CVIndependent

Wed08052020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

A group of people—mostly born and raised in Indio—organized a rally on Tuesday, June 9, at Miles Park to fight for racial equality and urgently needed policing reforms.

The group called itself We Are Indio—and called the event #NoMoreHashtags.

One of the organizers was Erin Teran, a nurse at a local hospital.

“There were five of us,” Teran said about the organizing group. “Three of us have grown up together. (Indio City) Councilmember Waymond Fermon and I have been friends since kindergarten, and April Skinner and I have been friends since we were really young, too. Our parents were even friends. They’re both people I talk to all the time, and we always support each other.”

The other two members of the team are Maribel Pena Burke and Kimberly Barraza, Teran said.

“When the whole George Floyd incident happened, I was so upset and emotional about it, because one of the things that Waymond and I talk about all the time is (his fear) that it could have been him, and that could have been his fate,” Teran said. (Fermon is Black.) “I think people forget that, and I just felt so emotional and sad. We just really wanted to do something. I think part of it for me was that it’s important I acknowledge the privilege that I have because of my white skin and blond hair. So I think it’s important that I’m standing with my friends and my community to say, ‘This isn’t OK.’”

The rally was initially scheduled to take place on Monday, June 1—but just hours before the scheduled start time, Riverside County invoked a 6 p.m. countywide curfew.

“Part of the group felt that we should just do it and hold (the vigil) anyway,” Teran said. “But we also wanted to be respectful. We felt that we needed to respect the policy (decisions) even when we didn’t agree with them. We did feel that we should have the right to go out and peacefully assemble, but sometimes you just have to do the right thing, even when you feel like it’s wrong, so we decided to go ahead and reschedule it. It took a lot of work, so it was very frustrating—but there were some positive things that came out of having to postpone the event. There were people who couldn’t come on the original date, who we really wanted to have participate. Once it got rescheduled, we were able to get some of those people. We had more time to do some things, like go out and write the names in chalk of (victims of police brutality) who had passed over the last years. That was something small, but for us, it was meaningful.”

The We Are Indio team received some criticism after announcing the event.

“Originally, I think somebody put out a flier that matched ours, and it said people shouldn’t attend this vigil, because it was being organized by white people and the police,” Teran said. “It was obviously upsetting to see that. I’m actually a Latina, but I have blond hair, and I’m very fair-skinned. I felt that we were trying to say that it doesn’t matter who you are: Right now is the time to stand up and have a voice, and to say that Black Lives Matter. It’s just such a really important cause to me. I know a lot of the stories that my friends have experienced, and it’s very emotional to hear those things.

“I know some of the things that (Fermon) experienced as a young man. He’s been on the side of being in law enforcement, but he’s also been on the side of having the barrel of a gun pointed at him. When you hear those things, obviously, you want to stand up for your friends. But it’s more than just your friends. This is an issue nationwide, and it needs to be addressed. It’s been going on for far too long.”

Teran said she asked Fermon what they should do about the negative feedback.

“He said, ‘You know what? Just keep going. We know what we’re doing. We’re just going to focus on having a positive event in our community.’ And I think that’s what we did. I think we were able to accomplish that.”

Indeed, Teran said she was pleased at the turnout.

“Although I believe there were a couple of outsiders who did show up, we had a lot of people (attending) who grew up in Indio, and they knew that our intentions were to have a peaceful gathering and to really be able to come together as a community,” Teran said. “Something so different about Indio is that we all grew up with a very diverse mix of friends. Although we all know that we have different colors of skin, it’s just something that we didn’t pay attention to. There are people who grew up with us who are now part of the police department, but when we come together, we come together as one. So when those outsiders (who may have had ill intentions) showed up, there were (attendees) who made it clear that’s not what we were looking for. It was great to see people coming up to speak to the City Council members, and I even saw some people go to talk with the police chief (Mike Washburn, who attended) about some of the issues that they were facing. That’s what we were trying to do. We wanted to create a dialogue and have transparency and (talk about having) oversight over the policies taking place. We want to create an environment where we can see positive change and look forward to the future.”

As for that future: Teran said people need to stay engaged.

“We had several community members reach out to us to say, ‘We’ve got to keep this going. This was so wonderful,’” she said. “So one of the things we’ve discussed is trying to do some kind of community barbecue in the future. We definitely need to encourage members of our community to be out there and to have a voice.

“It’s more important than just one day of action. Going to a protest or a rally is so very important, because we have to be able to assemble and have a voice—but young people have to understand that you need to have a voice at City Council meetings and Board of Supervisors meetings, too. You need to call in and comment to make sure that you’re heard. It can become very important in the decision-making process. We did have voter registration out at our event, and we kept trying to impress the fact that it’s not just important to register to vote—but it’s so important to come out in November and actually vote. Work on a campaign; make some phone calls; help to mobilize and organize, because we have to get those people out of positions of authority who are not willing to be transparent and work with the community.”

Teran also emphasized how important social-distancing guidelines were at the vigil—and will continue to be moving forward.

“For us, it was really important to follow the social-distancing guidelines—and I’m a very big advocate of wearing facial masks,” Teran said. “We took a lot of precautions cleaning, and each speaker or performer had their own microphone cover. We designated places for people to sit, so we really did follow social guidelines. I think it’s important for people to know that (COVID-19) is a very real thing, and it’s very important to follow those guidelines.”

For more information on We Are Indio, visit www.facebook.com/groups/2656275024692257.

Published in Local Issues

Since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25, parks and streets around the country and world have become staging grounds for massive outpourings of frustration and anger over systemic racism in the United States.

On Monday, June 1, a Black Lives Matter protest took place at Palm Desert’s Civic Center Park, organized by a self-described band of “newbie” community organizers who wanted their voices heard. Their Instagram account is called Coachella Valley Activists.

The group originally called for an evening protest on El Paseo. However, on the day of the gathering, the group moved the event to Palm Desert’s City Hall-adjacent Civic Center Park—and made the start time earlier in response to a countywide curfew.

“For everyone, it was their first time staging a protest rally,” said Angel Moreno, one of the organizers. “Our team is more than 20 people. It’s a big group. But, actually, it started with an idea between my friend and me. All of our friends talked about how there should be a protest on El Paseo in Palm Desert, but nobody ever took the initiative to make one (happen). So, we had the idea of making one, and he made a page (on Instagram). I helped set it up, and I was contacting everyone to spread the news to actually make a protest in Palm Desert. Everyone agreed, and shared and talked to people.”

Moreno said his group wanted to “wake up the people in the valley” about unacceptable things going on in the world.

“A lot of lives are being lost, and a lot of police brutality is happening, and the police are not being held to account for it,” Moreno said. “This group is very diverse. We have white, Mexican, Black, Asian (and) gay (members)—and it hurts our African-American friends more. I’m Latino, and I do feel it, but it hurts to see them hurt. And now, even with everything that’s going on in the world, Latinos are getting abused by police and discriminated against. What’s happening right now is just really unacceptable, and we wanted to do this protest so our words could be heard.”

When the group’s Instagram post announcing the protest started getting attention, various people and media sources—the Independent included—reached out and asked who the Coachella Valley Activists were. There was no response before the protest; we asked Moreno why.

“That’s just because there were a lot of messages going on,” Moreno said. “We didn’t expect our page to blow up, but when it did, there were so many messages and comments, and we were really just overwhelmed. We tried to get to as many as we could, but only my friend and I have the account.”

Moreno said he is happy the group decided to move the protest from El Paseo to Civic Center Park. After rioting and looting took place in cities around the country over the weekend—and after a quickly retracted Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce Facebook post the night before inaccurately claimed “busses are arriving already with people”—concerned El Paseo business owners boarded up windows and braced for the worst.

“It was a great thing that we changed the location, and not just due to the fact that everyone was asking us to please not do it on El Paseo because of all the businesses,” Moreno said. “We weren’t going to do anything, but then we thought, ‘Well, let’s move to another area, because we don’t want to cause any problems.’ Even though we weren’t going to (cause problems), people thought we were. So we wanted them to know that we heard them. That’s why we decided to move it.

“Also, we were getting a lot of followers and people saying that they were going to come, and we knew we’d need a bigger area.”

That surprising level of engagement, coming from an Instagram account just a few days old, continued to grow right up to the start time.

“When my group and I first showed up,” Moreno said, “we saw protesters there already, even before the scheduled start time, which was really surprising. We said, ‘Oh my god, this is a whole lot of people.’ There were at least 150 people already there, and as time went by, it just kept increasing more and more. It was so amazing to see so many people. We didn’t expect it to be this big. Not at all. I mean, we were just amazed.”

The rally itself was, by design, a free-form event.

“Here’s the thing: We didn’t want it to be about ourselves,” Moreno said. “We didn’t want to say, ‘Hey, we’re the protesters, and we made this (demonstration).’ We didn’t want that. We wanted the people to be heard. Everyone could take a turn speaking and talking. It was just amazing how organized it was—for not being organized. It was truly amazing, because it was really peaceful. There was no violence at all. Everyone just took turns talking, chanting and speaking their truth. Eventually, we thanked everyone for attending, and then we started marching down Fred Waring past Monterey towards Highway 111.”

Moreno described what happened as the 6 p.m. countywide curfew approached.

“We turned around and went back to City Hall, because we wanted to keep protesting,” Moreno said. “Then, once it hit 6 p.m., which was the curfew time that came out that day, we told everyone that they should leave for their own safety. But a lot of people wanted to stay. We kept telling people to leave, because we didn’t want anybody to get hurt at all. We didn’t want the police to do anything. But, thankfully, people did stay after 6 p.m. … While I was being interviewed (on TV news) exactly at 6 p.m., the crowd kept going eastward on Fred Waring, and they stopped close to downtown Palm Desert. I was asked then if I thought all the (attendees) were leaving, or if they were going to continue to protest. I told (the news) they didn’t want to leave, because this was very important to them, and they wanted their voices to be heard.

“I got interviewed for just a few minutes, and then we followed the rest of the group. That’s when the police started covering the street (around us), and we told people not to do anything stupid and just keep our distance. We had, like, six car lengths of distance (between the line of police and the group of demonstrators), and we weren’t doing anything. We were kneeling down and chanting when out of nowhere, the police threw a smoke grenade. First one, and then around four more of them started throwing (the smoke grenades). People took it easily, because it was just smoke. They backed up away from the police and tried to get out of the smoke. So, everyone wasn’t running or (being) violent or anything. They were just trying to move out of the way.”

Moreno admitted the COVID-19 pandemic was indeed a concern.

“But it would be hard to tell people to stay six feet away from each other, and also to be in formation (while demonstrating),” he said. “So we were concerned about the coronavirus, but we told people before the protest even happened to not touch each other, and that they should wear masks. We wanted people to be safe, but the protest was happening, and it was more important than the pandemic right now. I don’t think people are even thinking about the pandemic while they’re protesting, because they’re speaking out of anger. They’re speaking from their hearts.”

What’s next for the Coachella Valley Activists?

“Right now, we’re supporting other protests that are happening around the Coachella Valley. Also, we’re (gathering a list and) sharing the names of black-owned businesses. Because our page blew up so big, we now have a lot of followers in the valley, and we just want to share our platform with other groups.

“I do want to say that we did this not for ourselves, but for everyone around the world,” Moreno said. “We want to be part of the change that’s happening right now, and we want the people in our cities to be heard. We don’t want to be silenced, and we just want peace. That’s all we want.”

For more information, visit www.instagram.com/coachellavalleyactivists.

Published in Local Issues

Before we get into the news of the day, I have one simple little request for some of you out there in social-media land: Can everyone please stop with the posts in which you’re rooting for the reopening effort to fail?

I get it: A lot of people, including many smarter than I am, think that the state is reopening too fast, too soon. I also understand that many humans have a burning desire to, when proven right, gloat and say, “I told you so.”

However … using just one example I saw recently, it does nobody any good to—on a business page announcing reopening plans—comment with a “Coronavirus likes this” image.

We know sooooooo very little about this virus and this disease—we’ll be getting into that more in a moment—that we really don’t know how all of this is going to go. Yes, it’s quite possible we’ll see a debilitating spike causing another shut-down; after all Arizona—you know, the state just to the east of here—is in the midst of a COVID-19 spike so serious that the state health director has told hospitals to activate their emergency plans.

However, I sure hope we don’t have a second wave (or, more likely, a second spike in the first wave)—because you know what will happen if we do have another shutdown? A whole lot of people will be hurting, in a whole lot of ways. It means more sickness and death. It means financial loss and the destruction of dreams. It could mean chaos—even more than we’re seeing now.

By all means, speak out, but do so with love and concern. Be kind—and don’t root for failure.

Today’s links:

• Here’s last week’s District 4 COVID-19 report from the county. (District 4 more or less = Coachella Valley.) The numbers are, in some cases, not great. Hospitalizations are up, as is the 7-day positivity rate. On the other hand, the ICU numbers remain fairly low; the valley saw one COVID-19-related death in the week.

• This New York Times headline will make you want to go bang your head against the wall: “Hospitals Got Bailouts and Furloughed Thousands While Paying C.E.O.s Millions.” Do a search in the article for Tenet, the owner of Desert Regional Medical Center, JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio, and the Hi Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree. You won’t like what you read.

• Sign No. 345,969 that we know very little about the disease: A recent study seems to indicate that the actual spread of SARS-CoV-2 started later than previously thought.

• Sign No. 345,970 that we know very little about the disease: The Conversation reports on science showing that 80 percent of coronavirus cases are spread by just 20 percent of people infected with the virus—including, it is believed, some people who are asymptomatic.

• Sign No. 345,971 that we know very little about the disease: Meanwhile, a high-ranking World Health Organization doc says asymptomatic people actually DON’T spread the virus much. NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.

• Sign No. 345,972 that we know very little about the disease: The New York Times polled 511 epidemiologists on when they expect to do what used to be “normal” things again—like go out to eat, or travel, or hug someone. Well, the results were all over the damned place.

This article is almost a month old, but worth a look, given the news about a vaccine has been encouraging as of late: Even if we do have a vaccine, we may not have enough glass vials to put the doses in. Sigh.

• The state superintendent of public schools today announced guidance for school reopenings. Things will be quite different.

The Washington Post today reported on a new study indicating that the shutdowns may have prevented 60 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Wow.

• Las Vegas is open again. How is it even possible for large Vegas-style casinos to operate in the midst of an active pandemic? The New York Times takes a look.

• From the Independent: I attended the June 6 “Enough Is Enough” rally and protest at Ruth Hardy Park. It was a moving, inspiring experience. Here’s our photo gallery—and you’ll be hearing more from several local protest-organizers in the Independent in upcoming days.

• The “Justice in Policing Act” was introduced by congressional Democrats today. NBC News offers some details.

• Here’s where the United States is in June 2020: Teen Vogue has just run a story on how law-enforcement tactics, like the use of tear gas and the seizures of masks, at the protests against systemic racism are worsening the spread of COVID-19.

• OK, I am going to repeat that again, because it’s so awful, and weird, and slightly inspiring (go Teen Vogue!), but mostly awful, that it bears a second look: Teen Vogue has just run a story on how law-enforcement tactics, like the use of tear gas and the seizures of masks, at the protests against systemic racism are worsening the spread of COVID-19.

• OK, here’s a CNN headline that perfectly illustrates the toxicity in sooo many law enforcement organizations across the country: “Florida police organization offers to hire cops who were fired or resigned over police misconduct.

That’s enough. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Fight injustice. If you have the means, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’re back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

A crowd of around 1,000 people—brought together by Young Justice Advocates, a newly formed group of young adults "speaking out and trying to make a change in this world"—protested systemic racism during the "Enough Is Enough" rally at Ruth Hardy Park in Palm Springs, on Saturday, June 6.

After a series of chants, the crowd marched around the park, holding signs and repeating those chants.

"No justice, no peace!"

"Hands up! Don't shoot!" 

"Black lives matter!"

"I can't breathe!"

"Say his name! George Floyd! Say her name! Breonna Taylor!"

After the march, various members of Young Justice Advocates, Rep. Raul Ruiz and several others addressed the crowd.

Below is a series of photos from the "Enough Is Enough" protest.

Published in Snapshot

Two quick notes before we launch into the day’s news (and, boy, there’s a lot of it):

• A plea to journalists and public officials who keep citing the number of reported COVID-19 cases, sans context: Please stop it.

Without knowing other data points—such as the number of total tests, with which we can determine the positivity rate—knowing the number of cases (aka positive COVID-19 tests) doesn’t tell us much.

Locally, given the much larger number of testing sites now—run by the county, the state, CVS, local health organizations, etc—we should expect the number of cases to rise somewhat. More testing means finding more cases (including asymptomatic ones).

When looking at data reports, look for the positivity rate and the number of hospitalizations; that information is much more useful. (By the way, both are on the rise, locally and in Riverside County, and THAT tells us something—specifically, that the pandemic is nowhere near over, and we all need to take precautions.)

Thank you. End of mini-rant. 

• A mental-health shout-out to all of you out there who also deal with depression and/or anxiety: If this has been a tough couple of weeks for you, please know that you’re not alone.

This is, simply put, a bonkers time. The reopening process, the continuing pandemic, the civil unrest … it’s a lot.

Please, hang in there. Do what you can—and nothing more. Realize it’s OK to feel anxious and sad. Remember to live in the now, and take care of yourself.

OK? OK!

Now, for the news:

• We’ll lead with the COVID-19 news today, most notably that summer camps, bars, gyms, hotels, museums, zoos and more in approved counties could reopen as soon as next Friday. The state guidance for all of these sectors is being posted toward the bottom of the page here, if you want to check it out. As for what didn’t make the cut yet: Nail salons, tattoo parlors, movie theaters, live theater, nightclubs and more.

• Key question: Will Riverside County be one of the counties to move further into the reopening process next week? Right now, we’re one of the approved counties, but we’re right on the cusp of the positivity rate criteria from the state, and hospitalizations are on the rise, too. Next week’s gonna be interesting.

The city of Palm Springs is cracking down on the mask requirement: As of today, all businesses must “post signage at entrances advising of the face covering and social distancing requirements.” Get the details here.

• More promising vaccine news: Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca could have vaccines available as soon as September or October—with up to 2 billion doses available by early 2021. There’s only one problem: While signs are encouraging, nobody knows for sure if it’ll work; manufacturing and testing will take place simultaneously.

• Take this one with that figurative grain of salt we keep talking about, and in this case, the grain should be the size of a house: A 10-person study showed that famotidine—aka Pepcid—helped people with COVID-19 recover. This comes on the heels of other encouraging science. So, here’s a tentative “Yay!” with crossed fingers.

• CNBC’s Jim Cramer—yeah, the guy with the buttons and whistles who shouts a lot—says that the pandemic has led to “one of the greatest wealth transfers in history,” thanks to the fact that the bulk of government aid has gone to big business, not us little folk. Grrrrr.

• Oh, great. In addition to COVID-19, fires, earthquakes and the heat, now the Coachella Valley gets to deal with West Nile virus, too.

Lowe’s has announced it’s ponying up $25 million in grants to help minority-owned businesses reopen.

• If you’ve gone to a protest, or plan on going to a protest, not only should you wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer and social distance as much as possible; after a few days, you should also go and get tested for COVID-19.

• If you can get past the occasionally incoherent verbiage, you can read here that Supervisor V. Manuel Perez will introduce a resolution next week to ask Sheriff Chad Bianco to review his agencies policies and report what he finds. Uh … OK, sure. We’ll see what’s in the actual resolution on Tuesday, but this sounds pretty weak, at least at first glance.

• Meanwhile, the Legislature is going to consider clarifying when and how rubber bullets can be used. According to the Los Angeles Times, “although the legislation has not yet been drafted, comments by lawmakers indicated their goal is to curb the use of rubber bullets for crowd control against peaceful protesters and those breaking city-imposed curfews.” It seems strange we need to legislate that projectiles shouldn’t be used against PEACEFUL PROTESTERS, but here we are.

However, the state may very well do more than that. Gov. Newsom called today for more action, including restrictions on crowd-control techniques and “carotid holds.”

• From the Independent: Our partners at CalMatters talked to four different protesters across the state about why they’re speaking out. What they had to say—and what they’ve experienced—is quite revealing.

• If you’re going to the protest in Palm Springs tomorrow—starting at 9 a.m. at Ruth Hardy Park—wear a mask; wear sunscreen; bring water; and be safe, please.

• Finally: I heard from some people that they had problems with the link to the Palm Springs ShortFest info we had in yesterday’s Daily Digest. As far as I can figure, the link was correct, but the extra stuff that the email system puts in for tracking purposes didn’t jibe with the Film Fest’s website. As a work-around, Google “Palm Springs ShortFest” and click on the first link. My apologies for the snafu.

That’s all for today. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Fight injustice. If you like what we do, and can afford to help us continue producing quality local journalism that’s free to all, consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back on Monday, if not before—and watch CVIndependent.com over the weekend.

Published in Daily Digest

We have more than 25 news links today—a new Daily Digest record—so let’s get right to it:

• On the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week, I joined hosts Brad Fuhr, Shann Carr and John Taylor to discuss the various news with Dr. Laura Rush; The Standard Magazine publisher Nino Eilets; and Clifton Tatum and Andre Carthen from Brothers of the Desert. Check it out.

• Protests force change! Some members of Congress are developing “a sweeping package of police reforms,” according to NBC News.

• Unfortunately, the Trump administration, showing a clear inability to “read the room,” doesn’t seem too interested in reforms. “Apart from supporting a federal civil rights investigation into Floyd’s death, the president has offered no proposals for changing how police use force, train new officers or interact with their communities,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

More change being forced by the protests: Los Angeles is considering cutting up to $150 million from the police budget to instead invest in communities of color.

• Yet more change: The chancellor of California’s community college system—where 80 percent of the state’s police officers get training—wants to change the curriculum to address systemic racism.

• Observers in Washington, D.C., have noticed a very disconcerting thing: law-enforcement officers with no visible affiliation or personal identities. This. Is. Scary.

• Also scary: The number of incidents of police violently using force against peaceful protesters continues to grow.

• Twitter is an odd mix of community, fun and simply terrible people. Well, community and fun won the battle against simply terrible people today: A bunch of K-pop fans took over the white-supremacist #WhiteLivesMatter hashtag by using it to share their fave stars, videos and memes—meaning the hate was hard to find among all the K-pop.

• As if I needed more proof that I should have picked another damned profession (kidding) (mostly), the United States is now on Reporters Without Borders’ list of deadliest countries for journalists.

• Also from the journalism world: Newsrooms around the world are currently in the midst of a debate: Should our coverage show protesters’ faces?

• Meanwhile, journalists at two major newspapers are none too pleased with the actions of their editors: Journalists of color at Philadelphia Inquirer are taking a “sick and tired” day to protest a recent “Buildings Matter, Too” headline, while journalists at The New York Times are speaking out against an op-ed mentioned here yesterday by Sen. Tom Cotton that called for the feds to use the military to tamp down on the protests.

• Independent contributor Keith Knight—he does The K Chronicles and (Th)ink comics that appear on the weekly Independent comics page—shared with us this list of “anti-racism resources for white people.”

• Not a cause for panic, but a reminder that we all have to take precautions: Eisenhower Medical Center confirmed it’s seeing more positive COVID-19 tests from the community in recent days.

• COVID-19 testing sites in Los Angeles County were either closed or limited due to the protests and curfews. This has public health officials—and others—concerned.

• We’ve all seen that graph of the various waves of death caused by the flu pandemic of 1918-19. While it’s possible we may see similar patterns with COVID-19—although let’s hope not—this is a very different time, and a very different virus, according to The Conversation. That’s both a good thing, and a bad thing.

• Hmm … Riverside County did not update its COVID-19 stats today. According to a tweet from Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the public health officer: “Due to technical issues, we were not able to access local data from the state's CalREDIE website. We apologize for this delay, and will strive to have updated #COVID19 data and information for you tomorrow, June 4.” (He meant tomorrow, June 5, we assume.)

• The Trump administration continues to use COVID-19 as an excuse to roll back environmental protections permanently.

• Hooray for … Chuck Grassley? The Iowa senator has pledged to block two Trump nominations until his administration explains why Trump fired two different watchdogs.

The Pentagon got billions in stimulus money to fight the pandemic. However, much of that money has gone unspent … and some of it that has been spent has been spent rather strangely.

• National employment numbers continue to rise (albeit it a slower pace)—and now the government layoffs are beginning—including in Palm Springs and La Quinta.

• We’ve mentioned in this space the dangers of (necessarily) rushed science taking place in the battle against COVID-19. Well, a major study regarding hydroxychloroquine—President Trump’s COVID-19 drug of choice—was just retracted by its authors.

• Schools reopened in Israel two weeks ago. However, students are testing positive for the coronaviruscausing some schools to close. In fact, there’s discussion of closing all of them again.

• From the Independent: The latest piece in our Pandemic Stories series looks at the Palm Springs Power, the collegiate baseball team that plays at Palm Springs Stadium every summer. The team’s season was supposed to start last week, but was—to nobody’s surprise—delayed. However, team management is keeping fingers crossed for some sort of season to take place at some point.

Las Vegas is again open for business.

• And finally, let’s end on a brighter note: The Palm Springs International Shortfest has announced its official selections for 2020! Because the in-person event is not happening this year, not all of the selections will be shown—but some will be streaming online between June 16-22. Get all of the details here.

That’s all for today. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Fight injustice. If you have the means, and you value independent local journalism, we kindly ask you to consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

We hit 115 degrees today, and it’s only June 3.

Meanwhile, the country remains a mess … although we got some good news today.

Let’s get right into the links:

• The big national news of the day: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that Derek Chauvin—the Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, resulting in Floyd’s death—would be charged with second-degree murder; and that the other three officers involved in the incident—Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao—would be charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. Chauvin had previously been charged with third-degree murder; the other three officers had not yet been charged. 

Ellison, however, also offered a warning: He said that getting a conviction in the case(s) against the officers “will be hard.” 

• While some Republicans are standing by President Trump’s attempt to militarize law-enforcement responses against the protests taking place around the country (or, rather, make the responses even more militarized), others—including Defense Secretary Mark Esper—are quickly backing away.

• Meanwhile, a former Trump defense secretary—James Mattis, who served in the position until December 2018—excoriated Trump. Key quote: “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.

The Guardian offers a look at the lives of some of the men and women killed during the protests over the last eight days

• It’s been said that if you want to understand the nature of a police force, you look not at the chief, but at the head of the union. Well, The Intercept looked at Lt. Bob Kroll, head of Minneapolis’ police union—and saw some pretty rotten stuff.

More evidence of rot in the Minneapolis PD comes from The New York Times: Black people make up 19 percent of Minneapolis’ population—but 58 percent of the police-use-of-force cases.

• The New York Times examined how some law-enforcement offers are feeling very conflicted right now. The headline and sub-headline: “For Police Officers, Demonstrations Take a Toll and Test Duty: As the world watches demonstrations unfold on television and social media, both the best and the worst of American law enforcement has been on display.

The Los Angeles Times looks at the protests taking place in the Inland Empire—and the previous cases of police violence that are helping motivate them.

This NPR headline just made me sigh and desire a cocktail: “In George Floyd Protests, China Sees A Powerful Propaganda Opportunity.

• Former President Barack Obama spoke today as part of a Town Hall organized by his foundation. Read about his remarks—or watch what he had to say—here.

• A very cool feature from the Newseum—which continues online after closing its physical space at the end of last year: Each day, hundreds of newspapers send their front pages to the Newseum to post online. Check it out.

• And now to the day’s coronavirus news—which is very much still a thing: According to The Conversation, California’s relatively early shelter-in-place order may have saved 1,600 lives in one month.

• Riverside County has set aside more than $30 million in federal stimulus money for tenants who need help with rent. Applicants may receive up to three months’ rent, or $3,500, whichever is less. Learn more here.

• Keep your fingers crossed: Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview yesterday that he’s hoping we will have a couple hundred million doses of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine ready by the end of the year. Yay!

However, he also said the vaccine may not offer protection for very long. Boo!

AMC Theatres says that it may not be able to survive the pandemic.

That’s enough news for the day. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Black Lives Matter. If you value independent, local, honest journalism, and can spare a few bucks, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

There are so many things that could be said right now, but instead, I am simply going to share some numbers with you, from our friends at FatalEncounters.org, which tracks people killed during interactions with law enforcement.

According to Fatal Encounters, as you can see in the graphic above, May 2020 is believed to be the first time—going back to 2000, when Fatal Encounters’ data set begins—that the number of deaths with police involvement cracked the 200 mark. And 863 people have died so far this year, which is a record-setting pace.

Something’s wrong here … and as we mentioned yesterday, it starts at the top.

More news:

• Maddenly related: More than 120 journalists covering the protests around the country have been attacked by police. Again, it starts at the top; after all, you know who keeps insisting journalists are the enemy of the people.

• Here’s more on police attacks on the media, courtesy of The New York Times.

From our partners at High Country News: This is #BlackBirdersWeek, which is designed to shed a light on racism in the birder community.

Twitter has removed accounts, supposedly by ANTIFA, that were actually tied to white supremacists. Yeesh.

Fantasy Springs opened its doors today, meaning Augustine is the only valley casino to remain closed.

• The fact that so many Americans are struggling financially will make it harder for the U.S. to keep COVID-19 contained, according to an expert writing for The Conversation.

• I find this encouraging, weird and frustrating all at once: A couple Italian doctors made international news recently by claiming the coronavirus was substantially weaker there than it had been before. The World Health Organization, however, vehemently disagrees.

• Here’s some of the latest news on the stunning, dictator-like move yesterday by the Trump administration to clear out peaceful protesters so the president could walk to a church and hold a bible while photos were taken. 

• A new grant program for small businesses—paid for by the stimulus bill and administered by the county—will begin taking applications tomorrow. However, there are some serious restrictions—including one saying businesses that received a EIDL or PPP loan are not eligible.

• The Red Barn, the Palm Desert bar at the center of all sorts of controversy due to its … uh, provocative roof signs and failed attempt to reopen, burned this morning.

• The editors and reporters at The Desert Sun are doing some amazing work during these trying times—despite being owned by a company that has, historically, been pretty awful. As evidence of this awfulness—and why rampant media consolidation can be terrible: The Washington Post examined why many Gannett papers (including The Desert Sun) did not lead with coverage of the George Floyd protests on Sunday.

• President Trump is bafflingly ordering West Point grads back to campus for a graduation speech on June 13. And, of course, some of the cadets who are graduating have tested positive for COVID-19.

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Be safe. Speak out against racism and injustice. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Back on May 1, we wrote: “Welcome to May 2020—which should be one of the most fascinating months in American history.”

Well, May sure lived up to that statement, didn’t it?

It’s now May 29. Here in the Coachella Valley, retail stores, restaurants, some casinos and—as of this afternoon—some vacation rentals are again open for business. So far … so OK, I guess.

Nationally, however, the country is in crisis—but not because of COVID-19, though the virus remains as deadly as ever. No, the culprit is good ol’ fashioned police brutality and racism.

As of this writing, protests are continuing to grow in cities including Atlanta; Washington, D.C., Chicago; San Jose; and beyond, after rough nights last night in Minneapolis, Louisville and other cities.

I am hoping—naively, perhaps—that some good may eventually come out of this. Derek Chauvin—the Minneapolis police officer who we’ve all seen pinning down George Floyd on that awful video—has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Meanwhile, police leadership around the country is speaking out, swiftly and strongly, in condemnation of what we all saw on that video.

These are gut-wrenching times, for so many reasons. We, as a country, need to fight to make sure we come out of this better—because we need to be better.

If you agree with that statement—and I sure hope you do—it’s time to ask yourself: What am *I* going to do be better?

Today’s news links:

• The big local news of the day, as mentioned above: Riverside County announced that short-term rentals can resume taking reservations immediatelyalbeit with restrictions. While some cities, like Rancho Mirage, are continuing to restrict them, the city of Palm Springs has clarified that they are, in fact, now allowed in P.S. This is a welcome boost to the economy. As for what it means for COVID-19 … we’ll just have to wait and see.

• And now for the bad-if-unsurprising local economic news of the day: The August edition of Splash House is officially cancelled.

CVS has opened free drive-through testing sites in Coachella, Palm Springs, La Quinta and Indio. Here’s the list and the details.

Los Angeles has been given the go-ahead for retail, restaurants and barber shops/salons to reopen.

• Gov. Newsom today defended the surprisingly fast reopening processes taking place in much of the state. Key quote: “Localism is determinative. We put out the how; counties decide the when."

• Another stimulus/relief bill is in the works. But Mitch McConnell says this’ll be the last one. NPR explains.

• Meanwhile, in the middle of the world’s worst pandemic in 102 years, the most prosperous country on the planet is completely pulling out of the World Health Organization. At least that’s what the president said today, because—as we keep saying—NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.

From Bloomberg News comes this astonishing lead: “One farm in Tennessee distributed COVID-19 tests to all of its workers after an employee came down with the virus. It turned out that every single one of its roughly 200 employees had been infected.”

• NBC News reports that during “the first media briefing from the CDC in more than two months”—and I will remind everyone that WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC—it was revealed that the coronavirus began its spread in the U.S. in late January, a month or so before anyone noticed.

• One of the keys to keeping the virus contained may be antigen tests. What are they, and how do they differ from the diagnostic tests you know about, and the antibody tests? The Conversation explains.

• Spending is way down, and savings is way up, according to CNBC: Americans who are fortunate enough to have cash are holding onto it.

That’s enough for the day! Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. Please consider helping us continue to do quality independent, local journalism by becoming a Supporter of the Independent, if you can afford to do so. We’ll be back Monday, at the latest.

Published in Daily Digest

While this Daily Digest is (for now, at least) dedicated to news about COVID-19 and the resulting societal and economic mess, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what’s going on in Minnesota.

Unfortunately, murders like that of George Floyd, at the hands of police officers, are nothing new—and until recently, police-involved deaths weren’t even properly tracked. This is something my friend and fellow journalist D. Brian Burghart discovered when he was the editor of the Reno News & Review newspaper. So he did something about it: He started tracking them—and, with grant funding, donations and a team of volunteers, created a national database of deaths, going all the way back to 2000, called Fatal Encounters.

The Independent covered Fatal Encounters back in 2016, when Burghart and his team completed California’s data set. When I talked to Brian for the story in 2016, I asked him why he thought the government hadn’t been keeping track of police deaths. An excerpt from the story:

“It’s usually just incompetence, to be honest,” he said. “Many people that I’ve talked to over the years want to find a conspiracy, but I really believe that it’s mostly government incompetence.”

California’s government has done better than most at gathering data. The state Office of the Attorney General’s “Open Justice” website offers data on deaths in custody and arrest-related deaths between 2005 and 2014. Over that period, the state database includes about 1,200 arrest-related deaths.

Over that same time period, Burghart said, Fatal Encounters has counted twice the number of deaths.

“The government tracks everything that it thinks matters. That suggests to me that the government does not believe that these deaths matter,” he said. “If a low-tech guy like me could do this, then the FBI—with millions of dollars to apply to it and super high-tech knowledge—could do it in an hour.”

Thankfully, due to Fatal Encounters, we now have a good database—which is being used by analysts and scientists to find trends and craft policy. (We actually have more than one database, including one by The Washington Post—which took Brian’s idea without credit, created an inferior-if-prettier database, and won a Pulitzer Prize for it … but that’s an annoying story for another time, preferably when bars are open again.)

Unfortunately, racism and bad cultures in some police departments remain big problems. One would presume that since most of the country has been sheltering in place for a good chunk of 2020, police-involved killings would be down this year. Right? No … they’re actually up.

Meanwhile, Brian and his team continue to update Fatal Encounters—making the data available to all. Brian tells me that as of today, the database includes 28,200 death records … with 265 known asphyxiation/restraint deaths—including the horrifying killing of George Floyd.

Today’s news links:

• This week’s edition of the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast/videocast is up! I joined Dr. Laura Rush, fabulous Stoli rep Patrik Gallineaux and hosts John Taylor, Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr to talk about reopening, the virus and other pertinent things.

• Keeping with the themes of 1) all studies like this need to be taken with that gigantic grain of salt, and 2) we really know so darned little about this damned virus: A new study reveals that during a COVID-19 outbreak on a cruise ship, 80 percent of the people who had the virus were asymptomatic. Yes, 80-percent.

• The state other states should emulate regarding the response to the pandemic is … South Carolina?! Yep, at least in some ways; as The Conversation points out, South Carolina is doing a fantastic job with contact tracing.

• Wear your mask; keep social distancing; wash your hands; and realize that some California counties are actually slowing or backtracking on the reopening process because of new spikes in cases.

• Meanwhile, the Bay Area has been extra-cautious and slow regarding reopening—but today, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced plans to get the process (still slowly) moving.

• The state has called for SARS-CoV-2 testing to take place at all California nursing homes.

The maker of remdesivir gave the medicine to the federal government to distribute. Well, so far, that hasn’t gone so well, according to The Washington Post.

• Also from The Washington Post: Could Fitbits, Apple Watches and other wearable devices alert a person that they’re showing signs of COVID-19 infection? It’s a good possibility.

• Here’s an update on the complete mess that is the Pennsylvania Legislature, where at least one GOP lawmaker tested positive for the virus—and decided that was information his Democratic colleagues didn’t need to know.

• Another update: A week or so ago, we reported that the Trump administration was planning on ending the deployment of National Guard members helping in pandemic-response efforts around the country—on the day before benefits kicked in. Fortunately, the administration has changed course and announced the deployments would be extended.

Trump, as promised, signed an executive order aimed at curtailing efforts by Twitter and other social-media sources to censor him. NPR explains what this does and doesn’t mean.

• Local political types are encouraging people—even asymptomatic people—to get tested for the virus. If this is something that interests you, here’s the county’s map of state and county testing sites. The tests won’t cost you anything out of pocket—but be sure you make an appointment.

• And finally: With tongue firmly in cheek, here’s a letter from the university of your choice regarding its plans for the next semester.

That’s today’s news. Be kind. Wash your hands. Buy our splendid Coloring Book—I am mailing the next batch of orders tomorrow, so now’s the time!—and please consider supporting honest, ethical local journalism, made available for free to all, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

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