🌊 The Hyperloop Problem

Snow not falling but prices are, turkey-induced power outage in California and Bethlehem struggles to celebrate Christmas this year

Even if you don't care about the NBA, you have to marvel at the Detroit Pistons' latest feat. The Motor City's beleaguered franchise just lost its 27th game in a row, marking the longest losing streak in NBA history. George Santos was still in Congress when they last won a game, and two MLB teams have won games since then. If you assume a 50/50 win probability for NBA games, the likelihood of losing 27 in a row is 1 out of 134M. 

On a separate note, the “godfather of avocado toast” died. He purportedly invented the dish in the 90s and helped spark the avocadolution. America’s per capita consumption of avocados has increased from 2 pounds in 2001 to over 9 pounds in 2022. So RIP, Bill Granger.

In today's edition:

  • Snow not falling but prices are

  • Turkey-induced power outage in California

  • Bethlehem struggles to celebrate Christmas this year

 🔑 Key Stories

Hyperloop One Shutting Down

Hyperloop One, a startup that pledged to revolutionize high-speed transportation, is going out of business

  • A “hyperloop” is a system of massive depressurized tubes with low levels of air resistance through which trains could theoretically travel at 700+ miles per hour

  • Hyperloop One is a US startup that pledged to build the world’s first hyperloop system. Founded in 2014, it raised $450M in venture capital funds

  • Last year, Hyperloop One laid off 200+ workers and significantly scaled back operations; Bloomberg now reports it is shutting down by year’s end

Missing Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was located in an Arctic penal colony

  • Navalny, 47, is Russia’s most prominent dissident politician. He has been sentenced to 30+ years in jail

  • For months, Navalny has been held in a penal colony – a type of prison with forced labor – 140 miles east of Moscow. Earlier this month, though, his political allies reported that he was ill; immediately after, they said they believed he had been moved

  • On Monday, Navalny’s allies said they had located him at a prison north of the Arctic Circle and ~1,200 miles from Moscow. He is reportedly in good health

US Strikes Militants in Iraq

The US struck targets in Iraq hours after a drone strike injured three Americans in the country

  • The US stations 2,500 troops in Iraq and 900 in Syria as part of an operation to fight ISIS and counter Iranian influence. The US has witnessed an uptick in attacks against its forces there since October 7

  • On Monday (Christmas Day) drones attacked an airbase used by US and allied forces in northern Iraq, injuring three US soldiers

  • Hours later, President Biden authorized airstrikes against three Iraqi facilities linked to Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia.

  • Iraq criticized the strike, calling it an “attack on Iraqi sovereignty”

US Prices Fall

US prices fell in November for the first time since April 2020, the Commerce Department said

  • The US Federal Reserve (Fed) uses what is known as the PCE price index to calculate inflation. On Friday, the Commerce Department announced that the PCE index fell 0.1% in November from October, the first monthly decline since 2020

  • Core inflation – which excludes food and fuel – was up 1.9% on a six-month annualized basis, suggesting inflation is near the Fed’s target rate of 2%

  • The news increased optimism that the US could reign in inflation without triggering a recession

Don’t Trust Your Gut — Vitalize It

Modern day living can have a negative impact on our environment and bodies

  • The mucosa is your internal suit of armor: A barrier of protection like skin lining your mouth, sinuses, lungs, and gut. This barrier houses 80% of your immune system and is your first line of defense against everything inhaled and ingested from the outside world

  • Yet modern exposures like pollution, chemicals, and diet can cause your barriers to break down. When this barrier is compromised, harmful particles can enter your body

  • When you take ARMRA Colostrum™ you strengthen your body’s barriers, creating a tight seal that prevents threats from crossing into the bloodstream and guards against inflammation. It’s your best protection against everyday toxins, pollutants, allergens and processed ingredients, paving the way for optimal health and vitality. Try ARMRA today with 15% off your first order with code ROCA15 

🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Ads, ads, and more ads: Amazon Prime Video will start showing ads on January 29th. Users can pay an extra $2.99 monthly to avoid them

  • The Color Purple Green: “The Color Purple” beat expectations with an $18M North American box office debut, marking the biggest Christmas Day opening since 2009 and the second-largest ever

  • Home for the holidays: A Pennsylvania animal shelter said it was empty for the first time in 47 years. Earlier this month, the shelter said it was near full capacity

Wildcard

  • Fowl play suspected: A wild turkey crashed into a power line in California on Christmas Eve, causing 4,248 properties to lose power. Power returned on Christmas morning

  • Sloshed Santa: A German man dressed as Santa Claus lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a house while delivering gifts. Police declared him “absolutely incapable of driving”

  • Home Alone 2 IRL: Spirit Airlines apologized for mistakenly boarding a six-year-old boy on the wrong flight. He was traveling to visit his grandma in Fort Myers, FL, but landed in Orlando instead

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll:

Have you or your family ever adopted an animal from a shelter?

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Today's Question:

If you were to create a new holiday, what would it celebrate and how would people observe it?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

This country wants to make sure you’re on camera.

In 2016, a truck driver deliberately plowed into crowds gathered to celebrate Bastille Day (France’s July 4th equivalent) in the southern resort town of Nice. 

Since that terrorist attack – which killed 86 and injured hundreds more – Nice’s mayor has heavily invested in surveillance technology, especially AI.

“There are people who have declared war on us, and we cannot win the war using the weapons of peace,” he said. “Artificial Intelligence is the most protective weapon we have.”

4,200 cameras are now deployed across Nice’s public spaces, or one for every 81 resident. Its mayor says that makes Nice “the most monitored city in France.” 

Local security employees use AI to pull from thermal imaging and other sensors to feed a command center that monitors suspicious activity.

And France’s capital city is paying attention to Nice’s investment.

France has suffered more terrorist attacks than any EU country, and Paris is planning to deploy AI video surveillance during the 2024 Olympics, including technology that can detect sudden crowd movements, abandoned objects, and people lying on the ground.

Not everyone thinks AI surveillance is ethical, however.

“They are putting us all under the all-seeing eye of AI,” said the leader of one French digital civil rights group, who argues that AI cameras exceed the government’s right to monitor citizens.

Yet for now, Paris is preparing to roll out hundreds of smart cameras that will monitor Olympic crowds.

While a new law continues to ban facial recognition technology in most cases, France has expanded legal applications of AI video surveillance in the months around the Games.

If you’re in Paris or Nice this summer, smile – because you may be on camera.

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

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Is today a normal work day for you?
Yes 43%
No: 57%

Yesterday's Question:

What was the best gift you gave or received this holiday season? Send us your pics!

Marcy: “My father received a risky surgery on Friday (22nd) to remove a brain tumor. He and my mom have always been the most thoughtful, generous gift-givers and tradition-makers throughout my life, so I wanted to do something to still make it a special Christmas as he recovered in the neuro icu. On Christmas Eve, after we put our 3 little ones bed (with in-laws holding down the fort), my husband and I packed up all our battery operated candles and a guitar and headed to the hospital. We “lit” candles and sang Christmas carols to/with my dad & mom in his icu room. It was a powerful and sweet memory I’ll always remember. I knew it would mean a lot to my parents, but I didn’t realize how much the hospital staff would enjoy it, too. Apparently, they were enjoying listening from outside his room (with other staff even coming from different units to join in). Giving this gift to my dad ended up impacting many people. So special! And of course the sweet memory with my parents is a gift for me & my husband.”

Mary from Rio Rancho, New Mexico: "I love kombucha but it is expensive and feels wasteful to constantly be buying it in the quantities I drink when my community doesn't readily recycle glass. So my sister gave me a jar complete with a SCOBY so I can now make my own! I am stoked."

Tiffany: “Best gift we have this year was a life-size Pokemon Furret plush we had crocheted for our 9-year-old! She said she now believes in Santa again!”

🧠 Intermission

And just like that, the news is back. We hope you all have been able to relax in the recent days. We’ll be doing our news as normal until Friday, then taking next Monday off for the New Year.

For Premium Subscribers: We have decided to start our next on-the-ground trip next week, to ensure it isn’t loss in the chaos of the holidays. This week, you all will be getting a few exclusive deep-dives, starting with today’s look at the situation in Bethlehem and the West Bank.

–Max and Max

🌎 Roca Reports

Today’s premium Wrap covers Bethlehem and its struggle to celebrate Christmas this season. A new Roca Reports series in Serbia begins next week.

Bethlehem is struggling to celebrate this Christmas season.

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