CVIndependent

Wed07152020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

It’s often said that you can’t prove a negative. However, that’s not accurate: Mathematically, you generally can.

It is accurate, however that you can’t disprove a conspiracy theory to a conspiracy theorist. This is something I have learned, painfully, over the years during many squabbles with them.

For example, there was the guy who wanted me, while I was the editor of the Tucson Weekly, to expose how Sept. 11 was an inside job. The key piece of evidence, he said, was the fact that the World Trade Center 7 building collapsed, despite not being directly hit by a plane. So I sent him some articles, including one from Popular Mechanics, thoroughly explaining why WTC 7 collapsed.

“Well, that stuff is obviously faked,” he said.

Then there are the chemtrails people—folks who insist that the government, or maybe it’s China, who knows, but SOMEBODY is spraying us with stuff from high-flying planes to … uh, control our minds, or change the weather, or sterilize people, or something.

How do they know? You can see the trails these planes leave in the sky, man!

What other evidence do they have? None.

Of course, now the conspiracy theories are coming out around COVID-19. The most recent one comes compliments of an anti-vaxer who is claiming that all of this illness has to do with a bad flu vaccine from several years ago. Really.

So … yeah.

I would try to explain here how that conclusion is, well … unlikely. For starters, a whole lot of people with better credentials say that that’s not what caused COVID-19. But, I won’t bother.

Why? Because if you believe in a conspiracy theory, there’s nothing I can say or do to convince you otherwise.

Today’s links:

• Yesterday’s bonkers Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting—at which supes were deciding to, and I am paraphrasing here, emphasize the “interests” of the business community over the advice of the county health officer—ended with a whole lot of nothing: The board voted 5-0 to decide things at an emergency Friday meeting instead.

• Breaking news: The county has further loosened the rules on pools at apartment complexes and in HOA-managed areas. Get the details here.

• So the president now says he won’t disband his coronavirus task force around the end of the month. Why did he change his mind? According to The New York Times, Trump said: “I thought we could wind it down sooner. But I had no idea how popular the task force is until actually yesterday, when I started talking about winding it down. I get calls from very respected people saying, ‘I think it would be better to keep it going. It’s done such a good job.’” So, uh, there ya go.

• Meanwhile, in Arizona—a state that, I will remind you, shares a border with us—the governor’s office is shutting up a team of professors at Arizona State and the University of Arizona that had been doing COVID-19 modeling. Turns out their models said reopening now—which the state is doing—was a bad idea. This move by Gov. Doug Ducey is, in a word, despicable.

Why have meat-processing facilities been such hotbeds for the spread of the coronavirus? The Conversation explains.

• OH, COME ON. REALLY?! This CNBC piece says that the damn virus will lead to millions of new tuberculosis cases, and will “set back global efforts to fight TB by at least five years, and possibly up to eight years.”

Why do some people simply refuse to wear masks? CNN looks at the psychology behind this.

• Another California court has refused to block the state from offering assistance to undocumented residents.

A lot of people think they already had COVID-19, back before we really knew it was a thing. While we are learning that the virus may have been in this country way earlier than previously known … sorry, but you probably didn’t have it.

• If you are one of the people who hasn’t yet received your stimulus money yet, we are sorry to tell you that a lot of dead people have received theirs.

Can llamas lead us to a breakthrough that could help solve the pandemic? Because nothing makes sense anymore, why, yes, they might.

• Famous and mysterious street artist Banksy has done a series paying tribute to health workers in Britain.

If you’re a fan of David Cross and Bob Odenkirk’s Mr. Show, you have something to look forward to now.

• Yeah, this period of quarantine has been awful. But on the bright side, it brought the world the first ever toilet flush to take place during U.S. Supreme Court arguments. So we have that, at least.

• Finally, here’s a look at a birthday party for a 20-year-old otter named Yaku.

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Be safe. Buy our Coloring Book, because it’s amazing. If you can spare a few bucks, consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep doing quality local journalism. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Welcome to May 2020—which should be one of the most fascinating months in American history.

April was horrible, in terms of deaths and economic calamity—but for the most part, the country hunkered down and sheltered in place. But now that May is here, the figurative wheels may be starting to come off.

Many are states starting to reopen—despite an increasing number of COVID-19 cases. Some local governments in California are taking steps to reopen, in defiance of the state orderProtests seem to be getting angrier—including those close to home in Orange County, over Gov. Newsom’s surprising decision to close the beaches there, and only there, this weekend. 

Here in the Coachella Valley, some are getting restless, too. The Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce yesterday asked county supervisor V. Manuel Perez to do what he can to “start opening back up the Coachella Valley economy.” Meanwhile, Gov. Newsom said the first steps toward reopening California are days, not weeks, away … but has not been specific on what that means, exactly.

How is this all going to play out? I have no idea. All I know is that the next 30 days are going to be a wild ride—and that the Independent will be here to help make sense of it.

Wash your hands. Be kind. Be safe. And hold on tight, folks.

Today’s links:

• The big local news of the day: College of the Desert announced today that all summer AND fall classes will move online. More or less, this means the campus will be closed for the remainder of 2020.

• As expected, the government has announced that remdesivir may be used as an emergency treatment for COVID-19.

• Related: This opinion piece from The Washington Post does a good job of putting Dr. Anthony Fauci’s remarks on Wednesday regarding remdesivir in the proper context: They gave us real hope.

• Also related: The House wants Dr. Fauci to testify next week. The White House isn’t going to let him.

• From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: Gov. Newsom’s program that would pay restaurants to make meals for seniors in need has a lot of problemsand as a result, not a single meal has been delivered yet.

• Here’s a holy-cow-that’s-awful stat: More than 4,000 workers at 115 meatpacking plants in the country have tested positive for the virus. More than 900 of those are at a single Tyson plant in Indiana.

• Related: It turns out the much-touted executive order by the president for meat plants to reopen isn’t going to do much of anything.

• Not only is the race on to develop a new vaccine; some scientists are studying whether old vaccines, for polio and tuberculosis, can help fight the coronavirus. How’s that possible? It involves something called “innate immunity.”

• The Palm Springs Cultural Center this week has added two films to its watch-at-home lineup. Get the details on Crescendo and Saint Frances here.

• The Atlantic takes a mostly depressing look at how the pandemic is going to change retail business in the country.

• The U.S. Bartenders’ Guild fund has only dispersed $1.5 million of the $7 million it has in its emergency aid fund—with up to 90 percent of applicants being rejected. The San Francisco Chronicle gets some answers on why that is.

• Omar Tate, the proprietor of a popup restaurant experience called Honeysuckle, wrote a powerful essay for Esquire; this one line sums things up masterfully: “When America gets a cold, Black America gets pneumonia.”

• The headline on this piece from a HuffPost political reporter gets straight to the point: “Tribes Were Supposed to Get $8 Billion In COVID-19 Aid. They’ve Gotten $0.”

Former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has a message for the people protesting stay-at-home orders: You’re being selfish, and you’re disrespecting America’s veterans.

• Related: Elon Musk is getting some Silicon Valley execs on the “reopen now!” bandwagon—while others are decidedly in disagreement.

• The consistently excellent Texas Tribune breaks down the battle in that state over unemployment benefits—and as that state reopens (prematurely, perhaps), many fearful people are being forced to go back to work.

If you’re one of the people who somehow believes COVID-19 is no worse than the flu, either you’re ignorant, or you don’t know how numbers work.

• When it’s time for Las Vegas to reopen … it’s not going to reopen all at once, as the MGM Resorts acting CEO pointed out during a call yesterday.

• Some people are starting to get an email from the Census Bureau asking questions about how they’re faring during the pandemic. Here’s a story from NPR, from a week or two back, on why that’s happening.

That’s enough for today. Be safe. Wash your hands. Check in on a loved one and see how they’re doing. Get details on our fantastic coloring book here, and becoming a Supporter of the Independent here. Barring anything major, we’ll be off tomorrow, but back on Sunday, in honor of World Press Freedom Day.

Published in Daily Digest

In February in Salt Lake City, Amy Meyer stood on the street and used her cell phone to record what was happening outside a slaughterhouse. She then became the first person charged under one of the new so-called “ag-gag” laws.

Six states currently have such “farm protection laws,” deliberately designed to stop video recording at slaughterhouses. The bills are largely industry-funded and based on a template drawn up by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council. Another eight states have similar legislation in the works. Although the effort to clamp down on slaughterhouse recording has never been more organized, two such bills, in Indiana and here in California, recently failed, and the historic prosecution of Meyer also failed when her case was dropped last month.

What the ag-gag bills reveal is the uphill battle the meat industry faces. Footage of sick or injured cows being dragged to slaughter, animal cruelty, and other unsafe and illegal activities are just the tip of the meat industry’s latest public-relations problem. For many people, business as usual in a slaughterhouse is unpalatable—once they’ve seen it.

Some kinds of meat, like wild game and ethically farmed livestock, offer meat-eaters a chance to rationalize their consumer decisions; at least the animals seem to have lived happy lives. But with industrially produced meat, we know it's an ugly business. And thanks to videos like those that the ag-gag laws seek to ban, we know in great detail how just how ugly it can be.

We can't forget what we have seen. Nor should we believe, based on the industry's track record, that it can or will self-police its way to salvation. More than 100 years ago, Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, a novel set in Chicago's meatpacking district. Because it focused on the working and living conditions endured by meat-packers and their families, Sinclair was surprised when the public reaction was revulsion at the meat itself, rather than at the way the workers were treated. "I aimed at the public's heart, and I hit it in the stomach,” he said.

The Jungle led to two important pieces of food-safety legislation: the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the latter establishing what became the Food and Drug Administration. Thanks to these laws, many advances have been made in all aspects of the meat industry. Yet in other ways, little has changed. To this day, worker safety and slaughterhouse conditions remain contentious issues. Meat safety is still very much an issue, and animal-rights activists have recently pushed another dimension to the slaughterhouse debate—the notion that the feelings of the animals need be considered.

This isn't to say that animal-rights activists invented the concept of respect for animals. Even Sinclair, while it wasn't his priority, took some time to commiserate with doomed pigs: "And yet somehow the most matter-of-fact person could not help thinking of the hogs; they were so innocent, they came so very trustingly; and they were so very human in their protests—and so perfectly within their rights! They had done nothing to deserve it; and it was adding insult to injury, as the thing was done here, swinging them up in this cold-blooded, impersonal way, without a pretense of apology, without the homage of a tear."

The ceremony that Sinclair missed is no frivolous thing. Some acknowledgement of the lives and deaths of the animals we eat seems appropriate. I'm not suggesting that slaughterhouses conduct a sweat-lodge ceremony every time an animal dies. But the industry as a whole, somehow, should acknowledge the need, felt by many, to atone for this tragedy at the foundation of eating meat. The industry also needs to acknowledge that meat-processing is a topic that people don't want to have hidden anymore. For a variety of reasons—ethical, environmental and health-related—a growing segment of the population wants to pull back the shrink wrap and see what's behind the meat inside.

So why not invite the public to tour slaughterhouses? It would demonstrate that the industry hears the concerns of consumers and is eager to show it has nothing to hide. Letting people see what goes on would be an important step in winning back their trust.

It wouldn't be an easy adjustment, given that much of what the public is offended by is perfectly legal. But while slaughterhouses can't change the fact that animals are killed, they can change the environment in which they are dispatched. This idea, of pulling back the shrink wrap, just might be on the right side of history. Shining a light in these historically dark places could improve the well-being of the slaughterhouse workers as well as that of the animals. And if the changes that result also improve the quality of meat, then meat-eaters will have some animal-rights activists to thank.

Ari LeVaux is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News. He writes about food and food politics in New Mexico.

Published in Community Voices