Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm


What’s your price for flight?

In finding mister right

You’ll be all right tonight …

Some days, you just don’t have it—and for me, today was one of those days. I had a long list of things to do, and … well, most of them didn’t happen.

On days like this during “normal” times, there are a handful of things I know I can do to get my head into a happier, more-productive frame of mind. Watching or listening to baseball, for example. A quick dip in the apartment hot tub helps. For some reason, a quick Aldi run does the trick. Yes, I am weird: Grocery shopping normally clears my head.

But … there’s no baseball. The apartment hot tub is closed, per state orders. And grocery shopping is daunting these days, and should only be done when absolutely necessary.

So, bleh.

Because many of my usual mental-reset techniques aren’t available, I’ve been seeking new ones … and I think I’ve found one: cheesy ’80s music.

Hey, don’t judge. We’re all just makin’ do here, OK?

In all seriousness: As embarrassed as I am to admit it, the ’80s on 8 channel on Sirius/XM saved my butt today, productivity-wise. The catchy sounds of songs like “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger, for some reason, help.

I know I am not the only one out there who had an off today. If you’re in the same boat … hang in there. We all have off days, even in good times … and they’re usually followed by better days, even in not-so-good times. Right?

Here are today’s links—and there is a whole lotta info here:

I was again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs Podcast today. I joined the usual hosts to talk to the amazing Dr. Laura Rush, as well as Daniel Vaillancourt—who has a daunting tale of going through the COVID-19 test process—and mask-maker Clay Sales.

• The new small-business-loan program that was passed as start of the stimulus package? Well, it’s a mess—so much so that some banks are refusing to start accepting applications until things get clarified.

• First there was a problem with an accessibility of COVID-19 tests (and there is still a big problem). Now there are increasing concerns about their accuracy, according to The Wall Street Journal.

• Now after that shitty news, take solace in the fact that serious progress is being made in developing a vaccine—faster than has ever been done before.

• The New York Times, using cellphone location data, has made a fascinating map showing which parts of the country have been staying home, and which parts have not.

• Eisenhower Health brings us this short hand-washing demonstration.

• Due to the coronavirus and resulting blood shortages, the FDA has made its restrictions on gay men donating blood slightly less stupid.

• The Conversation explains in detail how plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 may help treat people suffering from it.

• The Los Angeles Times tells the story of another group of people who are risking their safety by working through the pandemic: farmworkers.

• Cactus Hugs’ Casey Dolan speaks for all of us when he kindly requests that other people stay the hell away.

• Hey, fellow Dodgers fans: You can work out virtually with head trainer Brandon McDaniel twice a week

• A whole bunch of journalism professors have written to Rupert Murdoch, asking him to make his Fox News Channel stop spreading coronavirus misinformation.

• Time magazine looked at newspaper ads from the last pandemic, and they prove that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

• Bill Gates offers up his thoughts on what we can do to make up for lost time in quashing this pandemic.

• If you didn’t set up direct deposit with the feds for your tax refunds, it may take a while for your stimulus checks to arrive.

• Have time on your hands? Wanna learn an instrument? Well, Fender is offering free guitar, bass and ukulele lessons during the pandemic to 100,000 people.

• You know some of those “ventilators” Elon Musk donated to the cause? Well, they’re actually CPAP machines. Sigh.

• The fantastic folks at Rooster and the Pig are offering anyone who needs it with a free lunch.

• Greater Palm Springs’ Anndee Laskoe offers up this trip to some fantastic local places you can take from your couch.

• And finally, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark—you remember her, right?—offers us this important message from “Elvirus.”

If you value what we do, and can afford it, please support independent local journalism by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Also: If you’re so inclined, get mail delivery of our print edition here.

Stay safe. Hang in there. Wash your hands. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

In 2013, New Belgium Brewing, the Fort Collins, Colo.-based purveyor of libations like Fat Tire and Ranger, whipped up exactly 792,292 barrels of beer. Considering each barrel is capable of filling somewhere in the range of 60 six-packs, that production made for plenty of happy drinkers (including, on more than one occasion, yours truly).

But New Belgium also satisfied non-human consumers, too, by selling 64 million pounds of “spent grain”—the ingredients left behind after the brewing process—to beef and dairy farmers, who feed the porridge-like substance to their cows.

“For hundreds of years, brewers have had this great symbiosis with farmers,” says Bryan Simpson, New Belgium’s director of media relations. “It’s a very elegant system.”

While many operations give away their used grains, selling the stuff can be a lucrative sideline: Spent grain goes for about $50 per ton nationwide, and total annual sales add up to around $160 million (most of it to the big boys, Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors). Now, though, brewers claim this centuries-old harmony is threatened by new Food and Drug Administration rules that could make it harder for beer-makers to sell or donate their spent grain as cattle feed.

The proposed regulation stems from the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), legislation designed to prevent food contamination. That’s a worthy goal: Salmonella and E. coli outbreaks are distressingly common, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that 48 million people are sickened—and 3,000 killed—by food-borne illnesses annually. The FSMA seeks to reduce that toll through measures like increased inspections and quality control for food imports, and the law drew praise from food safety advocates when it was signed in 2010.

While no one disputes that our food safety systems are in need of overhaul, not everyone is enamored with the new law. In November, Mother Jones agriculture critic Tom Philpott warned that inflexible regulations could impose “a significant and possibly devastating burden to small and midsize (food producers).” One California farmer suggested the law was pushing a “sterility paradigm” that failed to recognize the health benefits of microbes.

No one is more apoplectic than brewers, whose anger is targeted at a proposed rule that would require animal-feed producers to identify and avoid potential contamination hazards. It’s not yet entirely clear what breweries would have to do to mitigate those contamination risks; while some beer-peddlers fear the FDA is going to force them to dry and pre-package their grains,Twin Cities Business reports the agency is primarily concerned with how the feed is stored and transported—in other words, the cleanliness of silos and trucks. While many small breweries, or brewers who donate their grains, would likely be exempt from some of the rule’s requirements, the Beer Institute, an industry lobby group, estimates that compliance could cost big operations more than $13 million.

In the West, home to seven of the 10 brewery-densest states, restrictions on beer-related activities are likely to be especially unpopular. Little wonder, then, that some of the heaviest pressure against the FDA has been leveled by Western politicians.

“I don’t know everything about beer, but I do know when a federal agency acts like it has had one too many,” quipped Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, who’s urging the agency to throw out its current proposal. And Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, recently penned a letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg asking her agency to review whether feeding spent grains to cattle presents a legitimate public health hazard. (Although the contamination of cattle feed from spent grain is theoretically possible, beer industry leaders say there’s never been a recorded incident.)

The situation may even spur legislative action. Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican, is among the sponsors of the Sustainable Use of Spent Grains Act, which would exempt breweries from the rule. The grain issue is apparently so dire that it’s forced Gardner, introducer of the “Oil Above All” act, to sponsor a bill with “sustainable” in its title.

Not only would the FSMA regulation place a financial burden on breweries; New Belgium’s Simpson says it could produce unfortunate environmental consequences for an industry famous for its stewardship practices. Right now, New Belgium has a 99.9 percent diversion rate, meaning that practically none of its waste ends up in a landfill. If it becomes unprofitable to sell spent grain, though, the stuff could get thrown away—“a worst-case scenario,” says Simpson.

And what about the farmers who depend on the stuff? Justin Wertz, partner at El Dorado Cattle Co. in Durango, Colo., told the Durango Herald that without the free grain his company gets from nearby Ska Brewing, he’d likely go out of business. “It’s unbelievable, almost a complete feed,” he said. “It’s really high in protein as well as a bunch of other nutrients.”

Perhaps recognizing that you don’t mess with Americans’ beer and burgers, the FDA, has promised to submit a revision to the rule that’s “responsive to the concerns expressed.”

Ben Goldfarb is an editorial intern at High Country News, where this was originally published. The author is solely responsible for the content.

Published in Environment