🌊 Maryland Manhunt

Bizarre death of ex-Maryland official, LA's new tactic for clearing out homeless people, and What is Falun Gong?

Yesterday we took a field trip down to the Manhattan courthouse. We interviewed protestors from both sides, some of whom had travelled across the country to get there. We saw a few minor squabbles, but overall the mood was surprisingly tame. We also heard some "I love RocaNews!" shoutouts walking through the crowd. Unless the voices in our heads were acting up again, we appreciate the love.

In today's edition:

  • Bizarre death of ex-Maryland official

  • LA's new tactic for clearing out homeless people

  • What is Falun Gong?

🔑 Key Stories

Trump Turns Himself In

Former President Donald Trump turned himself in and pleaded “not guilty” to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records

  • Prosecutors say Trump, during his 2016 campaign, paid a porn star and Playboy model to conceal affairs, and a doorman to suppress a fake story about Trump having an out-of-wedlock child. They say Trump violated election laws while making the payments, then falsified business records to hide the violations

  • In New York, falsifying records is a misdemeanor that becomes a felony when it’s conducted to advance or hide another crime, such as violating election laws

  • Prosecutors said, "From August 2015 to December 2017, [Trump] orchestrated a scheme with others to influence the 2016 presidential election by identifying and purchasing negative information about him to suppress its publication and benefit [Trump’s] electoral prospects. In order to execute the unlawful scheme, the participants violated election laws and made and caused false entries in the business records of various entities in New York"

Dig Deeper

  • Trump was fingerprinted but did not have a mugshot taken. After court, he flew back to Florida, where he gave a speech. "There is no crime," he said. "The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it"

Syria Wars Intensify

On Tuesday, the US announced it had killed a top ISIS militant in Syria, and Syria’s government warned of an escalating conflict with Israel

  • Numerous conflicts have been ongoing in Syria since 2011, when the country’s civil war began. Rebel groups, terrorists, the government, Iran, the US, and Israel are all conducting military operations there

  • On Tuesday the US said it killed an ISIS leader who was “responsible for planning ISIS attacks [in] Europe.” The same day, Syria warned of “total escalation” after claiming that Israel had conducted 4 airstrikes in the country in the last week

Dig Deeper

  • In a televised statement, Iran’s foreign minister said Israel is creating “war and insecurity." At a funeral for the 2 Iranians killed in Syria, an official vowed revenge as the crowd chanted, “down with Israel”

Gunfire Ends Maryland Manhunt

After 21 days on the run, the former chief of staff for ex-Maryland Governor Larry Hogan was shot dead during an encounter with the FBI

  • 3 months after becoming Hogan’s chief of staff (top aide) in 2020, Roy McGrath was accused of abusing his office to receive a $233,000 payment from a state agency. He resigned and faced multiple charges

  • Last month, McGrath missed a court date, sparking a weeks-long search

  • On Monday, he encountered the FBI at a traffic stop, where shooting ensued and McGrath died. Authorities say it’s unclear if he died from a self-inflicted shot or shots fired by FBI agents

Midwest Elections

Yesterday the progressive Democrat Brandon Johnson defeated a moderate Democrat in Chicago's mayor election. In Wisconsin, the liberal Judge Janet Prorasiewicz defeated a conservative judge to flip the state's supreme court

  • In Chicago's mayoral race, for which polls showed crime was the most important issue, 2 opposite ends of the Democratic party went head-to-head, and the progressive side one. Johnson, the victor, supported defunding the police; his opponent once called himself “more of a Republican than a Democrat"

  • In Wisconsin, the most expensive court race in US history ended with a liberal judge's victory, flipping the state's supreme court and giving it a liberal majority for the first time since 2008

  • The court is expected to reverse the state's abortion bans, modify Congressional districts, and more

🍿 Popcorn


  • So is a tweet now a bark? On Monday, Elon Musk changed Twitter's logo from the blue bird to a picture of the "doge" meme. The Dogecoin cryptocurrency has since climbed 21%

  • Ana de Armory: The Ballerina, a John Wick spinoff starring Ana de Armas, will hit theaters in June 2024. The John Wick series finale is crushing it at the box office

  • America's fast-time: Aided by the new pitch clock, a full MLB game ended in just 1 hour and 57 minutes. The Miami Marlins pitcher threw a complete game shutout


  • Subprime minister housing: Canada's official prime minister's residence is shutting down over concerns about the number of dead mice trapped in its walls

  • Plz Bach off: Los Angeles is blasting classical music to drive homeless people out of its public transit stations. It is also using floodlights on train platforms

  • Milk-ennials v. Gen Z: Last year, Gen Z bought 20% less milk than the national average. Instead of the "Got Milk?" generation, Gen Z is earning the "Not Milk" generation label

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll

Cooler mythical creature? 🐴

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today's Question:

What’s something you wish were a more common practice in society?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

Shen Yun bills itself as “the world's premier classical Chinese dance company” – but it's banned from performing in China.

That’s because Shen Yun is a subsidiary – “outreach group” – of Falun Gong, its parent organization. Falun Gong is headquartered in a small town in New York. But it’s banned as a “heretical cult” in China, where the organization originated.

Falun Gong emerged in China during the 1990s.

It preaches “qigong,” a form of Chinese meditation that claims to have spiritual benefits. Its practitioners claim “scientific evidence” of the existence of “qigong energy.”

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, qigong exploded in popularity. By 1989, one Chinese official claimed that “one in twenty” Chinese people practiced it. In 1992, one such organization – Falun Gong – became the most popular qigong group.

Unlike other qigong organizations, Falun Gong became religion-like, preaching strict adherence to a “higher form” of qigong.

Its leader became a cult-like figure, claiming the ability to levitate and walk through walls. He also claimed invisible aliens walk the Earth and spread immorality, hate, and war.

By the late-1990s, China’s government began viewing Falun Gong as a cult that threatened its communist ideology.

In 1996, China banned its books; over the following years, it openly criticized the group. In response, thousands of Falun Gong members protested outside of communist buildings.

In 1999, China cracked down on the group. It arrested hundreds of thousands of followers, many of whom were sent to “reeducation camps,” and banned all public worship of Falun Gong or displaying of its symbols. China said the group was “heretical,” “[spread] fallacies,” and “hoodwink[ed] people.”

Estimates vary, but several organizations claim China tortured and killed thousands of Falun Gong members. Others claimed that China also harvested their organs.

A 2006 Canadian investigation claimed that a surge in organ donations coincided with the 1999 crackdown, and that hospital transcripts showed officials promising Falun Gong organs. China denies those allegations as propaganda, but denied a UN team access to verify them.

The group’s leader relocated Falun Gong to the US in 1995, where it’s since set up a number of companies. Those include The Epoch Times, a newspaper known for its anti-communist angle that has been among the US’ fastest-growing news sources in recent years.

Falun Gong separately launched Shen Yun, which is branded as an “outreach” arm of the group. Its performances feature classical Chinese dances that celebrate Chinese heritage and criticize China’s current government.

Since its founding in 2006, the dance troupe has performed in 200+ cities across 4 continents. The troupe holds frequent shows in the US, including at prominent venues like New York City’s Lincoln Center.

Shen Yun’s performances are heavily critical of China’s ruling communist party. In some scenes, communist officials are shown beating Shen Yun members. In 2021, the group started advertising under the slogan, “China Before Communism.”

While the performances are banned in China, their advertisements are hard to miss in many US cities.

Have you ever heard of Shen Yun before? After reading this Wrap, would you buy tickets to see them perform? Let us know at [email protected]!

🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Have you ever been skydiving?

Yes: 14%

No: 86%

Yesterday's Question:

Why do you root for your favorite sports team?

Mike from Buffalo: “I root for my teams because they are a source of pride to our area, Buffalo NY - Go Bills! Go Sabres! They are representatives of our city when they are on the road and are synonymous with Buffalo. Plus, so many of the players give back to this community (Josh Allen for example) or their hometown community (Damar Hamlin for example). These players invest in Buffalo, so supporting and rooting for them is a no-brainer.”

Jonathan from North Dakota: “When I met my wife, she was a Packers fan…Need I say more?”

Helen from Washington: "First of all my favorite team is the Detroit Lions... I root for them because it is a bonding experience for me and my dad. He traveled during the week for work when I was a kid so the only special time I would get with him is on weekends. He still wanted to watch the game so I’d sit and watch with him. We still always watch together. It’s super special to both of us. I’m a major football fan because of it. #restoretheroar"

20 Questions:

Every Friday, we ask our readers 20 Questions and feature the answers here throughout the week. Last week was "Lies Edition": We gave you 20 lies, and you ranked them from innocent (1) to disrespectful (10).

11. Lying about your salary: 5.4

12. Lying about your age: 5

13. “I'm fine” when you aren't: 5.1

14. "Nice to see you" when you didn't want to see someone: 3.7

15. “Lying about what school you attended”: 7.1

🧠 Final Thoughts

As the political temperature rises yet again, we reiterate our mission to be your #1 source of honest information that does NOT raise your blood pressure. We look forward to proving that in the months ahead.

–Max and Max