🌊 DeSantis World

Toxic train derailment in Ohio, big win for Super Bowl ratings, and meet the Kara Tribe

Happy Valentine's Day, Roca Nation. Here are some V-Day facts you can drop tonight to set the mood: 1) Florists make 30% of their annual sales today; 2) King Henry VIII, who had 6 wives, made it a national holiday; 3) Roughly a quarter of Americans who celebrate will give their pet a gift today.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must prepare for my evening plans of watching Kung Fu Panda 2 and scrolling through old Wordles.

In today's edition:

  • Toxic train derailment in Ohio

  • Big win for Super Bowl ratings

  • Meet the Kara Tribe

 🔑 Key Stories

Balloon Saga Continues

China accused the US of flying spy balloons into its airspace 10 times since January 2022

  • Since February 4, the US has shot down 4 flying objects, beginning with an alleged Chinese spy balloon. The nature and origin of the other 3 objects are unclear

  • Monday, a Chinese government spokesman said the US spied on China from the air 657+ times since 2022, including 10 times from balloons. He called the US "without a doubt the world's largest surveillance habitual offender and surveillance empire”

  • The US denied the accusations and said China is conducting “damage control”

Dig Deeper

  • The US has "blacklisted" 6 Chinese companies for their alleged connection to China's spy balloon program. The US House of Representatives also voted unanimously to condemn China over its "brazen violation" of US sovereignty. China has threatened unspecified retaliatory actions

“A New Sheriff Is In Town”

  • Disney World is located on a “special tax district” in central Florida. That district’s landowners – basically Disney – can impose taxes and provide services without government intervention. Historically, a board of 5 Disney-affiliated people oversaw that district

  • Disney has criticized some Florida policies. Last week, the legislature responded by approving a bill that lets the Florida government appoint members to that 5-person board, reducing Disney’s autonomy

  • Florida’s governor said, “A new sheriff [is] in town”

Dig Deeper

  • “We appreciate all that the District has done to help our destination grow and become one of the largest economic contributors and employers in the state,” the president of Walt Disney World Resort said. “We are focused on the future and are ready to work within this new framework"

Train Derailment in Ohio

Reports of dead animals and illnesses have come out of East Palestine, Ohio after a train full of toxic chemicals derailed there earlier this month

  • On February 3, a train carrying 20 cars full of toxic materials derailed. Nobody died, but a fire broke out and toxic material leaked. Authorities evacuated nearby residents and began releasing and burning chemicals in order to prevent an explosion

  • 5 days later, authorities allowed residents to return

  • Since then, reports have emerged of people getting sick and chickens, fox, and fish dying. Some accuse the government of lying about how safe the area truly is

Dig Deeper

  • We're doing a deeper dive about this today on our Instagram. @ridethenews!

Mexico Border Killing

The killing of an undocumented immigrant near the US-Mexico border is causing controversy in Arizona

  • On January 30, 73-yo George Alan Kelly encountered at least one man on his ranch outside Nogales, Arizona on the US-Mexico border; Kelly fired his gun. The body of a man – later identified as a Mexican national – was found dead on his ranch that day

  • Police arrested Kelly and charged him with 1st-degree murder. His bail was set at $1M

  • Kelly says he fired warning shots at armed men on his property and called Border Patrol for help; authorities charged him with premeditated murder

Dig Deeper

  • Kelly claims he and his wife heard a single gunshot, then saw a group of AK-47-armed men enter his property. He claims to have fired warning shots over the groups' head, causing them to flee, before calling Border Patrol to report the incident. After they'd left, he claims his dog alerted him to a dead body on his property, at which point he then called Border Patrol again

  • The charge of 1st-degree, pre-meditated murder suggests the local authorities don't buy that story

Michigan State Shooting

A mass shooting took place at Michigan State University Monday night, killing 3 and injuring 5 

  • The suspect, a 43-year-old man, allegedly opened fire in 2 campus buildings

  • He was found dead by suicide near the campus. He was not affiliated with the university and his motive is unclear

  • All 8 victims were students

🍿 Popcorn


  • Fly, ratings, fly: Sunday's Super Bowl is on pace to become the 3rd most-viewed of all time. Preliminary ratings show that an average of 113M Americans tuned in

  • Every buck you take: The top-paid entertainers of 2022, per Forbes, were... Genesis and Sting. Both artists recently sold their music catalogs for ~$300M

  • Sign of the end times? A lightning bolt struck the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, creating a remarkable image that has since gone viral


  • "AI am titanium": Popular DJ David Guetta says that the "future of music is in AI." He has started using artificial intelligence for his live shows

  • Not a felony but a misdeweiner: Oscar Mayer's famous Weinermobile fell victim to a catalytic converter theft. The culprit took it in Vegas on Super Bowl weekend

  • Bama #1 in... basketball? The Alabama Crimson Tide men's basketball team is #1 in the country for the first time in 20 years. Houston and Purdue follow the Tide

👇 What do you think?

Today's Question

Do you believe in love at first sight? ❤️

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Today's Question:

What are the most important qualities in a romantic partner?

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 last month. Frost will be writing about it here in the coming newsletters.

"We will get malaria this summer."

“We will get malaria this summer.” 

That’s what a member of the Kara tribe, which lives on the banks of the Omo River in southern Ethiopia, told us. 

“Every person gets malaria every summer,” one Kara man told us. To prevent it, the government gives out mosquito nets every few years, “But then they forget about us.” Occasionally, mobile clinics, operated by foreign aid groups, will drop by and treat those who have malaria. Still, the Kara man said, some percentage of children die every summer.

Thatched roof hut

A traditional Kara home

But, he added, malaria isn’t the major concern in these parts. Yellow fever, another mosquito-born illness, is. 

”If you get yellow fever, you die,” that same man said. 

Statistically, that’s not true. According to the CDC, “Most people infected with yellow fever virus do not get sick or have only mild symptoms.” But in remote places like the Omo Valley, you don’t know you have it until you’re extremely sick, and by that point, it is often fatal. Where as malaria is typically deadly only for children, yellow fever can be deadly for anyone. 

There is a yellow fever vaccine, and we received it in the US before going to Ethiopia. But a dose costs hundreds of dollars, and as far as people in rural Ethiopia know, it doesn’t exist. 

Girl with necklace, robe, and face paint

A Kara girl in traditional attire

Mosquito-borne illnesses are the downside of living near a river, as the Kara do. But there are many benefits of their location. Other tribes have to walk miles for water, struggle to grow crops, and rarely eat protein. The Kara have to just walk down a hill to fill their buckets, though, and they’ve turned the riverbanks into farms and have a steady flow of fish to eat.  

When we visited, a topless Kara girl with bright yellow and red bead necklaces was fishing for catfish. She saw us and took us to see her recent catch: A large catfish that may have weighed 20 pounds – a huge amount of meat in these villages. 

We met one AK-47 toating Kara man who said he was a hunter. He showed us his gun, which he said he bought in South Sudan, the war-torn country 100 miles from where we were. The writing on the weapon was in Hebrew, indicating the gun had originated in Israel. 

Shirtless man with gun

A Kara hunter with an Israeli gun he bought in South Sudan

Like the other tribes, the Kara live in huts with log walls and thatched roofs. They’re famous for their appearance: Body paint, patterned robes, colorful necklaces. When the men get married, part of their ear is sliced off. 

Man with deformed ear

The top of this man's ear was sliced off, indicating he was married

The Kara village was the first tribal village we had visited that had a school. That may be because of what’s happening nearby. 

A short distance upriver from the village was a new factory, which we were told was built to process sugar being harvested from a new plantation. Sugar farming requires a lot of water. 

The locals told us that the Omo river is shrinking, and they attribute that to the factory’s water usage and hotter temperatures. People we talked to said the factory is a mixed blessing: It’s created jobs, but they worry about its impact on the river. If the ecosystem is destroyed, their way of life would be too. 

That sugar factory is one of several development projects being pushed by the government in this area, the Omo Valley, that have attracted concern.

Some locals and international rights say the projects have resulted in tribal people being pushed off their land, and that they threaten wildlife and water sources. Locals told us there used to be far more animals, but factory construction has caused them to migrate to other countries. 

The government and those who defend the projects say they are bringing jobs, electricity, and investment to an extremely poor area. While the government and its critics would argue intensely over that, many locals seemed to think it was too soon to know if it was good or bad.

On the way out of the Kara village, we got out of the car near another isolated spot by the river. A man was fishing in the middle of the water; a woman was cleaning her clothes on the bank; another man was tending his goats while they drank out of the river. 

Man with goats by river

Crocodiles were on the prowl, but no one was bothered

Our guide gestured to be quiet and pointed off to the left: Maybe 200 feet away, a crocodile was peaking his head out of the water. Seconds later, he disappeared.

Crocodiles are dangerous, but the people in the water were unfazed. Their lives revolve around the river. Not even a crocodile will stop them from going in. 

On the way out, we passed a fenced-off area that our guide said used to be one of Ethiopia’s most famous national parks. It was turned into a big game hunting ground, though, and the animals were killed or ran off. 

Today, it’s an overgrown abandoned grassland. The Kara’s way of life may be no match for a croc, but what about other people?

A Kara woman. In many tribes, wearing a feather indicates a major achievement

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

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

What did you think of the halftime show? 🎤

Loved it: 24%

Not a fan: 40%

Didn't watch: 36%

Yesterday's Question:

The Super Bowl is like a holiday, bringing families, friends, and 100M+ Americans together for a feast and celebration. Does that tradition make you proud, or do you have a negative feeling toward it?

Mitchell from Ohio: “What is there to not be proud of? The championship game at the highest level of a sport created in our own borders that is growing in global popularity and celebrated by American football fans and nonfans alike? What's not to love?!”

Shelly from Minnesota: “I don't give a flying fig newton about the super bowl or football in general. I don't have positive or negative feelings regarding it. It happens, I accept it. That's it.”

Jazmin from NYC"Negative feelings about the way the Super Bowl is used annually to promote “Americanism.” The fly over, the military bands, singing God bless America. Too nationalistic in my opinion."

🧠 Final Thoughts

Whether or not you are celebrating the holiday of love, RocaNews LOVES you. Thanks for riding with us and supporting the wave. We hope you have wonderful days!

–Max and Max