🌊 Crikey, Where's That Capsule?

Radioactive capsule gone missing 🤔, More monkey trouble at the Dallas Zoo?!, and Somali Goat Herders + Donald Trump

Ham, the legendary chimp that ventured into space 62 years ago today, was actually known as "Number 65" prior to the trip. NASA didn't want to give the first chimp to go to space a name until the mission was a success, fearing it would be bad publicity if a "named" chimp burned up in the atmosphere. In fairness to NASA, a headline like "Oh no, Ham gets smoked!" doesn't scream more space funding...

In today's edition:

  • Radioactive capsule gone missing 🤔

  • More monkey trouble at the Dallas Zoo?!

  • Somali Goat Herders + Donald Trump

 🔑 Key Stories

ChatGPT Ate Brits’ Homework?

A top London school will stop assigning written homework, claiming ChatGPT makes it obsolete

  • ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is an AI program that can respond to prompts humans give to it, including by writing open-ended essays

  • The English department at the school – which charges $28,000 tuition – recently graded a ChatGPT-written paper and gave it an A. The school said it will no longer assign written homework and instead ask students to conduct research for in-class activities

  • Other educators have dismissed ChatGPT, with one prominent group calling it a glorified spell checker

Dig Deeper

Lost: Highly Radioactive Capsule

A British-Australian mining company lost a radioactive capsule in the Australian Outback

  • On January 12, a truck carrying the pea-sized capsule, which was part of a mining tool, traveled ~900 miles from a mine to Perth. On January 25, it was identified as missing; officials say the capsule fell out mid-transit

  • The capsule contains a radioactive element. Officials say 1 hour of exposure to it equates to 10 X-rays, and that holding it could cause burns or sickness

  • Searches are underway, but it hasn’t been found yet. Officials say they’re worried somebody will pick it up and keep it, or that it will lodge into a vehicle’s tire

Dig Deeper

  • This isn't the first time the mining company, Rio Tinto, has made the news: In 2020, it demolished a 46,000-year-old stone structure sacred to native Aboriginals, sparking much criticism

$5.4B in C-19 Aid Fraudulent?

A federal watchdog found that the US likely gave out $5.4B in fraudulent Covid-19 aid under 2 programs

  • A watchdog is a group that monitors another’s behavior; in this case, the government's. This watchdog, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), oversees ~$5T the US gave out as Covid-19 aid

  • PRAC found that under programs that helped employers cover salaries and other expenses, ~221k applications had “questionable Social Security Numbers,” and of those, ~70k received $5.4B in aid

  • The watchdog reviewed 33M applications, implying that 0.7% of those were likely fraudulent

Dig Deeper

  • Late last year, a US Labor Department official also claimed that fraudulent accounts likely stole $45.6B from pandemic-related unemployment benefits

Israel-Palestine Conflict Intensifying

A series of military raids, missile strikes, and killings have elevated tensions between Israel and Palestine

Dig Deeper

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel on Monday, calling on "all sides now to take urgent steps to restore calm, to de-escalate." There are fears the violence could spiral into a wider conflict

How do you Pronounce LMNT?

Together with LMNT

The correct answer is "element," and it's the electrolyte we recommend Roca Riders hydrate with for post-holiday season recovery and to start the New Year off right 

  • Electrolytes are essential minerals that facilitate vital bodily functions, including the conduction of nerve impulses, hormonal regulation, nutrient absorption, and fluid balance 

  • LMNT electrolytes contain just what you need – the salts – without all the other harmful additives. Just mix it with water and it’s perfect for hydrating, be it after a workout or night out 

  • Other popular electrolyte drinks contain as much as 36 grams of sugar. 36 GRAMS! LMNT contains none – NONE!  

  • Everyone from NBA, NFL, and NHL players to Navy Seals, moms, and dads drink it 

  • You can try it totally risk-free. If you don’t like it, they’ll give you your money back – no questions asked. You have nothing to lose 

Dig Deeper

  • Right now LMNT is offering Roca Riders a free sample pack with any purchase. That’s 8 single servings FREE with any LMNT order. This is a great way to try all 8 flavors or share LMNT with a salty friend

🍿 Popcorn


  • City of bettor-ly love: The Eagles are a 2-point favorite over the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. The line opened as a "pick 'em," but bettors have pushed it toward Philly

  • We the p***ed off: The top answer in a Gallup poll on the most important problems in the US was "government/poor leadership." Inflation and immigration followed

  • Single and ready to populate: Unmarried couples in China's Sichuan province will now be able to legally have kids. The change comes a week after China's population officially shrank


  • Dallas zoo, are you good? 2 emperor tamarin monkeys have gone missing from Dallas Zoo, marking the 4th suspicious incident there in the last month

  • DON'T go green: New York City mayor Eric Adams took blame for the Empire State Building lighting up green on Sunday to celebrate their rival, the Eagles

  • "Honey, please get Woke": A Connecticut woman has caused a stir over the name of her breakfast cafe: "Woke." She says she did not know what "woke" meant

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll

Are aliens real? 👽

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today's Question:

What is something you can justify splurging on?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

Roca co-founder Max Frost and writer Alex Norris spent 2.5 weeks in Ethiopia earlier this month. Frost will be writing about it here in the coming newsletters. 

After hours of chewing khat – the east African narcotic leaf – on a narrow street in Harar, Ethiopia, we met a man who loved Donald Trump.

We had been on a walk where we passed a tent packed with local people. A man outside saw us carrying a camera. He spoke English and invited us to join the celebration. I took a seat on a carpet next to him and he handed me a bushel of khat.

Conversation over coffee

Frost and the man speaking. We blocked his face because of free speech concerns in Ethiopia

The man immediately began talking politics. 

“Who was that president in the US?”

“Joe Biden?”

“No, before him.”

“Donald Trump”

“Yes! Allah bless Donald Trump. He knows that he works for America. Why should America be letting in all these workers from Africa, Mexico, and China? He works for the American people and he knows that.”

“America is Ethiopia’s brother. Our politicians think they can go to China and to Russia, but they can’t. Those countries don’t even have enough food for their own people. And China steals from us!” 

He packed a wad of khat so big into my hand that it barely fit in my mouth, then handed me a cup of coffee and continued his rant. 

“Our politicians are starting wars. We have no freedom, no elections.” Ethiopia technically has elections, but they aren’t free. 

Many Ethiopians have strong feelings about the US. The government that ruled from the 1990s until 2018 had close ties with the US, largely because it was an ally in the “War on Terror.” In 2006, the US supported Ethiopia in invading neighboring Somalia to overthrow a fundamentalist Islamic government that had taken power there. Many supporters of the former government consider the US a close ally. 

But many supporters of the current government despise the US, which has accused Ethiopia’s military of committing human rights abuses. In return, Ethiopian officials and media accuse the US of arming anti-government rebels. Later in the trip I’d experience more anti-Americanism than I have in any country I’ve visited.

That night, we set out to see one of Harar’s more unique traditions: Every single night for over 50 years, a local family has fed hyenas, normally considered one of the area’s most dangerous animals. Hyenas are normally considered one of the area’s most dangerous wild animals. Not here, though: They line up nightly on the edge of the city, waiting for the family to serve them chunks of camel meat. They are said to have never bitten anyone, and we got within several feet of them.

Hyenas on a hill

Hyenas on the prowl

Each night around midnight, the hyenas reportedly enter the old city through the “hyena hole,” a cut-out in the wall that surrounds the city. They prowl the streets, eating food left out for them by locals. We were told they don’t bother the city’s livestock or people, although we didn’t see this and can’t verify it. Our guide swore by it, though, and told us it stems from an ancient deal made between the hyenas and Harar’s king to keep the peace between the people and the animals.

The next morning, we went to the bus station to head closer to Somalia. It was Monday, and every Monday the town of Babile is home to one of East Africa’s largest livestock markets. Herders come from all over eastern Ethiopia and Somalia to trade animals here.

A large crowd formed around us at the bus station, unfamiliar with seeing white people and a camera. The group, all young men, followed us around as we fought to get a seat on a van headed to Babile. Many asked for pictures. 

After we got pushed off one van, we aggressively shoved our way into the next and set off eastward. After an hour’s drive through the mountains, we pulled into Babile, where we headed to the market on foot. 

Road with donkeys on it

The road to Babile

The flow of people increased as we neared the market. We merged into a crowd of herders leading flocks of goats, sheep, cows, and donkeys. Eventually we reached a clearing where hundreds of people sat with and haggled over the animals. 

There were 3 main languages spoken in the market – Somali and Oromifa, the 2 primary regional languages, and Amharic, the main language of Ethiopia – but people kept trying to speak to us in English. Most spoke only 3 phrases: “Where you from?” “How are you?” “I am fine.”

Somali man with his sheep

Somali sheep herder waiting at the market

The upper clearing was for donkeys and cows; the lower one for sheep and goats. They were on the edge of a cliff, with a gorgeous view of a gorge below and mountains in the distance. 

Women with goats

Shepherd women with their goats at market

On the lower clearing, a group of men invited me to sit down with them. They expressed that they had walked from Somalia and handed me a handful of khat, an offer to chew with them. After a few minutes, one man asked me how to get a visa to the US. 

Men chewing khat

Chewing khat with the herders

Sitting there on that desert cliff, it occurred to me that I may have never met someone with whom I had less in common than a nomadic Somali goat trader. 

That may have been true, but not for long: The next day, we began a 6-day roadtrip to the tribes of southern Ethiopia. That’s where we really got off the beaten path. 

Herder with his goats

A herder looking toward Somalia

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

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

I would rather encounter this creature in the wild...

Bigfoot: 16.30%

The Loch Ness Monster: 17.06%

A mermaid: 66.63%

Yesterday's Question:

When was a time where you had to swallow your pride?

Alyssa from Texas: “Hmm, it's called marriage, and it's a daily gulp! Nothing makes you more humble.”

Becky from Kansas: “Not last night!  Go Chiefs!  Super Bowl here we come! ;)”

Jenney from Crestwood: “For real? Today. I'm the mom of teenagers. I have to acknowledge I'm wrong every single day! I didn't even know I could be wrong this much before I had kids!”

🧠 Final Thoughts

We've been told not to say "Happy Monday," but how about "Happy Tuesday"?

Today's a big day for us at Roca HQ: After many months of development, we're bringing the first users onto our app beta. If you signed up for that, we may be in touch soon. If you didn't, you can by filling out this link (iPhone users only for now).

Have great days!

Max and Max