🌊 Move Over Tesla, New EV King

Gay is out at Harvard, world’s cheesiest pizza, and hopes of Korean re-unification over?

Everyone’s forecast for 2024 seems to be cloudy with a chance of revolution, so let’s discuss some things to look forward to:

The Olympics, a solar eclipse in April, a leap year, movie adaptations of Wicked and Mean Girls: The Musical, sequels to Joker and Dune, a 12-team college football playoff format, Mickey Mouse in the public domain, Indonesia getting a new capital city, NASA astronauts return to the moon, and… the new immersive on-the-ground reporting in the Roca app.

We built a brand new format to bring you closer to Roca’s travels around the world. It’s formatted for our app, but you don’t need the app to read (or share) it. Check out our Ethiopia series — Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 — and let us know what you think!

In today's edition:

  • Gay is out at Harvard

  • World’s cheesiest pizza

  • Hopes of Korean re-unification over?

 🔑 Key Stories

New EV King?

Chinese automaker BYD surpassed Tesla in the fourth quarter of 2023 as the world’s largest producer of fully electric vehicles (EVs) 

  • Founded by a former professor in 1995, China-based BYD initially manufactured batteries before diversifying into EVs in the early 2000s. Last year, it surpassed Tesla as the world’s largest producer of EVs, a category which includes semi-electric plug-in hybrids

  • Then in Q4 of 2023 (October to December), it sold 526,000 fully electric EVs versus Tesla’s 484,500, making it the global leader in fully electric EV sales

  • Following the news, BYD called itself the “world champion” of EVs

House of Champagne

£88,987 ($112,310) worth of champagne was sold in the UK’s House of Lords last year

  • The House of Lords is the upper house of the UK’s Parliament. Its members are appointed, not elected

  • On Tuesday, a politician representing the Scottish National Party – which opposes the House of Lords – revealed that the chamber sold 1,589 bottles of champagne in 2023 for a total of $112,310

  • “A parliament where unelected Lords glug fizz…is not…fit to properly represent the people,” the SNP politician said

  • A spokesperson for the chamber said the champagne was sold at a profit in gift shops or for banquet events

Teen Cyber-Kidnapped

Utah police rescued a 17-year-old Chinese exchange student who fell victim to an elaborate “cyber-kidnapping” scam

  • Cyber-kidnapping involves tricking or coercing someone into faking their own abduction, often through digital means, to extort ransom. Victims usually comply out of fear their families will be harmed

  • Last Thursday, 17-year-old Chinese exchange student Kai Zhuang disappeared in Riverdale, Utah. His parents in China later received a ransom note 

  • On Sunday, police found Kai camping in a tent, where he had self-isolated due to a cyber-kidnapping scam. His parents had paid $80k in ransom in the interim

  • The FBI is tracking a rash of similar scams targeting exchange students

Harvard President Resigns

Harvard president Claudine Gay resigned

  • Gay had faced months of scrutiny over what critics called her failure to combat antisemitism on campus. Amid the backlash, she faced allegations of widespread plagiarism in her academic works

  • Additional allegations were brought against Gay on Monday, and on Tuesday, she resigned

  • Gay’s exit marks the shortest tenure ever for a Harvard president (six months, two days). Gay is the second Ivy League president to resign in the past month amid scrutiny over antisemitism

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🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Ratings Bowl: The Alabama-Michigan Rose Bowl on ESPN averaged 27.2M viewers, making it a top 10 cable telecast of all time. It peaked at 32.8M viewers, more than the 2023 Oscars and Grammy’s combined

  • Last of the lighthouse keepers: 72-year-old Sally Snowman, America’s last lighthouse keeper, retired from her two-decade-long watch at Boston Light

  • Rocking return: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson made a surprise return to WWE at Raw Day 1, where he confronted former champion Jinder Mahal and used his signature People’s Elbow finishing move

Wildcard

  • World’s cheesiest pizza: French chefs set a new Guinness World Record by making a 1,001-cheese variety pizza, surpassing their previous record of 254 cheeses in 2020

  • Airplane Mishap: Authorities said a 30-year-old man died after breaching an emergency exit and climbing into a Delta Air Lines plane engine at Salt Lake City International Airport

  • Time travel hack : Travelers flying from Guam to Hawaii, who expected to celebrate the new year twice, were disappointed by a rare delay that caused them to miss the new year in Hawaii

👇 What do you think?

Today's Question:

Should Harvard’s president have resigned?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

This country says it’s officially breaking up with its neighbor. 

Korea was divided into North and South after Japan, which occupied it for 35 years, was defeated in World War II. North and South Korea soon went to war, and while a ceasefire was reached in 1953, the countries never signed a peace treaty.

That means the Koreas are still technically at war. Both governments have long sought the goal of one day reunifying, but at the same time, remain war-ready.

North Korea – which has nuclear weapons – routinely threatens the South’s annihilation. The South – a prosperous democracy, unlike the North – mandates military service for all people of “a masculine gender” while those of “a feminine gender” may serve voluntarily.

Relations have worsened in recent years, and in 2023, North Korea conducted a record number of weapons tests, including of a new fueled intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). North Korea also put its first spy satellite into orbit and has plans to launch three more this year.

In response to those actions, South Korea has deepened political and military ties with the US, including by flying long-range bombers in joint drills near the border.

On New Year’s Eve, North Korean leader Kim Jung Un threatened to “thoroughly annihilate” South Korea and the US if they were to initiate a military confrontation. He added he will no longer seek reconciliation and reunification with South Korea.

Kim said it “is a mistake that we must no longer make to deal with the people who declare us as ‘the main enemy’ and seek only opportunities for ‘[our] regime collapse.’”

Are the two Koreas officially broken up, or are future amends still possible?

If you have thoughts, let us know at [email protected]!

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Do you make New Year resolutions?
Yes: 20%
No: 80%

Yesterday's Question:

What was your personal top story of the year?

WOW! You all broke the record of replies to yesterday’s question! We’re still making our way down the list and we will feature some of your (amazing) stories this week, starting with Jon from Nebraska. Happy New Year!

Jon: “I began last year with a terrible breakup. We had dated all four years of college and tried to make it in the ‘real’ world but I was working in California while she was in New York and we could not make it work. I tried all the apps but they made me feel worse. And once I quit them, I went to a party with my friend, and the host had her friend from college in town, and when least expecting it, we hit it off. Like hit it off. We’ve now been dating six months and we’re so happy together. And I know now that my college relationship was an amazing experience but not right for either of us but we’ve stayed good friends who continue to support each other. And btw — all three of us love Roca!”

🧠 Intermission

We received lots of positive feedback that you all loved our 2023 Top 10 story rundown in yesterday’s newsletter. We’re excited to keep trying new formats in the new year. As always, our inbox is wide open for ideas.

And now, our Roca Reports series in the Balkans continues below.

–Max and Max

🌎 Roca Reports

Yesterday we began a new Roca Reports series with on-the-ground reports from Bosnia, Serbia, and Kosovo. That continues today. We hope you enjoy!

In 1990, US intelligence issued a warning.

“Yugoslavia will cease to function as a federal state within a year, and will probably dissolve within two. Economic reform will not stave off the breakup.”

The memo continued: “A full-scale interrepublic war is unlikely, but serious intercommunal conflict will accompany the breakup and will continue afterward. The violence will be intractable and bitter. There is little the United States and its European allies can do to preserve Yugoslav unity.”

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