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🌊 Flight Tracking (Taylor’s Version)

PLUS: EU Farmers Might Actually Win

Congrats to “None of these candidates”!

The winner of last night’s Republican primary in Nevada was “None of these candidates.” With Donald Trump off the ballot, voters checked the “None of these candidates” box as a proxy vote for the former president. But we do have some bad news for “None of these candidates”: Last night’s primary won’t count because the Nevada Republicans refuse to abide by the new state-run primaries and are holding their traditional caucuses later this week instead. Sorry to all of those who campaigned for “None of these candidates.”

In today's edition:

👨‍⚖️ No immunity for Mr. Trump

🦈 New sharks just dropped

🤔 Roca's Weekly Debate

And so much more!

–Max, Max, Jen, and Alex

KEY STORY
Court: Trump Not Immune

A federal court ruled unanimously that Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution

  • In August, prosecutors brought charges against Trump related to his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election. In December, his lawyers asked a federal appeals court to consider if Trump had presidential immunity from that case

  • On Tuesday, a panel of judges ruled that he does not: After leaving office, Trump “has become [just a] citizen,” they wrote. Trump’s legal team warned that the ruling opens all future presidents up to be indicted after leaving office. Trump vowed to appeal the decision

Dig Deeper

  • “Any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution,” the court – made up of one conservative and two liberal judges – ruled

  • In response to the ruling, Trump's spokesperson said, “If immunity is not granted to a President, every future President who leaves office will be immediately indicted by the opposing party"

  • Trump can request a rehearing or bring the case to the US Supreme Court

KEY STORY
School Shooter’s Mom Convicted

For the first time, the mother of a school shooter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter

  • On November 30, 2021, 15-year-old Ethan Robert Crumbley fatally shot four students at a Detroit-area high school. Last year, he was sentenced to life in jail with no possibility of parole

  • Police also arrested Crumbley’s parents and charged them with involuntary manslaughter. At trial, prosecutors accused his mother of criminal negligence for ignoring what they described as obvious signs that her son needed help. Crumbley’s lawyer argued she had been a vigilant mother but had missed those signs

  • On Tuesday, a jury convicted Crumbley on four counts of manslaughter. She now faces up to 15 years in prison

Dig Deeper

  • Crumbley's parents had gifted him a handgun just days before he used it in the shooting

  • Among other things, prosecutors argued his mother ignored her son’s text messages, disturbing artwork, and erratic behavior that made it clear he needed help. They presented one journal entry in which he wrote, “My parents won’t listen to me about help”

  • Crumbley’s father will face a similar manslaughter trial in March

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  • What is Surfshark? Surfshark is a cybersecurity solution that safeguards your data and privacy online

  • How does it do that? By providing a VPN — Virtual Private Network — that hides your online activity. Once you connect to a VPN, all your online information is encrypted

  • How does encryption protect your privacy? Surfshark enables private browsing, blocks intrusive ads and malware, offers antivirus protection, ensures your security on public Wi-Fi, grants safe access to blocked or censored content, and much more

Dig Deeper

KEY STORY
EU Farmers Vs. EU

After weeks of farmers’ protests across Europe, the EU cut plans to reduce pesticide use in farming

  • Protests by farmers in Germany, France, Belgium, and other EU countries have been putting pressure on those governments and the EU to slash climate goals

  • On Tuesday, Ursula von der Leyen – the EU’s top executive – slashed goals that would have required the agricultural sector to halve pesticide use and reduce emissions in coming years

  • Von der Leyen’s party reportedly fears the protests will undermine their support going into EU elections this summer. “Our farmers deserve to be listened to,” she said during a speech on Tuesday

Dig Deeper

  • The farmers’ protests have drawn widespread support from conservatives, harming pro-EU parties across the continent

  • Some members of von der Leyen's center-right party have warned that farmers and their supporters could abandon their party for further-right ones that strongly oppose green policies

KEY STORY
Hamas Leaders Divided

Divisions within Hamas leadership appear to be slowing progress toward a ceasefire agreement, The Wall Street Journal reported

  • Hamas’ leadership is split between those based in Gaza and those living abroad. Initially, those in Gaza were more pro-war while those outside were less so; now, reports suggest the opposite is true, with leadership abroad demanding Israel give further concessions before Hamas agree to a ceasefire

  • That schism appears to be slowing progress toward a ceasefire deal, which the US, Qatar, and others have been attempting to negotiate. The rumored deal would include the release of all Israeli hostages for a six-week ceasefire – much longer than last time

Dig Deeper

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been jetting between Middle Eastern capitals and working closely with Qatari, Saudi, and other regional leaders to get a deal done

  • While neither Hamas nor Israel have publicly accepted a ceasefire deal, officials have been leaking that the sides are making progress toward one

RUNDOWN
Some Quick Stories for the Office

✈️ Attorneys for Taylor Swift threatened to sue 21-year-old Jack Sweeney for running social media accounts that track Swift’s jets. Sweeney – who uses publicly-available tracking data — said Swift “should have a decent expectation that [her] jet will be tracked whether or not I do it. After all it is public information”

🤠 Country star Toby Keith died on Monday at age 62. Keith announced in 2022 that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. On Monday, his website announced Keith had passed away “surrounded by his family”

🇩🇪 A German court ruled that a youth organization linked to Alternative for Germany (AfD), a party on the far right of Germany’s political spectrum, is a “certified right-wing extremist endeavor”

🇷🇺 On Wednesday, Russia announced that conservative commentator Tucker Carlson has interviewed President Vladimir Putin. It’s Putin’s first interview to a Western journalist since the invasion of Ukraine two years ago

🇮🇱 Israeli intelligence believes that 30+ of 136 Israeli hostages held by Hamas are dead, The New York Times reported. The NYT also spoke to Israeli officials who said as many as 20 more hostages could be dead

🔧 Four bolts used to secure a panel into the Alaska Airlines plane that suffered a midflight blowout last month were removed and not replaced by Boeing workers, per a report released by the National Transportation Safety Board

COMMUNITY
Weekly Debate

We’re trying something new this week.

Most news companies repress ideas they don’t agree with. We are different. To prove it, we’re making this a place where people can have a free and open debate. Each day, we’re asking readers to respond to other readers’ responses. Those are located below the Wrap.

This week’s discussion:

Is technology advancing too quickly? Who should set the pace?

Here are reader responses to Mike and Brantly, whose takes we shared in yesterday’s Current. What other thoughts do you have? Keep the debate going, and reply to this email!

Karen from Washington State: “Agree with Brantley on this (hey, I'm a middle child). ‘there are so many medical breakthroughs, scientific discoveries and just assistance with everyday life that it's hard to argue’ YES. We are already hearing of good stuff, hard to stifle it. Think back 30 yrs to when we had no idea our ‘phone’ would be a multifunctional mini computer helping us do so much”

Louise from Brussels, Belgium: “I want to respond to Mike M (but it's also
kind of a general response). I agree that it can't be up to just one organisation or government or other group to control scientific and technological advances, that's way too much power. And I also agree that new knowledge and advancements are a good thing, BUT I do think some moral boundaries need to be put in place, or rather, that the existing boundaries should be applied.”

 Respond by replying to this email! More replies are below the deep-dives.

Today's Poll:

Have you ever been 'catfished'?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today’s poll is sponsored by Surfshark, a leading virtual private network (VPN) provider. Browse the web like a ghost!

Answers to Friday’s poll and question are below the Wrap.  

POPCORN
Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

🧘🏽‍♀️ YEEAAHH let’s meditate: Lil Jon, an artist known for pioneering the crunk hip hop subgenre with hits like “Get Low,” will reportedly release a guided meditation album on February 16

🗡 Stop swinging your sword, eh? Vancouver police arrested a 43-year-old man who walked through traffic swinging a samurai sword and screaming

💡 Some real car-tharsis: A UK car scrapping company has launched its “Scrap Your Ex” program for Valentine’s Day, offering individuals the opportunity to name cars after their exes for scrapping

🚘 Back to reality: Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg warned Tesla owners to keep their eyes on the road after videos surfaced online of drivers using Apple Vision Pro headsets while driving

🎰 Super Betting Bowl: Nearly 68M American adults (about one in four) plan to bet on this year’s Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers

🦈 Shark state: Paleontologists at Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park discovered two new extinct shark species, using fossils from Kentucky and northern Alabama

ON-THE-GROUND
Roca in Liberland

We send our co-founder Max Frost to investigate topics around the world and he writes about them here. He’s currently writing from Liberland. Subscribers receive the full stories.

“There is a small problem.”

After I contacted Liberland’s president, he put me in touch with Dorian, one of the “country’s” officials. A dual Croatian-Liberland citizen who works full-time for Liberland, Dorian said he could get me in – but I might get deported.

While no country claims Liberland, Croatian police control it. They don’t want anyone to settle the island, so they patrol the area around it to keep people from getting in. 

For EU residents, such border policing is toothless: Croatia is in the EU and therefore doesn’t deport residents of other EU countries for entering Liberland. 

But Americans don’t have the same protections and are thus eligible to be deported. Dorian explained that if police caught me entering, they’d take me to the police station, order me to leave within a week, and ban me from coming back for at least 30 days. 

That left two options: Enter the “European” way, which involves taking a boat from a town on the Danube, or enter the “smuggler’s” way, which Dorian said involved a two-to-three hour hike through the “jungle” but would leave me less vulnerable to being arrested. I opted for the latter.

The morning of, Dorian picked me up in Osijek and we set off out of the city. In a village we met another Liberlander who was the country’s dedicated smuggler who I’ll call Wilson to protect his identity. After meeting at a café, we set off onto country roads that turned into dirt and eventually reached an impassable forest. We put on boots, loaded our bags with food for the Liberlanders, and began our trek. 

At that point, Dorian said I would be the first outsider ever smuggled into Liberland.

The area we were trekking through is known as the “Amazon of Europe,” a dense forest dubbed by the WWF as “one of the great wetlands of the world.” We found ourselves in mud up to our shins and fighting through trees with ticks crawling along our arms. Wilson ran ahead and scouted out police and border patrol. Multiple times, he shouted at us to lie below ridges or hide behind trees as border vehicles drove by. 

At other times, we encountered wild boars standing along the path and snorting as we passed. Wilson insisted they were only dangerous if we came between a mother and her baby. 

After two hours, we reached the island of Gornja Siga, home to Liberland.

“Welcome to Liberland,” Dorian said. 

There was nothing but a deforested patch of land taken down by a Croatian logging company. Dorian said that situation is the root of Liberland’s problems. 

While Croatia has regulations on which trees can be taken down, the law doesn’t apply in Gornja Siga because no government claims it. For years, he and other Liberlanders claim, local officials have secretly deforested the island. When the “settlers” showed up, it complicated things. 

“That’s why we have a problem with local authorities,” he explained

Dorian added that Croatia’s federal government also has problems with the Liberlanders because Liberland makes Croatia look bad. 

“Croatia got into the EU and NATO by cheating. You need to solve border disputes to join them, but they didn’t solve this dispute. So it looks bad when it comes up.” He added that Liberland is also a nuisance for the border police and the Ministry of European Affairs, because it makes Croatia look more like a third-world country than a European one.

On the other hand, the Liberlanders claim to have a good relationship with the minister of economy and investment, because “if we build a city here, it would be really f*cking great for them.”

Now – five miles into our trek – Wilson insisted we were almost to Liberland’s capital. We pressed on for one more hour then, finally, saw the Liberland flag waving in the distance.

ROCA WRAP
The Instructor

Everyday we take a deep dive into an interesting story, place, or person. Subscribers get full access.

There’s no reason Rudi Dekkers should have become famous. Instead, he’s left asking himself, “Why Me?”

Dekkers was born in 1956 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where he claims to have grown up in a houseboat with an abusive father and a drunk mother. He would often run away in distress and later stumbled his way through odd jobs – shining shoes, driving a taxi, selling cleaning supplies. Eventually, he started making money as a homebuilder.

Dekkers parlayed that success into various businesses, some of which went bankrupt or led to tax fraud charges. He also developed a passion for flying, and in the 1990s bought an airplane in Florida and moved his family there.

Dekkers opened a facility to lease and service planes, although he repeatedly ran into issues paying his bills and with the FAA, which suspended his pilot’s license in 1999. Yet soon after, he met a businessman who loaned him the cash to buy Huffman Aviation, a flight school in nearby Venice, Florida.

In July 2000, two aspiring students – Mohamed Atta, an Egyptian, and Marwan al-Shehhi, an Emirati – walked into Dekkers’ school and said they wanted training so they could fly for commercial airlines in the Middle East.

Dekkers wrote in his autobiography that he was thrilled to see them: Summer "was always our slow season,” he wrote. “To pick up two extra students in July was a bonus.” They would be “dumping an additional $40,000 into my business,“ he wrote. “I put on my winning smile and treated them to my best sales pitch.”

The duo had already been kicked out of a different Florida flight school, where an instructor said they had been "aggressive, rude,” and occasionally fought to take control of the plane.

Dekkers said he knew the two had been unhappy with the school, but knew nothing else. He offered to arrange their housing, accepted them as students, and mailed in their visa applications.

Dekkers later wrote that the pair was “horribly obnoxious to all of our women employees” and didn’t take flying seriously, but they still earned their licenses. On one occasion, they rented a plane only to damage and abandon it, prompting Dekkers to tell them not to come back.

He didn’t hear about them again until September 12, when they were identified as two of the pilots who crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center on 9/11.

FBI investigators subsequently said that Dekkers knew nothing about the plot and cooperated in their investigation as a “good American citizen,” yet his life took a dark turn. Bad press resulted in death threats and him selling his business.

On one occasion, his helicopter crashed and nearly killed him in what he alleged was an assassination attempt. Dekkers ended up divorced, losing custody of his daughter, and broke.

In 2005, Dekkers would say, “Everywhere I come, they say, ‘Are you not that guy that trained terrorists?'” “I am without a job right now. I have no income anymore. My life was destroyed.” Dekkers ended up back in real estate, only to go broke again during the Great Recession.

Then he started selling drugs.

In 2012, Dekkers was arrested in Houston while accepting a suitcase containing 18.7 kilograms of cocaine and 860 grams of heroin. He later admitted to an undercover officer that he took payments to traffick drugs and cash in his personal aircraft.

After serving a five-year jail sentence, he moved to the Dominican Republic – only to be arrested two years later for entering the Netherlands having swallowed 118 scoops of cocaine. Dekkers would spend seven months in prison, after which he moved to Colombia with his girlfriend.

As of 2022, that’s where he lived – guilty of a few crimes, but not the one that ruined his life.

Reply to this email to let us know what you think!

ROCA WRAP
The Instructor

Everyday we take a deep dive into an interesting story, place, or person. Subscribers get full access.

There’s no reason Rudi Dekkers should have become famous. Instead, he’s left asking himself, “Why Me?”

Dekkers was born in 1956 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where he claims to have grown up in a houseboat with an abusive father and a drunk mother. He would often run away in distress and later stumbled his way through odd jobs – shining shoes, driving a taxi, selling cleaning supplies. Eventually, he started making money as a homebuilder.

Dekkers parlayed that success into various businesses, some of which went bankrupt or led to tax fraud charges. He also developed a passion for flying, and in the 1990s bought an airplane in Florida and moved his family there.

Dekkers opened a facility to lease and service planes, although he repeatedly ran into issues paying his bills and with the FAA, which suspended his pilot’s license in 1999. Yet soon after, he met a businessman who loaned him the cash to buy Huffman Aviation, a flight school in nearby Venice, Florida.

In July 2000, two aspiring students – Mohamed Atta, an Egyptian, and Marwan al-Shehhi, an Emirati – walked into Dekkers’ school and said they wanted training so they could fly for commercial airlines in the Middle East.

Dekkers wrote in his autobiography that he was thrilled to see them: Summer "was always our slow season,” he wrote. “To pick up two extra students in July was a bonus.” They would be “dumping an additional $40,000 into my business,” he wrote. “I put on my winning smile and treated them to my best sales pitch.”

The duo had already been kicked out of a different Florida flight school, where an instructor said they had been "aggressive, rude,” and occasionally fought to take control of the plane. Dekkers said he knew the two had been unhappy with the school, but knew nothing else. He offered to arrange their housing, accepted them as students, and mailed in their visa applications.

Dekkers later wrote that the pair was “horribly obnoxious to all of our women employees” and didn’t take flying seriously, but they still earned their licenses. On one occasion, they rented a plane only to damage and abandon it, prompting Dekkers to tell them not to come back.

He didn’t hear about them again until September 12, when they were identified as two of the pilots who crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center on 9/11.

The rest of this story is for subscribers only.

Join Roca Nation

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COMMUNITY
Roca Reader Takes

This week’s discussion:

On Monday we asked: Is technology advancing too quickly? Who should set the pace?

Jennifer from Annapolis, Maryland: “I do think technology is moving faster than it can regulate itself. The race to do more, be more, have more is going strong with persons in charge blindly feeding their ids and egos. No one will regulate til the time they must do so reactively. Humans, especially in groups, unfortunately, are so focused on the present that they rarely are philosophical enough to see where the road is going.”

Tom: “My fear is that technology has already taken too much from us and can only cause untold harm to the masses. Simple deep fake pictures, videos and audio could change elections. Sucked verge 400 million donation to dems operatives in 2000 had major effects on that election. Is Terminator here?”

Jeremy from Daytona Beach, Florida: “As a university researcher into generative ai and additive manufacturing, the impact to the US research / university research system that funnels talent into proper careers to set the US ahead is in significant change / potential danger due to the academic impacts of COVID. The generation of students that grew up/ will grow up with this technology fundamentally views this technology differently and sees new potentials. Correspondingly the issue is as these young adults grew up with a different view on technology and laws / societal approaches set by people that use / view the technology differently. In short the technology in the US needs to advance faster than in places that wish harm on others but it is advancing so fast that previous generations and social / legal laws can not react fast enough.”

Yesterday’s Poll:

Do you trust the government to regulate technology?
Yes: 8%
No: 82%
Unsure: 10%

Yes: “It is better to have the government regulate technology than private businesses who will take all that technology and use it for profit without a second thought to mankind.”

No: “The government regulating technology would drop levels of motivation to innovate, especially in this day and age.”

Unsure: “The real question should be, ‘WHO’ do you trust to do this. Certainly not the tech companies so it has to be a neutral party, and for better or worse, that may have to be the government.”

Do you have any more thoughts on today’s discussion after reading the above replies and poll results from Roca Readers? Respond by replying to this email!

EDITOR’S NOTE
Final Thoughts

We hope you all are better weeks than that man who accidentally trained the 9/11 hijackers. Would you feel guilty if you were him? Let us know – we're curious.

See you tomorrow,

—Max and Max