🌊 So, About That Donation…

Tragedy strikes Turkey, AMC to charge based on seat location, and the Maturity Stone

Super Bowl ads are officially sold out. Fox reports that some 30-second ad slots went for upwards of $7M! The big theme appears to be that crypto is out, and booze is back in — good to have our values back. Last year's FTX commercial aged about as well as 7-Eleven bagged wine, although Larry David's "Ehh, I don't think so" proved prophetic.

In today's edition:

  • Tragedy strikes Turkey

  • AMC to charge based on seat location

  • The Maturity Stone

🔑 Key Stories

FTX Un-Donating Political Gifts

  • FTX, a crypto exchange, was formerly one of the world’s most valuable startups. Its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), became Democrats’ second-largest donor, donating ~$36M this election cycle. In total, FTX employees donated $90M+

  • In November, though, the company collapsed, and SBF and others are now on trial for fraud

  • In December, FTX asked political recipients to voluntarily give back donations; now, it says it’ll sue if they don’t by February 28. FTX still owes former customers ~$8B

Dig Deeper

  • Under US law, payments made within 90 days of a company declaring bankruptcy can sometimes be “clawed back." That may give FTX's debtors legal means to take the money back by force, although only 5 of 196 FTX donation recipients say they've returned the funds so far

Earthquakes Shake Middle East

  • At 4:17 AM, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck near a Turkish city close to the border with Syria. Dozens of aftershocks followed, and then hours later, another 7.5-magnitude earthquake occurred

  • The earthquakes destroyed thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria, including in areas where millions of Syrians displaced by civil war live

  • The region is at the juncture of 3 tectonic plates and earthquake-prone, but this is its worst earthquake in decades. The US estimates 10,000+ deaths

Dig Deeper

  • Rescue operations continued into the night as temperatures fell near freezing. Many areas are without power, internet, or reliable roads, and many hospitals are partially or totally destroyed. Turkey's president said 45 countries have already offered to help

Balloongate Pt. 2?

China confirmed that it is the source of a second balloon flying over Latin America

  • Last week, the US said a Chinese spy balloon was flying over the US; on Saturday, the military shot it down off the coast of South Carolina. China said it was a civilian weather balloon that had gone astray

  • A similar balloon was subsequently spotted over Latin America, although it’s unclear exactly where. On Monday, China confirmed that it was a Chinese balloon, and said it too was a loose weather balloon

  • On Monday, China criticized the US shoot-down of the other balloon, saying the US “obviously overreacted”

Dig Deeper

  • Chinese officials said the balloon was of “a civilian nature and used for flight tests." “Affected by weather forces in addition to its maneuverability being limited, the airship deviated greatly from its expected course, and accidentally entered Latin American and Caribbean airspace,” a Chinese official said

Judge: Pot Users Can Own Guns

  • Last year, Oklahoma police pulled over a man and found a handgun and marijuana in his vehicle. They charged him with illegal firearm possession, citing a federal law banning “unlawful users or addicts of controlled substances” from owning guns

  • In June, the Supreme Court ruled that gun laws must be “consistent” with “this nation’s historical tradition of gun laws.” On Friday, a judge ruled in the man’s favor, saying that banning marijuana users from owning a gun isn’t an “historical tradition"

Dig Deeper

Erase Yourself from the Web

Together with Incogni

Data brokers make money off your personal information every day. They buy your data – SSNs, DOB, home addresses, health information, contact details – and sell it to the highest bidder

  • Incogni is a personal data removal service that scrubs your personal information from the web

  • It contacts and follows up with data brokers all over the world on your behalf. For an individual to do that, it can take hundreds of hours

  • With Incogni, you can kick back and worry less about identity theft, health insurers raising your rates based on info from data brokers, robo calls, scammers taking out loans in your name, and all the other terrible things bad actors do with personal data (we at Roca are certainly tired of spam calls!)

Dig Deeper

🍿 Popcorn


  • Good Google gone Bard: Google announced that it will release an AI chatbot called Bard in response to ChatGPT. Google will begin its rollout in the coming weeks

  • Here's a guy who's gonna wait: Tom Brady will wait until 2024 to join the broadcast booth for Fox. Brady agreed to a 10-year, $375M deal with Fox

  • "4 nosebleeds for Puss in Boots 2": AMC Theaters announced a new ticket pricing system that will offer higher and lower ticket prices based on seat location


  • Not bad, eh? An 18-year-old Canadian won a $36M jackpot from her first-ever lottery ticket. She says she still intends to finish school and become a doctor

  • *Not* As It Was: The Grammy's TV ratings rose 30% from last year to 12.4M viewers. CBS claims it was the most active social media event of 2023

  • If ice sings in a forest... Scientists attached microphones to floats in Antarctica and the Arctic to record nature. They detected the sound of "singing" ice

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll

Better ballpark snack?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today's Question:

Do you believe in second chances?

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

After 9 hours of driving south from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, we reached Arba Minch, a small city. The next day we headed west, to the Omo Valley.

In much of Ethiopia, an ethnic group controls the region that surrounds them. 70% of Ethiopia’s people belong to 4 ethnic groups, each of which have a state named after them.

The south, where we were, is far more diverse. As often as every few miles, there are new groups that speak their own languages and have their own customs. Some of these groups have hundreds of thousands of people; some have a few thousand. Many of them are tribes.

There’s no official dividing line between a tribe and an ethnic group. As it was explained to us, an ethnic group is too large to enforce the customs of a tribe. Tribes, therefore, have more distinct identities and cultures. In practice, the government has little sway within the tribes.

The first tribe we visited was the Konso, several hundred thousand of whom live in southern Ethiopia.

Our driver introduced us to a Konso man who showed us his village.

Village path

Our guide on a village path

“All Konso traditional villages are set on top of the hill,” he explained. “On top of the mountain, the life is good. The air condition is good, no mosquitoes, no malaria.”

The Konso are mainly farmers. To facilitate that, they’ve carved terraces into all the surrounding mountains, allowing them to maximize their farmland.

The village was really a collection of villages that were built in concentric circles around each other: The oldest village was at the core, with a newer one around that, a newer one around that, and so on. Separating the villages were log fences that have traditionally been closed at night for protection.

Wooden passageway

The village gate. Traditionally, it's blocked off with logs at night

The villages consisted mainly of homes. Each home consisted of huts – with mud walls and pointed grass roofs – surrounded by a stone fence. The huts act as different rooms: One was for sleeping, one was for storage, one was for cooking.

Thatched roof hut

A Konso hut

Each of the villages within the village had a central hut, where all young men sleep once they come of age but haven’t yet been married. That’s so they are conveniently located in the event of a fire, invasion, or another emergency.

And each mini-village has a central courtyard, which serves 2 major purposes.

First, it holds a collection of sticks. The village elects a chief every 8 years. Whenever it does so, a stick is added to the collection. Through that, all the villagers know the age of the village.

“It’s like a calendar,” our guide explained.

Sticks standing in a clearing

Sticks that measure the years

Next, it holds the “maturity stones” – a collection of rock balls that range in size and weight. The smallest ball weighs a few pounds; the largest was so heavy I couldn’t pick it up. In Konso culture, that means I can’t get married: The balls are used for a coming of age ceremony. When a boy is able to lift the largest ball up and throw it over his head, he’s ready to get married.

Boy lifting big stone

A Konso boy tries unsuccessfully to life the maturity stone

I asked how people decide who to marry.

“It’s a traditional marriage system,” our guide said. “The families discuss among each other without the man or the lady,” then the lady’s family “pushes the lady to the boy’s family.”

But “nowadays, the government is stopping this one,” he added. It wants to ban all marriages that don’t involve the consent of the married.

That’s only one controversial aspect of marriage here. The other is that many Konso are polygamists.

“If you have a lot of kids, you are rich,” our guide explained. A rich man may have 3 wives and up to 10 kids with each wife.

I asked our guide how many wives he had.

“Just 1, because I am a Protestant.” It’s mainly animists, who practice traditional religions, that have multiple wives.

Polygamy is practiced for farming, status, and defense.

“They depend on the kids to farm. If you have a big land, you need more than one wife.”

“If you have a lot of land and you have 1 wife, people say ‘He has a lot of land but only 1 wife,’ they don’t like it. But if you have land and many wives, ‘Wow, he’s a rich person!’ they say like that. You get a good name.”

“Konso people depend on the number of the family. We have 9 different clans in Konso culture. This clan we use for marriage,” he explained. “The people marry outside the clan.”

“Sometimes the clans are fighting. If you have a lot of members, you have defense to fight back. If you have small number, immediately you lose. Because of that, they need more than one wife, because they need more children for defense, for fighting, for controlling the wealth.”

Our guide had lived in a town, and I asked how village life compared.

“I think the village life is better,” he said. “In the village, it’s very quiet, no noise, cars, machines. And also in the village, everything is free: Water is free, firewood is free, house is free. Everything is free.”

“No thieves here, no robber here. The people help each other. If some family doesn’t have a house or something, the community helps them. They build a house for them. If they have no meat or food, they help them.”

“So because of that, I say the life is better than modern town.”

Woman outside hut

A Konso woman outside her hut

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

🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Did you watch the Grammy's?

Yes: 7%No: 93%

Yesterday's Question:

What is a life event that changed the way you saw the world?

Blaine from North Carolina: “My life changing event was having a stroke in my 40’s. I made a 98% recovery, but it reminded me how precious life is and the importance each person has to leave the world a better place. Because of this, I’m not as quick to anger, and find myself a more zen and peaceful person. With the help of meditation, I try to live that mantra everyday.”

Sandi from Virginia Beach: “9/11 - I thought of how many people went to work that day not realizing it would be their last and it has made me appreciate every day I wake up.”

Alma from Alabama: “COVID, definitely COVID. The quarantine, though bad for the economy and jobs, gave my family time together at home. We talked, we played, we joked, we watched things together, we read together, etc.. It was a meaningful time for us. Yes, we hoped and wanted things to get better, of course. But, we prioritized what we had control over, our time.”

🧠 Final Thoughts

Hope you all had nice Mondays and enjoyed today's news. We're going to be adding more people to the app beta this week, so stay tuned on that. As always, we appreciate all the feedback we've been getting about our questions/articles/Wraps. Keep it coming!

Hope you have great Tuesdays.

–Max and Max