🌊 Why #AbandonBiden Is Trending

Gaza ceasefire ends, 11 days of waiting on hold in Colorado, and Roca reports continues in Finland

Well, pour one out, Roca Riders: The Santos Era is officially over. The congressman who fabricated his education history, work history, family history, and religious heritage — “I never claimed to be Jewish… I said I was Jew-ish” — is now unemployed. To go down as the greatest liar on Capitol Hill is quite a feat. He faced tough competition.

In today's edition:

  • Gaza ceasefire ends

  • 11 days of waiting on hold in Colorado

  • Roca reports continues in Finland

 🔑 Key Stories

AI Crystals

AI created by Google’s DeepMind lab has identified 2.2M new types of crystals

  • A crystal refers to any compound with repeating atomic units, such as diamonds or quartz. Scientists currently know of 48,000 types of crystals

  • In a study recently published in the journal Nature, Google’s DeepMind AI lab used algorithms to identify 2.2M new types of crystals, 380,000 of which are stable, meaning they can hold their structure

  • Google said in a blog post that the newly-identified crystals could advance research on superconducting, supercomputing, and more

Gaza Ceasefire Ends

A week-long ceasefire in Gaza ended on Friday 

  • The Friday before last, Israel and Hamas began a ceasefire under which Hamas released 105 hostages and Israel released 210 Palestinian prisoners. The ceasefire was twice renewed and lasted one week

  • On Friday morning, both sides accused the other of violating the ceasefire terms, and fighting resumed

  • Israel is now trying to take control of the remaining Hamas-controlled parts of northern Gaza. It will then likely begin operations in southern Gaza, where Hamas’ leaders are believed to be sheltering, in addition to most of Gaza’s civilians  

Chauvin Stabber Sentenced

Federal prosecutors charged a prisoner for non-fatally stabbing Derek Chauvin 22 times

  • Chauvin is currently serving a 22.5-year term in federal prison for murdering George Floyd

  • A day after Thanksgiving, a fellow inmate stabbed Chauvin. The suspect – a member of the Mexican Mafia, a US-based prison gang – said he targeted Chauvin because he was a high-profile inmate. He said he chose Black Friday because it was “symbolic with the Black Lives Matter movement and the ‘Black Hand’ symbol associated with the Mexican Mafia”

  • Prosecutors charged the alleged attacker with attempted murder. Chauvin has left trauma care and returned to the prison

#AbandonBiden Campaign

Arab American leaders from several swing states launched a campaign calling on Arabs not to support Biden in the 2024 election

  • There are an estimated 3.5M Americans of Arab descent. They voted overwhelmingly for Biden in 2020, covering the margin of his victory in some swing states

  • On Saturday, Muslim and Arab leaders launched #AbandonBiden, a campaign calling on Arab Americans to stop supporting Biden because of his support for Israel. The group doesn’t support Trump but wants to influence Biden’s Gaza policies

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🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Nole hypothesis: The College Football Playoff (CFP) committee selected Michigan, Washington, Texas, and Alabama as its final four, leaving out undefeated Florida State in a CFP first

  • Crowd goes mild: Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis’ debate on Fox News drew an average 4.8M viewers, less than the GOP debates but host Sean Hannity’s biggest night of the year

  • Mile high merger: Alaska Airlines is acquiring rival Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9B. The airlines – rivals in the Pacific region – will keep their brands after the merger

Wildcard

  • Father, son, and holy smoke: Tennessee officials found a booby-trapped former Methodist church hiding a sophisticated marijuana growing operation

  • Unemployed? Please hold: A Colorado woman says she received her unemployment benefits after spending 278 hours – the equivalent of 11 days – on hold with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment

  • A farmhouse renaissance: A Sandro Botticelli painting worth ~$109M was discovered in a farm home in Italy. A family of farmers had taken custody of it after an earthquake in the 1980s

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll:

The Elf on the Shelf is a

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Today's Question:

Could you be happy living in a place that doesn’t see the sun for days at a time?

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌎 Roca Reports

Last week our Roca Reports series moved to Finland to answer the pivotal question: Is it truly the world’s happiest country? The series continues today.

Roca Reports is part of our premium newsletter with on-the-ground investigations of stories no one else is covering. If you’re not a member, you can start your 14-day free trial here!

In Helsinki, I met a Finn who I’ll call Karl. He asked me not to identify him given the details of what follows.  

Karl’s father was born around 1940 in a rural Finnish community. When he was born, all the men in the community were gone fighting for or alongside the Nazis. 

The Winter War ended in March 1940 with Finland surrendering 11% of its territory to the USSR. That included Karelia, a region with great importance to Finland. The Finns wanted the territory back and in 1941 partnered with the Nazis to take it. What ensued was a conflict called “The Continuation War,” in which the Nazis and Finns fought side-by-side against the USSR. 

Many Finns joined the Waffen SS, a Nazi division that committed egregious crimes. Among them were Karl’s family.

When the Nazis were recruiting for the Waffen SS, two of Karl’s father’s cousins applied to do so at the urging of their father, a nationalist. One was terrified and tried to stay home and work the farm; the other was eager. After visiting a Nazi recruitment center and taking a genealogical test that found them to be sufficiently Aryan, they were put into the SS and set off for war. 

The one who didn’t want to fight was quickly killed; the one who was eager survived. He never spoke of the war again, having seen and done things he couldn’t confront. 

Meanwhile, with all the men gone and Karl’s father being just a boy, the family needed help around the farm. The Nazis sent a slave: A Ukrainian prisoner of war they had sentenced to forced labor. He arrived in Finland and was forced to work for the family. 

Karl’s father said that with all the other men gone, the prisoner of war became a father figure to him. He claims the family treated him well, ate with him, and celebrated holidays with him. They eventually freed him but insisted he stay in Finland, rather than return to the USSR. He said he needed to fight for the fatherland and left. They never heard from him again. 

In the end, the Soviets won the war, expelled the Finns and Nazis, and kept the Finnish territory. The Soviets also forced the Finns to turn on the Nazis, which led to another war. From late 1944 until early 1945, the Nazis and Finns battled in northern Finland, much of which was destroyed. 

When that war – the Lapland War – ended, Finland faced a difficult situation. The Cold War was soon underway and the Iron Curtain was unfolding across Eastern Europe. Finland – vastly weaker than the USSR and devastated by years of war – was clearly at risk. It needed to figure out how to maintain its independence while living next to Moscow. 

In 1948, Finland signed a treaty with the USSR. In exchange for Finland’s paying reparations and agreeing not to join any anti-Soviet alliances, the USSR agreed to recognize Finnish independence. 

The treaty also laid out trade relations between Finland and the USSR: Finland would provide goods and services in exchange for Soviet natural resources and raw materials. The deal helped Finland grow and established close trading relations between the countries.

Beyond the treaty, Finland refused to speak out on Soviet issues and its leaders cultivated friendly ties with the Soviet leaders. This policy – staying neutral to appease a stronger country – was coined “Finlandization” and is now a common term in international relations. 

Once at peace, Finland’s economy grew steadily. Its government enacted a welfare state comparable to the other Nordic countries, using high taxes to finance generous public benefits. In 1995, Finland joined the EU. It has since developed into a country that tops ratings of equality, literacy, stability, and, of course, happiness. 

Given this backdrop, I wanted to see how Finns lived and if they were, indeed, the happiest people on Earth. My plan was to travel to the Arctic Circle and then hitchhike the 700 miles back to Helsinki, learning more about the country as I traveled. 

At night, I boarded an overnight train for the Arctic. 

Part 2 continues below for Premium subscribers! Let us know what you think at [email protected]!

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Have you started decorating for the holidays yet?
Yes: 60%
No: 40%

Yesterday's Question:

Just 20 Qs!

🧠 Intermission

We hope you all had relaxing weekends. Ours was going great until Sunday, when the NCAA decided to exclude Max T’s dear Florida State Seminoles from the 4-team college football playoff despite having a perfect record. Many tears were shed and your sympathy messages would be appreciated.

We’ve been loving your feedback about the Finland series. In the installment below, Max F arrives in the Arctic Circle!

–Max and Max

🌎 Roca Reports

The 11-hour overnight train from Helsinki to the Arctic crosses an endless sea of trees. That’s because, as someone would later tell me, “Finland is a giant forest with some towns.”

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