🌊 You Got a Foreclosure In Me

PLUS: Look Hungary, Go Hungary

“Caution, the moving walkway is ending.”

Here's some fun January 30 history for you: On January 30, 1958, the first moving walkway was put in service at an airport at Love Field Air Terminal in Dallas, TX. Although the moving walkway caught on nationwide, it had a disastrous start. In its first two years, it caused numerous injuries, lawsuits, wardrobe malfunctions, and even a death. But, hey, if it helps us get to Chili's To Go 1.8 seconds faster… it was absolutely worth it.

In today's edition:

🗞️ Key Stories: EU v Hungary heats up

📺 Happy Hour: "The Office" dethroned as most-streamed show

🌎 Roca Reports: A Changing World, continued

🔑 Key Story

The EU vs. Hungary

The EU has created a plan to undermine Hungary’s economy if it refuses to support aid to Ukraine

  • For months, Hungary – whose leader has ties to Russia – has blocked further aid to Ukraine. The EU has a meeting planned for February 1 to discuss approving $53B in further aid, but doing so requires the approval of all EU countries, including Hungary

  • The Financial Times reported that the EU has now created a document highlighting steps it could take to punish Hungary economically if it blocks aid to Ukraine. Those include depriving it of EU aid to harm “jobs and growth” and exacerbate inflation there

🔑 Key Story

Evergrande Liquidated

A Hong Kong court ordered Evergrande, the world’s most indebted property developer, to liquidate

  • Evergrande is one of China’s largest property developers. It amassed $300B in debt, though, and in 2021 plunged into crisis when it defaulted on its debt. Analysts have speculated its struggles could push China into a real estate or financial crisis, making its demise an issue of global concern

  • The latest update came on Monday, when a Hong Kong judge ordered the company to begin liquidating, or selling its assets in preparation for shutting down. It’s unclear if mainland China – with a separate political and judicial system from Hong Kong – will honor that order. Most of Evergrande’s assets are in mainland China

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🔑 Key Story

Yoga Class…Now Go to Jail

US officials caught a fugitive yoga instructor in Costa Rica

  • On May 11, 2022, yoga instructor Kaitlin Armstrong fatally shot professional cyclist Anna Moriah Wilson in what authorities called an act of jealousy over Wilson’s prior relationship with Armstrong’s boyfriend. She subsequently fled to Costa Rica, changed her identity, and underwent plastic surgery to change her appearance

  • The case went cold until US marshals devised a new method to lure her out: An ad for a fake yoga instructor position. The ad said, “Hey, we’re at this hostel, we’re looking for a yoga instructor as soon as possible. Please contact us at this number,” a US marshal told CBS

  • The ploy worked: Kaitlin applied for the role, leading to her arrest and extradition. She has since been sentenced to 90 years in US jail

🔑 Key Story

To Infinity and Be-gone

The San Francisco toy store said to have inspired the “Toy Story” franchise is closing down due in part to the “perils and violence” of the city’s downtown

  • Jeffrey’s Toys, which calls itself the “oldest toy store in San Francisco,” was founded in 1938. The great-great-grandson of the founders worked for Pixar and used the store as inspiration for the “Toy Story” franchise

  • The store has since fallen on hard times, though, and it now plans to close in the coming weeks

  • The family’s lawyer said its closure was caused by the “perils and violence of the downtown environment, inflation, the decrease in consumer spending and the demise of retail across the world”

⚓ Dive Deeper

⚓ Dive Deeper

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🗣 Community

Today's Poll:

Have you seen all four Toy Story movies?

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Yesterday’s Poll: Do you rent or own a home?

Rent: 48%
Own: 30%

🍿 Happy Hour

📺 X Markles the spot: The legal drama “Suits” — which stars Meghan Marklebroke “The Office’s” record for the most minutes watched in the US in a year, with 57.7B minutes in 2023

🎡 Seoul goes wild: The Seoul Twin Eye – a 591-foot spokeless ferris wheel – will soon join Seoul’s skyline, costing a reported $769M. It will hold 1,400 people at once in its 64 capsules

Wow! Where did that building come from?

🛻 Most normal Iowa parking lot: A man crashed his pickup truck (seen above) into a building outside of a Burger King in Sioux City, IA, after the vehicle next to him caught fire

🆓 Toto, we’re not going to prison anymore: The dying former mobster who stole the ruby slippers featured in “The Wizard of Oz” received no prison time. He stole them in 2005, believing the rubies were real

🏔 So easy, a two-year-old can do it: A Scottish two-year-old became the youngest known person to reach Mount Everest’s Base Camp, located 17,598 feet above sea level

👩‍⚖️ Hot tub judge machine: A Las Vegas judge is facing ethics violation charges following several “inappropriate” social media posts. She posted a picture of her in a hot tub with two public defenders, captioning it lewdly

🌯 Deep Dive

Roca Wrap

Kenya’s highest court blocked its government from sending police officers to Haiti.

Kenya is an East African country of 53M that borders Ethiopia to the north, Uganda to the west, Tanzania to the south, and Somalia to the east.

Roughly 7,500 miles northwest is Haiti, a country that lies on the western tip of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. By some metrics the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, Haiti has recently been plagued by gang violence. Gangs now effectively control large swaths of Haiti, including its capital region, severely undermining the central government’s authority.

Last year, Haiti’s prime minister asked the UN to deploy a multinational force to Haiti, warning that his administration is being overwhelmed by gangs that now control 80%+ of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Kenya offered to lead that multinational force, pledging 1,000+ of its police officers to do so.

Kenya’s president argued that leading that force in Haiti would give its police officers valuable training and experience. Meanwhile, opposition politicians argued the move was unconstitutional and intended to boost the president’s international image despite problems at home that require police support.

This month, after months of legal battles, Kenya’s High Court rejected the government’s plan to send a police force to Haiti. It did so on constitutional grounds, arguing that per Kenyan law, only soldiers can be sent abroad, not police officers.

Kenya’s government said it will appeal the ruling.

For now, though, Kenya’s police will stay home and Haiti will battle its gangs without them.

Let us know what you think by replying to this email!

🌎 On-the-Ground

Many of you requested we run Wraps from our Ethiopia trip last year. So before we begin our next on-the-ground series in Eastern Europe, we are running back one of the most popular installments from Ethiopia. We hope you enjoy!

Roca Reports

“We will get malaria this summer.”

That’s what a member of the Kara tribe, which lives on the banks of the Omo River in southern Ethiopia, said. “Every person gets malaria every summer,” one Kara man told Roca. The government gives out mosquito nets every few years to prevent it, “but then they forget about us.”

That man said that foreign aid groups occasionally stop at the village with mobile clinics to treat those suffering from malaria. Still, some percentage of children die every summer.

Malaria is a fact of life in these parts, but it is not the main concern. The deadliest illness is Yellow Fever, another mosquito-borne illness. “If you get yellow fever, you die,” that same man said.

Statistically, that’s not true. According to the CDC, “Most people infected with yellow fever virus do not get sick or have only mild symptoms.” But in remote places like the Omo Valley, people don’t know they have it until they’re extremely sick, and by that point, it is often fatal.

While malaria is typically deadly only for children, yellow fever can be deadly for anyone.

There is a yellow fever vaccine, and Roca’s team received it in the US before going to Ethiopia. But a dose costs hundreds of dollars and the rural Ethiopians we spoke to didn’t know it existed.

Mosquito-borne illnesses are the downside of living near a river, as the Kara do. But that location also comes with many benefits: Other tribes have to walk miles for water, struggle to grow crops, and rarely eat protein. The Kara have ample fish, use the riverbanks to farm, and have to just walk down a hill to get water.

When we visited, a topless Kara girl with bright yellow and red bead necklaces was fishing for catfish. She saw us and took us to see her recent catch: A large catfish that may have weighed 20 pounds – a huge amount of meat in those villages.

Because of those benefits, the Kara – unlike other tribes in southern Ethiopia – are not nomadic. Whereas the others must constantly move in search of soil and water, the river lets the Kara stay put. Yet it’s unclear how much longer they’ll be able to do so.

The area used to be crawling with wildlife, giving rise to a hunting tradition among them. One Kara hunter proudly showed us his AK-47, which he had bought for hunting just over the border in South Sudan.

Today, though, most of the animals are gone – so much so that a nearby hunting lodge is rotting away, having closed because there were no animals left to attract visitors.

The water is under threat, too.

A new sugar plantation and processing factory had recently opened a short distance upriver from the village. Sugar farming requires a lot of water, though, including routine flooding of fields, and to enable that, a dam had been constructed.

The Kara people believe – and independent reports have found – that the dam is causing the Omo River to shrink, reducing the amount of annual flooding, which they need for agriculture.

The government has billed the dam and nearby farms and factories as a major development project that could bring hundreds of thousands of jobs to the impoverished region.

Indeed, the village, unlike most in the area, now has a school, and many of its residents are working in the factories. Most locals we talked to said it was too soon to know if the projects were good or bad.

Either way, they mean the Kara’s way of life is bound to change.

Let us know what you think at [email protected]!

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🗣 Community

Question of the Day: What is your go-to board game?

Yesterday’s Question: Pick one: Are you for or against the world’s largest cruise ship, the Icon of the Seas? Why?

Johanna: “Against! Have you seen that thing?  It is ugly as hell. All those garish colors. The poor sea life that has to put up with it trampling through their home”

Mike from Toronto, Canada: “I am not in favor of another cruise ship; especially the ocean going ventures. They dump their bilge at sea instead of at the proper port disposal units. The industry has and probably still is a major contributor to the large plastic garbage ocean dump sites floating on the ocean surfaces. These dump sites contribute to the large inundation of micro plastic particles from the bottom of the Mariana Trench to the tops of our mountain ranges. Ocean plastics break down into their chemical and solid components more quickly than land based ones. This is due to the constant wave motion coupled with high UV rays and aggressive salt in the water. Microplastic particles act as a mutagenic trigger too. Every time we breathe, speak or eat we are consuming and disseminating microplastic particles in some way shape or form. All of our food sources contain to some degree - microplastic particles. Yum.”

Bob from Fingers Lake, New York: “No opinion. It is the world’s largest, sea going Petri dish. You and your nearly 10,000 closest, and I do mean closest, friends. Who knows what kind of wonderful pathogens you can all share. That said, I won’t be buying a ticket. For those who do, Bon Voyage!”

🧠 Editor’s Note

Final Thoughts

We still can’t believe that the rubies on Dorothy’s slippers in The Wizard of Oz aren’t real. Guess we’ll call off our weekend plans to steal the bike that flies from ET.

Also, shocked to see that Suits passed up The Office for most-streamed show in a year. Granted, 2023 was a record year for streaming, but the Dunder Mifflin disrespect is real.

—Max and Max