Daily Digest: May 3, 2021
Happy World Press Freedom Day, y’all.
World Press Freedom Day takes place every May 3, and has ever since the United Nations issued a proclamation in 1993. Media sources this year are marking World Press Freedom Day in all sorts of different ways. Some are asking for financial support. Others are encouraging readers to follow reporters on Twitter.
Here at the Independent, we’re going to focus on this year’s theme, as designated by the UN: Information as a public good.
Good, ethical journalism is vital—and there’s not nearly as much of it being done today as there was a couple of decades ago. At newspapers, especially, the number of reporters and other news-gatherers has plummeted in recent years. A Pew Research Center analysis showed that between 2008 and 2019, 23 percent of all newsroom jobs disappeared—and that number rises to about 50 percent in newspaper newsrooms. These numbers are pre-pandemic, and have surely only worsened since.
My dear readers: I encourage you to take a moment to look over all the work being done by journalism sources you appreciate, and maybe some with which you’re unfamiliar. Then imagine what it would mean for our country, our state and our community if that work were again halved—or eliminated altogether.
Then, please, take action to support that work. Follow, share, subscribe and support.
Here’s a portion of President Biden’s statement today regarding World Press Freedom Day: “Journalists uncover the truth, check the abuse of power, and demand transparency from those in power. They are indispensable to the functioning of democracy. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, journalists and media workers have been on the front lines to keep the public informed, at significant risk to their own health. And, at a time when the truth is increasingly under attack, our need for accurate, fact-based reporting, open public conversation, and accountability has never been greater.”
Information is a public good. And in order for good media sources, especially newspapers, to keep producing that information, we need your support.
From the Independent
Arena Rush: The Oak View Group’s Hurry to Get Construction Started on Its 10,000-Seat Facility Has Rankled Palm Desert City Officials—and Led to a Lawsuit
May 3, 2021
A lawsuit by the Supporters Alliance for Environmental Responsibility claims Riverside County violated the California Environmental Quality Act by issuing grading permits for land leased […]
Fancy Fungus: ‘The Truffle Hunters’ Is an Entertaining, Funny Documentary About Italy’s Elderly Seekers of the Delicacy
By Bob Grimm
May 3, 2021
The Truffle Hunters is an amusing and educational film, thanks to the eccentric elderly truffle-hunters and their enthusiastic dogs.
And Now, the News
• Good news on the local SARS-CoV-2 front: Last week, we reported on a significant spike in the amount of the virus that was detected in Palm Springs wastewater. However, the newest report, released today, shows the amount of the virus that causes COVID-19 has again fallen. From the report: “The latest samples from April 26 and 27, 2021 shows the number of viral copies/L found in the wastewater has decreased to near record low numbers. The previous week, there was a concerning spike in numbers of viral copies/L detected, however the latest data shows the numbers are back down.” It is worth noting that a number of the concerning variants are present, however. Nonetheless, this is very encouraging news.
• “Herd immunity” is unlikely to ever be reached in the U.S., according to a bunch of experts who talked to The New York Times. So what do these experts think the future will hold? “They are coming to the conclusion that rather than making a long-promised exit, the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers. How much smaller is uncertain and depends in part on how much of the nation, and the world, becomes vaccinated and how the coronavirus evolves. It is already clear, however, that the virus is changing too quickly, new variants are spreading too easily and vaccination is proceeding too slowly for herd immunity to be within reach anytime soon.”
• The Biden administration announced a new, higher cap on refuges today, as explained by NBC News: “President Joe Biden announced Monday he would raise the cap on the number of refugees admitted to the United States to 62,500 for this fiscal year, following criticism last month after he announced he would preserve a Trump-era limit on that category. ‘This erases the historically low number set by the previous administration of 15,000, which did not reflect America’s values as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees,’ Biden said in a statement.”
• A whole new set of young Americans will soon become vaccine-eligible. The New York Times explains: “The Food and Drug Administration is preparing to authorize use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents 12 to 15 years old by early next week, according to federal officials familiar with the agency’s plans, opening up the nation’s vaccination campaign to millions more Americans.”
• The Los Angeles Times examines the efforts that scientists are making to understand breakthrough cases—people who get COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated—and what could be causing these cases. However, this quote caught my attention in particular: “A person is more likely to be hit by lightning than have a breakthrough infection, (Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley) said. Dr. Carlos del Rio, an expert in infectious disease and vaccines at the Emory University School of Medicine, said someone was more likely to be hit by a car in a busy intersection than develop a breakthrough COVID-19 infection.”
• ProPublica last week published a story making the case that one of the state’s biggest efforts at slowing climate change is actually making things worse: “New research shows that California’s climate policy created up to 39 million carbon credits that aren’t achieving real carbon savings. But companies can buy these forest offsets to justify polluting more anyway.” This piece is a complex, important and disconcerting read.
• Speaking of disconcerting, here is a headline from our partners at CalMatters: “California keeps millions in child support while parents drown in debt.” Key quote: “Federal data shows California is keeping an unusually high portion of the child support payments—more than 3 1/2 times the national average, paying itself first at the expense of the very children it’s supposed to be looking out for. That’s because California is charging families millions of dollars in interest on past-due child support payments while penalizing low-income parents who fall behind, making it nearly impossible for many to land employment, support their children and pay off the debt, according to state records and expert analysis.”
• Tangentially related to that aforementioned ProPublica piece … here’s an idea on slowing climate change that may actually work, as presented by two experts writing for The Conversation: “As engineers working on climate-smart solutions, we’ve found an easy win-win for both water and climate in California with what we call the ‘solar canal solution.’ About 4,000 miles of canals transport water to some 35 million Californians and 5.7 million acres of farmland across the state. Covering these canals with solar panels would reduce evaporation of precious water—one of California’s most critical resources—and help meet the state’s renewable energy goals, while also saving money.”
• One of the country’s biggest power marriages—the biggest, perhaps—is coming to an end. CNBC says: “Bill Gates, co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, and his wife, Melinda French Gates, said on Twitter on Monday that they will split up after 27 years. The two will keep working together on philanthropic efforts, which have addressed education, gender equality and health care. ‘After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,’ Bill and Melinda Gates wrote in a statement that Bill Gates tweeted out.”
• Here’s an intriguing lede from The New York Times: “Around 3,000 clubbers were rammed up against each other inside a Liverpool warehouse on Friday night, waving their hands in the air to pounding techno music. Some young women in bikini tops were dancing together, passing around half-full bottles of rosé, while next to them a middle-aged man was dancing so hard a huge sweat patch had formed across his back. All of them were beaming—their smiles were clearly visible, since no one was wearing a face mask, let alone social distancing.” However, this was no underground, unauthorized rave; this was done as part of a scientific trial.
• And finally … if you’re one of those people who prefers books to e-Readers, or print newspapers to online versions … a linguistics professor, writing for The Conversation, posits that your preference has a basis in science. Key quote: “When reading texts of several hundred words or more, learning is generally more successful when it’s on paper than onscreen. A cascade of research confirms this finding. The benefits of print particularly shine through when experimenters move from posing simple tasks—like identifying the main idea in a reading passag—to ones that require mental abstraction—such as drawing inferences from a text. Print reading also improves the likelihood of recalling details—like ‘What was the color of the actor’s hair?’—and remembering where in a story events occurred—Did the accident happen before or after the political coup?’”
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