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Good morning. It's Thursday, Sept. 15, and we're covering a potential rail strike, whether the 2018 Parkland mass shooter will receive the death penalty, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].


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Railroad Strike Looms

Editor's note: Shortly after this morning's digest was sent, negotiator announced a tentative White House-mediated deal.


US railroad workers may begin a strike tomorrow if railroad carriers and a group of 12 labor unions fail to reach an agreement on a new contract. It would be the nation's first strike in three decades and is predicted to cost the economy $2B per day.


A mediation board's proposal (see report) includes a 24% wage increase retroactive to 2020, with an immediate payout of $11K for each worker. Two unions have not agreed to the deal, with holdouts demanding more work flexibility, citing examples of harsh discipline for missing work to attend doctor visits. One union of 5,000 workers has already rejected the deal outright and authorized a strike to begin in two weeks. Some carriers, in turn, have called for an embargo on certain shipments ahead of the Friday deadline, while Amtrak canceled long-distance passenger routes starting today.


If a strike begins, economists warn widespread disruptions to shipping logistics could push prices higher amid historic inflation. Business groups are lobbying Congress to intervene as the White House scrambles for alternative transport methods for essentials. 

Xi-Putin Meeting

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet today in Uzbekistan, a sit-down occurring as part of a broader regional economic summit. The two are expected to discuss Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, among other topics. 


To date, China has provided tacit support for Russia's war effort, but public reports suggest the country has stopped short of providing military aid to the country. Observers say China's strategic positioning on the issue has been framed by a desire to prevent NATO expansion in Europe and its own relationship with Taiwan while seeking to avoid direct involvement in the conflict. 


The meeting comes amid a swift Ukrainian counteroffensive in the northeast, with the Kremlin making its first public acknowledgment of retreat since the beginning of the war—a move analysts say may be meant to shift blame from Putin to defense officials. See updates here.

Defense Rests in Parkland

Defense attorneys for the suspect responsible for the deadliest high school shooting in US history abruptly rested their case yesterday, having called just 26 of an originally planned 80 witnesses.


The now 23-year-old Nikolas Cruz previously pleaded guilty to the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead and 17 others wounded. The current trial will decide whether Cruz will receive the death penalty or life in prison without parole.


Under Florida law, jurors must examine whether the attack included at least one aggravating factor (see 101) that made it a capital crime or if mitigating circumstances, such as mental illness, can spare capital punishment. His defense spent significant time arguing Cruz had been subject to abuse by his late birth mother, including allegations of heavy alcohol and drug use during her pregnancy. 


The decision to rest led to a tense exchange with the judge (watch here).

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> R. Kelly found guilty on six counts of child pornography and enticement; Kelly is already serving 30 years on separate sex trafficking and racketeering charges (More)


> Jesse Powell, Grammy-nominated R&B singer, dies at 51 (More) | Irene Papas, Greek actress whose career spanned 50 years, dies at 93 (More)


> London Marathon joins Boston Marathon in adding a category for nonbinary runners beginning in 2023; this year's marathon takes place Oct. 2 (More)

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Science & Technology

> South Korea issues arrest warrant for Do Kwon, the founder of cryptocurrency technology firm Terraform Labs, which saw two currencies lose $40B in value over a few days in May (More) | The LUNA meltdown explained (More)


> Researchers demonstrate new approach to developing protocells, or synthetic cells that exhibit the functionality of living cells; technique uses the components from destroyed bacterial cells (More)


> Geologists develop the deepest model to date of Iceland's extensive Fagradalsfjall volcano; system experienced a slow monthslong eruption last year after being dormant for about eight centuries (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.3%, Dow +0.1%, Nasdaq +0.7%) following Tuesday’s largest loss since June 2020 (More) | Average US 30-year mortgage interest rate tops 6% for first time since 2008 (More)


> Patagonia founder and family to transfer ownership to nonprofit, will invest company’s profits to fund organizations combating climate change; company is valued at $3B and expects to fund approximately $100M per year to the nonprofit (More)


> The state of California sues Amazon alleging the company’s third-party seller contracts inflate consumer prices (More

Politics & World Affairs

> Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson to step down after center-right coalition wins a slim parliamentary majority; opposition win was fueled by support for nationalist-populist Sweden Democrats party (More)


> Baltimore prosecutors move to vacate the conviction of Adnan Syed for the 1999 killing of Hae Min Lee—highlighted in the first season of the "Serial" podcast—following a yearlong probe into prosecutorial errors (More)


> Queen Elizabeth II lies in state, with line for well-wishers reportedly stretching 2 miles long to pay respects; see updates here (More) | See a deep dive on the week's ceremonies (More)



Treasures of Fossil Lake

Smithsonian | Richard Conniff. In southwestern Wyoming, settled in what used to be an ancient lakebed, amateur fossil hunters are helping unravel the mysteries of animals that lived millions of years ago. (Read)

Boreal Ablaze

Reuters | Staff. A visual deep dive into the impact of the increasing number of wildfires in the Arctic and why the blazes differ from those in other locations around the world. (Read)



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Where retired cruise ships go to die.


Old Bay Seasoning challenges pumpkin spice with new fall flavor.


After 40 years, the Harlem Globetrotters are returning to TV.


China tests new cars that hover an inch above roads using magnets.


Highlights from this year's New York Fashion Week.


Delta passenger wins upgrade after dance-off.


The “Star Wars” song you’ve never heard.


A pastry chef that will make you want to eat a giraffe.


A food delivery bot crashes through a crime scene.


Clickbait: A Kindergartener’s cold lunch comes with a cold review.


Historybook: Mystery writer Agatha Christie born (1890); Muhammad Ali defeats Leon Spinks to win heavyweight title for the third time (1978); Prince Harry born (1984); Google.com registered as domain name (1997).


"The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life."

- Muhammad Ali

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