Coachella Valley Independent

Daily Digest: May 10, 2021

A news item from the weekend that you may have missed is worth noting for two big reasons.

That news item, as explained by The Washington Post:

A ransomware attack led one of the nation’s biggest fuel pipeline operators to shut down its entire network on Friday, according to the company and two U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

While it is not expected to have an immediate impact on fuel supply or prices, the attack on Colonial Pipeline, which carries almost half of the gasoline, diesel and other fuels used on the East Coast, underscores the potential vulnerability of industrial sectors to the expanding threat of ransomware strikes.

It appears to have been carried out by an Eastern European-based criminal gang — DarkSide, according to a U.S. official and another person familiar with the matter.

Yikes!

The first reason this story is worth noting: It may eventually, if not immediately, lead to higher gas prices. CNN reports: “The shutdown could extend a recent jump in gasoline prices—especially if the outage persists—piling on the pain for drivers as the seasonal peak in demand approaches. ‘The number of days that the line is out of service is critical,’ Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service, which tracks gas prices at 140,000 U.S. stations, told CNN Business.”

The second reason … cyberattacks like this are becoming increasingly common. CBNC published a piece on the group of hackers responsible for the attack that’s downright fascinating:

According to Boston-based Cybereason, DarkSide is an organized group of hackers set up along the “ransomware as a service” business model, meaning the DarkSide hackers develop and market ransomware hacking tools, and sell them to other criminals who then carry out attacks. Think of it as the evil twin of a Silicon Valley software start-up. … On Monday, Cybereason provided CNBC with a new statement from DarkSide’s website that appears to address the Colonial Pipeline shutdown.

Under a heading, “About the latest news,” DarkSide claimed it’s not political and only wants to make money without causing problems for society.

“We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined government and look for our motives,” the statement said. “Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society. From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.”

To make things even weirder … according to the president, Russia is sorta, kinda playing a part: “Mr. Biden … said on Monday that, so far, there was no evidence from U.S. intelligence officials that Russia was involved, but he added: ‘There is evidence that the actors’ ransomware is in Russia. They have some responsibility to deal with this,'” The New York Times reported.

Our wired and interconnected world can be a weird and scary place …

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

The McCallum’s Greatest Hits: The Performing-Arts Theater Plans to Kick Off a New Season (Pandemic Permitting) of Fan Favorites in December

By Jimmy Boegle

May 9, 2021

After being dark for 632 days, the McCallum Theatre will welcome back live audiences on Dec. 3 for the start of a three-day run of […]

Staged and Stale: Billy Crystal’s ‘Here Today’ Wastes a Lot of Talent Due to a Sloppy Script and Unfunny ‘Humor’

By Bob Grimm

May 10, 2021

When Billy Crystal’s Here Today goes from being sort of romantic comedy to being a straight melodrama, it crashes and burns.

And Now, the News

Gov. Gavin Newsom today proposed a $100 billion “California comeback plan.” Our partners at CalMatters explain: “At the start of the pandemic a year ago, today’s news would have seemed unimaginable: The Golden State is sitting on a budget surplus so big, it’s considering giving $600 stimulus checks to California workers making up to $75,000, paying off back rent of tenants affected by COVID and helping millions of residents catch up on their water and electricity bills. ‘California is not just back, California is roaring back,’ Gov. Gavin Newsom said today in announcing a whopping $75.7 billion surplus that’s enabling him to propose what he claims is the largest state tax rebate in American history.”

The FDA today said it was OK for kids age 12-15 to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. CBS News says: “The emergency use authorization had been expected. An analysis that included 1,005 vaccine participants in this age group found the vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19. ‘The FDA’s expansion of the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents 12 through 15 years of age is a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,’ said acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. ‘Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic. Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations.'” Watch for news from the state and county regarding expanded eligibility locally.

More-relaxed guidance regarding the use of face masks indoors is probably coming soon. CNN reports: “Sunday on ABC News, (Dr. Anothony) Fauci was asked whether it’s time to start relaxing indoor masks requirements. Fauci replied, ‘I think so, and I think you’re going to probably be seeing that as we go along, and as more people get vaccinated.‘ The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be updating its guidance almost in real time, as more Americans get vaccinated, said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.”

• While some vaccination sites are shutting down due to a decrease in demand, the site at the Palm Springs Convention Center is going in the other direction—and expanding its hours. From a city news release: “Beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, May 11, the Curative vaccination site at the Palm Springs Convention Center will extend its hours of operation on Tuesdays and Thursdays to 7 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday hours of operation will remain 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Appointments at the Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, are no longer required and walk-ins are welcome. However, residents may still make an appointment by visiting Curative.com.”

The latest report from the city of Palm Springs on the levels of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater showed that the amount of the virus remains low—though it is up slightly, and a lot of variants are present. The lab report, posted on the city website, explains: “The latest samples from May 3 and 4, 2021 shows the number of viral copies/L found in the wastewater continues to be in the low range, despite a small uptick from last week’s results. … The data points depict a continued trend of low virus detection for the past three months and even the current uptick is on the low end of the scale. The data from GT Molecular estimates the number of cases can be anywhere between 108 to 478 cases, which represents a prevalence rate between 0.24% and 1.09%. This is reason to be cautiously optimistic when compared to the less than 2% positivity rate needed to move into the yellow tier. … The ‘wild type’ Wuhan strain, as well as the UK, Brazilian, and California variants are being detected in Palm Springs’ wastewater. However, these variants are being detected in very low numbers. The South African variant has not been detected in the City’s wastewater samples yet.”

• Aaaand it’s official: We have a brand-new “variant of global concern.” As explained by The Washington Post: “Scientists fear that the variant, known as B.1.617, has fueled the surging outbreak in India, which experts say is probably undercounted. The variant is the fourth to be designated as being of global concern, after variants were first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil. The B.1.617 variant was first detected in India in October. Officials are concerned about the variant given that it combines several mutations in the spike protein that could help the virus evade the human body’s immune system.”

• Well this is downright horrifying: “Even as a deadly second wave of COVID-19 ravages India, doctors are now reporting a rash of cases involving a rare infection—also called the ‘black fungus’—among recovering and recovered COVID-19 patients,” BBC News reports. “Mucormycosis is a very rare infection. It is caused by exposure to mucor mold which is commonly found in soil, plants, manure, and decaying fruits and vegetables. Doctors believe mucormycosis, which has an overall mortality rate of 50%, may be being triggered by the use of steroids, a life-saving treatment for severe and critically ill COVID-19 patients.”

• Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, officials think the area will reach “herd immunity” sometime in July. The Los Angeles Times breaks it down: “With about 400,000 shots administered weekly, the county has about 2 million first doses to go before 80% of all residents 16 and older will have received at least one shot, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a news briefing Monday. ‘At the rate we’re going, we expect that we can reach this level somewhere in mid- to late July, and that assumes that we continue to have at least 400,000 people vaccinated each week that will include both first doses that people need, as well as their second doses,’ Ferrer said. Ferrer noted that the estimated population that needs to be vaccinated in L.A. County for herd immunity is a guess, ‘but we do assume it’s probably somewhere around 80%.’”

The Palm Springs Cultural Center will hold a celebration of the life of co-founder Ric Supple at 4 p.m., Saturday, May 15; get details here. He passed away last week at the age of 95. Read more about Supple here via the Cultural Center. A tidbit: “Supple, who was originally from the Bay Area, moved to Palm Springs full-time in the early 1970s shortly after he and Rozene were married. The two had attended Stanford together in the 1940s, graduated, married (other people) and drifted apart. They reconnected at a Stanford reunion some twenty years later, both having been widowed by their first spouses.  Once in Palm Springs, the Supples quickly became involved in the local business community as owner/operators of RR Radio Corporation, which was comprised of two FM stations and three AM stations. They also bought and refurbished the historic Camelot Theatres building, and turned it into a three-screen complex with a full bar and restaurant.”

• And finally … barring a major change, the Golden Globes will not be televised next year. The Los Angeles Times explains: “Capping months of intensifying controversy sparked by a Times investigation into the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., the tiny but powerful group that hands out the Golden Globe Awards, NBC said Monday that it will not air the telecast, a key precursor to the Oscars, in 2022. The HFPA had been struggling to contain a mounting crisis since publication of the Times investigation that shed light on a range of alleged ethical and financial improprieties and revealed that the organization has no Black members. The Feb. 21 report set off a growing chorus of criticism from Time’s Up and powerful industry figures including director Ava DuVernay and TV producer Shonda Rhimes.” NBC did say it hopes to air the awards in 2023—presuming the organization gets its act together.

Support the Independent!

Thanks for reading us, as always. If you have a buck or two to spare, and you like this Daily Digest—which you get delivered into your email inbox completely free of charge—please consider showing your support by clicking the button below and becoming a Supporter of the Independent.

Read this Daily Digest at CVIndependent.com!

Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. A native of Reno, Nevada, the Dodgers fan went to Stanford University intending to become a sportswriter—but fell...