CVIndependent

Tue11192019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Features

14 Nov 2019
Matt Rahn was about 200 feet away when flames started climbing up the side of the garage and creeping toward the car inside. A wildfire researcher with California State University at San Marcos, Rahn was at the edge of a fire that would go on to burn 4,240 acres across California’s Amador and El Dorado counties. He was there to study the smoke rising off blackening shrubs and trees. Watching the garage burn, though, he realized that firefighters—fending off flames without any real lung protection—were inhaling more than airborne remnants of burnt plants. “Think about the average home, all the chemicals and things that are in there, not to mention all the building materials and furniture,” said Rahn, who also is a member of Temecula’s city council. “That’s when we started really thinking about what happens. What’s in the smoke when you have all that complicated fuel being combusted at…
23 Oct 2019
As Halloween approaches, people start to think about cemeteries—and the Coachella Valley has no lack of them, including the burial spots of numerous celebrities and other luminaries. Yet the most intriguing cemetery of all, where some of the desert’s most beloved denizens have been laid to rest, remains nary an afterthought to even longtime residents. This would be Haven for Pets on Dillon Road in Desert Hot Springs, one of the oldest continually operating pet cemeteries in California—and to this day, the only officially licensed animal graveyard in Riverside County. Pet cemeteries represent a curious subset among burial grounds. Many people know little to nothing about them, being more familiar with the fantasy horror version of them thanks to Stephen King. They are, in fact, a relatively new idea. Sure, people have been burying animals as far back as ancient times, and millions of animals were mummified and laid to…
14 Oct 2019
A while back, local media went crazy over Braden Bernaldo, a 14-year-old Palm Desert High School sophomore. In July, the golf prodigy was selected as one of just 78 youth members, boys and girls, of the nationwide First Tee organization to play in the annual Juniors Competition—and that meant Bernaldo was going to head to the 2019 Pure Insurance Championship. The tournament is a regular tour stop on the PGA Champions senior schedule. Each of the junior golfers, as they’re known, would be paired in competition with one of the senior PGA pros for three rounds of play. “One early morning late in this past July, we had to wake up at 4 a.m.,” Bernaldo said when the Independent sat down with him recently at the First Tee of the Coachella Valley’s headquarters in Palm Desert. The reason: The announcement of the junior participants was being made on Morning Drive,…
10 Oct 2019
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Every year, Project Censored scours the landscape for the most important stories that the mainstream corporate media somehow missed—and every year, the task seems to get a bit stranger. Or “curiouser and curiouser,” as suggested in the subtitle of this year’s volume of their work, Censored 2020: Through The Looking Glass, which includes their full list of the top 25 censored stories—and much, much more about the never-ending struggle to bring vitally important hidden truths to light. In the foreword, “Down the Rabbit Hole of ‘Media Literacy’ by Decree,” Sharyl Attkisson, an Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist, highlights the absurdity of “so many well-organized, well-funded efforts to root out so-called ‘fake news,’” which—as we’ll see below—have significantly impacted the kinds of journalists and outlets who have historically produced the stories that make Project Censored’s list in the first place. “The self-appointed curators, often wielding proprietary algorithms, summarily dispense with facts and…
13 Aug 2019
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It was early 2018. I’d just become a desert resident and was shopping at the Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley. A small yellow booklet with an illustration of a Joshua Tree and the title “DESERT ORACLE” in stark black letters caught my eye. “A pocket field guide to the strange and mysterious Mojave,” it said on its cover. I curiously bought a copy and headed home. Later that day, after a 40-page binge read, I’d learned about desert quack Doc Springer and his tiny oasis Zzyzx; original Star Trek production locations in the Vásquez Rocks; local alien legends; and tales of teen pranksters putting smoldering tires in the dried-up volcanic rocks of the Amboy crater. I was hooked. The man behind the mag is Ken Layne, who founded the Desert Oracle in 2015. He recently invited me to his office in Joshua Tree to pick his brain about what it’s…
14 Jun 2019
Matthew Polamalu was spending 90 minutes each day commuting back and forth to community college along Southern California’s congested freeways when he decided he’d had enough. He sat down at his computer and Googled “community colleges with dorms.” “I was just looking for the full college experience,” said the psychology major. He found it in a residence hall at Sierra College, along a winding, tree-lined road in the Sacramento suburb of Rocklin. There, Polamalu can easily stroll to the classroom next door for math tutoring, and no longer worries about competing with other students for parking spaces. “I’m right near all the resources I need,” he said. Think of a community college, and you’ll likely picture a commuter school with low-slung buildings and massive parking lots, à la College of the Desert. And you’d be right—out of California’s 114 community colleges, only 11 offer on-campus housing. But some of those…
14 May 2019
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Bruce Fessier has seen the Coachella Valley’s arts and entertainment culture completely change—repeatedly—during the 40 years he’s worked as the entertainment writer at The Desert Sun. On June 3, Fessier’s column will be appearing for the last time before he heads into retirement. “The industry has changed quite a bit, and it’s not as satisfying as it used to be,” Fessier said during a recent interview at The Desert Sun’s offices. “I still have some brain cells, so I would still like to do some other things before I no longer have those brain cells. I never wanted to spend my entire life as a journalist. It just kind of worked out that way. Having the opportunity to take an early-retirement benefit gives me enough of a cushion that I can try some other things.” When Fessier arrived at The Desert Sun in 1979, there wasn’t much to cover. “I…
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.…

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