🌊 China Hiding Covid?

PLUS: The Monkey Clone… It’s Alive!

Happy Thesaurus Day. Merry Thesaurus Day, too.

Allow us to begin today’s newsletter with some — brace yourself, legacy media — good news. Out of the millions of commercial airplane flights in 2023, there were zero fatal crashes. In fact, there were only two fatalities from turbofan-powered aircraft accidents the entire year. That makes 2023 the safest year for flying on record. See how easy that was?

In today's edition:

🗞️ Key Stories: Night of the living monkey clone

🥶 Happy Hour: Chiefs fans treated for hypothermia

🚀 Roca Reports: Thank God We're in Europe

🔑 Key Story

China Hid Covid Info?

A Chinese researcher published a DNA sequence of Covid weeks before the Chinese government shared it with the world, the Wall Street Journal reported

  • The sequence, published by a Chinese researcher to a US-run database, was reportedly uploaded on December 28, 2019. China did not share information about Covid with the WHO until January 11, 2020

  • That information was unearthed by a US committee investigating Covid’s origins. That committee’s chairman said it proves the US “cannot trust any of the so-called “facts”…provided by [China]”

  • The news doesn’t provide greater insights into Covid’s origin

🔑 Key Story

Cloning Breakthrough

Chinese researchers announced that a cloned rhesus monkey has survived to adulthood

  • Researchers have successfully cloned sheep, macaque monkeys, and other mammals. Until recently, though, researchers had never cloned a rhesus monkey – a primate valued for their genetic similarities to humans – that had survived to adulthood

  • Per a study published in Nature Communications, using a tweaked cloning method, Chinese researchers created 113 cloned rhesus fetuses, 11 of which were implanted into surrogate mothers. One of those reportedly survived to birth and is now over two years old

Sherlock Holmes vs. VPN

will smith mystery GIF

Together with Surfshark
Imagine a digital fortress blocking pesky intruders and digital ne'er-do-wells around your internet connection. That's Surfshark! We turn your online activity into an uncrackable code with the ultimate disguise – a VPN – so even Sherlock Holmes cannot track you down!

  • Privacy: A VPN encrypts your traffic to effectively eliminate bad actors from tracking your activity online 

  • Security: Creates a secure internet connection by changing your IP address that protects you from external threats 

  • Access to Restricted Content: Access the wonders of the world wide web. Live in the US, but would love to catch up on the most recent season of that UK show? Simply connect to a VPN!

🔑 Key Story

Incest Law Reform

A Kentucky lawmaker and former “Survivor” winner introduced a bill to allow sex with first cousins, but later called that an accident 

  • Nick Wilson won Season 37 of CBS’s “Survivor,” which aired in 2018. In 2022, he was elected to Kentucky’s House as a Republican

  • On Tuesday, Wilson introduced a bill seeking to “remove first cousin from the list of familial relationships” that constitutes incest

  • The incest bill went viral, and on Wednesday morning, Wilson said the removal of first cousins from the incest list was an error and pledged to fix it

🔑 Key Story

Iran, Pakistan Trade Missile Attacks

Pakistan bombed targets in Iran a day after Iran bombed Pakistan

  • Iran and Pakistan are generally friendly but for years have accused each other of harboring terrorist groups

  • On Wednesday, Iran bombed what it called militant bases in Pakistan of ​​Jaish al-Adli, a group that has carried out numerous attacks against Iran

  • Pakistan called the attack “illegal” and on Thursday fired missiles at what it called separatist groups operating in Iran

  • In a statement, Pakistan’s military called Iran a “brotherly” country and urged for “dialogue” to soothe tensions

⚓ Dive Deeper

⚓ Dive Deeper

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Daily Poll

Today's Poll:

Do you know what does VPN stands for?

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Yesterday’s Poll: Would you rather have the power to change the past or see into the future?

🪞Change the past: 45%
🔮 See the future: 55%

🍿 Happy Hour

📲 How about them Apples? Apple ended Samsung’s 12-year run as the world’s largest smartphone seller after capturing a 20% global market share in 2023

🏀 RIP, Dejan: Golden State Warriors assistant coach and retired pro basketball player Dejan Milojević died after suffering a heart attack at a private team dinner Tuesday night

We are not doctors, but being shirtless with wind chill in the -20s is not advised…

🤧 For the love of the game: Over a dozen fans at Saturday’s Kansas City Chiefs playoff game were treated for symptoms caused by the freezing weather. The wind chill was -27°F at kickoff

🎸 Leaving No Doubt: Rock band No Doubt will reunite after nearly a decade to perform at Coachella. The band – led by Gwen Stefani — hasn’t performed together since 2015

✈️ Mile-high blackout: A “heavily drunk” 55-year-old man bit a cabin attendant’s arm mid-flight on a US-bound plane, causing mild injury. The man says he doesn’t “recall at all” his behavior

🎁 Pope gives the talk: Pope Francis called sexual pleasure “a gift from God” but cautioned against pornography’s harmful effects on relationships at a St. Peter’s Square address

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🌯 Deep Dive

Roca (Votes) Wrap

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

2023 was a year of great debates: Israel vs. Palestine, Barbie vs. Oppenheimer, supporting Ukraine, the rise of generative AI, Taylor Swift, and more.

Last week we asked our Roca audience to consider the biggest debate of 2023, and received a diverse set of answers. They ranged from whether Florida State should’ve made the college football playoff to how generative AI should be implemented in the classroom.

But there’s one topic that appeared repeatedly in responses: Immigration.

In 2023, the immigration debate hit a fever pitch in the US and Europe with potentially massive implications for the year ahead. We are curious to see your thoughts on it – but first, some context.

In the US, border officials encountered a record 2.5M migrants at the southern border in 2023, dwarfing previous years’ totals. As recently as 2017, that number was ~300,000.

Amid the surge in migrants and pressure from Democratic politicians, the Biden administration announced it would build a new section of border wall. That marked a 180-degree turn from the Biden campaign’s 2020 pledge to not build any new wall segments.

Other Democratic politicians including New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Illinois Governor JB Pritzker have called on Washington, DC to address the migrant crisis.

NYC officials say the Big Apple has welcomed 161,000 new migrants over the last year and a half, resulting in a shortage of money and overflowing facilities.

This week, Chicago’s mayor said, "All of our cities have reached a point where we are either close to capacity, or nearly out of room.”

On Saturday, at a rally in New Hampshire, President Trump said, “They let — I think the real number is 15, 16 million people into our country. When they do that, we got a lot of work to do. They’re poisoning the blood of our country.” He repeated this claim on Truth Social, writing in all caps, “illegal immigration is poisoning the blood of our nation. They’re coming from prisons, from mental institutions — from all over the world.”

Other Republican candidates intensified their rhetoric on the immigration issue. Former candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, for example, called for the US to end “birthright citizenship,” where anyone born in the country is granted citizenship.

Similarly in Europe: The numbers of people illegally entering the continent are at their highest levels since the migrant crisis of 2015-16. The trend is fueling support for anti-immigration politicians in Italy, Germany, Finland, Austria, France, and elsewhere.

In recent elections in the Netherlands – by many metrics one of the world’s most progressive countries – a party that has promised to outlaw the Quran and ban mosque construction won the most votes and seats.

With that context, we ask the question(s) of the day: Is the surge in immigration a function of US/EU policies, or out of their control? Do you consider the US’ and Europe’s immigration situations to be crises? For better or for worse, do you think immigration is changing your country’s culture? 

Let us know what you think by replying to this email!

🌎 On-the-Ground

Roca Reports

Bosnia is a small country – roughly the size of West Virginia – but mostly mountainous and with a single short highway. Crossing it takes time and our way of doing so was hitchhiking. 

After Srebrenica, our destination was Banja Luka, capital of Bosnia’s predominantly Serb Republika Srpska region. To get there we had to cross the country, primarily traveling throughout the predominantly Bosniak (Muslim) Federation region.

The towns in the Federation felt less Eastern European than the ones in the Republika Srpska: Mosques play the call to prayer, outdoor markets are crowded with vendors, and many women wear head coverings. People often greet you with the Arabic “As-Salaam-Alaikum” (Peace be unto you). 

Our first day on the road took us deep through the forest, past mountaintop villages that typically consisted of a few buildings around a mosque. At one point we ended up stranded in a near-silent town, waiting next to a trickling river for a car to pass. After an hour, a forest ranger on his way home from work picked us up and drove us on a dirt path over a mountain. At one point, the road entered a cave that had been blasted into a cliff and now functioned as a tunnel. Throughout the day, we had no English-speaking drivers and ended up in a motel on Bosnia’s lone highway. 

We started the next day hitchhiking by the highway’s on-ramp. Our first driver, an older woman in a headscarf, drove us 15 minutes down the highway and left us on the next on-ramp. After a few minutes waiting there, a young man named Dino pulled over. Blasting music and puffing on a vape, he spoke perfect English and offered us a ride. 

Dino used to be a dancer in London but post-Brexit visa complications led him to move back to Bosnia. He now worked as a tour guide at “Bosnia’s pyramids.”

Since 2005, a Texas-based Bosnian-American businessman has claimed that mountains in Bosnia are actually the world’s largest pyramids. The claims are based on the shape of the mountains and various historical and archaeological evidence, including tunnels near the site, the site’s importance in Bosnian history, and artifacts discovered there. Local authorities have supported his claims and funded his research, turning it into an off-the-beaten-path tourist destination.

Professional archaeologists say the pyramid claims are absurd. Among various critics, the European Association of Archaeologists has called them a "cruel hoax." Regardless, the “pyramids” attract tourists, and Dino worked as a guide at this place. 

When I told Dino that we were in Bosnia to learn about the country’s history and politics, he laughed. 

“You are in a complicated place. You could live your whole life here and still not understand it.”

When I commented on how amazing it is that Bosnia is stable, given the political and ethnic divides, he cut me off: “It’s not stable. War could break out at any minute.”

“It’s like Israel and Gaza. North or South Korea,” he continued. ”I just say all the time, ‘Thank God that we are in Europe. If we were in Africa or an island…” he trailed off, then added, “War could go off here at any time.”

Before he dropped us off, we told Dino we were headed to Banja Luka to learn about Milorad Dodik, the president – many say dictator – of the Republika Srpska. 

“He is the worst thing to happen to our country,” Dino said. In the coming days, we’d try to find out if that was true. 

Let us know what you think at [email protected]!

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The Clubhouse

Question of the Day: Today’s Question is under the Roca Votes Wrap.

Yesterday’s Question: Have you been told that you resemble a celebrity and if so, who?

Tina from Highland Park, California: “In the late 90's I worked for a food company and did direct store delivery.  One day I was in a grocery store in West Hollywood in the frozen food section when a man about my age at the time (late 20s) came up to me rather quickly.  As I turned to face him his expression turned to disappointment when he saw my full face and he said "Oh I'm sorry, I thought you were Shelly Duvall."  He turned around and left.”

Cathy from Las Vegas: “Years ago when I was in Los Angeles someone at a restaurant thought I was Heidi Fleiss 😂

Diana from Chattanooga, Tennessee: “Jennifer Aniston”

🧠 Editor’s Note

Final Thoughts

Wait… more James Cook history today? Today’s the anniversary of when he “discovered” Hawaii. He named them the “Sandwich Islands” after the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, which is one of the greatest titles one could possibly have. He ended up dying in the “Sandwich Islands” after trying to kidnap their chief, and the native Hawaiians stabbed him to death.

Have a wonderful day!

—Max and Max