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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.

In this audio slideshow, part of a photo essay project in the New Yorker, photographer Matt Black captures powerful images from the thirsty Central Valley, California’s breadbasket, and the farmers struggling to keep their crops alive. The excellent infographics below that, by Alex Park and Julia Lurie of Mother Jones (and re-posted with permission), give a glimpse of just how much agriculture is produced here and the amount of water required to grow it.

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Ebola: A Collection of Multimedia Teaching Resources

A health worker sprays the sole of a colleague’s shoes at an Ebola Isolation Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo by Staton Winter, United Nations


A health worker sprays the sole of a colleague’s shoes at an Ebola Isolation Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo by Staton Winter, United Nations

Since the Ebola outbreak claimed its first victim more than nine months ago, an estimated 5,000 people in five West African nations have been infected, and nearly half of them have died. It’s the worst Ebola outbreak on record; it’s been wreaking havoc for months, but until recently, has been largely overlooked by the international community.

That changed in early August, when the first American to contract the virus was brought back to the United States for treatment. And this week, President Obama announced plans to provide support. Continue reading

Words of Warcraft: How Presidents Wage War

Includes videos

President Obama’s address on Wednesday authorizing U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIL or ISIS) in Syria, was a sobering reminder of the immense power bestowed on the Commander in Chief to single-handedly order military action.

Like his address last September threatening the use of military force against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (a threat that never materialized),  Obama’s most recent speech was the latest in a long history of solemn presidential declarations of war and authorizations of lesser military action.

Since World War II, the United States’ increasingly large and powerful military has been quite busy, to say the least, consistently involved in conflicts around the world. In little over half a century, American forces have fought in five all-out wars (Korea, Vietnam, the first war in Iraq, Afghanistan and the second war in Iraq) and been involved in many additional smaller military invasions.

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How 9/11 Changed America: Four Major Lasting Impacts

Includes videos
Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Thirteen years ago the United States wasn’t officially engaged in any foreign wars. We deported half the number of people we do today. Our surveillance state was a mere fraction of its current size. And — hard as it might be to believe — getting through airport security didn’t involve removing your shoes.

America’s involvement in the War on Terror — spurred by the 9/11 terrorist attacks — resulted in changing attitudes and concerns about safety and vigilance, ushering in a new generation of policies like the USA Patriot Act that prioritized national security and defense, often at the expense of civil liberties. The changes have had ripple effects across the globe, particularly in the Middle East, where American military operations have influenced rebellions and unrest throughout the region.

Four of the most dramatic domestic transformations brought on by the events of 9/11 are detailed below.

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The Chilling Effect: Why San Francisco Gets So Foggy in the Summer

Includes video and interactives

Note: This post was originally published on May 20, 2014

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Mark Twain may never have actually said it himself, but that doesn’t make the statement any less true.  Continue reading

What is Inflation and Why Does it Happen? [An Animated Explainer]

Includes videos

Inflation. We hear about it an awful lot. But what’s it actually mean? What causes it? And why is grandpa always complaining about stuff getting more expensive? Stop motion guru Josh Kurz explains it all in this two-part video (you can also watch the whole thing as a single video here).

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World Cup Basics Explained Really Fast (Including the Slack Rules of Stoppage Time)

Includes video and interactive map

Correction: Several readers astutely pointed out that the map below of qualifying teams in the 2014 World Cup had inaccurately labeled Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as part of the English national team. Big faux pas! While part of Great Britain, these three are undoubtedly distinct from England — which has already been ousted from the tournament. Each have their own national teams (none qualified for the Cup this year), and for reasons of historic and cultural rivalry, often support England’s opponents. The map’s boundaries have been updated accordingly. And to all you Scots, Welsh and residents of Northern Ireland (and their die-hard fans): mea culpa.

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How Chinese Memes Circumvented Censorship on Tiananmen Square Anniversary

Includes photo and video

UPDATE: The rubber duck meme was NOT censored this year (only in 2013). Even the most subversive memes, it turns out, have limited shelf life.

Yellow-rubber-duck-008

Tanks are replaced by giant ducks in this photoshopped version of the iconic Tienanmen Square image that was posted on a popular Chinese microblog last year before being removed by censors.

It’s safe to say it was the first time the term “Big Yellow Duck” had ever been censored.

But had you searched for it (in Chinese) on June 4 last year on Sina Weibo, China’s biggest microblog site, a message would tell you it couldn’t be shown “according to relevant laws, statutes and policies.”

So what gives?

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Old Enough to Drive, Too Young to Vote: Rethinking America’s Voting Age Limits

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Flickr/Liz the Librarian

They all pay sales tax. They have to abide by the same laws as everyone else. And many are old enough to work and get behind the wheel. But for teenagers under 18, the right to vote remains elusive.

And that’s not fair say many student rights groups across the country who for years have pushed to lower America’s voting age to 16. In a nation with notoriously low levels of voter turnout, advocates argue, allowing more young people to vote would boost civic participation and give students a much needed voice.

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