Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: Feb. 13, 2023

It’s been a weird week or so for news. I mean, the military is shooting down unidentified flying objects in various places … and they’re not sure what those objects are.

Who had THAT on their 2023 bingo card?

Among the coverage of the UFOs, the Super Bowl/Rihanna show and—on a much more serious note—the terrible news coming out of Turkey and Syria, you may have missed the news about what’s been going on for the last 10 days in East Palestine, Ohio.

Here’s a quick primer, from The New York Times:

Around 9 p.m. on Feb. 3, a train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, a village of about 4,700 residents about 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. About 50 of the train’s 150 cars ran off the tracks on its route from Madison, Ill., to Conway, Pa.

The train, operated by Norfolk Southern, had been carrying chemicals and combustible materials, with vinyl chloride, a toxic flammable gas, being of most concern to investigators. A huge fire erupted from the derailment, sending thick billowing smoke into the sky and over the town. Residents on both sides of the Ohio-Pennsylvania border were ordered to evacuate, as Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio raised alarms about a possible explosion.

That’s scary. What’s happened since then is even scarier. That New York Times story goes on to say: “There have been no reports of injuries or deaths from the derailment, but many are questioning how safe the area is. On social media and in news reports, some residents said that fish and frogs were dying in local streams. Some shared images of dead animals or said they smelled chemical odors around town. The arrest of a reporter during a news conference about the derailment led to online criticism of the law enforcement response. Residents have complained about headaches and feeling sick since the derailment. A federal lawsuit filed by two Pennsylvania residents is seeking to force Norfolk Southern to set up health monitoring for residents in both states, The Associated Press reported, and to pay for related care for those in a 30-mile radius.”

There’s a LOT to unpack there. We’ll put aside the part about the reporter being arrested—you can read more on that here, if you’d like—and instead focus on the dead or sick animals. Here’s a Feb. 9 piece from a Youngstown, Ohio, TV station:

Taylor Holzer and his family run Parker Dairy, just outside the original evacuation zone. Holzer is registered with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as a foxkeeper.

A couple of his foxes broke their legs trying to run after the initial derailment. One of his foxes even died.

“Out of nowhere, he just started coughing really hard, just shut down, and he had liquid diarrhea and just went very fast,” says Holzer.

He says all of his foxes have been sick and acting differently since the weekend. Some have abnormally puffy faces and are not eating properly. Many are dealing with stomach issues and are acting lethargic.

“This is not (how) a fox acts. He is very weak, limp. His eyes are very watery and weepy,” says Holzer.

Yikes. Here’s an excerpt from a Washington Post piece from yesterday: “After the derailment, federal and local officials repeatedly told residents that the air quality was safe and that the water supply was untainted. But more than a week after the Norfolk Southern train derailed … residents told The Post that they had yet to see a full list of the chemicals that were aboard the train when it lost its course. Without much information, residents and experts told The Post that they question whether it’s safe to return to their homes a week after contaminants flowed into local streams and spewed into the air. In some waterways, dead fish had been spotted, a state official confirmed at a news briefing, and residents returning to homes in a neighboring Pennsylvania town were advised by state officials to open their windows, turn on fans and wipe down all surfaces with diluted bleach.”

What has happened, and is happening, in East Palestine, Ohio, is terrifying—and what’s happening there could arguably happen anywhere there’s a rail line.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

COVID-19 Data Compiler: Meet Kevin Duncliffe, a Software Engineer Who Became the Coachella Valley’s Coronavirus Stats Master

By Kevin Fitzgerald

February 12th, 2023

Since April 2020, Kevin Duncliffe has tweeted up to three—or more—times a day to update the number of COVID-19 patients in the three valley hospitals, the number of local ICU patients, and more.

CV History: How Windswept Vacant Land Became the Palm Springs Racquet Club, a Haven for Hollywood’s Biggest Stars

By Greg Niemann

February 11th, 2023

Actors Charlie Farrell and Ralph Bellamy formed the Racquet Club because they needed a place to play tennis.

Worthy Citizen: Legendary Drummer Alvin Taylor Fights for Justice for Section 14 Survivors

By Cat Makino

February 13th, 2023

Alvin Taylor has played on 78 gold records, 48 platinum records and 18 diamond records, yet the Coachella Valley resident is largely unknown.

Painting With Vision: Palm Springs Native Tom Boatright Is One of the Featured Artists at the Next La Quinta Art Celebration

By Cat Makino

February 10th, 2023

The La Quinta Art Celebration us taking place at the city’s civic Center Campus from Thursday, March 2, through Sunday, March 5.

Masterful Mockumentary: Netflix’s ‘Cunk on Earth’ Offers Nonstop Laughs

By Bob Grimm

February 13th, 2023

Cunk on Earth is not the type of show you have on in the background while you are doing laundry. Sit down; stay calm; and just watch.

Nature on Stage: The Live Concert Experience Inspired by Netflix Documentary Series ‘Our Planet’ Comes to the McCallum

By Jimmy Boegle

February 12th, 2023

Our Planet Live in Concert will be coming to the McCallum Theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 28. Footage from Our Planet will be shown as a live orchestra performs; William Shatner and the legendary David Attenborough are the recorded narrators.

Snapshot: A Day Trip to Dragons and Dinosaurs

By Grant McMillan

February 10th, 2023

A day trip to check out the sculptures at Galleta Meadows Estates.

Tech Romance: The Distance Between Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher Dooms ‘Your Place or Mine’

By Bob Grimm

February 13th, 2023

Your Place or Mine is basically Reese Witherspoon slumming, and Ashton Kutcher doing the stuff he usually does, just with a worse-than-normal script.

Bruce Fessier to Be Honored at Amy’s Purpose Mixer on March 1 (Nonprofit Submission)

By DeAnn Lubell

February 13th, 2023

Amy’s Purpose provides programs in animal safety, including predatory awareness, and grief counseling for pet owners; it is also working to mitigate the the veterinary shortage. The group is honoring Bruce Fessier at a mixer on March 1.

More News

Some pandemic-era food benefits are ending soon—and that could lead to more hunger. Our partners at Calmatters report: “March is the last month CalFresh recipients will get the additional benefits, as the federal government cuts off the ’emergency allotments’ that have kept food stamp allowances higher than usual for nearly three years now. The average household on CalFresh will lose about $200 a month, said Becky Silva, government relations director at the California Association of Food Banks. A single-person household, for instance, could drop from $281 a month in food aid to as low as $23 in April. U.S. Department of Agriculture documents show that since November, the pandemic boosts have amounted to more than $500 million a month in additional food stamps coming into low-income Californians’ budgets.”

• Some good tax-related news for Californians, compliments of the Los Angeles Times: “Relax, Californians—the Middle Class Tax Refund you received last year will not be subject to federal taxes. The Internal Revenue Service issued long-awaited guidance Friday afternoon, saying it ‘determined it will not challenge the taxability of payments related to general welfare and disaster relief.’ California’s Middle Class Tax Refund falls into that category, the agency said, as do the payments in 16 other states. According to the IRS, you won’t need to report the payment as income on your 2022 return. So recipients can ignore the federal 1099-MISC form sent out last month by the state Franchise Tax Board.”

• While we didn’t report on it last week, the Valley Sanitary District’s recent Indio wastewater testing has shown norovirus cases have been rising for the last month or so. Time magazine reports this is happening at the national level, too: “The U.S. has already seen spikes in RSV and influenza, and now norovirus cases are inching upward, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unlike SARS-CoV-2, RSV, and influenza, norovirus is not a respiratory pathogen but instead causes problems in the gastrointestinal tract. Each year, the U.S. has about 2,500 outbreaks that typically occur during the winter months from November to April, leading to 19 to 21 million cases of illness and nearly half a million emergency-room visits. Young children and older people are the most vulnerable to serious complications from the infections, leading to 100,000 hospitalizations and 900 deaths annually.”

The U.S. is pondering bird-flu vaccines for poultry. CBS News says: “Federal scientists are gearing up to test the first vaccines in poultry against bird flu in years, as Biden administration officials say they have now begun weighing an unprecedented shift in the U.S. strategy to counter the growing outbreak. The move comes amid mounting concern over the threat posed by the ongoing spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza over the past few years, which has devastated flocks of wild and commercial birds around the continent. A record 58 million birds — mostly commercially-raised poultry — have died in the outbreak so far, according to figures tallied by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service — either killed by the virus itself or put down in efforts to quash its transmission. … It is not yet clear whether vaccines are available that will work against clade, the strain behind the current outbreak in the U.S.”

A bigger fight between the state of Florida and the College Board—the organization that develops AP courses for high-schoolers—is brewing. NPR says: “The College Board hit back over the weekend at top Florida officials over the state’s ban on a new AP African American Studies course that’s being piloted in several states, while Florida’s governor on Monday suggested the state could ‘reevaluate’ its relationship with the organization. In a lengthy statement released Saturday, the national education nonprofit said it should have more quickly addressed claims by Florida’s Department of Education that the course was indoctrinating students and lacked educational value, which the College Board called ‘slander.’ … In a press conference Monday, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis accused the College Board of inserting ‘neo-Marxism’ into the proposed course curriculum and said the inclusion of certain concepts, such as intersectionality and queer theory, ran afoul of Florida’s standards. ‘I’m so sick of people not doing what’s right because they’re worried that people are going to call them names. We’re doing what’s right here,’ he said.”

• And finally … a prominent public library is taking action against the book bans being instituted in several states. The Louisiana Illuminator says: “The Brooklyn Public Library is offering free digital access cards to teens and young adults nationwide to fight back against a nationwide campaign to remove books from public libraries. … The project is part of the library’s ‘Books Unbanned’ initiative, which was created to fight for teens rights to read what they like and form their own opinions. … Most of the books targeted in Louisiana and nationwide have LGBTQ+ themes.”

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Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. He is also the executive editor and publisher of the Reno News & Review in Reno, Nev. A native of Reno, the Dodgers...