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Community Voices

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…
16 May 2014
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When a racist rancher in Nevada and his armed supporters can command headlines by claiming to own and control publicly owned lands, perhaps it’s time to remind Westerners about the history of the nation’s public-land heritage. Recall that it is we, the American people, who own the public lands that make up so much of our Western states. These great open spaces are the birthright of all of us, not just the residents of Nevada or California or other Western states. The question of ownership of the public lands was settled by the founding fathers, in favor of you and me, by the Maryland compromise reached in 1781, and carried forward in the property clause of Article IV in the United States Constitution. On occasion, diehard malcontents such as Cliven Bundy emerge to promote so-called "Sagebrush Rebellions" to turn the public lands over to the states as a conduit for…
13 May 2014
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I first noticed the Panamint rattlesnake when her head moved just beneath my feet. I hadn't stood on her, not yet; I stood on the edge of our concrete doorstep with my bare toes drooping west, pointing to the Sierra Nevada mountains, six inches above the glacial alluvium around our home. The snake—whom I instantly dubbed Dobby—had curled up against the same step and pointed her wedge-shaped head up like an arrow, her chin an inch below my big toes. Dobby didn't rattle, but her neck muscles tensed, so I backed away and found my shoes. Rattlesnakes had meandered through our yard before, so I counted her rattles (eight), admired her camouflage (rust-brown diamonds scattered on pink tuff) and went for a walk with my husband and our dog. Dobby left before we came back, although I found a snake-shaped hollow among the pebbles. After three short visits, Dobby settled…
18 Apr 2014
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SAGEWorks has begun! The LGBT Community Center of the Desert, aka The Center, is currently serving unemployed and underemployed LGBT adults 40 years old and up with computer training and job-skills classes. The course helps participants build the requisite skills to perform the basic tasks of a job search, and to expand computer knowledge and job skills. SAGEWorks is being led by Bobbie McClain, a graduate of the first SAGEWorks, Palm Springs program in 2012. She credits the connections she made and the support she received at SAGEWorks with helping her find teaching positions both in the Coachella Valley and in Berkeley, Calif. She is particularly grateful for the opportunity to coordinate SAGEWorks, Palm Springs, in her new position at The Center. "Losing a job, or being unemployed for a year or more, can be quite devastating, emotionally and financially," says McClain. "It was a lifesaver for me to find…
11 Apr 2014
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If you care about protecting clean water, endangered species and public health, then you might want to consider supporting the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. That's because so much of the stuff is now being grown illegally on our public lands in places dubbed "trespass grows." These secretive and often well-guarded farms do enormous environmental damage and place a huge burden on federal agencies. In California in 2013, the Forest Service discovered about 1 million plants within public forests on nearly 400 sites. Thousands of trees had been logged to make way for marijuana plants. Growers also divert millions of gallons of water from forest streams to pot plantations, drenching a single plant with as much as six gallons of water daily. Perhaps even more destructively, they dump untold amounts of pesticides into the watershed. In 2012, for example, at least 19,000 pounds of pesticides were confiscated from trespass…
17 Feb 2014
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So you really want to go to Coachella, see some super-cool bands and have the time of your life. But you have no tickets, and the event is sold out. Other than watch for another possible locals-only sale, what do you do? I worked at the Coachella box office during the last two festivals, so take it from me: Unless you don't mind pissing a few hundred bucks into the wind, and watching your friends go in while you cry by yourself, don’t buy a festival wristband from anyone unless you’re 100 percent sure everything’s legit. The most heartbreaking case I saw involved a young girl who came to the Coachella Valley all the way from Australia. She'd bought a dodgy ticket and couldn't get in touch with the person from whom she’d bought it. Boy, did I feel bad for her. It was also unseasonably cold, and she was…
10 Feb 2014
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In 1913, Los Angeles’ legendary chief engineer William Mulholland watched water flow from the L.A. Aqueduct for the first time and proclaimed, “There it is. Take it.” The project drew water from the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, more than 200 miles away, across deserts and mountains, drying up the Owens River and the once-vast Owens Lake, and dangerously lowering eerily beautiful Mono Lake. Over time, it also made modern Los Angeles possible in all its awful glory: sprawling suburbs linked by clogged freeways underneath a blanket of smog. Later, L.A. tore out its rail system to make room for a booming car culture. And even today, despite the dramatic natural setting—10,000-foot mountains, 30 miles of Pacific beaches and one of the nation’s largest urban parks smack-dab in its middle—many of L.A.’s 4 million residents have no easy access to nature, making the city one of our most park-poor.…
13 Jan 2014
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“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” —attributed to H.G. Wells When I was a small child, in a little village in Southern Germany, my bike was my golden key to exploration, adventure and new worlds. I lived in Africa between the ages of 5 and 8; I liked to wear turquoise saris and pedal my massive, maroon bike through the dusty fields and back roads. When my family moved to the suburbs of the Eastern U.S., my embarrassing orange-cream-and-white bike got me to town, to the library, to civilization. Then came that magic age of 16, and the freedom to drive. I could go farther than the library! My bike got dusty in the garage. Fast-forward a decade. I was 26 and had been living in London for seven years. I had no need for a car…