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“We’re done. The virus is not done with us”

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A mask on the ground at John F. Kennedy Airport.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: A mask is seen on the ground at John F. Kennedy Airport on April 19, 2022 in New York City. On Monday, a federal judge in Florida struck down the mask mandate for airports and other methods of public transportation as a new COVID variant is on the rise across parts of the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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This is your Friday reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is still here. Today, the World Health Organization warned about new viruses driving up cases, hospitalizations and deaths around the globe. We’ll discuss the latest wave. You know what else is here? Climate change. The United Kingdom is experiencing record-breaking temperatures. Plus, Kimberly Adams and Kai Ryssdal give us their hot takes on BMW’s heated seats, some frozen treats and more.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

We want to hear from you. Send us your thoughts or questions to or leave us a voice message at (508) 827-6278 or (508) U-B-SMART.

Make Me Smart July 15, 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.


Kimberly Adams: Hello, everyone. I’m Kimberly Adams, and welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we always at least attempt to make today make sense.


Kai Ryssdal: Oh, that’s good beer. Anyway, I’m Kai Ryssdal if you couldn’t tell. Thanks for joining us on this YouTube live stream day and on the podcast and on Discord, and whatever you do to join us for economics tap. It’s Friday, talking about the news over a drink or two, or just one actually, truly.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah, just one, you know, because did you see that report out today? From the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that was basically like any amount of alcohol in general is terrible for you. There’s literally no benefit to it whatsoever.


Kai Ryssdal: What about like stress reduction, what about just disintegrating into the twilight of a day, Bill and Melinda Gates? Come on, they can probably use some of that. I’m just saying.


Kimberly Adams: That’s a whole different thing. But since lots of other people are drinking along with us today, alcoholic and non-alcoholic substances. Kai, what beer do you have today?


Kai Ryssdal: I actually am having – so my kids who know me well got me for, what’s most recent holiday, Father’s Day, a bunch of beers. They went to the local craft beer store and said, Listen, hook my dad up 12 of your finest different libations. And I’m cracking open a Denogginizer from Drake’s brewing in San Leandro. It’s good so far. 9.75% alcohol by volume and it’s a big can so it’s gonna be an interesting last 15 minutes of the pod today. What about you?


Kimberly Adams: I was in a little bit of a rush so my typical red wine, but I decided to do it in a goblet to be fancy. You know.


Kai Ryssdal: There you go. That works.


Kimberly Adams: People seem to like my goblet. So here’s the full view. It’s got a little dragon on it. I do love it. Okay, let’s do some news. Yours is more fun. So why don’t you start?


Kai Ryssdal: Well, one of mine is fun, and one of them is deadly serious, and the deadly serious one I’ll do just to mark it forever. In London today, in the southern UK, it’s going to be 40 Celsius – 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The United Kingdom’s metrological office in Britain is describing it as a national emergency that he will have and this is a quote, “widespread impact on people and infrastructure”. It’s a national emergency, the weather is a national emergency.


Kimberly Adams: I’m trying to remember what it was. I think it was last month, France had really high temperatures. And someone had done like a spoof video, sort of as a mockup of what France’s weather would be like in 2050 with climate change.


Kai Ryssdal: Yes, we talked about that. Yeah!


Kimberly Adams: Yes, we did. Okay, I’m just making sure I haven’t, you know, gone into an alternate universe. But yeah, it’s wild like we are here. And I think this is the consequence of us always talking about climate change is happening so far in the future. But no, it is here. And we are dealing with the consequences today. And some people will die as a result of this.


Kai Ryssdal: And we should point out – just to be topical about this, that the senior senator from West Virginia has said to the president of United States, No, no, no, we’re not doing your climate plan. That seems germane.


Kimberly Adams: And it seems that they’re still going to try to pass something though. Just with climate stuff stripped out of it. Because they are running – the Democrats are running out of time to pass just about anything before the midterm. All-encompassing attention shuts all of that down. Okay, you want to do either one? Actually, no, let me do my other one, because it’s also grim and then we can end on that other one. Mine is about COVID, because just as a gentle reminder, folks, it’s still here, it is still quite bad. Hundreds of people are still dying every day from COVID-19. And this latest variant, the World Health Organization has basically said that we are… the wave is ramping up across the European Union. People are worried about new lockdowns in Shanghai. And here in the US, the Biden administration is considering rolling out an additional booster shot to all adults, it’s been restricted to people with certain pre-existing conditions and older folks. Look, just please continue to be…


Kai Ryssdal: Easy, easy on the older folks, I’m just saying. Some of us are, you know, in that zone, but not older. I just, I just can’t.


Kimberly Adams: Well, it’s a relative thing. It’s older than, that’s all. It’s just older than.


Kai Ryssdal: True and fair. Sorry, it was a little ice pick in my ego, but that’s fine.


Kimberly Adams: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. If it makes you feel any better. I just spent three weeks with my 12-year-old niece, who basically told me over and over again how old I was.


Kai Ryssdal: Well, welcome. Welcome to my 15-year-old daughter. So you know.


Kimberly Adams: But in yet another scary COVID thing, apparently COVID has completely blown up our attempts to stem antibiotic resistance. So you may have heard in the past how – yes, the CDC put something out about this I think today. So, leading up to COVID, a big concern in hospitals, was that they kept getting these infections that the antibiotics we have would not treat, because they kept developing – these viruses kept developing resistance to, you know, the antibiotics we have. And so there had been ongoing efforts across the world to try to reduce the amount of antibiotics that were prescribed, just to try to stem that. I mean, if you had maybe a sinus infection, at one point they would have just thrown antibiotics at it. But now they’re like, take these other things that you can get, to maybe try to clear it out without antibiotics, because they were very concerned about antibiotic resistance. And now, it says that during the first year of the pandemic, the problem of drug resistance only intensified. Vox is one of the several stories that covered it, basically because so many people were in the hospital with COVID. And they were just throwing antibiotics at people, not because the antibiotics would have fixed COVID, but because there were so many other things going on that they were treating at the same time. And so yes – I’m sorry, I should have I said earlier, and thank you, Marilyn Baker, that antibiotics were trying to treat viruses. It’s infections and bacteria, not viruses. Too many illnesses floating around in my head. But anyway, we’re screwed in that department. And now everyone is trying to figure out what to do to sort of at least get us back on the right track when it comes to antibiotic resistance.


Kai Ryssdal: I was on a plane yesterday, probably 20% mask penetration. And I was in Nashville, zero masks, not a mask. It’s kind of, “well, we’re done but the virus is not done with us”. Okay, can I do just one quick. Okay. So there was an absolutely charming interview on Morning Edition this morning. Inskeep was talking to the director of the James Webb Telescope program, his name is Gregory Robinson, just an absolutely lovely seven-ish-whatever-it-was minutes chat with this guy, about the project but also about him, and what it means to him and where he came from. And I cannot recommend it highly enough. And you don’t hear me saying that about things that appear on the other network a lot. It was great. It was great. It was really nice. It was really nice.


Kimberly Adams: I’m gonna go back and listen to it.


Kai Ryssdal: That’s what I got. Yeah, you should. Oh, I think you’ll like it. I think he’s a thoughtful guy. Very interesting. Truly


Kimberly Adams: Cool. All right. All right. That was nice. Okay, so now it is time for half full half empty, hosted by the one, the only, Drew Jostad. Hey, Drew.


Drew Jostad: Hi, Kimberly. Are you half full or half empty on paying a subscription fee for heated seats in your car?


Kai Ryssdal: Oh my god. So this is BMW, which has already rolled out subscription fees for things like adaptive cruise control and something else, but also now this week we learned they have rolled out subscription fees $18 a month, or $415 unlimited I think, for heated seats in your car, front seats only. And here’s the thing, the equipment’s already there, right, all the stuff to heat, the seats in your car is already there. But you need to get past the software to turn it on. And I just. I know micro subscriptions are everything, but oh my god, half empty! Come on, man.


Kimberly Adams: I mean, all the way empty. This gets into the whole like, right to repair movement stuff and…


Kai Ryssdal: It’s rent seeking.


Kimberly Adams: That too. And I don’t know if you follow sort of the tech fight with John Deere – have you followed this at all?


Kai Ryssdal: Oh, yes. Yeah yeah yeah. But go ahead.


Kimberly Adams: So John Deere, which makes all these tractors – and I’m sure other tractor manufacturers as well – and industrial farm equipment, you know, the classic image of the green tractor and everything like that. These machines are so advanced now that these companies that make them are insisting that they can be the only ones to repair them. And since they rely on so much technology, they can basically shut them on and off, if they want to, if you don’t pay for upgrades or the latest software or whatever. And so you can buy your half million dollar combine if you so desire, but you may not be able to keep using it unless you continue to play along, shall we say. So half empty.


Kai Ryssdal: Empty, empty, empty. Yep.


Drew Jostad: Okay, Alaska Airlines and Microsoft have partnered with a startup which is trying to convert carbon dioxide into sustainable jet fuel. Are you half full or half empty?


Kimberly Adams: I’m gonna go half full anything at this point?


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, I know nothing of this story. But I’m all the way full, sure. Yeah. Whatever we can do. Yeah.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah. I don’t know the story, either. But yes, I’m on board. Let’s give it a go. We gotta do something.


Drew Jostad: Half full or half empty on college rankings?


Kimberly Adams: This was Stephanie Hughes who did this story this week, right. And the premise is this idea that we have these college rankings and magazines and books like US News and World Report that basically matter so much to students in choosing where they’re going to go to college, but don’t necessarily tell the students whether or not it’s going to be a good fit for them. And so colleges end up trying to like game this ranking system to go up and go down. And it’s, it’s weird. I’m gonna go half empty, only because it kind of exacerbates this weird association we have with how smart someone is, and what school they went to. Which, as someone who went to a state school myself, I don’t think it’s great.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, the proximate cause of this thing is Columbia, having opted out of the latest US News and World Report rankings and thus dropping out of the top 10. And, oh, my god, now nobody’s gonna want to go to Columbia. So, what Kimberly said. I’m, yeah. Totally. Absolutely.


Drew Jostad: Okay, the major credit bureaus are changing how they report unpaid medical bills for your credit scores. Are you half full or half empty?


Kai Ryssdal: Ms. Adams?


Kimberly Adams: I mean, now that I’ve spent what, like months looking into credit scores, at this point, I am half full from the reporting that we did over on the tech show, and I know that there was another story I believe that Sam Fields did about this medical debt on credit reports. A) is not indicative of how likely you are to repay a debt, and often would show up even once people had paid it off. And it disproportionately affected low-income people and people of color and was yet another reason to deny or make more expensive access to financial products for a lot of different people. So half full.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, I’m with Kimberly, I think, actually, if there’s an industry or a sector of this economy that’s ripe for disruption, and Lord knows many of them are, I think the credit score thing is somehow ready to be blown up. I don’t know how because if I did know how I would do it. But it’s just, it’s so not right, if that makes any sense.


Kimberly Adams: It’s really interesting because you have this system that the major credit bureaus gather all of this information about you, often without us knowing or necessarily opting in to giving this information – although you probably signed or checked some box in the Terms of Service that allowed your bank or whomever to send it over, but I doubt most people know. And they package it. There are all these different algorithms from the two major credit scoring companies, FICO and VantageScore, along with banks and individual lenders often have their own scoring models, and they use it to kind of judge you and how much of a risk you are. And a lot of these measures do indicate how risky it is to give you a loan. But there are so many problems with it. But one thing that we kept asking people, as we were reporting for our credit score series on the tech show was, what’s a better way to do it? Like, what’s the alternative model? If you could design a system from scratch, what would it look like? And everyone was like, well, it would kind of look like this. Because the old way to do it was that you walked into a lender or to your Woolworths, and someone got to stare at you and ask you private personal questions about your life, and determine if they wanted to give you credit or not. And women often couldn’t get credit without their husband’s approval or their father’s approval. Obviously, people of color were actively discriminated against or charged higher interest. So in using this data driven model for all of its problems, it’s better than that. But we really didn’t hear a ton more revolutionary ways to do it other than adding different kinds of data into the algorithm and checking it for bias. So anyway.


Kai Ryssdal: It’s good. You guys are gonna package that up somehow right? And put it in a feed or put it on some…


Kimberly Adams: Ideally. We got to take a little breather from it. Everybody kind of killed themselves getting that series.


Kai Ryssdal: Lots of really good information in there anyway.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah, yeah. All right.


Kai Ryssdal: Drew, what else?


Drew Jostad: Half full or half empty on eat the rich popsicles?


Kai Ryssdal: Oh, my God. I just saw this today.


Kimberly Adams: I did not see this today.


Kai Ryssdal: So apparently in I think it’s New York, you can spend whatever New York prices are for a popsicle, and buy a popsicle in the shape of like Bill Gates, or Jeff Bezos or Warren Buffett or other random rich people and eat them. Because you eat popsicles, and that’s a statement against capitalism and rich people. I guess. The challenge, of course, is that you have to pay New York City prices for a popsicle to do that. And I don’t think that makes sense. So I’m half empty because it’s… I mean, come on.


Kimberly Adams: I’m gonna go half empty. Okay, there’s no non vulgar way to say this. I don’t want to put these people in my mouth. I’m sorry.


Kai Ryssdal: Oh man. We’re going to get an E on Apple podcast, Kimberly! Jesus! Jesus!


Kimberly Adams: Someone else was thinking it. Someone else was thinking it!


Kai Ryssdal: Nobody else was thinking that. If you were thinking that, just put it in the comments. Oh, yeah. Well, there’s one. Anyone.


Kimberly Adams: Okay, see? It wasn’t just me.


Kai Ryssdal: Renee El was thinking it, … was thinking it. Linda was thinking alright, so everybody was thinking it. Okay, everybody was thinking it and … was thinking it. Now Kimberly is narrating my inner monologue, a perfect podcast. Sarah: I was thinking that. Anyway. Oh, my God. All right. Well, clearly I know nothing about our audience. Anywho.


Kimberly Adams: Sorry, now I’m blushing.


Kai Ryssdal: Oh, no, that’s fine. It’s all good. It’s all good. All right. So look, we were blissfully and thankfully done for today. Back on Monday. Next week, Tuesday, we’re going to do gas prices. And we’re going to do what the what. And we’re going to talk about the production chain. We’re gonna talk about why they are, what they are, what has happened, what might happen, because if you’ve been paying attention to marketplace and or any other business and economic news source, you know the gas prices are what has been driving inflation. So we’re going to talk about that for a little while on Tuesday.


Kimberly Adams: If this is a topic that has been on your mind or you see it driving down the road every day, or however many days you’re working outside of the house, let us know. You can send us your thoughts and questions about gas prices. Email us at You can also leave us a voicemail or voice message. Who even says voicemail?


Kai Ryssdal: Don’t, just don’t. Bridger Bodnar, Bridget Bodnar says that, that’s why she writes it there and we say it. That’s how it happens.


Kimberly Adams: Okay, tiny tangent. I was at an event last night for like these NHL owners and the press. And the press woman there who was very kind pointed out to me that on our cell phones, you have the little hang up and pick up buttons that are like the yellow with the phone receiver. And there’s a whole generation of people that have never seen a phone that looks like that.


Kai Ryssdal: Oh, yeah, that’s a really good point. Probably two generations by now honestly.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah, all of their phones have been square. So, like, what are those icons even mean to them? Okay. Anyhow, if you have in a phone, you know, curve shaped one or this like square thing that we all have now, the phone number is 508-827-6278. 508-U-B-SMART.


Kai Ryssdal: My goodness. Get out of here by the hair on our chinny chin chin. Just barely. Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera. Today’s episode was engineered, as Fridays always are, by Drew Jostad. The senior producer and, you know, Lord of all things that comes out of Kimberly my mouth is, Bridget Bodnar.


Kimberly Adams: The team behind our Friday game is Steven Byeon, Mel Rosenberg, and Emily Macune, with the theme music written by the one, the only, Drew Jostad. And the director of on demand is Donna Tam.

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