Indy Digest: Dec. 6, 2021
I am about to make a massive understatement. Are ya ready? OK, here goes:
Misinformation is a huge, crippling, deadly problem.
Misinformation is the main reason why this newsletter exists. I wrote in the inaugural Daily Digest on March 13, 2020: “The goal for this Daily Digest is to round up reliable, vetted news related to COVID-19 and the accompanying societal changes. There’s too much unreliable information floating around on social media (and even coming out of some elected officials’ mouths)—and in this space, we’ll sort through it all to get to truthfulness and sanity.”
Nearly 21 months have passed, and, if anything, more unreliable information is floating around on social media (and even coming out of some elected officials’ mouths) than ever before.
A couple of days ago, a family member blurted out a mini-rant about President Biden possibly “ruining the economy” by handing down further travel (and other) restrictions related to COVID-19. I had seen no hint that Biden was considering such a thing in any of the reliable news sources I look at every day, so I asked this family member where they had heard this.
There was a pause. Then, finally, the family member said: “Fox News.” I have implored this beloved family member to instead get news from more trustworthy sources many times before, hence the pause.
And now, we have evidence that this brand of Fox News-style misinformation is killing people.
Last night, my friend Laura the Doctor told me about a doozy of an NPR story she’d heard earlier in the day. When I got home, I looked it up … and, boy howdy, was she right. Here’s the start of the piece:
Since May 2021, people living in counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump during the last presidential election have been nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 as those who live in areas that went for now-President Biden. That’s according to a new analysis by NPR that examines how political polarization and misinformation are driving a significant share of the deaths in the pandemic.
NPR looked at deaths per 100,000 people in roughly 3,000 counties across the U.S. from May 2021, the point at which vaccinations widely became available. People living in counties that went 60% or higher for Trump in November 2020 had 2.78 times the death rates of those that went for Biden. Counties with an even higher share of the vote for Trump saw higher COVID-19 mortality rates.
In October, the reddest tenth of the country saw death rates that were six times higher than the bluest tenth, according to Charles Gaba, an independent health care analyst who’s been tracking partisanship trends during the pandemic and helped to review NPR’s methodology. Those numbers have dropped slightly in recent weeks, Gaba says: “It’s back down to around 5.5 times higher.”
I know some people out there are shaking their heads in furor at NPR and now this Indy Digest for “getting political.” Folks, this has nothing to do with politics. This has nothing to do with one’s stance on tax policy or abortion rights or gun control or even “Forever Marilyn.” This has to do with facts.
Here are those provable, verifiable facts: Vaccines, while not perfect, work very well. Some media sources, including some on Fox News, have purposefully said incorrect or highly twisted things to make people distrust vaccines. And now a mathematical analysis shows that places where the most people voted for Donald J. Trump—and, therefore, places where people more likely to watch Fox News and/or its even-worse far-right networks—are seeing many times more people die of COVID-19.
Misinformation is a huge, crippling, deadly problem. And that’s a massive understatement.
From the Independent
CV History: A Look at the Coachella Valley’s Long and Storied Movie History
By Greg Niemann
December 3, 2021
Old Las Palmas and the Movie Colony are the sections of Palm Springs where the early stars came to escape the movie business. Now the spotlights, cameras and current stars of the movies have come back to those same areas to make movies for new generations.
History Course: Preservation Mirage Educates Residents on Rancho Mirage’s Architectural Legacy in Order to Protect It
By Cat Makino
December 6, 2021
The nonprofit Preservation Mirage just published an Architecture Map, which was mailed to all city residents in November, and is now for sale.
Intense Ireland: Kenneth Branagh’s Semi-Autobiographical ‘Belfast’ Is a Polished, Funny, Moving Success
By Bob Grimm
December 6, 2021
Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast is an honest and humorous semi-autobiographical take on his upbringing in the late ’60s.
Best of Coachella Valley Winners’ Advertising Spotlight!
• A bit of good news: The latest tests of Palm Springs wastewater show the amount of SARS-CoV-2 is no longer on the rise. As the report on testing done Nov. 29 and 30 said: “The average number of viral copies detected at the city’s wastewater treatment plant has decreased following a couple of weeks of increases. These are the first numbers following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.” Click on the report link for more info, including some enlightening charts and graphs.
• Maybe, just maybe, the omicron variant is not as bad as some people feared. But we still don’t yet know for sure. CNBC explains: “Preliminary data about the severity of the COVID omicron variant is ‘a bit encouraging,’ the White House’s chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Sunday, following early figures from South Africa that suggest it may not be as bad as initially feared. However, Fauci cautioned that more data was needed to draw a complete picture of omicron’s risk profile.” Fauci went on to clarify that omicron is definitely more transmissible—but the disease cases seem less severe. Maybe yay?
• A microbiologist, writing for The Conversation, explains how current vaccines will be tweaked for the omicron variant (or other variants, if necessary). Key quote: “By swapping out the genetic code of original spike protein for the one from this new variant, a new vaccine would induce antibodies that more effectively bind the omicron virus and prevent it from infecting cells. People already vaccinated or previously exposed to COVID-19 would likely need only a single booster dose of a new vaccine to be protected not only from the new strain but also other strains that may be still in circulation. If omicron emerges as the dominant strain over delta, then those who are unvaccinated would only need to receive 2-3 doses of the updated vaccine. If delta and omicron are both in circulation, people would likely get a combination of the current and updated vaccines.”
• If you’ve ever tried to drive from Las Vegas to Southern California via freeways on a Sunday afternoon, you know how slow and crowded that drive can be. Well, we have some good news for you. The Los Angeles Times says: “The governors of Nevada and California said Sunday that they have a plan to bring some immediate relief to traffic congestion on Interstate 15 at the border of the two states. In a joint announcement with Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the shoulder about five miles south of the border will be made into a third lane for use during peak hours. The Las Vegas Journal reports that the project will cost about $12 million. Newsom said existing money will be used to complete the project and it will be done by the summer of next year.”
• This Washington Post lede is, well, scary AF: “A new study provides a glimpse into the future of Western U.S. snow and the picture is far from rosy: In about 35 to 60 years, mountainous states are projected to be nearly snowless for years at a time if greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked and climate change does not slow.” Of course, that snow is what provides much of the West’s water supply … and water, as you may know, is kinda important.
• A beloved local food vendor needs your help. Our friends at the Palm Springs Post explain: “A fixture at VillageFest and the Palm Springs Certified Farmers’ Market is in need of the community’s help after losing everything in a home fire over the weekend. Chermica Simmons, who operates Mica’s Soul Kitchen out of her home, lost that home during the fire, which occurred Saturday around 9:30 a.m. in the 11500 block of Foxdale Drive in Desert Hot Springs, according to the Riverside County Fire Department. Gone are essential tools she needs—including pots and pans, skillets, and utensils—as well as business basics such as her computer and printer, and food, including cooking oil, small macaroni noodles, peaches, and collard greens.” Here is the link to a GoFundMe on Simmons’ behalf.
• A couple of heads-ups (heads-upses?) on some cool events taking place this weekend. One: Morongo is hosting a free virtual cooking class hosted by Top Chef alum Fabio Viviani at 4 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12. Click this link to register. A few details on the event, during which the dish being prepared will be Barolo red wine risotto: “Registrants will receive a link to recipe cards ahead of time listing the ingredients and utensils needed to cook alongside Viviani if they would like, or to prepare the scrumptious sides at a later time. ‘This Barolo red wine risotto is the perfect dish for the holiday season, as this rich red wine made from nebbiolo grapes gives the risotto an intense pink color and a wonderful flavor,’ Viviani said. ‘It’ll provide all the warmth, comfort, and deliciousness we expect during the wonderful month of December!'”
• After that cooking class, head over to the Cultural Center at 6 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12, and celebrate Frank Sinatra’s birthday with Martinis and Moxie! Some details from a news release: “Bringing that extra something to each of the three Martinis and Moxie desert society socials, the finale will featured the Big Band sounds of the Desert Winds Freedom Band, a 17 member local desert Symphonic Band, who will cover the many songs of Frank Sinatra. Adding to the entertainment will be a few select vocalists, including Patrick Evans (KESQ meteorologist, Host of Eye on the Desert and host of KPSF Studio 100.9 FM/1200 AM), local diva vocalist Leanna Rogers (of Leanna and Miguel and the new Jazz Collective at the PS Cultural Center), and Joel Cary Hile (aka Sonny Moon) of “Nutty”—classic rock, all jazzed-up. All this in addition to the hottest social happy hour in the desert, free gaming tables, rotunda music by PS Piano Bar, Sinatra themed beverages and raffle prizes, an art and neon light exhibit/sale and more.” Tickets are $45-$65 and can be procured here.
• And finally … a Northern California couple has filed a lawsuit after, they say, this happened, as explained by The Washington Post: “… (Paul) Austin and his wife were shocked when the appraiser pegged the value of their Marin City home in the San Francisco Bay area at $995,000, far lower than previous appraisals. … Austin and his wife, Tenisha Tate-Austin decided to get another opinion three weeks later, they say in a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in San Francisco. This time, they enlisted the help of their white friend Jan who agreed to pretend to be the homeowner for a different appraiser, the lawsuit alleges. The Austins ‘whitewashed’ their house by removing their family photos and stripping the walls of their African-themed art. Jan helped on this front, too, by staging photos of her own family, the lawsuit states. The new appraisal came in at $1.48 million—nearly a half-million more than the previous estimate. The Austins, according to the lawsuit, believe the first appraiser … gave them a lowball valuation because they’re Black.”
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