🌊 Garbage Day in North Korea 🎈

Plus: Trouble in the orange groves! Orange shortage has OJ producers looking to mandarins...

Google may need to Google “how not to botch a product launch.”

Google recently released a new AI tool called “AI Overview.” For any prompt or question, AI Overview will serve you an answer without you having to click anything. Well, it’s off to an interesting start:

Question/prompt: Smoking while pregnant
Google’s AI answer: Doctors recommend smoking 2-3 cigarettes per day during pregnancy.

Question/prompt: Cheese not sticking to pizza
Google’s AI answer: You can also add about 1/8 cup of non-toxic glue to the sauce to give it more tackiness.

Question/prompt: Can train 8 days per week?
Google’s AI answer: Yes, you can train 8 days per week.

AI Overview is more undercooked than a New York strip that still moos. But, hey, if you want real answers, check out the Roca community’s below responses to “What is the meaning of life?” We would try that one on Google but our hands are glue to the pepperoni pizza we made last night.

🎈 North Korea sends balloons filled with crap to South Korea

🐼 Pandas coming back to America

🤦‍♂️ Man shows up to trial doing crime he's accused of

–Max and Max

KEY STORY

North Korea’s Retaliatory Balloons

North Korea sent 260+ balloons filled with trash into South Korea

  • Earlier this month, a North Korean defector-turned-activist sent 20 balloons carrying 300,000 leaflets into the North. The balloons also contained USB drives with K-pop tracks

  • North Korea’s government vowed to retaliate, and on Tuesday and Wednesday, sent 260+ waste-filled balloons into the South. The trash included cigarette butts, empty bottles, and fertilizer, which in the North is sometimes made with human excrement

Dig Deeper

  • “Acts like this by North Korea are a clear violation of international law and a serious threat to the safety of our people,” the South Korean military said

  • North Korea acknowledged sending the balloons, with its leader’s younger sister saying, “I cannot understand why they are making a fuss as if they were hit by [a] shower of bullets”

KEY STORY

Mandarins to the Rescue?

A global orange shortage is driving orange juice producers to consider switching to mandarins

  • Disease and climate change have devastated orange tree groves globally. Brazil is now the world’s leading producer of orange trees, although it predicts that drought and disease will cause a 24% reduction in its overall orange production this year

  • Amid those pressures, prices for orange juice futures have doubled in the past year, leading to soaring orange juice prices. Some producers now want to petition the UN and US to change their regulations so that mandarins can be used to produce “orange” juice

Dig Deeper

  • “This is a crisis,” the president of the International Fruit and Vegetable Juice Association (IFU) told the Financial Times of the current orange shortage. “We’ve never seen anything like it”

  • The IFU is among those looking into using mandarins, a different species, to make juice

  • Mandarins are similar to the oranges used to make juice but are generally seen as being more resistant to climate change

KEY STORY

Arms Soccer Deal

  • Since World War II, Germany has kept a small military and largely shunned associations with the arms industry. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, though, Germany has invested in its military, which it says is essential to defend against Russia

  • On Wednesday, Rheinmetall – a German firm that produces armored vehicles, ammunition, and other weapons – announced a multi-year deal to sponsor German club Borussia Dortmund, which is playing in Saturday’s Champions League final against Real Madrid

Dig Deeper

  • The news received mixed responses, with some accusing the team of abandoning its values by partnering with an arms company

  • Germany’s vice-chancellor called the deal “unusual” but added that Germany has to “admit that we are in a different, more threatening world”

  • Per the contract’s terms, Rheinmetall’s promotional material will appear on the stadium’s ad screens and in the background of press conferences, but not on jerseys

KEY STORY

Closing The Loophole

The Biden administration moved to give border officials more access to classified information

  • When migrants claim asylum, they are released into the US pending future court dates. They are supposed to first be vetted to ensure they aren’t on the US terror watchlist

  • In April, NBC News revealed that an Afghan on that list was released into the US due to a loophole that prevented border officials from accessing confidential information about him

  • On Wednesday, the Biden administration established new rules expanding border officials’ access to classified information

Dig Deeper

  • US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) encountered 735,000 people crossing the US-Mexico border this year through April

  • Since the April NBC News report, further outlets have alleged that other individuals on the watchlist have been released into the US

ROCA REVIEW
Roca Recommends…

We like to spotlight brands and products that add value to our lives but you may not know about. Many of these come recommended by our team and community.

🌿 Roca Readers’ Award-Winning Farm: When a rooftop fall left Paul Murdoch in agony, surgeries and opioids weren’t enough. That led him to try CBD, which worked wonders. The Murdoch family – all Roca readers! – have turned that experience into Horn Creek Hemp, America’s most awarded CBD hemp farm. Four Murdoch generations now work the Oregon farm and produce CBD-infused chocolates, gummies, and more. At Roca, we take their products to relax. Whether you want Horn Creek CBD for that, pain, or something else, we can’t recommend it enough!

RUNDOWN
Some Quick Stories for the Office

🏌️ Criminal charges have been dropped against the world’s #1 golfer, Scottie Scheffler, who was arrested earlier this month after driving past the scene of a fatal car accident at Kentucky’s Valhalla Golf Club. Scheffler ended up dragging a police officer behind his car, causing injuries; on Wednesday, Louisville police called the incident a “misunderstanding”

🇺🇦 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the arrival of US weapons in Ukraine has helped stabilize Ukraine’s front with Russia

🐼 China leased two pandas to Washington, DC’s National Zoo, replacing two that departed it last year. In remarks, the Chinese ambassador said he hopes the pandas can improve US-China relations

💻 Vox Media and The Atlantic announced separate deals with OpenAI that will allow it to train its algorithms with their content

🇿🇦 South Africa held elections in which the African National Congress – Nelson Mandela’s party, which has ruled the country since the end of apartheid – is expected to receive a record-low portion of the vote, possibly forcing it to form a coalition with another party. The ANC’s support has declined to corruption, economic mismanagement, and more

COMMUNITY

We founded RocaNews because we wanted news companies to give us just the facts – not tell us what to think. That inspires us to do the “Roca Votes” story each week, in which we summarize a controversial topic and see how Roca Nation feels about it.

This week’s question: What is the meaning of life?

Recommended by Joi from Pennsylvania

I think the meaning of life is to sacrifice for each other. I used to think that the meaning was to enjoy it, to progress in self gratification and lifestyle. However, while doing so feels good and right at the time, it ultimately leaves you feeling miserable and empty. There is no point in life if you as the individual are the only one enjoying it. Sacrificing our wants and desires for the good of others gives purpose and reason for existence. People are only happy if they can make others happy. Caring for others helps the collective, and drives us towards a better future.

Jacob from Pennsylvania

I don't believe there is a meaning to life but I do believe there is a goal. You may think they are similar but I find that the "meaning of life" is like the wind behind your back, impossible to see, but we are all pushed by it in the pursuit of our goals. I see the "goal of life" as the hanging fruit we are chasing. To some, it may be money, family, happiness, travelling, political aspiration, etc. Nobody should be guilty about their life goal, so long as it's not directly hurting others. I think this goal is directly related to what you define as personal success and so long as you are doing your best to reach that, you will live without regret.

I'm also Gen Z so I could be completely wrong...

Callum from Canada

I love this question. And I think it’s simple to answer. There is more than just one meaning but from what I figured out is its three things. 1. To help others 2. Leave the world better than you found it 3. Learn. Cool thing is that what ever good you do in the world it fits into these three categories- Following your passion, making money, living life, eating good food, getting married, raising kids, writing Roca…. if done right is all learning, helping others, or making the world better. But the coolest thing is this, these three things are all rooted in love. -Hippie yes, but true? Also yes!

Joey from California

POPCORN
Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

🪨 The Crack Dome: Toronto officially renamed a football stadium after the city’s late former mayor, Rob Ford. He was notorious for admitting to smoking crack cocaine while in office

🔑 High-key drama in NYC: NYC mayor Eric Adams is reportedly looking to revoke Sean “Diddy” Combs’ key to the city, which Mayor Adams bestowed on him last October

🚨 Beautiful Fraud: Rapper Sean Kingston agreed to turn himself over to Florida authorities, where he and his mother face charges of committing over a million dollars worth of fraud

🤦🏻‍♂️ Your honor, it’s just a background: A Michigan man with a suspended driver’s license joined a court Zoom call while driving a car. The stunned judge asked, “Mr. Harris, are you driving?” The man responded, “Actually, I’m pulling into my doctor’s office”

🛩️ This story stinks: Three black men are suing American Airlines for “blatant and egregious race discrimination” following their removal from a Phoenix-to-NYC flight over their body odor

ROCA WRAP
Shadow War

Communists and Islamists cooperated to overthrow the Shah – but the partnership wouldn’t last.

Initially, the Islamists and communists cooperated after Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran in February 1979, which marked the overthrow of the Shah’s regime. Soon, though, cracks appeared: The communists wanted a secular, socialist state, while the Islamists wanted one based on Shiite Islamic principles.

In October 1979, the Shah – suffering from cancer – came to the US for treatment. Khomeini, in turn, incited his followers to storm the American embassy. They did so on November 4, taking 53 hostages. Over their 444 days in captivity, Khomeini became Iran’s supreme leader, the Shah died, and the US and Iran became enemies.

In June 1980, Khomeini delivered a speech that laid out his vision for an Islamic Republic.

“We are fighting against international communism to the same degree that we are fighting against the Western world,” he said. “We should try hard to export our revolution to the world…My dear youth, who are the object of my attention, take the Koran in one hand and the weapon in the other.”

To protect the revolution, Khomeini established the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – a military branch tasked with defending the Islamic government.

Over the following years, the Islamists moved against the communists, banning their party and executing, torturing, and jailing many of its members. As prominent leftists were exiled, jailed, or killed, the Islamists achieved political dominance.

With Iran in turmoil, Saddam Hussein – the then-president of Iraq – seized the moment. Iran and Iraq had a disputed border, and Hussein had warned that Iran would try to export its revolution to Iraq.

He launched a strike on Iran, which responded with a total mobilization and counterattack. The ensuing Iran-Iraq War lasted until 1988 and claimed 1M+ lives.

While fighting Iraq, the IRGC prepared to wage another war.

In 1980, Khomeini called “America, Israel, and Zionism” the leading “devourers” of the “Western world.”

The revolution had ended, but the conflict was just beginning.

——

Last month, a 40-year shadow burst into the light

Since 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini had declared the United States and Israel to be enemies of the Islamic Republic. Rather than attack those countries directly and risk a war, though, Iran chose to use proxies.

In the early 1980s, amid the chaos of a civil war in Lebanon, the IRGC established training camps there and began providing millions of dollars to cover unpaid government salaries. From those camps emerged a group – Hezbollah, meaning “Party of God” – that called for an Iranian-style theocracy in Lebanon and conducted bombings on Israeli, American, and French interests in the country.

In the years that followed, the IRGC cultivated other militias and terror groups across the Middle East.

The strategy – which both fit Iran’s anti-West ideology and helped establish it as a regional power – clashed with American and Israeli efforts to counter Iran’s growing influence.

The resulting shadow war has raged since, passing from Khomeini – who died in 1989 – to his successor, Ali Khamenei, who still rules today.

The conflict has seen Iran support militias in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon; Israel and the US have often responded with strikes, sometimes on Iran’s proxies and sometimes on Iranians themselves.

It’s also seen the IRGC morph into a 150,000-strong military that owns swaths of Iran’s economy.

Under Khamenei, Iran has also made progress toward developing a nuclear weapon. While Iran denies that it intends to do so, it has developed the secure facilities needed to build a bomb and has enriched uranium just shy of the necessary level.

Israel – citing Iranian leaders’ threats, like calling Israel a “cancerous tumor” that must be “wiped off the map” – has conducted assassinations on nuclear scientists and vowed not to let Iran procure a bomb; the US and its allies have enacted devastating sanctions.

The US and Israel have both conducted strikes on the IRGC officials who are helping to wage the shadow war.

In 2020, the US killed one of the IRGC’s most influential commanders, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Iraq; last month, Israel bombed an IRGC complex in Syria, killing several commanders.

That strike led Iran to launch 300+ rockets and drones at Israel – an unprecedented escalation.

While a regional war was averted then, the risk of one remains ever-present in the Middle East.

This is part 3 of 3 of a Roca deep-dive into US-Iran relations. If you have questions or comments, reply to this email!

EDITOR’S NOTE
Final Thoughts

We still haven’t asked Google’s AI if it thinks Roca is a reliable news source, but we don’t want to check since we’re terrified of it saying yes.

By the way, the quality of answers to the meaning of life question and the others we highlighted yesterday was amazing. Thank you for the thoughtful responses — including the one that simply read “Eat Mor Chikin.” Going to be chewing on that one for the next month…

–Max and Max