RECENT POSTS

Shopping Math: Percentages and Discounts Explained in Three Animated Videos

Includes animated videos

If you find yourself doing some frantic, last minute holiday shopping this weekend, you’re likely to run head-first into a stew of math.

Take that $130 pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing. Let’s say Macy’s just marked it down 20%. And on top of that, you’ve got a coupon for 10% off your entire purchase. So, you’re looking at a sweet discount of 10% off 20% off $130.

So … how much are those shoes going to cost you?

From sports to the news, to — most importantly — shopping, percentages are hard to avoid. To help make sense of it all, animator-explainer extraordinaire Josh Kurz breaks down the basic math behind everyday percentage conundrums (including the answer to this question).

Part I: The Basics

Continue reading

A History of Tension: 50 Years of U.S.-Cuba Relations [Interactive Timeline]

Courtesy of the Center on Foreign Relations

Break out the cigars (the good ones)!

The United States will restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, ending 50 years of Cold War hostilities between the two nations, President Obama announced Wednesday. The news comes after the release of an American aid worker who had been held in a Cuban prison for the last five years on charges of espionage. It was part of a deal negotiated over 18 months of secret talks between the two nations, and with the support of Pope Francis.

In a recent telephone call, Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed to play nice. As part of the deal, Obama will use his executive authority to ease restrictions on Cuban travel and trade, and establish an embassy in Havana. Although the president lacks the power to completely end the 50-year trade embargo with Cuba (doing so requires an act of Congress), these actions are big step in that direction.

Continue reading

Everything You Wanted To Know About Grand Juries (But Were Afraid To Ask)

Confused about grand juries? You’re probably not alone.

A New York grand jury in early December voted to not criminally charge a white police officer in the choking death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man. The decision came just 10 days after a Missouri grand jury declined to charge Darren Wilson, also a white police officer, in the shooting death of Michael Brown — also an unarmed black man. Both decisions stoked outrage and protests in New York and Ferguson, Missouri, where the respective deaths occurred, and there have been continued protests in other cities across the nation, including Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco.

In the tsunami of media reports and analysis following the two decisions, reporters and commentators have dropped legalese like it’s a universally understood dialect (and yes, I recognize the irony of using the word “legalese,” which is itself kind of legalese). Truth is, the law can be super complicated and obscure, and — speaking for myself here — a lot of legal terms and procedures that we news folk are wont to use aren’t always so frequently understood.
Continue reading

The Race Gap in Bay Area Police Departments

Circles in the map below are scaled according to the number of sworn officers in each police department. As shown in the blue legend at bottom, the shade of each circle indicates the size of the race gap between the police force (sworn officers) and the population; the darker the circle, the larger the gap. General population demographics are sourced from the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau; police force demographics are based on the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ police force questionnaire from 2007 (see below the map for additional notes and methodology).

Continue reading

Pulled Over: Your Rights with the Police [An Illustrated Guide]

A Missouri grand jury’s decision on Monday to not charge a white police officer in the August shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, sparked angry protests in cities around the country.

The incident, which happened last August in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, was followed by weeks of protests and rioting, drawing national attention to the issue of police force, particularly in low-income communities of color, where arrest rates are often disproportionately high and relations between law enforcement and residents are frequently tense and mistrustful. It also underscored the importance of understanding your rights if stopped by the police, and knowing how to act appropriately during these interactions to help avoid potentially dangerous confrontations. Cartoon journalist Andy Warner explains the rules of engagement (source links below). Continue reading

Why California’s Drought is America’s Problem

Despite a few recent downpours, California remains stuck in one of the most severe statewide droughts on record.

But it’s far from just California’s problem. The state produces a huge percentage of the nation’s agriculture — nearly half of all fruits, vegetables and nuts, by some estimates. And that requires a massive amount of water: farms here use about 80 percent of the state’s developed water supply.

Much is riding on the upcoming rainy season. Because if not enough water remains valuable for farmers to adequately irrigate their land, the impact will likely be felt far beyond the state’s borders.
Continue reading

Is Immigration Reform on the Horizon? [Animated Explainer]

Remember when U.S. immigration reform seemed like it was finally in the cards?

That was so 2013.

The brief burst of fanfare following passage of the Senate’s comprehensive bill last year faded quickly when the debate hit the bitterly divided House, where prospects for getting anything done have now been all but extinguished.

Continue reading

Majority Rules: California’s Proposition System Explained [Infographic]

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, propositions are an entrenched part of California’s political system. In nearly every statewide election, voters wade through a slurry of local and statewide ballot measures, part of a system intended to expand direct democracy. Some are really complicated, some are controversial, and some are just kind of weird (like when voters passed Prop 6 in 1998, making it a felony for anyone to use a horse for meat — including a pony, donkey or mule, or this year’s failed effort to get a measure on the ballot to split California into six states). In next week’s midterm election, Californians will decide on six statewide propositions, in addition to a likely host of county and local measures.

So how do propositions actually make it onto the ballot? What are the different types? And what exactly is a referendum anyway? Comic journalist Andy Warner demystifies the Golden State’s century-old process.  Continue reading

A Modern History of Voting Rights (in Three Illustrated Acts)

Includes illustrated infographics

VRAThe upcoming midterms marks the first major nationwide election since the Supreme Court struck down a key piece of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. The 2013 decision had an immediate impact, giving a handful of primarily southern states the green light to change their voting rules without first getting approval from the federal government. Continue reading