RECENT POSTS

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

Is It Time To Raise The Federal Minimum Wage?

Includes interactive maps, video, audio
Source: NPR

Source: NPR

 

Much of President Obama’s State of the Union address last Tuesday centered on the theme of boosting America’s dwindling middle class.

“It’s our generation’s task,” he implored, “to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.”

Among the more tangible policies mentioned that evening to further that objective,  the president proposed raising the federal minimum wage – from $7.25 per hour to $9 by the end of 2015 –  and provide for annual cost of living adjustments. (This would apply to most hourly jobs, with some exceptions, including some tip-based work.)

“Let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty,” he said. “Working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up, while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Gov. Romney and I actually agreed on last year: Let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.” Continue reading

A Map of Everyone in America (and Canada)

Includes interactive map
Brandon Martin-Anderson Public Domain

Brandon Martin-Anderson Public Domain

Even if dorking out on maps isn’t your idea of a good time, this one’s definitely worth a look.

It’s a dot map of every person counted by the 2010 US and 2011 Canadian censuses. 341,817,095 unique individuals, to be exact. And each person – every last man, woman, and child – is represented by a single point (click “show labels” at right to see location names as well).

It’s like pointillism on steroids (take that, Georges Seurat!).

The map is the handiwork of software engineer Brandon Martin-Anderson, who says he sought to produce “an image of human settlement patterns unmediated by proxies like city boundaries, arterial roads and state lines.”

Zoom into the areas that look like big smudges and you’ll see that they’re actually heavily concentrated dots denoting large population centers.

So what does this map tell us? Continue reading

The Geography of U.S. Gun Homicides

Includes interactive map

Explore the map below for detailed figures on each state’s firearms-related homicide rates for 2010 and 2011. For every state except Alabama and Florida (which post their own records), data are taken from FBI records. The darker the shade of blue, the greater the number of gun homicides in a state for every 100,000 residents living there.

In 2011, the highest gun homicide rate (per 100,000 residents) in the nation was, ironically, in the city where the nation’s gun control laws are decided: Washington, D.C. The rate there was 12.4 (actually down from 2010). A close second was Louisiana, with a rate of 10, followed by Mississippi, with 7.4. California, the most populous state, has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country as well as the greatest number of overall homicides (1,790) and the most gun-related murders (1,220). In 2011, the state had a gun homicide rate of 3.25 (per 100,000 residents).

Sources:

National: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table-20

Alabama: http://www.acjic.alabama.gov/

Florida: http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/Content/getdoc/332e1b3d-2648-4b06-8be5-d322f340c95d/1971_fwd_murder_firearms.aspx

The United States of Firearms: America’s Love of the Gun

Includes data visualizations and video

Regardless of where you stand on gun control, the fact remains that America is one gun-toting country. There are 89 guns for every 100 civilians, according to the 2011 Small Arms Survey. That amounts to roughly 270 million guns owned nationwide, far and away the highest gun ownership rate in the world. With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. is home to anywhere between 35 and 50 percent of all civilian-owned guns on earth.

Created by Simon Rogers at the Guardian (click to explore interactively)

 

And while America certainly does not have the highest firearms-related homicide rate in the world (it ranks 28th), our rate is more than four times that of any other industrialized country (including all of Europe, Japan, Australia, Turkey and India): in 2011,  there were well over 9,000 gun-related homicides (nearly 70 percent of all homicides committed), or roughly three per 100,000 population, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. That’s about 20 times the average rate of all other developed nations, according to the Washington Post.

Max Fisher_The Washington Post (source: UNODC; using 2010 data)

In contrast, Great Britain has a gun ownership rate of about 6 guns for every 100 civilians. Last year it had 41 gun-related homicides, or .07 per 100,000 population. Meanwhile, Finland, where there are 45 guns per 100 civilians, had only 24 gun homicides in 2011, a rate of .45 per 100,000 population.

 

Simon Rogers_The Guardian

The infographic below, produced by Good Magazine and Column Five, further illustrates America’s deep and exceptional love affair with the gun.

Editor’s Note: The U.S. rate of gun ownership was previously stated incorrectly: there are 89 guns for every 100 civilians (NOT: 89 out of 100 civilians own a gun).