Obama Task Force Calls for Reform and More Accountability in U.S. Police Departments

Includes California officer-involved fatality map
Day six of protests in Ferguson (Loavesofbread/Wikimedia)

Day six of protests in Ferguson, MO after a grand jury declined to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black man. (Loavesofbread/Wikimedia)

President Obama on Tuesday unveiled a report with dozens of recommendations for improving relations between police departments and the communities they serve, including calls for more accurate reporting of officer-involved fatalities and independent criminal investigations of those incidents. Continue reading

In Raising Minimum Wage, Wal-Mart Joins Widening Group of Retailers, Cities and States [Interactive Explainer]

Walmart employees demonstrate outside a store in Pico Rivera, California in 2012.  (Courtesy of UFCW International Union)

Wal-Mart employees demonstrate outside a store in Pico Rivera, California in 2012. (Courtesy of UFCW International Union)

About half a million Wal-Mart employees are getting a much needed pay raise. Starting in April, full- and part-time U.S. employees of the company, the largest private employer in the nation, will earn at least $9 an hour, a full $1.75 more than the federal minimum wage, the company announced this week.

Wal-Mart, which has long been criticized by labor advocates for its low compensation rates, says hourly wages will rise to at least $10 by next year. It’s the latest in a series of large retailers who have recently moved to boost wages for their lowest paid employees. Last year Gap, Inc. announced a similar wage bump, joining the ranks of companies like Ikea, Whole Foods and Costco that all pay above the federal minimum.  Continue reading

The Feverish Roots of Today’s Anti-Vaccination Movement

Cartoon from 1802 illustrating the hysteria that came with the "cowpock" vaccine. (Courtesy Wikimedia)

Cartoon from 1802 illustrating the hysteria that developed alongside the “cowpock” vaccine. (Courtesy Wikimedia)

“Vaccination is the putting of an impure thing into the blood – a virus or poison — often resulting in serious evil effects. In vogue for more than one hundred years, it has been received by most persons without question. Yet the time is passing when people will accept a medical dogma on blind faith.”

– From  “The Fallacy of Vaccination,” a 1911 essay by John Pitcairn, Jr., prominent Pennsylvania industrialist and president of the Anti-Vaccination League of America.

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After Driest January on Record, How Low Are California’s Reservoirs? [Visualization]

Lake Oroville, then and now

  July 2011 (Paul Hames/CA DWR)                  August 2014 (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Despite some stormy days in December and a wet weekend ahead, California is bracing for its fourth consecutive year of drought. Last month marked California’s driest January on record. Typically the wettest period of the year, San Francisco remained bone dry the whole month; the first time the city had no measurable rainfall since it began keeping tabs more than 165 years ago.
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Every Police-Related Homicide Reported Last Year in California: Crowdsourced Map and Database

Database and maps by Kari Mah, story by Matthew Green

Timelapse: 156 reported officer-involved fatalities in California, 2014

In a series of highly publicized incidents in late 2014, white police officers killed unarmed black males, sparking widespread concern about the excessive use of force and drawing attention to the lack of reliable data on officer-involved fatalities. Continue reading

America’s Confusing Patchwork of Abortion Laws: Mapping State Rules and Rates

Includes interactive map and chart

Visualization by Lewis Lehe; story by Matthew Green

On Thursday, the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe vs. Wade decision to legalize abortion nationwide, House Republicans had intended to vote on a proposal banning abortions at the 20-week post-conception period. But rather than approving the so-called “fetal pain” measure, the House swapped it for a watered down bill that would weaken insurance coverage for the procedure. It was a last minute switch was made after a small group of mostly female Republican lawmakers came out strongly opposing the more restrictive measure.

All of which begs the question: what are current abortion laws? Continue reading

See How America Reacted on Twitter During Obama’s State of the Union Address



President Obama on Tuesday gave his sixth State of the Union address, delivering it, for the first time, to a Republican-controlled joint session of Congress. With an estimated 30 million people watching, Obama laid out a far-reaching vision for his final two years in office, emphasizing economic opportunities for middle and  lower-income Americans. Among other appeals, he called on Congress to impose new taxes and fees on the highest income earners, increase tax credits for education and childcare and make community college free for most students.
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