Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: Dec. 9, 2021

In Monday’s Digest, I talked about misinformation—and how it’s killing many, many people.

Well, that Digest touched a nerve. It led to more than two-dozen unsubscribes from this newsletter—and more than a handful of emailed responses.

The main focus of that Digest intro was a recent analysis by NPR showing that “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.”

About that, I said this:

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.

Here are a few of those aforementioned responses from readers, unedited, with one exception: I am redacting the expletives, only because they tend to set off email spam filters.

Seriously? Biden is (expletive) up this country like ever before. Yes he wants to ban travel from Africa. Yet when Trump did it he was a racist. Not to mention high (expletive) gas prices high (expletive) food high (expletive) energy since he wants to close another pipeline. By the way we listen to fox and many other sources as well. Sorry Biden can’t find his balls with both hands. 

I replied to the reader and asked what this had to do with what I’d reported and written. The response:

We’ll let’s see you talked bad about Trump when everything is so screwed up. MSNBC and cnn are the biggest liars of all, excuse me. All this lockdown is also is a form of control. We’ll I am a conspiracy theorist and I dispute yes Biden is ruining the country, I also believe they’re using the virus to thin out the population and control people. No we just don’t listen to Fox, we listen to many sources. I already know MSNBC lies since they’re liberals and so does CNN. Can I prove it? No but I do believe it.

Hmm. I wonder where this reader got these ideas. From misinformation, perhaps?

Another reader sent this note:

Since May, ‘21. What an arbitrary date. Talk about manipulating data.  

I responded by pointing out that the NPR piece explains why the analysis started in May: “May 1 was chosen as the start date of our analysis because that is roughly the time when vaccines became universally available to adults ages 18 and older.” In other words, the date was not arbitrary at all. But, hey, whatever it takes to protect your worldview, huh?

Finally … the most upsetting email came from someone who didn’t dispute what I wrote or what NPR reported.

So… counties that supported Trump are losing people to Covid. And the problem is? Seriously, people make choices every day. They choose to watch Fox News, they choose to believe what it tells them, they choose to potentially die. There are so many more things that I worry about. Like the people that I care about getting sick.

I didn’t respond to this one, because I didn’t know what I could possibly say in response that would be productive. But now that a few days have passed, I am going to give it a shot.

It’s asinine, cruel and inhumane to simply dismiss the people who are being deceived by misinformation as having “made their choice.”

In Monday’s note, I referred to a Fox News-watching relative who sometimes falls prey to the misinformation disseminated by that channel. (Quick aside: While what they do is nowhere near as dangerous as what Fox News does, other cable-news networks—including MSNBC and CNN—have their moments of misinformation, too. But that’s a topic for another time.) Fortunately, this relative, for whatever reason, didn’t fall prey to the vaccine disinformation that falls smoothly out of the mouths of people like Tucker Carlson. But many of us do have relatives, and friends, and other loved ones—good people—that have fallen prey. Yeah, they made their choice—but that choice was influenced by a “news” source they trusted, for whatever reason, lying to them. As a news person myself, I am infuriated by that.

It also infuriates me as a caring human being—and it really should infuriate you, too.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Making the Maps: California’s Redistricting Commission Faces Increasing Scrutiny

By Sameea Kamal, CalMatters

December 8, 2021

It’s not just the at-times confusing maps that are under the microscope. It’s also the commission’s messy process—with accusations of secrecy, complaints about public input and questions about whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for Dec. 9, 2021!

By Staff

December 9, 2021

Topics tackled on this week’s Independent comics page include mortality rates, German wives, sun-rotted lumber, Santa—and much more!

Coming tomorrow and over the weekend to

• A feature on renowned local artist D.J. Hall!

• A review of Desert Rose Playhouse’s revival of Christmas With the Crawfords!

• A review of Desert Ensemble Theatre’s The Beebo Brinker Chronicles!

• And more!

Best of Coachella Valley Winners’ Advertising Spotlight!

More News

The latest weekly Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report shows that the weekly positivity level is creeping upward. (District 4 = the Coachella Valley and areas to the east.) It was 5.2 percent as of the week ending Dec. 5, up from 4.3 percent the week before, and 3.9 the week before that. Hospitalizations remained steadyish, and no deaths were reported, which is a relief. But that increasing positivity rate is worth watching.

Meanwhile, counties around the state are concerned about the possibility of another COVID-19 case surge. The Los Angeles Times says: “Health officials from a number of California counties say they’re seeing early signs of a rebound in coronavirus cases related to Thanksgiving, an upturn some worry could be the beginning of the state’s fifth COVID-19 surge. It’s still far from clear whether California will see a significant spike in cases this winter or if the combination of relatively high vaccination rates and various safety rules limit the scope of a surge. But there are already warning signs. Statewide, the daily average of newly reported infections has risen more than 30% since before Thanksgiving. The number of Californians hospitalized with COVID-19 also has climbed during that time, interrupting weeks of mostly steady declines.”

• More people are now eligible for booster shots against SARS-CoV-2. CNBC has the news: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday strongly encouraged older teenagers to get a Pfizer vaccine booster shot at least six months after completing their first two COVID-19 doses. The CDC’s recommendation for 16- and 17-year-olds comes just hours after the Food and Drug Administration expanded eligibility for Pfizer and BioNTech’s third shot to that age group. ‘Although we don’t have all the answers on the Omicron variant, initial data suggests that COVID-19 boosters help broaden and strengthen the protection against Omicron and other variants,’ CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.”

• Regular readers of this Digest know the caveat we always make when we link to a new scientific study—that the results should be taken with a figurative grain of salt the size of a boulder. So keep that in mind when we share this news release from the University of Pennsylvania, sent to us by former Independent columnist Anita Rufus. The lede: “A chewing gum laced with a plant-grown protein serves as a ‘trap’ for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, reducing viral load in saliva and potentially tamping down transmission, according to a new study. The work, led by Henry Daniell at Penn’s School of Dental Medicine and performed in collaboration with scientists at the Perelman School of Medicine and School of Veterinary Medicine, as well as at The Wistar Institute and Fraunhofer USA, could lead to a low-cost tool in the arsenal against the COVID-19 pandemic. Their study was published in the journal Molecular Therapy. ‘SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the salivary glands, and we know that when someone who is infected sneezes, coughs, or speaks some of that virus can be expelled and reach others,’ says Daniell. ‘This gum offers an opportunity to neutralize the virus in the saliva, giving us a simple way to possibly cut down on a source of disease transmission.’”

• Riverside County’s Board of Supervisors recently adopted new district maps—and while the Coachella Valley’s District 4 is changing very little, it’s District 4 Supervisor V. Manuel Perez who cast the lone vote against the new districts. The Press-Enterprise explains why: “In a joint statement, Latinos representing the county in the state Assembly, who criticized earlier maps, said the final map illegally dilutes Latino voting power. ‘We fear that hardworking Riverside County taxpayers will ultimately be forced to foot the county’s bill for an expensive lawsuit defending a map that is legally indefensible,’ read the statement from Assembly Members Sabrina Cervantes and Jose Medina, both D-Riverside, and Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella. … Latinos make up roughly half of Riverside County’s population, according to the latest census. But just one supervisor—V. Manuel Perez—is Latino.”

• Gov. Gavin Newsom has suggested that California could become a sanctuary state for abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court tosses out Roe v. Wade. Our partners at CalMatters explain: “Hundreds of thousands of women seeking abortions could soon flood into California, and the state should maximize access for both in-state and out-of-state patients by helping cover the cost of the procedure as well as transportation, lodging, child care, food and lost wages. Those were among the recommendations in a Wednesday report from the California Future of Abortion Council, which Gov. Gavin Newsom convened in September, shortly after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws forbidding the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy. And with the U.S. Supreme Court poised to issue a ruling this summer that advocates say could result in 26 states immediately banning or severely limiting abortions, California would become the closest no-ban state within driving distance for 1.4 million women — a nearly 3,000% increase from current levels, according to an estimate from the pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute.”

• And now on to happier subjects: The schedule for the Palm Springs International Film Festival has been released! The films start on Jan. 6, and you can find that schedule here.

• Palm Springs residents, take note: ONE-PS—aka Organized Neighborhoods of Palm Springs, the association of neighborhood associations—will be having its first in-person membership meeting since, well, you know, on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 5:30 p.m. at the Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way. Proof of vaccination and masks will be required for entry. Get the agenda and other details here.

• And finally … I am a big fan of The Conversation, and its mission of presenting scientific news in an understandable, journalistic fashion. We’ve linked to dozens upon dozens of pieces from The Conversation, almost always regarding Very Serious and Important Topics. Today … we are not doing that. Instead, we’re linking to a piece with this headline: “How Cup Noodles became one of the biggest transpacific business success stories of all time.” I kid; actually, this fascinating piece does cover some important topics—in a way I found to be fascinating. Here’s the lede by Alisa Freedman, a professor of Japanese literature, cultural studies and gender at the University of Oregon: “See a container of Cup Noodles at a convenience store and you might think of dorm rooms and cheap calories. But there was a time when eating from the product’s iconic packaging exuded cosmopolitanism, when the on-the-go meal symbolized possibility—a Japanese industrial food with an American flair. Cup Noodles—first marketed in Japan 50 years ago, on Sept. 18, 1971, with an English name, the “s” left off because of a translation mistake—are portable instant ramen eaten with a fork straight from their white, red and gold cups. I research how products move between America and Japan, creating new practices in the process. To me, Cup Noodles tell a story of crossing cultures, and their transpacific journey reveals how Japan has viewed America since World War II.”

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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...