🌊 Holy Cow Tax

Plus: Abe Lincoln melts in DC

Let’s get ready to mummbllee!

Well, folks, it’s a bad day to be a pharmacy in Atlanta. The first presidential debate will take place tomorrow evening at CNN’s HQ in Atlanta, and it seems we’re all nervous for what we’re about to witness. As much as we enjoyed making a debate drinking game last cycle, we may hold off this time. If we were to mandate sips for mentions of “Sleepy Joe,” “crackhead son,” “come on, man!” and “wrong,” your BAC might eclipse Justin Timberlake’s in Sag Harbor last week. And we really don’t want you to cry your country a river.

🐄 Introducing the $100 cow tax

🏛 Abe Lincoln melts in DC

🆓 Julian Assange's first day out

–Max and Max


China Pulls Ahead?

A Chinese spacecraft landed back on Earth with samples from the far side of the Moon

  • China has been rapidly developing a space exploration program to land Chinese astronauts on the Moon by 2030 and build a permanent base there by 2035

  • Last month, it launched a mission to retrieve rock samples from the Moon’s far side, from where samples had never before been retrieved

  • On Tuesday, a spacecraft brought them back to Earth, marking the first successful mission of its kind and boosting China in the new space race

Dig Deeper

  • China has properly landed spacecraft on the Moon four times since 2013

  • The US, meanwhile, has landed one spacecraft on the Moon since 1972. That mission, in February, was deemed a partial success because the spacecraft tipped over after landing. Other US attempts to land on the Moon have been delayed because of technical problems

  • The trend suggests China is gaining on the US in the new space race


Assange Freed

Julian Assange is free after pleading guilty

  • Assange, an Australian, launched Wikileaks in 2006 to disseminate classified documents. It proceeded to publish hundreds of thousands of documents, including about war crimes in Iraq, secret American communications, and the identities of American informants in Afghanistan

  • He faced various charges, leading him to spend seven years in Ecuador’s UK embassy to avoid arrest. Since 2019, he has been in a UK jail, fighting charges that he violated American espionage law

  • On Wednesday local time, he pleaded guilty to one charge, paving the way for his release

Dig Deeper

  • Assange pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiring to obtain and disseminate classified information linked to American national defense

  • Assange had refused to enter the continental US and instead submitted the plea in Saipan, an American island in the Pacific

  • Assange has already spent 62 months in jail, and American prosecutors are not seeking any additional prison time, meaning he will be free to return to his native Australia

  • “This is finally over,” his wife told the BBC; “Julian Assange is free,” said Wikileaks


Heat Wave Hydration

  • Summer has barely arrived, yet millions have already felt the effects of sweltering heat waves 

  • Many think they know how to stay hydrated by drinking water. But proper hydration means more than just water; it means giving your body the water AND electrolytes it needs to function properly

  • Electrolytes – which include salt and other minerals like potassium and magnesium – are essential to maintaining the body’s balance of fluids in and around our cells

  • LMNT is a delicious, zero-sugar electrolyte drink mix designed to keep you refreshed during summer and its heat waves

Dig Deeper


Germany: Must Accept Israel

Germany will require new citizens to affirm Israel’s right to exist

  • On Tuesday, new citizenship policies took effect in Germany. Among various things, they allow new citizens to hold two nationalities – something that was prohibited before

  • They also require new citizens to declare their commitment to German values, including gender equality, democracy, and a unique responsibility to the Jewish people, given Germany’s history

  • On Tuesday, authorities confirmed new citizens would also need to affirm Israel’s right to exist

Dig Deeper

  • The change comes a week after Germany’s security services designated the anti-Israel “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)” movement a suspected extremist

  • “Anyone who shares our values and makes an effort can now get a German passport more quickly and no longer has to give up part of their identity by giving up their old nationality,” the country’s interior minister said Tuesday

  • She added, “Anyone who does not share our values cannot get a German passport. We have drawn a crystal-clear red line here”


$100 Cow Tax

Denmark will begin charging farmers $100 per cow

  • Cows and other animals with four-chambered stomachs release methane, a greenhouse gas, through belching. Cows are thus often accused of accounting for 7%+ of global emissions

  • On Monday, Denmark’s government agreed to tax carbon dioxide emissions from livestock at a rate of ~$17 per ton

  • Because cows produce roughly six tons of CO2 per year, the policy – the world’s first carbon tax on agriculture – would tax them at ~$100 per head

Dig Deeper

  • While Denmark accounts for .08% of global emissions, its PM said she hopes the policy will “pave the way forward regionally and globally”

  • Farmers – who in the EU have been criticizing environmental regulations for years and warned that such policies could be implemented – blasted it

Some Quick Stories for the Office

⚖️ The judge in Donald Trump’s hush money trial partially lifted Trump’s gag order, allowing him to speak about jurors and witnesses publicly. The judge denied extending restrictions, citing that “circumstances have now changed”

💰 The IRS apologized for a 2021 leak of tax records of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, among others, to the media, prompting a lawsuit by Griffin. Griffin responded by withdrawing his suit

🇰🇪 Kenyan police killed at least five people during anti-government protests in response to its plan to raise taxes. Kenya’s president blamed the unrest on “organized criminals,” whom he said launched an “attack on Kenya’s constitutional order”

🇮🇱 Israel’s supreme court unanimously ruled that ultra-Orthodox students must serve in the military. They have traditionally served the country by studying the Torah, exempting them from military service

💥 Russian authorities have blamed the West for Sunday’s terror attack that left 20 people dead in the country’s Dagestan region. Komsomolskaya Pravda – allegedly Putin’s favorite outlet – wrote that the “collective West” is trying “to open a second front” against Russia

🗳️ Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D.-NY) – a rising star among progressives – lost the Democratic Primary. Pro-Israel groups spent millions to defeat him after he voted against a resolution affirming that the House stood with Israel after the October 7 attack


🧠 Yesterday’s question: If the Greeks had “The Iliad” and the Romans had “The Aeneid,” what is America’s great epic? Book, movie, or whatever.

I think of tall tales like Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Pecos Bill, and others. They encapsulate the American spirit while also telling exaggerated stories of great men performing great feats.

Joel from California

Most likely Hamilton.

David from Florida

Definitely the Miracle on Ice. No other sporting event in history has had a greater sociopolitical impact on the entire world than the men's 1980 Olympic hockey game USA vs. USSR, played in our very own Lake Placid.

Olenka from New York

Book: A toss-up between Grapes of Wrath and Great Gatsby. Both very representative of American life then and now.

Movie: Godfather 1 and 2.

Shawn from Utah

🤔 Today’s Question: Where is free speech most under threat today?

Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

🚔 1v1 IRL: A 20-year-old New Jersey man faces attempted murder after allegedly flying to Florida and attacking a fellow gamer with a hammer over an online dispute related to a video game

🐾 The tallest boy: Kevin, a Great Dane measuring 3’2” from his feet to his shoulders and certified by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the world’s tallest male dog, died at three years old

🕯 Melted Abe: A six-foot wax statue of Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C., melted as temperatures soared into the triple-digits over the weekend

As if Abe hasn’t had it hard enough…

🍻 Breakfast of champions: Nick Bienz – a Golf Galaxy employee who has never played in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event – qualified for the 2024 Rocket Mortgage Classic after drinking three beers

🛬 evilJet?easyJet has apologized and launched an investigation after leaving three special assistance passengers on the runway at Belfast International Airport


Tribal Politics

Roca co-founder Max Frost recently took a reporting trip to western Africa. The full series is available in our app or our premium We the 66 newsletter, but we are also running excerpts here.

In the town of Oussouye, I met a man named Charles who wanted to teach me about Casamance, the southern region of Senegal.

In the process, I learned a broader lesson about Africa.

Africa is a patchwork of ethnic groups divided into countries with borders mostly set by European powers.

So, while Charles was of the Diola ethnic group in southern Senegal, his views represent millions of other people across the continent whose loyalties are tribal and who reject the validity of existing African borders.

“This part of the country is not Senegal,” he started by telling me. 

“The Portuguese came here first and sold this to the French people, who occupied Senegal and Casamance and said, ‘Same country.’”

“Before, we [the Diola people] were the same as people in Guinea Bissau,” Senegal’s southern neighbor that was a Portuguese colony.

Yet even the Diola people are divided: “We are divided between north and south Casamance,” he explained. The northern Diola are Muslims, and the southerners are Christians and Animists (a traditional religion).

“The Muslims killed all the kings in the north and said that we are no longer Animists. So now there are no Animists in the north. But our ancestors in the south say that anyone who does Islamization in south Casamance: We will kill them all.”

And that’s what he says his ancestors did: “They killed them with arrows made with the venom of the mamba, the green or the black mamba.”

In Animist tradition, sacrifices are important: “A big sacrifice is a cow; second biggest is the goat, pig, and chicken.”

“If I want to go to the festival of the king or ask for the protection of the village, I go to buy a cow…The sacrifice may be killing the animal, offering the blood, then eating the animal.”

“So if I like to pray on the king’s holiday or for good luck or a job or to have a good life, it’s possible I go buy palm wine or a cow. It depends on the money.”

Did they ever sacrifice people?

“Never sacrifice a person,” he said. “Before, yes. Our parents sacrificed people. But no more. Our parents, during fighting, when they take a prisoner, and the other side won’t pay for them, we would have a celebration and kill the prisoner..”

Charles said that one thing hasn’t changed for his people: Diola society still – and has always – run on rice.

In the rainy season, the entire community plants rice; in the summer and fall, it harvests it. This is a full village effort: Everyone joins in to work on the crop.

People eat rice the rest of the year: “We eat rice three times daily,” he said. “Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, each time with fish. We eat fruit when it’s in season. No vegetables.”

Another important crop is cashew, and Charles took me to a “cashew factory” in the jungle.

Cashews grow as nuts on trees. However, those raw nuts are dangerous: “Never, never, never open a cashew nut by hand,” Charles warned.

Raw cashew nuts contain a toxin that burns human skin and can be fatal if ingested.

To make them edible, they need to be steamed, dried, and roasted – a process that can take days.

As Charles spoke, he kept referencing the king: The king oversees rice harvesting, the king takes care of the poor, and the king decides when there is peace and war.

Next, he would introduce me to the king, who, it turns out, had some important advice for RocaNews.

Final Thoughts

You all sent in so many great picks for America’s “Epic.” Answers ranged from “Birth of a Nation” to “Green Eggs & Ham.” There really wasn’t much of a pattern, though it seems that “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Moby Dick,” “The Godfather,” “Gone With the Wind,” “Star Wars,” and “The Grapes of Wrath” were the top picks.

Disappointed that nobody submitted the "Whopper Whopper Whopper” ad.

–Max and Max