Daily Digest: April 28, 2021
RENO, NEV.—Looking out the window of our room here at the Sands Regency—we are here, in my hometown, visiting family for the first time since the virus arrived—I am pondering the fascinating histories of the two closest buildings.
To the left is the 19-story tower that was once the Sundowner. The hotel-casino closed back in 2003, due to poor management and increased competition. The property was later purchased, with plans for it to be converted into condos, but the project known as The Belvedere stalled. While the smaller tower to the north was renovated, the taller tower closest to me is sad, weathered and unoccupied—a blight on Reno’s skyline.
To my right is a building with even more of a checkered history. Now called 3rd Street Flats, the newly renovated mixed-use residential building opened to its first tenants in December 2016—after being vacant for more than 30 years. The building long known as the Kings Inn was shut down in July 1986, and for most of my life was an ugly, asbestos-ridden eyesore. Numerous local politicians over the years made bulldozing the Kings Inn a priority, but it never happened—and thankfully, the property finally ended up in the hands of the right investors, who were able to give it a new life.
But you know what? Despite the Kings Inn and its three decades of blight, and the Sundowner and its 18 years of dilapidation (with no firm end in sight), the city of Reno has done just fine, thank you very much.
This brings us to the city of Palm Springs, a place that is under serious threat—if certain citizens’ online comments and fundraising efforts are to be believed—from unfinished hotel projects and the impending installation of a statue.
Let me be clear: It’s completely appropriate—and civically responsible, even—to care about, and speak out about, a city’s appearance. Palm Springs would definitely be better off if the Dream Hotel, The Tova, The Orchid Tree Hotel and The Andaz were finally finished. It’s also perfectly fine to debate the merits of, and have strong feelings about, the aesthetics and ethics of “Forever Marilyn,” which is slated to be installed soon on Museum Way.
However, if someone is focusing solely on these issues, or assigning to them outsized importance … that’s messed up.
Here’s a fact: If these hotel projects were to remain in their current state for 30 years, and if “Forever Marilyn” were literally installed within feet of the Palm Springs Art Museum—where art-lovers would have to walk under her to get to the entrance, even—the lives of these complainers would not truly be affected one bit.
Several weeks ago, someone messaged me to ask if we planned on covering the hubbub over “Forever Marilyn.” At the time, I was looking over the cover proof for our April print edition, which involved the lack of safe housing and clean drinking water that some Coachella Valley residents must deal with every day. You can guess my response.
If you feel strongly about the unfinished state of The Andaz and/or the fate of “Forever Marilyn,” that’s fine. If one of those issues is what you feel most strongly about—or that you feel most compelled to speak out about—then you really need to check your privilege.
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From the Independent
Know Your Neighbors: Meet Matthew Sam, a Former Football Star Who’s Now a Master Barber and an Ambitious Entrepreneur
By Anita Rufus
April 28, 2021
Meet Matthew Sam—born in Blythe and now an Indio resident—who calls himself Matt the Master Barber. He has the trophies to back up that brag,
Modern Band: Four Veteran Musicians Gathered at a Pioneertown Ranch to Create Illumination Road
By Matt King
April 27, 2021
The members of Illumination Road spent the shutdown defining their sound through the trials and tribulations of 2020. The group just released debut single “The […]
And Now, the News
• As expected (and as previewed in this space on Monday), the federal government yesterday issued new, relaxed guidance for vaccinated people wearing masks while outdoors—and California will be following suit. SFGate reports: “’We have reviewed and support the CDC’s new masking recommendations and are working quickly to align California’s guidance with these common sense updates,’ Dr. Tomás Aragón, Director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. ‘While more than 50% of Californians 16+ are partially or fully vaccinated, many others are still not vaccinated, and the threat of variants remains. We continue to urge all eligible Californians to get vaccinated to help us move past this pandemic.’”
• Well, this is interesting. CNBC reports: “Federal investigators executed search warrants Wednesday morning at the Manhattan apartment and office of Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who was the personal lawyer of former President Donald Trump, NBC News reported. The searches were part of a criminal investigation into Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, The New York Times reported first Wednesday, citing three people with knowledge of the matter. … They presented Giuliani with a warrant and requested ‘all electronic devices,’ the source said.”
• Here’s this week’s weekly Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. (District 4 consists of the Coachella Valley and rural points eastward.) Cases and the positivity rate are down a bit, while hospitalizations are trending up a little. Happy news: No new deaths were reported for the week ending April 25.
• On one hand, the CDC director is striking a hopeful note about the status of the pandemic in the U.S. As NBC reports: “CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a briefing Tuesday that there have been declines across the board, with new cases, hospitalizations and daily deaths all falling over the past seven days. New reported infections fell by 21 percent over the past week, with the most recent seven-day average coming in at just over 54,400 cases per day, Walensky said, calling the figure ‘a really hopeful decline.’ Hospitalizations also fell by 9 percent, with an average of more than 5,100 hospital admissions per day over the past seven days. … Walensky said vaccine uptake across the country is likely fueling the turnaround and helping to flatten the curves.”
• On the other hand … not all is well everywhere; Oregon is tightening restrictions due to some concerning trends there. Oregon Public Broadcasting says: “Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday that she is designating 15 counties as ‘extreme risk’ for COVID-19 spread, and imposing strict limits on restaurants, businesses, places of worship, and social gatherings. The restrictions are an attempt to curb a steep rise in cases and preserve hospital capacity statewide. The new risk level designations will take effect Friday and last through at least May 6. Most large cities in the state—Portland, Gresham, Eugene, Salem, Bend and Medford—are in extreme risk counties and will face the new restrictions.”
• In India, things are just awful. The Washington Post begins a story on the out-of-control pandemic with this harrowing story: “When Rehmat Ahsan began to have trouble breathing last week, his family went from hospital to hospital in India’s capital looking for a bed in a COVID-19 ward. Everywhere they tried was full. Then they started a new search—for the oxygen that might save his life. Ahsan’s older brother said he found an oxygen cylinder from a private vendor for $350, five times the normal price. It lasted eight hours. When he tried to refill the cylinder, he found hundreds of people waiting in line. By the time he found more oxygen several hours later, Ahsan was struggling for every breath. Later that afternoon, he died at home.”
• The state yesterday released data on “breakthrough” cases—fully vaccinated people who get COVID-19—and as expected, the number of cases is quite low. The San Francisco Chronicle (registration required) notes: “This year, California has recorded 1,379 cases of coronavirus infection in people who were fully vaccinated, the state Department of Public Health said Tuesday. These so-called breakthrough cases—recorded from Jan. 1 to April 21—make up about 0.1% of the roughly 1.4 million cases reported in California in that period.”
• MedPage Today reports on a serious problem the U.S. has as the vaccination effort pivots from the eager to the hesitant: “Even as the supply of COVID-19 vaccines continues to increase, many doctors clamoring to distribute the vaccine directly to their patients are finding their requests go unheeded, experts say. ‘Leaving physician practices out makes no sense at all because patients trust physicians on vaccines more than they trust anybody else,’ said Bob Doherty, senior vice president of governmental affairs and public policy at the American College of Physicians and a MedPage Today editorial board member. ‘Patients need to be able to get vaccines from their personal physician, who can reassure them about the safety of the vaccine, and also monitor the potential side effects. But right now, many primary care physicians have not been included in the distribution plans at all.'”
• The feds have again pushed back the date when Real ID will be required. As the Los Angeles Times explains: “Americans will have more time to get the Real ID that will be required for boarding flights and entering federal facilities. The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday postponed the Real ID deadline to May 3, 2023, more than 2 1/2 years later than its original deadline of Oct. 1, 2020. Last year, that was pushed to Oct. 1, 2021, because the COVID-19 pandemic made it harder for states to issue new licenses.”
• The editors and others at The New York Post who are responsible for this are embarrassments to journalism who should not be allowed to work at a newspaper ever again. CNN explains: “The New York Post temporarily deleted, and then edited and republished, a debunked article that falsely claimed that copies of Vice President Kamala Harris’ book were being included in ‘welcome kits’ given to migrant children at a shelter in Long Beach, California. The reporter who wrote the article, Laura Italiano, tweeted late Tuesday afternoon that she had resigned from the newspaper. Italiano tweeted: ‘The Kamala Harris story—an incorrect story I was ordered to write and which I failed to push back hard enough against — was my breaking point.’ The Post newsroom referred questions about Italiano to a public relations representative, who did not immediately respond to a request for a response to Italiano’s accusation that she had been ‘ordered’ to write the article.”
• Speaking of embarrassments in journalism … a new study by the union that includes Gannett newsrooms—including The Desert Sun—came to this conclusion, as Poynter explains: “The median salaries of women and people of color at 14 unionized Gannett newsrooms was at least $5,000 less than those of their male and white colleagues, a new study by the NewsGuild Gannett caucus found. The median full-time salary for women in fall 2020 was $47,390, while the median for men was $57,235, representing a pay gap of $9,845. Journalists of color earned a median salary of $48,006, or $5,246 lower than the median salary for white journalists, $53,252.” A Gannett spokesman told Poynter the study was “a misleading document based on outdated data.”
• In this space on Monday, we noted that California would lose a seat in Congress due to the results of the 2020 Census. As for the Coachella Valley? David Robinson writes for the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership that because our area has been growing faster than the rest of the state, we’re actually due for MORE congressional representation: “Congressional districts are meant to be proportional, meaning that each congressperson should represent an equal number of constituents. Azavea, a Spatial Analysis consultancy, publishes a map showing where congressional districts are over or underpopulated. This clip of their map shows that the Inland Empire, in which the Coachella Valley is located, is overpopulated, meaning that our congressional district should be smaller because of the greater rise in population “
• The Coachella Valley is slated to be the home of the state’s first fully in-theater film festival since, well, you know. Variety says: “Palm Springs Shortfest will be the first film festival of 2021 in California to hold all of its screenings in-theater when the event takes place at the Camelot Theatres (Palm Springs Cultural Center) from June 22 to 28. The Palm Springs International Film Society plans to work closely with the Camelot Theatres to ensure the safety of attendees through stringent cleaning protocols for screening rooms and public areas. In addition, theatergoers will be required to wear masks. As the event approaches, screening capacity will be determined by city, county and state guidelines. It occurs just one week after the anticipated reopening of California on June 15, should hospitalization rates continue to be stable and low and the vaccine supply remains sufficient.”
• An expert in media, writing for The Conversation, explains how you have been an unknowing participant in the increasing practice of voice profiling: “Thanks to the public’s embrace of smart speakers, intelligent car displays and voice-responsive phones—along with the rise of voice intelligence in call centers—marketers say they are on the verge of being able to use AI-assisted vocal analysis technology to achieve unprecedented insights into shoppers’ identities and inclinations. In doing so, they believe they’ll be able to circumvent the errors and fraud associated with traditional targeted advertising. Not only can people be profiled by their speech patterns, but they can also be assessed by the sound of their voices – which, according to some researchers, is unique and can reveal their feelings, personalities and even their physical characteristics.”
• And finally … Paddington 2 has replaced Citizen Kane as the best film of all time. No, I haven’t been huffing paint again; this admittedly questionable judgment comes from Rotten Tomatoes, as explained by The Wrap: “’Citizen Kane’ has long been the top-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes with a 100% rating on the ‘Tomatometer.’ But as of Tuesday, it’s slipped from 100% to 99%—all thanks to a negative review from 80 years ago. Yes, an 80-year-old review from the Chicago Tribune’s Mae Tinée with the headline ‘Citizen Kane Fails to Impress Critic as Greatest Ever Filmed’ was what knocked the film off its pedestal. … Citizen Kane dropping its perfect score meant that Paddington 2, which boasts a perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes’ ‘Tomatometer,’ can now officially be known as the greatest film of all time.”
Thanks for reading, everyone. The Daily Digest will return Friday.