🌊 Where are the Babies?

Plus: Special ed enrollment numbers soar

Today is the first official day of summer.

Yep, those 98-degree days you were experiencing earlier this week were just balmy spring weather. Today is also the birthday of Rebecca Black, the singer of the iconic bop "Friday." With the 4-day work week gaining momentum, we look forward to the eventual remix... "Thursday." Anyone?

📉 Rich country birth rate in free fall

📈 Special ed enrollment numbers soar

✈️ Just Stop Oil targets Taylor Swift!

–Max and Max


No More Babies

A new OECD report found that rich countries’ fertility rates have fallen by 50%+ since 1960

  • The OECD is an organization of 38 of the world’s most economically advanced countries. According to its data, in 1960, the average woman across its members had 3.3 children; by 2022, that number had fallen to 1.5

  • In every OECD country except Israel, the fertility rate is now below 2.1, the “replacement rate,” or the fertility rate needed to hold a population constant without immigration

Dig Deeper

  • Experts consider lower fertility rates to reflect greater economic development, greater access to family planning, and female participation in the workforce. Beyond a certain point, though, they are often considered an indicator of excessively high living costs and failed policies, as governments want to prevent their birth rates from falling below certain levels

  • The OECD warned that the trend “will change the face of societies, communities, and families and potentially have large effects on economic growth and prosperity” and called for policies that will expand the workforce – for example, by keeping workers working longer or by increasing immigration – or that will incentivize people to have children


No Destroying Hamas?

Israel’s top military spokesman said, “Whoever thinks we can eliminate Hamas is wrong”

  • Israeli PM Netanyahu has declared Israel’s goal in Gaza to be Hamas’ destruction and the return of all hostages. After eight months of war, though, Hamas continues to exist

  • On Wednesday, Israel’s top military spokesman split from Netanyahu, saying, “The idea that we can destroy Hamas or make Hamas disappear is misleading to the public”

  • “Hamas is an idea. Hamas is a party. It’s rooted in the hearts of the people. Whoever thinks we can eliminate Hamas is wrong”

Dig Deeper

  • The prime minister’s office issued a statement pushing back: “The security cabinet headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu defined the destruction of Hamas’ military and governmental capabilities as one of the goals of the war. The IDF [Israeli military] is of course committed to this”

  • The military spokesman also said that “the politicians will decide” what should replace Hamas. However, there’s been little progress – at least publicly – as to what that could be

  • Israel has rejected an American proposal that would put the PA, Hamas’ rival Palestinian faction, at the center of governing Gaza, as well as an Arab proposal that would incorporate Hamas into a coalition government


A Green Concrete-Based Tech Company

  • One of the coolest startups we’ve come across at Roca is AquiPor, a company that is solving the problem of urban flooding

  • Traditional concrete doesn’t absorb water – that’s why rain often causes cities to flood

  • AquiPor has solved that by creating porous concrete that captures stormwater where it falls. It then filters that water and allows it to return to the ground naturally

  • Based in the Pacific NW, AquiPor’s patented distributed water system is game-changing in scope and potential – especially given the US’ massive investments in making cities more resilient to climate change

  • AquiPor is currently fundraising. You can learn more and invest here!


Wealth Tax Ruling

The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) did not declare a wealth tax unconstitutional

  • Typically, US investments are taxed when they are sold for a profit. But a 2017 tax law levied a tax on shareholders’ foreign holdings, even if they didn’t sell them. A couple sued, arguing no constitutional basis existed for such a tax. SCOTUS ruled 7-2 that the law could stand

  • The case drew close attention because of its similarities to a wealth tax, which, like the tax law, would tax someone’s assets rather than the sale of them

  • While Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote, “Nothing in this opinion should be read to authorize any hypothetical [wealth tax],” the ruling leaves the door open for such a policy

Dig Deeper

  • Two conservative justices – Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas – dissented

  • The plaintiffs claimed the law violated the 16th Amendment, which lets the federal government impose an income tax on Americans

  • Had the court sided with them, it could have called sections of the 2017 tax bill into question, costing the government hundreds of billions of dollars


Boat Battle

Chinese and Filipino soldiers clashed at sea

  • China claims most of the South China Sea, including parts claimed by the Philippines

  • On Monday, a Chinese boat rammed a Filipino boat in a disputed area, severing a Filipino sailor’s thumb. Chinese troops then boarded, seized cell phones and rifles, and smashed its motor. Others used axes and knives to puncture another rubber boat

  • The US – obligated by a treaty to defend the Philippines – has warned that “an armed attack” on the Philippines would force it to intervene

Dig Deeper

  • Clashes are frequent in the area. However, this appears to be the most aggressive yet

  • On Wednesday, the Philippines released footage of the attack, sending tensions higher

  • China accused people of believing “totally bogus accusations” by the Philippines and “[confusing] black with white”

Some Quick Stories for the Office

🇺🇦 The US is at odds with NATO about whether to describe Ukraine’s path to the alliance as “irreversible.” NATO’s secretary general had previously called Ukraine’s future in NATO “irreversible,” but the US wants less provocative language used

🌐 Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte will become NATO’s new secretary general, succeeding Jens Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister who has led NATO since 2014

🪖 The suicide of an Israeli soldier is contributing to anti-war protests in Israel. The 40-year-old father of four – wounded twice previously and told by a doctor not to return to the front line – received an emergency call-up last week and killed himself before the deployment

📚 A WSJ analysis found that a record 7.5M American students, or 15.2% of the public-school student population, qualified for special education for reasons including autism, speech impediments, and ADHD in 2022-23

💰 Donald Trump fundraised more than Biden in April and May. In April, Trump brought in $76M to out-raise Biden for the first time; in May, he topped Biden again 


Question of the Day

Yesterday’s question: Saw this on Twitter yesterday. Who would you take and why?

Hopefully it would never happen, but...

The South would win hands down. We are used to defending ourselves (more guns per capita), are more populous, so more "soldiers", and have the largest standing National Guard of all the other states combined.

Then with Texas, whose economy alone is 8th largest in the world, (bigger than Canada, Russia, etc) and add it to all the other southern states, you have a force to be reckoned with.

Max from Texas

Midwest is winning this 100%.

- Industrial capabilities of the rust belt

- Agricultural output to feed armies

- Strong corn fed rural folk with room temperature IQs

- 2A supportive suburbanites

- Scrappy inner-city hustlers

- Central location, easy to attack others

- Natural defenses of the Ohio & Mississippi rivers, and Great Lakes make invading harder

Ryan from Cincinnati

Definitely the Northeast. I worked for the federal government for many years and came to realize the government controls most of the $ and resources and many times spends it on highly paid government employees working in that area especially in Washington DC and on pet projects. Most of the employees I met in the 5 different agencies for which I had the privilege to work during my career grew up learning or acquiring a liberal mentality that one should count on the government for just about everything. As I have seen agencies and programs with a more liberal lean than conservative seems to get more $. It would be no surprise to me to find that the Northeast would somehow channel funds and other resources to their area to support them in a war thus giving them the advantage.

Gretchen from California

20 Questions

Roca Nation, it's the first weekend of summer so let's party! Summer song edition... which of these are making your summer playlist?

Sorry, every dad in the audience. "Play that Funky Music" is not on the list.

Last Week’s 20 Questions:

The Roca audience got an average of 15/20 on last week’s spelling quiz. Stupendous!

Most of you, however, thought “supersede” was misspelled. Only 35% knew it was correct. You really didn’t supersede our expectations.

Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

🤭 OnlySantos: Former Rep. George Santos (R-NY) created an OnlyFans. His account will offer “exclusive never before seen content of the Congressional Icon and much more!”

🍻 Sober Mode: Miami Beach Police arrested rapper Travis Scott for disorderly intoxication early Thursday morning. He admitted to consuming alcohol, telling police, “It’s Miami”

✈️ Just shake it off, planes: Just Stop Oil protesters were back at it yesterday, painting two planes at a private airport after failing to locate Taylor Swift’s private jet

New “Just Stop Oil” just dropped 🔥

🏀 LeThong James: The “Nuttin’ But Azz” celebrity basketball tournament, featuring women in thongs, was scheduled to be held at a Newark, NJ public high school but got canceled

🏈 Pride Mafia: The NFL’s Buffalo Bills announced the team will sponsor an expansion of the National Gay Flag Football League, a non-profit sports league founded in 2002

The Fulani

Roaming the width of Africa are the Fulani, also known as the Fula or Pul.

There are 5M in Senegal, 15M in Nigeria, 3M in Cameroon, 3M in Mali, and millions more scattered across other central and western African countries. These figures make them the largest nomadic group in the world.

Traditionally, Fulanis lived by wandering with their animals, searching for water and grazing land. This wandering took them across Africa, where they ended up dispersed across an area wider than the continental United States. Most Fulani now live in villages, but a large minority remain nomadic. The nomads are visible from the roadside, slowly walking behind their cows, goats, and sheep.

To the traditional Fulani, the cow is king: “If you give them a billion [dollars], they’re going to buy cows,” Mamadou, my guide who has spent months in Fulani villages, told me. “They care about nothing the people in the city care about… In their societies, the cow is power. You have 100 cows; you have power. You are a leader.”

“Cattle is their life,” Mamadou said. “They eat their meat, they drink their milk. But they don’t want luxury, nothing.” 

Everything in the village can be done through money or trading: Some chickens are worth a goat, and some goats a cow. People go to the weekly market to trade these animals, which a man described to me as the equivalent of the “stock exchange: “You give me one kilo of rice I give you one kilo of sugar; you give me 10 kilo sugar I give you a goat. It’s like this.” And you trade up to get the cows.

To marry a “good woman,” you need cows. In one Fula village, I was told you need one cow to get the wife, then two cows to sacrifice at the wedding. 

One elderly Fula man told me, “If you don’t have cows, you’re tired.”

I asked why.

“Because if you don’t have cows, you don’t have money!” He gestured to his cow: “I could sell that cow there for 300,000 (~$500).”

There are difficulties linked with having your wealth tied up in a living animal: It can get sick and die, someone could kill it, you could lose it, or it could be stolen. That helps explain why the Fula are so intimately connected with the animals: Rather than just loving cows, they need to deeply understand them to guard their wealth.

The value and vulnerability of cows are one driver of banditry, a West African problem. In Nigeria, Mali, and other regional countries, so-called bandits steal cows, pillage villages, and kidnap women. They take their loot into the bush, where incompetent militaries and authorities struggle to stop them. Many of these bandits are Fulani, leading to criticism from other ethnic groups.

The Fulani’s nomadism also means they are constantly searching for new grazing lands. In Nigeria, this has pushed them increasingly further south, where they are now in near-constant conflict with the stationary farmers in the central strip of the country. The conflict there also has a religious component, as the Fula are almost entirely Muslim, and the farmers are generally Christian.

Locals told me that banditry exists in Senegal: “People who are hungry but have no work, or who take drugs or want women, they come in the night and take the cows,” one villager said. But it’s not as significant a problem in Senegal as in other parts of Africa.

Fulani people also told me that the demand for cows is fueling emigration. When passing one village with dozens of cows, my Fula motorcycle driver shouted back to me, “Lots of cows in this village! Many emigrés in Spain and Europe!”

Final Thoughts

Wow… you all really spent a lot of time thinking about this civil war thing….

Cue the cheesy music and prep the Hallmark Card, but amid reading the X’s and O’s of a Northeast, Midwest, South, and West civil war, we couldn’t help but think: The US truly is an amazing country. Such an unfathomable level of diversity, resources, and ingenuity in one arbitrarily defined stretch of land. Imagine the amazing things these four regions can do together. We’re better united.

Sorry, we vomited, too. Have a great weekend.

–Max and Max