🌊 Another Joe for President?

PLUS: Can’t Spell FDA without MDMA, Right?

Today gives you the final Treasure Hunt clue!

Week one of the long-awaited return of our Treasure Hunt concludes today. Congrats to all those who unlocked the bonus clue by referring friends to the newsletters — no, you don’t need the clue to solve it — and we can still say that nobody has answered correctly.

If you’re not one for mystery solving, you can do today’s Presidents-themed 20 Questions. And if you’re not one for Presidents-themed 20 Questions, then we have nothing to offer you. Have a great weekend.

In today's edition:

🇺🇸 FDA considers MDMA for therapy

🚔 Rachel Dolezal is back and better than ever!

👀 Introducing the Roca Review

And so much more!

–Max, Max, Jen, and Alex

Trump Trial Date Set

A judge scheduled Donald Trump’s “hush money” trial to begin on March 25

  • Trump faces four criminal cases. One of those was  filed in New York and revolves around allegations he falsified business records ahead of the 2016 election to conceal payments to an adult film actor. That “hush money” case was the first brought against Trump

  • Trump was scheduled to go to trial on March 4 for a separate federal case, but that has been delayed

  • It now appears the New York case will be Trump’s first. Trump has pleaded not guilty and would still be eligible for the election if convicted

Dig Deeper

  • On Thursday, Trump’s lawyers claimed Trump’s New York trial is being rushed: “We have been faced with extremely compressed…schedules in each and every one of those trials,” one lawyer told the judge

Intuitive Launches Moon Mission

A spacecraft developed by private space company Intuitive Machines began a mission to the Moon on Thursday 

  • The US has not landed a spacecraft on the Moon since 1972, and a private company has never done so

  • Houston-based Intuitive is a NASA-funded private space company. Its spacecraft – launched on Thursday aboard a SpaceX rocket – is transporting a variety of instruments to the Moon

  • Intuitive hopes to land on the Moon on February 22, paving the way for future landings that could support a NASA-led Moon colony. Its CEO told Roca that the biggest test will be if the spacecraft can survive the landing, which other private companies have failed to do

Dig Deeper

  • Intuitive's CEO told Roca that a successful landing would be a “wild success” and provide a “blueprint to commercialize a celestial body”

  • He also said the spacecraft is part of a broader strategic shift back to space: “There’s a strong geo-political interest in [landing on the Moon],” he told Roca. “World powers are vying for who is going to set the norms…of living in space”

  • Intuitive’s spacecraft is expected to land near the lunar South Pole, a region where scientists believe a vast amount of water exists

Rolling FDA

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed to consider approving MDMA-assisted therapy for treating PTSD

  • MDMA – Molly – is a Schedule I drug in the US, meaning it is completely outlawed. In recent years, though, studies have suggested that coupled with counseling, it is safe and effective for treating PTSD

  • This week, Lykos Therapeutics announced the FDA agreed to consider approving its MDMA-assisted therapy. The FDA will make a decision within six months. It has already designated MDMA therapy a “breakthrough therapy,” but has never approved it

Dig Deeper

  • It has been more than 20 years since the FDA last approved a new drug to treat PTSD

  • While the FDA has acknowledged MDAM-assisted therapy's potential benefits, this is the first time it is considering approving it

Manchin for President

Speculation is growing that Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) will launch a third-party ticket

  • Last November, Manchin – a self-described “conservative Democrat” – announced he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2024; a month later, he began a two-month nationwide “listening tour”

  • On tour, he has described himself as “fiscally responsible and socially compassionate,” claimed that the “far, far-left” is setting President Biden’s agenda, and floated Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) as a running mate

  • A recent CNN report claimed Manchin is waiting for a “Biden health scare or Trump conviction” to enter the race

Dig Deeper

  • Manchin's campaign would reportedly seek to create a “unity ticket” appealing to moderate voters

  • He said on Thursday that if he were to run, March 5 “would [probably] be a deadline” to announce his intent to do so

Alexei Navalny Dead

Russia’s prison service announced on Friday that Alexei Navalny – Russia’s most prominent opposition politician – died in jail 

  • Navalny was an anti-corruption activist who entered politics and became Putin’s biggest challenger by promoting awareness of corruption in Putin’s government

  • While campaigning in 2020, Navalny was poisoned by agents working for Russia’s government. After being treated in a German hospital, he returned to Russia and was immediately arrested

  • He was subsequently sentenced to decades in prison, and authorities kept him in increasingly harsh conditions

  • Russia’s prison service said Navalny “felt unwell after a walk and almost immediately lost consciousness.” One state-controlled Russian media outlet claimed he died of a “detached blood clot”

Dig Deeper

  • In a 2012 interview, Navalny said, "I really hate the people in power. I hate them with every fiber of my being. That is what drives me in almost everything I do"

  • He continued to campaign despite repeated government efforts to stop him

  • Many Western politicians accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being behind Navalny’s death, either literally or indirectly; meanwhile, a top Russian politician wrote on Telegram, “Washington [the US] and Brussels [the EU] are to blame for Navalny’s death,” arguing they had the most to gain from his death

Some Quick Stories for the Office

📺 Walmart is in talks to buy smart television-maker Vizio for $2B+. The deal would enable Walmart to advertise its products on smart TVs, acquire more customer data, and build out its advertising business

🇩🇪 Germany overtook Japan as the world’s third-largest economy, after China ($18T) and the US ($28B). Japan’s economy shrunk over the last two quarters of 2023, leaving its economy at $4.2T – smaller than Germany’s $4.5T

🕶️ Russian President Vladimir Putin told Russian TV that it is in Russia’s interest for Joe Biden to win the 2024 election, calling him “experienced” and “predictable.” He also downplayed concerns about Biden’s health

🌌 US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said US intelligence indicates Russia has developed an “anti-satellite capability.” News outlets had previously reported that Russia has developed a space-based nuclear weapon that could target satellites

🏴󠁵󠁳󠁫󠁳󠁿 Kansas City’s police chief said a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs’ victory parade was the result of a “dispute between several people.” There’s no indication it was linked to “terrorism or homegrown violent extremism” or targeted the parade in any way, she added

🇦🇺 Australia’s parliament passed a motion calling for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be returned to Australia, where he’s from. He’s currently in the UK, where he’s fighting extradition to the US on espionage charges

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Weekly Debate

Most news companies repress ideas they don’t agree with. We are different. To prove it, we’re making this a place where people can have a free and open debate. Each week we lay out a debate on Monday and feature responses here, replies to those the following day, and so on. Thank you to those who participated this week.

This week we debated: Do you think there is anyone — past or present — who should inherently be “off limits” from a media interview? 

Let us know: What topic should debate next?

Treasure Hunt

Today marks the return of the weekly Roca treasure hunt, brought back by popular demand. The rules are simple:

  • Every day we give a hint. You get one guess, which you submit by replying to a newsletter with a Google street view screenshot

  • Unlock an extra hint each Thursday once you refer five friends

  • The first person to guess the answer wins this week’s prize: A free year of Roca premium!

Clue 1: Bill opened his window for the first time

Clue 2: But it wasn't his window that got the diagnosis

Clue 3: C6H12O6

Clue 4: A fateful find for a toilet read

Clue 5: White makes blue

Know the answer? Send a street view screenshot to [email protected]!

Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

🐪 Saudi Depp: Vanity Fair reported that actor Johnny Depp has developed a “bromance like no other” with Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS)

🍻 Bye-bye, Brewski? Two Tennessee lawmakers introduced a bill aiming to ban the sale of refrigerated or cold beer in order to reduce drunk driving and alcohol-related crashes

🤐 She’s baaackk: The woman formerly known as Rachel Dolezal was fired from her teaching position in Arizona after the discovery of her OnlyFans account. Dolezal gained notoriety in 2015 for pretending to be a black woman and working as an NAACP chapter president, despite being white

🧸 Dare bear? A Peruvian policeman disguised as a Care Bear used a fake flower and chocolate delivery to arrest a suspected drug dealer

🚔 Quite the side hustle: Authorities arrested a 42-year-old Michigan woman on multiple fraud charges related to a $750,000+ scheme involving theft from rental websites

🐍 Pants pythons: A 38-year-old NYC man who confessed to smuggling three Burmese pythons in his pants across the Canadian border will have to do a year of probation and a $5,000 fine

Roca in Liberland

We send our co-founder Max Frost to investigate topics around the world and he writes about them here. He’s currently writing from Liberland. Subscribers receive the full stories.

Liberland may be a niche community on an island in the Danube, but one of its supporters now runs South America’s second-largest economy. 

That supporter is Javier Milei, Argentina’s newly-elected president. In 2019, Milei attended a cosplay convention dressed as a superhero named “General AnCap.” 

"I come from Liberland,” he said in a 2019 video. “A land of seven square kilometers between Croatia and Serbia. A country where you don’t pay taxes, a country where we defend individual freedom, and where we believe in the individual. And there is no place for collectivist sons of bitches who want to screw up our lives."

Like the people in Liberland, Milei is quirky. 

Born in Argentina in 1970, his parents – a bus driver and a homemaker – beat and verbally abused him. “They are dead to me,” he later said of that relationship. 

Raised by his grandmother, Milei became a rebel: Nicknamed “El Loco” (“The Madman”), he made frequent outbursts and joined a rock band. An economic crisis led him to channel his energy into economics, of which he became a professor. 

With his quirky personality, unique views, and memorable mop of hair, Milei became a popular pundit on Argentinian television. He railed against Argentina’s establishment – ”rats” from a “parasitic caste” – and called for overhauling the government (the “basis of all problems”). His proposed solution was to turn generally left-leaning Argentina into a libertarian state. 

Once marginal, Milei’s views gained followers after economic mismanagement sparked a prolonged economic crisis that began in 2018. Inflation has since reached 116% and ~40% of Argentinians live in poverty. In 2021, Milei founded his own political coalition that promised to abolish the central bank – ”the worst garbage that exists on the Earth” – get rid of the country’s currency, and withdraw the government from people’s lives. 

In August, he achieved a shock victory in the country’s primary elections. Three months later, he won the presidency in a landslide. 

Since taking power in December, Milei has begun to create his vision of a libertarian state, drastically reducing funding for government agencies and projects, vowing to sell state-owned companies, and reducing hiring across the government.

Before he took power, Milei said there was a template for his vision: “There is already a country based on the libertarian model and it is called Liberland,” he told a radio host.

“Taxes are zero and you only participate in political life in Liberland if you make voluntary contributions. How does that grab you?”

What are your thoughts on Liberland? Is it inspiring, weird, or a scam? Reply to this email to let us know what you think!

Apple Vision Pro

Every day we take a deep dive into an interesting story, place, or person. Subscribers get full access.

Last week, Roca commissioned a reader of ours in Silicon Valley with a background in tech reviewing to demo Apple’s Vision Pro and share his thoughts.

We wanted to know: Could the $3,500 virtual reality headset possibly be worth it?

Apple has billed the Vision Pro – the company’s first new hardware product since the Apple Watch – as a “spatial computer.”

Once you don the mixed-reality headset, “You navigate simply by using your eyes, hands, and voice.”

Users can create a virtual office, “re-live” videos and photos, watch immersive movies, attend virtual meetings, and more.

But how does it work in practice?

Our critic writes: The Vision Pro felt like a glimpse of the future, with immersive visuals and a fluid blend of real and virtual worlds. But it also felt flawed: My demo was hampered by some discomfort from the odd sensation of viewing my surroundings through a screen.

The headset was generally comfortable but required some adjustments during the demo. The gesture and eye tracking inputs felt innovative, but also somewhat awkward. Actions like pressing buttons or moving windows around sometimes took a few attempts.

The visuals from the display are incredibly vivid, and the device shines in delivering immersive content. I watched a kid blowing out birthday candles in full 3D, making me feel like I had stepped into a memory. I also took a virtual safari adventure, complete with a charging rhino that had me instinctively flinching in my seat.

The ability to populate my space with apps and huge virtual screens was sweet. But in its current form, I can’t see myself using this device for real work. It’s important to note that when mirroring your Mac screen, you can only use one virtual screen. I also felt a slight eye strain throughout the demo, which would make it challenging to use for extended periods.

As it stands, the Vision Pro feels more like a fancy toy than a useful device, making its $3,500 price tag a tough sell. It has crazy potential, though, and I’m very excited for what the future will hold.

Reply to this email to let us know what you think!

Apple Vision Pro

Every day we take a deep dive into an interesting story, place, or person. Subscribers get full access.

Last week, Roca commissioned a reader of ours in Silicon Valley with a background in tech reviewing to demo Apple’s Vision Pro and share his thoughts 

We wanted to know: Could the $3,500 virtual reality headset possibly be worth it?

Apple has billed the Vision Pro – the company’s first new hardware product since the Apple Watch – as a “spatial computer”

Once you don the mixed-reality headset, “You navigate simply by using your eyes, hands, and voice”

Users can create a virtual office, “re-live” videos and photos, watch immersive movies, attend virtual meetings, and more

But how does it work in practice?

Our critic writes:

Join Roca Nation

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  • A daily Deep Dive

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20 Questions

As is Roca tradition, every Friday we ask our readers 20 questions or polls and include the answers the following Friday. Let us know your thoughts!

20 questions logo

In honor of Presidents Day, the theme of today's 20 Questions is President-themed. The first 10 questions are hypothetical presidential matchups — please vote for the candidate you think would better serve the USA — and the next 10 questions are hypothetical policies that you have to pick between. Thank you for participating in democracy and have a wonderful weekend!

Last Week’s 20 questions:

Last week, we asked you to choose “This or That“ from different pairings. We bolded the favorite choice below for Roca readers:

  1. Chiefs or 49ers?

  2. Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos?

    Elon Musk

    Jeff Bezos

  3. Better feeling: Fur or wool?



  4. Water is wet or water isn't wet?

    Water is wet

    Water isn't wet

  5. To Kill a Mockingbird or The Great Gatsby?

    To Kill a Mockingbird

    The Great Gatsby

  6. Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter?

    Lord of the Rings

    Harry Potter

  7. Breaking Bad or The Sopranos?

    Breaking Bad

    The Sopranos

  8. Country music or rap?

    Country music


  9. Frank Sinatra or Dolly Parton?

    Frank Sinatra

    Dolly Parton

  10. Tip 18% or tip 22% at a restaurant?

    Tip 18%

    Tip 22%

  11. Remote or clicker?



  12. Roundabout or rotary?



  13. Sports documentaries or true crime documentaries?


    True crime

  14. Live in the south or live in the northeast?



  15. Live in London or Las Vegas?


    Las Vegas

  16. Italian food or Japanese food?



  17. Cut defense spending or healthcare spending?



  18. Forgive student debt or don't forgive student debt?


    Don't forgive

  19. Jack Black or Will Ferrell as president?

    Jack Black

    Will Ferrell

  20. Would you want a Vision Pro or do they look ridiculous?

    Vision Pro

    They look ridiculous

Final Thoughts

What are your thoughts on Liberland? Is it inspiring, weird, or a scam? We're curious to read them – please let us know!

We’re off this Monday in honor of President’s Day, so the next time you’ll see us in your inbox is Tuesday. Have great long weekends to those of you in the US!

— Max, Max, Jen and Alex