🌊 Lost in Translation

Plus: Ben & Jerry’s vows to stay political

Bad day to be a birthday candle on Broadway.

Today is the birthday of both Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim, perhaps the two most prolific musical theater composers. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote Cats, Evita, and Phantom of the Opera, while Sondheim wrote West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, and Gypsy. To put this in NBA terms, it would be like MJ and LeBron sharing a birthday. Or in Hollywood terms, Meryl Streep and Jack Black sharing a birthday. You get the point.

In today's edition:

💰 Shohei Ohtani gambling scandal explained

😤 Teacher fired for being a rapper?

🤔 20 Questions

And so much more!

–Max, Max, Jen, and Alex


First Live Pig Transplant

Surgeons in Boston performed the first successful transplant of a genetically modified pig kidney into a living patient

  • In 2021, surgeons in New York successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a brain-dead human patient; since then, other surgeons have replicated that procedure with varying degrees of success. Until now, though, no such transplant has involved live patients

  • Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital (Mass General) announced Thursday that a 62-year-old man received a pig kidney transplant last weekend. The kidney appears to be working, and surgeons said the man is healthy and could be discharged soon

Dig Deeper

  • The patient had received a human kidney transplant in 2018, but his body had rejected that, forcing him to go on dialysis. A doctor said the man almost certainly wouldn’t have lived long enough for him to get another human kidney transplant

  • During a press conference on Thursday, a doctor called the man a “hero”: “This surgery, once deemed unimaginable, would not have been possible without his courage,” the surgeon said


Ben & Jerry’s Activism to Continue

Ben & Jerry’s said it will continue its social activism, regardless of its future ownership

  • Social activism has long been core to Ben & Jerry’s mission. Food conglomerate Unilever acquired it in 2000, but per that deal, Ben & Jerry’s retained an independent board to oversee its social mission

  • This week, Unilever announced plans to sell off its ice cream business, which includes Ben & Jerry’s

  • In a statement to The Telegraph, the Ben & Jerry’s board said that regardless of its future ownership status, it will continue its social mission. That stance may deter some potential buyers

Dig Deeper

  • Ben & Jerry’s flavors have included “Pecan Resist,” a flavor that was dedicated to “fighting against…Trump’s regressive agenda”; “Justice ReMix’d,” a flavor to “end…structural racism in our broken criminal legal system”; and “Save Our Swirled,” to advocate for climate justice

  • Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s board have frequently clashed over some of the ice cream company’s controversial stances. A company insider told The Wall Street Journal that Unilever’s decision to divest is unrelated to its longstanding issues with Ben & Jerry’s


Lost in Translation

The Los Angeles Dodgers fired Shohei Ohtani’s translator amid allegations of massive theft

  • Ohtani – a baseball phenom from Japan who recently signed a $700M contract with the Dodgers – has long used a translator named Ippei Mizuhara

  • Several outlets revealed this week that Mizuhara had accrued $4.5M in gambling debts through an illegal sportsbook. He told ESPN on Tuesday that Ohtani paid off his debts and had sent payments directly to Mizuhara’s illegal book manager (“bookie”)

  • Ohtani’s team denied that claim, though, and alleged “massive theft.” Mizuhara promptly changed his story, claiming Ohtani hadn’t known about his gambling debts

Dig Deeper

  • Per ESPN, in January, federal authorities came across payments made by Ohtani to an illegal bookie. At least two payments were for $500,000 and had “loan” written in the description field

  • Authorities are now investigating the incident. Ohtani reportedly isn’t under investigation


Ancient Humans Survived Eruption?

Archaeological evidence from an ancient volcanic eruption suggests ancient humans were more resilient than previously believed

  • Roughly 74,000 years ago, Toba – a supervolcano in Indonesia – erupted. The eruption was the largest in millions of years, and some archaeologists believe it pushed humanity to the brink of extinction

  • Per a new study published in Nature, archaeological evidence from an Ethiopian dig site suggests humans lived there before and after the eruption. They determined that by identifying tiny shards of tephra, or volcanic glass, that they found at the Ethiopian site

  • Fossil evidence suggests ancient humans managed to adjust their diets to adapt to an increasingly arid climate after the eruption

Dig Deeper

  • The study’s authors argued that the new finding – which suggests that humans were more adaptable to arid conditions than previously believed – supports the “blue highway” theory, according to which ancient humans migrated out of Africa by traveling between water holes during relatively arid periods. Previous theories had suggested they migrated out during particularly humid periods, which would have made traversing Africa’s deserts more doable

Some Quick Stories for the Office

📈 Reddit IPO’d on Thursday at $34 a share under the ticker “RDDT.” It was the first IPO by a major social media company since 2019

🏭 A report by IQAir, a Swiss air quality monitoring group, found that the world’s four most polluted cities last year were all in India. The US’ most polluted major city was Columbus, Ohio; the least was Las Vegas, Nevada

🔒 Six former Mississippi police officers were sentenced this week to years in prison for torturing two black men. The charges revolved around an incident last year in which the officers tased, insulted, and sexually assaulted the victims. One of the officers shot one of the victims in the mouth during a mock execution. All later pleaded guilty to federal crimes

🍎 The DoJ and 16 states sued Apple for allegedly exploiting its smartphone dominance to hinder app innovation and interoperability, aiming to boost profits and prevent customers from converting to rival phones

🇺🇸 Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) told CNBC he “would love” to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress

🇩🇪 Germany’s national soccer team announced an apparel deal with Nike, ending a 70-year partnership with German sportswear giant Adidas

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Weekly Debate

Most news companies repress ideas they don’t agree with. We are different. To prove it, we’re making this a place where people can have a free and open debate. Each week we lay out a debate on Monday and feature responses below, replies to those the following day, and so on.

This week’s Roca Votes asks: Is the dating market dominance of Match Group — the company behind 40+ dating apps including Tinder, Hinge and Match.com — concerning?

I am a senior citizen, looking for a new mate.  I was registered on three sites, one was totally all "fake" profiles.  The other two, I found a match and then saw he was also on the other site.  He was not given my profile even though he was given to me and we had a high match rating.  I clicked on him and he never received my match – so something is very wrong somewhere.   I don't know what to think, it is very difficult these days.

Darlene from Kansas

A common misconception is that because Match.com owns a bunch of dating sites, they have control over all of them. However, I had the privilege of hearing Bernard Kim (Match.com CEO) speak last week, and he explained that a lot of the dating sites that Match.com owns retain their individual leadership and decision rights after the acquisition. So, while Match.com oversees them, it is unlikely there is some sort of monopolistic power negatively impacting people.

Peter from New York

I think the concern regarding Match having a monopoly on dating sites has little to do with the dating site and more to do with the massive amounts of personal data one company holds. This makes it a target to hackers and that should be the biggest red flag and concern for users.

Ruthan from Portland, Oregon

Thanks for engaging in this week’s debate! We’ll be back next Monday with a new topic to hear your thoghts.

Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

💰 Ocean Spray Eleven: Three boys, aged 11, 12, and 16, robbed a Wells Fargo bank in Texas. Authorities have taken them into custody and dubbed them the “Little Rascals”

🥛 May the milk be with you: Lucasfilm has partnered with milk brand TruMoo to launch Star Wars TruMoo Blue Milk, a low-fat, vanilla-flavored milk with blue coloring

💸 Mile-high mistake: A 26-year-old Texas man snuck onto a Delta flight from Salt Lake City to Austin using a photo of a young girl’s boarding pass he took without her noticing. He faces felony charges

🏀 Feeling the Blues: The Kentucky Wildcats suffered another first-round upset in the NCAA tournament, making them 1-4 in their last 5 tournament games. The Oakland Golden Grizzlies beat them 80-76

😤 Drippin’ History: A Michigan high school history teacher known as Drippin’ Honey claims her former school fired her over her rap career

🤓 White & Nerdy 101: This fall, Vermont State University will offer a music industry and business class focused on “Weird Al” Yankovic’s works

Mr. TikTok

The US’ biggest political donor has a $15B+ stake in TikTok.

Jeffrey Yass has so far donated $46M+ to the 2024 election cycle – $11M more than the next-closest individual donor and 50% more than the total he gave during the 2020 cycle.

He may also be the American with the most to lose from a TikTok ban.

Yass was born to two accountants in New York City in 1956. While attending public school, he developed an interest in gambling and stocks, making his first stock purchase – Campbell’s Soup Company – after enjoying one of their TV dinners. He went to SUNY Binghamton, a New York public university, and studied math and economics.

Yass and five other students became close friends while running a college poker group. After Yass spent a stint playing poker professionally in Las Vegas and then as a stock trader in Philadelphia, the poker crew reunited to launch Susquehanna International Group (SIG) in 1987.

SIG helped facilitate trading in derivatives, a type of financial instrument, while pioneering its own trading techniques. SIG made $30M in its first year and expanded from there, with Yass and his co-founders attempting to instill a poker-inspired strategy into all of their staff. Today, all new employees undergo poker training, and one of the firm’s founders is a World Series of Poker champion.

As SIG expanded, it launched new divisions, including a venture capital arm that invested in Chinese tech companies. In 2012, that division made a $2M investment in ByteDance, which had launched that year. That stake is now worth ~$40B.

SIG isn’t the only American company that bet big on ByteDance: Carlyle Group, KKR, and General Atlantic – all among the most powerful American finance companies – have large stakes.

But SIG’s and Yass’s position is unique: Most venture firms raise funds from outside investors and then invest it and share the profits.

SIG, by contrast, only invests its partners’ money, which means the partners own its holdings. That means Yass personally owns around 7.5% of ByteDance – worth $16B-$20B and potentially making up more than half of his $30B-$40B net worth.

Yass has also emerged as one of the US’ top political donors.

He was the 10th-biggest individual donor in the 2020 cycle; the 4th-biggest in 2022; and is currently the biggest in 2024, having donated $46M. That money has overwhelmingly gone to conservative people and groups, including the Club for Growth, an influential conservative group.

Since 2010, Yass has given $61M to the Club for Growth’s division that donates to political candidates. And since 2022, the organization has become one of the most vocal groups opposing a TikTok ban: It now asks any political candidate seeking its money where they stand on a TikTok ban.

Days after they hosted an event for Donald Trump earlier this month, he came out against a ban. The group’s president has said that Yass “would never direct the Club for Growth to take an action or a position on things” but that his views “naturally [align] on how we choose candidates.”

Yass’ influence is now in the spotlight, with the House having approved a bill that would force China-based ByteDance to sell TikTok or face a ban. President Biden has said he will sign the bill, leaving it in the Senate’s hands.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), a China hawk and major TikTok critic, accuses Yass and the Club for Growth of being “dark-money cronies” and “spending vast amounts of money” to protect TikTok. But Yass has said he does not oppose banning TikTok for financial reasons.

“I’ve supported libertarian and free market principles my entire adult life,” he has said. “TikTok is about free speech and innovation, the epitome of libertarian and free market ideals. The idea of banning TikTok is an anathema to everything I believe.”

Reply to this email to let us know what you think!

20 Questions

As is Roca tradition, every Friday we ask our readers 20 questions or polls and include the answers the following Friday. Let us know your thoughts!

20 questions logo

Ladies and gentlemen, the Weeknd. To kick it off, let’s do a roadtrip snacks edition of 20 Questions! We're actually fascinated to see the results. There are some outstanding, PPV-quality matchups here. This data will be used for Roca's next roadtrip, so please use your vote carefully. Have an amazing weekend!

Here’s the link! Have a great weekend.

Last Week’s 20 questions:

Last week in honor of #KateGate, we ran a conspiracy theory-themed 20 Questions. Here is the percentage breakdown per prompt:





Did the NFL rig the season in any way to help the Chiefs make the Super Bowl because of Taylor Swift?




Was Princess Diana's death an accident?




Did aliens build the pyramids?




Is the earth flat?




Was there more than one shooter involved in JFK's assassination?




Do you believe that Paul McCartney died and was replaced by a lookalike?




Is Jay-Z in the Illuminati?




Do you think Epstein worked for an intelligence agency?




Do you believe Covid happened for population control?




Is there sketchy stuff in Area 51?




Was the moon landing fake?




Do you think the government puts chemicals in our water for some nefarious purpose?




Are birds real? (Or government drones...)




Do reptilians run the US government?




Are Bill Gates, the World Economic Forum, etc. conspiring to reduce global population?




Was the CIA behind the Manson murders as a plot to discredit the hippie movement?




Was the CIA behind the Manson murders in a plot to discredit the hippie movement?




Is 5G messing with us?




Is the government hiding UFOs from the public?




Does Bigfoot exist?




What about the Loch Ness monster?




Final Thoughts

Happy March Madness weekend, everyone, and see you Monday!

— Max, Max, Alex and Jen