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Features

26 Mar 2020
“The Ringer,” the first track on Eminem’s 2018 album, Kamikaze, includes a line that piqued Buzzfeed reporter Jason Leopold’s curiosity: The rapper claimed the Secret Service visited him due to some controversial lyrics about Ivanka Trump. To find out if it was true, Leopold filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the federal law that allows anyone to demand access to government records. After a year of delays, the Secret Service provided Leopold with 40 pages about the interview with the real Slim Shady, including a note that he was “exhibiting inappropriate behavior.” This wasn’t the first time government transparency has intersected with hip-hop. Type “Freedom of Information” into Genius.com (the site formerly known as Rap Genius) and you’ll turn up tracks by Sage Francis and Scroobius Pip using FOIA as lyrical inspiration. The hip-hop duo Emanon sampled Joanna Newsom for “Shine Your Light,” in which they…
27 Jan 2020
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Hank Plante is a familiar name and face to Coachella Valley residents who follow the news. He’s a political analyst for NBC Palm Springs, and recently stepped down from The Desert Sun editorial board after a five-year stint. Despite that familiarity, most people don’t realize how much of a trailblazer Plante has been throughout his career. The Detroit native has worked in print, radio and TV, and is best known for spending 25 years at KPIX-TV in San Francisco. He retired from the station in 2010 and later moved to the Coachella Valley. Here’s where the trailblazing part comes in: Not only was Plante one of the first openly gay TV reporters in the country; at KPIX, he helped tell the world about the horror and pain of the burgeoning AIDS epidemic. The station’s “AIDS Lifeline” project, done in the early days of the epidemic, was honored with a Peabody…
04 Dec 2019
Jaelyn Deas and her four best friends shared everything, including late-night study sessions in the library at San Jose State University, and a never-ending preoccupation with how they’d pay for their tuition there. The one thing they didn’t do together? Graduate. While she was juggling a major in international business, a minor in Japanese and a job to help keep up with her expenses, Deas fell behind, and her friends put on their caps and gowns and walked across the stage in May without her. It was her friends who were defying the odds. Fewer than 20 percent of her classmates who entered San Jose State in 2014 finished in four years—less than half the national average. That didn’t make Deas feel any better. She considered quitting or transferring to a community college. Then she was summoned to the financial aid office, where she learned that the university, part of…
03 Dec 2019
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The figure of a mysterious woman, cloaked in a white gown, seems to glide across the pathways of a local resort. A mysterious tall man with a hat has been seen wandering those same halls. Who are they? What do they want? Or are the people who say they’ve seen these figures just … mistaken? Enter the Palm Springs Paranormal Investigation Team, or PALS for short. We first met this group six years ago, and decided it was time to check in again. Donnie Thompson is the lead investigator—an experienced ghost hunter and documentarian. Katy V., a local medium and intuitive, claims experience in energy work and auras. Gloria R. is a local medium and psychic, and a practitioner of the spiritual arts. Greg G. is a Riverside-based audio/visual student and technical aficionado. The members of the team talked about some recent fascinating experiences, in a variety of places—from a…
28 Nov 2019
Primary care doctors are a hot commodity across California. Students are being lured by full-ride scholarships to medical schools. New grads are specifically recruited for training residencies. And full-fledged doctors are being offered loan-repayment programs to serve low-income residents or work in underserved areas. These efforts are intended to ease or stave off the physician shortage expected to peak within the next decade in California. By 2030, the state will be short some 4,000 physicians, according to a study from the HealthForce Center at UC San Francisco. The shortage is already acute in rural and inner-city areas—especially in the Inland Empire of Southern California, where the number of physicians needs to double just to reach the recommended amount to serve the fast-growing population. “The Inland Empire region has one of the lowest ratios of physicians, including primary-care physicians, and that creates a number of challenges,” said Dr. Geoffrey Leung, ambulatory…
20 Nov 2019
The Desert Ability Center aims to take the “dis” out of disability. That’s how founder and executive director Judy May sometimes describes her personal crusade to help individuals with disabilities living in the Coachella Valley. Many are struggling to put their lives back together—and when she or other DAC team members come into contact with a person whose life is being defined by limitations imposed through trauma or genetics, they set about infusing those lives with new meaning by drawing them into the world of adaptive sports. What are adaptive sports? Put simply, they’re sports modified in a way so people with disabilities can participate. “For me, it’s (a matter of asking a person with a disability), ‘What sport would you like to try?’ And then we have to figure out how to adapt that sport,” said Michael Rosenkrantz, DAC’s director of program development. When that connection is made, the…
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…
22 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…