🌊 Gonna Need a Bigger Dunce Cap

Mystery drone strike on the Kremlin, 10-year-old McDonald’s workers? and Harvard’s new council

Although your first encounter with “May the Fourth be with you” probably took the form of a blurry meme your aunt shared on Facebook circa 2013, it actually originated in 1979. The day after Margaret Thatcher won the UK prime minister election, her colleagues took out a full-page ad in the London Evening News that read, “May the Fourth be with you, Maggie. Congratulations.”

So, Roca Nation, after that useless detour in Star Wars pun history, we would like to say… May the Fourth be with you.

In today's edition:

  • Mystery drone strike on the Kremlin

  • 10-year-old McDonald’s workers?

  • Harvard’s new council

 🔑 Key Stories

Ukraine Tried to Kill Putin?

Russia accused Ukraine of attempting to kill Russian President Vladimir Putin with a drone strike on the Kremlin

  • The Kremlin is a walled complex at the center of Moscow that contains numerous government buildings, including the presidential palace

  • On Wednesday, Russia’s government said, “2 unmanned aerial vehicles were aimed at the Kremlin…As a result of timely actions taken by the military and special services…the vehicles were put out of action”

  • Russia blamed Ukraine and said it will retaliate; Ukraine issued a denial and blamed Russian rebels. Putin wasn’t there at the time of the attack

Dig Deeper

  • This attack comes after a series of other drone attacks on Russian territory. On Wednesday, a large fire broke out at a fuel depot in southern Russia; local authorities blamed it on a drone attack. Last weekend, a Ukrainian drone strike struck a large Russian fuel storage facility; a Ukrainian official claimed that destroyed 40,000 tons of oil intended for use by Russia’s military

History, Civics Scores Decline

New data show a sharp drop in the share of students who are “proficient” in civics and history

  • The National Assessment of Educational Progress – the “Nation’s Report Card” – is a government test that tracks 8th-graders’ performance in various subjects. On Wednesday, it released 2022 history and civics data

  • In 2022, history scores declined from 263/500 in 2018 to 258/500 – lower than the score in 1994. 14% of students were “proficient” or higher

  • In 2022, civic scores declined for the first time ever, dropping from 153/300 in 2018 to 150/300. 22% scored “proficient” or higher

Dig Deeper

  • Are you smarter than an 8th grader? Here are 2 samples questions from the assessment

Example History Question

What were European explorers such as Henry Hudson looking for when they sailed the coast and rivers of North America in the 1600s?

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Example Civics Question

2 countries both claim that an island in the Pacific Ocean belongs to them. The countries are preparing to go to war with each other over this issue. What is the United Nations able to do to help end the conflict?

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Answers are in the Clubhouse section, directly above Final Thoughts. Tomorrow, we’ll include the percentage of readers who got each question right!

Troop Surge to Border

The Biden administration will send 1500 troops to the border ahead of an expected migrant surge

  • A pandemic-era immigration policy, Title 42, expires on May 11. A new policy will immediately takes effect, but tens of thousands of migrants are waiting on south of the border, expecting it will not be enforced as strictly as Title 42. US officials estimate up to 11,000 illegal crossings daily in May

  • On Tuesday, the Biden administration said it would deploy 1500 troops to the border, joining 2,500 who are already there. They can’t perform law enforcement duties, but will help with monitoring and operations

Dig Deeper

  • Past administrations have sent troops to the border, and the White House has called it a “common practice.” Some of Biden’s fellow Democrats have supported the measure, while others have attacked him for “militarizing” the border

Texas Manhunt Ends

Police arrested the Texas man who spent days on the run after allegedly killing 5 people

  • Last Friday, in a town 45 miles north of Houston, the man’s neighbors asked him to stop firing a gun late at night. The man, who was drunk, allegedly told them, “I’ll do what I want to in my front yard”

  • The man then allegedly approached the neighbors’ home and killed 5 people. The alleged killer is an undocumented migrant from Mexico who had been deported 4 times; the victims were from Honduras

  • After a 4-day manhunt, a tip led the police to a Texas house, where they arrested the man

Dig Deeper

  • On Tuesday night, someone called in a tip that led police to find the shooter hiding in a closet underneath some laundry. The suspect was in Cut and Shoot, Texas — a town about 16 miles west of where the shooting took place — where authorities said he and his partner were hiding while they planned an escape to Mexico

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🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Lionel of Arabia? Saudi Arabia is reportedly preparing to offer Lionel Messi an annual salary of $400M to play in the Saudi Pro League alongside Ronaldo

  • “So what’s the history here?” A firm led by billionaire Stephen Deckoff has agreed to buy Epstein’s private islands for $60M. Deckoff plans to build a private resort there

  • Wuhan whistleblower freed: Wuhan resident Fang Bin has been freed from jail 3 years after he shared a video documenting the early days of Covid in Wuhan

Wildcard

  • Feds not lovin’ it: A Department of Labor investigation found that 2 10-year-olds were working unpaid at McDonald’s in Kentucky, sometimes past midnight

  • Chin up, writers: Jay Leno handed out donuts to picketers outside Disney to show his support for the writers’ strike. He did the same when they last struck, in 2007

  • Stone Age sweetheart: Scientists identified the owner of a 20,000-year-old piece of jewelry with a new DNA extraction technique

👇 What do you think?

Today's Question

I'm more of a fan of...

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Today's Question:

Have you noticed a change in customer service in the last 5 years?

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See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

More than 100 Harvard professors have started a new organization to improve freedom of expression on the university’s campus.

They say both the right and left are threatening free speech.

US News and World Report ranks Harvard the #3 university in the US. The ranking has it tied with Stanford and Yale and trailing Princeton and MIT.

Last month, 2 prominent Harvard professors announced a new “Council on Academic Freedom.” One was Steven Pinker, a psychologist who has gone mainstream after going on Joe Rogan and writing several popular books; the other was Bertha Madras, a psychobiology professor who worked in the Bush administration.

In the announcement statement, the professors wrote, “Confidence in American higher education is sinking faster than for any other institution, with barely half of Americans believing it has a positive effect on the country.” They blamed “the impression that universities are repressing differences of opinion.”

“It has been stoked by viral videos of professors being mobbed, cursed, heckled into silence, and sometimes assaulted,” they wrote. “Harvard is just one university, but it is the nation’s oldest and most famous, and for better or worse, the outside world takes note of what happens here.”

The council said it will hold workshops, lectures, and courses related to “academic freedom.” It will “inform new faculty about Harvard’s commitments to free speech” and support individuals who are “threatened or slandered for a scholarly opinion.”

“When activists are shouting into an administrator’s ear, we will speak…into the other one, which will require them to take the reasoned rather than the easy way out.”

Since that opening statement, over 100 professors have joined the initiative.

They say the threat comes from both the political left and right. “In some institutions, the threat to academic freedom is from an illiberal left that wants to shrink the boundaries of acceptable discussion,” the council said in a statement. “At others, it is from right-wing politicians who want a single version of history taught as orthodoxy.”

According to data from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), universities sanctioned 145 professors in 2022, up from just 4 in 2000. Since 2000, Harvard has attempted to sanction more professors (23) than any other university.

The professors say these “sanctions” – which are penalties that usually relate to how a professor speaks, teaches, or conducts research – restrict their ability to conduct research

Universities say they are being sensitive to social trends and students’ concerns.

Despite the professors’ warnings, demand for a Harvard education has continued to rise. Between 2004 and 2023, Harvard’s tuition doubled – from $26,066 to $52,659 — and its acceptance rate fell from 10.3% to 4%.

Is this council a step forward, or is it unnecessary? Let us know at [email protected]!

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Should bicyclists be treated more as vehicles or pedestrians?

Vehicles: 58%
Pedestrians: 42%

Yesterday's Question:

What's a historical event you could read about all day? Why?

Deb from Colorado: “I could read about World War II all day. This is a fascinating story of human hubris, strategy, bravery exemplifying the best and the worst of humankind. There are layers and layers of stories - seemingly endless.”

Adam from Arizona: “I would love to perpetually study the evolution of the digital world. It's fascinating to me. From Babbage's design of the first computer in the early 1800's (albeit he never built it) - through today and the rapid incursion of AI into our everyday lives.”

Anna from Texas: “I could read about JFK assassination ALL day! So many rabbit holes.”

Trivia Answers:

Sample History Question: A water trade route to Asia

Sample Civics Question: Arrange for diplomatic relations between the 2 countries

🧠 Final Thoughts

Is this it? After weeks of rain and grey, has spring finally sprung? We can but hope…

Hope you have a wonderful allergy-free Thursday.

—Max and Max