🌊 Funerals Costing an Arm and a Leg

Colorado's sketchy funeral home, a famous actor is related to Pocahontas, and Kowloon Walled City

The World Cup ended weeks ago, but the red cards are just starting to fly for Team USA. Danielle Reyna, the mom of US soccer player Gio Reyna, says she told the US Soccer Federation about an incident from 31 years ago when head coach Gregg Berhalter kicked his future wife. Danielle did so out of anger at Coach Berhalter for comments he made about her son's attitude in practice. Coach Berhalter released a statement saying he was being blackmailed with this information.

Where it gets spicier is that the Berhalters and Reynas were close family friends. Danielle Reyna was roommates and teammates with Berhalter's wife at UNC, and Gregg Berhalter played on the US national team with Danielle's husband Claudio. Well, if this is soccer, the sport may truly have a bright future in this country. 

In today's edition:

  • Colorado's sketchy funeral home

  • A famous actor is related to Pocahontas

  • Kowloon Walled City

 🔑 Key Stories

Millions of Workers Receive Wages

On Jan. 1, the minimum wage increased in 23 states and DC, triggering raises for millions of workers

  • The raises affect ~8.4M workers and increase annual wages by $5B+. Nebraska had the highest hike, up $1.50 to $10.50/hr. DC has the highest floor: $16.10/hr

  • The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 since 2009, but states can vote to increase their minimum pay

  • With inflation coming off a 40-yr. high, advocates of minimum wage increases say the hikes offset the rise in the cost-of-living. Critics say hikes further inflation for all by upping costs for businesses

Dig Deeper

  • A growing number of states now have at least $15/hour minimums, including Washington ($15.74), California ($15.50), and Massachusetts ($15). Many more states are planning increases in the coming months or years

Welcome BingGPT?

Microsoft is planning to integrate ChatGPT tech into its search engine Bing, per The Information

  • Developed by Open AI, ChatGPT is one of the most advanced AI Chatbots ever publicly released. It generates human-like text answers to questions

  • Microsoft invested $1B in OpenAI in 2019 and has dibs on commercial use of some of its tech. It's reportedly building a version of Bing that uses the AI behind ChatGPT to answer search queries with human-like replies, rather than links, as it does now

  • Microsoft hopes the features will attract new users to Bing, which has long trailed Google in search

Dig Deeper

  • OpenAI released ChatGPT in November, and it gained 1M+ registered users in 5 days. Google reportedly declared a "code red" in response and is actively working on similar AI-powered technology to power its own search business

FDA Expands Abortion Pill Access

On Tuesday, the FDA made a rule change that will allow some retail pharmacies to offer abortion pills

  • Mifepristone is used to induce medical abortions. Previously only clinics, doctors, or some mail-order pharmacies could offer it

  • Now retail pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, can offer the drug to customers with a prescription in certain states. Pharmacies must become certified to sell the drug

  • Abortion pills are used in 50%+ of US abortions and are rising in demand after the Supreme Court ruled there is no federal right to abortion last year

Dig Deeper

  • The rule change follows other regulatory changes intended to expand access to abortion pills. Last year, the Biden admin ended a long-standing requirement that mandated abortion pills be picked up in person. On Tuesday night, the Justice Department ruled the US Postal Service would be legally allowed to deliver prescribed pills in states where abortion is banned

House Speaker Vote Deadlocked

As of Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives has yet to elect a Speaker of the House after 6 attempts

  • The Speaker of the House oversees the House of Representatives. No legislation can progress, and no new members can be sworn in, until the role is filled 

  • The House typically elects the Speaker the first day of a new Congress, but for the first time in 100 years, failed to elect a Speaker in one vote 

  • Republicans hold the House majority and the impasse is widely viewed as evidence of party divisions, as well as a blow to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the leading nominee. Voting will continue until the role is filled

Dig Deeper

  • On Wednesday, Former President Trump called for Republicans to back McCarthy as Speaker, but the request did not lead to the necessary votes. Voting continues into the 3rd day today. We will continue to provide updates

Ex-Funeral Home Operator Sentenced

On Tuesday, the federal court sentenced an funeral home operator to jail for illegally selling body parts

  • Megan Hess ran a funeral home and a body parts company from the same building in Montrose, CO

  • Prosecutors say she faked hundreds of cremations and instead sold off the corpses to research outlets without permission

  • Her mom Shirley Koch, 69, helped run the operation. The duo illegally dissected the bodies or body parts of 500+ people. They were arrested in 2020 and pleaded guilty to multiple fraud charges 

  • On Tuesday, Hess was sentenced to 20 years in jail, and her mom to 15 years

Big News Ruining Your Sleep?

Sponsored by Apollo Neuro

Looking for a safe, easy way to beat stress and improve your sleep, focus, and mood? Check out the Apollo wearable!  

  • Created in a neuroscience lab and backed by clinical trials, this band uses touch therapy to send soothing vibrations that strengthen and rebalance the nervous system

  • It's intended to support your circadian rhythm, helping build resilience to stress

  • Apollo wearers report fewer sleepless nights and deeper sleep; better focus; and improvements to overall mood and energy. They reported experiencing an average 40% less stress, 25% more concentration, and 19% more time in deep sleep 

Dig Deeper

  • Apollo can be worn on the wrist, ankle, or clipped to clothing. It’s unobtrusive and easy to use, day or night. Start feeling better with 10% off your Apollo wearable now

🍿 Popcorn


  • Accepted to prison: "Varsity Blues" mastermind Rick Singer was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for orchestrating the nationwide college admissions scandal. He cooperated with the investigation and wore a wire for the FBI

  • Avengers Snowplow: Actor Jeremy Renner broke his silence over the snowplow accident that put him in the hospital with a thankful Instagram post

  • None of your bees-vax: The US government approved the first vaccine for honeybees. The vax aims to protect the bees from American foulbrood disease


  • Steaks are getting high: For the second time in a week, thieves stole a luxury car from valet parking at a Ruth's Chris steakhouse in Washington, DC

  • #FlatRocker conspiracy? Researchers found that heavier, potato-shaped stones are better for skimming on water than the typically-preferred flat ones

  • Welcome to Gene Club: Actor Edward Norton learned that Pocahontas and John Rolfe are his 12th-great grandparents. The PBS show "Knowing Your Roots" first revealed it

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll

Which goes first?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today's Question:

What's a food you'll never get tired of?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

Today, the Kowloon Walled City Park is a peaceful and spacious public park in Hong Kong. But not long ago, it was one of the most notorious places on Earth.

The area originated almost 1000 years ago as a minor fort on China’s southern coast. It never merited much attention – until the 19th century.

That’s when Europeans sought access to the Chinese market for trade, particularly opium. After a series of disputes, China ceded control of its Hong Kong harbor region to the British for 99 years… except for a single, small area: The fort.

About 2.7 hectares in area, the fort became known as the Kowloon Walled City, named after the nearby Kowloon Bay. Initially used by China to keep tabs on British-controlled Hong Kong, the fort lost appeal to both sides and became isolated.

Then World War II broke out, displacing many in the area. Some headed to the Walled City.

By 1950, ~17,000 squatters filled the site. Without government oversight, the fort turned into a sort of lawless enclave, independent of any regulations. That attracted new kinds of people; people who wanted to take advantage of the anarchy.

Unlike the rest of Hong Kong, Kowloon had no fire, labor, or safety codes. The area became a haven for prostitution, gambling, and drugs, as well as shady businesses, particularly in healthcare. It became known as the place to go for affordable doctors or dentists ineligible to practice elsewhere in Hong Kong. Because of the lawlessness, the Chinese mafia grew powerful.

So many people came to Kowloon that it became the most densely populated place in history, with 300 10+ story buildings crammed into it. At the peak, Kowloon’s 50k inhabitants gave it a population density of ~3.2M people per square mile – higher than anywhere else on record. By comparison, Manhattan – the most densely populated place in the US – has ~70k people per square mile. 

In time, Kowloon developed from squalor to functioning neighborhood. The crime rate dropped by the 1980s, and residents turned it into an operable city. Still, over time British and Chinese authorities found the city intolerable, with quality of life and sanitary conditions that lagged far behind the rest of Hong Kong.  

Over many protests, demolition began in 1993. The government spent ~$345M evacuating and compensating the former residents, but most of the businesses were forever closed because they couldn't afford to operate elsewhere.

The demolition, however, found one final surprise: People were amazed by the residents’ ability to build systems, such as water and electricity distribution, without any central architect or controlled building.

“The demolition was like taking the machine apart — the first time, you could see what was inside,” one Hong Kong architect involved in the demolition said. 

“It was a really humbling process for me as a designer… we started to see that people could be more intelligent than us, the designers — that they could think of ways to solve problems that are outside the traditional academic world.”

From the outside, the Kowloon Walled City may have seemed like chaos. From the inside, though, it worked, and life went on.

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

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Sock preference? 🧦

Ankle socks: 62%

Crew socks: 38%

Yesterday's Question:

What show/series have you been loving lately? 📺

Jeannine from Denver: “Limitless on Disney +. I am learning so much and since it’s Nat Geo the quality is outstanding. The experts they got are impeccable! Highly highly recommend.”

Rebecca from Albuquerque: “At the recommendation of a friend, my husband and I just finished all 4 seasons of Netflix's Formula 1: Drive to Survive. Absolutely loved it. A few months ago I didn't even know what F1 was, aside from the hot-drama wrap that Roca Sports did this past fall. Now we are all-in and hoping to attend our first Grand Prix in person this year.”

Andra from Santa Monica: “Ted Lasso - late to the game!”

🧠 Final Thoughts

On this day in 2008, "Low" by Flo Rida hit #1 for the first time. The song immediately summons back memories of junior high dances with Axe body spray and faded American Eagle polos dominating the dancefloor. We hope the song holds similar fond memories for you and wish you all a great Thursday!

Max and Max