books—including I Rode a Flying Saucer—“the purpose of the Integratron is to recharge energy into living cell structure, to bring about longer life with youthful energy. It is a machine, a high-voltage electrostatic generator that would supply a broad range of frequencies to recharge cellular structure.” Van Tassel died at the age of 67 in 1978, so the part about longer life didn’t exactly work for him. However, there’s an…
22 Aug 2016
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Many drivers loathe DUI checkpoints—especially drivers who have had a drink or two. And that’s exactly the point: Drivers shouldn’t be behind the wheel when intoxicated. Arrests for driving under the influence can cost people more than $10,000 in fees and fines, plus jail time. But that’s a small price to pay compared to the cost in lives due to DUI accidents. In 2014, nearly 10,000 people were killed by impaired drivers in the United States—with more than 800 of those deaths here in California. On Friday, Aug. 12, I was allowed to tag along while the Palm Springs Police Department conducted a DUI checkpoint in the 2900 block of North Indian Canyon Drive. Sgt. Mike Villegas, the lead officer of the Traffic Division, was my host. The night started with a 7 p.m. briefing at the police station. Villegas introduced me to his team of 11 detectives, officers, dispatchers…

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