- The Current
- 🌊 China, We Shrunk Ourselves!
🌊 China, We Shrunk Ourselves!
Meditation for the gut? Marvel back in China, and live from the border, pt. 2
33 years ago today, Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was arrested in an FBI sting. After being caught using crack cocaine in a hotel room, Barry famously declared that the “b***h set me up." The woman in question was an ex-model who helped set up the sting.
Just a few years later, in one of the most impressive career 180s in history, Barry was elected to a fourth term as DC's mayor. All press truly is good press.
In today's edition:
Meditation for the gut?
Marvel back in China
Live from the border, pt. 2
🔑 Key Stories
China's Population Falls
China’s population fell for the first time in 60 years
Official statistics showed the population dropped by 850,000 last year, to 1.4118B. The last time China’s population declined was in 1961, when the country was experiencing a famine. Deaths also outnumbered births for the first time last year
China’s birth rate has been declining for years, despite policies intended to slow or reverse the trend and avoid a demographic crisis of too few young people to support an aging population
China’s GDP also missed its 2022 target, with its second weakest growth since 1976 at ~3%
China has long relied on its large population — the biggest in the world — as a core engine for economic growth. Now India is set to overtake China early this year as the world's most populous country. Economists say the change could have major impacts on the global economy and geopolitics
FTC Proposes Non-Compete Ban
The US government has proposed a ban on non-compete agreements
Non-compete agreements typically bar employees from joining a competitor for a period after they quit. Proponents say they protect the transfer of trade secrets; the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says they suppress wages, restrict new business creation, and hurt the ability of companies to hire new workers
On January 5, the FTC, proposed the ban. It’s undergoing a period of public comment before it can be adopted as a regulation
There's disagreement within the FTC over the proposal. The FTC's chair said, “The freedom to change jobs is core to economic liberty and to a competitive, thriving economy." But the FTC's commissioner said the proposal "represents a radical departure from hundreds of years of legal precedent" and the FTC doesn't have the evidence to back its claim that non-competes harm competition. The US Chamber of Commerce, one of the US's most influential business advocacy groups, said they plan to to challenge the FTC in court over the proposal
Meditation for the Gut?
New research published in the journal General Psychiatry suggests frequent meditation over several years may improve gut health
Researchers found meditation helped regulate gut microbiome and lowered physical and mental health risks in 37 monks who had meditated for 30+ years
The study compared blood and stool samples of the monks to those of 19 non-meditating people, matching for age, blood pressure, heart rate and diet
The monks’ microbes were healthier than those of the control group. Researchers caution the small sample size makes it hard to draw broad conclusions
"The microbiota enriched in monks was associated with a reduced risk of anxiety, depression and cardiovascular disease and could enhance immune function,” the study said. “Overall, these results suggest that meditation plays a positive role in psychosomatic conditions and wellbeing”
New Mexico Candidate Arrested
On Monday, police arrested a former Republican candidate for New Mexico state legislature for his role in a series of drive-by shootings
Since last month, New Mexico authorities have been investigating multiple shootings targeting Democratic officials' homes and offices. No one was injured in the attacks, but 3 homes were damaged
The suspect unsuccessfully ran for New Mexico House District last November. He is charged with conspiring with and paying for 4 other men to shoot at the homes of 2 county commissioners and 2 state legislators
Another suspect was arrested earlier in January
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Always gonna be another mountain hit: Miley Cyrus is back atop the global charts with new #1 hit single "Flowers." It is her first #1 hit since 2013
Keep calm and crypto on: Bitcoin has climbed above $21k, its highest price since dipping below $16k several times since FTX filed for bankruptcy last Nov.
Gooooooooaattt: Messi and Ronaldo will face off in what could be their final head-to-head match in Saudi Arabia on Thursday. It will be Ronaldo's first match since joining Saudi club Al Nassr
You're gonna make me flop: Sex noises made it onto a BBC soccer show on Tuesday after a prankster taped a phone to the back of the set
"TikTok made me do it": More than 20 kids in Indonesia have been injured by eating foods infused with liquid nitrogen as part of a TikTok challenge
Just plane crazy: A co-pilot of the Yeti Airlines flight that crashed in Nepal on Sunday lost her husband in a plane crash 16 years earlier
👇 What do you think?
Can you sleep on planes? ✈️
What’s your go-to lazy dinner?
Reply to this email with your answers!
See yesterday's results below the Wrap!
🌯 Roca Wrap
Last year, a record 2.76M unauthorized immigrants crossed the US-Mexico border. Roca's co-founder Max Towey and Jen Flanagan visited El Paso, Texas — one of the busiest border cities — to learn about the migration situation firsthand. Jen will cover what we learned in the coming newsletters.
"All our Venezuelan friends told me about this church and told me to come here.”
That’s what a 23-year-old migrant from Venezuela – we’ll call him Juan – told us.
Juan was referring to Sacred Heart Church in El Paso, Texas, which is where we met him and dozens of other migrants.
Most were Venezuelan, undocumented, and had crossed the border in the last few weeks. They hoped to claim asylum once Title 42 ended.
Title 42 lets US authorities rapidly deport undocumented migrants. The policy was set to end on December 21, and in the weeks before that, thousands of migrants crossed the border in anticipation. But on December 19, a legal challenge extended Title 42, leaving the migrants in limbo.
Unwilling to return to Mexico and unable to enter state-run shelters – which receive federal funds and therefore can’t help undocumented migrants – many slept in the streets. To help them, on December 13, Sacred Heart Church opened its doors to undocumented migrants.
Sacred Heart is a 120-year-old parish on the corner of a downtown El Paso street. Since December 13, it's also become a home to a few hundred migrants. The building is about 2-blocks long, made of brick and designed in old-Spanish style. Colorful murals adorn its sides depicting religious scenes.
We visited Sacred Heart last Wednesday and found it completely surrounded by makeshift encampments, and migrants who took up nearly all available space on its premises. Several boxes of donated clothes, blankets, and toys were lying around. Volunteers had set up tables with food and drinks on the closest corner to the church.
We spent a few hours at the church and met with many of those migrants. Below are some of their stories.
Note: Because many we spoke to are undocumented, only first names are used, and some personal details like age or hometowns were not always provided.
Rafael, Michel, and Osman are three 20-somethings from Venezuela. Amidst political and economic turmoil, they decided to go to the US to, as Rafael said, reach “our dream, which is to work. Just to work so that we can send some money to our families.”
All 3 paid smugglers to take them from Venezuela to the US. They would have to pass through Colombia, then the Darién Gap, a lawless stretch of jungle connecting South and Central America, and Central America itself.
Rafael and Osman were from the same town; Michel was from Venezuela’s capital. They all met when Mexican immigration officials caught them in Southern Mexico and expelled them to Guatemala. They returned to Mexico and jumped a train that took them to the US border.
Many migrants told us about the “trains.” Jumping onto Mexican cargo trains that carry products north for export is a common way migrants reach the US.
“Before we departed [Venezuela], they told us we had to be ready for the jungle, and we were ready for the jungle,” Osman told us. “But not Mexico.”
Beyond the danger of riding the train, the 3 friends said thieves throughout Mexico preyed on migrants.
“The jungle… is physical and mental,” Michel said. “And Mexico… it is hard to cross Mexico.”
We met many single adults in their 20s with similar stories. Almost all said the Darién Gap and Mexico were the most difficult parts of the journey.
Alejandro, a 20-something Venezuelan male, told us the jungle was full of “snakes, panthers, and death” and Mexico had “lots of drug dealers and kidnapping.” He said he was kidnapped in Mexico. It’s unclear if he was released or if he escaped.
Another 23-year-old Venezuelan male told us he expected “all the rudeness of the jungle, but I never expected to find Mexico as hard as I saw it.”
Mexico was “more difficult because of the cartels, immigration, [and] the train,” he said.
We met many young children who made the journey as well, including Adiana, a 3 year-old from Venezuela (pictured above, farthest right). She was with her 27 year-old mom and two 17 year-old female relatives.
“We have suffered a lot to get here. We have been traveling for 5 months, without sleeping, without rest,” her mom said.
We asked how it was possible that 3 year-old Adiana made it.
“Thank God,” one of the girls said. “I saw many kids who didn’t get here.”
She told us that they tried hopping a train in Mexico 4 times. Immigration officials caught them 3 times and returned them to Guatemala. They kept trying.
“I saw lots of people were kidnapped,” she said. Others “fell from the train and they stayed under the train, very dangerous.” The mom said she had hypothermia on the train. She survived, but others, “when they reached their destination, they were dead, frozen.”
She called Adiana a warrior for making the journey.
The family is among the few who have been able to apply for asylum. They are awaiting a court case in May in New York, but said they have no money to travel there, or make ends meet while they wait.
What did the migrants hope for in the US?
“We want to work and help our families,” said the mom above.
“To work to provide a better future to my son,” said Michel.
“As they say, I think the US can provide us work, and we just want a better life, that’s all,” said Osman.
Sacred Heart Church has been over capacity since it opened its doors. Many migrants there told us they feel like they’re in limbo: Hoping to avoid expulsion under Title 42, but unable to take any steps towards asylum.
It’s unclear what their future holds. For now, Sacred Heart is their refuge.
If you have thoughts, let us know at [email protected]!
🌊 Roca Clubhouse
Do you brush your teeth more than twice a day?
Yes: 22%No: 78%
What's the quickest way to offend you?
Katherine from WA: “The quickest (and only) way to offend me is my talking sh*t about my football team- GO BUCKEYES!”
Noemma from CA: “Make fun of my name. It happens within 3 seconds of meeting someone but I didn’t choose it, so get f**cked”
Sam from TX: “Say something negative about my kids. You are guaranteed to feel my wrath and never forget it.”
🧠 Final Thoughts
All dentists reading this newsletter should be very pleased to see that 22% of Roca Readers brush their teeth more than twice a day! We were tempted to ask how many of you brush your teeth just once per day, but sometimes ignorance is bliss...
Have a great Hump Day! We'll see you on the better half of the hump tomorrow!
Max and Max