Make Me Smart
January 24, 2020

The News Fix

Netflix’s quarterly report to investors dropped this week, showing U.S. subscriber growth had slowed at the end of 2019 — probably thanks to the arrival of Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus. With HBO Max, Quibi and NBCUniversal’s Peacock launching soon, the streaming behemoth will have its work cut out defending its share of the market.

But there was a bright spot in Netflix’s report: The company beat expectations for subscriber growth internationally, now counting more than 167 million global accounts. Netflix also scored 24 Academy Award nominations this year — its biggest showing ever and the most of any studio. And Netflix produced 19 of the top 20 most-streamed series in 2018 and 2019.

It’s looking like Netflix’s strategy to maintain its lead — aside from growing abroad — is just to make the best, most popular stuff. And it’s spending a lot of money to do that. Analysts estimate Netflix will dish out more than $17 billion this year on new content.

That’s certainly one way to win wars

A honeybee hive.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Smart In a Shot

Thanks to millions of bees, Central California has become the land of milk and honey. The state’s $7.6 billion almond-growing industry produces most of the world’s almond supply. And as the popularity of almond milk has swelled in recent years, the orchards are under greater pressure to produce.

And so are the bees. Every year, the state’s almond farmers call on beekeepers from several states across the West to loan out millions of bee hives to pollinate their orchards. It places strain on the insects, requiring them to wake earlier from their annual dormancy and occupy smaller geographic areas, which heightens the risk of disease. As a result, bee populations are in a sticky spot.

With the tighter supply and much greater demand, busy farmers are having a hard time getting their hands on the power pollinators at an affordable rate — and that’s led to a rise in bee heists. This week, Oregon beekeeper Mike Potts became the latest victim: A sting operation on his property resulted in the loss of nearly 100 beehives, each containing about 50,000 bees.

Hive heists have become so common, some law enforcement officials in the region now specialize in bee theft cases. 

The Numbers

This month, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which paves the way for sex equality to make its way into the U.S. Constitution. Let’s look at how we got here and what happens next. 


Congress first passed the ERA in 1972 and sent it to the states for ratification. In the decade that followed, only 35 states passed it — three short of the 38 required for ratification. The amendment languished until recently. Virginia’s vote last week (following the ERA’s passage in Nevada in 2017 and Illinois in 2018) has revived the effort to get the amendment into the Constitution.

But there are a few other things to consider … 


That’s how many states have voted to rescind their original ratification of the ERA. It’s unclear whether those rescissions will hold up. Meanwhile, much of America is pretty uninformed about the ERA … 


That’s the portion of Americans who think men and women are already guaranteed equal rights in the U.S. Constitution. The 14th Amendment broadly guarantees all citizens equal protections, but it doesn’t specify sex equality. 


That’s how many states guarantee equal rights on the basis of sex in their constitutions. The laws vary from state to state.

To get even smarter about the ERA, listen to this week’s “Make Me Smart” podcast! 

A 2012 rally to mark the 40th anniversary of congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

This week on the podcast

Episode 146: A vote for the ERA was long overdue, but it might be too late

To the surprise of many, the Constitution doesn't say anything about equal protection for women's rights. The Equal Rights Amendment is 97 years in the making. (Listening time, 35:30)


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.

Exploring food, culture and identity

Marketplace’s Eliza Mills and Erica Phillips recommend the Netflix series “Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner,” hosted by chef David Chang. Part food show, part travel show, the series really just feels like a good meal with a couple friends. 


Solutions to the affordable housing crisis

Listener Sheila D. recommends this explainer from CityLab on shared-equity housing, alternative forms of homeownership that are gaining popularity. The models, which seek to address the lack of affordable housing, often face pushback and logistical challenges. 


Forecasting is an art form

Listener Nate L. recommends the book “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction” by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner. Studying the results of a massive forecasting tournament, the authors found that the ability to predict outcomes doesn’t necessarily require powerful technology.
Alexa, Make Me Smart

This Make Me Smart newsletter is written by Erica Phillips.

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