☕ Did he cheat?

A rail worker strike could wreak havoc on the economy...
September 12, 2022 View Online | Sign Up | Shop

Morning Brew

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Good morning. This weekend I was in Boston, where last call is famously on the earlier side. And speaking of last call, the application deadline for our Business Essentials Accelerator is coming up really fast (great segue). The September cohort begins in just two weeks, on September 26, so readers who want to gain new business skills and meet a great crew of people should apply now and get $150 off with code BTS150.

Neal Freyman

MARKETS: YEAR-TO-DATE

Nasdaq

12,112.31

S&P

4,067.36

Dow

32,151.71

10-Year

3.314%

Bitcoin

$21,543.88

Ethereum

$1,735.23

*Stock data as of market close, cryptocurrency data as of 9:00pm ET. Here's what these numbers mean.

  • Markets: During last week's rally, the S&P rose above its 50-day moving average—Wall Street lingo meaning the average of the 50 prior closing levels. While that's a good sign, everything could hinge on Tuesday's inflation report and how it'll influence the Fed's interest rate decisions. Over in crypto, all eyes are on Ethereum's big software upgrade, scheduled to take place between Tuesday and Thursday this week.

TRANSPORTATION

Stop this train

Freight train Getty Images

Over the past several years, supply chain disruptions in power grids, semiconductors, and Suez Canals have taught us about the under-the-radar industries that keep the economy functioning.

It's time to take another crash course, because a major supply chain interruption could be around the corner. Starting today, US railroads said they would delay shipments of some materials in advance of a potential strike by more than 90,000 rail employees.

Unions representing those employees have threatened to walk out starting Friday over disagreements with their work scheduling. Many of the people who work in two-person crews on trains have to be "on call" seven days a week, which makes planning nonwork activities with family or friends basically impossible. A strike would halt all activity along the US' 140,000-mile rail network.

The impact would be mega

The US economy would lose $2 billion every single day that trains aren't moving, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) said in a report. Because, while you may not think about freight trains unless they're blocking your car at a crossing, they're integral to getting goods where they need to be. Consider these stats:

  • One-third of US grain exports travel by rail. A disruption to those movements could worsen food shortages across the world.
  • About half of all US fertilizer travels in trains. The CEO of a fertilizer trade group warned lawmakers that the drying up of fertilizer flows would raise food prices for consumers.
  • How do over 75% of finished vehicles get from factories to dealerships? By train.
  • One rail car can carry as many as 2,000 UPS packages.

Couldn't we just ask some truck drivers to pick up the cargo during a rail work stoppage? Not realistic. You'd need 467,000 more long-haul trucks per day to make up the shortfall, per the AAR's report.

Looking ahead…considering that the US economy would nearly implode if trains were to stop running, the federal government has kept close tabs on negotiations for months and is pushing for a resolution. Congress has the power to block a strike from happening if a deal isn't reached this week.

        

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WORLD

Tour de headlines

A teenager rides a hoverboard past a destroyed Russian army tank in the village of Lukashivka, Chernihiv region Sergei Chuzavkov/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine tripled its territorial gains in 48 hours. Yesterday, the 200th day since the war began, Ukrainian forces scored their biggest victory in months, driving the Russian military out of a swath of territory it seized in the spring. In a lightning counteroffensive this month, the Ukrainians say they've recaptured more than 1,100 square miles of the northeastern Kharkiv region—basically like regaining all of Rhode Island. In response, Russian strikes caused a "total blackout" across stretches of eastern Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

The new face of tennis. Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz has emerged as the heir to the "Big 3" by winning the US Open yesterday over Casper Ruud. In addition to claiming his first Grand Slam championship, the 19-year-old also rose to No. 1 in the world rankings. On the women's side, Polish star Iga Swiatek defeated Ons Jabeur to win her third major title.

Antigua and Barbuda may ditch the monarchy. The prime minister of the Caribbean nation said it will hold a vote on whether to become a republic and remove King Charles III as head of state, joining other former colonies in revisiting their relationship with the British monarchy. While conceding that "most people haven't even bothered to think about it," Prime Minister Gaston Browne said becoming a republic would "complete the circle of independence."

SPORTS

Why a chess grandmaster offered to play naked

Photograph of Hans Niemann Saint Louis Chess Club/YouTube

For everyone whose Queen's Gambit-fueled chess phase has faded away, the sport's biggest scandal since 2006 is here to rope you back in.

What happened: On September 4, world champion Magnus Carlsen was defeated by 19-year-old American Hans Niemann at the Sinquefield Cup tournament in St. Louis (prize money: $350,000). Carlsen, whose loss to the inferior Niemann came as a big shock, withdrew from the tournament and suggested in a Twitter post that Niemann had cheated. Other big names in the sport declared Niemann's play "sus," and online chess giant Chess.com banned him from the site over this and other cheating allegations.

How would you even cheat in live chess? One theory is that Niemann got his hands on Carlsen's game plan ahead of time, and could anticipate his surprise opening. Another, slightly more ridiculous hypothesis alleges that Niemann linked wireless anal beads to a computer to alert him of the correct moves by vibrating. To no one's surprise, this is the theory that Elon Musk endorsed on Twitter.

Niemann has vigorously denied he cheated against Carlsen, and said he'll play fully naked to prove it. Other chess pros have defended Niemann, calling the allegations a "witch hunt." Either way, chess is in chaos right now.

        

CALENDAR

The week ahead

Scene from Succession Succession/HBO

TV awards: The 74th Emmy Awards will be held tonight at the Microsoft Theater in downtown LA. Succession is the most nominated show, and HBO and Netflix are expected to rack up the most awards. After years of record-low TV ratings, viewership for the Emmys actually rose last year.

Inflation: Further confirmation that inflation is past its peak could come on Tuesday with the release of the consumer price index. Prices are expected to have increased 8% last month, a dire level of inflation but less than the 8.5% increase in July.

The queen's coffin heads toward London: The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II will journey from Scotland to London, where the late monarch will lie in state for four days before her funeral next Monday. President Biden and many other world leaders are expected to attend what will be one of the biggest diplomatic events of the past decade.

Everything else:

  • The WNBA finals between the Connecticut Sun and the Las Vegas Aces will continue throughout the week.
  • Oktoberfest begins in Munich on Saturday. The equivalent of 124,425 kegs of beer were consumed at Oktoberfest 2019.

GRAB BAG

Key performance indicators

Biden pays respects on 9/11 outside the Pentagon Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Quote: "I know for all those of you who lost someone, 21 years is both a lifetime and no time at all."

President Biden spoke at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks yesterday. During his speech, the president mentioned what the late Queen Elizabeth II told Americans following the attack: "Grief is the price we pay for love."

Stat: Of the nine schools in New York State where less than 1% tested at grade level in 2019, all were Hasidic boys' schools. And when a standardized test in reading and math was given to 1,000 students at one NY private Hasidic school, all of them failed. These stats are from an illuminating New York Times investigation of how Hasidic private schools have shielded kids from a basic education all while taking in more than $1 billion in government funding in just the past four years.

Read: The Steve Jobs Archive

WHAT ELSE IS BREWING

  • Visa joined Mastercard and American Express in pledging to separately categorize sales at gun stores.
  • Billionaire investor Dan Loeb, who recently acquired a stake in Disney, said he changed his mind about urging the company to spin off ESPN.
  • Disney, meanwhile, dropped more info on upcoming releases for Disney+, including new Marvel and Star Wars shows.
  • Five speech therapists in Hong Kong were sentenced to 19 months in prison after a judge ruled that their children's books were an anti-Chinese government "brainwashing exercise."

BREW'S BETS

Dive back into the week:

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GAMES

The puzzle section

Turntable: C, T, I, R, A, U, H. How many words can you create from those letters? Find out here.

Empire trivia

In addition to the UK, 14 other countries have King Charles III as their head of state. How many of them can you name? You can "win" the game by identifying more than eight.

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ANSWER

Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu

         

Written by Neal Freyman

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