CVIndependent

Fri06052020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

We have more than 25 news links today—a new Daily Digest record—so let’s get right to it:

• On the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week, I joined hosts Brad Fuhr, Shann Carr and John Taylor to discuss the various news with Dr. Laura Rush; The Standard Magazine publisher Nino Eilets; and Clifton Tatum and Andre Carthen from Brothers of the Desert. Check it out.

• Protests force change! Some members of Congress are developing “a sweeping package of police reforms,” according to NBC News.

• Unfortunately, the Trump administration, showing a clear inability to “read the room,” doesn’t seem too interested in reforms. “Apart from supporting a federal civil rights investigation into Floyd’s death, the president has offered no proposals for changing how police use force, train new officers or interact with their communities,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

More change being forced by the protests: Los Angeles is considering cutting up to $150 million from the police budget to instead invest in communities of color.

• Yet more change: The chancellor of California’s community college system—where 80 percent of the state’s police officers get training—wants to change the curriculum to address systemic racism.

• Observers in Washington, D.C., have noticed a very disconcerting thing: law-enforcement officers with no visible affiliation or personal identities. This. Is. Scary.

• Also scary: The number of incidents of police violently using force against peaceful protesters continues to grow.

• Twitter is an odd mix of community, fun and simply terrible people. Well, community and fun won the battle against simply terrible people today: A bunch of K-pop fans took over the white-supremacist #WhiteLivesMatter hashtag by using it to share their fave stars, videos and memes—meaning the hate was hard to find among all the K-pop.

• As if I needed more proof that I should have picked another damned profession (kidding) (mostly), the United States is now on Reporters Without Borders’ list of deadliest countries for journalists.

• Also from the journalism world: Newsrooms around the world are currently in the midst of a debate: Should our coverage show protesters’ faces?

• Meanwhile, journalists at two major newspapers are none too pleased with the actions of their editors: Journalists of color at Philadelphia Inquirer are taking a “sick and tired” day to protest a recent “Buildings Matter, Too” headline, while journalists at The New York Times are speaking out against an op-ed mentioned here yesterday by Sen. Tom Cotton that called for the feds to use the military to tamp down on the protests.

• Independent contributor Keith Knight—he does The K Chronicles and (Th)ink comics that appear on the weekly Independent comics page—shared with us this list of “anti-racism resources for white people.”

• Not a cause for panic, but a reminder that we all have to take precautions: Eisenhower Medical Center confirmed it’s seeing more positive COVID-19 tests from the community in recent days.

• COVID-19 testing sites in Los Angeles County were either closed or limited due to the protests and curfews. This has public health officials—and others—concerned.

• We’ve all seen that graph of the various waves of death caused by the flu pandemic of 1918-19. While it’s possible we may see similar patterns with COVID-19—although let’s hope not—this is a very different time, and a very different virus, according to The Conversation. That’s both a good thing, and a bad thing.

• Hmm … Riverside County did not update its COVID-19 stats today. According to a tweet from Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the public health officer: “Due to technical issues, we were not able to access local data from the state's CalREDIE website. We apologize for this delay, and will strive to have updated #COVID19 data and information for you tomorrow, June 4.” (He meant tomorrow, June 5, we assume.)

• The Trump administration continues to use COVID-19 as an excuse to roll back environmental protections permanently.

• Hooray for … Chuck Grassley? The Iowa senator has pledged to block two Trump nominations until his administration explains why Trump fired two different watchdogs.

The Pentagon got billions in stimulus money to fight the pandemic. However, much of that money has gone unspent … and some of it that has been spent has been spent rather strangely.

• National employment numbers continue to rise (albeit it a slower pace)—and now the government layoffs are beginning—including in Palm Springs and La Quinta.

• We’ve mentioned in this space the dangers of (necessarily) rushed science taking place in the battle against COVID-19. Well, a major study regarding hydroxychloroquine—President Trump’s COVID-19 drug of choice—was just retracted by its authors.

• Schools reopened in Israel two weeks ago. However, students are testing positive for the coronaviruscausing some schools to close. In fact, there’s discussion of closing all of them again.

• From the Independent: The latest piece in our Pandemic Stories series looks at the Palm Springs Power, the collegiate baseball team that plays at Palm Springs Stadium every summer. The team’s season was supposed to start last week, but was—to nobody’s surprise—delayed. However, team management is keeping fingers crossed for some sort of season to take place at some point.

Las Vegas is again open for business.

• And finally, let’s end on a brighter note: The Palm Springs International Shortfest has announced its official selections for 2020! Because the in-person event is not happening this year, not all of the selections will be shown—but some will be streaming online between June 16-22. Get all of the details here.

That’s all for today. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Fight injustice. If you have the means, and you value independent local journalism, we kindly ask you to consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

We hit 115 degrees today, and it’s only June 3.

Meanwhile, the country remains a mess … although we got some good news today.

Let’s get right into the links:

• The big national news of the day: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that Derek Chauvin—the Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, resulting in Floyd’s death—would be charged with second-degree murder; and that the other three officers involved in the incident—Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao—would be charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. Chauvin had previously been charged with third-degree murder; the other three officers had not yet been charged. 

Ellison, however, also offered a warning: He said that getting a conviction in the case(s) against the officers “will be hard.” 

• While some Republicans are standing by President Trump’s attempt to militarize law-enforcement responses against the protests taking place around the country (or, rather, make the responses even more militarized), others—including Defense Secretary Mark Esper—are quickly backing away.

• Meanwhile, a former Trump defense secretary—James Mattis, who served in the position until December 2018—excoriated Trump. Key quote: “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.

The Guardian offers a look at the lives of some of the men and women killed during the protests over the last eight days

• It’s been said that if you want to understand the nature of a police force, you look not at the chief, but at the head of the union. Well, The Intercept looked at Lt. Bob Kroll, head of Minneapolis’ police union—and saw some pretty rotten stuff.

More evidence of rot in the Minneapolis PD comes from The New York Times: Black people make up 19 percent of Minneapolis’ population—but 58 percent of the police-use-of-force cases.

• The New York Times examined how some law-enforcement offers are feeling very conflicted right now. The headline and sub-headline: “For Police Officers, Demonstrations Take a Toll and Test Duty: As the world watches demonstrations unfold on television and social media, both the best and the worst of American law enforcement has been on display.

The Los Angeles Times looks at the protests taking place in the Inland Empire—and the previous cases of police violence that are helping motivate them.

This NPR headline just made me sigh and desire a cocktail: “In George Floyd Protests, China Sees A Powerful Propaganda Opportunity.

• Former President Barack Obama spoke today as part of a Town Hall organized by his foundation. Read about his remarks—or watch what he had to say—here.

• A very cool feature from the Newseum—which continues online after closing its physical space at the end of last year: Each day, hundreds of newspapers send their front pages to the Newseum to post online. Check it out.

• And now to the day’s coronavirus news—which is very much still a thing: According to The Conversation, California’s relatively early shelter-in-place order may have saved 1,600 lives in one month.

• Riverside County has set aside more than $30 million in federal stimulus money for tenants who need help with rent. Applicants may receive up to three months’ rent, or $3,500, whichever is less. Learn more here.

• Keep your fingers crossed: Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview yesterday that he’s hoping we will have a couple hundred million doses of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine ready by the end of the year. Yay!

However, he also said the vaccine may not offer protection for very long. Boo!

AMC Theatres says that it may not be able to survive the pandemic.

That’s enough news for the day. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Black Lives Matter. If you value independent, local, honest journalism, and can spare a few bucks, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

There are so many things that could be said right now, but instead, I am simply going to share some numbers with you, from our friends at FatalEncounters.org, which tracks people killed during interactions with law enforcement.

According to Fatal Encounters, as you can see in the graphic above, May 2020 is believed to be the first time—going back to 2000, when Fatal Encounters’ data set begins—that the number of deaths with police involvement cracked the 200 mark. And 863 people have died so far this year, which is a record-setting pace.

Something’s wrong here … and as we mentioned yesterday, it starts at the top.

More news:

• Maddenly related: More than 120 journalists covering the protests around the country have been attacked by police. Again, it starts at the top; after all, you know who keeps insisting journalists are the enemy of the people.

• Here’s more on police attacks on the media, courtesy of The New York Times.

From our partners at High Country News: This is #BlackBirdersWeek, which is designed to shed a light on racism in the birder community.

Twitter has removed accounts, supposedly by ANTIFA, that were actually tied to white supremacists. Yeesh.

Fantasy Springs opened its doors today, meaning Augustine is the only valley casino to remain closed.

• The fact that so many Americans are struggling financially will make it harder for the U.S. to keep COVID-19 contained, according to an expert writing for The Conversation.

• I find this encouraging, weird and frustrating all at once: A couple Italian doctors made international news recently by claiming the coronavirus was substantially weaker there than it had been before. The World Health Organization, however, vehemently disagrees.

• Here’s some of the latest news on the stunning, dictator-like move yesterday by the Trump administration to clear out peaceful protesters so the president could walk to a church and hold a bible while photos were taken. 

• A new grant program for small businesses—paid for by the stimulus bill and administered by the county—will begin taking applications tomorrow. However, there are some serious restrictions—including one saying businesses that received a EIDL or PPP loan are not eligible.

• The Red Barn, the Palm Desert bar at the center of all sorts of controversy due to its … uh, provocative roof signs and failed attempt to reopen, burned this morning.

• The editors and reporters at The Desert Sun are doing some amazing work during these trying times—despite being owned by a company that has, historically, been pretty awful. As evidence of this awfulness—and why rampant media consolidation can be terrible: The Washington Post examined why many Gannett papers (including The Desert Sun) did not lead with coverage of the George Floyd protests on Sunday.

• President Trump is bafflingly ordering West Point grads back to campus for a graduation speech on June 13. And, of course, some of the cadets who are graduating have tested positive for COVID-19.

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Be safe. Speak out against racism and injustice. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

On this week's sad and angry weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorensen shows that a president's words have violent consequences; (Th)ink puts looting and repression into context with thanks from Donald Rumsfeld (yes, really); This Modern World ponders how great America is again; Apoca Clips listens to Li'l Trumpy blather on; and Red Meat fails yet again to get a job.

Published in Comics

Welcome to June! Things are a mess!

Here’s the latest:

All of Riverside County is under a curfew starting at 6 p.m. today. Yes, all of it—including the Coachella Valley. The curfew lasts through 6 a.m. tomorrow. But you probably already know this because of an alert screamed by your phone earlier this afternoon.

Some of the details, according to the county:

The curfew is in response to several areas of rioting and looting in Southern California over the weekend, as well as planned protests set to occur today in Riverside County.

“We want the community to be able to peacefully assemble and exercise their first amendment rights,” said (County Executive Officer and Director of Emergency Services George) Johnson. “We must also take action to protect our community from threats of rioting and chaos. If you plan to visit a protest today, we urge you to do so peacefully and return home at the time of the curfew.”

The curfew will expire Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. and will not apply to residents who must leave their homes to attend essential work or business after 6 p.m. The curfew is intended to prevent any potential acts of destruction and violence at protest sites. Law enforcement will continue to serve the community by conducting patrols and responding to calls for service.

Three protests motivated by the death of George Floyd were planned for the Coachella Valley today. The first one started at 10 a.m. in downtown Palm Springs, and, by accounts, has been calm and peaceful.

The other two were scheduled for tonight—and there are some key differences.

The first one that was announced was slated for 6 p.m. in Indio, at Miles Park. This was, in every way, a transparent and local effort: The organizers of #NoMoreHashtags said who they were, what their plans were, and emphasized safety—both in terms of being peaceful, and the need for social distancing and masks due to the pandemic.

However, that protest has been cancelled by organizers, in light of the county curfew. Organizer Erin Teran wrote on Facebook:

We the committee of the No More Hashtags Candlelight Vigil regret to inform you of the decision to postpone. The vigil scheduled for this evening, June 1st in Indio will be moved to a future date due to the notification of curfew put in place by Riverside County officials, which currently commenced at 6 p.m. this evening to tomorrow at 6 a.m.

We have made a group decision to postpone the vigil pending further notice in an effort to cooperate with our county and local officials.

We are upset and disappointed to have to postpone the vigil, as we feel it is important for us to assemble together as a community to grieve and express our emotions; however we also acknowledge the concerns of our community.

We ask the public to please respect the curfew. As we had planned a peaceful expression and Vigil, we also do not condone any negativity surrounding this tragedy.

This was and will be a peaceful candlelight vigil and we will see that it will proceed in the coming days.

• The other planned protest is, well, shrouded in mystery.

It was announced by an Instagram account that has no posts published before the protest announcement. At first, the “Coachella Valley Activists” account announced the protest would be starting in front of California Pizza Kitchen, on El Paseo in Palm Desert.

Then, earlier today, the account announced that due to fears over the location chose for the protest—why pick the ritzy shopping area?!—it was being moved to Palm Desert’s City Hall and Civic Center Park. After the curfew announcement, the account said the protest would start earlier than originally scheduled, and would go from 4 to 6 p.m.

There are several things worth pointing out about this announced protest. First: It’s odd to schedule a protest at the same time as another one just 10 miles down the road. Second: The organizers have refused to identify themselves. The Independent asked the organizers who they were, as did other media sources and all sorts of commenters on the Instagram page—but they have so far refused say.

“It’s been brought to our attention that people believe that the El Paseo protest is a setup,” posted the page. “We can assure you this is not. We’re a group of diverse friends (Black, Latino, White, etc.) who believe that our voices should be heard, and we’re locals but not residents of PD.”

Regardless of who is behind this protest, it scared the living hell out of people, given the violence and destruction that’s taken place over the weekend. At one point on Sunday night, the Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce on Facebook announced that “busses are arriving already with people,” but soon after removed the post, because it wasn’t true. Meanwhile, much of El Paseo has been boarded up … just in case.

So … yeah, things are a mess.

Other news:

A Villanova University professor, writing for The Conversation, says research has shown “that officers with extensive complaint histories were disproportionately more likely to be named subjects in civil rights lawsuits with extensive claims and large settlement payouts.” Translation: The nation’s police departments are *BADLY* in need of reform, as these needless acts of violence, often racially tinged, show us over and over and over again.

• Frustratingly related: According to CNN, “under President Donald Trump, the Department of Justice has all but abandoned broad investigations into unconstitutional policing practices, a half-dozen former DOJ lawyers who worked on similar cases told CNN—essentially giving up on one of the federal government's most effective tools to fight police misconduct.”

• A tale of two presidents, presented without comment: Earlier today, former president Barack Obama issued a statement. A key quote: “So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.”

• Also earlier today, President Trump lashed out at governors on a phone call with them. Key quote, according to Fox News (yes, Fox News):You have to dominate; if you don't dominate, you're wasting your time. They're going to run over you; you're going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate.”

• The more things change, the more things stay the same: Today’s the 99th anniversary of one of the most awful chapters in American history. If you don’t know about the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, please read up.

• These protests, while necessary, are coming in the middle of a pandemic that’s far from over—and it has medical professionals very worried that these mass gatherings will help the virus spread. Heed the warnings of Atlanta’s mayor: If you’ve been part of a mass protest, please go get tested for the virus.

• Late Friday night, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, affirmed California’s right to place restrictions on religious services during the pandemic. Fascinatingly, Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the liberal wing of the court.

• Showing, YET AGAIN, how little we know about this damned virus: There’s evidence that SARS-CoV-2 attacks blood vessels, meaning it’s not merely a respiratory disease.

• And finally, a teeny, tiny sliver of good news among all the chaos: Hey, the Palm Springs Air Museum is (responsibly) open again!

That’s enough for this odd and sad day. Please be safe. If you can afford it, please consider supporting ethical, honest local journalism by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back for what we’re hoping is a better day tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Back on May 1, we wrote: “Welcome to May 2020—which should be one of the most fascinating months in American history.”

Well, May sure lived up to that statement, didn’t it?

It’s now May 29. Here in the Coachella Valley, retail stores, restaurants, some casinos and—as of this afternoon—some vacation rentals are again open for business. So far … so OK, I guess.

Nationally, however, the country is in crisis—but not because of COVID-19, though the virus remains as deadly as ever. No, the culprit is good ol’ fashioned police brutality and racism.

As of this writing, protests are continuing to grow in cities including Atlanta; Washington, D.C., Chicago; San Jose; and beyond, after rough nights last night in Minneapolis, Louisville and other cities.

I am hoping—naively, perhaps—that some good may eventually come out of this. Derek Chauvin—the Minneapolis police officer who we’ve all seen pinning down George Floyd on that awful video—has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Meanwhile, police leadership around the country is speaking out, swiftly and strongly, in condemnation of what we all saw on that video.

These are gut-wrenching times, for so many reasons. We, as a country, need to fight to make sure we come out of this better—because we need to be better.

If you agree with that statement—and I sure hope you do—it’s time to ask yourself: What am *I* going to do be better?

Today’s news links:

• The big local news of the day, as mentioned above: Riverside County announced that short-term rentals can resume taking reservations immediatelyalbeit with restrictions. While some cities, like Rancho Mirage, are continuing to restrict them, the city of Palm Springs has clarified that they are, in fact, now allowed in P.S. This is a welcome boost to the economy. As for what it means for COVID-19 … we’ll just have to wait and see.

• And now for the bad-if-unsurprising local economic news of the day: The August edition of Splash House is officially cancelled.

CVS has opened free drive-through testing sites in Coachella, Palm Springs, La Quinta and Indio. Here’s the list and the details.

Los Angeles has been given the go-ahead for retail, restaurants and barber shops/salons to reopen.

• Gov. Newsom today defended the surprisingly fast reopening processes taking place in much of the state. Key quote: “Localism is determinative. We put out the how; counties decide the when."

• Another stimulus/relief bill is in the works. But Mitch McConnell says this’ll be the last one. NPR explains.

• Meanwhile, in the middle of the world’s worst pandemic in 102 years, the most prosperous country on the planet is completely pulling out of the World Health Organization. At least that’s what the president said today, because—as we keep saying—NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.

From Bloomberg News comes this astonishing lead: “One farm in Tennessee distributed COVID-19 tests to all of its workers after an employee came down with the virus. It turned out that every single one of its roughly 200 employees had been infected.”

• NBC News reports that during “the first media briefing from the CDC in more than two months”—and I will remind everyone that WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC—it was revealed that the coronavirus began its spread in the U.S. in late January, a month or so before anyone noticed.

• One of the keys to keeping the virus contained may be antigen tests. What are they, and how do they differ from the diagnostic tests you know about, and the antibody tests? The Conversation explains.

• Spending is way down, and savings is way up, according to CNBC: Americans who are fortunate enough to have cash are holding onto it.

That’s enough for the day! Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. Please consider helping us continue to do quality independent, local journalism by becoming a Supporter of the Independent, if you can afford to do so. We’ll be back Monday, at the latest.

Published in Daily Digest

While this Daily Digest is (for now, at least) dedicated to news about COVID-19 and the resulting societal and economic mess, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what’s going on in Minnesota.

Unfortunately, murders like that of George Floyd, at the hands of police officers, are nothing new—and until recently, police-involved deaths weren’t even properly tracked. This is something my friend and fellow journalist D. Brian Burghart discovered when he was the editor of the Reno News & Review newspaper. So he did something about it: He started tracking them—and, with grant funding, donations and a team of volunteers, created a national database of deaths, going all the way back to 2000, called Fatal Encounters.

The Independent covered Fatal Encounters back in 2016, when Burghart and his team completed California’s data set. When I talked to Brian for the story in 2016, I asked him why he thought the government hadn’t been keeping track of police deaths. An excerpt from the story:

“It’s usually just incompetence, to be honest,” he said. “Many people that I’ve talked to over the years want to find a conspiracy, but I really believe that it’s mostly government incompetence.”

California’s government has done better than most at gathering data. The state Office of the Attorney General’s “Open Justice” website offers data on deaths in custody and arrest-related deaths between 2005 and 2014. Over that period, the state database includes about 1,200 arrest-related deaths.

Over that same time period, Burghart said, Fatal Encounters has counted twice the number of deaths.

“The government tracks everything that it thinks matters. That suggests to me that the government does not believe that these deaths matter,” he said. “If a low-tech guy like me could do this, then the FBI—with millions of dollars to apply to it and super high-tech knowledge—could do it in an hour.”

Thankfully, due to Fatal Encounters, we now have a good database—which is being used by analysts and scientists to find trends and craft policy. (We actually have more than one database, including one by The Washington Post—which took Brian’s idea without credit, created an inferior-if-prettier database, and won a Pulitzer Prize for it … but that’s an annoying story for another time, preferably when bars are open again.)

Unfortunately, racism and bad cultures in some police departments remain big problems. One would presume that since most of the country has been sheltering in place for a good chunk of 2020, police-involved killings would be down this year. Right? No … they’re actually up.

Meanwhile, Brian and his team continue to update Fatal Encounters—making the data available to all. Brian tells me that as of today, the database includes 28,200 death records … with 265 known asphyxiation/restraint deaths—including the horrifying killing of George Floyd.

Today’s news links:

• This week’s edition of the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast/videocast is up! I joined Dr. Laura Rush, fabulous Stoli rep Patrik Gallineaux and hosts John Taylor, Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr to talk about reopening, the virus and other pertinent things.

• Keeping with the themes of 1) all studies like this need to be taken with that gigantic grain of salt, and 2) we really know so darned little about this damned virus: A new study reveals that during a COVID-19 outbreak on a cruise ship, 80 percent of the people who had the virus were asymptomatic. Yes, 80-percent.

• The state other states should emulate regarding the response to the pandemic is … South Carolina?! Yep, at least in some ways; as The Conversation points out, South Carolina is doing a fantastic job with contact tracing.

• Wear your mask; keep social distancing; wash your hands; and realize that some California counties are actually slowing or backtracking on the reopening process because of new spikes in cases.

• Meanwhile, the Bay Area has been extra-cautious and slow regarding reopening—but today, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced plans to get the process (still slowly) moving.

• The state has called for SARS-CoV-2 testing to take place at all California nursing homes.

The maker of remdesivir gave the medicine to the federal government to distribute. Well, so far, that hasn’t gone so well, according to The Washington Post.

• Also from The Washington Post: Could Fitbits, Apple Watches and other wearable devices alert a person that they’re showing signs of COVID-19 infection? It’s a good possibility.

• Here’s an update on the complete mess that is the Pennsylvania Legislature, where at least one GOP lawmaker tested positive for the virus—and decided that was information his Democratic colleagues didn’t need to know.

• Another update: A week or so ago, we reported that the Trump administration was planning on ending the deployment of National Guard members helping in pandemic-response efforts around the country—on the day before benefits kicked in. Fortunately, the administration has changed course and announced the deployments would be extended.

Trump, as promised, signed an executive order aimed at curtailing efforts by Twitter and other social-media sources to censor him. NPR explains what this does and doesn’t mean.

• Local political types are encouraging people—even asymptomatic people—to get tested for the virus. If this is something that interests you, here’s the county’s map of state and county testing sites. The tests won’t cost you anything out of pocket—but be sure you make an appointment.

• And finally: With tongue firmly in cheek, here’s a letter from the university of your choice regarding its plans for the next semester.

That’s today’s news. Be kind. Wash your hands. Buy our splendid Coloring Book—I am mailing the next batch of orders tomorrow, so now’s the time!—and please consider supporting honest, ethical local journalism, made available for free to all, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

It was an insanely busy news day, so let’s get right to the links:

• First, a correction: In the emailed version of yesterday’s Daily Digest, I had the month portion of the date wrong for the city of Palm Springs’ “Restaurant, Retail, Hair Salon & Barbershop Re-Opening Guidance for Business Owners” webinar. As a few eagle-eyed readers pointed out: The webinar is taking place at 9 a.m., May 28—in other words, tomorrow. Get info here, and please accept my apologies for the mistake.

• Other Palm Springs news: The City Council voted yesterday to extend the eviction moratorium through June 30.

• While this news is certainly not surprising, it’s an economic bummer for sure: Goldenvoice is reaching out to artists slated to perform at the already-delayed Coachella festival, and trying to book them for 2021 instead. Translation: A Coachella cancellation announcement may be coming soon.

If you’re going to read only one piece from today’s Daily Digest, please make sure it’s this one. Yesterday, we talked about the appalling lack of journalistic integrity NBC Palm Springs showed by airing an unvetted fluff piece—multiple times—provided by Amazon talking about all the great things the company is doing to keep its workers safe. In reality … at least eight workers have died. Today, the Los Angeles Times brings us the story of one of those eight fallen workers. Grab a tissue before you get to know the story of Harry Sentoso.

• Gov. Newsom announced today that more information regarding gym/fitness center-reopening guidelines would be released next week, as the state moves further into Stage 3.

• The Coachella Valley Economic Partnership just released a new survey of local businesses regarding the impact of the pandemic … and the only word that comes to mind is “yikes.” One takeaway: 99 percent of businesses have experienced a reduction in revenue—and 56 percent of those declines were between 91 and 100 percent

• It’s well-known that a number of COVID-19 antibody tests are flawed, but now there are concerns about the accuracy of the diagnostic tests. NBC News looks into the matter.

• Well, this could be interesting: President Trump, angry that Twitter placed a fact-check notice on an obviously untrue statement of his, apparently plans on taking some sort of action against social media companies via executive order. Will tomorrow be the day our democratic republic comes to an end? Tune in tomorrow! 

• In Pennsylvania, Democratic lawmakers are accusing GOP lawmakers of covering up the fact that a lawmaker had tested positive for COVID-19—possibly exposing them in the process. Republicans say they followed all the proper protocols … but didn’t feel the need to tell Democrats about the positive test, because of privacy. Jeez. The barn-burning video of Rep. Brian Sims expressing his extreme displeasure is horrifying.

• From the Independent: While tattoo shops remain closed (at least legally) across the state, they may be allowed to reopen soon, as we move further into Stage 3. The Independent’s Kevin Allman spoke to Jay’e Jones, of Yucca Valley’s renowned Strata Tattoo Lab, about the steps she’s taking to get ready.

• An update on what’s happening in Imperial County, our neighbors to the southeast: A coronavirus outbreak in northern Mexico is causing American citizens who live there to cross the border for treatment—and overwhelming the small hospitals in the county. The Washington Post explains how this is happening, while KESQ reports that packed Imperial County hospitals are sending patients to Riverside County hospitals for care.

• Don’t let the headline freak you out, please, because it’s not as horrifying as it sounds, although it remains important and interesting: The “coronavirus may never go away, even with a vaccine,” explains The Washington Post.

Nevada casinos will begin coming back to life on June 4. The Los Angeles Times explains how Las Vegas is preparing for a tentative revival.

• Another business segment is also making plans to reopen in Nevada: brothels. The Reno Gazette-Journal explains how brothel owners are making their case to the state.

• Given that Santa Clara County health officer Dr. Sara Cody issued the nation’s first stay-at-home order, it’s 1) interesting and 2) not entirely surprising that she thinks California’s reopening process is moving too quickly.

• Some of us are naturally inclined to follow rules; some of us bristle at them. University of Maryland Professor Michele Gelfand, writing for The Conversation, explains how these primal mindsets are coming into play regarding masks and other pandemic matters.

The Trump administration is still separating migrant families—and often using the pandemic as an excuse to do so, explains the Los Angeles Times.

• The New York Times reports on the inevitable upcoming eviction crisis. Eff you, 2020.

Some Good News, John Krasinski’s feel-good YouTube series, has been sold to ViacomCBS. Here’s how and why that came about.

• Finally, here’s an update on increasing evidence that sewage testing may help governments stop new coronavirus outbreaks before they blow up.

That’s all today. I am going to now go raise a toast to the life of Harry Sentoso and the other 100,000-plus Americans this virus has claimed so far. Please join me if you can. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

On this week's Twitter-fact-checked weekly Independent comics page: The pandemic and our political reality seem to be affecting the author of This Modern World; Jen Sorensen talks to an "expert" about which deaths matter; The K Chronicles lets itself go during quarantine; Apoca Clips watches as the return of Jesus goes terribly wrong; and Red Meat enjoys the park after being cooped up for so long.

Published in Comics

Viewers of the local news on NBC Palm Springs may have recently caught a short segment on all of the wonderful things Amazon is doing during the pandemic.

“Millions of Americans staying at home are relying on Amazon,” the piece begins, before going on to talk about how “the company is keeping its employees safe and healthy,” and giving its oh-so-safe employees more than $800 million in increased wages and overtime pay.

Unfortunately, this segment is slanted at best—and dangerously misleading at worst.

Oh, and this segment wasn’t news. It was produced by Amazon, and sent to TV news stations around the country via a PR wire service.

Most TV-news reporters ignored it; a few actually called out Amazon for sending out this piece of packaged crap in the first place.

But at least 11 TV stations, according to Courier Newsroom, took the piece and ran with it … including NBC Palm Springs.

And now the truth that NBC Palm Springs “report” was lacking: Amazon is having its annual shareholder meeting tomorrow—and some of those shareholders want to know more about what Amazon actually is doing to protect its employees, because so far, it hasn’t been enough. According to CNBC:

Tensions have been growing between Amazon and warehouse workers nationwide, as the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths at its facilities have climbed. Warehouse workers have called for the company to put in place greater safety protections, including providing paid sick leave and closing down facilities where there are positive cases for additional cleaning.

Amazon has repeatedly declined to disclose how many warehouse employees have died from the coronavirus, but has confirmed eight deaths as they were reported by various media outlets. The company also hasn’t provided a total number of workers who have fallen ill from the virus, though one estimate from Jana Jumpp, an Amazon worker in Indiana, pegs the total number of cases at 900 employees nationwide.

I reached out to Bob McCauley, NBC Palm Springs’ senior vice president, as well as Gino LaMont, listed on the NBC Palm Springs website as the news department contact, to ask them how this happened. As of this writing, I have not yet gotten a response.

So much stuff that’s presented as “news” or “journalism” these days is, well, NOT. Numerous local publications run press releases from various organizations without disclosing that’s what they are, and some even sell stories to groups and businesses without disclosing to readers that they’re actually paid ads. None of that, of course, is right … but that’s how they do it.

But this is unconscionable. At least eight Amazon workers have died.

NBC Palm Springs, you really need to serve your viewers better, and you have some explaining to do.

Today’s links:

• The big news today: Gov. Newsom surprised the heck out of a lot of people when he announced that barbers and hair salons could reopen in counties—including Riverside County—that have moved into the second part of Phase 2. However, other businesses listed in Stage 3—including nail salons—remain closed. 

• Palm Springs business owners, take note: The city will be holding a webinar at 9 a.m., Thursday. May 28, titled “Restaurant, Retail, Hair Salon & Barbershop Re-Opening Guidance for Business Owners.” Get all the information here.

• Other Palm Springs news: The library is opening for curbside pickup. Learn more at the Facebook page.

• Hey, Apple Store fans: The El Paseo location is reopening this weektomorrow, to be specific.

• When full-on Stage 3 comes—which is anticipated to happen sometime in June, but who in the hell knows at this point—that will include theme parks, so says the state.

• Speaking of who in the hell knows … The Washington Post today broke down how truly little we still know about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.

All sorts of people and businesses are suing Gov. Newsom over the shutdown orders. The latest: Patioworld is suing the state, because … uh, outdoor furniture showrooms are essential? Anyway, if you’re so inclined, bookmark this helpful lawsuit tracker, from our partners at CalMatters.

Another stimulus bill is coming at some point in the future, probably, maybe? After waffling, Mitch McConnell now says it’s likely.

• For the first time ever, Twitter has fact-checked something Trump tweeted. The president, of course, reacted to this news in a restrained and reasonable manner. (*Snort*)

• Sad but not surprising: The number of Americans dealing with anxiety or depression has skyrocketed since the pandemic hit.

• Local company Ernie Ball makes strings for guitars and all sorts of other musical equipment—and when COVID-19 arrived, the company started making masks, too. Now, Ernie Ball is making those masks available for free to everyone in the Coachella Valley.

• A whole lot of people who purchased travel insurance have been horrified to learn that pandemics are a common travel-insurance exclusion. The Los Angeles Times looks at the issue—and explains which companies are doing right by their customers, and which ones are not.

That’s all for today. If you’re a fan of our print version, the June edition is hitting streets this week—or if you want it mailed to you for a nominal fee, we can have that arranged. If you value good, honest, doesn’t-run-lying-crap-from-Amazon journalism, and you can afford it, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

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