🌊 Just Plane Sloppy

Pope allows blessings of same-sex couples, spiciest drug seizure ever? 🌶 Roca Reports: The Texas of Finland

Oh no, Eric Adams…there’s gotta be a better way of saying this. When asked to describe 2023 in one word, NYC Mayor Eric Adams responded, “New York. This is a place where every day you wake up, you can experience everything from a plane crashing into our Trade Center to a person who’s celebrating a new business that’s open.”

At first, we thought the worst part of the answer was that he used two words instead of one. But then he proceeded to say the next sentence.

In today's edition:

  • Pope allows blessings of same-sex couples

  • Spiciest drug seizure ever? 🌶

  • Roca Reports: The Texas of Finland

 🔑 Key Stories

Cancellation Punishment

The Department of Transportation (DoT) announced a record fine against Southwest Airlines

  • Last year, a winter storm caused a Southwest scheduling crisis that saw 16,900+ cancellations

  • The DoT announced an investigation into Southwest, which ultimately paid out $600M+ to reimburse and refund customers, including a “goodwill gesture” of 25,000 “Rapid Rewards” points – valued at $300 – to all customers affected by cancellations or delays

  • On Monday, the DoT fined Southwest $140M over last year’s crisis. It claimed that was 30x larger than any previous fine for consumer protection laws

A $20B Breakup

Adobe scrapped its $20B acquisition of Figma in response to regulatory pressure

  • Adobe is a US tech company that produces design software, such as Photoshop; Figma is a fast-growing collaborative design company

  • Last year, Adobe announced a $20B deal to acquire Figma. Regulators in the UK, EU, and US opposed that, though, and the UK ruled Adobe must divest some assets if it wishes for the deal to go through

  • On Tuesday, in response, Adobe called off the acquisition. The failed deal marks the latest in a series of regulatory actions against Big Tech

Same-Sex Blessings

Pope Francis permitted Catholic priests to bless couples in same-sex relationships

  • The Catholic Church’s doctrine is that marriages are lifelong unions between a man and a woman. Church policy has long banned priests from blessing – offering God’s grace to – same-sex couples

  • On Monday, the Vatican released a document upholding its long-standing doctrine on marriage. However, it for the first time permitted priests to bless same-sex couples, so long as they don’t do so during a civil union or other marriage ceremony

  • The document calls blessings “a seed of the Holy Spirit that must be nurtured, not hindered.” It represents the church’s most liberal LGBT stance ever

US Steel for Sale

Japanese steelmaker Nippon announced a $15B deal to purchase US Steel (USS)

  • Created by Andrew Carnegie and JP Morgan in 1901, USS was once the world’s most valuable company

  • USS still employs 22,000 people globally, including 14,000 in the US, although it is now only the world’s 27th-largest steel producer. Reports have circulated since this summer that USS was looking to sell

  • On Monday, Japanese firm Nippon announced a deal to acquire USS. United Steelworkers, the union representing US steelworkers, strongly opposed the deal, claiming it sold out US steel to foreign interests

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🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Evicted from the Marvel kingdom: Actor Jonathan Majors was convicted on Monday of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, leading Marvel Studios to sever ties with the Marvel actor

  • New year, new Draymond? The Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green reportedly has begun counseling and will miss at least three weeks during his indefinite suspension from the NBA

  • Call her quitter: Actress Amanda Bynes said she will “take a pause” on her new podcast after just one episode. She attributes the break to failing to book guests like Drake and Post Malone

Wildcard

  • A spicy shipment: US Customs officers in San Diego seized $10M+ in drugs, including 3,000+ lbs of methamphetamine and 500+ lbs of cocaine, hidden in 349 packages of jalapeño paste

  • Home of the Brave (toddlers): Las Vegas police honored a two-year-old girl with the “Bravery Award” for her recovery and resilience after accidentally shooting herself with a gun

  • Florida Man has competition: Florida deputies arrested a 38-year-old Alabama man who was “high on mushrooms” with a parrot on his shoulder after he refused to leave a homeowner’s property

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll:

Do you keep your passwords on your phone?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today's Question:

In honor of Eric Adams, what is the worst gaffe you’ve ever made?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

In conversations with Shivam, Juha, and others, the concept of the “welfare state” repeatedly arose.

Broadly speaking, a welfare state seeks to provide decent living conditions to all people. Many European countries have welfare states, but the systems in Finland and the other Nordic Countries are uniquely comprehensive. 

Finland spends 29% of its GDP – a rate nearly 50% higher than the US and 30% higher than Sweden – on social spending. That goes to ensuring every Finn has access to free or low-cost healthcare; education, including university and graduate school; housing; pensions; childcare; and disability services. The government funds 105 days of maternity leave and 54 days of paternity leave. People who still can’t afford to live after the general assistance can apply for further financial aid.

Finland’s system is decentralized. While national law gives Finns the right to the general welfare services, municipalities decide how to administer them. 

Finland finances that with high taxes: The average single worker in Finland pays 31.1% of their income in taxes and Finland’s top tax bracket starts at €74,200, compared to $578,126 in the US. Some taxes – social security – are earmarked for financing the welfare state. In the US, that burden is split equally between the worker and employer, each of whom pays 6.2% of an employee’s wages. In Finland, the employee pays 10.26% and the employer pays 18.19%.

Finland also taxes capital (investments) at a far higher rate than other countries. Investment income is taxed at a flat 30% or 34%, depending on income; that compares to typically 0%, 15%, or 20% in the US. On the other hand, Finland has a relatively low corporate tax rate of 20%. (The US’ was cut to 21% in 2017.)

The system has created an equal country, but poverty is still visible. In the neighborhood I stayed in Helsinki, a line of homeless or poor people waiting to pick up food donations wrapped around the block; I literally couldn’t see the end of it. There were also consistently dozens of people passed out, drinking, and taking drugs near my Airbnb in a nice Helsinki neighborhood.  

I met many Finns who are proud of the system and attribute it with making the country one of the world’s happiest. I met others who were heavily critical of it. One man, who had immigrated to Finland from Bosnia 30 years ago, told me it made people lazy and forced the working class to pay for the poor. 

***

“Write this down,” one waitress in Helsinki told me. She had an American accent and American mannerisms. That’s to say: She was much louder and more outgoing than other people in Finland.

“There is one Finnish girl who absolutely loves America. People are happier there. They’re so open. I can get 15 friends in one night when I go out in America. You go into the girls’ bathroom, ‘I love your shoes,’ ‘What’s your number.’”

She told me her Finnish boyfriend had signed with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets and she had moved to Ohio. She fell in love with the American people and culture, and while she and her boyfriend have since broken up, she wants to emigrate to Ohio. She was back in Helsinki to apply for a visa. 

She stressed to me that Americans should know Finns don’t have it better. 

“There is so much more opportunity in your country.”

I’m curious what you all think: Would you want to live in a Nordic welfare state?

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

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

If you drink wine, which do you prefer?
Red: 62%
White: 38%

Yesterday's Question:

Does your family have a favorite holiday season tradition?

Mary: "Sticky buns and skiing!"

Joi from Philly: “On New Years Eve when my son Jake was about 7 years old, he came into the kitchen and on the counter was the fluffiest lemon meringue pie.  He asked me if I would smush it into his face.  I took a moment and then I picked it up and whammed it into his little face.  He thought it was the greatest moment in his life.  Since that night, every new year’s eve I smush a pie into his face.  Now everyone wants a pie in their face, so I get pie tins and whipped cream and bring the year in with a bang!! Try it.  It’s fun.”

Mariana from Mexico: “In Mexico we have many traditions for the new years, my family does them all: chugging 12 grapes in the first minute while you make a wish for each grape (it’s incredible no one has choked with this), running out and in of the house several times with luggage so you get to travel that year, wear underwear in different colors to attract different things (red for love, yellow for money), burn the “old year” (create a human size puppet with old clothes and burn it to the ground to let go of the past). Let’s just say my family is not very realistic on their expectations”

Alisha: “My family is pagan and every winter solstice we go out and collect evergreen branches and tie them together to make a Yule wreath to represent protection and prosperity in the new year. It gives everyone a good vibe and smells nice!”

Heather: “My family tradition is drunken Uno on Christmas Eve. We gather around a table, drink margaritas (or tequila shots) and cheat like hell until someone wins. Then it starts all over again”

Margie: “Italian, so food!  My cassata is better than your cassata....”

Jerry from Peoria, Illinois: “We gather together at a nearby restaurant for dinner followed by a horse drawn carriage ride on Christmas Eve.”

🧠 Intermission

We hope you have nice Tuesdays and wish safe travels to those of you who are getting a jump on Christmas travel. We’re eager to hear your thoughts on the above Wrap, and, as always, to the question of the day.

For Roca premium: Finland continues below!

–Max and Max

🌎 Roca Reports

Last week our Roca Reports series moved to Finland to answer the pivotal question: Is it truly the world’s happiest country? The series continues today.

Roca Reports is part of our premium newsletter with on-the-ground investigations of stories no one else is covering. If you’re not a member, you can start your 14-day free trial here!

Finland may be a progressive country, but it still has conservative places. On my last day there, I headed to the “Texas of Finland.”

I was with Tuomas, a Finnish-American friend of mine who happened to be visiting Finland at the same time as me. He invited me to meet his family, so we rented a car and set off to the country. 

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