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  • 🌊 Just Because Ukraine Doesn't Mean You Should

🌊 Just Because Ukraine Doesn't Mean You Should

Plus: Stonehenge gets #JustStopOil'ed...

Been a rough week for political bodyguards…

This is a good week to check in on your bodyguard friend, Roca Nation. There have been two bad stories from just this week. First, a US Secret Service agent was robbed at gunpoint during President Biden’s trip to California. And then we learned that one of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s bodyguards has been arrested for allegedly placing bets on the date of the election before it became public. Can the week for high-profile security guards get worse? Only way that could happen is if someone snuck past the Stonehenge security team and spray-painted it orange! Oh wait…

🗿 Stonehenge gets #JustStopOil'ed

🇬🇧 A Labour landslide expected in the UK

❄️ Snowing at football practice in June

–Max and Max

P.S. We’ve received so many powerful responses to our question about how fentanyl has affected your town, and today we’re sharing one reader’s incredibly moving story. Thank you to everyone who’s emailed us.

KEY STORY

Tricky French Elections

France’s politicians are scrambling to get elected after President Macron unexpectedly called parliamentary elections

  • Two weeks ago, France’s right-wing National Rally (NR) party dominated Macron’s centrist Renaissance party. Macron responded by calling parliamentary elections in France to apparently prove that his government still has a mandate to govern. The move could enable left- or right-wing parties to take power

  • The left-wing parties have allied to take on the NR, and polls show they are neck and neck. Macron’s party, meanwhile, trails far behind

Dig Deeper

  • The National Rally – far-right on France’s political spectrum – has campaigned on an anti-immigration, anti-EU platform

  • Under leaders Marine Le Pen, 55, and Jordan Bardella, 28, the party has become continually more popular and publicly accepted: In the 1990s, polls showed that nearly 80% of French voters believed it threatened French democracy; today, polls suggest ~40% do

KEY STORY

Russia’s “Resort Mecca”

Russia’s government plans to build a dozen resorts in occupied Ukraine, Russian media has reported

  • Komsomolskaya Pravda, a popular Russian news outlet, reported on Sunday that it obtained from Russian authorities a blueprint for a $30B plan to turn Southern Ukraine into a “resort Mecca”

  • Russia plans to build hundreds of hotels, aquariums, and marinas on the Azov Sea, near Ukrainian cities like Mariupol, which were destroyed in the fighting and have been occupied by Russia since 2022

  • Developing the territory could be a way for Russia to boost its leverage in negotiations with Ukraine

Dig Deeper

  • The Azov, which borders both Ukraine and Russia, has long been popular among those countries’ tourists

  • The government plan reportedly noted that Russia lacks beach resorts and that that could be solved by developing southeastern Ukraine

  • Russia has claimed the entire southeastern region of Ukraine as its own, however, Ukraine has refused to consider giving up any land

ROCA’S PARTNERS

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Dig Deeper

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KEY STORY

Israel Approves Lebanon Plan

Israel approved a plan for an offensive on Hezbollah

  • Hezbollah, a Lebanese group that is Iran’s most powerful proxy, has been conducting daily strikes on Israel since October. It says it won’t stop until the war in Gaza ends; Israel has vowed to destroy the threat

  • Last week, Israel killed one of Hezbollah’s top commanders. Hezbollah retaliated by launching its biggest rocket barrage since October

  • On Tuesday, Hezbollah released footage its drones took of Israeli cities and military bases. Israel responded by saying that it had approved the plans for an offensive to “destroy” Hezbollah

Dig Deeper

  • Hezbollah is a political party, military, and US-designated terror organization

  • Its drone video prompted an uproar in Israel, whose military said hours later that its commanders had approved “plans for an offensive in Lebanon”

  • Israel’s foreign minister wrote, “In an all-out war, Hizbollah will be destroyed, and Lebanon will be severely hit”

  • “The state of Israel will pay a price on the front and home fronts, but with a strong and united nation, and the full power of the [Israeli military], we will restore security to the residents of the north”

KEY STORY

Stonehenge Vandalized

Just Stop Oil (JSO) activists spray-painted Stonehenge

  • JSO is the UK environmental group that has been targeting famous paintings and artifacts to compel politicians to end licensing for fossil fuel production

  • On Wed., two JSO members sprayed orange powder paint on Stonehenge, a 5,000-year-old landmark. Visitors to the site screamed, “No!” and some tried to stop them. Both activists were arrested and claimed that the paint would “wash away with rain”

  • Stonehenge staff have said experts will need to inspect the damage before determining whether it will have a lasting effect

Dig Deeper

  • PM Rishi Sunak, a Conservative, called it a “disgraceful act of vandalism,” while opposition Labour Party Leader Kier Starmer labeled the act “outrageous” and Just Stop Oil “pathetic”

  • The spraying came one day before the summer solstice, one of the site’s busiest days: Stonehenge was built so that on the summer solstice, the sun rises through one of its central stones

RUNDOWN
Some Quick Stories for the Office

🔫 Elon Musk said that two assassination attempts have been made against him in the past seven months

🤝 Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un signed a pact to deepen Russia-North Korea trade and military ties during Putin’s first official visit to North Korea in 24 years

⚖️ Gordon Black – a US soldier arrested while visiting his girlfriend in Russia – was sentenced to three years and nine months in a Russian penal colony. His girlfriend accused him of stealing $113 and threatening to kill her

🚗 Sources at Ferrari disclosed that the carmaker’s first electric vehicle – expected to debut late next year – will cost $535,000, nearly 50% more than the typical Ferrari

🗳️ A new YouGov poll has the UK’s Labour Party on pace to win 425 seats compared to just 108 for the Conservatives, which would mark the country’s biggest political landslide in 100 years

COMMUNITY

Yesterday’s question (same as Tuesday’s): Has the opioid/fentanyl crisis affected your town? If so, how?

This may be a bit off the mark of what you were asking, but as someone who was addicted to fentanyl for 4 years, I have seen firsthand what it does to people. None of us woke up one day and decided that we were going to be addicts. It started for me as a way to numb the pain my trauma and mental health issues caused me. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize just how much everything was laced with fentanyl, and before I even knew what had happened, I was taking it every day just to avoid being sick.

I’ve lost good friends to ODs, wonderful people who were hurting inside, just like I was. I watched as amazing mothers and fathers had their kids taken from them because they were unfortunately too sick to take care of them properly. I watched as we all deteriorated and wasted away, a shell of our former selves.

These people are more than just “lowlife junkies” as everyone loves to call us. We’re someones son, daughter, brother, sister. We’re someone's mother, father, partner, friend. We’re human beings that are tired of pain and suffering, and we’re exhausted from never seeing that light at the end of the tunnel.

Fortunately, I have gotten sober and left that life behind me. Sadly, in that process, I have had to leave behind good people who aren’t ready to do what I did. I still love them with all my heart, just from afar, and I am always there if they’re ever ready and need resources to begin rebuilding what was destroyed. Every day I wonder who is going to be taken from me next. It’s heartbreaking, and there needs to be more and better quality resources for those of us looking to get clean and change our lives.

Raven from Nashville

Today’s Question: Saw this on Twitter yesterday. Who would you take and why?

POPCORN
Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

💨 Hits b(l)unt: The Portland Pickles, a collegiate summer baseball team, became the first US sports team to legally sell cannabis products at a live sports event

🎓 Mastering life: Virginia “Ginger” Hislop, 105, received her master’s degree from Stanford after 83 years. She had to leave her program during World War 2 before submitting her final thesis

❄️ Say it ain’t snow! Amid heatwaves across the country, six states recorded snow over the last three days. Montana saw up to 24 inches (footage of a youth football practice below)

Explain this, Al Gore! Snow during summer football practice?!

🚴‍♀️ Where are the “big ol’ women” now, Chuck? No one attended San Antonio’s World Naked Bike Ride, an event where naked cyclists protest oil dependency and body shaming

🍟 I’m shakin’ it: McDonald’s Canada introduced two new McShaker fries flavors: Tzatziki and ramen. McShaker fries are medium fries with seasoning packets that customers shake in a bag

ROCA WRAP
The Other War: Part 2

This is part two of a series on the war in Sudan.

After a coup brought down Sudan’s dictator in 2019, two figures emerged at the center of the power struggle: Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti. Both were generals who had been close to the ousted dictator, but they represented different factions of Sudan’s military.

Al-Burhan was the country’s de-facto president and commander-in-chief of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF); Hemedti commanded the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a separate military group that rose to prominence during the genocide in Darfur, in western Sudan. While the SAF was Sudan’s official military, the RSF – through controlling gold mines and smuggling routes – had grown powerful and secured lucrative alliances with countries including the UAE. As it did so, competition grew between it/Hemedti and the SAF/al-Burhan.

The generals governed the country in an uneasy alliance until April 2023, when fighting broke out between their forces in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. These clashes escalated into a full-scale civil war, with the sides vying for control of strategic locations, first in Khartoum and then throughout the country.

War has since engulfed Sudan, with the RSF controlling much of the southwest and the SAF controlling much of the east.

Official estimates say that some 14,000 civilians have been killed, although the actual toll is believed to be many times that. A new UN report estimates that as many as 15,000 people were killed in a single city, El Geneina, over three months.

This month, the UN warned that 9.9M people were displaced within Sudan – more than any other country – and that 2M more Sudanese had fled abroad.

Particularly deadly violence is ongoing in Darfur, in Western Sudan. In the 2000s, Darfur was the site of what many consider a genocide when Sudanese militias – that would later become the RSF – killed hundreds of thousands of black Sudanese after rebels from that group began fighting the Arab Khartoum government.

Since the start of this war, the RSF has seized control of much of Darfur and committed many of the same crimes that its predecessor organization was accused of 20 years ago, including massacres, rapes, and expulsions.

Fighting is now raging around el-Fasher, a Darfur city that is an SAF bastion but surrounded by RSF, and there are fears that if the RSF seized the city, a massacre of its black African residents could ensue.

Elsewhere in the country, the war continues, and the situation worsens.

A lack of food production and aid means a famine will likely begin this month. Aid organizations project that up to 2M people could die of hunger in Sudan by the end of September. Some are believed to have already done so, and there are reports of people eating leaves to survive. International efforts to secure a ceasefire have yielded no results, and both sides are blocking aid from reaching those who need it.

The world’s other war shows no sign of stopping.

EDITOR’S NOTE
Final Thoughts

Thank you for your moving answers to the fentanyl epidemic question. One reason it’s top-of-mind is we just interviewed the author of “Fentanyl Inc.” this week. The epidemic does not get nearly the level of media attention it deserves. Somehow everything’s a crisis but an actual crisis?

Very odd, and we want to shed more light on it in the year ahead. Have a great day and we really do appreciate all of your testimony.

–Max and Max