🌊 Mark Cuban’s Last Dance

US suicide rates hit record high, and the most streamed artist is… and Roca reports: Is Finland actually the happiest country?

Happy Spotify Wrapped season to all who celebrate. Unless your only contact with the modern world is this newsletter, you probably encountered quite a few Spotify Wrapped posts on social media yesterday. I chose not to share mine because my high school classmates don’t need to know that my top five most-played songs in 2023 were 18th-century sea shanties.

In today's edition:

  • US suicide rates hit record high

  • And the most streamed artist is…

  • Roca reports: Is Finland actually the happiest country?

 🔑 Key Stories

Mark Cuban: “I’m Out”

Billionaire Mark Cuban is leaving “Shark Tank” and selling his majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks

  • Cuban, 65, is an American businessman valued by Forbes at $6.2B. He bought the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks in 2000 and has appeared as a main “shark” on ABC’s “Shark Tank” since its third season

  • Last week, Cuban said on a podcast that he will leave Shark Tank after its upcoming season to spend more time with his kids

  • Then on Tuesday, it emerged that Cuban will sell his majority stake in the Mavericks to Miriam Adelson, the world’s fifth-richest woman per Forbes

Record US Suicide Rate

Data show that the US suicide rate reached a record high last year, although youth suicide rates declined

  • Per newly-released data, in 2022, a record 49,449 Americans died of suicide. The rate was 14.3 deaths per 100,000 people, the highest figure since 1941

  • Men aged 75+ had the highest suicide rate, at 44 per 100,000. In general, rates increased with age

  • The data also indicate that suicide rates are falling among younger Americans: Rates among people aged 10-14 and 15-24 declined 18% and 9%, respectively, between 2021 and 2022. Rates for those age groups are now roughly at pre-pandemic levels

Indian Murder-for-Hire

The US charged an Indian national over an alleged plot by the Indian government to kill a US citizen

  • In September, Canada’s government accused India of being involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh activist living in Canada. Nijjar had lobbied to create Khalistan, a Sikh state carved out of India

  • On Wednesday, the US charged an Indian national for allegedly hiring a hitman – actually an undercover cop – to kill a Sikh activist in New York

  • The US alleges that an “Indian government employee” had hired the man to organize the killing. He was arrested after sending a $15k down payment to an undercover cop

  • The day after Nijjar’s murder in June, the Indian national reportedly told the undercover US agent that Nijjar “was also the target”

Google, Canada Reach Deal

Google and Canada reached a deal to avert a news blackout on the company’s search engine

  • In June, Canada passed a law requiring Google and Meta to pay news outlets for circulating their content. Both tech companies opposed that and threatened to block Canadians from accessing Canadian news outlets on their platforms

  • Meta has since done so and Google warned it may do so by next month, when the law kicks in

  • On Wednesday, though, Google struck a deal to pay $74M annually to Canadian news outlets, averting a news blackout on its platform. News outlets will split the money based on how many journalists they employ

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🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • King of Games: Michigan’s 30-24 win over Ohio State on Saturday became 2023’s most-watched college football game, averaging an audience of 19.1M viewers

  • Queen of Streams: Taylor Swift topped Spotify’s 2023 most-streamed artist list with 26.1B streams, dethroning Bad Bunny who led for the past three years

  • Elephant of Sadness: Mali – known as the “world’s saddest elephant”died at the Manila Zoo. She lived in isolation for ~45 years

Wildcard

  • AARP’s fallen and it can’t get up! AARP’s website crashed after Rolling Stones tickets went on presale. The Stones partnered with AARP — an org focused on those over 50 — for their next tour

  • “Armless Palmer” gets DQ’d: Canned water company Liquid Death will rebrand their “Armless Palmer” iced tea/lemonade drink to “Dead Billionaire” after a legal threat over the name

  • Junk in the road: A UK motorist spray-painted a penis around a pothole in an attempt to prompt repairs. The city says it has never received a pothole report for that location prior to the graffiti

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll:

Did you google yourself after yesterday's poll?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Thanks to Roca Reader Mike for the suggestion!

Today's Question:

Is your country happy?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

It’s a cold and rainy morning on the tip of the Arctic Circle and I’m drinking a “Monster Freak Shake” at the world’s northernmost McDonald’s.

The city outside is grey and quiet. It’s still September, but it’s just 40ºF and at 9 AM, the sun is hardly out. Could this actually be the happiest place on Earth?

In 2011, the UN proposed a framework by which countries could measure happiness. It suggested countries study how happy their citizens are and then use “happiness” to craft policies that would improve their people’s well-being. In the years since, the UN has produced an annual happiness report, which ranks nearly all countries by the happiness of their citizens.

I knew this index existed and wanted to investigate the country that placed first. I believed that country was Denmark, but I was wrong. As I started my research, I realized that one country was head and shoulders above the rest, having placed first six years in a row: Finland.

I knew nothing about Finland and assumed it was a rich Scandinavian country like Norway or Sweden. As I started to read more about it, though, I realized I was wrong – and became intrigued.

First, Finland is not a Scandinavian country. “Scandinavia” refers only to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Finland is “Nordic,” a term that applies to Scandinavia plus Iceland and Finland. Compared to Scandinavia, Finland was not set up to become the prosperous country it is today. 

The top Nordic power was traditionally Sweden, and Finland was a forested region of Sweden populated by Finnish-speaking people. In 1809, Russia seized Finland from Sweden and made it a province of the Russian Empire. In the 1860s, while Sweden and Denmark were industrializing monarchies, Finns couldn’t find enough to eat: A famine killed 8.5% of them that decade.

Yet the struggles helped Finns develop their own national identity and in 1917, with Russia facing revolution, the Finns declared independence. That – 106 years ago – was the first time Finland became an independent country.

Finland spent the next 28 years fighting a series of devastating wars, but rather than break the country, they birthed it: Finland emerged from four wars a militarized but democratic society that was focused on protecting its people and staying independent. It succeeded, becoming the only non-NATO country to border the USSR during the Cold War and remain a democracy.

Today, Finland is not as wealthy as Norway or Denmark, yet stats show that it’s happier. It’s safe, its people trust the government, and its rates of poverty are extremely low. 

Yet Finland is undergoing a transformation: This April, it abandoned 80 years of neutrality to join NATO. Three weeks later, it elected its furthest-right government in modern history. While many in Germany are scared of a single far-right politician entering the government, the far-right holds 8 of Finland’s 19 cabinet positions.

So how is it that a country went from independence to war to the happiest country on Earth within a century? Were its people actually the happiest? And if so, why is a far-right party the country’s fastest-growing? 

To find out, I set off for Helsinki.

Let us know what you think at [email protected]!

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Have you Googled yourself recently?
Yes: 43%
No: 57%

Yesterday's Question:

Do you think political extremism is a major security threat in your country?

Lesa from Iowa: “Yes, they are getting extreme in both political parties.  The extremes are getting all the attention and the moderates on both sides can't make any headway.  It's become frightening.”

Vonnie from Michigan: "NO! absolutely not. There are a dozen or more other issues that are a far, Far, FAR greater threat to National Security then the euphemistic ‘political extremism’ touted by the current DC administration and the Main Stream Media”

Sandra from Arizona: “Yes! We have our fair share home grown nuts. We also have to be wary of extremist from other countries. Since the US is hated by some & laughed at by many.”

Joyce from Wayne, Pennsylvania: “I think it depends on your definition of political extremism. Is objecting to child pornography and pedophilia extremist? Is wanting your children to study basic subjects like grammar, math and history rather than how to be transgender an extremist position? Is objecting to the complete disregard for the Constitution extremist? You tell us what your definition is.”

🧠 Intermission

We enjoyed reading your responses to yesterday’s question. It was a testament to the diversity of this audience, which is one of our favorite things about Roca Nation: People of all persuasions can agree on the need for enjoyable, non-partisan news!

–Max and Max

🌎 Roca Reports

Yesterday we concluded our Roca Reports series following the rise of right-wing politics in Germany. Today we head to Finland and try to answer the pivotal question: Is it truly the world’s happiest country?

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!

Landing in Helsinki, Finland, you can’t help but think, “They’re onto something.”

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