🌊 Mr. Independent?

RFK Jr. teases big announcement, another concert coming to theaters? and Do Barnacles Hold the Clue?

October is finally upon us. Get ready for 31 days of changing leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, and couples pictures at pumpkin patches with cringe-inducing captions like "Hay, I think I'm fallin' for you." It's also the month for spooky decorations, so we're breaking out the scariest decoration of all this year: A yard sign with your weekly screen time report on it.

In today's edition:

  • RFK Jr. teases big announcement

  • Another concert coming to theaters?

  • Do Barnacles Hold the Clue?

 🔑 Key Stories

RFK Jr.: Independent?

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (RFK Jr.) strongly hinted he will run for president as an independent

  • RFK Jr. announced this April that he will challenge President Biden for the nomination. Per poll site FiveThirtyEight, he has consistently polled around 12-15% among Democratic voters, versus Biden’s 60-65%

  • RFK Jr. remains a long-shot to defeat Biden, though, and polls indicate Republicans’ opinions of him are more favorable than Democrats’

  • On Friday, RFK Jr. released a YouTube video. “I’m going to be in Philadelphia on October 9th to make a major announcement,” he said in the video. “How are we going to win against the established Washington interests?” Several outlets subsequently reported that he plans to announce he would run as an independent

Dig Deeper

  • Last month, RFK Jr. wrote an open letter to the chairman of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) requesting a more “competitive process.” “The DNC is not supposed to favor one candidate over another,” he wrote. Amid that discontent, speculation has mounted that he will run as an independent

Tupac Murder Suspect Arrested

Las Vegas police arrested a suspect in the 1996 murder of rapper Tupac Shakur

  • Tupac – among the most famous rappers of all time – was affiliated with Los Angeles-based gang Mob Piru. On September 7, 1996, Tupac and several associates attended a boxing match in Las Vegas

  • Security cameras from the boxing match showed Tupac and several associates getting into an altercation with Orlando Anderson, a member of a rival Los Angeles-based gang. Shortly afterward, while traveling to a nightclub, a drive-by shooter shot Tupac four times, who died six days later

  • Years after the shooting, Anderson’s uncle admitted to being in the shooter’s car at the time of the killing. In a 2019 book, he also admitted to supplying the murder weapon. Las Vegas police arrested him on Friday for “murder using a deadly weapon”

Dig Deeper

  • Authorities said Davis’ public comments revived the investigation into Tupac’s death. This July, Las Vegas police raided Davis’s home for items “concerning the murder of Tupac Shakur.” Then on Friday, Las Vegas police announced they had arrested Davis in relation to the murder. Prosecutors allege Davis was not the gunman but the “on-ground, on-site commander" who "ordered the death" of Shakur

  • Davis is due in court this week and faces a potential 20-year enhancement for gang activity if convicted

Government Averts Shutdown

The US government passed a short-term spending bill to avert a government shutdown

  • The US government has two spending types: Mandatory (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) which automatically renews each year, and discretionary (e.g., defense, education) which requires Congressional approval by October 1 each year to keep government agencies funded. If Congress fails to act in time, the government could shut down

  • This year, Republicans demanded 30%+ spending cuts, no more aid to Ukraine, and other cuts, yet no deal was in place as of this Saturday. At the last minute, the House’s Republican Speaker passed a spending package with Democratic support which will keep spending at 2023 levels until mid-November but doesn’t include Ukraine funding

  • That angered members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, who demanded Republicans pass spending bills without relying on Democratic votes. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said he will now call a vote to oust the Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)

Dig Deeper

  • "If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it. There has to be an adult in the room," McCarthy said following the vote. It is unclear if Gaetz’s motion would have sufficient votes to pass

  • Democrats criticized the bill for cutting additional funding to Ukraine and mocked McCarthy for relying on Democratic votes to pass the spending bill

  • "We cannot…allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted,” Biden said on Sunday

Bed Bugs Terrorizing Paris

France’s Transport Minister said he would take steps to address Paris’s bed bug problem

  • Bed bugs are small insects that suck on human blood. They are known to live in mattresses

  • France has recently reported a surge in bed bug cases: Per a national health body, 11% of French homes reported cases of them between 2017 and 2022. Videos have gone viral showing bed bugs on Paris’s public transportation and in other city buildings

  • Last Thursday, Paris’s deputy mayor called them a “scourge”; in response, France’s Transport Minister said he would take steps to address the infestation

Dig Deeper

  • “The state urgently needs to put an action plan in place against this scourge as France is preparing to welcome the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2024,” Paris’s deputy mayor said. “No one is safe,” she also wrote on X, adding that “coordinated measures” are now necessary

  • In response, France’s Transport Minister said he would speak with public transport officials next week to “inform them about countermeasures” for the issue. His goal is to “reassure and protect” Parisians and tourists, he added

🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • RIP, Tim Wakefield: Former Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox knuckleball pitcher and two-time World Series champion Tim Wakefield died at 57 from brain cancer

  • And to Robert Wayne Hill: Two suspects are in custody following the fatal shooting of 40-year-old Robert Wayne Lee, a Michigan man known for his efforts to catch child predators

  • Take that, colonies! Team Europe beat Team USA to win the 44th Ryder Cup, a men’s golf competition held every two years featuring the best players from those places

Wildcard

  • “Welcome to the jail cell”: A New Jersey man faces several charges after he allegedly crashed his vehicle into a police station while blasting “Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses

  • All the single tickets: Variety reported that a film based on Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour is in advanced talks to distribute directly to AMC Theatres

  • Attack of the pig: A Texas woman reported a “very large pig” attacked her family multiple times, leaving them banged up and bruised

👇 What do you think?

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Today's Question:

Do you have a theory about what happened to the missing Malaysia Flight 370?

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🌯 Roca Wrap

No one knows what happened to MH370 – but could barnacles help solve the mystery?

On March 8, 2014, Malaysia Flight 370 (MH370) took off from Malaysia for a six-hour flight to China. The plane had two pilots, ten flight attendants, and 227 passengers.

At 1:08 AM, it left Malaysian airspace and flew out over the South China Sea on a course that should have taken it over Vietnam. At 1:19 AM, the flight’s pilot signed off with Malaysian air traffic controllers: “Good night.”

The plane was never seen nor heard from again.

Minutes after its pilot last spoke with Malaysian ground operators, somebody turned off the plane’s transponder. Radar data suggest it then veered sharply westward and gained altitude quickly. Over the following hours, a combination of radar and satellite data tracked the plane heading west, out over the Indian Ocean. The last satellite correspondence with the plane, at 8:11 AM, placed it far from land. Satellite data indicate it entered a rapid, uncontrolled descent and likely crashed into the sea.

An international team of researchers used planes, boats, and underwater drones to search for the plane’s wreckage. Using satellite data, they focused their search on a narrow band of the Indian Ocean – the “Seventh Arc,” as it is called – where they believed the plane had crashed. An Australian commission set up to find MH370 declared the plane “will be found” along the arc.

The problem: The Seventh Arc is thousands of miles long, and despite extensive searches along what researchers considered the most likely crash areas, the wreck has never been found.

The disappearance is now one of aviation’s greatest mysteries, spawning a host of theories.

Some allege hijacking; others claimed electrical failures or hacking. A leading theory is that the crash was a murder-suicide by one of its pilots. Yet so long as the plane itself remains missing, a conclusive answer will likely never be known.

In July 2015, though, a piece of MH370 – a “flaperon,” or a part of its wing – washed up on a small Indian Ocean island called Réunion. The discovery confirmed the widely-held belief that the plane crashed in the ocean or other nearby bodies of water but didn’t tell scientists much else. To Professor Gregory Herbert of the University of South Florida, though, it was a breakthrough.

Herbert is a paleobiologist who specializes in shelled marine animals, like barnacles, He told Roca that the discovery of the flaperon stood out to him for one reason: “[It] was covered in barnacles.” He knew that those barnacles held clues that could help researchers locate the wreck.

Herbert explained to Roca that, much like trees, barnacles grow in layers that reveal their age. Each distinct shell layer corresponds to a specific period of the barnacle’s life. Furthermore, scientists can analyze the chemical composition of each shell layer to determine the water temperature at each point of the barnacle’s life. Therefore, Herbert said, barnacles essentially record a day-by-day log of ocean temperatures, theoretically allowing scientists to reconstruct their drift path through the ocean.

In 2016, French scientists released data on the chemical composition of each layer of a 154-day-old barnacle found on the flaperon. Based on that data, Herbert set out to reconstruct the flaperon’s drift path. His and his co-contributors’ findings were published in an academic journal last month.

Herbert and his team raised barnacles in a laboratory setting to test how water temperature directly affected their chemistry. They identified a “tight” correlation between both variables, he told Roca, and with that data created an equation to estimate water temperatures based on barnacle shell composition. The team then applied those findings to the 154-day-old barnacle found on MH370’s flaperon.

Using their equation and satellite data on Indian Ocean temperatures, Herbert’s team identified a thin band of the ocean – pictured above with the black squiggly line – that precisely matched the barnacle’s earliest recorded temperature. The barnacle – and, thus, the flaperon – must have passed through that band, they theorized.

They then used computer simulations to “drop” 50,000 flaperons onto that narrow band of the ocean and, accounting for ocean tides, simulated them “drifting” for 154 days. Of all 50,000 simulated flaperons, only five – pictured above in the bright colors – had a drift path that matched the temperatures recorded by the barnacle shell. And of those, only one – the blue one – ended up near Réunion, where the flaperon washed up.

Herbert told Roca that the finding confirms that barnacles can be used to reconstruct the drift path of debris. He also said investigators could be looking in the wrong spot: “There’s a chance it’s not on the Seventh Arc,” he told Roca, adding that if that is the case, no existing technology would be able to locate the wreck – except the barnacle method he and his team have pioneered.

The French have placed MH370’s flaperon under tight military control. Based on data released in the 2016 French study, it is known that they possess several barnacles from the flaperon that are older than the one Herbert’s team studied – so old, in fact, that they may have latched on shortly after the crash. That could allow researchers to use the barnacle method to find the crash site itself. Yet the French have not shared data on those older barnacles, Herbert told Roca, and a gag order restricts all of the scientists who have directly worked with it from talking about it.

Complicating the issue is that other pieces of MH370 found over the years inexplicably had no barnacles on them.

“There is no good explanation for why that should be,” he said, adding that even if they were somehow pried off, residue from them should still be detectable. He said he is working “behind the scenes” to try to get access to the flaperon’s older barnacles.

Herbert acknowledged that the barnacle method is unproven, and that there would be no way of verifying its accuracy unless MH370 was actually found. Nonetheless, he expressed optimism that if his team got access to the older barnacles, they could at least give researchers a better idea of where to look.

Anne Marie Power, a professor at Ireland’s University of Galway who worked with Herbert on the study, told Roca she is “keen that the families of the crash victims get resolution to this,” adding, “We will continue working on it.”

Will barnacles help solve one of aviation’s most enduring mysteries?

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

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

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Does the SAFER Act sound reasonable to you?
Yes: 70%
No 30%

Yesterday's Question:

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🧠 Final Thoughts

Who knew barnacles could be so interesting?

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Have a great Monday and start to October!

—Max and Max