Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: Feb. 2, 2023

I am going to share the first four paragraphs of a story published Tuesday by The Washington Post:

Students arrived in some Florida public school classrooms this month to find their teachers’ bookshelves wrapped in paper—or entirely barren of books—after district officials launched a review of the texts’ appropriateness under a new state law.

School officials in at least two counties, Manatee and Duval, have directed teachers this month to remove or wrap up their classroom libraries, according to records obtained by The Washington Post. The removals come in response to fresh guidance issued by the Florida Department of Education in mid-January, after the State Board of Education ruled that a law restricting the books a district may possess applies not only to schoolwide libraries but to teachers’ classroom collections, too.

House Bill 1467, which took effect as law in July, mandates that schools’ books be age-appropriate, free from pornography and “suited to student needs.” Books must be approved by a qualified school media specialist, who must undergo a state retraining on book collection. The Education Department did not publish that training until January, leaving school librarians across Florida unable to order books for more than a year.

The new law comes atop an older one that makes distributing “harmful materials” to minors, including obscene and pornographic materials, a third-degree felony—meaning that a teacher could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, a spokeswoman from the Florida Department of Education said Tuesday. She suggested violating House Bill 1467 might yield “penalties against” an educator’s teaching certificate. Still, because of uncertainties around enforcement and around what titles might become outlawed, school officials have warned teachers that their classroom libraries may expose them to the stiffest punishments.

No exaggeration: I felt queasy while reading that.

A Florida teacher, writing for The Independent newspaper (in the United Kingdom), clarifies: “All materials must be free of pornography, gender identity issues (for students in Kindergarten through third grade), as well as any books relating to discrimination based on race, color, sex, or national origin.”

While I think pretty much everyone agrees that “pornography” should not be on public school book shelves … the rest of this is terrifying.

Here’s an opinion piece published Tuesday, by The New York Times, by Janai Nelson, the president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund, about a related Florida law. The headline is “Ron DeSantis Wants to Erase Black History. Why?”

Here’s a small excerpt:

Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE” law—which would limit students and teachers from learning and talking about issues related to race and gender—Florida is at the forefront of a nationwide campaign to silence Black voices and erase the full and accurate history and contemporary experiences of Black people. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., the American Civil Liberties Union, the A.C.L.U. of Florida and Ballard Spahr filed a lawsuit on behalf of university professors and a college student opposing the “Stop WOKE” law and, along with a second lawsuit, won a preliminary injunction blocking Florida’s Board of Governors from enforcing its unconstitutional and racially discriminatory provisions at public universities.

Florida is hellbent on censoring as much content as it can that doesn’t follow the cis, white (supremacy), straight, conservative-Christian worldview. While we don’t have to worry about these sorts of efforts much here in California right now, the fact that this is happening in our country is disgusting.

Oh, and a reminder: Ron DeSantis is a 2024 presidential frontrunner.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Enter the Zombie Forest: Intersect Palm Springs Hosts an Artistic Exploration of the Plight of the Joshua Tree

By Matt King

February 2nd, 2023

The annual Intersect Palm Springs art and design fair is returning, from Thursday, Feb. 9, through Sunday, Feb. 12—and one of the special exhibitions this year is Investigations: Zombie Forest, a multi-artist, multimedia showcase of works focused on the Joshua tree.

More Modernism, Less Elvis: Modernism Week Hosts Tours of the House of Tomorrow in Palm Springs

By Matt King

February 2nd, 2023

The House of Tomorrow is notable beyond its association with Elvis: It’s a star on its own, and a perfect house to be put on display during Modernism Week.

The Venue Report, February 2023: The Eagles, Penn and Teller, Piano Guys—and More!

By Matt King

January 31st, 2023

A look at the area’s February entertainment offerings.

The Lucky 13: Angel Chavez: Local YouTuber, Podcast Host and Creator of Desert Underground

By Matt King

February 2nd, 2023

Get to better know Angel Chavez, the mastermind behind Coachella Underground.

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for Feb. 2, 2023!

By Staff

February 2nd, 2023

Topics touched upon this week include pregnancy checkpoints, Toast, book bans, M&M cartoon mascots—and more!

More News

Dare I say, the news from local wastewater testing for the virus that causes COVID-19 is actually … good: Last week’s Palm Springs wastewater testing shows that the levels of SARS-CoV-2 were as low as they’ve been in a few months: “The average of 858,742 copies (per liter) from the previous week went down to an average of 313,408 copies/L for January 23 and 24.”

The Valley Sanitary District down in Indio is showing a decrease as well:

From the “Our Healthcare System Is a Freaking Mess” file comes this piece from our partners at CalMatters: “Seven months ago, California battled its second widespread infectious disease outbreak in as many years—mpox, formerly referred to as monkeypox. Cases spread exponentially, primarily among the state’s male LGBTQ population, and officials struggled to roll out limited vaccine supplies from the federal government. Community clinics and LGBTQ health centers opened mass mpox vaccination sites as quickly as possible and clamored for assistance from local and legislative leaders, but oftentimes red tape at both the federal and state level hampered a speedy response. Today, as the federal government ends its mpox state of emergency, those clinics say bureaucracy is once again standing in the way. State and federal reimbursement for services—potentially in the millions of dollars—has not been approved and likely won’t be for months.” 

• Next, from that same file, we have a piece from ProPublica about Christopher McNaughton, a Penn State University student who suffered “from a crippling case of ulcerative colitis,” and what happened after his insurer, UnitedHealthcare, decided to stop paying for the treatment that kept the disease under control: “When United refused to pay for McNaughton’s treatment for that reason, his family did something unusual. They fought back with a lawsuit, which uncovered a trove of materials, including internal emails and tape-recorded exchanges among company employees. Those records offer an extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at how one of America’s leading health care insurers relentlessly fought to reduce spending on care, even as its profits rose to record levels. As United reviewed McNaughton’s treatment, he and his family were often in the dark about what was happening or their rights. Meanwhile, United employees misrepresented critical findings and ignored warnings from doctors about the risks of altering McNaughton’s drug plan.”

Then we have this story, from Wired. We’ll just share the headline and subheadline here: “The Last Drug That Can Fight Gonorrhea Is Starting to Falter. Data gaps, funding cuts, and shyness about sex let gonorrhea gain drug resistance. There are no new treatments yet.” Yikes!

The theater in the Palm Desert mall is closing its doors. The Desert Sun says (in a story only available to subscribers, alas): “Tristone Palm Desert 10 Cinemas, located at the Shops at Palm Desert mall, will close its doors for the final time on Feb. 5 after years of poor performance and unprofitability. The theater, which had long operated on razor-thin margins, was pushed over the brink by factors including a major decline in older moviegoers, the proliferation of art house films at other theaters and a disappointing fall film lineup, according to Tristone Cinemas CEO Heidi Robertson. ‘That theater has struggled,’ Robertson said. ‘I really wanted to keep it alive, but (I) just couldn’t any longer. It was draining us.’”

The Palm Springs Speaks series is back after a while off because of, well, you know: “The Friends of the Palm Springs Library has announced that it will launch the fourth Palm Springs Speaks speaker series with a talk by former U.S. Sen. Al Franken. The talk will take place at the Richards Center for the Arts (the Palm Springs High School Auditorium) located at 2248 Ramon Road, Palm Springs, on March 31.” Tickets start at $35; click the above link to learn more.

And finally … Happy Groundhog Day! Unfortunately, the day’s festivities in Quebec, Canada, got off to a really depressing start. CBC says: “Fred la marmotte, the province’s famous furry oracle in Val-d’Espoir, Quebec, was found dead overnight Thursday, hours before he had been expected to predict whether it would be an early or late spring. The organizer of Thursday’s Groundhog Day event in Val-d’Espoir announced the somber news following some 40 minutes of festivities, including music and dancing. ‘In life, the only thing that’s certain is that nothing is certain,’ said a serious Roberto Blondin in front of a crowd of awaiting spectators. ‘Well, this year it’s true. It’s true and it’s unfortunate. I announce to you the death of Fred.’ … Changing the tone, Blondin said Fred loved children and would have wanted a child to fill in for him Thursday. With that, a child attending the event, wearing a groundhog hat, was called up to the stage and handed a stuffed toy groundhog. He predicted six more weeks of winter.”

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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...