🌊 Just Plane Different

Synagogue tunnel chaos in NYC, now hiring: Wienermobile drivers! and are you Epsteined out?

Good news: Max F has arrived safely in Africa for his next Roca Reports. It’s been quite the economic prosperity roller coaster for him lately. In the fall, he first visited Finland and Germany, which rank 16th and 19th of all countries in the world by GDP per capita — a proxy for income per capita (US is 7th). Then he went to Bosnia (85th), Kosovo (105th), Serbia (79th), and Croatia (52nd). And now he’s in Africa, gearing up for reports in Senegal (156th), Ivory Coast (140th), and Sierra Leone (192nd). To put Sierra Leone in context, Wikipedia ranks 195 countries. 

Meanwhile, Max T is complaining that they didn’t put the right amount of whole milk in his coffee today.

In today's edition:

  • Synagogue tunnel chaos in NYC

  • Now hiring: Wienermobile drivers!

  • Are you Epsteined out?

 🔑 Key Stories

New Generation of Planes

The US has announced a new project to build an experimental aircraft that uses jets of air, not moving parts, to control flight

  • Since the first controlled flight in 1903, nearly every plane has used movable, external systems to control flight. Those systems – flaps, rudders, ailerons, etc. – give planes control over their movement midair

  • Now, DARPA, a military research agency, has selected a Boeing subsidiary to develop a new type of aircraft that uses jets of air, not external systems, for flight control. The new aircraft is known as X-65

  • X-65’s first flight will likely occur in the summer of 2025

Pepsi vs. Carrefour

PepsiCo and French grocery chain Carrefour are clashing over who is to blame for rising food costs

  • Since last summer, Carrefour – an international French grocery chain – has blamed food companies, including PepsiCo, for rising food costs. Amid those allegations, it has been negotiating a contract with Pepsi

  • No deal emerged, and last Thursday, Carrefour said it would stop selling Pepsi products — including Lays, Cheetos, and 7UP —  citing “unacceptably” high prices

  • This week, PepsiCo said Carrefour has “mischaracterized the chain of events,” claiming it had stopped supplying its goods to the chain

Lap Dance for Wind Turbine

A Welsh farmer claimed an energy company offered him cash and a trip to a lap dancing club in exchange for putting wind turbines on his land

  • In recent years, green energy companies have offered private landowners in Wales – a country in the UK – cash in exchange for letting them build wind turbines on their property. That has generated backlash from those who oppose more turbines

  • At a recent town meeting, a Welsh farmer claimed a company had offered him cash and “a night out at a lap dancing club” in exchange for access to his land

  • The company called the farmer’s claim “defamatory”

Secret Tunnel Brawl

A group of Jewish worshippers clashed with NYC police officers over a secret tunnel

  • Chabad-Lubavitch, an Orthodox Jewish Hasidic organization, is based in Brooklyn, NYC

  • Chabad leaders recently discovered a tunnel leading into the synagogue. It is unclear why it was built, although Jewish students appear to be responsible

  • On Monday, Chabad leaders attempted to fill the tunnel with cement, prompting students to protest. NYC police officers responded, and videos showed them clashing with the students. Police arrested 10

  • The synagogue is now closed pending a structural inspection

🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Godfellas: Filmmaker Martin Scorsese hinted in a Los Angeles Times interview that his next movie will be an adaptation of Shūsaku Endō’s book “A Life of Jesus” 

  • Hot diggity dog, what a job! Oscar Mayer is now accepting applications for its next class of “hotdoggers,” who will spend a year driving the Wienermobile across the US

  • Must-see-through TV: Samsung debuted the world’s first transparent MicroLED screen at the tech show CES 2024 in Las Vegas. Samsung hasn’t disclosed its cost or retail availability

Wildcard

  • Greenland ice, ice, baby! Greenland-based startup Arctic Ice started shipping its first glacier ice to bars in the United Arab Emirates. The company says the ice is purer and melts slower than normal ice

  • King Behavior: An Arizona dog named King escaped from his kennel at a pet rescue facility overnight, triggering alarms in a failed attempt to free other dogs from their cages

  • StickGate: A 26-year-old British man received a 12-month community order sentence for defrauding eBay buyers by claiming to sell a walking stick used by the late Queen Elizabeth II

  • Solemate: Start 2024 off pain-free and active with Fulton’s comfortable and supportive insoles. Nothing encourages you to be active and get in that walk, run, or workout like full body comfort. Shop 15% off at Fulton this week only!*


    *Together with Fulton

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll:

Do you own a dog or cat?

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Today's Question:

Today’s question is under the “Roca Votes” Wrap.

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

We founded RocaNews because we wanted news companies to give us just the facts – not tell us what to think. That inspired us to create the “Roca Votes” Wrap, in which we summarize a controversial topic and see how the Roca audience feels about it.

Jeffrey Epstein once again dominated the internet last week. 

New revelations from last Wednesday’s court document release triggered a flurry of theories, reports, memes, and more. That brings us to our question for you today: Has Jeffrey Epstein and theories related to him received too much attention? Or not enough?

Since Jeffrey Epstein’s suspicious jail cell death in August 2019, conspiracy theories about the financier’s life, island estate, and connections with the rich and powerful have abounded.

The source of his multi-million dollar fortune remains unclear to this day. He claims to have run an investment fund, but there are virtually no records of its trading activities. Where did he get his fortune? Who flew on his private jet that Virgin Island locals called the “Lolita Express” due to its reputation for transporting underage girls? Who visited his mysterious island estate? 

Many of those conspiracies are based on a damning body of evidence about his wealth and connections.

It is undeniable that Jeffrey Epstein had a powerful network of friends and acquaintances: His printed contact book listed Rupert Murdoch, Michael Bloomberg, Michael Jackson, and Richard Branson; alleged flight logs show that President Clinton flew with him at least 27 times to a dozen international destinations; former President Trump referred to him as a “terrific guy” in 2002, though he later banned him from Mar-A-Lago; he met with Bill Gates multiple times…the list goes on.

There are many conspiracy theories related to Jeffrey Epstein.

One of the simpler and more accepted ones is that he didn’t commit suicide but was instead murdered by someone who wanted to keep him silent. Most polling suggests a majority of Americans believe that. A Rasmussen poll in August 2019 found a 3:2 ratio between the belief that he was murdered to the belief that he committed suicide. A Business Insider poll from three months later found a 3:1 ratio.

Other conspiracies are grander, alleging that Epstein was a CIA asset or a spy whose job was to get compromising information on powerful people.

For many Americans, particularly conspiracy-minded ones, Epstein’s story epitomizes the divide between the elites and the masses. According to them, a cabal of powerful people runs the world and does evil things behind closed doors at the expense of normal people. For this camp, Epstein became an obsession, a portal to a netherworld.

Meanwhile, others are left with “Epstein Fatigue.” They believe Epstein was an outlier and that the conspiracy camp is making a mountain out of a molehill, as revolting as the molehill may be.

Last week, the Epstein conspiracy machine hummed louder than it has in a long time.

On Wednesday, newly-unsealed documents related to a lawsuit against Ghislaine Maxwell contained names of employees, victims, witnesses, and acquaintances of Epstein and Maxwell. Among others, Bill Clinton, the UK’s Prince Andrew, and Donald Trump were named in the documents. That has since launched more speculation and conversation about Epstein and his affiliates.

Is now the time to pay more attention than ever to the Epstein case? Or is the Epstein issue itself a distraction?

We are now grappling with how to cover new Epstein revelations. One might argue that we should be more vigilant than ever and that getting to the truth is a worthwhile exercise.

On the other hand, it’s a dark story that some might argue we’ll never understand. Others may argue there are more important things going on.

That leads us to the question(s) of the day:

Do you believe Jeffrey Epstein killed himself? How do you feel about the Epstein issue? Did last week’s revelations change your view on Epstein’s influence? How do you feel about how Roca should cover it: more attention, less attention, or cover as needed?

Reply to this email with your answers!

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Would you take a vibrating pill?
Yes: 24%
No: 76%

Yesterday's Question:

Who is the biggest influence on your life and why?

Ben: “The biggest influence on my life is my dad. While I can admit my dad has many, I still want to be just like him. I decided this as a child. Dad could do pushups and pullups with me on his back. One of the few memories I have from my childhood is asking dad to do pushups with me on his back. In the middle of Home Depot while he was getting stuff for home improvement projects. He dropped to the floor and had me get on. He was always a physically strong man, I thought he could hold our house above his head. I mean, he could hold me up there, a house couldn't be much different? He was mentally strong too. He was always able to keep work at work. He never let outside stressors stop him from playing with me or just being there for me.

Even today, I'm 23, and when I visit home for a weekend, he will drop whatever he is working on to be with me if I ask him to. Dad came from a family with 9 kids. He was the youngest. He didn't get the treatment he has given me. He does his damn best in everything he does. I've always admired his ability to problem solve under pressure, have laughs in shitty times, and give good advice. I know he's not Superman, but he's a stellar dad and I don't think I could ask him for anything else. He's a patriot and a veteran that recognizes the US can always be better. He taught me to be respectful and inquisitive. He taught me to rely only on myself, but never be scared to ask for help. He won't take any praise because he's ‘just doing what he's supposed to do’ If I can be half the person my dad was, I think I'll be alright.

🧠 Intermission

A reminder that this whole month, we are thrilled to extend our free Roca premium for college students! Given the price of college tuition and Chipotle queso these days, we decided to make our original reporting FREE for students. 

Just enter your .edu email here — and please share the form with your friends, siblings, kids, ex-interns, etc. who are in college!

🌎 Roca Reports

“I have nothing against Serbs,” a Bosnian man who I’ll call Hamza told me.

Five minutes later, he admitted he has a few problems with Serbs.

“I like to joke that Serbs are like crocodiles. Their brains haven’t evolved in millions of years! All they know is eat, sleep, f*ck. Meanwhile people are going to Mars!

“But I don’t blame them. Their propaganda is so strong.”

Hamza had a chip on his shoulder – literally. Besides Serb forces killing numerous close relatives in the war, during which he was a teen, he has a chunk of shrapnel from Serb artillery stuck in his arm. He recounted to me stories of when he was a child and he read Serbian propaganda that claimed Bosnian soldiers were terrorists who fed Serbian kids to wolves. 

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