Despite Hottest Year on Record, Congress’ 170 Climate Deniers Aren’t Breaking A Sweat

Frozen toes and polar vortexes aside, 2014 was the hottest year on record globally, according to recently released data from the Japan Meteorological Agency. In fact, 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. Bottom line: climate change is happening; it’s as real as gravity. And among scientists studying the issue, an overwhelming majority have confirmed that human activity is what’s driving the warmth.

But 131 representatives and 39 senators in the recently convened 114th Congress — more than half of all congressional Republicans (including eight from California) — aren’t buying it, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a liberal-leaning advocacy group. Continue reading

How Many Police Officers in Bay Area Cities Live Where They Work?

Database and maps by Kari Mah, story by Matthew Green

The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, all unarmed black males killed in 2014 by white police officers, prompted public scrutiny of police departments around the country and sparked deep-seeded racial tensions in many communities.

In the wake of these incidents, there’s been greater focus on the racial make-up of local police forces, particularly in cities where large minority communities are patrolled by predominately white forces.
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Preview: What Different Stages of California’s High-Speed Rail Will Look Like [Interactive Map]

Even the Golden Gate Bridge, that most hallowed of local landmarks, had its naysayers.

Photographer Ansel Adams worried the bridge would despoil the pristine view (he later made peace with it). Ferry companies lobbied hard to kill the project. And even the Commonwealth Club of California passed a resolution, stating the timing was “inopportune,” according to historian Kevin Starr.

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7 Billion and Counting: How Our World Got So Crowded So Fast [Videos]

Roughly 1 billion people lived on our planet in 1800. And that was a pretty major deal, considering it took all of human history — at least 50,000 years — to reach that.

But today, just a little more than 200 years after, our population is at 7.2 billion and growing.

So what happened? How’d our population get so big? And how much room is left before we reach maximum capacity? Continue reading

What’s the Fastest Way to Board A Plane? (hint: probably not how you’re doing it now)

Rejoice! The holiday travel (and shopping) season has finally come to a close.

If you braved the friendly skies at some point in the last two weeks and found yourself a tad frustrated by the glacial pace of the boarding process, there’s a decent chance you’re not alone. It’s pretty easy to notice the obvious inefficiencies in the boarding methods of different commercial airlines.

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News That Moved: The Biggest Stories of 2014

Another year, another year-in-review article.

In the sea that is breaking news, 2014 was a tsunami. A multitude of tumultuous events shook the world this year (sometimes literally). And although it’d be silly to attempt to quantify the “most important” stories,  it is worth looking at the topics that American audiences were most drawn to and that seemed to have the greatest impact. As a gauge, these are the results from the Associated Press’ annual poll of U.S. editors and an independent survey of Twitter’s biggest news-related trending topics.

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Shopping Math: Percentages and Discounts Explained in Three Animated Videos

Includes animated videos

Happen to be doing some frantic, last minute holiday shopping this weekend? If so, you’ll likely find yourself inadvertently diving head-first into a big stew of math.

Take that $130 pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing. Let’s say Macy’s just marked it down 20%. And on top of that, you’ve got a coupon for 10% off your entire purchase. So, you’re looking at a sweet discount of 10% off 20% off $130.

So … how much are those shoes going to cost you?

From sports to the news, to — most importantly — shopping, percentages are hard to avoid. To help make sense of it all, animator-explainer extraordinaire Josh Kurz breaks down the basic math of everyday percentage conundrums (including the answer to the above question) — in three animated acts.

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A History of Tension: 50 Years of U.S.-Cuba Relations [Interactive Timeline]

Courtesy of the Center on Foreign Relations

Break out the cigars (the good ones)!

The United States will restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, ending 50 years of Cold War hostilities between the two nations, President Obama announced Wednesday. The news comes after the release of an American aid worker who had been held in a Cuban prison for the last five years on charges of espionage. It was part of a deal negotiated over 18 months of secret talks between the two nations, and with the support of Pope Francis.

In a recent telephone call, Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed to play nice. As part of the deal, Obama will use his executive authority to ease restrictions on Cuban travel and trade, and establish an embassy in Havana. Although the president lacks the power to completely end the 50-year trade embargo with Cuba (doing so requires an act of Congress), these actions are big step in that direction.

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California Student Editorial Cartoon Contest: And the Winners Are …

This fall, high school students across California created and submitted editorial cartoons in a contest that included schools from Chula Vista in the south to Ukiah in the north. Entries could apply to one of three categories: elections, higher education and nutrition. The contest was organized by the LegiSchool Project, a civic education collaboration between California State University, Sacramento and the State Legislature, which has also recently partnered with The Lowdown. Winners receive a cash prize and a claim to fame by being published, well, right here!

Grand Prize Winner

Allison Goldsmith

Culver City High School, 10th Grade


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Everything You Wanted To Know About Grand Juries (But Were Afraid To Ask)

Confused about grand juries? You’re probably not alone.

A New York grand jury in early December voted to not criminally charge a white police officer in the choking death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man. The decision came just 10 days after a Missouri grand jury declined to charge Darren Wilson, also a white police officer, in the shooting death of Michael Brown — also an unarmed black man. Both decisions stoked outrage and protests in New York and Ferguson, Missouri, where the respective deaths occurred, and there have been continued protests in other cities across the nation, including Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco.

In the tsunami of media reports and analysis following the two decisions, reporters and commentators have dropped legalese like it’s a universally understood dialect (and yes, I recognize the irony of using the word “legalese,” which is itself kind of legalese). Truth is, the law can be super complicated and obscure, and — speaking for myself here — a lot of legal terms and procedures that we news folk are wont to use aren’t always so frequently understood.
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