🌊 New Insects Just Dropped
EU approves 2 more insects to eat, Oscar noms are out! and Roca Roadtrip: Herders and Hunger
Big thanks to all of you who have written in about the Ethiopia Roadtrip series so far. A little over a year ago, it dawned on us that the world's best stories won't come from our living room couches — believe me, we've looked. With these trips, we hope to make your daily Roca newsletter as interesting and informative as possible. Let's ride!
In today's edition:
EU approves 2 more insects to eat
Oscar noms are out!
Roca Roadtrip: Herders and Hunger
🔑 Key Stories
Amazon Launches Drug Subscription
Amazon launched a $5/month prescription drug service on Tuesday
Amazon started selling prescription drugs in 2020. The new plan lets US Amazon Prime members pay a flat $5/month fee for access to generic drugs, which are drugs with the same intended use, quality, and chemical composition of brand-name drugs
The program, called RxPass, covers ~50 medications treating ~80 common conditions, including anxiety, acid reflux, and high blood pressure
Amazon claims the service will on average save users ~$100/year on prescription costs
For years, Amazon has tried to enter the healthcare industry: It purchased a mail-order pharmacy company in 2018, opened and then shuttered a telehealth service in 2022, and is currently trying to buy a chain of clinics for ~$3.5B
Department of Justice, 8 States Suing Google
The Justice Department (DOJ) and 8 states claim Google is illegally abusing a monopoly over digital advertising
Since 2007, Google has spent billions to acquire ad tech companies, helping to make it the world’s largest ad company. It made $209B in ad revenue in 2021, $94B more than the next-largest, Meta ($115B)
The lawsuit alleges that Google “corrupted legitimate competition” by “engaging in a systematic campaign” to control digital advertising
The DOJ is asking a judge to force Google to sell off much of its ad business. Google denies the charges
The suit is the US’ 5th against Google since 2020
"Today’s lawsuit from the DOJ attempts to pick winners and losers in the highly competitive advertising technology sector," a top Google executive said. Google claims the lawsuit is asking it to "rewrite history" and undo deals that were done over a decade ago
EU Approves 2 More Insects
The EU approved 2 new insects for human consumption, bringing the total to 4
Most edible insects have more protein per weight than eggs and meat, and leave a smaller environmental impact. They are commonly consumed in countries such as Mexico or Thailand
In 2021, the EU legalized consumption of locust and common mealworm larvae. It has now legalized crickets and the larvae of the lesser mealworms, too
8 more applications await approval. Still, polls suggest up to 75% of Europeans wouldn’t swap meat for insects
It is legal to consume insects in the US, although the federal government sets specific limits on how much insect or other waste can be contained by products that aren't intended to contain them
~$12.8M Missing from Bolt’s Account
The FBI will help Jamaican authorities investigate a fraud case affecting Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt
Bolt is an 8-time Olympic gold medalist who holds world records for the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m events. He retired in 2017 and is worth ~$90M
Last week, Bolt announced ~$12.8M is missing from his account with a Jamaican investment company. Officials say he’s a victim of a 13-year fraud plot that also targeted the gov’t and elderly people. It’s unknown who is behind the plot or how much they stole
Bolt’s lawyers say they’ll sue the firm Friday if more details aren’t provided
“The anger and unease we all feel have been magnified by the long duration – 13 years – over which the fraud was allegedly perpetrated, and the fact that the [suspects] seemed to have deliberately and heartlessly targeted elderly persons, as well as our much loved and respected national icon … Usain Bolt," a top Jamaican official said
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And the Oscar nom goes to...: Everything Everywhere All at Once led all movies in Oscar nominations with 11, followed by Banshees of Inisherin and All Quiet on the Western Front with 9 apiece
Baby, baby, baby, sold! Justin Bieber sold his entire music catalog for $200M. At just 28 years old, he is the youngest artist to sell his catalog
Dude, where's my car? The Eagles' CJ Gardner-Johnson says his car was stolen after its weekend playoff win over the New York Giants
CSI North Pole: The Rhode Island Department of Health says it was not able “to definitively confirm or refute the presence of Santa” after a young girl requested to have her half-eaten cookie checked for Santa's DNA
Roo'ting for justice: An Oregon lawmaker introduced a bill that would ban the sale of kangaroo parts. It claims millions are killed each year for soccer cleats
Tick tick sold: A British charity raised £10,000 from a Cartier watch that had turned up in a bag of donations from a shop in London
👇 What do you think?
Better "S" word?
If you had to pick a person to represent your generation, who would you choose?
Reply to this email with your answers!
See yesterday's results below the Wrap!
🌯 Roca Wrap
Roca co-founder Max Frost and writer Alex Norris spent 2.5 weeks in Ethiopia earlier this month. Frost will be writing about it here in the coming newsletters; Norris arrived after the installment below.
Driving through Afar – a remote, desert region in eastern Ethiopia – you see a lot of camels, cows, and goats; herders; AK-47s; and little water or grass. That’s a recipe for conflict.
The survival of the region’s people depends on finding grazing land and drinking water for their animals. The local Afar nomads and neighboring Somali tribes have battled for control of the land, leading to death and displacement.
The areas I visited have been conflict-free in recent years, but local authorities still require visitors to hire armed guards. To visit 2 remote places, we stopped at local police stations and picked up a young man with an AK-47 at each.
Near a remote hot spring, my guide assured me there was no risk.
”We used to fight the Issa [a Somali clan]. But we killed them, there’s none left here,” he explained. Nearby, I saw a dreadlocked man resting next to an AK-47.
“Oh, that’s for the hyenas,” my guide reassured me.
A herder with his AK-47, "for hyenas"
We brought along an AK-47-wielding armed guard to visit a group of fishermen at a remote desert lake. In a hut, a dozen fishermen were squatting on the ground, eating grilled fish off a shared plate with their hands; an armed guard stood nearby.
“Neighboring tribes may try to kidnap them,” my guide explained.
Fishermen eating lunch. An armed guard waited outside because of a risk of raids by enemy tribes
Near there, we ran into a group of camel herders. They were on their way to Djibouti, a small country they said was a 2-day walk away, a 6-day roundtrip in total. They preferred trading camels there, they said, because they could sell them for US dollars, not the worthless local currency.
Back on the road, we stopped and talked to a few other camel herders.
2 young men had wavy hair shaped like a rainbow around their heads. My guide explained that that’s what the Afar men do when they are looking for a wife.
We stopped and talked to another nomad. Through my guide/translator, I asked him about the best and hardest parts of his life.
“We have family here, we have a camel here, we have a goat here. That’s why we are so lucky.”
The hardest part?
“We don’t have a job, we just stay here. And sometimes the heat – it can be difficult to live here.”
On the way back to town, we stopped at a local goat market, where my guide was looking to buy a goat for Christmas. His wife was Christian, he said, and Ethiopian Christmas was in 2 days. But he refused to pay the $160 local herders were asking for a goat.
A goat trader at the market
Our last stop before flying back to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, was for lunch at a restaurant near the airport. The restaurant – cement and open-air – was hot, infested with flies, and lacked running water. The grilled goat meat was delicious, though, or so I thought: A day later I threw up 4 times.
On the way to the airport, we passed a depot with dozens of World Food Programme (WFP) trucks. Then a WFP employee was seated next to me as I waited for my flight.
The WFP is a division of the UN that provides food in places that lack it. The employee told me that Semera, the town with the airport, had become a WFP hub for 2 crisis zones.
The main crisis was in northern Afar and the neighboring state of Tigray, where 2 years of civil war had just come to an end. As many as several hundred thousand people there are believed to have starved to death.
The WFP had tried to ship millions of pounds of food to those suffering, but were only partially successful in doing so. Some accuse the Ethiopian government of limiting access to food aid to pressure the rebels to end the war; the government accuses the rebels of attacking aid shipments, making their delivery impossible.
The other crisis was around where I had been, where persistent drought has generated food and water shortages. Many local people now depend on aid from the WFP and similar organizations to survive.
Life in Afar is not easy.
Our armed guard looks out the window in a remote Afar desert
If you have thoughts, let us know at [email protected]!
🌊 Roca Clubhouse
What’s your flavor preference?
Cola 🥤: 74%
Tropical Punch 🌴: 26%
What’s something you had an affinity for as a child that you still have now?
Will from San Antonio: “Cereal...to this day I still love a big bowl of cereal and I always have multiple kinds available in the kitchen!”
Sarah from Paraguay: “I have always had an affinity for reading! As a little girl, I used to get very upset with libraries because they always had a limit of how many books you could check out. I still read the same way even now many years into adulthood.”
Thierry from New York: “Coffee! My mom used to put a splash of coffee in my milk bottle when I was a baby, and I’ve loved it ever since”
🧠 Final Thoughts
Given that today is hump day, we already regret not including more camel pictures above. We'll get to those soon.
We hope you have great Wednesdays. We appreciate you reading Roca!
- Max and Max