🌊 Ferris Bueller’s Year Off

We have a Speaker nominee, Fat Bear Week champion and Person of the Week: Brooks Robinson

24 years ago today, Earth's population hit 6B. It took a LONG time for Earth to hit the park 1 billion; that came in 1804, an estimated 4.5B years after the start of Earth and 200,000 years after the start of homo sapiens. The next landmark, 2 billion, came 123 years later in 1927. Then it went like this: 33 years to 3 billion (1960), 14 years to 4 billion (1974), 13 years to 5 billion (1987), 12 years to 6 billion (1999), 12 years to 7 billion (2011), and 11 years to 8 billion (2022). If you want to know how fast it will take to hit 9 billion, I suggest you don’t ask anybody who took the ACT in 2022. See below for more..

In today's edition:

  • We have a Speaker nominee

  • Fat Bear Week champion

  • Person of the Week: Brooks Robinson

 🔑 Key Stories

ACT Scores Fall to 32-Year Low

This year’s ACT scores fell to a 32-year low, the organization that oversees the test announced

  • The ACT is a standardized test used by many universities for admissions. It sets performance “benchmarks” per subject, which it says are the minimum scores that indicate a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher in college-level courses

  • Per new data, average ACT scores fell in 2023 for the sixth consecutive year. 43% of test takers didn’t meet any of the ACT’s benchmarks, up from 42% in 2022. 21% met every benchmark, down from 22.1% in 2022

  • Scores declined in all of the ACT’s academic subjects

Dig Deeper

  • “The hard truth is that we are not doing enough to ensure that graduates are ready for [college],” ACT’s CEO said

  • Wednesday’s ACT results follow a broader post-pandemic trend of declining test scores. Data have recorded historic declines in students’ history, reading, and math scores since the pandemic, although many of those trends began before Covid. Amid that trend, many colleges have begun dropping standardized test score requirements

Ellison Testifies Against SBF

Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of Alameda Research and Sam Bankman-Fried’s (SBF) ex-girlfriend, testified against SBF at trial

  • SBF is on trial for seven criminal charges, including allegedly defrauding investors and customers

  • Ellison – who pleaded guilty to fraud and is the prosecution’s star witness – became Alameda’s CEO in 2022. At trial, she testified that as Alameda’s financial situation worsened, SBF instructed her to transfer billions of FTX customer funds to Alameda and lie about those transactions on balance sheets. She also said that throughout her time at Alameda, she and SBF had an on-again, off-again relationship, which she claimed he used against her on occasion to control and pressure her

  • “I was very stressed out,” Ellison said at court. “We didn’t have the [cash on hand] to repay all of our [investors]. She testified that “Sam directed me to commit these crimes," adding that they amounted to fraud

Dig Deeper

  • Ellison also testified that SBF paid a large bribe to Chinese officials to free up $1B worth of frozen Alameda funds and that he sought funding from Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, although SBF is not being charged in this trial with anything related to those allegations

  • Ellison is expected to testify for several more days, and SBF’s defense lawyers have not had the opportunity to cross-examine her yet. SBF’s lawyers claimed Ellison mismanaged Alameda and is scapegoating SBF for her mistakes

Israel Forms National Unity Government

Opposition parties joined Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition to form a “unity government”

  • A unity government unites opposition and ruling parties during times of crisis. Israel formed one that will include a “war cabinet” to oversee the war

  • After Hamas invaded Israel, several prominent opposition politicians called for a national unity coalition. Netanyahu initially resisted and put forth conditions that opposition members would have to meet to form one. Yet on Wednesday, Netanyahu announced that he had formed a national unity coalition with former Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who represents the center-right Blue and White Party

  • Meanwhile, Israel continued a days-long bombing campaign against Gaza, which local health authorities have claimed has killed 1,127+ people and injured 5,300+, mostly civilians

  • On Wednesday, Israel said its death toll since Saturday had risen to 1,200, 169 of whom were soldiers. News has also gone viral that Hamas killed 40 children and babies at a farm, beheading some. Israel's army didn't provide direct evidence supporting that claim, but on Wednesday, President Biden said he had seen “confirmed pictures” proving the allegation. The White House later walked back that statement, telling media outlets that Biden had seen “no information confirming” the claim. Hamas “firmly” denied allegations it decapitated babies, calling such claims “fabricated”

Dig Deeper

  • On Wednesday, just two days into what Israel has described as a “complete siege” against Gaza, the territory’s only power plant ceased production due to fuel shortages. “Gaza is currently without power,” a Gazan official said. Most Gazans rely on generators, although officials warned that fuel for those is running out

California’s Homelessness Solution?

California passed a law that will allow more Californians with untreated mental illness or substance abuse issues to be forced into treatment

  • As of last fiscal year, California had 171,000 homeless people, more than any other state and ~30% of the US’ total homeless population

  • Per government data, 23% of those people are “severely mentally ill” and 21% suffer from “chronic substance abuse”

  • On Tuesday, California’s governor Gavin Newsom signed a law that will expand the state’s conservatorship laws to make it easier for those with severe mental illness to be forced to get treatment. It will also expand conservatorship laws to allow those with chronic substance abuse to be forced into treatment

Dig Deeper

  • “California is undertaking a major overhaul of our mental health system,” Newsom said on Tuesday. “We are working to ensure no one falls through the cracks, and that people get the help they need and the respect they deserve”

  • Several activist groups and politicians praised the law, arguing it will reduce the state’s homelessness issue, lower its prison population, and help the mentally ill. Others criticized it, arguing that forcing people to seek treatment is wrong and/or ineffective

What is LMNT?

Sponsored by LMNT

Electrolytes taste salty, but most popular electrolyte drinks taste sweet – because they contain loads of sugar

  • LMNT contains no sugar and three essential electrolytes: Sodium, potassium, and magnesium. LMNT’s formula is based on the electrolyte ratios that naturally occur in our bodies and the amount of electrolytes people typically lose through sweat

  • Electrolytes are important because they help conduct the electrical pulses that power your nervous system (which keeps your heart beating and lungs pumping). They also regulate hydration status by balancing fluids inside and outside your cells. Low electrolyte levels (especially sodium levels) can lead to headaches, low energy, cramps, confusion, and worse

  • Right now, LMNT is offering Roca readers a risk-free trial: If you don’t like it, you’ll get your money back – no questions asked

Dig Deeper

  • LMNT is also offering Roca readers a free sample pack with any purchase! That's comparable to eight bottles of sports drinks FREE with any order — a great way to try all 8 flavors or share LMNT with a salty friend

🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Will Smith strikes again: Jada Pinkett Smith says that she and Will Smith separated in 2016 but never legally divorced, maintaining public unity for their family’s image

  • Lexi vs. the guys: Lexi Thompson will become the seventh female golfer to play a PGA Tour event when she tees off at the Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas on Thursday

  • iCarlee is guilty: An Alabama judge found Carlee Russell guilty of faking her abduction. Russell staged her own kidnapping in July, during which she called 911 claiming to have seen a child walking alone on an Alabama highway

Wildcard

  • Butterfly smuggler: Authorities charged a New York man claiming to be a professional lepidopterist – someone who studies or collects butterflies and moths – with smuggling $200K worth of endangered butterflies and insects into and out of the US

  • Liar liar pants on Firefox: Mozilla’s Firefox web browser is testing a new “Review Checker” feature in the US that assesses the credibility of product reviews

  • And the fattest bear goes to…: “128 Grazer” topped “32 Chunk” to become the Fat Bear Week 2023 champion. 1.3M+ online voters participated in Alaska’s annual Fat Bear Week

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll:

Do you support California’s new law (that aims to make it easier to force people with mental illness or addiction to get help)?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today's Question:

Should colleges require standardized testing for admission?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

"In New York, they named a candy bar after Reggie Jackson. Here in Baltimore, we name our children after Brooks Robinson.” 

So said a prominent sportswriter during a banquet honoring Brooks Robinson in 1977. On paper, Robinson was an all-time great baseball player. To many people, though, he was an icon who defined his city for decades.

Brooks Calbert Robinson Jr. was born on May 18, 1937 in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was drawn to basketball and baseball from a young age and made a name for himself with his natural athleticism. His skills didn't go unnoticed, and after graduating from high school in 1955, the University of Arkansas offered him a full basketball scholarship. But Robinson wanted to play baseball.

Three major league teams – The New York Giants, the Cincinnati Redlegs, and the Baltimore Orioles – sent scouts to Little Rock to try to sign Robinson. Each offered $4,000 – a lot of money back then – and Robinson chose to join the Orioles. The team had just relocated to Baltimore and was struggling. Robinson, seeing an opportunity to climb through their system, signed with them at age 18.

While Robinson played just six games in his rookie year, it was evident to the Orioles that they had a star on their hands. His skill at his position – third base – was unmatched, and from 1960 to 1975, he earned 16 Gold Gloves, the award given to top defensive players. In 1966, Robinson led the Orioles to their first World Series victory ever.

Baseball fan Jim Ronan told Roca that he started attending Orioles games 60 years ago, when Robison was in his prime. While Robinson was already a star, Ronan told Roca that in 1970, he became a superstar. That year, the Orioles played the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.

Players kept hitting hard plays to Robinson, and Robinson kept making amazing stops. In one iconic play, the Reds’ first baseman hit a fair ball that hopped once past third. Robinson lunged and backhanded the ball, and with a 180-degree spin and one-hop toss, threw the ball to first base to get the Reds player out.

Plays like that carried the Orioles to World Series victory and earned Robinson a nickname: The Human Vacuum. "I've never seen anything like what he did to us in that Series," the Reds’s manager would later say. "He killed us.” One Reds player said: "God sent Brooks Robinson to play third base in the '70 Series. He caught everything but a cold.”

Mark Frost, a reporter at the Baltimore Sun during the 1970 run, told Roca that the World Series turned Robinson from a local star to a world star. “We knew about him in Baltimore,” Frost said. “But the 1970 World Series was the moment when the world knew about him.” The Orioles won the Series in five games and Robinson was named its MVP.

Baltimore loved Robinson for far more than his skills.

He was a standup man, Frost said, who looked out for younger players, always took time to speak with the press and fans, and seemed to genuinely enjoy getting to know people. He was involved in the Baltimore community, often fundraising and speaking at events.

"I've never known anyone in any profession more adored than Brooks," said a former teammate. "We'd go on roadtrips and he'd stop on the street to talk to total strangers. It's amazing that he was that good a player, and that nice to everyone he met.”

One Orioles broadcaster said, “When fans ask Brooks Robinson for his autograph, he complied while finding out how many kids you have, what your dad does, where you live, how old you are, and if you have a dog.”

Ronan, the Orioles fan mentioned before, recalled an event he organized as Chief of Staff at the Washington Adventist Hospital in which Robinson was delivering a speech to honor medical doctors. Robinson was scheduled to eat dinner with the hospital's leadership, but upon arrival noticed a table of secretaries who had come to get a glimpse of him.

“I’d like to sit with them,” he said. “[Robinson] was the only person willing to talk with any person, at any time,” Ronan recalled. After dinner, Ronan said he gave a wonderful talk and spent time chatting with Ronan as he accompanied him to his car before the drive home. “He was a humble, genuine, kind person,” he said. “It was just a wonderful experience.”

Robinson spent his entire 23-year MLB career with the Orioles and retired on October 18, 1977. The team marked that with "Brooks Robinson Day," an event in which Ronan remembers Robinson riding around the stadium in the back of a convertible, waving to the cheering standing-room-only crowd.

In 1983, Robinson entered the Baseball Hall of Fame – the first third baseman to be elected in his first year of eligibility. Robinson’s legend has only grown since, as the Orioles went from being champions to consistently one of the worst teams in US professional sports.

Asked if Baltimore could ever have another Robinson, Frost was doubtful. “Baltimore is now a small market team,” he said. “Players only commit to the Orioles for seven years and favor larger markets, such as New York, Los Angeles, or Boston.”

“He’s a throwback,” Frost said. “The combination of a player committing to a team and city, of being a great player, with longevity, and as great a person and human being…that’s a longer shot.” Ronan, who remains a loyal Orioles fan, agreed. “There will only be one Brooks Robinson,” he said.

Robinson passed away last month at the age of 86 from coronary disease.

In commemoration of that, the usually-closed gates to the Orioles stadium were left wide open, allowing fans mourning the legend to pile flowers at the base of his statue. Thankfully for Robinson and Baltimore, things are now looking up for the Orioles.

Despite having the second-lowest budget in the MLB, this Orioles just had their best season in decades and were the top seed in the MLB playoffs, before a quick postseason exit. Still, things are looking up for Baltimore baseball after a decades-long post-Brooks hangover.

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

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Do you ever read privacy policies?
Yes 28%
No: 72%

Yesterday's Question:

In general, is a cyberattack carried out by a foreign country an act of war?

Sandra from Eufaula, Oklahoma: "Yes. They’re not after my Amazon wish list. They are stealing my confidential information in hopes of stealing money, identity etc. at the very least. God forbid they should get their hands on anything more important in someone’s account."

James: "No. Literally every country carries out cyber surveillance/attacks on every other country. If this is war, then we are all participating in a world war. It is just normal day to day operation. Some are more successful than others.”

Joe: "Yes, it is an act of war. An act of war is an aggressive action, usually employing military force, that constitutes an immediate threat to peace. It can be an action by one country against another with an intention to provoke a war or an action that occurs during a declared war or armed conflict between military forces of any origin. An act of war can be hostile or warlike action, whether declared or not, in a time of peace or war, whether initiated by a local government, foreign government or foreign group, civil unrest, insurrection, rebellion or civil war. Cyberattacks are an IMMEDIATE threat to peace in any country. Problem is proving it"

Katie from Wilder, Louisiana: “Absolutely. The majority of how we function is cyber – from communication to money transfer. The method in which an attack is executed doesn’t mean war; it is the intent of the attack.”

"Retired Army First Sergeant” from Warrens, Wisconsin: “In general, no. But the slippery slope begins if the cyberattack adversely affects a nation's military defense system. If defenses are degraded, that could be considered an act of war...Way, way back in the transition era from things analog to digital, I learned how to operate jamming equipment that would be used to hinder and obstruct Soviet military communication systems in the event of war. I was stationed near the old Inter German Border separating West Germany from East Germany. Naturally, just on the other side of the IGB were Soviet units. Our training exercises often coincided with theirs. Their radio traffic and ours were often on the same frequencies. We heard each other frequently, stepping on each other's broadcasts. Those of us using jamming equipment in the exercises had to be very, Very, VERY careful not to jam any frequencies also being used by the Soviets: such an occurrence could have been considered an Act of War.”

🧠 Final Thoughts

If you’re a Brooks Robinson fan, let us know what you think of the Wrap! And to all the Orioles fans, we’re sorry about the postseason sweep. Our fingers are crossed for next year!

Happy Thursday!

—Max and Max