Business

We all need to embrace the Fake Commute

Posted January 18, 2021 8:01 p.m. EST

— Editor's Note: A version of this story appeared in CNN Business' Nightcap newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free, here.

In today's business news: There's a new top cop on Wall Street, the rise of the fake commute and Parler makes a reappearance.

WELCOME, SHERIFF GARY

Joe Biden just announced a new top cop for Wall Street — someone Elizabeth Warren loves and bankers... well, he wouldn't be their top choice.

Biden is tapping Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A few things to know about Gensler:

As an Obama-era regulator, he helped craft the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that the industry loudly opposed. He's a former Goldman Sachs banker himself, so he knows that world deeply. "This should be a rebuttal to friends on the left who think you shouldn't have anyone who worked in industry," said former Congressman Barney Frank, co-author of the Dodd-Frank legislation. Senator Elizabeth Warren approves: "He is a tenacious regulator who stood up to the industry titans to rein in their risky behavior," she tweeted Monday. "He will be an excellent SEC Chair during this economic crisis."

THE TAKEAWAY

Gensler's nomination sends a clear message that the Biden administration will be much tougher on Wall Street than Trump was. My colleague Matt Egan has more.

SPICY NIGHTCAP

Pop quiz: name the largest beverage maker in the world by market capitalization?

Hint: It's not Coca-Cola, though that company held the title for years. It's not Diageo or AB InBev, either.

The crown has been taken by a luxury spirits maker whose sales come almost entirely within China, writes my colleague Michelle Toh. Its product is a fermented sorghum-rice liquor called baiju that's 53% alcohol and has been compared to drinking liquid razor blades.

The company is Kweichow Moutai, and it's valued at about $421 billion.

A LITTLE HISTORY

The story of how Moutai baiju became China's national spirit is a fascinating one. Mao Zedong was known to enjoy a tipple. When President Nixon made his historic 1972 trip to China, he was welcomed with baiju, which became known as the "drink of diplomacy." Once, at a state dinner in 1974, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told Deng Xiaoping: "I think if we drink enough Moutai, we can solve anything."

Even during a pandemic, Kweichow Moutai's stock surged around 70% in 2020. Outside of technology, the company is China's most valuable firm — worth more than the country's four biggest banks. It's also worth more than Toyota, Nike and Disney.

BIG PICTURE

Moutai is still largely unknown internationally, and that'll have to change if the company wants to stay on top. Like Mexican tequila, Russian vodka and American bourbon, baiju ultimately needs to go global to survive, industry analysts say. And baiju is a decidedly acquired taste. As I recently told a colleague: baiju tastes like jet fuel, but after a couple of shots you forget a lot of things — the taste, where you live, your own name — so maybe that's why it keeps flying off the shelves.

RELATED: China is the only major global economy to grow in 2020, thanks in part to its success in containing the Covid-19 outbreak within its borders early in the year.

NUMBER OF THE DAY

$1.9 TRILLION

President-elect Joe Biden last week proposed a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, part of an ambitious plan to combat an economic crisis.

But, as my colleague Chris Isidore writes, many economists and business leaders say no amount of stimulus can fix the economy until we fix the underlying cause of the problems — the Covid-19 pandemic. And unfortunately, the message from public health experts is clear: The pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better.

RISE OF THE FAKE COMMUTE

Ah, commuting. I can almost recall the last time I rushed out of my apartment with a gym bag, purse, and a giant tumbler of coffee, speed-walking without a mask on my face to the subway, where I'd squeeze onto a packed car with hundreds of other unmasked faces — how cavalier we were with personal space then! — and stare at my phone while praying the Q doesn't stall over the Manhattan Bridge (lol it always stalled).

While it wasn't exactly a relaxing ritual, it was something. It sucked, really, but I miss it.

That's why a lot people are embracing the Fake Commute.

Rather than rolling out of bed and heading straight for the laptop, many in the work-from-home set are finding ways to carve out time that was once spent on going to the office to do something — anything — besides stare at a screen, CNN's Kristen Rogers writes. Read on for tips on how to create your own Fake Commute.

WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON

Samsung vice chairman Lee Jae-yong was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison after the Seoul High Court found him guilty of embezzlement and bribery.

Ford ordered a month-long production halt at one of its plants in Germany, the latest sign that a global shortage of computer chips is putting carmakers under pressure and threatening their recovery from the pandemic.

Facebook posts promoting violence during inauguration week have circulated on the platform over the past week despite a crackdown by the social media giant since the January 6 insurrection, a tech watchdog group found. 

Parler suddenly reappeared Sunday with a message from its CEO, suggesting the social network has found a new online hosting platform after it was booted from Amazon Web Services.

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