Costa Rica has produced 100% renewable electricity for 76 days straight — and still counting


Arturo Sotillo

❝ Costa Rica is well known for its lush rainforests, astounding volcanoes, beautiful beaches, and diverse wildlife. The country also has a reputation for actively focusing on climate change initiatives and can now boast the title of running on 100% renewable energy for 76 straight days – and counting.

According to Costa Rica’s National Centre for Energy Control, June 16, 2016 was the last day that fossil fuel-based energy was used on the national grid. Throughout August, the country has accumulated 150 days of renewable energy in 2016 alone…This is the second time the Central American country has run for more than two months straight on renewable energy. In 2015, Costa Rica powered itself for almost 300 days…without burning oil, coal, or natural gas…to produce electricity.

❝ Costa Rica is unique in that it’s powered on a mix of hydro, geothermal, wind, and solar energy, with hydropower providing about 80% of the total electricity for August. Geothermal plants contributed to about 13% of electricity generation in August, while wind turbines provided 7%, and solar 0.01%.

This impressive achievement is due to a couple advantages the country holds. Costa Rica is only about 19,700 square miles—a bit smaller than West Virginia at 24,231 square miles—and has a population of about 4.87 million people. This small population requires much less energy. Additionally, Costa Rica’s primary industries are tourism and agriculture versus energy-intensive industries such as mining or manufacturing. Heavy rains have also helped four big hydroelectric dams run above their usual capacity, allowing the country to turn off its diesel generators…

❝ While Costa Rica is undoubtedly setting an example in terms of how much focus it places on environmental sustainability, it also faces its own challenges. [Politicians] recently delayed its goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2021 to 2085. However, based on the progress the country has already made, 365 days of zero fossil fuels is surely on the horizon.

Comparing Costa Rica to West Virginia is silly, of course. South Carolina is closer in size. The population is almost identical. Tourism and agriculture are as important as in Costa Rica.

South Carolina’s GDP – and per capita GDP – is more than double the same measures in Costa Rica. Annual budget to run South Carolina is about a third larger than that of Costa Rica. Obviously South Carolina – given the inclination, dedication to human costs – could achieve much the same. As could many American states.

American politicians and the voters who put them in office have other priorities. In the rare instances when they concern themselves at all with a better life for all.

Help someone understand how they’re wrong, first tell them how they’re right

The 17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal…set out the most effective way to get someone to change their mind, centuries before experimental psychologists began to formally study persuasion:

When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides. Now, no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man naturally cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in the side he looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always true.

People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.

Put simply, Pascal suggests that before disagreeing with someone, first point out the ways in which they’re right. And to effectively persuade someone to change their mind, lead them to discover a counter-point of their own accord. Arthur Markman, psychology professor at The University of Texas at Austin, says both these points hold true.

“One of the first things you have to do to give someone permission to change their mind is to lower their defenses and prevent them from digging their heels in to the position they already staked out,” he says. “If I immediately start to tell you all the ways in which you’re wrong, there’s no incentive for you to co-operate. But if I start by saying, ‘Ah yeah, you made a couple of really good points here, I think these are important issues,’ now you’re giving the other party a reason to want to co-operate as part of the exchange. And that gives you a chance to give voice your own concerns about their position in a way that allows co-operation.”

Markman also supports Pascal’s second persuasive suggestion. “If I have an idea myself, I feel I can claim ownership over that idea, as opposed to having to take your idea, which means I have to explicitly say, ‘I’m going to defer to you as the authority on this.’ Not everybody wants to do that,”

Lots of early thinkers got it right before the modern era.

Of course, stuck in between the two, we still have an enormous heap of True Believers who still believe that imagining something to be true is as valid as evidence-based fact.

We’re number 28! We’re number 28!

❝ Every study ranking nations by health or living standards invariably offers Scandinavian social democracies a chance to show their quiet dominance. A new analysis published this week — perhaps the most comprehensive ever — is no different. But what it does reveal are the broad shortcomings of sustainable development efforts, the new shorthand for not killing ourselves or the planet, as well as the specific afflictions of a certain North American country.

❝ Iceland and Sweden share the top slot with Singapore as world leaders when it comes to health goals set by the United Nations…

The massive study emerged from a decade-long collaboration focused on the worldwide distribution of disease. About a year and a half ago, the researchers involved decided their data might help measure progress on what may be the single most ambitious undertaking humans have ever committed themselves to: survival. In doing so, they came up with some disturbing findings, including that the country with the biggest economy…ranks No. 28 overall, between Japan and Estonia…

❝ The U.S. scores its highest marks in water, sanitation, and child development. That’s the upside. Unsurprisingly, interpersonal violence (think gun crime) takes a heavy toll on America’s overall ranking. Response to natural disasters, HIV, suicide, obesity, and alcohol abuse all require attention in the U.S.

Also noteworthy are basic public health metrics that America. doesn’t perform as well on as other developed countries. The U.S. is No. 64 in the rate of mothers dying for every 100,000 births, and No. 40 when it comes to the rate children under age five die…

It may come as a surprise to Americans; but, most of the world considers healthcare a necessity and a right. I had to feel the pain viewing a discussion on economics when a leading Danish economist had to laugh when asked a question about American insurance companies and their control over Congress.

He replied, “the United States is the only industrial nation in the world where healthcare is still considered a privilege.” He was right of course.

Another stodgy conservative newspaper just endorsed Hillary Clinton — their first Dem since Woodrow Wilson in 1916


The last Democrat endorsed by the Cincinnati ENQUIRER

❝ The last time the Cincinnati Enquirer endorsed a Democrat for president, the paper picked Woodrow Wilson as its choice in the 1916 presidential election. It’s been a long time.

Now Donald Trump has broken the streak. The Enquirer is joining other very conservative editorial pages in endorsing Hillary Clinton, calling Trump “a clear and present danger to our country.”

❝ While other typically conservative editorial boards have made clear that they’re holding their noses in endorsing Clinton as the only realistic alternative to Trump, the Enquirer’s endorsement is slightly more positive, describing her as a clearheaded pragmatist who can build coalitions and govern effectively. The board’s views on Trump are scathing:

Trump brands himself as an outsider untainted by special interests, but we see a man utterly corrupted by self-interest. His narcissistic bid for the presidency is more about making himself great than America. Trump tears our country and many of its people down with his words so that he can build himself up. What else are we left to believe about a man who tells the American public that he alone can fix what ails us?

❝ Even more surprising than the Enquirer breaking its streak, though, is that it actually might make a difference. Research has found that when newspapers break with tradition, readers take it seriously. And unlike the other two solidly Republican newspapers that have refused to endorse Trump so far — the Dallas Morning News and the New Hampshire Union Leader — the Enquirer is in a swing state.

❝ …Unusual endorsements like this might matter precisely because it’s not what readers expected to hear. Newspaper endorsements change the most minds when they break with the usual pattern to endorse a candidate of the other party.

So far, not a single major daily newspaper has endorsed Trump – and that’s especially important in conservative bailiwicks. Newspapers have a tough enough time staying alive in the age of digital media. Conservative newspapers stay alive only because of support from conservative readers.

That means my average peer – some old fart in East Overshoe, Ohio – still cares enough for old media and old-fashioned means of acquiring news to read and relate to a conservative newspaper like the Enquirer. He or she is also more likely to regard that editorial opinion as something of value.

3% of Americans own half the guns in the country


AP Photo/Danny Johnston

In the past two decades, Americans have added approximately 70 million firearms to their private arsenals. There are more gun owners, but they make up a slightly smaller share of the population. Handguns have surged in popularity, and the era of the super-owner is here: roughly half of all guns are concentrated in the hands of just three percent of American adults.

These are among the key findings of a sweeping new survey of gun ownership, provided in advance of publication to The Trace and The Guardian by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities. Our two news organizations are partnering to present a series of stories this week based on the survey.

There have been other evaluations of American gun ownership in recent years, but academics who study gun-owning patterns and behavior say the new survey is the most authoritative and statistically sound since one conducted in 1994 by Philip Cook, a researcher at Duke University.

Roughly 100,000 Americans are injured by a gun every year, with a third of those incidents resulting in death. But research into the causes of the violence, methods of prevention, and its toll on families and communities is almost entirely conducted by academics and other private groups.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the government entity that studies other public health issues, virtually ignores gun violence, owing to legislation widely interpreted as preventing such research.

Otherwise known as chickenshit Congress.

The responses reveal a fundamental shift in gun-owning attitudes. Whereas most owners once considered their firearm primarily a hunting or sports shooting tool, a majority now say they keep guns to protect themselves, their families, and communities.

Accurate reporting on what these people believe. Whether evidence-based facts provoke those beliefs is another question.

The evidence is clear: film police confrontations! Always. Every time.

❝ Video won’t solve everything, but it sure seems effective at holding cops accountable.

With first-degree manslaughter charges filed against the Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer who shot and killed Terence Crutcher, there is now a clear, recurring theme in police shooting cases: Video — whether from a body, cellphone, or dashboard camera — truly works for holding police accountable.

❝ Now, video doesn’t always work perfectly. There are still issues with how the public can access video maintained by the police — like in North Carolina, where police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, but have so far refused to release video of the shooting. And there are valid concerns surrounding privacy, how and when officers can turn cameras on, cases where cameras don’t work or aren’t at the right angle, and more.

❝ But when the camera is on, the public can see the situation unfold, and investigators can examine the video as evidence, there have now been multiple cases in which the video seemingly led to charges against a police officer — a real attempt to hold cops accountable for wrongdoing.

Time and time again, the video won the day. In the past, the public and prosecutors would have had to rely on a police officer’s account and maybe some eyewitnesses’ testimony to decide whether a shooting was justified — and almost always side with police in such cases, because the public by and large saw cops as trustworthy. Now, we have video to show just how dishonest police can be after they kill someone.

Still, these are charges. The police officers involved in these shootings will still need to go to trial and be convicted before they’re truly punished for the shootings…

❝ The National Police Misconduct Reporting Project analyzed 3,238 criminal cases against police officers from April 2009 through December 2010. They found that only 33 percent were convicted, and only 36 percent of officers who were convicted ended up serving prison sentences. Both of those are about half the rate at which members of the public are convicted or incarcerated.

❝ But video evidence has proliferated over the past few years, thanks to cameras on mobile devices and more police departments adopting body cameras and dashboard cameras. Video managed to lead to charges in cases where there likely wouldn’t have been charges before. Maybe it will lead to convictions where there wouldn’t have been convictions before…

Still, the charges are, by themselves, important. They signal to police that prosecutors and the public are more serious about holding them accountable.

Police misconduct against minority communities is the rule rather than the exception. Anyone who has lived on those streets knows who rules – and the rules of law and equal rights do not apply. Easy access to video technology is slowly proving that point to the larger community of Americans.

If I’m sitting and chatting with another geek about mobile phones one of the first things I let them know about is the ACLU mobile justice project. How to load an app on their cellphone that instantly communicates to a protected server via cloud and cell services. Record that video! It’s safe even if someone in a blue uniform decides to confiscate and destroy your phone.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Meet the Deniers Club — clouding the climate change debate


Click to enlarge

❝ August tied July as the hottest month on record, according to NASA data released this past week. This year we’ve seen half a dozen thousand-year floods, along with epic droughts. Mother Nature is telling us there’s a problem. The long-term trend lines are clear. Yet we have a Republican presidential nominee who has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax.”

“Perhaps there’s a minor effect,” Donald Trump told The Washington Post’s editorial board, “but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change.”

❝ So it goes in the madhouse of the climate debate. Even as the evidence has become unmistakable, and even though the alarm has been sounded several times, public policy has been paralyzed — sometimes from ignorance, sometimes from uncertainty, but often from a campaign of deliberate misinformation.

Click here to view some of the worst offenders.

Tom Toles rules!