☕ It's sensitive

Amazon bets it all on Middle Earth...
September 01, 2022 View Online | Sign Up | Shop

Morning Brew


Good morning. Full disclosure: We wrote a draft of this intro paying tribute to Serena Williams's legendary career, assuming that she'd fall to the No. 2 ranked player in the world, Anett Kontaveit. Well, she won.

We come to you with our hats in our hands and this humble reminder: Never, not even in an internal draft, bet against Serena Williams.

Matty Merritt, Abby Rubenstein, Jamie Wilde, Neal Freyman














*Stock data as of market close, cryptocurrency data as of 11:00pm ET. Here's what these numbers mean.

  • Markets: That's a wrap on August. Stocks started out super hot to begin the month, but lost that Leo energy toward the end and closed out August with a four-day losing streak. Snap shares popped after the company confirmed it was laying off 20% of its staff as part of a broader restructuring that aims to save $500 million in annual costs.


What exactly is Times Square?

Times Square Zsolt Hlinka/Getty Images

The place where Andy Cohen drunkenly rings in the New Year? The location of the best Italian restaurant in New York City (Olive Garden)? Actually, figuring it out has never been more timely or important.

Here's why: A New York law banning guns in "sensitive" places goes into effect today, but lawmakers had a tough time defining one sensitive area's precise boundaries: Times Square, which is visited by 360,000 pedestrians daily. With Times Square being more of a tourist fever dream than a place with hard, physical boundaries, the city council found itself wrangling over where exactly to hang up its "gun-free zone" signs.

New York implemented the law after a major Supreme Court ruling in June deemed it unconstitutional for NY (and five other states) to require concealed carry applicants to prove "proper cause" for their permit.

New York's new law establishes certain areas where gun owners can and can't carry. Schools, public transit, government buildings, parks, and anywhere that serves alcohol are all off limits. As for Times Square, there are a few no-gun-toting exceptions for people who live, work, or are just walking through in a "continuous, uninterrupted fashion."

Other states have responded to SCOTUS's ruling by enacting new gun restrictions.

  • Massachusetts passed a law this month that requires gun permit applicants to do personal interviews.
  • New Jersey passed a slew of gun control measures in July, including mandating firearm training for gun permit-seekers and empowering the state to sue firearm manufacturers over gun crimes in NJ.

Looking ahead…back in New York, gun rights advocates are already challenging the law in court. The law dissolved by SCOTUS was put in place 109 years ago when Times Square had a lot fewer "I <3 NY" shirts ground into the pavement, so its new gun control measures are far from set in stone.—MM



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Fun fact (in not-so-fun financial times): Fundrise produced its strongest ever relative performance during the first half of 2022, beating the S&P 500 on an absolute basis by nearly 25%.*

Another fun fact? Fundrise just posted its 21st consecutive quarter of positive returns. And it's all thanks to the portfolio's $6b worth of real estate assets, which are very well positioned to outperform the market, even during economic downturns. 

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Tour de headlines

Vaccines Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

The FDA signs off on Omicron boosters. Booster shots targeting Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, the dominant Covid strains in the US at the moment, from both Moderna and Pfizer–BioNTech are likely to be available for free within days—once the CDC gives its blessing. The updates to the shots are the first approved changes to these mRNA vaccines since they came out in December 2020. To get the jabs to the public faster, the FDA took the unusual step of giving the green light before receiving human trial data on the effectiveness of the changed vaccines.

US life expectancy fell nearly a year in 2021. The estimated American lifespan plunged last year to about 76 years and one month, dropping for the second consecutive year to its lowest level since 1996. Life expectancy has dipped by almost three years since the pandemic began in 2020, the biggest two-year decline in nearly 100 years. But Covid only shoulders about half the blame for the 2021 decline, the CDC said, with other factors like deaths from accidental injuries, including drug overdoses, also playing a role.

Much-Instagrammed coworking company The Wing closes all locations. The all-female club network, known for its feminist-themed marketing and millennial pink walls, emailed members Tuesday night to announce the immediate, permanent shutdown of its six remaining locations. The once buzzy (and pricey) club started to falter as the pandemic forced closures of all locations—and its original CEO resigned amid allegations of workplace racism before the company was sold to an office-space provider. No word yet on what will happen to all that jealousy-inducing furniture.


Bezos the Grey bets it all on Middle Earth

Jeff Bezos photoshopped as Gandalf Photo Illustration: Dianna "Mick" McDougall, Sources: New Line Cinema, Getty Images

If you've ever wanted to escape to a faraway land full of hot, long-haired, blond people without buying a plane ticket to Sweden, there's never been a better opportunity.

This evening—less than two weeks after HBO released its Game of Thrones prequel—Amazon Prime Video will drop the first two episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, its uber-pricey Middle Earth CGI extravaganza.

How pricey? Oh, just the most expensive TV series of all time. When combining the cost to buy the rights to the IP ($250 million) with the cost of the first season ($465 million) you get $715 million. To put that in perspective…

  • That's equivalent to 5.1 million annual Prime subscriptions, per the WSJ.
  • The OG Lord of the Rings trilogy cost director Peter Jackson $281 million to make (not adjusted for inflation).

To justify the price tag, Amazon execs say they need to lay an unshakable foundation for what will become a sprawling Middle Earth franchise in the vein of Disney's Star Wars, or what Netflix is trying to do with Stranger Things.

Bottom line: With The Rings of Power, Amazon is trying to nab the mega-hit its streaming service has never had. It's so important to the company that former CEO Jeff Bezos, who is a big LOTR nerd, made a surprise appearance at the global premiere this week.—NF



Fraternities become university GDIs

USC TKE house with USC flag taken down Photo Illustration: Dianna "Mick" McDougall, Sources: Getty Images

College is starting back up, and soon tens of thousands of students will descend on Greek houses around the US to shmooze their way into a lettered sweatshirt. But at many schools, students signed up for their university's official "rush week" will find their options severely limited. That's because many fraternities are cutting all ties to their campuses, aka "disaffiliating," over what they consider to be overly strict rules.

In recent years, fraternities at Duke, West Virginia, the University of Michigan, and CU Boulder have disaffiliated.

The latest: 10 of the University of Southern California's 14 official fraternities broke up with Tommy Trojan earlier this month. They formed their own governing body and put out a statement saying that their "partnership with USC has significantly deteriorated" since the school suspended nearly all organized fraternity activities for half the school year. The final deal breaker came when USC announced that first-semester freshmen would no longer be allowed to rush fraternities.

USC tells a different story of their departure, stating that "members are chafing at procedures and protocols designed to prevent sexual assault and drug abuse and deal with issues of mental health and underage drinking." Experts and students worry that these issues will worsen at fraternities that have opted out of university oversight.—JW

Stay tuned for more Back to School stories throughout the week.



Key performance indicators

South Park scene showing a cannabis growing farm South Park/Paramount Global via Giphy

Stat: For the first time on record, more people in the US say they smoke marijuana than cigarettes, a new Gallup poll showed. Talk about a dramatic switcheroo—in the mid-1950s, 45% of Americans said they smoked cigarettes; now just 11% do. As for marijuana, 4% said they toked up in 1969; now, 16% do.

Quote: "If it has any buttons on it, I would love to press them."

Harvard astronomy professor Avi Loeb is planning a $1.5 million expedition to the ocean floor to retrieve fragments of a meteor believed to be from another star system—that he surmises might just be technology made by aliens. Some astrophysicists aren't sold on his alien life theory, though, with one likening the project to dumping all your money in the middle of the sea.

Watch: My weekend as a 28-year-old in Chicago, Illinois. (@snotwurst420)


McKinsey & Company

Tech moves fast. New research by McKinsey & Co has everything you need to know about how the latest tech trends will impact your business. The McKinsey Technology Trends Outlook is your guide to the 14 emerging technologies attracting the most investment, innovation, interest, and adoption across every sector.



  • China's mistreatment of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities amounted to "serious human rights violations," the UN said yesterday in a highly anticipated report.
  • Russia stopped gas flows to Europe through a major pipeline for several days beginning yesterday, saying it has to do maintenance.
  • Crypto.com accidentally sent an Australian customer $7.2 million instead of the intended $68 refund. It's trying to get it back, but the customer already bought a house with some of the money.
  • South Korea is considering surveying the public about whether members of BTS should serve in the military, which is required of most men in the country.


Anigrams: Challenging word game with cute animal emojis. What's not to like?

Trailers galore: Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey is a horror movie that's a byproduct of a recently expired copyright on the original books. Then, Daniel Radcliffe stars in the Weird Al biopic.

Keep growing: The Brew's eight-week Business Essentials Accelerator will help you turn into the standout leader you want to be. Apply to our September cohort today and save $150 with code BTS150.

Tech takes charge: Change happens fast, and advanced features are here—with more on the way—to help make your days even better. Join Buick for an electrifying future ahead.*

*This is sponsored advertising content.


The puzzle section

Brew Mini: Think you know your sports mascots? Then you'll ace today's Mini. Play it here.

Three headlines and a lie

Three of these headlines are real and one is faker than an affordable brunch. Can you guess the odd one out?

  1. You now have to be 21 to buy canned whipped cream in New York
  2. Peer pressure: Cowboys tight end announces retirement after not being selected in teammates' fantasy football draft
  3. Two Air France pilots suspended after fighting in cockpit
  4. Long overlooked, Oregon's Swastika Mountain may have a new name soon

If you love Three Headlines and a Lie, play along on The Refresh from Insider and dive deeper into these weird news stories.

How to pay no taxes in early retirement

How to pay no taxes in early retirement

This week's Money with Katie episode is a deep dive into exactly how you can set yourself up to pay no taxes or penalties in retirement on any of your pretax, taxable, and Roth funds—even if you retire in your thirties. Listen or watch here.

Check out more from the Brew:

On the newest episode of Good Work: Be careful who you ask for help, because you never know who's on the other side of tech support. Watch now.

Fire up the grill this Labor Day weekend and get ready for some seriously hot savings at the Morning Brew Store. With deals starting at 50% off, shopping with us will feel like a breeze. Get yours now while supplies last.


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We made up the fantasy football one.

✢ A Note From Fundrise

*For more information, including all relevant disclaimers, check out the Fundrise Mid-Year Investor Letter


Written by Neal Freyman, Jamie Wilde, Matty Merritt, and Abigail Rubenstein

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