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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

Includes video
Yellow-rubber-duck-008

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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Who Made Your T-Shirt? The Hidden Cost of Cheap Fashion

Includes video/audio clips and infographics

(Photo by Art Cummings/Flickr)

 

Everyone likes a good deal.

And for that reason, most of us have flocked to clothing stores like H&M and Old Navy for the unbelievably cheap and expansive selection they offer.

T-shirts for five bucks; jeans and dresses for under $20. It’s almost like you can’t afford to not buy it.

Clothing is cheaper now than it’s ever been: today average Americans spend less than four percent of their total income on their wardrobes, about half what was spent 50 years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s almost cheaper today to buy a whole new wardrobe than to pay to wash your old one (a bit of an exaggeration, yes, but really not all that far off).

But you know the saying that there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Same thing goes with your $5 t-shirt – it comes with some steep hidden costs. There’s no possible way retailers like H&M could be making billions in profits selling clothing at such low prices without there being some catch.

So what are we, the consumers, not seeing?

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The Bomb That Shook San Francisco A Century Ago

Includes primary source video
Mooney

A mural by Anton Refregier depicting San Francisco’s 1916 bombing and the two men wrongfully accused of the act. The mural is on public display at San Francisco’s Rincon Center.

 

Although incredibly infrequent, bombings in crowded public places are unfortunately not a new phenomenon in America. This week’s Boston Marathon explosion harkens back to an often forgotten local tragedy nearly 100 years ago, when a bomb tore through downtown San Francisco during a major public event, killing 10 people and leaving scores of others seriously wounded.

The Preparedness Day Bombing, as it became known, was the worst act of terrorism in San Francisco’s history. It occurred just after 2 p.m on July 22, 1916 during a huge San Francisco parade that had been organized to drum up public support for the United States’ imminent entry into World War I. Not long after the 50,000 person march began, a huge blast echoed through the streets, set off by a pipe bomb filled with explosives and steel slugs that was hidden inside a suitcase and placed near the intersection of Steuart and Market streets, a stone’s throw from the Ferry Building. 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

How Did Prop. 8 Get to the Supreme Court? Tracking the Winding Path of Justice

Includes multimedia presentation

On March 26, the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban. Since voters approved the measure in 2008, there has been a dizzying string of state and federal court cases and appeals (and that, of course, doesn’t include the many years of political wrangling over the issue before Prop. 8 passed). Now the decision is in the hands of the High Court’s nine justices. But how did it go all the way from a California ballot measure to a Supreme Court case that could have a huge national impact? This presentation walks you through the many steps of the multi-tiered justice system that Prop. 8 had to pass through on its way to the highest court in the land.

Beneath the presentation is a diagram by the NY Times illustrating the various outcomes of the case.

Note: the presentation is best viewed in full-screen mode; use the arrows to advance and zoom in/out on any text or image

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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.

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The Sequester Explained in Plain English

Includes video and charts

Well, it’s official:

The U.S. has entered the dreaded sequester, a very costly consequence of the federal government failing to reach a budget deal by their self-imposed deadline (March 1). This is one for the history books –  the largest, automatic across the board spending cuts in American history.

But if this latest government crisis hasn’t been keeping you up at night, you’re certainly not alone. A recent study found that the vast majority of Americans have paid little to no attention as the sequester drew near; many dismissed it as a poorly made sequel to last year’s more compelling fiscal cliff thriller (along the lines of the The Hangover Part II, if you will).

But despite the lack of popular interest, the sequester is actually a pretty big deal – and real pain will be felt. While it won’t lead to across the board tax hikes – as the fiscal cliff threatened to do – it will result in sweeping cuts to government services that millions of Americans rely on.

In the days leading up to the deadline, Obama referred to the sequester as “a meat cleaver approach” to reducing the deficit, making dire warnings about the damage it would inflict on the economy and individual states.

“Across the board spending cuts mean that hundreds of thousands of Americans won’t get services they rely on from the government,” he said.

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