🌊 James and the Giant Hate Speech

Taco Bell promos and "Unsubscribe me 😡" emails aside, our inbox has been brimming with your positive emails about the Ethiopia trip. Thank you for your feedback, and we promise to do more trips like it. Our mission is to hold a mirror to the world for you to form your own judgments.

This past weekend, we went to East Palestine, Ohio. The questions you all submitted guided our interviews with town residents, so a huge thanks to all of you who emailed us.

In today's edition:

  • Charlie and the Censorship Factory?

  • Alligator spotted in the Big Apple

  • One... more... tribe

🔑 Key Stories

Roca in East Palestine

Roca spent the weekend in East Palestine, Ohio, where a train derailment earlier this month led to the burning of 5 train cars’ worth of toxic chemicals

  • Some residents told Roca they haven’t slept in the town since February 3, the day of the derailment

  • One resident said the town – population 4,700 – is divided: A third of the people say they’ll move away; a third say they’ll stay; a third say they’re undecided

  • “Ideally we'd like to go back to life as normal, but I don’t foresee that happening,” one resident said

  • “[The train company] won’t be held accountable for a cancer cluster 30 years from now,” said another

Dig Deeper

  • Full coverage of Roca's trip to East Palestine on our Instagram today, @ridethenews!

Biden Surprises Ukraine

President Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Monday

  • Friday will mark 1 year since the day Russia invaded Ukraine. Since then, the US has given Ukraine ~$50B in aid, more than any other country. 46% of that aid is military, 31% is financial, and 21% is humanitarian

  • On Monday, Biden arrived in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, after months of secretly planning a trip. In a speech alongside Ukraine’s president, he said he doesn’t want “any doubt” that the US will stand by Ukraine

  • “One year later, Kyiv stands and Ukraine stands, democracy stands,” he said

Dig Deeper

  • Biden announced a further $460M in aid during his visit. Many people Roca spoke to in East Palestine expressed anger about US spending in Ukraine, saying that the government is spending its money there instead of supporting them

The Tw*ts

Puffin, a major book publisher, hired a sensitivity team to rewrite sections of Roald Dahl’s books

  • Dahl is the best-selling author of children’s books Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (CCF), James and the Giant Peach (JGP), Matilda, and The Twits

  • Puffin says it is working with an inclusivity organization to remove language that some may find exclusive

  • Among the changes, CCF’s Oompa Loompas are now “small people,” not “small men” and Augustus Gloop is now “enormous,” not “fat”; 2 characters in JGP are no longer “thin,” “fat,” or “flabby”; and Mrs. Twit is now “beastly” instead of “beastly and ugly”

Dig Deeper

  • The Roald Dahl Story Company said, "When publishing new print runs of books written years ago, it’s not unusual to review the language used. Our guiding principle throughout has been to maintain the storylines, characters, and the irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text. Any changes made have been small and carefully considered"

AI Not Invincible?

A human beat a computer at the board game Go, 7 years after AI came to be seen as unbeatable at it

  • Go is widely considered one of the most complex and strategic board games. It involves 2 opponents trying to encircle each other on a 19x19 board

  • In 2016, an AI system defeated the world Go champion 4 games to 1; he retired 3 years later, saying AI is “an entity that cannot be defeated”

  • This month, an American amateur player linked up with an AI company that used software to identify an “invincible” Go bot’s weaknesses. With that information, the American player beat the Go bot in 14/15 games

Dig Deeper

  • The player used a strategy that built a large loop around the bot's stones while simultaneously distracting it with moves elsewhere on the board. He said after the victory that an intermediate-level player could apply the strategy and that "as a human it would be quite easy to spot"

Cali Tobacco Ban?

A California state legislator proposed a law that would prevent anyone born on or after January 1, 2007 from ever buying tobacco products in the state

  • The bill was proposed by a California assemblyman who previously successfully proposed a ban on flavored tobacco products in his home county. A similar ban has since taken effect statewide

  • The proposed bill would prevent current 15- and 16-year-olds and everybody younger from ever buying tobacco products in the state

  • It follows the passage of a bill in New Zealand that bans anyone born after 2008 from ever buying cigarettes

Dig Deeper

  • “The impetus for the bill is really that we’ve known for 50 years that tobacco and nicotine products cause cancer, are incredibly addictive and decrease quality of life,” the bill’s sponsor said

  • A tobacco industry spokesperson said the new bill is “not based on scientific evidence, but rather on a political agenda that seeks to demonize adult cigar smokers"

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🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Copyzuck back at it: Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook and Instagram will roll out a paid verification program starting at $11.99 a month 

  • No more passing in LA: Russell Westbrook reportedly plans to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers after completing a contract buyout in Utah

  • #Extradited: A Spanish court has agreed to extradite the man who is accused of hacking the Twitter accounts of Barack Obama, Kanye West, & others to the US

Wildcard

  • Wealthy & nerdy: 8 of the 10 highest-earning college majors within 5 years of graduation are engineering-related. Chemical engineering takes the top spot

  • NY-C you later, alligator: An alligator that was found in a Brooklyn park has been taken to the Bronx Zoo for rehab. The gator is believed to have been a pet

  • Friday night loots? Hundreds of Texas teens broke into a home and threw a "mansion rager" while the family was out of town. The family has no high school-age kids

👇 What do you think?

Today's Question

Do you consider yourself wise?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today's Question:

Considering the above story about modifying Roald Dahl, do you support or oppose updating books? Why?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

T o reach the final tribe we’d visit in the Omo Valley, we drove 2 hours south from where we had camped and seen the whipping.

We ended up a few miles from Kenya, in the territory of the Daasanach (pronounced Dass-in-itch).

in canoe

Frost on the canoe we took to the Daasanach village

Unlike the other tribes we visited, the Daasanach are split across 2 countries – Ethiopia and Kenya. The border introduces some obstacles, but for the most part, it’s irrelevant. The Daasanach are nomads who migrate between the countries without regard for what governments say.

The Daasanach live in huts that they pack onto donkeys and relocate according to their animals' needs, mainly cows and goats. Their territory is hot and dry; summer temperatures regularly exceed 115º and droughts are a recurring problem. They’re herders, although it's hard to imagine a more difficult place to raise livestock.

A Daasanach hut

A Daasanach hut

Daasanach territory is also the only tribal area we visited where there are safety concerns. A few miles closer to Kenya than we were, the Daasanach are in an on-and-off conflict with neighboring tribes. Some of that is over water; some is over cattle theft. When tribes wrong one another, they respond by raiding villages.

The Daasanach guide who showed us his village claimed that more than other tribes, his people believe in equality. Everyone lives in an identical hut; people share everything they have. According to our guide, farmers can't so much as test their crops alone. Everything must be done as a community, and violating that code can result in death.

We found some of this hard to believe: People were pushing each other out of the way to ask us for money.

dancing girls

Daasanach girls dancing in the village

In a hut, we interviewed a woman whose dried out skin made her appear to be about 80 years old. She told us that life has gotten harder for the Daasanach.

“In my memory, the past was good. At this time, here, it’s not so good. Before we lived as the same. But now, we have very big problems.”

“It’s dry, and we don’t have enough for our cattles, for our own lives. Before, we have everything. But now, we have half. Life has gotten hard.”

We asked a woman who looked to be about 20 what she was looking forward to most in life.

“To have more cattle.”

The way to have more cattle is to marry – men buy their wives with cattle – and to take your cattle to good grazing territory, so they grow and reproduce.

Our guide told us that the most important ceremony for the tribe is circumcision, which is performed on both men and women when they are deemed to have come of age.

Many international groups and activists have long been trying to end the practice of female circumcision – alternatively known as female genital mutilation, or FGM – which is most common in East Africa. 65% of Ethiopian women are reported to have undergone it.

Per the WHO, FGM “comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice has no health benefits for girls and women and cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.”

The practice is extremely painful and dangerous. The details are too grotesque to include here, but here’s a link to the WHO’s primer on it.

FGM is done in 4 different ways, with escalating levels of risk and damage. Our guide told us they used to practice one of the most egregious forms of it, but the government sent doctors who taught them how to do it in a more precise way.

Our guide wasn’t necessarily happy about that: “It’s our culture,” he kept repeating when we pressed him on it. “You know, the culture is very important.”

Frost with our guide in the Daasenach village

Frost with our guide in the Daasanach village

He said that girls have no fear about undergoing FGM, because it’s what the tribe does and what all the other women have gone through. We asked a woman how she felt before she underwent it, and, via our guide, she said the same: She had no fear, because it’s what she had to do. If she gave a truthful answer or if our guide accurately translated, we don’t know.

Women and girls suffer elsewhere in the Dassanach society, too.

When they have their periods, they aren’t allowed out of their huts. “It’s about respect,” our guide said, explaining that they would taint the village's soil if allowed to walk around.

Our guide also insisted that women in the village never get pregnant out of wedlock, because they knew their cycles so well. He also said that a woman who cheats on her husband is liable to get killed.

Not all people want to live in this life. After leaving the village, we stopped in a town where we met a boy who had abandoned his village at age 6. We’ll tell his story tomorrow.

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

🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Do you have Presidents Day off from work?

Yes: 40%No: 60%

Yesterday's Question:

Just 20 Qs!

🧠 Final Thoughts

We hope your weekends were long and great. Some of you may have received an email overnight that provides instructions to access the beta. If you did, go get on there! If you didn't but are on the list, we'll be expanding the pool again soon. Have terrific Tuesdays!

–Max and Max