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

California Voting Got You Down? Check Out This Interactive Election Guide

Let’s face it: voting in California can be downright daunting. Ballots are typically long and confusing, with lots of complicated propositions and non-sexy political races that you might not feel fully prepared — or interested — in weighing in on. And this being a midterm election, voter participation is expected to drop significantly from 2012. That said, there are some pretty important local and statewide issues at stake.

Despite the political fatigue most of us likely feel from the season’s less-than-charming barrage of campaign ads and mailings, it really is in our best interest, as voters, to study up and make informed decisions at the polls — lest we find ourselves with leaders and laws we never bargained for. To get you prepped for the statewide races, KQED’s Election Watch 2014 team prepared this nifty — and objective — campaign guide that explains everything from what a controller does to the politics of medical malpractice. Read up and take it with you to the polls (on your device or printed out). Don’t worry, it’s not considered cheating.

How Republicans and Democrats Differ on 11 Key National Issues

Includes PDF and interactive chart

Ah, election season. How I love thee.

In the tsunami of allegations and attack ads marking the run-up to November’s hotly contested midterm races, it’s easy to lose track (and interest) of what the candidates and their political parties actually stand for, and just how much is at stake. Midterm elections generally garner far less attention than presidential contests, leaving a huge segment of eligible voters in America largely uniformed and disinterested about outcomes. Perhaps most consequential in this election is the fate of the U.S. Senate, which Democrats stand to lose to control of.

The question, then, is so what? Are America’s two ruling political parties really all that different from each other?

Short answer: yes.

Browse through the official platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties (adopted in 2012), and you’ll notice some pretty extreme contrasts in philosophy on everything from taxes to abortion. In these documents, both parties have laid out a set of fundamentally different visions for America and the role government should play in our lives.

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Map: America’s Confusing Patchwork of Voting Laws

Includes maps and video

votingThink you know your state’s voting rules? Better check again before heading to the polls next month.

Depending on where you live, those rules might have changed since the last time you voted. And those changes could affect outcomes in a number of tightly contested congressional races that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Continue reading

Pennant Fever: The MLB Playoffs Explained (for the Fair Weather Fan)

Includes videos and map

Oh Oakland, why must you break my heart … all over again.

It took 12 wrenching innings — a nearly five-hour battle of attrition — for the Kansas City Royals to oust the A’s with a 9-8 victory in Tuesday’s sudden-death wild card face off in Kansas City.

Oakland headed into the eighth inning with a comfortable 7-to-3 lead (thanks in large part to Brandon Moss’s two homers), Victory seemed imminent.

But alas … things fall apart. Continue reading

Visualizing the Inequities of Climate Change

This Carbon Map was created by Duncan Clark and Robin Houston from the design firm KILN as an entry in the World Bank’s Apps for Climate competition. Recently updated and featured on The Guardian, the map resizes the world’s geography so as to reflect the nations that are most responsible for climate change and those most vulnerable to its impacts. Click the PLAY button to see a demo. Listed below the map is a collection of additional interactive climate change resources.


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Yell Fire: California Wildfire Resources for the Classroom

Includes interactive resources

California is feeling the burn big time.

As of September 18, about a dozen major wildfires were raging across the Golden State. That includes the massive King Fire near Lake Tahoe, which burst out of control this week just as firefighters began to contain another formidable blaze north of Redding. The King Fire has already burned more than 70,000 acres in El Dorado County, threatening thousands of homes and leading to the evacuation of nearly 3,000 people. Officials on Thursday arrested a 37-year-old man on suspicion of arson in connection with the fire. Continue reading

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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