“There’s never been an America, but rather several Americas—each a distinct nation. There are eleven nations today. Each looks at violence, as well as everything else, in its own way.” That’s according to author and Portland Press Herald reporter Colin Woodward. In a recent Tufts Magazine article – and in greater detail in his book American Nations — Woodard argues that much of North America can be neatly divided into 11 separate nation-states — from Yankeedom and the Far West, to the Left Coast and the Deep South — each shaped heavily by its unique geography and dominant ethnicities, Shaped since the early days of settlement, the distinct cultures of these regions, he notes, are determinate factors in a wide range of social and political positions, from voting patterns to attitudes on government and violence. Continue reading →
Looking for an apartment to rent in San Francisco?
Last year, the City by the Bay earned the dubious distinction of having America’s most expensive rental market, beating out longtime heavyweight New York. Due in part to the surge in the region’s tech-fueled jobs market (some “friend” indeed, Zuckerberg!) and the city’s longstanding shortage of affordable housing units, the spike has led to jaw-dropping rents, with the median monthly rate of a mere studio at more than $2,200 a month, according to apartmentlist.com. Continue reading →
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 →
Includes interactive map of life expectancy rates throughout the U.S.
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.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court let California proceed with same-sex marriages, making it the eleventh state where gay couples can legally wed. The court’s ruling, however, does not impact marriage laws in the remaining 39 states that haven’t extended marriage rights. While public support for same-sex marriage has grown steadily, the U.S still has a long way to go before it joins the ranks of the 16 other countries — spanning five continents — that have enacted national same-sex marriage laws. In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize the practice. More recent additions include, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand and France, which all changed amended their laws this year (in Uruguay and New Zealand the law doesn’t go into effect until August).
England is the latest country to join the fold. On July 15 British lawmakers passed legislation — which the Queen Elizabeth officially approved — that will enable same-sex marriages to commence in England and Wales.
The map above shows the 16 countries with national same-sex marriage laws. Not included are the U.S. and Mexico, where same-sex marriage is legal in only certain jurisdictions.
A simple cotton T-shirt doesn’t seem quite so simple when you try to trace the vast global process involved in making it.
The extraordinary success of fast fashion giants like H&M, Zana and Forever 21 lies squarely in the ability to produce a massive amount of clothing – billions of garments a year – in the cheapest, quickest way possible. It seems pretty counterintuitive that the least expensive way to make a shirt is to buy cotton grown in Texas, mill and dye it in China, manufacture it in Bangladesh, and then ship it half a world away to an H&M or Gap store in San Francisco. But when you factor in the dramatically lower labor and material costs offered by suppliers in developing countries, this kind of global supply chain model begins to make more sense. Continue reading →
As part of a collaboration with the National Writing Project, this is the first in a series of teacher-created educator guides on key topical issues. Written by two NWP-affiliated high school English and media arts teachers – Kirsten Spall of Natomas Charter High School (Sacramento) and Chris Sloan of Judge Memorial Catholic School (Salt Lake City) – the guide helps teachers explore and navigate the highly-charged political and emotional issues behind the topic of gun control. Based on content featured on The Lowdown, the guide provides ideas for integrating the issues into English language arts and social studies curriculum. It includes Common Core Standards Alignment, a synopsis of key background information, integration tips, and lists of issue pros and cons, creative writing prompts and best classroom practices.
A roadside sign just north of the Tijuana border crossing. (Credit: Flickr/Jonathon Mcintosh)
What’s the plan for America’s 11.1 million undocumented immigrants?
It’s the million dollar question, and the most divisive element of the Senate’s sprawling new effort to overhaul the country’s messy immigration system. After months of painstaking negotiation, a bipartisan group of senators, known as the “Gang of Eight”, recently unveiled a proposal to — among other things — create a path to citizenship for the millions who live here in the shadows. But legislators have made abundantly clear that this proposal is a far cry from “amnesty”. The path they outlined for almost all the undocumented (except for young “DREAMers” who would be on a streamlined 5-year path) is a tedious, decade-plus-long process full of steep hurdles and strict conditions, in which citizenship is a distant destination at the end of a long journey. Continue reading →
When it comes to America’s eclectic patchwork of voting laws, there is certainly no lack of variety. Rules often vary dramatically from one state to another, and voting in some areas is a significantly harder feat than in others.
Take Virginia and West Virginia. While the latter doesn’t require any ID to vote, its neighbor to the east has one of the strictest ID laws in the nation. And while Virginia permanently strips certain types of violent ex-felons from voting, ex-felons in West Virgina convicted of the same exact crimes can regain the right to vote after completion of their parole.
To add to the confusion, a number of states have recently attempted to dramatically change their own rules on voter ID requirements, resulting in a constantly changing set of laws that can often leave voters feeling baffled and unprepared as elections approach (see examples at the bottom).
In February, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a challenge to a provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a landmark law that is widely considered among the most effective and successful pieces of U.S. civil rights legislation. At issue is a provision in the law called Section 5 that applies only to specific parts of the country with a history of discriminatory voting practices. It covers nine states, mainly in the South, plus regions within seven other states (including California). The law requires that all covered areas receive approval from the U.S. Justice Department before implementing any changes to voting laws.
The map below helps sort through the hodgepodge of individual state laws that determine who can vote. We’ve ranked and color-coded each state by the severity of its voting laws (taking voter ID, felon voting, early voting, and Section 5 into account). See the notes below the map for explanations on asterisked states that have recently changed laws, are waiting for federal approval to do so, or just happen to have their own unique rules.
Remember that “binders full of women” comment made by Mitt Romney in the second presidential debate last October?
That infamous blunder – the subject of countless tweets and memes – was in response to a question about gender wage disparities, an issue that still receives relatively little political attention despite its prevalence. Continue reading →