Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: April 18, 2022

I somehow missed what I believe is one of the most important stories of the year last week and the week before—and given how much news I consume, there’s a good chance you may have missed it, too.

Here are some of the details, courtesy of NBC News and The Associated Press:

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed two bills Friday (April 8) that target transgender young people and classroom discussion of LGBTQ identities.

One of the bills makes it a felony for medical professionals to provide gender-affirming medical care to people under 19.

Her signature makes Alabama the third state in the country to pass a measure restricting transition-related care, though it is the first state to impose criminal penalties.

Ivey said in a statement that she signed the bill because she believes that “if the Good Lord made you a boy, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are a girl.”

Major medical organizations—including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association—oppose restrictions on gender-affirming care for minors and say they go against best practice standards and will harm the wellbeing of trans youth.

An ABC News piece on the bill’s signing says: “SB 184, the Vulnerable Child Protection Act, states that anyone who provides gender-affirming care—including puberty blockers, hormone therapy or physical gender-affirming surgeries—to anyone under 18 could be convicted of a felony and face up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Several Alabama physicians has said the legislation is riddled with misinformation about how gender-affirming care actually affects children. ‘When lawmakers attempt to practice medicine with a life without a license, they realize quickly that there was a lot more they didn’t understand than what they thought they did,’ Morissa Ladinsky, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, previously told ABC News.”

There’s been a lot of news about new anti-LGBT laws as of late—from the “don’t say gay” education bills that started off in Florida, to bills requiring students to use the bathrooms matching the gender identity they had at birth, and beyond.

It’s not hyperbole when I say: The conservative activists and politicians responsible for this spate of laws are determined to turn LGBTQ individuals into second-class citizens—or worse. They think it’s wrong to tell kids about same-sex marriages. They’re trying to portray trans people as potential predators because they want to use one bathroom over another. They, at best, think they know better than doctors how to deal with trans kids—and, at worst, consider doctors who treat trans kids to be child abusers.

What can you do to help? For starters, support the organizations fighting these awful bills, like the ACLU of Alabama, Lambda Legal and the Transgender Law Center.

This is the textbook definition of bigotry—yet it’s what passes as mainstream politics in 2022 in the United States of America. It’s terrifying.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Civic Solutions: Misinformation, Slurs Distract From the Potential Benefits of Palm Springs’ Guaranteed Income Pilot Proposal

By Melissa Daniels

April 15, 2022

Palm Springs’ step to explore a guaranteed-income program for nonbinary residents was quickly picked up by the national news and incorrectly portrayed in right-wing media circles.

Hiking With T: The Windy Ridge Trail Lives Up to Its Name—but Hiking It Is Worth the Challenge

By Theresa Sama

April 18, 2022

Hikers on the Windy Ridge Trail can experience amazing views of Mount San Jacinto and Mount San Gorgonio—and watch the steady growth of the city of Desert Hot Springs and beyond.

Not My Country Tis of Thee: An Excerpt From Dwayne Ratleff’s ‘Dancing to the Lyrics’

By Staff

April 15, 2022

Dancing to the Lyrics is a first-hand account of an African-American gay youth who perseveres in spite of personal and family obstacles as well as the larger challenges of his era.

Multiverse Masterpiece: Michelle Yeoh Helps Make ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ an Instant Classic

By Bob Grimm

April 18, 2022

Everything Everywhere All at Once is more than a good time … it’s everything!

More News

The amount of SARS-CoV-2 in Palm Springs wastewater continues to slooowly rise. Results released today show that on April 11 and 12, there were 218,995 and 260,648 viral copies per liter, respectively—up from 189,674 and 145,652 the week before. Is this cause for alarm? Definitely not; these numbers are still tiny compared to the peak of 6.4 million or so we saw during the January COVID-19 spike. Is this worth watching? Definitely yes.

Sort of alarmingly related: A federal judge has thrown out the federal mask mandate on transportation, including airplanes. The Washington Post says: “U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of the Middle District of Florida said the mandate exceeds the statutory authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Federal officials last week had extended the mask mandate for commercial flights and in other transportation settings, including on buses, ferries and subways, until at least May 3. … In her decision Monday, Mizelle, who was appointed by former president Donald Trump and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, said the CDC had relied on a 1944 law, the Public Health Service Act, to impose the mandate. But the government’s argument that it put the mask requirement in place for the purpose of ‘sanitation’ falls short, Mizelle argued. ‘Wearing a mask cleans nothing. At most, it traps virus droplets. But it neither “sanitizes” the person wearing the mask nor “sanitizes” the conveyance,’ Mizelle wrote.” Sigh.

As the U.S. slowly creeps up on the 1 million mark of reported deaths from COVID-19, The New York Times chronicles the efforts of the World Heath Organization to get a true global count: “An ambitious effort by the World Health Organization to calculate the global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has found that vastly more people died than previously believed — a total of about 15 million by the end of 2021, more than double the official total of six million reported by countries individually. But the release of the staggering estimate — the result of more than a year of research and analysis by experts around the world and the most comprehensive look at the lethality of the pandemic to date — has been delayed for months because of objections from India, which disputes the calculation of how many of its citizens died and has tried to keep it from becoming public. More than a third of the additional nine million deaths are estimated to have occurred in India, where the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stood by its own count of about 520,000.”

• CVRep has announced that Adam Karsten will be the company’s new artistic director, following the retirement of founding artistic director Ron Celona. From a news release: “Karsten, who will be moving from New York City to the Coachella Valley with his wife and two children, said, ‘I am humbled and honored to continue the work that Ron and the Board have created and to lead CVRep into its next chapters. I look forward to welcoming new audiences and inspiring our community.’ Karsten will become only the second artistic director for CVRep and joins the company after many years of producing and directing with the Emmy Award winning performing arts series, Live From Lincoln Center and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) as well as serving as the Managing Artistic Director for Weathervane Playhouse in Columbus, Ohio. Over the last 20 years Karsten has also directed theatrical works Off-Broadway, regionally, with national touring productions and Broadway Workshop productions.” Congrats to CVRep, Mr. Karsten and Ron!

In an update to a story we’ve previously mentioned in this space, The San Bernardino Sun reports (registration required): “The U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday it will return $1.1 million in licensed cannabis proceeds to a Pennsylvania armored car company whose vehicles were targeted by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies during a pair of roadside seizures last year. As a result of the settlement, Empyreal Logistics has agreed to drop its federal lawsuit against the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration alleging the confiscation of cash from its vehicles on Nov. 16 and Dec. 9 were illegal. … However, Empyreal’s legal claims against the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, demanding that deputies stop engaging in ‘highway robbery’ against the company, remain in place.”

Environmentalists say the Joshua tree is an endangered species. However, the state last week said it disagreed. According to the Los Angeles Times: “State biologists on Wednesday recommended against designating the western Joshua tree as threatened with extinction, saying claims in a petition filed by environmentalists about the effects climate change will have on the living symbols of the California desert are premature. A final decision by the state Fish and Game Commission on the petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity is expected in June. If the Joshua tree is not listed as threatened, it will be up to local jurisdictions to set limits on development of commercial, residential and solar and wind projects across thousands of acres of southeastern California’s sunniest real estate. About 40% of the western Joshua tree’s range is on private land, where state endangered-species laws would apply, according to the petition. The area includes the rapidly growing cities of Palmdale, Lancaster, Hesperia, Victorville and Yucca Valley. The renewable energy industry, while under fire for gobbling up desert land, maintains that by helping to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, it is helping to mitigate climate change and the threat it poses to sensitive desert species such as the western Joshua tree.”

Our partners at CalMatters report that the state is backing off COVID-19 vaccine mandates for kids: “Although more than three-quarters of California adults are vaccinated against COVID-19, opinions are more divided when it comes to vaccinating children. That sentiment played out Thursday when first, the author of a bill that would have mandated vaccines for all children pulled the legislation, and then again when state health officials pushed back the date of their student vaccine mandate. It was a striking shift for a state that had been the nation’s first to announce a planned K-12 COVID-19 mandate. The bill by Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat who chairs the Senate Health Committee, would have granted no personal belief exceptions to the requirement that all children get the COVID vaccine to attend school or child care. In sidelining his own bill, Pan said the focus needs to be on making sure families can access the vaccine for their children. Within hours, the California Department of Public Health announced it will not begin the process of adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of mandated childhood vaccines for K-12 public and private school students because it has not been approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Previously the state had intended to require it for the upcoming 2022-23 school year, but now that won’t happen until at least July 1, 2023.”

And finally … a story that should give us all a glimmer of hope. (Kidding.) (Mostly). CNN reports the glorious news: “Taco Bell is bringing back the Mexican Pizza after a roughly two-year hiatus. The beloved menu item will permanently reappear on menus beginning May 19, the chain confirmed Monday. Taco Bell eliminated the pizza in November 2020 as part of a broader culling of its menus during the height of the pandemic that helped fast food chains shed complexities and costs. The Mexican Pizza consists of a tortilla shell filled with either beans or ground beef, a pizza sauce and is topped with another tortilla shell that’s smothered with more sauce, cheese and chopped tomatoes. Taco Bell introduced the item in 1985 and originally called it the ‘Pizzazz Pizza.’ … Removing the Mexican Pizza sparked outrage among Taco Bell’s loyal fans: An online petition asking for the pizza’s return garnered nearly 200,000 signatures.

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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...