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  • 🌊 Mamma Mia! They Stole-a the Money 🤌

🌊 Mamma Mia! They Stole-a the Money 🤌

Plus: Roca unveils new pod “We The 66”

At long last, we have a podcast. Introducing, “We The 66.”

We all know what the world is missing… another podcast hosted by two dudes. Well, the Roca Maxes have come to the rescue. You’re welcome.

We are thrilled to introduce the long-requested RocaNews podcast. 66% of Americans don’t trust the news, and if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re part of the 66. Hence the podcast name: “We The 66.”

One reason you don’t trust news companies is that they don’t trust you. They doubt you can think for yourself. Worse, they fear it. Many news companies restrict what you see, worrying that you might change the channel or draw conclusions they deem “dangerous.”

But we’re not in the echo chamber business. We want to create a product that investigates issues that Big News ignores or blatantly miscovers. We know you can think for yourself so we plan to give you multiple perspectives on the most important and controversial topics.

Go ahead and subscribe now on YouTube and Spotify! Apple is playing hardball, but it’ll be there soon. We’ve posted an introductory episode on media censorship and the purpose of the show. Thank you all so much.

Send us your ideas/requests for the podcast in this week’s 20 Questions! Roca Nation, let’s ride.

In today's edition:

🇮🇹 Italy's massive pandemic theft

🐟 100,000 salmon spill out of truck

🌊 20 Questions, new pod edition

–Max, Max, Jen, and Alex


Memory Coded in DNA?

DNA damage in the brain and a subsequent inflammatory response are crucial to cementing long-term memory, a study found

  • The study, published in Nature, found that during long-term memory formation, DNA in the hippocampus – a brain region key to memory – is damaged. A protein, TLR9, then triggers inflammation, repairing the DNA. The researchers theorized that the DNA breaking and repairing process is key to memory formation

  • The researchers further tested their theory by deleting TLR9 from mice’s genomes – and observed that their memory declined greatly

Dig Deeper

  • The researchers also found that deleting TLR9 in the mice greatly increased genome instability, which is a “hallmark of accelerated aging as well as cancer and…Alzheimer’s,” one of the authors said

  • That suggests TLR9 could also play a role in triggering degenerative neurological diseases


Italy’s Pandemic Theft

Police in Italy and other EU countries arrested 22 people and seized assets worth $651M+ in connection to the theft of Covid-19 relief funds

  • In 2021, the EU launched RRF, a financial instrument intended to disperse post-pandemic recovery funds. Italy is expected to receive ~$217B

  • On Thursday, police in Italy and other EU countries conducted raids and seized apartments, watches, jewelry, and luxury cars estimated to be worth $651M. The raid – coordinated with EU prosecutors – targeted a criminal network that allegedly used a network of fake companies to steal RRF funds

Dig Deeper

  • Italian police said the criminals laundered money “through a complex network of fictitious companies cleverly set up in Italy, Austria, Slovakia and Romania”

  • The EU in a recent report noted a spike in fraud cases related to the RRF, opening 200+ investigations last year alone. Many of those focused on Italy, which has 179 open investigations related to it


Biden’s Iftar Snub

Muslim community leaders rejected President Biden’s invitation to join him for a dinner celebrating Ramadan

  • Iftar is a fast-breaking meal that Muslims practice during the month of Ramadan, which lasts this year from March 10 to April 9. Biden hosts an annual event to celebrate it with Muslim community leaders

  • This year, nearly every Muslim leader rejected the White House’s invitation, citing suffering in Gaza and the lack of a ceasefire

  • The White House instead hosted a private Iftar event and a separate meeting with Muslim community leaders

Dig Deeper

  • During the meeting – attended by Biden – several invitees shared stories of death and destruction in Gaza, with one handing the president a letter written by a girl in Gaza

  • After talking for six minutes, one attendee, a physician, walked out. “I said, ‘Out of respect for my community, and out of respect for the many people who are grieving, and who are in a lot of pain, I have to walk out of this meeting,’” he said, per The New York Times


FDA Controversy

A group of scientists sent a letter to the FDA requesting it revoke its approval of a test used to help assess opioid use disorder (OUD) risk

  • Last December, the FDA approved AvertD, a genetic test that claims to use 15 genetic markers to help assess if a person has an elevated risk of developing OUD. The FDA approved it despite the overwhelming opposition of an independent panel of researchers

  • The letter – addressed to the FDA commissioner and dated Thursday – claims the test doesn’t predict OUD risk “any better than chance” and is error-prone, which could lead to opioid overuse. “We believe AvertD may make the opioid crisis worse,” it said

Dig Deeper

  • Critics of the test argue that a false positive (which indicates that somebody has a condition when they don’t) could limit a patient’s access to useful drugs, while a false negative could falsely inflate confidence that somebody isn’t at risk of OUD. AvertD has a specificity of 79%, meaning 21% of users would have a false positive, and 82% sensitivity, meaning 18% have a false negative


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Some Quick Stories for the Office

 🐷 The first live human to receive a pig kidney transplant was discharged from a Boston hospital on Wednesday

🇺🇦 Ukraine sentenced a man convicted of helping Russian forces strike a Ukrainian pizzeria to life imprisonment

🇮🇱 Israel blocked GPS signals across parts of its country amid fears that Iranian reprisals over the bombing of its embassy complex in Syria are imminent

🇺🇸 No Labels, a bipartisan group that floated the idea of running a third-party bid this election cycle, announced it will not field a candidate

⚾ The Oakland Athletics announced that it will play in Sacramento for at least the 2025-27 seasons before officially relocating to Las Vegas

🇩🇰 Denmark closed parts of a major shipping lane on Thursday after a technical issue led to fears that a naval ship could unintentionally launch a missile. The missile was unarmed, meaning it wouldn’t explode, but officials feared that shrapnel from the launch could harm ships or planes

Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

⛳️ Get out of the hole: A friend of Tiger Woods told The New York Times that the golfer is so focused on the 2024 Masters that he “eliminated sex”

😤 The game is the game: A Brooklyn man who twice won $10M from scratch-off games continues to chase another large win. He reportedly still spends up to $500 daily on lottery tickets

🐟 Task failed successfully? A truck carrying 102,000 live salmon crashed into a creek bed in Oregon, releasing ~77,000 fish into the wrong body of water

🗿 Take a hike, sculptures: Hikers create a Change.org petition to stop further installations of sculptures at Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Arkansas. Critics say they’re out of place and distract from the hiking experience

🐐 New GOAT convo: The small Italian island of Alicudi, with ~100 residents, is being overrun by ~600 wild goats, its mayor said. The mayor launched a free “adopt-a-goat” program to help get rid of the animals

🍔 “Press 3 to place a death threat”: A 40-year-old Las Vegas man faces charges after allegedly threatening a mass shooting at a restaurant over a “wrong order”

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. We are absolutely thrilled to begin the new podcast and share the first episodes with you. As we plan our next batch of interviews and topics, we want to hear from you. So this edition of 20 Questions aims to pick your brain on what we should explore. If you hate podcasts (or us), we will also be turning some of these episodes into write-ups.

Here’s the link! Have a wonderful weekend.

Last Week’s 20 Questions:

Last week’s 20 Questions were “grab-bag” themed. If there was a choice, we bolded the winner; if the prompt was open ended, we included a few replies per prompt below. Enjoy!

  1. Who's more famous in the US: Zendaya or Clint Eastwood?

  2. Who's more famous in the US: Ben Affleck or Aaron Rodgers?

  3. Who's more famous in the US: Martha Stewart or Jack Black?

  4. What is the most quintessentially American retail chain?


  5. Favorite team uniform in sports?


  6. What's your best coping tool?


  7. What should the speed limit be on an empty, 4-lane highway?

    “75 mph”

  8. What should the voting age be?

    “Voting should be tied to paying taxes not age”
    “25 after your pre-frontal cortex is developed”

  9. What should the drinking age be?

    “If you can fight for your country, you should be able to drink.”
    “You MUST mean alcohol drinking, right? Most babies can drink without lessons or permission at all, so 'at birth' sounds right. Liquor? Supervised 18, unsupervised 21.”

  10. Your favorite thing to wear when you were 6?

    “Cowboy hat”

  11. Any fun plans this weekend?

    “Eat chocolate eggs”
    “First outdoor bike of the season”

  12. A US history event you wish you were alive for?

    “Moon landing”

  13. What's a part of your culture you are NOT proud of?

    “the division and lack of intergenerational communication”

  14. What's a part of your culture you are proud of?


  15. Your favorite when you were 15?


  16. Most underrated pizza topping?


  17. What will the 2 most popular sports be in the US in 2050?

    “Football and basketball”
    “The woke are going to find a reason why we cant do anything. Golf hurts grass, cant race EVs, that would be boring without the sound. They'll wreck our fun, you watch!”
    “Hasn’t been invented yet”

  18. A topic you feel the media doesn't talk about enough?

    “The truth”
    “Normal people”

  19. What's something crazy that's happened to you that people have trouble believing is true?

    “Ugliness of my first divorce”
    “Bed bugs from Disneyland hotel”
    “I made a duck egg hatch in the neck of my turtleneck, while wearing it at school. The duckling then came to school with me for the following two last weeks of school, until summer break (I was 17 and a good student, so teachers were indulgent)”

  20. How do you feel about people who bite their nails?

Final Thoughts

Is anyone else gearing up to witness the solar eclipse this Monday? Our very own staff writer, Alex, is venturing to upstate New York to immerse himself fully in the "path of totality." We expect a full recap we’ll share with you when he’s back!

Meanwhile, the rest of our team will be observing from NYC, which, in a twist, also experienced a minor earthquake this morning. Between all these events, it’s as if our 2nd-grade science class is coming to life…

— Max, Max, Alex and Jen