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  • 🌊 An Iranian, Englishman, and Frenchman Walk Into a Voting Booth...

🌊 An Iranian, Englishman, and Frenchman Walk Into a Voting Booth...

Plus: An American legend announces retirement...

Hope you had a great Fourth.

Last Thursday, even without the contributions of Joey Chestnut, America wolfed down an impressive 150 million hot dogs — enough to stretch from DC to Los Angeles 5 times. Although stats like these are usually annoying, we felt a visual for 150 million hot dogs — in this case, a trans-continental wiener trail — was necessary. Happy Monday, Roca Nation.

🇺🇸 Joe Biden doubles down

🗳 Election szn is officially underway

💰 Florida man arrested over $0.01 bank withdrawal

–Max and Max

KEY STORY

Iran Election Result

A reformist was elected president of Iran

  • Iran is an authoritarian country – studies have found it to be as or more repressive than Russia and China – but it holds relatively competitive elections between candidates selected by the government

  • On Friday, the reformist Masoud Pezeshkian narrowly beat a hardliner, meaning Iran will have its first reformist president since 2005. Pezeshkian has promised to improve ties with the West by signing a new nuclear deal and has criticized internet restrictions and headscarf mandates

Dig Deeper

  • Pezeshkian’s influence will be limited: He remains subservient to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who decides which policies actually take effect, and both Khamenei and the military control most security and foreign affairs policies

  • The elections are often considered a way to boost the regime’s legitimacy and allow citizens to vent their frustration. Some regime critics protested Pezehskian, whom they accused of legitimizing the Islamic regime

KEY STORY

UK Election Result

Keir Starmer became the UK’s new prime minister after his Labour party won in a landslide

  • Between low growth, a high cost of living, and struggling government services, it was widely expected that the Conservatives (Tories) – who have ruled Britain since 2010 – would lose in a landslide

  • On July 4, Labour won 411 seats to the Tories’ 121, marking one of Labour’s best-ever and the Tories’ worst-ever results

  • Labour now has a large majority, and Starmer and his cabinet are already governing

Dig Deeper

  • Yet, while Labour dominated in parliamentary seats, the vote shares tell a more complicated story

  • The UK has a “first past the post” system, where candidates need only the most votes – not a majority – to win seats. By vote share, Labour won 33.8% of the vote, the Conservatives won 23.7%, and the right-wing Reform UK placed third, with 14.3%

  • Labour therefore won 63.7% of parliamentary seats with just 33.8% of the vote. Never has a UK party won such a large majority with such a small share of the vote

  • Meanwhile, the result sets up a battle between the Tories and Reform UK over the future of the UK’s conservative movement

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Dig Deeper

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KEY STORY

Democrats’ Crisis

President Biden is on a media blitz as pressure builds on him to drop out

  • Five Democratic Congressional legislators have publicly urged Biden to drop out, while a group of senators is preparing to do the same

  • In an ABC interview on Friday, though, Biden dismissed concerns about his viability and said no other candidate stands a better shot at beating Trump

  • Biden gave other similar interviews last week. Yet the WSJ reported on Saturday that the Biden campaign has been requiring interviewers – although not ABC’s – to select from a list of 8 pre-approved questions

Dig Deeper

  • The Wall Street Journal identified at least two radio hosts who were offered an interview with Biden contingent on them accepting the campaign’s questions

  • “We do not condition interviews on acceptance of these questions, and hosts are always free to ask the questions they think will best inform their listeners,” the Biden campaign said

  • In the ABC interview, Biden said only he can defeat Trump. He asked, “Have you ever seen a group, a time when elected officials running for office aren’t a little worried? Have you ever seen that? I’ve not. Same thing happened in 2020”

KEY STORY

France Election Result

There was a shock election result in France

  • Last month, the anti-immigration RN trounced the other French parties in the EU parliament elections. President Macron responded by calling elections for France’s parliament – a gamble that sought to prove the RN was less popular than it seemed

  • The RN dominated in the first election round, held last weekend, putting it on pace to win the most seats in parliament. In second-round voting on Sunday, though, a left-wing coalition performed best, and Macron’s centrist party placed second. The RN appears to have placed third – a shock result

Dig Deeper

  • Analysts are attributing the result to a strategy by the left-wing parties and Macron’s party: Prioritizing defeating the RN over everything else, they selectively withdrew candidates who risked splitting the vote. That meant that rather than having three-way votes – between the left, the right, and the center – the votes were mostly head-to-head, between the right and the center, or between the right and the middle

  • France will now have a split parliament: No single group will have a majority, meaning the left and the center will have to govern together

  • Yet the parties are at odds over many policies: The left has vowed to undo some of Macron’s pro-business economic reforms, repeal a law enacted by Macron that raised the retirement age, and reinstate a wealth tax, among various policies

RUNDOWN
Some Quick Stories for the Office

💥 Israel ordered its biggest displacement of Gazans since October, telling 250,000 in Rafah and Khan Younis to relocate to a humanitarian zone in southwestern Gaza. Separately, an Israeli strike killed the official responsible for managing Hamas’ government in Gaza City and northern Gaza

🇮🇱 Thousands of Israelis protested on Sunday, which marked nine months since the war’s beginning. They called for elections to install a new prime minister, a plan to end the war, and the release of hostages in Gaza

🪖 Russian troops advanced on the town of “New York” in eastern Ukraine. The town – founded by German Mennonite settlers in 1892 – is allegedly named after New York City, one of the founder’s wife’s birthplace

📊 A Bloomberg poll of swing states found the gap between Trump and Biden closed between June and July (after the debate). It has Trump +2% collectively across Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin

🚫 Donald Trump disavowed Project 2025, a policy plan from the influential Heritage Foundation think tank that has become a target for Democrats. “Some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal,” he wrote on Truth Social

COMMUNITY

🤔 Today’s Question: Why is Taylor Swift so obscenely popular? In an era of fragmented media, how has she become an Elvis-type figure?

POPCORN
Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

🇪🇸 Life, liberty, and porn tokens: Spaniards will begin receiving tokens to watch porn. Each adult will get 30 tokens per month and once the tokens are used, users will have to re-verify their age

💔 Who retired? I can’t see: John Cena, 47, officially announced his retirement from wrestling on Saturday. The 16-time WWE champion declared that WrestleMania 2025 will be his last Wrestlemania

Never forget when John Cena announced Osama bin Laden’s death. All-time America moment.

🏎 Get in there, Lewis! Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, 39, won Sunday’s British Grand Prix, his home F1 race, ending the longest winless streak of his career

🤧 Average Florida bank visit: A Florida man “filled out a withdrawal slip for the amount of $00.01” at a bank. When the teller refused it, he threatened the teller and the police came

🍦 Most productive day in DC: Hundreds of people in Washington, DC, tried to break the record for the world’s biggest “human ice cream cone.” Their attempt failed due to the heat, which caused many to overheat in their ponchos

ROCA WRAP

The Mystery Book

In 1912, Polish rare book collector Wilfrid Voynich purchased a manuscript that had been found in a “chest in an ancient castle in Southern Europe.” The book, 234 pages long, features hand-written text and elaborate hand-drawn illustrations on nearly every page.

Scholars believe the book would’ve taken years to create, been very expensive, and likely been written by multiple people. Some studies have suggested it was drafted in the 13th century; others, in the 15th. Based on a signature found in the book, researchers know that it was at one point owned by a pharmacist to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, who reigned from 1576 to 1611.

A letter found in the book suggests that it subsequently passed through the possession of two Czech botanists, the latter of whom sent it to a Jesuit priest in Germany. Several centuries later, in 1912, it fell into the possession of Voynich.

It was under Voynich’s possession that questions emerged and some answers were reached. Yet no one – not the brightest mathematician, linguist, or scientist – could answer the most perplexing question. Namely, what was the bizarre, indecipherable language it was written in? And what did it say?

Although nobody has ever deciphered the Voynich Manuscript, they have established a general outline of its contents.

The book contains elaborate, hand-drawn illustrations. By analyzing those, researchers have categorized the book into six general chapters: Botany, astronomy/astrology, biology, cosmology, medicines, and recipes.

The botany section, which spans roughly 113 pages, features a series of carefully drawn plants and herbs surrounded by text. Many of the plants show supernatural or otherworldly properties: Some include human body parts, such as faces and hearts, while others are contorted in unnatural ways. 

The next section features 12 pages of astronomy/astrology, including pictures of stars, planets, and Zodiac signs. The biology section contains an illustration of naked women connected to fluid-filled tubes.

The cosmology section features pictures of stars and planets; the medicine section, pictures of jarred plants and herbs.

Altogether, the illustrations suggest that an author or group of authors spent considerable time creating the book.

The text itself, while indecipherable, is written artistically.

Some letters are stylized intentionally with obvious effort put into them, and many are looping and curvy. At some points, images that resemble gallows are combined with letters, but it’s unclear why.

Researchers have spent decades trying and failing to explain the manuscript.

They’ve, at times, produced contradictory results: Some, for example, have argued that the text is random and doesn’t actually mean anything; others have argued against that, noting that certain letters appear more frequently in some sections than others. Some have also argued that the manuscript is a hoax, while others have argued it’s authentic.

One theory is that the writing is a little-used Latin dialect; another is that it’s Hebrew; and a third that it’s Turkish. Some of the world’s leading codebreakers, including one who oversaw the project that broke Japan’s code before World War II, have taken a stab at the manuscript but come away empty-handed. It has even defied the code-breaking abilities of modern AI programs.

Today, the manuscript is on display in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. Hundreds of years after the book’s creation, its secrets remain known only to it.

EDITOR’S NOTE
Final Thoughts

Let’s cap off today’s election-heavy newsletter with three wild election facts:

  • The most rigged election of all time took place in Liberia in 1927. The presidential incumbent won 134,000 to 9,000… despite the country only having 15,000 eligible voters.

  • If Bush and Gore had tied in New Mexico in the 2000 election — only 365 votes separated them — they would’ve had to play a game of poker to settle it. Now watch this straight.

  • A dog named Lucy won a mayoral race in Kentucky in 2008, running with the slogan “the b*tch you can count on.”

Have a great day!

–Max and Max