🌊 America Gets its King Back

US astronaut sets space record, ding-dong ditch gone wrong, and Person of the Week: The Kardashian of Sinaloa

Today’s the alleged birthday of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. As prolific of a quote machine as he was, there’s a good chance that the Confucius quote your “spiritual friend” shares is not something Confucius actually said. Countless proverbs are misattributed to him like, “The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute; the man who does not ask is a fool for life.” Or this one: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” However, on this Thursday morning, there is one we know he said for sure: “Always be grindin'.” Let’s have ourselves a day!

In today's edition:

  • US astronaut sets space record

  • Ding-dong ditch gone wrong

  • Person of the Week: The Kardashian of Sinaloa

 🔑 Key Stories

Astronaut Sets Space Record

Astronaut Frank Rubio returned to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) after 371 days in space, the longest stint ever for an American

  • Rubio – a former special forces officer, helicopter pilot, and certified doctor – joined NASA’s astronaut program in 2017 and launched to the ISS last year

  • He was supposed to return in six months, but a meteorite struck his return vehicle, stranding him at the ISS until Russia sent another ship to the station

  • Rubio returned to Earth on Wednesday after 371 days, a record for an American. The record for the longest time in space is 437 days, set by a Russian

Dig Deeper

  • Rubio told reporters that if he had known the trip would have taken so long, he “probably would have declined.” He said “that’s because of family things that were going on in this past year,” including sending one of his four children off to college. He did add that he was grateful for the experience and that it was professionally rewarding

King Back in US Custody

Travis King, the US soldier who fled to North Korea in July, was returned to US custody on Wednesday

  • King, 23, spent two months in a South Korean prison on assault charges. He was supposed to return to the US after his release, but instead traveled to the DMZ – the zone that separates North/South Korea – and fled across it

  • On Wednesday, North Korean state media reported that state authorities had found King guilty of “illegally intrud[ing] into the territory of the republic” and had decided to “expel” him

  • Hours later, Swedish government officials retrieved King in North Korea and brought him over the border to China, where he was returned to US custody. Officials said King is healthy and “very happy” to be returning to the US

Dig Deeper

  • King landed in San Antonio, Texas on Thursday morning and was transported to a medical center to undergo "post-isolation support activities," which are designed to help those held by foreign powers reacclimatize to being in the US

Trump Liable for Fraud

A New York judge ruled that Donald Trump committed fraud by exaggerating his net worth

  • Trump oversees The Trump Organization, a group of 500+ companies that manage and sell real estate

  • Last September, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Trump, arguing he lied about his net worth by between $812M and $2.2B from 2014 to 2021 to secure favorable loans and cheap insurance

  • On Tuesday, a New York judge ruled that Trump’s misrepresentations amounted to fraud. That ruling could forbid Trump from managing some of his companies or properties. The judge also fined Trump’s lawyers $7,500 each as punishment for advancing “frivolous” arguments

  • Trump denied the allegations, called the judge "deranged," and claimed his "civil rights have been violated"

Dig Deeper

  • The lawsuit alleged Trump repeatedly lied about the size and value of his properties to secure favorable loans and lower insurance costs. For instance, the lawsuit alleges Trump exaggerated the square footage of his Trump Tower penthouse by nearly 300% and that he valued his Florida Mar-a-Lago estate at $612M when other assessors placed its value closer to $28M. Through those and other claims, James argued Trump “engaged in years of financial fraud”

Exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh

Nearly half of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population has fled to Armenia over the past week

  • Nagorno-Karabakh is a region of Azerbaijan that has historically been populated by ethnic Armenians. Azerbaijan and Armenia – two former Soviet republics – have twice gone to war over the region, most recently in 2020. For decades, the self-declared “Republic of Artsakh” has ruled Nagorno-Karabakh, complete with its own government, flag, and army

  • Last week, Azerbaijan launched an offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh. Within a day, Artsakh’s government surrendered and agreed to begin “reintegrating” with Azerbaijan

  • Since then, nearly half of the territory’s ~150,000 people have fled to Armenia. Many claimed to have fled persecution or violence, and Armenia’s prime minister has accused Azerbaijan of “ethnic cleansing.” Azerbaijan has denied those allegations and claims its military has not targeted civilians

Dig Deeper

  • On Tuesday, Azerbaijan arrested Artsakh's former leader, Ruben Vardanyan, as he was trying to flee to Armenia. Authorities released an image of him in handcuffs and said he had been transported to Azerbaijan’s capital to face charges

  • In a statement on Thursday, Artsakh’s government said it would "cease to exist" by January 1 as part of a formal surrender to Azerbaijan

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  • Since the 1940s, we’ve been told to drink eight glasses of water per day, thirsty or not. However, hydrating with plain water can dilute your electrolyte levels – which can lead to headaches, low energy, brain fog, and more

  • Electrolytes are essential minerals that facilitate vital bodily functions, including the conduction of nerve impulses, hormonal regulation, nutrient absorption, and fluid balance

  • When people sweat they lose water and electrolytes, but most people only replace the water. LMNT electrolytes contain what you need – the salts – without all the other harmful additives. Just mix it with water and it’s perfect for hydrating, be it after a workout or a night out

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Dig Deeper

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🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Dame time in Milwaukee: The Milwaukee Bucks have acquired seven-time All-Star guard Damian Lillard from the Portland Trail Blazers. He leaves Portland as the Blazers’ all-time leading scorer

  • Time to jam: Spotify introduced Jam, a real-time collaborative playlist controlled by up to 32 people. It’s designed for groups – like at a party – to contribute to a shared queue of songs

  • Cher the… kidnapper? New court documents accuse singer Cher of hiring four men to kidnap her son on his wedding anniversary night with his estranged wife in New York

Wildcard

  • Calling the wrong audible: An Ohio high school football coach resigned following his team’s repeated use of the word “Nazi” as a play call during a game against a high school with a predominantly Jewish student population

  • Ding-dong assault: A grand jury indicted a Delaware State Trooper for allegedly assaulting teens involved in a ding-dong ditch prank. He is accused of fracturing one prankster’s eye socket

  • Cocaine on a plane: British Airways fired a pilot who allegedly snorted the powdery drug off a topless woman before trying to fly a plane from Johannesburg to London

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll:

Would you live in space for one year if you had the chance?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today's Question:

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

Should a kingpin’s wife go to jail? For Ms. Chapo, the answer is, “not for very long.”

Emma Coronel was born on July 3, 1989, to Mexican parents in San Francisco, California. She split her childhood between the US and a remote town in central Mexico that lies at the center of Mexico’s “Golden Triangle” for drug trafficking.

Emma’s family was intimately involved in the drug business. Several of her relatives – including her father – were prominent members of the Sinaloa Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful cartel.

Led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the cartel dominated the Mexican drug trade in the 1980s and 1990s, at one point controlling nearly all of Mexico’s cocaine trade. El Chapo was already 33 when Emma was born, but their fates would soon intertwine.

When Emma was 17, she won a prestigious beauty pageant and her town threw a celebration.

On the day of the event, a motorcade of 200 scooters ridden by armed men in black clothing and ski masks rolled into her town. Six small planes then landed, off one of which walked El Chapo. “As if it were part of his wardrobe, he wore a goat-horn AK-47 assault rifle across his chest,” a Mexican journalist wrote of his appearance that day.

While Emma danced at the party with her then-boyfriend, a man approached her and told her that the “señor” wanted to dance with her. “Of course,” Emma later claimed to have said. “At [those parties], even if you have a boyfriend you have to dance with anyone who asks.”

But El Chapo wasn’t just anyone, and the couple married months later on Emma’s 18th birthday.

Emma – El Chapo’s third wife – said he “won me over with kindness, and with his manners.” At the time of their marriage, the then-51-year-old El Chapo was raking in billions from the drug trade. Emma tried to appear as though she lived a normal life, generally hiding her husband from public view, going with friends to restaurants and the movies, and dodging questions about El Chapo’s “business.”

In reality, the family lived a life of luxury funded by cocaine profits. They had four private planes, mansions along Mexico’s best beaches, dozens of luxury cars, and many ranches, one of which had four pools and a zoo. In 2011, Emma and El Chapo had twin daughters, joining eight other known children from El Chapo’s previous marriages.

In 2014, Mexican commandos arrested El Chapo after a 13-year manhunt and transferred him to a Mexican maximum-security prison. He would only remain there for a year.

In July 2015, El Chapo climbed through a nearly mile-long tunnel equipped with lighting, ventilation, and a motorcycle on rails, which led from his prison cell shower to a house outside the prison walls. The escape left authorities both stunned and embarrassed, sparking a massive manhunt that led to his recapture in January 2016.

He was extradited to the US in 2017, and in 2019, US authorities sentenced him to life in prison for multiple counts of trafficking, money laundering, and involvement in organized crime.

While Emma claimed to have been unaware of El Chapo’s criminal activities, evidence emerged during the trial that cast doubt on that. Text messages between late 2011 and early 2012 showed El Chapo instructing her on secure communication methods, including using encrypted BlackBerry phones.

In one exchange, Emma informed El Chapo about possible police activity, and he advised her to hide a weapon he had given her and to maintain a normal life to avoid suspicion. Prosecutors revealed during the trial that El Chapo has several mistresses. Emma, however, stood by her husband through it all.

“I am not aware that he deals drugs,” she said in 2018. “I’m in love with him.” Of his properties, she said, “I can’t tell you much about them, only that they are not illicit.” The couple gave each other a thumbs-up when he was sentenced.

Her style at the trial – bright colors, stiletto heels, and heavy makeup – earned her the nickname “Kardashian of Sinaloa” and made her a media sensation. After the trial, she participated in a reality show called “Cartel Crew” on VH1. “I try not to regret what’s in the past,” she said in one episode. “They judge us without knowing us…It’s hard because sometimes you just want to do what you see everyone around you doing.”

Emma amassed nearly 800,000 Instagram followers and created her own brand of hats, jerseys, cell phone cases, t-shirts, and more. She also helped file the name “El Chapo Guzmán” as a US patent, using a logo that featured a lion’s head in the center of the name.

But in February 2021, US authorities arrested Emma at Washington’s Dulles airport, alleging that she was deeply active in her husband’s drug trafficking. While it is unusual for law enforcement officials to go after drug lords’ spouses, prosecutors said El Chapo’s trial showed that she was highly involved in her husband's business. In November 2021, Emma pleaded guilty and received a three-year jail sentence.

Emma pleaded with the judge to be lenient, though: "I beg you to not allow [my kids] to grow up without the presence of a mother.” Authorities ended up reducing her sentence, and last week she was released after serving just under two years. She was released to a halfway house – and was seen partying at an LA club later that evening.

El Chapo may spend the rest of his life behind bars, but for Emma Coronel, did crime pay?

If you have thoughts, let us know at [email protected]!

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Do you like to sleep on a soft or firm mattress? 
Soft: 75%
Firm: 25%

Yesterday's Question:

Do you support the use of capital punishment in your country?

Sophie who is “a law student in Germany”: "I believe that death penalties breach human rights and several international agreements protecting the life and dignity of every human. Having capital punishments would be unthinkable under the German constitution. Reading the comments under todays Instagram post is shocking since people are openly discussing just shooting convicted criminals or matching their deaths to their crimes. I think capital punishment equals torture and should be outlawed in any country calling itself modernised and recognising the importance of human rights."

Joe: Pro-capital punishment. Not as a deterrent to capital crimes, but a way to mete out justice for victims' families.”

Claudia from Santa Rosa, California: "I used to be against the death penalty, but I'm no longer of that mind. I don't think it is fair to the victim or their survivors or to the people of the United States that we house, feed, educate, and care for individuals who have been convicted of heinous crimes when we cannot house our homeless, care for our handicapped/veterans/elderly, feed hungry children and others. We need to use our resources for those people. Be kind and take the convicted person's life quickly and painlessly, but do not make us all suffer decades in their warehousing.”

Renae from Lincoln, Nebraska: "I don't. I don't think it's a deterrent to those who would cause harm, it also costs a TON of money compared to just keeping that person incarcerated for life. The number of appeals and legal gymnastics to stay executions are ridiculous!"

Nancy from Long Island, New York: “I do support the death penalty, but would not IF there truly was life imprisonment without parole or any other crazy reason the parole board turns cop killers loose. They should never be among us.”

🧠 Final Thoughts

We’re glad to hear that so many of you are enjoying the Person of the Week features on Thursdays. If you have any ideas for people we should cover in future Wraps, our inbox is always open.

See you tomorrow!