Make Me Smart
January 17, 2020

The News Fix

This week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos traveled to India, where he announced the company’s plans to invest $1 billion in small- and medium-sized businesses there, aiming to bring them online and add them to Amazon’s growing network of third-party sellers. 

This was just the latest of the company’s investments in India, which amount to more than $5 billion over the last five years. And it’s clear why Amazon considers India an important place to grow: The online retailer currently makes more money from sales by third parties than it does from selling goods directly to consumers. India’s millions of small businesses have the potential to expand that exponentially.

But Bezos wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms during his visit this week. A group of brick-and-mortar business owners held protests, saying Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart are driving local mom-and-pops out of business. India’s antitrust regulator also announced an investigation into both retail giants this week, examining whether they’ve engaged in anti-competitive practices. 

When MLB confirmed the Houston Astros cheated in the 2017 World Series, Yu Darvish tweeted, “So if that is in the works, can someone make a Yu Garbage Jersey for me?”

Smart In a Shot

So it’s official: The 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros cheated. Using a live video feed of the opposing catcher’s hand signals, Astros players — holed up in a tunnel behind the dugout — banged loudly on a trash can to convey to each batter what the next pitch would be. As punishment for what MLB dubbed “the banging scheme,” this week the Astros were fined $5 million, their general manager and field manager were suspended (and subsequently fired by the organization) and the team had to forfeit several draft picks. 

The justice was poetic for former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, who gave up five runs in the deciding seventh game of the 2017 series — at Houston’s Minute Maid Park — and was widely derided at the time by fans and commentators. Some took to calling him “Yu Garbage.” This week that epithet turned comically ironic. 

When the news broke, Darvish’s Twitter game was bang on: “If the Dodgers are planning a 2017 World Series parade, I would love to join!” he wrote. “So if that is in the works, can someone make a Yu Garbage Jersey for me?”

But the scandal, which has captivated baseball fans, is far from over: The internet was abuzz Thursday afternoon with unconfirmed rumors that the Astros went even further, using electronic devices to transmit intel.

The Numbers

Starting in July, JetBlue Airways will become the first U.S. airline to go carbon neutral on all its domestic flights. Let’s look at air travel’s contribution to global pollution. 

918 million

That’s how many metric tons of carbon dioxide passenger airlines emitted in 2018, which amounted to just over 2% of total CO2 emissions that year. 

8.2 billion

That’s how many passengers the industry estimates will take flight in 2037 — nearly double today’s numbers. The industry’s rapid rise, particularly in emerging economies, could propel even higher emissions in the coming years: According to one study, aviation could comprise more than 25% of the world’s “carbon budget” by 2050. 

$295.7 million

That was the value of total investment in carbon offsets in 2018. (JetBlue plans to use carbon offsets as its primary strategy to become carbon neutral.) Offsets fund projects that reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, and last year’s investments represented an estimated 98.4 million metric ton reduction in carbon emissions. But that’s still only a tiny fraction of global pollution: industrial CO2 emissions reached nearly 37 billion metric tons last year. 
Brittany Kaiser, data privacy advocate and former director of program development at Cambridge Analytica
Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images

This week on the podcast

Episode 145: It’s 2020. And the Cambridge Analytica story? It’s growing …

This week, former Cambridge Analytica employee and document leaker Brittany Kaiser talks with us about election interference and Big Data. (Listening time, 37:54)


None of us is as smart as all of us

Tell us what’s making you smarter at We'd love to include your recommendation in a future newsletter.

A good time to examine our assumptions

Listeners Brad E. and William D. both recommend the book “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think” by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund. William says the book provides “strategies for recognizing and correcting our false assumptions,” adding, “Couldn't come at a better time!” 


You'll never think about generic drugs the same way

Listener Danielle J. recommends the book “Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom” by Katherine Eban. “It's a fascinating and terrifying look at the generic drug industry and how they are and are not regulated by the FDA,” Danielle says.


One number doesn't tell the whole story

Marketplace research assistant Cynthia Betubiza recommends this analysis from the Brookings Institution on why a low unemployment figure doesn’t tell the whole story of how well people are doing in America. Cynthia said it’s “something I think about whenever people rave about job numbers!”
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This Make Me Smart newsletter is written by Erica Phillips.

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