This is what you need to know about the Ethereum Merge.

But crypto fans have been talking for months about the merge, a complex software update for the Ethereum network.

Here’s what happens: This year has been challenging for cryptocurrencies and their many fans. Bitcoin, which is by far the biggest token, has lost about 70% of its value since its peak almost a year ago. The same goes for ether, which is the second-biggest coin and runs on the Ethereum blockchain.

Source Ethereum.org

But crypto fans have been talking for months about the “merge,” a complex software update for the Ethereum network.

The nonprofit that runs the network says that the merger would put the core infrastructure of Ethereum on a path that would be better for the environment and cut its carbon footprint by 99%. At least, that’s the simple version. In reality, it took years of research and testing, and no one knew what would happen because nothing like it had ever been done before.

So far, though, it seems like the merge has gone off without a hitch.

This is what you should know:

When you hear critics say that crypto uses as much energy as all of Argentina or that bitcoin uses as much energy as all of America’s refrigerators combined, they are talking about the global network of computers needed to verify transactions under the “proof-of-work” protocol.

Until now, both Ethereum and bitcoin ran on proof-of-work, requiring high-powered computers to check transactions and “mine” new coins across a decentralized global computer network.

(I know that still sounds like science fiction, but the longer explanation would put everyone to sleep. Let me just say that proof-of-work is bad for the environment and very bad for the crypto industry’s public relations.

The long-awaited merge moves transactions on Ethereum to a more energy-efficient method called “proof-of-stake.”

What comes next?

If the merge goes smoothly, the Ethereum network (which it has), which is home to all NFTs (non-fungible tokens), should work just like it did before, but it will use a lot less electricity and, supporters say, make the network more secure.

Will Bitcoin do the same thing?

It seems unlikely. In the world of crypto, people have very different ideas about how useful the technology behind it is.

“Bitcoin and Ethereum have very different cultures,” says Laura Shin, who runs the podcast “Unchained.” Even though it is technically possible for bitcoin to change its infrastructure, as Ethereum just showed, “bitcoiners see proof-of-work as a better way to secure the network.”

NUMBER OF THE DAY: 6%

Mortgage rates just went over 6%, which is the highest they have been since 2008. When mortgage rates were this high before, the US was in the middle of a recession and a financial crisis.

As a result of the Fed’s aggressive interest rate hikes, the cost of borrowing has gone through the roof. The Fed is trying to bring down inflation, which has been stuck near 40-year highs for months.

Prospective buyers are having a hard time because home prices are still high, there aren’t many homes for sale, and the cost of living makes it hard to save for a down payment.

HOLD UP

At least for now, the freight rail crisis has been averted.

Unions and management talked late into the night, and around 2:30 a.m. Eastern time, they reached a tentative agreement to avoid a work stoppage. This ended about 20 hours of talks that seemed to be going nowhere yesterday.

A person with knowledge of the situation said that President Joe Biden called negotiators on Wednesday night to stress how serious the possible strike was.

What went on?

Unions for tens of thousands of conductors and engineers have threatened to walk off the job by the end of this week if they don’t get some pretty basic guarantees from their employers about how they can balance work and life. The people who run America’s freight trains were at their breaking point. They often worked 14 days in a row, had no paid or unpaid sick days, and were always afraid of being fired if they missed work for medical reasons.

A strike would have been terrible for the economy, hurting consumers, businesses, and farmers. It could have caused gas, food, and consumer goods shortages and stopped commuter rails from running.

So far, here is what we know about the deal:

Members of a union get a 14% raise right away, as well as back pay and bonuses. In total, it comes to about $11,000 per worker, on average.

Most of the major disagreements about scheduling seemed to go in favor of the unions. Biden said, “These hard-working rail workers will get better pay, better working conditions, and peace of mind about their health care costs.”

Two of the unions said in a joint statement that the tentative agreement would exempt “time off for certain medical events from carrier attendance policies.”

According to the unions, workers will be able to take time off for medical care for the first time ever.

But time off for health reasons won’t be paid. And it only happens two times a year. After that allotment is used up, taking time off will cost you points, which could lead to being fired in the end.

Don’t rule out a strike yet…

The agreement still needs to be approved by rank-and-file union members, and many of them have been resistant to the idea of making concessions. The unions have agreed not to go on strike while the votes are being counted. This gives the negotiators a couple of weeks to work on a deal.

A group of 5,000 Machinists union members has already voted to reject the deal made on Thursday. This group will try to find a new deal by the end of the month.

And, as my colleague Chris Isidore explains, several recent high-profile cases have angry union members voting against proposed resolutions.

A year ago, about 10,000 John Deere workers went on strike after turning down a lucrative offer. In a similar way, Kellogg workers kept going on strike in December even after they thought they had reached a deal.

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