CVIndependent

Tue03262019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Features

14 Mar 2019
Elizabeth Brown’s bedroom holds a trove of evidence of her fight to save herself. Preserved among Twilight novels, posters of Korean pop singers and cameras she used for her budding journalism career are clues about the Santa Rosa teenager’s agonizing struggle with the mental illness that claimed her life last year. Next to her bed sits the lavender candle she lit to soothe herself. On her desk are the bunny slippers she wore when she was too depressed and anxious to leave the house. Taped to the wall are two plastic hospital bracelets from separate psychiatric admissions in 2017. Underneath them hang four sticky notes, on which she had printed: “channel all the anger, sadness, hurt into this one thing” “you can have control” “you can be beautiful” “this pain is good.” The cutting, the suffocating despair, the suicidal thoughts—those details live in the journal she hid behind a password…
12 Mar 2019
The cause of government transparency finally broke through to the popular zeitgeist this year. It wasn’t an investigative journalism exposé or a civil rights lawsuit that did it, but a light-hearted sitcom about a Taiwanese-American family set in Orlando, Fla., in the late 1990s. In a January episode of ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, the Huang family’s two youngest children—overachievers Evan and Emery—decide if they sprint on all their homework, they’ll have time to plan their father’s birthday party. “Like the time we knocked out two English papers, a science experiment, and built the White House out of sugar cubes,” Evan said. “It opened up our Sunday for filing Freedom of Information requests.” “They may not have figured out who shot JFK,” Emery added. “But we will.” The eldest child, teenage-slacker Eddie, concluded with a sage nod, “You know, once in a while, it’s good to know nerds.” Amen to…
22 Feb 2019
The federal government now requires hospitals to publish online its “charge description master”—a list of what the hospital charges for various services and items. When this new policy, which took effect Jan. 1, was announced last year, it was heralded as an overdue move to promote fairness and transparency within our country’s expensive and often-confusing health-care system. Unfortunately … that’s not how things have turned out. The Independent decided to see how this new policy is working at the three Coachella Valley hospitals. I dove into my research enthusiastically, easily locating and downloading the charge masters, as these lists are called, from the Eisenhower Medical Center (EMC) and Desert Care Network (DCN) websites. Then … well, I opened the charge masters. Just as I thought I was gaining useful information, I discovered the downloaded documents, practically speaking, are useless to any layperson who lacks a knowledge of oft-unintelligible medical terminology.…
20 Feb 2019
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On March 10, 1997, Rodney Patrick McNeal went home during his lunch break, around 12:30 p.m., to take his wife, Debra, to a doctor’s appointment. Instead, the San Bernardino County probation officer found Debra, who was six months pregnant, dead in their bathtub. Submerged in water, she’d been beaten and stabbed before being strangled to death. The words “Nigger Lover” were written on the mirror (Debra McNeal was a Native American), and the house had been ransacked, with several firearms stolen. Patrick and Debra’s marriage had been rocky at times, and police visited their home following domestic disputes at least twice in the months leading up to Debra’s death. According to a 2009 court document, a San Bernardino County deputy sheriff went to their residence in December 1996 after a domestic-disturbance call. Patrick and Debra appeared upset at each other, but no arrest was made, although two handguns were taken…
17 Jan 2019
Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Jason Stone, in a calm, subdued tone, asked Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Shane Day: “Were you working on Sept. 16, 2017?” “Yes,” Day replied. Deputy Day was the first witness to testify during the long-awaited preliminary hearing at Indio’s Larson Justice Center on Jan. 7. At issue: The attempted murder of Guillermo Delgado of Indio, allegedly at the hands of Thousand Palms resident Carlos Ulloa. “In your capacity, were you dispatched to … Thousand Palms?” Stone asked. “Yes,” Day answered. “And what were you dispatched there to investigate?” “I believe the call as it came out was that shots were fired, and there were victims down at a large gathering. That’s pretty much the info we had going into it.” Delgado, one of three victims that night, had suffered eight bullet wounds while attending a birthday party for his friend and co-worker, Sandro Rios. Rios…
20 Jul 2018
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David Rothmiller and LD Thompson have learned some unsettling lessons since founding the LGBT Sanctuary Palm Springs—a transitional housing facility for LGBT and allied youth—back in 2015. They’ve also had to jump through a lot of hoops related to licensing and regulations before finally opening and taking in residents—but in March of this year, The LGBT Sanctuary finally moved into the building it now calls home. That does not mean everything has been easy since then. “We’ve had some (residents) come and some go, and we know with the population here that it’s common,” Rothmiller said. “Not every one of our applicants and residents is a match (for The Sanctuary). Some of our kids just weren’t ready; we’re not a treatment facility, so we are unable to help some of these kids. They sometimes have issues that are far beyond us, but we can refer them. The Desert AIDS Project…
12 Jul 2018
As tribal archaeologist for the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, Myra Masiel-Zamora uses her UC Berkeley anthropology training daily. Her mission: track down skeletons of Native Californians extracted from gravesites over the last two centuries that were shipped off to museums around the world, and return them to the tribe’s ancestral land near Temecula so they can be reburied with dignity. But lately, that quest has put Masiel-Zamora at odds with her alma mater. The remains of thousands of Native Americans, along with possessions such as beads and fishhooks buried with them, now sit in drawers and boxes at University of California museums. Federal and state laws require their return to tribes able to prove a connection to them. Some tribes accuse university officials of delaying so professors can continue to study the bones, and are pushing state legislation to force the UC system to speed its efforts. “As an…
21 Jun 2018
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A few weekends back, at a party in Indian Wells, I gobbled down a tall drink in a can. The drink was red and cold … and it tasted so good. No wonder … I didn’t realize it was cranberry juice and vodka. The party was over for me. I knew I wasn’t myself, but I was sober enough to realize it was not a good idea for me to drive that night. I left my car safely parked in a gated community. As I slowly walked toward Highway 111 to request a Lyft ride, I discovered my iPhone was dead. I had about $20 on me, and no credit card. I didn’t even realize I was actually standing at a bus stop until a SunBus pulled up next to me. It was a Line 111 bus en route from Coachella to Palm Springs. In my 20-plus years here in…
04 May 2018
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Cleve Jones has been at the forefront of the fight for gay rights since the 1970s. Today, he continues to speak out—and will be honored with the Harvey B. Milk Leadership Award of the Coachella Valley at the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast on Friday, May 18. The critically acclaimed 2008 film Milk, and the 2017 ABC miniseries When We Rise—which was based on Jones’ memoir—have featured portrayals of Jones and his role as an activist and organizer. In fact, portions of When We Rise take place in Palm Springs, where Jones used to live. “One thing that’s interesting about Palm Springs is that when we look around the country, and also in Canada and Europe, we see that the traditional ‘gayborhoods,’ like the Castro in San Francisco, are going away,” Jones said. “One of the few exceptions to this seems to be in Palm Springs, which is getting gayer and…
12 Mar 2018
Government transparency laws like the Freedom of Information Act exist to enforce the public’s right to inspect records so we can all figure out what in the heck is being done in our name and with our tax dollars. But when a public agency ignores, breaks or twists the law, one’s recourse varies by jurisdiction. In some states, when an official improperly responds to your public records request, you can appeal to a higher bureaucratic authority or seek help from an ombudsperson. In most states, you can take the dispute to court. Public shaming and sarcasm, however, are tactics that can be applied anywhere. The California-based news organization Reveal tweets photos of chickpeas or coffee beans to represent each day a FOIA response is overdue, and asks followers to guess how many there are. The alt-weekly DigBoston has sent multiple birthday cakes and edible arrangements to local agencies on the…

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