🌊 Australia’s White Christmas

The New York Times sues OpenAI, t his video game helps cure depression? and after flying high, Bird plummets back to Earth.

Before writing the intro, we always check the holiday calendar. Usually the “holidays” it lists for a given day are super obscure and — as much as we’d like to be the first to wish you a “Happy Grape Uncrustables Day” — we ignore them. Sometimes, however, they take us down random history rabbit holes. Today, for example, is Pledge of Allegiance Day because Congress first recognized the Pledge of Allegiance on December 28, 1945. During our research, we learned a few interesting facts: 1) A socialist wrote the Pledge; 2) The “under God” came in the 1950s during the Cold War; and 3) The original salute for the Pledge was called the “Bellamy Salute” and was phased out in 1942 since it looked like the salute of a certain ruling party in Germany…

In today's edition:

  • The New York Times sues OpenAI

  • This video game helps cure depression?

  • After flying high, Bird plummets back to Earth

 🔑 Key Stories

NYT Sues Open AI

The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement

  • Most generative AI programs, including ChatGPT, are trained with huge amounts of public data. AI companies often scrape that data off the internet, thereby picking up copyrighted material

  • The NYT entered talks with OpenAI to license its content, but those did not produce a copyright deal

  • On Wednesday, the NYT sued OpenAI and Microsoft. It accused them of training their chatbots with “millions of…copyrighted news articles” and is seeking billions in compensation

Michigan’s Trump Ruling

Michigan’s Supreme Court declined to hear a case that sought to disqualify Donald Trump from the 2024 primary election

  • The court did not comment on the lawsuit’s core claim – that Trump incited an insurrection and should be disqualified from office – but rather declined to consider it at all. In doing so, it confirmed a lower court’s ruling that the issue is a political one, not a legal one

  • Trump praised the ruling; the group that brought the suit claimed the ruling does not stop it from disputing Trump’s eligibility for the general election

Parasite Actor Dead

Parasite actor Lee Sun-kyun was found dead on Wednesday in an apparent suicide

  • Lee, 48, was a well-known South Korean actor. His international break came in the 2019 thriller Parasite, in which he played Park Dong-ik, the patriarch of the wealthy Park family

  • Since October, Lee had been under investigation for illegal drug use – a serious crime in South Korea, where those convicted can face years in jail

  • Lee maintained his innocence and claimed he was being blackmailed. On Wednesday, police found Lee dead of an apparent suicide in Seoul

Drugs Wash Ashore

260+ pounds of cocaine washed ashore in eastern Australia over the Christmas weekend

  • On December 22, members of the public found a “suspicious package” at a beach 50 miles north of Sydney. The package contained 39 smaller packets each containing 2.2 pounds of suspected cocaine

  • Over the following days, similar packages were found by the public in the vicinity of Sydney

  • Local police seized all of the packages and are conducting forensic analyses on them. Detectives are reportedly investigating the incident and have not yet indicated who may be responsible for it

🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Statues don’t lie: Shakira’s hometown, Barranquilla, Colombia, unveiled a 21-foot bronze statue of the singer, depicting her iconic hip-swivel from the “Hips Don’t Lie” video

  • More anal beads?! Organizers stripped a Chinese chess champion of his title and banned him for a year due to inappropriate behavior. Online rumors suggest he cheated using anal beads

  • Lucasfilm strikes back: Star Wars” creator Lucasfilm is suing a Chilean car wash, Star Wash, for brand plagiarism. Star Wash features characters like Chewbacca washing vehicles

Wildcard

  • O, battery! O, battery! Florida police arrested 20-year-old Miracle Rivera for allegedly beating her boyfriend with a Christmas tree during a “verbal altercation” over infidelity

  • It’s a-me, depression cure!: A new study published in Frontiers of Psychology reveals that playing the popular Nintendo Switch game “Super Mario Odyssey” can reduce depression symptoms

  • Hoosier miracle: A 27-year-old Indiana man survived six days on rainwater after his truck crashed and trapped him beneath a highway bridge. Two fishermen discovered him

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll:

Have you ever ridden an e-scooter?

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Today's Question:

Today’s question is under the Roca Votes Wrap!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

We founded RocaNews because we wanted news companies to give us just the facts – not tell us what to think. That inspires us to create the “Roca Votes” Wrap, in which we summarize a controversial topic and see how you feel about it.

On December 15, Elon Musk posted a screenshot of a suggested edit on Microsoft Word.

The screenshot showed the word “insane” underlined with a message that read, “This term implies mental health bias.” Musk captioned the post, “Microsoft Word now scolds you if you use words that aren’t “inclusive”!”

For years, Microsoft has made inclusive language suggestions for words or phrases it deems offensive, archaic, or biased. It will automatically change words like “chairman” and “mankind” to “chairperson” and “humankind.” For other words, it will make inclusivity suggestions.

Since 2016, Microsoft has been expanding an “Inclusiveness” checklist in its Microsoft 365 settings. In the “Grammar & Refinements” section, a dropdown now shows “Cultural Bias,” “Ethnic Slurs,” “Gender Bias,” “Gender-Neutral Pronouns,” “Gender-Specific Language,” “Racial Bias,” “Sexual Orientation Bias,” and “Socioeconomic Status” boxes you can manually check to monitor non-inclusive words or phrases. These boxes aren’t checked by default; you must manually turn them on.

Although these settings aren’t new, Elon Musk’s tweet raised awareness and ignited a debate.

Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy commented, “The best way to control the mind of a society is to control its language first.” Entrepreneur and podcaster David Sacks commented, “That’s insane. Oops!” Elon’s original tweet had 40M views as of writing.

Microsoft’s style guide outlines its rationale for inclusivity language standards and highlights examples of language it will flag.

“Microsoft technology reaches every part of the globe, so it's critical that all our communications are inclusive and diverse,” one article begins.

It says to lowercase “white” and capitalize “Black” and discourages stereotypes. In one section, it says, “Don't use slang, especially if it could be considered cultural appropriation, such as ‘spirit animal.’”

In another section, it says, “Be inclusive of job roles, family structure, and leisure activities. If you show various family groupings, consider showing nontraditional and extended families.”

That brings us to the question(s) of the day:

Do people make too big of a deal out of these issues? Have you encountered inclusive language suggestions? Do they annoy you? What’s a bigger problem, censorship or non-inclusive language?

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

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Have you or your family ever adopted an animal from a shelter?
Yes: 70%
No: 30%

Yesterday's Question:

If you were to create a new holiday, what would it celebrate and how would people observe it?

Connie: “Mind your own business day.  How it’s celebrated: Keep your mouth shut no matter your political, gender, health situation. Either way, pro con. No shaming others for how they think, either way. When tempted to say or write your opinion, don’t. Smile at everyone even if it’s for a millisecondSay please and thank you. Generally, mind your own business”

Joe from Athens, Alabama: “You don't need any more holidays.  My wife and I are happy not celebrating holidays.  We are very happy together.  Gather with family whenever we can.  We are thankful for what we have and each other.  I do take my wife out for a fancy dinner on her birthday. Commercialization has ruined holidays and misled the American people.”

Desmond from Charlestown, Massachusetts: “America should do what the UK and Ireland did last century:  Move all holidays (except Christmas and New Years) to be Monday holidays AND spread them out evenly across the year.  In the process, you’d need to combine some days and rename them.  (The UK and Ireland simply call them “Bank Holidays”; they dropped all the old names (like “Memorial Day” or “Veterans Day”.”

🧠 Intermission

We are very curious to read your thoughts about today’s Wrap. Reply to this email with them, and we’ll feature a set tomorrow.

For Roca Premium: Our deep-dive today is on the collapse of Bird, a record-breaking startup that has now declared bankruptcy. Enjoy!

–Max and Max

🌎 Roca Reports

Today’s premium Wrap covers the rise and fall of the e-scooter company Bird. A new Roca Reports series in Serbia begins next week.

In December 2020, Roca wrote a story about Bird: “It was the fastest-ever startup to reach a $1B valuation,” it said, “but with the pandemic projected to end…we may see a reset.”

That reset came harder than anyone could have expected.

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