Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Supreme Court Ended Mixed-Race Marriage Bans Less than 50 Years Ago

Includes video and map

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The last time the Supreme Court took up a case on marriage equality was 46 years ago when about one-third of all states in the country still had laws that banned people of different races from marrying each other. This week all eyes are on the High Court as it prepares to hear oral arguments on two cases related to same-sex marriage. At issue is whether gay marriage bans violate the rights those couples have to equal treatment under the law, as guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. The Court’s rulings on both cases – expected by June – will likely be considered landmark decisions, ones that could potentially result in a dramatic widening of marriage rights for same-sex couples throughout the country … or a preservation of the status quo. The issue, though, harkens back to another, often forgotten, landmark civil rights decision from 1967 that similarly addressed marriage equality and the concept of equal protection of the law,  long before the notion of legalized same-sex marriage was considered even a remote possibility. Continue reading

How Did Prop. 8 Get to the Supreme Court? Tracking the Winding Path of Justice

Includes multimedia presentation

On March 26, the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban. Since voters approved the measure in 2008, there has been a dizzying string of state and federal court cases and appeals (and that, of course, doesn’t include the many years of political wrangling over the issue before Prop. 8 passed). Now the decision is in the hands of the High Court’s nine justices. But how did it go all the way from a California ballot measure to a Supreme Court case that could have a huge national impact? This presentation walks you through the many steps of the multi-tiered justice system that Prop. 8 had to pass through on its way to the highest court in the land.

Beneath the presentation is a diagram by the NY Times illustrating the various outcomes of the case.

Note: the presentation is best viewed in full-screen mode; use the arrows to advance and zoom in/out on any text or image

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10 Years After the Invasion: Visualizing Key Details on the War in Iraq

Includes multimedia visualizations and video

On March 20, 2003 U.S. forces invaded Iraq under the false pretense that its government was harboring weapons of mass destruction. Intended to be a brief mission to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime and find the weapons, the Defense Department estimated the effort would cost about $60 billion.  Today, 10 years later, Iraq is still reeling from a prolonged conflict that, according to a recent study, has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion (and growing) and brought a death toll of nearly 190,000 civilians, soldiers, journalists and aid workers.

While the U.S. occupation did lead to the overthrow of Hussein and the semblance of a fragile democracy, it also launched the country into a state of civil war, fueled by an ongoing period of political instability and intense sectarian violence. The U.S. occupation officially ended in December of 2011, but today the bloodshed continues on a nearly daily basis as large swaths of Iraq remain mired in conflict.

This collection of visualizations illustrates some of the war’s cold hard facts, the big milestones, and the many layers of miscalculation and deception. Continue reading

A New Pope For A New Catholic World

Includes interactive map, infographics, and video
Photo by: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk

Photo by: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk

In our hyper-connected world, where success is often measured by the number of “followers” and “friends” we have, becoming pope is pretty much the holy grail.

I mean, think about it: you become pope, and just like that, you’ve got 1.2 billion followers. Take that Twitter!

That’s about how many Roman Catholics there are in the world today, according to Vatican figures. That’s more than 1 in 7 people on the planet who subscribe to the belief that the pope is one of the closest mortals to God. And it makes the papacy an incredibly powerful global force.

Among those ranks, a steadily growing majority live in the global south, more than 40 percent of whom hail from Latin America. Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world, and three other Latin American countries are in the top 10, according to the the World Christian Database (as reported by the BBC). Roughly three-quarters of Latin America’s entire population — about 483 million — is now Catholic.

Click through the map below – produced by The Globe and Mail, using 2010 data from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life – to find the size of each country’s Catholic population as a percentage of its overall population.

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U.S. Gun Homicides: Visualizing the Numbers

Includes multimedia visualizations
Source: Factcheck.org

Source: Factcheck.org

Compared to other high-income nations in the world, America isn’t unusually violent; we’re just unusually lethal.

That’s according to David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. He argues there is a direct connection between the U.S. being leaps and bounds ahead of any other industrialized country in terms of overall gun death rates and gun homicides — and the fact that we have the highest gun-ownership rates in the world

“We are a nation which does not have more crime or more violence,” Hemenway said during a forum on gun violence held shortly after the Newtown shooting. “We are an average nation in terms of assault, robbery, and (non-firearms) homicides.” What distinguishes the U.S., he notes, is our rate of gun violence: “The United States has a very horrific gun problem … 85 people a day dying from guns from all sorts of injury … Compared to the other developed countries, we are just doing terribly.” Continue reading

The Sequester Explained in Plain English

Includes video and charts

Well, it’s official:

The U.S. has entered the dreaded sequester, a very costly consequence of the federal government failing to reach a budget deal by their self-imposed deadline (March 1). This is one for the history books –  the largest, automatic across the board spending cuts in American history.

But if this latest government crisis hasn’t been keeping you up at night, you’re certainly not alone. A recent study found that the vast majority of Americans have paid little to no attention as the sequester drew near; many dismissed it as a poorly made sequel to last year’s more compelling fiscal cliff thriller (along the lines of the The Hangover Part II, if you will).

But despite the lack of popular interest, the sequester is actually a pretty big deal – and real pain will be felt. While it won’t lead to across the board tax hikes – as the fiscal cliff threatened to do – it will result in sweeping cuts to government services that millions of Americans rely on.

In the days leading up to the deadline, Obama referred to the sequester as “a meat cleaver approach” to reducing the deficit, making dire warnings about the damage it would inflict on the economy and individual states.

“Across the board spending cuts mean that hundreds of thousands of Americans won’t get services they rely on from the government,” he said.

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Making Sense of Debt, Deficits and Other Dull Mysteries of the Universe

There’s been a lot of news recently about the government’s ongoing battle over the deficit and the debt ceiling.

But what does it all really mean?

If you happened to be snoozing through most of your 12th grade economics class, here’s a quick refresher:

The deficit is the gap between what the government spends and what it actually makes in revenue (through taxes).

So, basically, to put it into first-grade math terms: (D)eficit  = (S)pending – (R)evenue 
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