☕️ Running interference

The aerial dogfight over 5G...
December 21, 2021 View Online | Sign Up | Shop

Morning Brew


Good morning and welcome to winter. Not to get all dark at the beginning of the newsletter, but technically it is the shortest day of the year, and here in New York we'll get just 9 hours and 15 minutes of daylight today.

Which means that if you began watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy right before sunrise, it'd be dark again by the end of the third movie.

Neal Freyman, Matty Merritt, Max Knoblauch














*Stock data as of market close, cryptocurrency data as of 6:00pm ET. Here's what these numbers mean.

  • Markets: With Omicron concerns swirling and Biden's big spending plan KO'd by Sen. Joe Manchin, the S&P posted its biggest three-day drop since September. Tesla shares have now fallen back to their price before that big Hertz deal was announced in October.
  • Build Back Better fallout: Goldman Sachs cut its economic growth forecast for next year after Manchin said he wouldn't vote for Democrats' $2 trillion social spending bill. But yesterday the senator detailed some changes to the bill he'd support, reviving hopes that negotiations could resume in January.


The Dogfight Over Airports and Airwaves

An airplane running into radio airwaves Francis Scialabba

If you had to guess the No. 1 worry for airline execs right now, what would you say? Omicron lowering holiday travel demand? Rude passengers refusing to mask up?

The answer, in fact, is not at all related to Covid: What the industry is most concerned about, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told senators last week, is the arrival of a new 5G wireless service from AT&T and Verizon on Jan. 5. The aviation sector has been arguing that this launch will interfere with key cockpit systems and lead to major disruptions for travelers in the new year.

  • United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said that the 5G rollout could delay, divert, or cancel ~4% of daily flights.
  • The trade group Airlines for America projected 5G-related delays will cost passengers $1.6 billion annually.

Why can't 5G and cockpits get along?

Airline execs say 5G signals, which operate in a range of radio frequencies called the C-band, could mess with the cockpit systems that are used to track a plane's altitude and help with landings in bad weather. So, in a situation where those systems are interfered with and dense fog rolls into Chicago, landings at O'Hare might be deemed unsafe, which would then wreak scheduling havoc across the country.

In response to these concerns, telecom leaders are playing the world's smallest violin. Wireless companies paid at least $81 billion for the rights to this C-band, and they're not going to let airline execs ruin their much-hyped push into next-gen wireless networks…especially when they consider those concerns unfounded.

  • "The aviation industry's fearmongering relies on completely discredited information and deliberate distortions of fact," Nick Ludlum, senior vice president at wireless trade group CTIA, said.

Looking ahead…telecom and aviation leaders are locked in high-stakes negotiations with the White House and regulators over a deal that would dim 5G signal power near airports. In the meantime, airlines are warily prepping for flight restrictions.—NF



Classrooms Empty Out...Again

The fourth-grade holiday party just isn't the same from your kitchen table.

The number of US public schools closing due to Covid this week hit 646, an increase of 81% from the previous week, according to data service Burbio. The jump comes only days before most schools' winter breaks were set to begin and as the highly contagious Omicron variant races across the country.

Some experts and politicians are urging school districts to keep their doors open. They argue that virtual classrooms are more harmful to students than the risk of developing severe illness from Covid (Covid hospitalizations for school-age children has been 1-in-100,000 throughout the pandemic).

  • One report from McKinsey Insights found that online learning left students up to five months behind in math and four months behind in reading. And schools with a majority Black population suffered even more educational setbacks after pivoting to virtual classes.

Zoom out: Health officials are increasingly trying to avoid widespread quarantines for school children. Last Friday, the CDC endorsed a policy known as "test-to-stay," which aims to reduce classroom disruptions by allowing students exposed to Covid to get tested and return to school.—MM



Oracle Eyeing the Health Care Market Like

Leonardo Dicaprio saying Giphy

Tech giant Oracle said it's paying $28.3 billion to buy electronic medical records company Cerner, because hey, anything that makes paperwork less excruciating seems like a savvy business play in our book.

Oracle is known for being aggressive with acquisitions (it even rallied a group to try and buy TikTok last year), but Cerner is Oracle's biggest purchase in its history. The deal is further evidence that health care is "on par with banking in terms of the importance to our future," as cofounder Larry Ellison told analysts earlier this month.

  • In Cerner, Oracle will get the Klay Thompson of the electronic medical records market—a very influential player, but in second place behind Epic, which owns a 31% market share.

Bottom line: Big tech companies see a golden opportunity in bringing the health care industry to the cloud, given its size (health care spending accounts for almost 20% of US GDP), and its old-school record-keeping process. A Mayo Clinic study cited by Oracle showed that doctors and nurses spend an average of 1–2 hours on desk work for every hour they take to see patients.—NF



Don't Put All Your Eggs In One Stock Market


Listen, the stock market can be great. Sometimes it's stable, everything's in the green, and you put "investing genius" in all your dating profiles.

But the stock market can also be unpredictable. And when you wake up to see all your highly considered positions in the red, you should give yourself some peace of mind by diversifying your portfolio.

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No need to feel all that stock market stress, reader. For a limited time, get $10 when you start investing with Fundrise today.


Key Performance Indicators

Stat: Crazy to think that one month ago none of us had ever heard of Omicron. Now, it's the most dominant Covid strain in the US, accounting for 73% of all infections last week, the CDC said yesterday.

Quote: "Quidditch is at a turning point."

Mary Kimball, executive director of US Quidditch, is bullish on the Harry Potter sport's growth prospects…but first, it needs a new name. Two US quidditch leagues will change the name from quidditch in order to 1) "distance themselves from the works of JK Rowling," who they say has anti-trans views and 2) avoid a legal dust-up with Warner Bros., which has trademarked the term quidditch.

Read: While we're on the subject…learn how Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings changed the future of Hollywood 20 years ago. (The Ringer)



Himalayan Glaciers Are Rapidly Melting

A helicopter flies over Khumbu glacier in the Mount Everest region PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP via Getty Images

When you see news about glaciers in the Brew, you can probably assume it's not because they're multiplying.

Himalayan glaciers, in fact, are melting at an extraordinary rate, according to new research published on Monday in the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers found that not only are Himalayan glaciers shrinking more rapidly than glaciers in other parts of the world, but also that in the past 40 years, they've shrunk 10x faster than they have during the previous 7 centuries.

For the study, researchers looked at satellite images of ~15,000 glaciers in the region, searching for signs of where the ice masses previously existed. They were able to estimate that the amount of glacial ice lost since the Little Ice Age—a period of global cooling between 400 and 700 years ago—has been enough to raise global sea levels about 1/20th of an inch.

Why it matters: The Himalayas, sometimes referred to as the "Third Pole," contain the world's third-largest amount of glacier ice, and the largest reserve of freshwater outside of the polar regions. The region threatened by the ice melt is the source of 10 major river basins that provide drinking water, irrigation, and power to about 1.9 billion people.—MK



  • The World Economic Forum in Davos, which was supposed to take place next month, has been rescheduled to early summer due to the spread of Omicron.
  • Walmart was sued by California officials who accused the retailer of illegally dumping hazardous waste at landfills.
  • The NHL will pause its season Wednesday, two days ahead of a scheduled Christmas break, in response to a Covid outbreak around the league.
  • The jury has begun deliberations in the sex trafficking and perjury trial of Ghislaine Maxwell.


Mornings are kind of our thing. And we can thank our cofounder and executive chairman, Alex Lieberman, for that. Alex credits his success to having the right morning routine in place, and so we partnered with Braun to help show you how it's done.*

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Innnteresting: Check out 2021's trending Google searches by state. Dogecoin and AMC absolutely took over in May.

*This is sponsored advertising content


The Puzzle Section

Brew Mini: Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum _____." If you can fill in the blank, you're already more than 10% done with today's Mini crossword. Finish it up here.

Logo Quiz

NBC's peacock is among the most famous logos in the world. But which of the two color schemes below is the correct one?

NBC peacock logo, a real version and a fake one


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Written by Neal Freyman, Max Knoblauch, and Matty Merritt

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