Six Great Multimedia Resources on Nelson Mandela

Includes curated interactive resources

Nelson Mandela, who rose from the shackles of apartheid to lead the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule and served as the nation’s first black president, died Thursday at the age of 95. His life and legacy make for an amazing, inspiring narrative deserving close study and celebration. These six multimedia resources provide a good introduction to one of the seminal figures of the 20th Century.

1. Mandela: A brief New York Times retrospective

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In One-Day Strike, Fast-Food Workers Demand A Living Wage

Includes video
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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

New Age of Voter Suppression Tactics in Wake of Supreme Court Ruling

Includes cartoon infographic

Almost immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision last June to strike down a key oversight provision in the Voting Rights Act, a handful of states enacted controversial new voting rules that had previously been barred. In the third part of his illustrated series (see part 1 and part 2), Andy Warner explains some of these changes. View the full graphic below the slideshow.

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Thanksgiving on Food Stamps, by the Numbers

Courtesy of Flickr/Loren Javier

Courtesy of Flickr/Loren Javier

For the record 47 million people who rely on food stamps — about 1 in 7 Americans —  paying the cost of a full Thanksgiving meal tomorrow may be a bit tougher than it was last year.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

On Nov. 1, monthly benefits for most families on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were reduced by about 5 percent. That amounts to roughly $36 in cuts per month for a family of four — from $668 to $632 — based on maximum benefit levels, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency overseeing the program. The reductions stem from Congress’ refusal to renew about $5 billion in additional benefits that were provided as part of the 2009 stimulus bill. 

So how does that translate in Thanksgiving dollars?

In its annual survey, the Farm Bureau Federation — a conservative group — calculated the average cost (nationwide) of all the standard fixings in a Thanksgiving meal for 10 people at about $49 – or $4.90 per person. Even assuming the cheapest ingredients and small portion sizes, it’s a very conservative and somewhat dubious estimate and obviously varies significantly by region. But for the sake of argument, let’s use it. (See the last Lowdown post for the breakdown of costs.)  

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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

How the Supreme Court Stripped the Voting Rights Act of its Muscle

Includes cartoon infographic

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act significantly weakens the federal government’s authority toi prevent voter discrimination in state and local elections. In the second of his three-part illustrated series on voting rights in America, Andy Warner explains the court’s decision and the immediate implications of the ruling (see part 1 here). View the full graphic below the slideshow.

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These Disunited States: Two Geographic Visions of America’s Deep Divides

Includes maps
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Courtesy of Dante Chinni_ACP

Courtesy of Tufts Magazine

Courtesy of Tufts Magazine

America as 11 separate “nations”

“There’s never been an America, but rather several Americas—each a distinct nation. There are eleven nations today. Each looks at violence, as well as everything else, in its own way.” That’s according to author and Portland Press Herald reporter Colin Woodward. In a recent Tufts Magazine article – and in greater detail in his book American Nations — Woodard argues that much of North America can be neatly divided into 11 separate nation-states — from Yankeedom and the Far West, to the Left Coast and the Deep South — each shaped heavily by its unique geography and dominant ethnicities, Shaped since the early days of settlement, the distinct cultures of these regions, he notes, are determinate factors in a wide range of social and political positions, from voting patterns to attitudes on government and violence.  Continue reading

What Are Traffic Waves and Why Do They Happen So Much?

Includes interactive graphics

By Lewis Lehe and Matthew Green

trafficwavesWho doesn’t love sitting in traffic? Especially when there’s no apparent reason for it: no crashes, no tolls, no flaming mattresses. Just a sudden and infuriating slowdown of the cars ahead, causing you to slam on the brakes, spill coffee all over yourself and slow to a glacial crawl, usually when you’re already late for something important — a job interview, for instance. Pure gridlock.And then, when all hope seems lost, the congestion breaks as seemingly spontaneously as it began. And you’re on your way again … for a good 2 minutes before the whole thing repeats itself. Welcome to the world of traffic waves, a phenomenon that’s been exasperating drivers since the first cars started coming off Ford’s assembly line a century ago. Continue reading