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Calls continue to stop buying Russian oil

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Prices for gas and diesel fuel, over $5 a gallon, are displayed at a gas station in Monterey Park, California. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

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It’s Monday, and we’re getting caught up on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, COVID-19 here at home and more. As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reaches its second week, political pressure is mounting in the United States to stop the purchase of Russian oil. Another Russia-related story about a WNBA player detained in that country highlights pay disparities in the U.S. Plus, another round of COVID tests are available for home delivery, and a White House report on how consolidation has affected wages. Finally, before we let you go, we’ve got a Make Me Smile that’s simply eel-ectric!

Here’s everything we talked about on the show today:

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Make Me Smart March 7, 2022 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kai Ryssdal: Bons, c’mere. Bons! C’mere.

Kimberly Adams: They say animals mimic their owners. That’s why my cat sleeps and your dog has perfect timing.

Kai Ryssdal: Hey everyone, I’m Kai Ryssdal. Welcome back to Make Me Smart where we make today make sense. Bonsai, come here! Come here, come on! Here she comes.

Kimberly Adams: I’m Kimberly Adams it is What Did We Miss Monday and clearly Bonsai is here for it, where we will give you the big news story on our minds and some of the stories from the weekend that we did not want you to miss. You have the Bonsai situation under control over there Kai?

Kai Ryssdal: I got Bon. She’s in she’s in here. I’m giving her a little scratch on the bottom of her chin and she’s happy. I think the kids just came home school. I don’t know. Oh, there’s a collar. Alright. Anyway, yes. So we’ll do a little news. We’ll do make me smile. And then we will be on our way I think I think so here we are day what, 12,13 of this thing? I think we’re still agreed that the the big story is Russia and Ukraine. And all the horribleness it’s absolutely I find it very difficult to think about anything else to be honest with you.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. And it’s like they they’re attempting to start the peace talks. They don’t seem to be going very well. And I was really struck by the whole humanitarian corridors thing that led to Russia and Belarus, and even those weren’t actually safe.

Kai Ryssdal: Yep, totally. Totally. It’s, it’s unbelievable. And that actually gets me to my first sort of thing that I want to make sure everybody had a chance to see on – Oh, they changed the change the link. Drat.  New York Times. Okay. So for those of you who went to the New York Times homepage yesterday or saw the front page of the actual physical paper today, there was a picture by Lynsey Addario, which is just amazing, a family of four who were walking across the street, carrying their their, or wheeling their roller suitcases that had been shelled, who had been shelled and they were lying there dead, three of them dead, one of them dying on the street, and Lynsey took the picture as she should have, because we have to see this stuff. But then I think the really remarkable decision editorially was the New York Times put it on the front page. And they didn’t do any graphic content warning, they didn’t do any anything. They put it on the front page of the paper above the fold and the front page of the website. And I think that’s remarkable. And it’s obviously it’s horrible. But I think it’s really good. And it’s really important that that we all see this stuff. And I know we’re inundated with and I know we are but that one just kind of hit me because it was kids and they were, anyway.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, I’m looking at it now. That’s yeah, it is war. That is what war actually looks like. And I think a lot of times we don’t see here, what war actually looks like, you see the aftermath. You see the, you know, the bombed out buildings and the bullet riddled cars, but you don’t necessarily see this part. And you’re right. It is important.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, I think we see that. So that’s, that’s item one. And then item two is and I believe I predicted this last week that the political pressure is growing on President Biden, I kind of thought it was going to happen over the weekend that he was going to make the decision. Political pressures growing on President Biden no matter what the Europeans do, because it’s much tougher sell for them, because they’re so dependent on Russia oil and gas. But the president, the president is now facing increasing pressure from his own party to cut off Russian oil and gas imports, the United States, and that, while not a, a, in absolute terms, a big deal, right? We don’t get a whole bunch of Russian oil. It’s incredibly symbolic, and with gas at, you know, my local station at 549. Yesterday. That’s $5.49. It’s, you know, it’s it’s a thing that’s gonna have some ripple effects. And I I also don’t think that’s a bad idea. Frankly, if I can just lay it out there. I think, you know, we need to be aware of and prepared to, you know, sort of pay a little bit of the cost, which is probably not going to make me very popular. I don’t know.

Kimberly Adams: I remember, I guess it was last week, maybe the week before where you were citing and I think somebody brought it up in the weekly wrap about the polling that showed that US consumers were willing to pay a little bit more, if it meant sort of cracking down on Russia. And I’d be very curious if they run that poll again, how people are feeling out there, actually starting to see it.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, yeah. Well, so the this was, I think it was two weeks ago, and it was Heather Long at the Washington Post on a new, then  new Washington Post ABC News poll. And, you know, are you willing to, you know, have your costs go up if the sanctions take hold, and it was like 60/20, yes. And then the question was, “What if gas goes to $4?” And I will tell you today it’s $4.11. And two weeks ago with a hypothetical $4 gas, it was like 51/30. Right? So the positives went down. And the negative went way up. And I promise you today, we will say, “Oh, no, heck no, no, no, no.” Yeah.

Kimberly Adams: Although there’s there’s a lot of public support for Ukraine right now, on the way home from the office today, I saw a protest outside McDonald’s with a bunch of people with Ukrainian flags, because it’s one of the companies that has not yet you know, had either pulled, I don’t know how you pull your operations, if you’re McDonald’s, but at least shut down or done anything. People are upset at McDonald’s. But yeah, I saw a Reuters piece that the US may go it alone and the pressure, that’s going to be hard, it’s gonna be really hard. And it’ll be so Russia related, I’ve been following over the weekend, the story of WNBA player, Brittney Griner, who has been held in Russia for like three weeks. And, you know, they supposedly detained her because she had a vape pen that, you know, had something that wasn’t supposed to be in it. But also, Russia has some pretty strict anti-LGBTQ laws, it could have been that could have been a reason for detention, but also, just so happened to detain her in the lead up to this big fight with Ukraine and invasion of Ukraine and fight with the U.S. So she’s been detained for a couple of weeks now, her wife has been posting on Instagram about how awful this is, US officials are saying it’s gonna be pretty hard to get her out, they’re working on getting all the Americans, you know, in Russia out, but it’s, again, what happens in war. And the other part of the story that I think is fascinating is it’s highlighting why one of the top players in the WNBA is even in Russia, which is that they make so much less in comparison to male players, that they end up playing throughout Europe in the offseason to make up for the difference in income, or even just to sort of make enough income. And so there’s quite a few sports writers talking about how this woman would not even be in Russia, if not for pay disparity in the NBA versus the WNBA. So that is one thing. I also wanted to point to this report that actually came out today, not over the weekend from the Biden administration, where the Biden administration is claiming, according to a Treasury Department report, that sort of the consolidation of corporate power in the United States suppresses wages by about 20%, that corporations hold so much power in this country that even during the Great Resignation, even though there’s you know, staffing shortages and labor shortages throughout the economy and worker, worker rate wages are rising. Nevertheless, corporate power keeps U.S. wages 20% lower because in many areas, you know, look into the term monopsony, if you’re really interested about it, when you have a couple of key players in an industry sort of setting the standard for what wages are, you know, you don’t even have to have a cartel if there’s only two companies, you know, or one company that provides the jobs in a particular sector or in a particular area, then it keeps wages down. So that is a very interesting counterpoint to sort of the workers have all the power, you know, moment that we’re supposedly in right now. Okay. Last thing, which is that COVID the pandemic is still happening, yes. And global COVID-19 deaths surpassed 6 million people globally. We’re creeping up on 1 million of those folks being in the U.S. alone. And just marking the moment that the pandemic is not over. And in line with that, this week, you can order another round of those free COVID tests from USPS. I did it this morning, too, for myself and my grandma and my Uncle Davids and all that stuff. And so if you need more rapid tests, you can order those again, starting from today. So those are all of my things.

Kai Ryssdal: Those are great things. And I would just add one more thing. So Friday is two years of this pandemic, which to me, it’s just amazeballs it just I’m like, are you kidding me? Yeah. Yeah, it’s truly amazing. Yeah. Okay, so Charlton, would you? Alright, on Mondays are Make Me Smiles come from you guys instead of us because we just did all that news for you. But today, it comes from Bridget Bodnar, our very own senior producer. And here’s what it’s about the Tennessee aquarium and an electric eel they have named Miguel Wattson W-A-T-T-S-O-N. You see what they did there?

Kimberly Adams: I didn’t notice that till just now even though I looked at this earlier, Wattson. Okay, back in 2015, the Tennessee aquarium set Miguel Wattson up with his own Twitter account, which is eelectricmiguel with the two E’s of the beginning for eel, because they’re apparently all about the puns. Were in the tweets for this account are generated by Miguel’s own electricity. And he’s still tweeting. And so some of the tweets that, you know, Miguel Wattson sent out today included “zap!” “Zippy!” “Bonk!”

Kai Ryssdal: It’s his own electricity, which kind of wild right they do. If you go to if you go to his his Twitter main page, there’s like an explainer video on how it all works. But here’s the thing, this account of an electric eel has 65,000 followers. Twitter is amazing to me sometimes. Ah-mazing,

Kimberly Adams: Because think about that. You’re looking at your timeline on a given day, and it’s just like death destruction. Horror. Zap!

Kai Ryssdal: Zap! Yeah.

Kimberly Adams: Sort of, like in Big Bang Theory, where it’s just like a random bazinga.

Kai Ryssdal: Oh, I know. Bazinga. Yeah. Anyway, props to Bridget for that one. Props. Yes.

Kimberly Adams: I love that one.

Kai Ryssdal: There we go. And on a Monday, we’re done. I know. I know. I know. It’s electric eel. We’re done. So tomorrow we’re gonna do we’re gonna get a little more serious actually. misinformation, disinformation. And the information war that is part of what’s going on over in Ukraine because it is huge, right? From the good guys to the bad guys. Everybody’s using it. And we’ll talk a little bit about about how it’s playing over there.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. And before we, before I tell you how to send in your own make me smart question. I do want to actually, you reminded me Kai flag your point that you tweeted about this morning about prisoners of war. And that video that went kind of viral of a Russian prisoner of war in Ukraine, sort of talking about how none of them knew what they were doing and what they were getting into. And now all these things, and as you pointed out, it’s a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, and it’s also just, look, I mean, war is wrong and terrible, but exploiting those in your custody is just, it’s not right. And so don’t do it. Don’t do it.

Kimberly Adams: But it’s also sort of, you know, one of the ways that information warfare is happening around this conflict. And so if you have questions about that, or misinformation or just information on whatever side of the conflict, you can send us those things. And also, if you have been thinking about your answer to the Make Me Amart question, which is “what is something you thought you knew that you later found out you were wrong about?” You can send it our way as well either as a voice memo or an email and for any of those things you can send it to makemesmart@marketplace.org or you can call and leave us a voice message at 508-UB-SMART.

Kai Ryssdal: All right, we are done. We are done. Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera with help from Marque Greene. Charlton Thorpe was in charge today down at the studios.

Kimberly Adams: Yes, and our senior producer is Bridget Bodnar who had that wonderful make me smile even though I kind of brought us down at the end. And our director of On Demand is Donna Tam.

Kai Ryssdal: Donna, Donna, Donna.

Kimberly Adams: Isn’t there like a 50’s song that was like “Donna, Donna” something like that?

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