🌊 Netflix Finally Opens Up

Zelensky’s latest trip to DC, is ChatGPT seasonally depressed? and Roca Reports: The Russian’s aren’t coming

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In today's edition:

  • Zelensky’s latest trip to DC

  • Is ChatGPT seasonally depressed?

  • Roca Reports: The Russian’s aren’t coming

 🔑 Key Stories

Netflix Releases Viewer Data

Netflix released its first-ever report documenting how many hours viewers watched its titles

  • Netflix has faced pressure from investors and film professionals to be more transparent about what is being watched on the platform. It has previously resisted such pressures but is starting to give in

  • On Tuesday, it released streaming data of about 18,000 titles from between January and June 2023

  • Nine of the 10 most-viewed titles were Netflix originals. The most-viewed was The Night Agent, a Netflix original released in March; the most-viewed movie was The Mother, a Netflix original starring Jennifer Lopez. The only non-Netflix original in the top ten was La Reina del Sur, a Spanish-language show. 30% of all Netflix views went to foreign titles

Zelensky in DC

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met resistance from Republican lawmakers while visiting Washington, DC to break a funding deadlock

  • To date, Congress has allocated $111B to Ukraine. President Biden has called on Congress to approve more; Republicans have resisted that, arguing they will only do so in exchange for more border funding

  • On Tuesday, after meeting with Zelensky, Republican leaders mostly reaffirmed that position

  • In a press conference with Zelensky, President Biden accused Republicans of holding Ukraine “hostage”

SCOTUS to Rule on Immunity?

A prosecutor asked the Supreme Court to decide if Donald Trump has immunity from prosecution

  • In August, Special Counsel Jack Smith charged Trump with allegations of attempting to overturn the 2020 election. Trump’s legal team has since repeatedly tried to delay the March trial

  • Last week, Trump’s legal team asked a higher court to rule on whether Trump has presidential immunity from prosecution. That could significantly delay Trump’s trial, though, so this week, Smith asked SCOTUS to directly rule on it. It’s unclear whether it will do so

Sports Illustrated CEO Fired

The CEO of Sports Illustrated’s (SI’s) parent company was fired weeks after the outlet was accused of publishing articles with AI-generated authors

  • In November, tech outlet Futurism reported that SI had published several articles with fake author names and AI-generated headshots. SI claimed an advertising company had written those articles, and that real people using fake names had authored them

  • But the company proceeded to fire three top executives before Monday, when it also fired its CEO. The company claimed the layoffs had nothing to do with the AI scandal

Hear the Unheard

In a groundbreaking development, German entrepreneurs Dr. Marco Vietor and Paul Crusius unveiled a virtually invisible hearing aid that is taking the US by storm

  • Horizon by hear.com are the world’s very first hearing aids with dual-processing, meaning they capture speech and background noise independently to enhance speech clarity and reduce background noise

  • They’re bluetooth-enabled, audiologist-backed, and smaller than a coffee bean. The results are clear...literally

  • hear.com is so confident you’ll love their product, all devices come with a 45-day no-risk trial. They’ve already got 385,000 happy customers — and counting — and their award-winning customer service will help with anything you need. Start hearing the finer things in life with a trial today!

🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Kanye Worst: Kanye West is facing a backlash after donning a KKK-esque hood at a listening party for his new album, “Vultures.” Kanye put on the pointy black hood as the title track played

  • No E3 4 thee: E3 – once the world’s biggest video gaming convention – is done after 28 years. E3 faced competitors, shifting audience habits, and other headwinds

  • Subtle flex: The World Series champion Texas Rangers posted a job opening for a “Trophy Transport Coordinator.” The job entails the safe transport of trophies from one event to the next

  • Sole-mates: Gift all-day comfort and stability to a friend, loved one, or yourself this holiday with Fulton Insoles. Their custom molding arch support prevents pain and feels amazing all day - perfect for anyone who spends time on their feet! Roca readers get 15% off!*

Wildcard

  • Seasonally depressed GPT: Computer scientists are theorizing that ChatGPT may have seasonal depression. Some think its training may have led it to become seasonally depressed

  • Normal plane behavior: A Russian-speaking man flew from Denmark to Los Angeles without a ticket or a passport. The man was apparently a stowaway on the flight

  • Friday night fights: A 17-year-old Texas high school student allegedly beat up his basketball coach after he benched him to cool down

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👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll:

Have you watched The Night Agent?

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Today's Question:

What is the best TV show and/or movie you have seen this year?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

On the drive from the lakeside cottage back to Helsinki, we stopped for lunch in a small town.

When I checked the map, I (Roca co-founder Max Frost) saw we were five miles from Russia. Why not drive to the border and see if we could find some people to talk to?

The area was sparse – rolling countryside and birch forests. There was no one out; just some cows. 

Then a mile short of the border, I spotted a middle-aged woman walking down the street. I pulled over. 

“Do you speak English?”

“Yes, some.”

I told her we were journalists and wanted to learn about how Finns living near Russia felt about the war in Ukraine and joining NATO. She started to explain and then stopped: “Can I get in the car? I’ll show you.”

She climbed in the back and introduced herself as Marjaana. She had grown up here but spent most of her life working in Helsinki. She had recently undergone surgery and for reasons of both money and lifestyle had decided to return to the countryside.

Marjaana gave directions from the back of the car: “Go straight,” “turn here,” “keep going.” After five minutes, we ended up on a road along a field with some cows. Less than a mile in the distance was a line of trees. 

She gestured at it: “Russia.” She told me to pull over the car. 

I crossed the field to a yellow sign on a stick: “BORDER ZONE,” it read.

Standing there, I asked Marjaana if she thinks Finland is the happiest country on Earth. 

“I think so,” she said. 

“Why?”

“Nature, peace, money. We have nature and we have peace. And we aren’t rich, but we have money.”

Marjaana told us to wait and walked down the road and around the corner. Five minutes later she came back and beckoned us forward; we ran up to her. 

“This is the last house in Finland. I asked if they’d talk to you. They’re shy but said they would.”

Their property was split along a gravel road. On one side was their home and a barn; on the other was a barn and a field, a sign in front of which said only those with proper permission could be there. It was a beautiful fall day; totally silent except for the breeze and the noise we made. 

An elderly couple greeted us in the yard. They only spoke Finnish but Marjaana translated. 

Were they scared of Russia? How did they feel about joining NATO?

“We aren’t scared. We can’t live in fear,” they said. “Besides, this is a very safe place now. NATO helicopters are always flying over. Lots of security.”

Marjaana nodded in agreement: “Lots of helicopters.”

The group said they were happy Finland joined NATO. Russia wouldn’t mess with them now, they said, although they added they weren’t particularly concerned about that to begin with. It had been some 60 years since Moscow had tried something on the Finnish border. 

This couple was the only couple that lived in the area full-time, they said.

“Everyone is dead,” said Marjaana. “All the young people have left and the old people have died.” All the homes are now just cottages used by people in cities and towns elsewhere. 

The countryside was isolated and beautiful. It may also be one of the tensest places on Earth: We were at one of NATO’s most remote points, almost as far from its Brussels headquarters as anywhere in Europe. If Russia wanted to probe NATO’s defenses or commitment to a far-flung member, this is where they might do it.

Yet here it was utterly tranquil. Back in the car, Marjaana guided us down a dirt and then a mud path until we reached a place she described as “paradise.” 

My trip continues below.

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

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Do you change your passwords regularly?
Yes: 21%
No: 79%

Yesterday's Question:

Yesterday’s Roca Votes Wrap covered TIME magazine’s person of the year, and we asked you:

Do you like Taylor Swift the person? Do you agree with crowning her Person of the Year? Who of these people/groups had the greatest impact on 2023: Sam Altman; Taylor Swift; Xi Jinping; Vladimir Putin; Joe Biden; Hamas; or Bibi Netanyahu? Who would you have picked as person of the year? Why?

Gabriel from The Netherlands: "I think that it was a stupid choice to pick Taylor Swift: Yes, sure she is successful amongst a community of people in the western countries, but that concerns less than a billion people. Yet 2023 had so many, way more impactful, events in this one year. I can tell you just how much we talked and learnt about the Yom-Kippur War ( shorter than a month for reference!!) 60 years later, we will talk about Gaza in 60 years. Just as how we learnt about various invasions over the past few centuries, we will study the invasion of Ukraine in several decades. So all of these things will be known and studied by every child at the end of the century, yet Taylor Swift will be for sure pretty much forgotten. Maybe people will listen to her tunes just as we listen to Mozart's and Beethoven's nowadays, but I very much doubt that. (Let's be real, even as a Taylor Swift fan you can see that there is quite a big jump in talend and abilities from her to those super stars of composers). People should really get out of their social media bubble, I don't have any social media and the only time I heard anything about Taylor Swift were in Roca Newsletters; I'd say that my imaginary hamster had more influence this year for me personally."

Stephanie from Pawnee, Oklahoma: "Tucker Carlson should be on the cover of Time Magazine. Maybe after he becomes Vice-President he will make it.”

Chum: "AI"

MacGregor from Montgomery, Alabama: “I agree with choosing Taylor Swift, Time Person of the Year. Look at the good that has grabbed the Youth of the world. The prior generation grew up loving Rap, guns, and violence. This generation needed something or someone positive to look up too. Taylor Swift is that positive light.”

Jonathan from Houston, Texas: “Who cares? The credibility and integrity of these news magazines has faded dramatically in my lifetime which would also make their ‘awards’ pointless as well. They are nothing more than biased, political mouthpieces at this point.”

🧠 Intermission

You all sent in an extremely wide array of potential “Person of the Year," ranging from people in your neighborhoods and schools to “Roca Max, you choose which one.” We appreciate the thoughtful and entertaining responses.

We continue along the Russian border in the below Finland installment. Enjoy!

–Max and Max

🌎 Roca Reports

Last week our Roca Reports series moved to Finland to answer the pivotal question: Is it truly the world’s happiest country? The series continues today.

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!

While driving to the Finland-Russia border, I met a middle-aged woman named Marjaana on the side of the road, about a mile short of Russia. She offered to guide me around and teach me about the area. 

After taking me to a family that lived directly on the border, she led me down a dirt path that eventually turned into mud. We emerged onto a small lake – almost a large pond – with a few houses on our side. The opposite side was barren. Orange foliage and white birch trees dominated the landscape. 

She gestured: “Russia. Here, houses. There, nothing.”

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