On Saturday, President Obama announced his willingness to launch military action in Syria in order to punish the government of Bashar al-Assad for its alleged use of chemical weapons in a recent attack that killed hundreds of civilians. Syria has been embroiled in a state of civil war since March of 2011, when government protests began as part of the Arab Spring. Below are six excellent resources to help make sense of the conflict, why it matters so much to both the region and the world, and what the role the United States will likely play in it. Click on the images or headers to view content.
Author Archives: Matthew Green
Matthew Green runs KQED’s News Education Project, a new online resource for educators and the general public to help explain the news. The project lives at kqed.org/lowdown.
It turns out that your little bundle of joy is going to cost you a big bundle of cash.
That’s according to a recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture report calculating the average cost of raising a child born in 2012. Accounting for food, shelter, schooling and other basic necessities, the report estimates that from birth to age 18, a kid will rack up a total bill of about $241,080, or just shy of $13,400 per year. When adjusted for inflation, that total translates to more like $302,000, or about $16,800 per year. And no, that does not include college.
It now costs about 23 percent more to raise a kid than it did in 1960 (adjusting for inflation), according to the report. It also notes that rearing costs, not surprisingly, vary by geographical region: the urban Northeast is most expensive (a whopping $271,170), followed by the urban West at $256,710. And nationwide, rural areas are the cheapest regions to raise kids, largely because of the housing cost differential.
Explore this USDA infographic for more details, and check out the interactive chart below it, which breaks down the average cost into individual expenses. If, after that, you’re still considering parenthood, take a look at the USDA’s interactive cost calculator for a customized estimate.
Click on the fire icons in the interactive map below for updated information about each currently active fire in the U.S. Then zoom in to see the actual perimeter of the fires.
As of Friday, August 9, 36 wildfires were burning in eight western states and Alaska, including six in California and nine new large fires in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Wyoming, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Already this year, more than 2.5 million acres have gone up in smoke — an area bigger than Yellowstone National Park. And that’s actually a lot smaller than its been at this point in some recent years (last year, almost twice as many acres had burned by early August). Continue reading
The high profile trials and tribulations of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, both of whom leaked large amounts of classified government information to the media, have placed renewed focus and debate on the importance of leakers and whistle-blowers in American politics. The following is an interactive timeline chronicling some of the most famous — and infamous — leaks in U.S. history.
Note: Some of the following information is based on Associated Press coverage
Bradley Manning was acquitted, but he’s still guilty. What gives?
Army Pfc. Manningan intelligence analyst working in Iraq, beat the most serious charge against him: on Tuesday, a military judge acquitted him of aiding the enemy. This was the gravest of the 22 counts he faced, and the one that would have carried a possible life sentence without parole.
Government prosecutors attempted, and ultimately failed, to convince the judge that Manning clearly knew the information he leaked would likely reach operatives in Al-Qaeda.
But (and it’s a big but), the judge ruled that Manning had reason to believe the leaks would harm the U.S., even if that was not his intention, and convicted him of 19 of 22 charges. Manning now faces up to about 126 years in prison (although it’s likely to be much less). Sentencing takes place today (Wednesday). Continue reading
Rampant overfishing in the world’s oceans has led to a dramatic decline in big “predatory” fish populations — the one’s we eat, like tuna and cod – while creating an overabundance of small fish.
That’s according to data from a 2011 regression analysis by scientists at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre, who used more than 200 marine ecosystem models to show evidence that big fish populations dropped by more than two-thirds over the last century. More than half that decline occurred within the last 40 years.
“Overfishing has absolutely had a ‘when cats are away, the mice will play’ effect on our oceans,” said Dr Villy Christensen, who led the study. “By removing the large, predatory species from the ocean, small forage fish have been left to thrive.”
The Nature of Overfishing, a “web aquarium” created by graphic designer Sam Slover, cleverly visualizes this data. Slide the handle at the bottom of the graphic to see what a century of overfishing looks like beneath the surface.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently launched a nifty free interactive search tool that allows users to obtain basic demographic and economic statistics for every single congressional district in the United States. The expansive web-app uses the most recent data from the Census’ American Community Survey, an annual study that provides detailed statical portraits of communities across the country. Users can explore their own congressional districts for key data on demographics, jobs, housing characteristics, economic status, and education level. The one catch is that you have to know what congressional district you live in. But don’t fret! You can search for that right here, in yet another handy government web app.
Take it for a spin.
Location, location, location.
It can be a matter of life and death, according to a recent report published by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics. Presenting a snapshot of America’s overall wellness, researchers crunched health data from every county in the country (see interactive map below), and found that although Americans are exercising more and living longer, we still lag behind the world’s other high-income nations in longevity (the U.S ranks 51st in world), and that’s largely due to poor diet and over eating. Even with the increase in physical activity, obesity rates continue to rise in almost every county, and heart disease has remained the leading cause of death. Average life expectancy for American men is now 76, up from 67 four decades ago. And for women, it’s now 81, up from 76. These rates though vary dramatically from county to county, with socioeconomic status serving as one of the key determinants.
At 81 years, men in Fairfax, VA have the highest life expectancy in the country. But drive just 350 miles to McDowell County, WV and it drops to a just 64 years for men, on par with the African nation of Gambia (for men and women combined). Meanwhile, women in Marin County live to 85, on average, the country’s highest life expectancy (compared with the lowest, at 72, in Perry County, KY). In fact, as Kelly O’Mara and Olivia Hubert-Allen note in KQED’s News Fix, the Bay Area made out quite well in the report, with San Francisco ranking first in having the fewest obese men in the country.
Mouse over IHM’s incredibly detailed map to see how life expectancy rates and various health conditions in counties throughout the country have changed over the last three decades. Note that what you’ll see first is the health map from 1985. To see 2010 rates, use the time slider at the bottom of the graphic.
A Florida jury’s verdict earlier this month that acquitted George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, instantly fueled angry protests across the nation. From Atlanta to Oakland, demonstrators took to the streets, condemning the verdict as racially biased.
Despite the high visibility and widespread occurrence of these protests, however, the American public remains sharply divided in its reaction to the case, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted about a week after the verdict. The poll of 1,480 adults nationwide found that roughly as many respondents were satisfied with the verdict (39 percent) as were dissatisfied (42 percent). More than 50 percent of respondents said that the issue of race was receiving far more attention than it deserved, while only 36 percent said the case raised important questions of race that need to be discussed. Not surprisingly, the survey also found that public reaction was sharply divided along racial and partisan lines: a large majority of African-American respondents (86 percent) said they were dissatisfied with the verdict as compared to 30 percent of whites respondents. Meanwhile, only 22 percent of Democratic respondents said they were satisfied, as opposed to 61 percent of Republicans, and a whopping 80 percent of Tea Party Republicans.
Below are results to two of the survey’s main questions (graphically represented in different ways). Select an individual group and mouse over the charts to see percentages.
California’s statewide minimum wage is $8/hour. But in order to pay for basic living expenses, a single California resident with no children actually needs to make more like $11.20/hour. This is an estimate of what’s called a living wage.
Below are estimates of how much each adult in various-sized households needs to make in order to pay for basic monthly living expenses (with amounts based on statewide averages). These figures, and living wage calculations in general, are averages. The actual cost of things in California, of course, varies significantly, by region. Whereas rent in, say Stockton, might be lower than the average shown here, San Francisco’s average rent is, well, fuggedaboutit!
All estimates below are taken from a Living Wage Calculator created by Amy K. Glasmeier, a professor of urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Using the most updated government data, the calculator estimates average living wage expenses for every state and every county in the country (methodology explained beneath the chart).
Methodology (as explained by MIT’s Glasmeier):
“The calculator lists typical expenses, the living wage and typical wages for the selected location … The tool is designed to provide a minimum estimate of the cost of living for low wage families. The estimates do not reflect a middle class standard of living. The realism of the estimates depend on the type of community under study. Metropolitan counties are typically locations of high cost. In such cases, the calculator is likely to underestimate costs such as housing and child care. Consider the results a minimum cost threshold that serves as a benchmark, but only that. Users can substitute local data when available to generate more nuanced estimates. Adjustments to account for local conditions will provide greater realism and potentially increase the accuracy of the tool. As developed, the tool is meant to provide one perspective on the cost of living in America.”