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Health Map: Where You Live Can Determine How Long You Live

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.

Map: In Legalizing Gay Marriage, England Joins Growing International Community

Includes map

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.

Where Does Your T-Shirt Come From? Follow Its Global Journey

Includes interactive visualization (Prezi)

Best viewed in full screen mode

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

11 Million Strong: Counting America’s Undocumented Immigrants

Includes interactive map
Credit: Flickr/Jonathon Mcintosh

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

America’s Mass Shooting Dilemma

Includes interactive map
Source: Mother Jones

Source: Mother Jones

In the last 30 years, there have been at least 62 mass shootings in 30 states, from Hawaii to Massachusetts.

That’s according to reporting by Mother Jones, which produced a comprehensive series examining gun deaths and gun control in America (in which mass shootings are defined as incidents where four or more people are murdered in a public place).

Next week, the U.S. Senate begins debate on a set of gun control proposals that came about largely in response to the horrific mass shootings last December at Sandy Hook. While lawmakers remain fiercely divided on the issue, there remains, at least, a general acknowledgement that mass shootings happen far too frequently in this country, and that action of some kind is needed to prevent future tragedies of such magnitude. Continue reading

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

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.

Continue reading

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

Are States With Tough Gun Laws Actually Safer?

Includes interactives and video

Source: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Gun control advocates say yes. Gun rights folks beg to differ.

Big surprise on that one.

Source: Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, an advocacy group pushing for tougher regulations, assigned every state a grade based on 29 different policy approaches to regulating firearms and ammunition. California topped the list with an A-. New York, which now requires background checks for ammunition sales, has since surpassed it in the toughness of its gun laws. It’s the first state to enact such legislation following the Newtown shooting. And  efforts in a handful of other states — including California and Colorado —  to strengthen gun laws are already underway. Continue reading