🌊 End of Two Eras

Plus: Scientists discover possible lithium battery replacement.

Okay... did the Game of Thrones writers take charge of the sports script for 2024? In the last 24 hours, we've lost Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Gone in 24 hours?! Note for non-sports fans: They’re all still alive, just not coaching with their longtime teams anymore.

Saban and Belichick are arguably the greatest coaches in college football and NFL history. Saban has won more national championships (7) than any coach in college history; and Belichick has won more Super Bowls (6) than any coach in NFL history. It’s hard to imagine sports without them in their iconic roles, but they’ve delivered one hell of a run. And happy Thursday, Auburn and Jets fans.

In today's edition:

  • Somali group seizes UN helicopter

  • The US city that’s inviting aliens to visit

  • Roca Reports continues in Bosnia

 🔑 Key Stories

Lithium Replacement

Scientists used AI and supercomputing to accelerate from decades to days the discovery of a possible lithium battery replacement

  • Lithium is a metal and key component in rechargeable (lithium-ion) batteries. Given growing demand for it, analysts expect future shortages

  • Using Microsoft’s AI, a lab identified from a list of 23M candidates 18 new materials that could be used in batteries. Researchers said without AI, that would’ve taken decades; with AI, it took 80 hours

  • One of those substances – which uses 70% less lithium than traditional lithium-ion batteries – successfully powered a lightbulb and a clock

A New War on Drugs

Ecuador’s president declared the country to be in a state of “internal armed conflict” 

  • On Monday, one of Ecuador’s most notorious drug lords escaped from prison; in response, Ecuadorian president Daniel Noboa declared a state of emergency

  • On Tuesday, gunmen stormed the set of a TV studio that was broadcasting live, forcing staff onto the ground at gunpoint. Elsewhere, prison riots broke out and at least seven police officers were kidnapped

  • Following that, Ecuador’s president declared 21 drug gangs to be terrorist organizations and said he will deploy Ecuador’s military to “neutralize” the gangs. The US pledged to support Noboa’s crackdown

Somali Group Seizes UN Helicopter

Somali armed group al-Shabaab seized a UN helicopter and captured at least six of its passengers

  • Al-Shabaab is an al-Qaeda-linked group that controls much of central and southern Somalia. It has been fighting an international coalition for over a decade

  • On Wednesday, a UN helicopter either emergency or mistakenly landed in al-Shabaab territory

  • Al-Shabaab militants set the helicopter ablaze, killed one passenger, and seized six others. Other passengers escaped. A source told Reuters the helicopter had been delivering medical supplies to the region

Rodgers Off McAfee Show

New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers will no longer appear on “The Pat McAfee Show” after a feud with talk show host Jimmy Kimmel

  • Pat McAfee – a former NFL punter – has since 2019 hosted a popular sports talk show, now distributed through ESPN, on which Rodgers is a regular guest. Last week, Rodgers implied on the show that Kimmel – a critic of Rodgers’ decision not to get vaccinated – would be on Jeffrey Epstein’s acquaintance list. Kimmel denied that and threatened to sue

  • Kimmel’s name ultimately did not appear in any of the newly-released Epstein documents

  • On Tuesday, on McAfee’s show, Rodgers launched into a ten-minute monologue about the dispute, during which he said he wanted to “move on” but didn’t apologize. He doubled down on many of his views but said he had not called Kimmel a pedophile

  • The dispute reportedly caused tension between ESPN and ABC, which airs Kimmel’s show. Both are owned by Disney

  • On Wednesday, McAfee said Rodgers would no longer appear on his show this season. “I’m pumped that that is no longer every single Wednesday of my life, which it has been for the last few weeks,” he said

Roca’s Saltiest Readers

Last year we had a blast with Roca, splashing waves of hydration and fun into the lives of you awesome Roca readers! 🌊💦 As we dive into 2024, we're super excited to keep the Roca wave hydrated and also hear from many of you about the way LMNT has kept you healthy and hydrated

  • Roca readers are some of our most fun and loyal customers, and we want to shine the spotlight on some of you who have fueled your bodies with our electrolytes!

  • Today is Roca Reader Kristen from New Jersey. Kristen is a mother of 4 (including Roca app team’s Josh!), a full-time employee at a high school, an avid runner (first half-marathon planned for this year!), and a volunteer dog walker at her local animal shelter. All of this can add up to 25,000+ steps per day

  • “LMNT just makes me feel better, it really does. I exercise at least 60 minutes per day, I’m always running around, and I need to replenish. My favorite flavor is Raspberry Salt. My youngest son and I are always checking Roca hoping to see an LMNT ad. We like the taste so much more than the sugary alternatives out there!”

  • As always, Roca readers can enjoy a FREE sample pack of all eight LMNT flavors with any order – plus a no-questions-asked, risk-free refund policy!

PS – If you are a Roca Reader who has enjoyed LMNT, please send us your story to feature next! The people are the most important part of what we do and there is no community like the Roca community

🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Music streaming, so hot right now: Global music streams reportedly surpassed 4T in 2023, setting a record and marking a 34% increase from the previous year

  • NFL, also so hot right now: NFL regular-season games averaged 17.9M viewers in 2023, tying the second-highest average from 1995. The record high is 18.1M in 2015

  • Tyreek CHILL: The temperature at kickoff for Saturday’s playoff game between the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs is expected to be 5°F with a wind chill of -10

Wildcard

  • Losing Saban and Fr. Crow in one day?! Pope Francis laicized, or permanently ousted from priesthood, 30-year-old Alabama Catholic priest Alex Crow for marrying an 18-year-old former high school student and fleeing to Europe with her

  • Spoti-fined: A Japanese court fined 24-year-old American YouTube livestreamer “Johnny Somali” $1,400 for disrupting an Osaka fast food restaurant by playing loud music

  • Alien capital of the world: The first “interstellar tourism campaign” invited aliens to Lexington, Kentucky. Scientists sent the Lexington invitation to a system 40 light-years away

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll:

What is your opinion of Aaron Rodgers?

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Today's Question:

Do you use and enjoy LMNT? We’d love to share your story!

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

For the remainder of the Balkans reporting, you can imagine that every conversation takes place with cigarette smoke in your nose. More people smoke in the Balkans than any other region on Earth, and whether you’re in a restaurant, café, or on the street, you smell smoke.

Leaving Sarajevo, my destination was Srebrenica – a village Muslim Bosniaks told me is the “Auschwitz of Bosnia.” Serb forces killed 8,000 Bosniak men and boys near there, although most Serbs reject the characterization of that event as genocide. I wanted to understand why. 

Srebrenica is deep in the Republika Srpska, the predominantly Serb region of Bosnia. Much of the Republika was “ethnically cleansed” in the 1990s, meaning it is now almost exclusively Serb (Serbs were ethnically cleansed from the majority-Bosniak region, too). 

From the edge of Sarajevo, we hitched a ride to a village in the countryside and then to a small town, where we dropped into a café. Inside was packed. Dozens of school-age children smoked cigarettes; working-age men played dice and drank beer. The waitress told me the local school kids like to hang out here during their class breaks. 

On the way to the town, a sign welcomed us to the Republika Srpska. After that, there were no Bosnian flags – just Serb ones. For the remainder of our time in Republika Srpska, we would see Bosnian flags only at mosques and genocide memorials. 

The other difference in Republika Srpska is the alphabet: Bosnian and Serbian are practically the same language, but Bosnian uses our (Roman) alphabet, while Serbian uses Cyrillic. Many signs and buildings in Republika Srpska are written in Cyrillic. 

We walked for at least a mile along the one road out of town until we found a spot for cars to pull over. Few cars passed and none stopped, and it wasn’t until an hour later that a sprinter van stopped and told us to get in. In the back was one older woman, who said, “Hello,” then, “Do you speak English?”

I asked where she was from. In a thick Serbian accent, she said, “United States.”

“You’re from the United States?”

“Yes, Des Moines, Iowa.” 

“Were you born there? 

“I was born in Bosnia,” she said, adding that she was a Serb and had left during the war. 

I told her we were going to Srebrenica, to which she said, “I don’t talk politics. My brain doesn’t work that way.”

Minutes later, she turned to me again.

“For me it makes sense to separate. It’s better that way – Christians with Christians, Muslims with Muslims.”

“My best friend is Muslim you know, she is like me. But many of them are not. They are different. You know, with their dress and their Quran,” she said. “I think we should separate: Serbs have their country and Muslims have theirs.”

She told me that her family had lived in Sarajevo until the war. “I had two brothers killed by a bomb in Sarajevo,” she said. “They were young, like you.”

Who killed them?

“Muslims.”

She proceeded to tell me that the stress of war was unbearable. “It gave me cancer, colorectal cancer. I survived because I was in America. Great doctors, radiology, chemotherapy. Now 10 years I am cancer-free. But the stress of war – it almost killed me.”

The woman, who didn’t want to be identified or photographed, was neither warm nor friendly. But she gave me this parting advice: “Be careful here. Bad things can happen. People here may be cruel. Not everyone here is as nice as me. People will try to do bad things to you. You shouldn’t be here. Think of your parents.”

When I asked for more details, she just shook her head. We got off the bus soon after and went our separate ways.

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

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Do you own a dog or cat?
Dog 🐶: 38%
Cat 🐈: 20%
Both 🐶🐈: 12%
Pet (and fur) free: 30%

Yesterday's Question:

Yesterday’s question(s) was from a Roca Votes Wrap on Epstein. Do you believe Jeffrey Epstein killed himself? How do you feel about the Epstein issue? Did last week’s revelations change your view on Epstein’s influence? How do you feel about how Roca should cover it: more attention, less attention, or cover as needed?

Patricia from Virginia: "Yes, I believe Epstein was killed to keep him silent. And I don’t need much more coverage until something big happens like those tapes are authenticated or there are answers to some of the mysteries that surround this evil person and his sidekick, now in jail. It will be interesting to see if she ‘suddenly’ dies too! Waiting……"

Emma from London: "I'd say cover as needed, but do extra coverage if factual stuff comes out that is missed in mainstream news articles. You guys are good with that”

Ryan: “Do I think he killed himself. Think NO. Yes you should absulty keep investigating and reporting until you find the money. The fact that not even you (the news community) is upsured and the real problem here and a lot of othere places. United States of America. PS Not to mention his victims still haven't been reimbursed or paid”

Zach from Virginia: "I don’t believe Epstein committed suicide and I actually wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still alive. He was definitely involved in some heinous things along with many politicians/celebrities. I don’t believe everyone that visited his island is guilty of something though, I think many went because it was sold as a ‘who’s who’ type thing. In regards to the information coming out recently, I don’t think it changes much and it’s not really that revealing anyway. It seems more like a distraction or some crumbs to make us think the issue is being resolved. But nobody has been charged with anything yet so until that happens it’s just noise and doesn’t deserve anymore coverage."

🧠 Intermission

Perhaps our favorite Roca campus visit last year was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Before we went, Roca Riders told us to expect great BBQ, friendly people, a pretty campus, enormous frat houses, and more propaganda for Alabama football than we could possibly handle — and we work in news. Well, it all proved to be an understatement.

-Max and Max

🌎 Roca Reports

Before a bus dropped us off in a town in Bosnia’s Republika Srpska, a Bosnian-Serb-American passenger gave us a warning: “People here may be cruel...Think of your parents.”

I had no idea what she meant. Bosnia is a safe place; there is little crime or terrorism and no travel warnings for it. But she wouldn’t elaborate and it was disconcerting.

Feeling uneasy, we walked to the edge of town and waited for a ride. We had just over an hour of daylight left and had decided that if we didn’t get a ride before the sunset, we’d stay in this town and leave in the morning. 

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