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Community Voices

20 Jul 2015
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I watched Caitlyn Jenner’s extraordinary speech at the ESPY Awards with fascination. She was poised and passionate, funny and inspirational. It was a heckuva coming-out party. And she was a knockout! Say what you will, but girl definitely has found the right stylist. Leading up to the awards show and now its aftermath, I’ve seen social media all atwitter questioning whether Caitlyn deserved an award for “courage.” Seems there are three camps on this. First, there are those who wholeheartedly endorse Caitlyn as the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Prize. The second group honors the impact she will have, but are skeptical about and uncomfortable with the notion that she has done anything courageous. The third group is the usual assemblage of online haters who consider Caitlyn an abomination and an affront to all things American, Christian or civil. I actually fall into a subsection of the first group (and…
15 May 2015
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On a recent trip to California, I visited the North Coast, where spring usually means green hills with deep grass, strewn with lupine and bright orange poppies bobbing in sea breezes. This year, we found stunted grass, browning hills and the local news obsessing over the worst drought in California's recorded history. Suddenly, the most populous state in the country faces a harsh reality, with water shortages threatening all aspects of life, from the economy, to our food supply, to the very livability of our homes. Holed up in Bodega Bay, I heard Gov. Jerry Brown on the radio talking about mandatory water-use restrictions for California's 39 million people. Brown usually can be counted on to take on issues realistically, yet when asked if he would restrict the amount of water that goes to agriculture, he demurred. Agriculture had suffered enough already, he said. While we are all grateful to…
22 Jan 2015
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There is a stigma that often comes from women talking about menstruation publicly. And the shame happens in many ways. Last year, the online publication Jezebel published an article titled called “What Life Is Like When Getting Your Period Means You Are Shunned.” It profiled the life of a 16-year-old girl in Western Nepal named Radha, who, like all the other women in her village, could “not enter her house or eat anything but boiled rice” while she was menstruating. Radha was not allowed to touch other people during her menstruation cycle, because she’d “pollute them” and perhaps make them sick. She wasn't allowed to sleep in her own house. She must join the rest of the women in the village who happen to be menstruating that week in a tiny shed far away from the village. The Western world claims to be more progressive, yet even here, there are…
26 Dec 2014
College scholarships for traditional students just out of high school are in relative abundance in the Coachella Valley due to the giving nature of our local community. But what about nontraditional students—individuals who took a detour after high school for one reason or another, and then realized later in life that higher education or occupational training is needed to improve their economic situation and make positive changes in their lives? That’s where the Girlfriend Factor (GFF) comes in. GFF is a local nonprofit that provides educational grants and emotional support to local adult women so they can return to school to achieve their goals and dreams. To date, GFF has helped more than 100 women return to school. The Girlfriend Factor was founded in 2005 by Joan Busick and a group of friends. A CPA who runs her own business in Palm Desert, Joan has a special place in her…
16 Dec 2014
Robert Stearns, the executive director of ArtsOasis, passed away Wednesday, Dec. 3, after a brief illness. There is so much to say about my dear friend and colleague. Robert (pictured to the right, in a photo from last year) graduated from the University of California at San Diego in fine arts and art history. He then began his incredible career in the arts, which started in the early ’70s in arts and cultural management with the Paula Cooper Gallery and The Kitchen in New York City. He curated exhibitions, developed education projects and served as a senior staffer at some of the country’s leading contemporary arts institutions. He was the director of the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, the performing arts program director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the inaugural director of the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. He also served as an adviser…
10 Oct 2014
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The brown paper bag I carried out of the bookstore wasn’t there for the sake of discretion. Truth be told, the bookstore refuses to handle plastic anymore. Ideally, the clerk told me, the store was on the verge of going entirely bagless, so I was lucky to be handed a brown paper sack. But it was raining, fortunately, and as I walked down the sidewalk trying to shield my new purchase, I secretly imagined a few genuine watermarks marring the surface of a page or two—indelible reminders that the spine of the West’s summer drought had finally been broken. When (and if) the electronic book revolution gets more flexible and affordable, this bookstore might also be going bookless. Despite our latest national fixation with banning disposable plastic bags, nobody knows exactly how the future will be packaged. From an eBook merchandiser’s point of view, the traditional book is the archetype…
07 Oct 2014
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell came to the Mojave Desert this September to announce a multi-agency effort to boost renewable energy development in the desert. But first, she had to go on a hike. “We went out into the Big Morongo (Canyon) Preserve,” she told reporters. “Fifteen, 20 minutes from here, there are wetlands. Wetlands, and 254 different bird species. Who knew?” I remember being amazed, too, on a 2008 visit to that same preserve with a couple of California conservationists. I thought I knew the dry desert, its banded sunsets and varieties of lizards. But Morongo was a wonderland of seeps and birds, where a couple of times we stopped to behold a desert tortoise munching on purple flowers. It was also a wonderland through which the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power had hoped to string a transmission corridor. The city planned to call it the Green Path…
07 Aug 2014
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Editor's Note: While the Independent has a policy against running press releases, we've agreed to run this piece from Covered California, as it contains important information about the availability of health insurance—which can be a life-changing situation. Despite the best-laid plans, life can sometimes throw you a curveball. So it is with health care. After months of planning, promotion and outreach, Covered California successfully completed its first open enrollment period of the historic Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—helping more than a million consumers gain health insurance coverage. Some people, however, may have had a change in life circumstances since open enrollment ended on March 31, and suddenly, they have a new need for coverage. If so, the door is not closed. They can still gain coverage through Covered California’s special-enrollment option. “We continue to remind people that we still are open for business,” said Covered California executive director Peter…
04 Jul 2014
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I’m embarking on a trip. Not just any trip—but rather a cross-country-and-back trip on bikes. In fact, if everything went according to plan, I already left, departing from Bakersfield on July 3. Writer and lighting genius Marcus Peck, from San Jose, Calif., did not know me—a freelance writer/photographer/Lindy hopper—before mid-March 2014. We met working an AV gig at a teacher’s conference in Palm Springs; we quickly discovered that we both have an interest in cycling. Marcus mentioned something about a long-term bike-ride for charity at a post-work pub-session. I, without hesitating, said, “I’m coming.” We have been organizing this trip ever since from our respective home cities (he in San Jose, and me in La Quinta). We met again on July 2, and set off into the wind on the 3rd. Marcus has solemnly promised to learn how to Lindy hop and even mentioned something about possible street performances along…
19 Jun 2014
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Did this really happen? Did a young organic farmer discover that the multinational agricultural firm Syngenta had secretly planted genetically modified sugar beets (banned in the company's native Switzerland) near his small fields, and in other leased plots around southern Oregon's Rogue Valley? Did he then plough under his own crop because of the risk of airborne contamination? Did Syngenta and county officials dismiss his concerns? Did he then rally farmers, marketers and patrons of unadulterated local food, who went on to write a ballot measure that would ban genetically modified cultivation in his county? Did they gather more than enough petition signatures in record time? And did the resulting campaign draw big money from outside Jackson County and the state, with the lion's share coming from Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow Chemical and their industry peers? Did the industry carpet-bomb local media with ads—the kind that in both California and Washington…