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European countries return to coal...
June 21, 2022 View Online | Sign Up | Shop

Morning Brew


Good morning. Today is the summer solstice, aka the longest day and shortest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Forecast: burnt hotdogs, Don Henley on the aux, and the shortest inseams you could even imagine.

Max Knoblauch, Neal Freyman, Matty Merritt














*Stock data as of market close, cryptocurrency data as of 7:00pm ET. Here's what these numbers mean.

  • Markets: The stock market's day off yesterday allowed us to take a quick dive into #markethistory to understand when this historic sell-off will end. There's nothing optimistic to report: Of the 17 times the S&P has dropped more than 15% since 1950, on 11 of those occasions stocks bottomed out only when the Fed began to signal a loosening of monetary policy, according to an analysis by Goldman Sachs. But in the current downturn, the Fed is planning to hike rates into next year.
  • Economy: Sometimes all it takes is a simple phone call to ease recession worries. President Biden said that "there's nothing inevitable about a recession" after dialing up former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. Biden and Democrats are working on legislation to help bring down inflation, including capping the price of insulin.


European countries to coal plants

Dr. Evil beckoning in Austin Powers Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery/New Line Cinema via Giphy

You know that one outfit you despise but sometimes have to wear because all of your other clothes are in the laundry?

That's the energy predicament Europe is finding itself in right now. Countries are restarting coal-fired power plants because, the way things are going, there won't be enough natural gas available come wintertime.

The first country to take the step was Germany, which on Sunday said it will restart coal-fired plants as part of a broader plan to preserve natural gas. "That's bitter, but it's almost necessary in this situation to reduce gas consumption," Germany's economy minister Robert Habeck said, who is a member of the environmentalist Green party.

How we got here: Europe's natural gas situation was already precarious because of its reliance on Russian energy exports, but the crisis deepened last week when Russian energy giant Gazprom slowed down flows in a pipeline that runs to Germany. Russia blamed a technical issue related to Canadian sanctions, but European countries say it's economic warfare, plain and simple.

The supply crunch coming on top of an existing supply crunch has put other European countries on high alert. Italy, Austria, and the Netherlands are also eyeing coal to keep energy prices from spiraling out of control (they're already near record highs).

Climate concerns take a backseat

As coal-fired power plants kick back into gear across the continent, EU leadership is urging countries to ensure this is a one-night stand with fossil fuels before they settle down with renewables.

"We have to make sure that we use this crisis to move forward and not to have a backsliding on the dirty fossil fuels," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the FT.

Zoom out: A similar dynamic is playing out in the US, where concerns around soaring energy prices are trumping environmental concerns. If two years ago we told you that President Biden would be chastising oil refiners for not producing more, you'd have looked at us real funny.—NF



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Tour de headlines

A man puts up prices at a gas station Francis Scialabba

Gas prices…are falling?!?! It's a summer solstice miracle. The average gallon of gas has dropped to below $5 in the US—the first time in nine weeks that the weekly average has decreased. The relief comes as the Biden administration weighs several policy options to make a trip to the gas station less painful than going to the dentist: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said a temporary gas tax holiday is "certainly worth considering," and President Biden confirmed that a decision on the topic could come this week.

Crypto and sports have a falling out. Two crypto companies, one of them FTX, have pulled out of deals to provide jersey patches to professional sports teams in recent weeks, according to the NY Post. This is a situation where saying, "It's not you, it's me" would actually be genuine. While crypto companies shelled out billions on sports marketing last year, the current plunge in digital token prices is forcing them to cut back on spending.

For scrap: cruise ship, never ridden. The cruise ship Global Dream II was so close to being a real ship it could almost taste the unlimited piña coladas. But after the shipbuilder went into bankruptcy and no buyer could be found, it has to wait in a German shipyard before being salvaged for parts. The ship was designed to hold more than 9,000 passengers, and, along with its sister ship Global Dream, would have been one of the largest cruise ships in the world.


Roe v. Wade decision imminent

abortion rights protests in DC Joel Carillet/Getty Images

This week, the Supreme Court is expected to deliver its official ruling on an abortion case that could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The Court follows the "best time to tell your friend their toilet is clogged" method, waiting to release its most controversial rulings until right before it leaves for a recess, which will arrive on June 26 (Sunday).

Where we stand: The court has 18 cases left to rule on. Opinions are usually dropped on Tuesday or Wednesday mornings, but nothing about this high-profile case has been normal. For starters, a draft opinion that would gut federal protections for abortions was the first opinion on a pending case in modern history to be leaked.

Zoom out: Up to 26 states have laws restricting or banning abortion set to take effect the second Justice Alito turns off his mic, but the demand for abortions likely won't change. An NYT analysis found that if Roe falls, the average travel distance to get the procedure would jump from 35 miles to ~280.

Which means that states including Kansas, California, and Illinois will see out-of-state abortion seekers flood their clinics. Illinois is expecting its number of patients to jump anywhere from 2x–5x, according to Bloomberg.—MM



Meta shows its work

A wall of Meta headset prototypes Meta

Less than ideal news for anyone looking to take Morpheus up on that blue pill: The Matrix is still in its PS2 era. At a virtual roundtable last week, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and members of the company's Reality Labs division showed off some of their metaverse R&D, revealing an array of VR and AR headset prototypes that attempt to solve some of the tech's current limitations.

Zuckerberg's goal is to eventually develop a headset that can pass a "visual Turing Test"—i.e., to create a virtual world that is indistinguishable from the real world. According to Mr. Sweet Baby Ray's, there are four key areas that a headset needs to nail in order to get there:

  1. Resolution high enough to replicate 20/20 vision
  2. Eye tracking to replicate focal depth
  3. HDR (high dynamic range) to replicate real world lighting and color
  4. A weight that doesn't make your head 40 pounds heavier

Zuck showed off several prototypes to both illustrate Meta's progress in each area and, probably, to justify naming his whole company after this thing.

Coming up: Zuckerberg again teased a high-end headset codenamed Project Cambria that's expected to ship later this year (with eye tracking), and explained a dual focus on cheap consumer headsets and bulkier professional-grade products.—MK



Key performance indicators

Giant 661lb stingray in tarp surrounded by scientists and fishermen. Chhut Chheana/Wonders of the Mekong

Stat: A giant stingray weighing 661 pounds and sure to take up the entire touch tank is the largest freshwater fish ever recorded, according to scientists. Last week, a fisherman caught the big guy in the Mekong river in Cambodia and, after a weigh-in, released it. This ultimate flat fish dethroned a 646-pound catfish from Thailand that had previously held the unofficial record since 2005.

Quote: "Join the MAGA crew. Get a RINO hunting permit. There's no bagging limit, no tagging limit and it doesn't expire until we save our country."

That's a snippet from a campaign video for Missouri Senate candidate Eric Greitens, who brandished a shotgun while calling for hunting RINOs (Republicans in Name Only). Social media companies were not keen on having it on their platforms: Facebook removed the video for "violating our policies prohibiting violence and incitement," and Twitter blocked users from sharing it.

Read: The boom-bust cycle of baby names and dog breeds. (Motherboard)


Life hacks: Here's a long list from David Brooks that will get you thinking.

Get outside: The 10 best hikes in the US (you may disagree, but good inspo nonetheless).

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  • The "Miles Teller Effect": Revenue at the domestic box office is actually up over the past five weekends compared to the same period in 2019.
  • US house prices could fall 5% annually by the middle of next year as mortgage rates rise, according to Capital Economics.
  • Israelis will vote in a general election for the fifth time in less than four years after leaders announced plans to dissolve parliament. In the shakeup, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid would swap in for Naftali Bennett as prime minister.
  • A Japanese court rejected a claim that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Japan is the only G7 country that does not permit same-sex marriage.


The puzzle section

Brew Mini: "Island 'where America's day begins'" (four letters) is your sample clue for today's puzzle. Play the Mini here.

Solstice trivia

The word "solstice" derives from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere. What does sistere, a verb, mean?


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How businesses can actually support LGBTQ+ employees

Business Casual hosts Nora and Scott speak with Sarah Kate Ellis, the CEO of GLAAD, about how the non-profit is working to shape the media narrative around LGBTQ issues. Watch or listen here.

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To stop, or stand still. It refers to the sun appearing to pause at its most extreme point during a solstice (in the summer solstice's case, its most northern point). Then, it reverses direction.


Written by Neal Freyman, Max Knoblauch, and Matty Merritt

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