Dry Times: Two Comics Explaining California’s Drought

Parched Produce

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Water_Agriculture_typocorrection

Rationing the Rain

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Water_ratios_full

Why California’s Drought is America’s Problem

Despite a few recent downpours, California remains stuck in one of the most severe statewide droughts on record.

But it’s far from just California’s problem. The state produces a huge percentage of the nation’s agriculture — nearly half of all fruits, vegetables and nuts, by some estimates. And that requires a massive amount of water: farms here use about 80 percent of the state’s developed water supply.

Much is riding on the upcoming rainy season. Because if not enough water remains valuable for farmers to adequately irrigate their land, the impact will likely be felt far beyond the state’s borders.

In this audio slideshow, part of a photo essay project in the New Yorker, photographer Matt Black captures powerful images from the thirsty Central Valley, California’s breadbasket, and the farmers struggling to keep their crops alive. The excellent infographics below that, by Alex Park and Julia Lurie of Mother Jones (and reposted with permission), give a glimpse of just how much agriculture is produced here and the amount of water required to grow it.

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Is Immigration Reform on the Horizon? [Animated Explainer]

Remember when U.S. immigration reform seemed like it was finally in the cards?

That was so 2013.

The brief burst of fanfare following passage of the Senate’s comprehensive bill last year faded quickly when the debate hit the bitterly divided House, where prospects for getting anything done have now been all but extinguished. Continue reading

On the Rise: How Minimum Wage Hikes Won Big with Voters [Interactive]

(View mobile version here)

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama urged Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, which has wallowed at $7.25 since 2007. But Congress didn’t budge, sidestepping the issue that has long been staunchly opposed by the Republican leadership.

It may have seemed surprising, then, that voters in four unabashedly conservative states — Alaska, Nebraska, South Dakota and Arkansas — decisively supported minimum wage hikes in Tuesday’s general election. In fact, despite ongoing conservative opposition to the raising the federal minimum wage, recent initiatives in individual states, both blue and red, have had overwhelmingly success. As of Aug. 1, 2014, 23 states and Washington D.C. have minimum wages above the federal level, many of which have resulted from successful ballot measures over the last15 years. And some cities have taken the effort even farther: voters in San Francisco overwhelmingly supported an incremental increase to $15 an hour by 2018 — tying Seattle for highest in the nation — while Oakland voters approved a bump from $9 to $12.25 by March 2015. 

We dig into the debate over dollars and cents in this interactive explainer, produced by Newsbound. Scroll through the whole presentation at once, or choose specific chapters by selecting the table of contents button on the bottom left of the screen. Sources for each slide are also included at the bottom.

Common Core Connections

Relevant ELA and Social Studies CCSS Anchor Standards

• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7: Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.

Social Studies Integration

Integrate this topic into the following high school social studies units:

US History
(based on:The American Vision, CA Edition (McGraw Hill/Glencoe, 2006)
• Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1933-1939
• The New Frontier and the Great Society, 1961-1968
• The Politics of Protest, 1960-1980
• Politics and Economics, 1971-1980
• Resurgence of Conservatism, 1980-1992
US Government
(based on: American Government, Prentice Hall, 2006, CA Edition)
• Unit 2 – Political Behavior: Government by the People
• Unit 3 – The Legislative Branch
• Unit 4 – The Executive Branch
• Unit 6 – Comparative Political and Economic Systems
Economics
(based on: Econ Alive! TCI, 2010)
• Unit 4 – Economics of the Public Sector
• Unit 5 – Measuring and Managing the Economy

How Felon Voting Laws Could Impact Today’s Election [Map and Infographic]

The map below, created by designer/programmer Lewis Lehe, shows state-by-state felon voting laws and population impacts as reported by the The Sentencing Project, based on 2010 data. Note: among the states that deny voting rights to some felons who have completed the entirety of their sentences (including parole), restrictions vary significantly, and often depend on the severity of the crime.

[See article and infographic below map]

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Majority Rules: California’s Proposition System Explained [Infographic]

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, propositions are an entrenched part of California’s political system. In nearly every statewide election, voters wade through a slurry of local and statewide ballot measures, part of a system intended to expand direct democracy. Some are really complicated, some are controversial, and some are just kind of weird (like when voters passed Prop 6 in 1998, making it a felony for anyone to use a horse for meat — including a pony, donkey or mule, or this year’s failed effort to get a measure on the ballot to split California into six states). In next week’s midterm election, Californians will decide on six statewide propositions, in addition to a likely host of county and local measures.

So how do propositions actually make it onto the ballot? What are the different types? And what exactly is a referendum anyway? Comic journalist Andy Warner demystifies the Golden State’s century-old process.  Continue reading

Bay Area Ballot Measures Relevant to Young Folks: A Youth Radio Prop Guide

Includes interactive youth voter guide

youthVoting for the first time can be exciting, empowering and — if you head to the polls without doing your homework — downright daunting. That’s especially true in California, where voters are typically asked to weigh in on a litany of issues and candidates for both statewide and local races.

Next week’s midterm election on November 4 is no exception: the ballot is thick and dense, with lots of contests that can seem pretty obscure or just plain irrelevant, particularly for young voters. Continue reading

A Modern History of Voting Rights (in Three Illustrated Acts)

Includes illustrated infographics

VRAThe upcoming midterms marks the first major nationwide election since the Supreme Court struck down a key piece of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. The 2013 decision had an immediate impact, giving a handful of primarily southern states the green light to change their voting rules without first getting approval from the federal government. Continue reading

California Voting Got You Down? Check Out This Interactive Election Guide

Let’s face it: voting in California can be downright daunting. Ballots are typically long and confusing, with lots of complicated propositions and non-sexy political races that you might not feel fully prepared — or interested — in weighing in on. And this being a midterm election, voter participation is expected to drop significantly from 2012. That said, there are some pretty important local and statewide issues at stake.

Despite the political fatigue most of us likely feel from the season’s less-than-charming barrage of campaign ads and mailings, it really is in our best interest, as voters, to study up and make informed decisions at the polls — lest we find ourselves with leaders and laws we never bargained for. To get you prepped for the statewide races, KQED’s Election Watch 2014 team prepared this nifty — and objective — campaign guide that explains everything from what a controller does to the politics of medical malpractice. Read up and take it with you to the polls (on your device or printed out). Don’t worry, it’s not considered cheating.