Eight Short Videos to Help Make Some Sense of the Conflict in Ukraine

Includes videos

So much for the “spirit of international brotherhood” that the Olympics was supposed to inspire.

The crisis in Ukraine has reached a boiling point, with tensions between the United States and Russia at a level not seen since the Cold War. But in spite of the sometimes alarmist deluge of round-the-clock media coverage, it’s surprisingly challenging to sift through the noise and get a good grip on what’s actually going on. These seven short videos do a good job getting to the point and explaining specific aspects of the confrontation.

The latest developments (as of March 16)


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Map: States Where Felons Can’t Vote

Includes interactive map

The map below, created by designer/programmer Lewis Lehe, shows state-by-state felon voting laws and population impacts as reported by the The Sentencing Project, based on 2010 data. Note: among the eleven states that deny voting rights to those who have completed their full sentences (including parole), restrictions vary significantly, and often depend on the severity of the crime. A good overview of each state’s specific restrictions can be found at ProCon.org.

[See article below map]

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77 Countries Where It’s Illegal to Be Gay

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CBC

Because the cause of gay rights has made recent rapid progress in a growing number of Western nations, it is easy to lose sight of the bleak conditions that still exist in many corners of the world.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni offered a stark reminder of this on Monday when he signed into law a bill that significantly stiffens penalties against gays in Uganda, a country where homosexuality was already considered illegal. The new law makes some acts — labeled “aggravated homosexuality” –  subject to life in prison. It also criminalizes the “promotion” of homosexuality, a major setback to gay rights activism. The original 2009 version of the bill, included a death penalty clause, but was shelved after Western nations threatened to withdraw foreign aid. Continue reading

What’s the Link Between Economics and Crime in America’s Most Violent Cities?

Includes interactive chart
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One of Detroit’s many abandoned factories (Wikipedia)

A city’s high violent crime rate can result from any number of societal factors, and attempts at pinpointing can quickly turn into a tricky — if not specious — exercise.

While it’s easy enough to find correlations, proving causation becomes a far greater challenge: just because two variables occur simultaneously does not mean one was the cause of the other. For instance, even though most violent cities also have higher-than-average unemployment rates, not all all cities with high unemployment rates are violent. And while some perennially high-crime cities clearly suffer from a shortage of police officers, many relatively safe cities also have a low rate of officers per population.

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America, the Land of Opportunity? Not for Most Poor Kids, One Study Finds

Includes cartoon infographic


Contrary to the mantra commonly touted by politicians on the campaign trail, few Americans born into poverty ever get to experience the iconic rise from “rags to riches.”

A new study by a team of UC Berkeley and Harvard economists examined upward income mobility throughout the nation, finding that less than 8 percent of people born at the bottom 20 percent of the income ladder ever climb to the top 20 percent as adults. The study, though, also found that geographic location can significantly impact those odds. Cartoon journalist Andy Warner explains. Continue reading

The 10 Most Dangerous Cities in America

Includes interactive charts
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Photo by Adam Katz/flickr

After spiking in the 1980s, crime rates in the United States – for both violent and property crimes – fell significantly in the last two decades. In particular, the rate of violent crime (murder, rape, aggravated assault and burglary) by 2012 had dropped to less than half what it was in 1991, according to FBI data (from 758 violent crimes per 100,000 Americans to 387). And although a disproportionately high level of violent crime still occurs in densely populated urban areas, many of America’s big cities experienced similar downward trends. That includes the nation’s two largest metropolises — New York and Los Angeles — both of which had precipitous drops in violent crime. Continue reading

How Serious Is the California Drought? These Satellite Images Say It All

Includes images
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NASA satellite imagery comparing California’s snowpack in January 2013 to January 2014. GIF animation created by Rhett A. Butler_Mongabay.com.


If you live in California, snowpack is a pretty crucial part of your existence.

That’s because about a third of the state’s water supply comes from snow that accumulates in the mountains, mostly during the winter months. In fact, California receives roughly half of its entire year’s water supply between December and February alone. Continue reading

Visualization: How America Responded to the State of the Union via Tweet

Includes interactive visualization

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As President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union address last night, the Twittersphere was, unsurprisingly, abuzz with commentary and reactions. To show which parts of the speech struck a chord — or a nerve —  Twitter data viz whiz Nicolas Belmonte created the following interactive visualization. It attempts to gauge the resonance of the various topics Obama addressed by linking every paragraph in the speech to the thousands of Tweets submitted directly in response, and geographically tracing where those Tweets originated. Continue reading

How Much Water Do Californians Use and What Does A 20 Percent Cut Look Like?

Includes interactive charts
A parched Folsom Lake,  at less than 20 percent of capacity (photo courtesy of National Weather Service).

A parched Folsom Lake, at less than 20 percent of capacity (photo courtesy of National Weather Service).


This is not a good time for California’s umbrella industry.

2013 was one of the driest years on record in the state. And January  – usually among the wettest months — has failed to provide any relief. With the precipitous drop in reservoir levels, Gov. Jerry Brown recently declared a statewide drought emergency, calling this “perhaps the worst drought California has ever seen since records began being kept about 100 years ago,”

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