Friday, December 15, 2017

A Little Perspective: Sad nations, climate change and five interesting facts

Most people know climate change is happening, and a majority agrees it is harming people in the United States. But most don't believe it will harm them. Part of this is the problem of risk perception.

Global warming is precisely the kind of threat humans are awful at dealing with: a problem with enormous consequences over the long term, but little that is sharply visible on a personal level in the short term. Humans are hard-wired for quick fight-or-flight reactions in the face of an imminent threat, but not highly motivated to act against slow-moving and somewhat abstract problems, even if the challenges that they pose are ultimately dire.

The effects of climate change, including sunny-day flooding, are being felt across Florida. But the state shows a distinct north-south split in the level of concern over global warming. Four southeast Florida counties — Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach — stand out because of their concerted effort to work on climate issues together and to discuss them in nonpartisan terms. In fact, a slim majority of people in Miami-Dade expect that global warming will harm them personally. That belief is shared by 41 percent of people in Hillsborough and 38 percent in both Pinellas and Pasco.

Nadja Popovich, John Schwartz and Tatiana Schlossberg, New York Times

A new report says Norway is the happiest country on Earth, Americans are getting sadder, and it takes more than just money to be happy. The rankings are based on income and life expectancy figures, along with how people rate social support, personal freedom, corruption and generosity. Together it is used to generate a happiness score from 1 to 10.

Happiest countries

1. Norway 7.54

2. Denmark 7.52

3. Iceland 7.5

4. Switzerland 7.49

5. Finland 7.47

6. Netherlands 7.38

7. Canada 7.32

8. New Zealand 7.32

9. Australia 7.28

10. Sweden 7.28

14. United States 6.99

Saddest countries

146. Yemen 3.59

147. South Sudan 3.59

148. Liberia 3.53

149. Guinea 3.51

150. Togo 3.49

151. Rwanda 3.47

152. Syria 3.46

153. Tanzania 3.35

154. Burundi 2.91

155. Central African Republic 2.69

"The answer to why Norwegians are happy — it's a bit boring — it's well-functioning institutions," explained Norwegian comedian Harald Eia. "The schools, health care, police, all the bureaucracy treat people with respect and that trickles down and makes us happy, makes us trust each other, makes us feel a part of the whole community. So it's very boring: bureaucrats are the secret to our happiness."

The United States was 14th in the latest ranking, and over the years Americans steadily have been rating themselves less happy.

America's happiness score dropped 5 percent over the past decade. Study co-author and economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University said that the sense of community, so strong in Norway, is deteriorating in the United States.

"We're becoming more and more mean spirited. And our government is becoming more and more corrupt. And inequality is rising," Sachs said. "It's a long-term trend and conditions are getting worse."

It baffles Norwegian comedian Eia. "Why can't Americans who are the brightest people in the world do the same thing as we do to make the happiest people?" Eia asked. "I don't get it."

Seth Borenstein and Matti Huuhtanen, Associated Press

Five interesting facts


Cut in Americans' beef consumption between 2005 and 2014, according to research released by the Natural Resources Defense Council.


New residents moved to Tampa Bay last year, giving the area a population of 3 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It was the nation's fourth-highest gain.

Voice recognition software is getting better but still stumbles with accents, notes journalist Sonia Paul on Her mother was born in the Philippines, her father in India, and both parents speak English as a third language. "Alexa, play Que sera sera," her mother asked her new Amazon Echo. On the first try, Alexa answered: "I can't find the song 'Kiss your a-- era.' "


Steps a day might be needed — not 10,000 — for good health, according to a study of postal workers in Scotland.


Months, were once required to revise the definition of "God" in the unabridged Merriam-Webster dictionary.


President Trump isnít watching too much TV; itís just the wrong kind.

By JAMES PONIEWOZIKBecause President Donald Trump has said he is a reader ó big-league reader, reads documents, the best documents ó I hope that he is reading this, and not, say, watching a Fox & Friends recording on the gigantic flat-screen TV that ...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/14/17
PolitiFact: What you need to know about net neutrality

PolitiFact: What you need to know about net neutrality

The Federal Communications Commissionís vote to scrap Obama-era internet restrictions creates the potential for broadband providers like Frontier and Spectrum to divide their networks into fast lanes and slow lanes, throttle rivalsí video-streaming s...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/14/17

Perspective: Sexual harassment training doesnít work, but some things do.

Many people are familiar with typical corporate training to prevent sexual harassment: clicking through a PowerPoint, checking a box that you read the employee handbook or attending a mandatory seminar at which someone lectures about harassment while...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/14/17

12Thatís how many cans of Diet Coke President Donald Trump drinks each day, according to the New York Times.3 timesThatís how much likelier farmed salmon are to be partially deaf than their wild relatives. Scientists at the University of Melbourne de...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Perspective: The year Santa Claus didnít come

Perspective: The year Santa Claus didnít come

The doctor studied the glob of puss oozing from the patchwork of scabs along my one-year-old sonís left index finger."Itís definitely infected. And you have no idea when or how it happened?"He didnít say it, but hereís what I heard next in my head: "...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Perspective: An economist explains how to sort facts from fictions

Perspective: An economist explains how to sort facts from fictions

In public debates about economic policy, it can be hard to separate real insights from political posturing. But a few simple rules of thumb can help.Start with information you can count on. Crucial economic statistics ó like the unemployment rate, in...
Published: 12/11/17
Updated: 12/14/17
News media offers consistently warped portrayals of black families, study finds

News media offers consistently warped portrayals of black families, study finds

If all you knew about black families was what national news outlets reported, you are likely to think African Americans are overwhelmingly poor, reliant on welfare, absentee fathers and criminals, despite what government data show, according to the r...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Perspective: Is the GOP tax plan an unprecedented windfall for the wealthy? We look at 50 years of data to find out.

Perspective: Is the GOP tax plan an unprecedented windfall for the wealthy? We look at 50 years of data to find out.

The Democrats say President Donald Trumpís tax cuts are a massive giveaway to the rich, the most unequal overhaul of the U.S. tax system in modern history. Republicans argue they are a huge middle class tax cut ó "a great, big, beautiful Christmas pr...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Perspective: Guilt can be good for your kid

Guilt can be a complicated element in the parent-child equation; we feel guilty, they feel guilty, we may make them feel guilty and then feel guilty about that. But certain kinds of guilt are a healthy part of child development.Tina Malti, a professo...
Published: 12/04/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Perspective: Why trying new things is so hard to do

Perspective: Why trying new things is so hard to do

By SENDHIL MULLAINATHANI drink a lot of Diet Coke: 2 liters a day, almost six cansí worth. Iím not proud of the habit, but I really like the taste of Diet Coke.As a frugal economist, Iím well aware that switching to a generic brand would save me mone...
Published: 12/03/17
Updated: 12/07/17