🌊 Just Plane Dumb

Southwest chaos, Meme dog dying, and the Liver Saver

In a week jam-packed with holidays, don't look past today's lineup. Among other celebrations like National Pepper Pot Day and Tick Tock Day, December 29 is Texas Admission Day. Although many Texans may still look at a US map and see 2 distinct entities — "Texas" and "Not Texas" — today, we celebrate its admission as the 28th state.

Speaking of the Lone Star State, we are planning a trip to El Paso for early January. Please send us an email if you live in the area!

In today's edition:

  • Southwest chaos

  • Meme dog dying

  • The Liver Saver

🔑 Key Stories

Southwest's Scheduling Meltdown

  • Southwest typically uses a software system known as SkySolver to organize pilots and flight crews. This week, though, a winter storm coincided with holiday travel to overwhelm that system

  • Now, Southwest can’t coordinate its staff. Since Thursday, the airline has canceled ~11k flights, with 2,300 more already canceled for this Thursday

  • Southwest is reimbursing customers for their flights and hotels, and its CEO has apologized. The government has threatened action over the crisis

Dig Deeper

  • On Thursday, American, United, and Delta each canceled fewer than 40 flights. Southwest canceled more than 2,500

  • The issue stems from both Southwest's software and business model: Most airlines use a "hub-and-spoke" model, where flights travel via hubs. Southwest has a “point-to-point” model, that lets people travel with fewer layovers but is more vulnerable to disruptions

3 Children Survive Australian Outback

3 children survived in the Australian outback for ~60 hours after a car crash

  • A couple and their 3 kids, aged 5, 2, and 2 months, were driving to their relatives’ house in western Australia on Christmas when their car veered off the road. The crash reportedly killed the parents

  • The crash occurred in Australia’s outback, where temperatures peaked around 32°C (~90°F) the past few days. Nearly 3 days after the accident, a relative found all 3 children near the scene of the accident

  • All 3 were airlifted to a hospital to be treated for injuries

Dig Deeper

  • The crash happened just outside of a town. Locals and family were shocked no one saw the damaged vehicle, but said it was a "miracle" that the children survived

Government to Regulate Prison Calls

Congress passed a bill allowing the federal government to regulate the cost of in-state prison phone calls

  • Prisons typically charge call recipients on a per-minute basis to talk to inmates. Those rates range from $1.05/15 minutes to $3.15/15 minutes, much higher than for regular phone plans

  • The phone companies typically pay the states a “kickback,” or percentage of each call’s profit

  • A US government body used to cap call prices, but a judge struck that down for in-state calls in 2017. The new bill, passed with bipartisan support in the Senate and House, will allow the government to set a cap again

Dig Deeper

  • Kentucky has the most expensive calls, with a 15-minute one coming in at $5.70; New Hampshire has the cheapest, at $.20. The median is around $1.65, and interstate calls are capped around $3.15 per 15 minutes

GirlsDoPorn Founder Arrested

  • GirlsDoPorn was a porn website active from 2009 to 2020. Dozens of women accused the site’s employees of coercing them into having sex under false pretenses

  • In 2019 US officials charged the company’s founder, James Pratt, with sex trafficking, producing child porn, and more. He then fled the US

  • Pratt had since been on the run. The FBI added him to its top-10 most wanted list and put a $100k bounty on him. Last week, Spanish police found and arrested him; he likely faces extradition to the US

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🍿 Popcorn


  • Back to Candy Crush, Senators: Congress has banned TikTok from the work phones of House members and staff due to the alleged national security threat it poses

  • Not so funny: Bill Cosby is planning a return to touring in 2023. The comedian served a 3-year prison sentence for sex crimes in 2021

  • Cars gone wild: Heavy fog caused more than 200 vehicles to pile up on a bridge in China. Chinese media confirmed that one person died


  • Meme dog dying: The 17-year-old Shiba Inu that inspired the "doge" meme and the cryptocurrency dogecoin is now "critically ill" with leukemia

  • You got 30 missiles: Domino's is reportedly considering the sale of its Russian business. The pizza chain has remained in Russia since the Ukrainian invasion

  • No jaguar is an island: Only one known jaguar roams the US today, but conservationists are trying to change that. They hope to reintroduce more

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll

Does toilet paper ply matter?

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Today's Question:

What was the most memorable story in the news for you in 2022?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

Liver doctor

This week, we're featuring some of the most popular Wraps of the year. Here's number 3, the Liver Saver

A bad report card changed Russell Strong’s life – and saved many others.

Born in 1939 Australia, Strong grew up wanting to be an athlete. After the bad grades, though, his mother reamed him out. “This boy will never get anywhere – he's too interested in sport,” he recalled her saying. “[That] gave me the determination…that I was going to work hard and try and achieve something."

Russell began studying to become a dentist, then became interested in facial trauma surgery. To pursue that interest, he and his wife moved to England, where he ended up a general surgeon. In 1973, they returned to Australia, where he focused on liver surgeries.

10 years later, Strong proposed the creation of Australia’s first liver transplantation program. The move was highly controversial, particularly his idea to perform liver transplants on children. Prominent medical critics warned that Strong risked irreparably ruining children's lives.

In 1984, Australia’s top medical journal published an article entitled “Surgery Runs Amok,” that compared Strong to the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, who conducted experiments on children. The journal’s editor called on someone to stop Strong, who he accused of losing “judgement, proportion and compassion.”

He pressed ahead anyway, though. 6 months after that article, he performed Australia’s first child liver transplant, saving the life of a 2-and-a-half-year-old girl. That same year, he performed the country’s first liver transplant on an adult.

2 years later, Strong had another breakthrough.

In 1983, Strong had spent 3 months in the United States, working with the doctor who in 1963 had performed the world’s first liver transplant. While in the US, Strong realized that “that there would never be enough child donors to meet the need.” That gave him an idea: Cutting an adult liver into one that could be transplanted into a baby.

The complex procedure would transplant a section of an adult liver into a child. Doing so would mean adults and children – not just children – could donate livers to children, vastly increasing the number of livers available for child transplants. In an interview, though, Strong remembered the response: “They said, ‘You’re mad, you’re crazy.’”

Again, he pressed ahead. In 1987, he divided the liver from a 176-lb man to fit in a 14-pound infant. “I remember telling the parents at the time, ‘This has never been done before. But there’s no way she will live without it,’” he recalled in 2017.

That method was labeled the “Brisbane Technique,” after the Australian city where Strong pioneered it. Some 75% of child liver transplants now use the method.

Strong continued to improve the technique so it could be used on patients as young as a few weeks old. Those transplants required such small sections of liver that, for the first time, a donated liver could be used on multiple patients.

It also opened the door for living organ transplants. The liver regenerates, and some of these transplants required small enough amounts of liver that healthy donors could offer them. That enabled Strong, in 1989, to perform the first ever transplant of a living person’s liver. In this first case, Strong used a mother’s liver to save her son.

Strong’s breakthroughs earned him no shortage of awards, including from Australia and Malaysia, where he established the country’s liver transplantation program. The retired doctor is now 84.

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

🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Favorite book genre? 📖

Fiction: 68%

Non-Fiction: 32%

Yesterday's Question:

What’s the best thing that has happened to you this year?

Shane from Kentucky: "Tennessee V. Alabama game at Neyland Stadium w/ a Tennessee win watched with my son. We had talked about going to that game for a decade and the Big Orange put on a show!"

Steve from Florida: "Another clean CAT scan after battling cancer in 2020!"

Caitlin from California: "I got accepted to study abroad in Ireland through my college for the summer! I’ve never left the country so i’m super stoked!"

🧠 Final Thoughts

We hope none of you had Southwest tickets for today, or any day since last week. It seems like just yesterday that their "2-free-checked-bag" policy made them America's favorite airline. How quickly the tides turn!

Tomorrow is our last Current of the year. We will do all we can to make it as special as can be.

Have a great Thursday!

-Max and Max