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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

Explaining Insurance Exchanges and Other Sexy Healthcare Lingo

Includes video animations

I’m going to go out on a limb here in suggesting that the nitty gritty of the Affordable Care Act may not be the most exciting topic of conversation. But now, even as the government settles into shutdown mode, state insurance exchanges across the country are opening their virtual doors for business, offering a healthcare marketplace to the million of uninsured Americans. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation produced this series of short animated explainers on some of the central components of the law and the programs it establishes. These are concepts that get thrown around a lot in the news but are pretty hard to grasp. So take a look (and just maybe, you’ll be the hit of the cocktail party). Also, check out KQED’s comprehensive interactive Obamacare guide to explore the topic in greater depth.

Health Insurance Exchanges

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Animated Explainer: What’s All The Fuss About Fracking in California?

Includes animations and map

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to create California’s first set of regulations on hydraulic fracturing. The controversial extraction technique, commonly known as fracking, involves the high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals into deep shale formations in order to create fractures that release reserves of oil or natural gas.

While fracking operations in the Northeast generally extract natural gas, in California, oil is the big prize. Continue reading

“Yet Another Mass Shooting” in America

Includes video

Note: The original version of this post stated that there have been 43 mass shootings in 25 states since 2009. These numbers have been updated to reflect a revised version of the study referred to below.

The massacre of 12 people Monday morning at a navy yard in the nation’s capital was exceedingly tragic but also alarmingly familiar.

“We are confronting yet another mass shooting,” President Obama said wearily in a briefing later that day.

A study published in January by the gun control advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns*  found that more than 50 mass shootings in 30 states have occurred since Obama took office in January 2009. A sizable uptick from previous years, that’s a rate of more than one per month with an average of six fatalities per incident  (in which a “mass shooting” is defined as an incident where four or more people are killed). And even since that report was published, several lesser-covered mass shootings have occurred n 2013.  Continue reading

Fast-Food Workers Fight for A Living Wage

Includes infographic and video

Steve Rhodes/Flickr

As it turns out, a lot of the workers who make Happy Meals aren’t actually all that happy about it.

It was a sentiment made abundantly clear in late August during a wave of one-day walkouts, in which thousands of fast-food workers around the country took to the streets to demand higher wages and the opportunity to join a union. Spurred by protests in New York that began last November, and supported by the Service Employees International Union, the demonstrations took place in front of about 1,000 restaurants – from McDonald’s and Burger King to Kentucky Fried Chicken and Subway — in 60 cities throughout the country. Continue reading

Bradley Manning Verdict Explained

Includes video
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted by military police as he leaves the first day of closing arguments in his military trial July 25, 2013, in Fort Meade, Md. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted by military police as he leaves the first day of closing arguments in his military trial July 25, 2013, in Fort Meade, Md. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Note: Some of the following information is based on Associated Press coverage

Bradley Manning was acquitted, but he’s still guilty. What gives?

Army Pfc. Manningan intelligence analyst working in Iraq, beat the most serious charge against him: on Tuesday, a military judge acquitted him of aiding the enemy. This was the gravest of the 22 counts he faced, and the one that would have carried a possible life sentence without parole.

Government prosecutors attempted, and ultimately failed, to convince the judge that Manning clearly knew  the information he leaked would likely reach operatives in Al-Qaeda.

But (and it’s a big but), the judge ruled that Manning had reason to believe the leaks would harm the U.S., even if that was not his intention, and convicted him of 19 of 22 charges. Manning now faces up to about 126 years in prison (although it’s likely to be much less). Sentencing takes place today (Wednesday). Continue reading

Explaining the NSA Spy Plan: A Media Roundup

Includes video

For news hounds and conspiracy theorists alike, the past few days have been about as good as it gets.

A series of groundbreaking news stories, one published by the British paper The Guardian, the second by the The Guardian and the Washington Post, uncovered two top-secret U.S. government surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency, both aimed at collecting massive amounts of personal communications data. The findings have reignited the age-old debate over privacy and security. Civil libertarians – an interesting mix of key outspoken conservatives and liberals (yes, Rand Paul, Al Gore, and the ACLU are on the same page on this one) – expressed outrage over privacy invasions and government overreach, while President Barack Obama and a similarly unique blend of conservative and liberal government officials are defending the programs as a “critical tool” for rooting out potential terrorist activity and protecting American lives. Continue reading

Censorship, Creative Resistance and Giant Ducks Mark Tiananmen Square Anniversary

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


It’s probably the first time that any government has ever censored the term “Big Yellow Duck”.

But if you search for it (in Chinese) on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblog, a message tells you that results can’t be shown “according to relevant laws, statutes and policies.”

“Today”, “Tonight”,   “June 4″, and “Anniversary” are also among the many blocked words and terms on the Twitter-like site, which has more than half a billion registered users in China (Twitter is blocked there).

So what gives? Continue reading

Why America Stopped Making Its Own Clothes

Includes data visualization and video

Try this on for size:

In 1960, an average American household spent over 10 percent of its income on clothing and shoes – equivalent to roughly $4,000 today. The average person bought fewer than 25 garments each year. And about 95 percent of those clothes were made in the United States.

Fast forward half a century.

Today, the average American household spends less than 3.5 percent of its budget on clothing and shoes – under $1,800. Yet, we buy more clothing than ever before: nearly 20 billion garments a year, close to 70 pieces of clothing per person, or more than one clothing purchase per week.

Oh, and guess how much of that is made in the U.S.: about 2 percent.

Browse through the timeline below to see how dramatically the cost and origin of our clothing has changed. And then continue reading to find out why.

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