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A collection of embedded short news clips, animations, commentary and originally-produced videos

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How Big Is the Wage Gap Between Women and Men?

Includes maps, videos, interactive charts
Courtesy of PBS

Courtesy of PBS

The wage gap between men and women has gradually narrowed in recent decades, but it remains significant.

According to the Obama Administration, full-time working woman in the US. make, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar that men make. At that rate, it’d take more than 60 additional days for a woman to earn what a man had made at the end of the previous year. Continue reading

Eight Short Videos to Help Make Some Sense of the Conflict in Ukraine

Includes videos

So much for the “spirit of international brotherhood” that the Olympics was supposed to inspire.

The crisis in Ukraine has reached a boiling point, with tensions between the United States and Russia at a level not seen since the Cold War. But in spite of the sometimes alarmist deluge of round-the-clock media coverage, it’s surprisingly challenging to sift through the noise and get a good grip on what’s actually going on. These seven short videos do a good job getting to the point and explaining specific aspects of the confrontation.

The latest developments (as of March 16)


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The Math of Credit Card Debt, Explained

Includes animated video

Beware the lure of that plastic in your wallet!

According to the Federal Reserve data, the average indebted U.S. household in 2013 shouldered credit card debt of more than $15,000 (although that figure is skewed by a relatively small number of extremely debt-ridden families). While U.S. credit card debt has fallen since the height of the recent recession, and pales in comparison to average mortgage debt (about $148,000) and student loan debt (about $32,000), it still remains a major burden for millions of U.S. consumers who cumulatively owe upwards of $850 billion to credit card companies.

So how do credit cards actually work? And more importantly, how do the credit card companies make their millions from all your swipes? Animator Josh Kurz explains.


Josh Kurz started out as an embryo, 53 times smaller than a US nickel. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, he began at an early age fusing the abstract concepts of science and comedy. Now he works as an independent filmmaker specializing in humorous science explainers ranging from the economics of voting to why some people (like he himself) hate cilantro. His work has been featured on WGBH, ABC, PBS, NPR, TEDed, and Radiolab.

What Are Your Odds of Winning the Lottery?

By Joe Golling

If you gamble on faith — not on odds — you might want to stop reading this now. Because the chances of winning just about any big stakes lottery game — like Mega Millions  — is just north of impossible. Let’s take Powerball, for instance. Odds of winning the jackpot: about 1 in 175 million. By comparison, your odds of getting hit by lightening — a presumably less favorable outcome — are significantly higher. So, be sure to take shelter during thunderstorms, and, if you play the lottery: you might not want to quit your day job just yet. But hey, you never know, right? People win all the time. In this animation and accompanying infographic, animator Joe Golling explains how to calculate the mathematical possibilities of buying the winning ticket.

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The Math of Trash: A Music Video

Includes animated video

How much trash do you think you produce in a day? How about a year?

It adds up a lot faster than you might  think — especially in the United States, which collectively generates more garbage — or municipal waste — than any other nation on earth. With only five percent of the world’s population, America creates roughly 25 percent of the planet’s waste. On average, each American produces more than seven pounds of trash a day (or 2,555 pounds a year) according to a recent Columbia University survey. That’s a big pile of garbage, and it’s the cause of some unsettling consequences. But it’s also great fodder for a catchy animated music video, composed by the folks at Explainer Music for The Lowdown.
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In One-Day Strike, Fast-Food Workers Demand A Living Wage

Includes video
wage_hike_pic

Workers and advocates demonstrate outside of a McDonald’s in Oakland last summer. (Flickr/Steve Rhodes)

Fast-food workers at restaurants in more than 100 cities across the country, including Oakland and other East Bay cities, are walking off the the job today in a push for a major wage hike.

Backed by organized labor, the one-day actions are part of a year-old campaign to highlight the difficulties low-wage workers face in paying for basic living costs.

Following on the heels of similar protests last summer, demonstrators are demanding a wage of $15 an hour, a significant — though unlikely — raise from the current average fast-food industry wage of less than $9 an hour. Continue reading

Six Good Resources to Help Make Some Sense of Iran’s Nuclear Agreement

Includes resource roundup

Secretary of State John Kerry and leaders from five other world powers reached a temporary agreement early Sunday with Iran on its controversial nuclear program. The deal, good for six months while a more conclusive arrangement is negotiated, is intended to curb the development of Iran’s nuclear program. In exchange, there will be an easing of international sanctions against Iran, that have long crippled its economy. Although criticized by Israel and a host other nations that remain highly skeptical of Iran’s intentions, the deal has been hailed as a historic diplomatic breakthrough, a step forward after roughly a decade of failed negotiations. Continue reading

The Math of Percentages and Discounts Explained in Three Animated Acts

Includes animated videos

Part I: The Basics

Quick shopping quiz:

That $130 pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing for weeks is now marked down 20 percent. To sweeten the deal, you have a coupon for 10 percent off your entire purchase. In other words, you’re looking at a discount of: 10% off 20% off $130.

So … how much would you end up paying?

Percentages. You can run, you can hide … but they’ll find you.

From sports to the news, to — most importantly — shopping, they are pretty hard to avoid. And if you’re among the 80 percent of our population who doesn’t really understand the math behind percentages (OK, so maybe I just made that percentage up), then you’re missing out on a whole bunch of important information (fabulous shopping discounts included). In these three short videos, animator and explainer extraordinaire Josh Kurz, breaks down the basic math behind common percentage conundrums.

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The Debt Ceiling: What Is it, Why Do We Have It and What Do We Owe?

Includes images, video and charts
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This is what U.S. federal debt looks like in physical dollars (and bear in mind that today’s debt has grown to more than $17 tirllion). Image by demonocracy.info

And here I was just starting to get my government shutdown groove on.

I mean, without the thrill of waking up every morning to the debt default doomsday machine ticking down to the brink of economic catastrophe, life honestly seems a bit mundane. At least Congress didn’t go too nuts and actually resolve the issue;  they just went ahead and did what any rational group of people do when confronted with a difficult situation: they put it off for another day — you know, kicked the can down the road. Anyone smell a sequel? (And yes, I’ve already reserved front row tickets for Round 2 in January. I hear it’s gonna be awesome. My sources tell me that before the final death match, John Boehner reveals himself as President Obama’s real father).

But seriously … With the stroke of a pen, the government sputtered back to life last Thursday morning after Obama and Congress ended a 16-day political standoff that had left large swaths of the federal government shuttered and put the U.S. at risk of losing it’s ability to borrow money. The compromise allows federal agencies to resume operations, reopen public facilities and abruptly end the unpaid staycations of hundreds of thousands of furloughed employees. Continue reading