🌊 New York to Trump: You’re Fired

PLUS: Desperate DAs of Fulton County

Not a lot of Breaking Bad fans? Maybe we methed up...

The correct answer to the Treasure Hunt was 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, NM – the residence of the White family in Breaking Bad. Congrats to the handful of you who got it right. Clue explanations are below.

We’re ditching the TV fictional address thing for this week’s Treasure Hunt, so you can hold off on the “124 Conch Street, Bikini Bottom” submissions. Hope you had a great weekend, and let’s talk about some news.

In today's edition:

💉 Findings from largest-ever vaccine safety study

👨‍⚖️ George Santos is suing Jimmy Kimmel

👀 A Very Public Affair

And so much more!

–Max, Max, Jen, and Alex

KEY STORY
Willis’ Affair Testimony

Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis testified about Trump’s election interference case

  • Last August, Willis’ office charged Trump and 18 others with racketeering over their alleged attempt to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election result

  • Last month, a defendant in that case accused Willis of having a romantic relationship with a prosecutor, Nathan Wade, who she hired for that case. The defendant argued that relationship constitutes a conflict of interest that should have Willis removed from the case. A judge will decide if that removal is merited

  • Willis testified on Thursday in front of that judge. She admitted to having an affair with Wade but defended her hiring of him. “I’m not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial,” she said. “These people are on trial for trying to steal an election”

  • She also rejected claims that Wade had paid for lavish vacations for her, testifying that she reimbursed him in cash for travel expenses. When pressed on those alleged cash reimbursements, Wade, who also testified, admitted he had no proof that they had occurred

Dig Deeper

  • During the hearing, a former friend of Willis’s contradicted her claim that their relationship with Wade began in 2022, saying she had seen them “hugging [and] kissing” as early as 2020 – before Willis hired him

  • The judge must now decide whether to disqualify Willis. If he does, the case will pass to another prosecutor, who could modify or drop the charges against Trump and his co-defendants

KEY STORY
Vaccine Study Released

The largest-ever vaccine safety study linked Covid vaccines to some illnesses

  • The study, published last week in the journal Vaccine, investigated 13 medical conditions in 99M individuals vaccinated against Covid. The study found that mRNA vaccines – those created by Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna – were associated with higher-than-expected heart inflammation rates. Researchers also found a statistically significant link between an Oxford-developed Covid vaccine and a neurological disorder that can lead to paralysis

  • The study found a correlation between the vaccines and health issues but didn’t determine that the vaccines caused those issues

Dig Deeper

  • Nearly 14B vaccines have been administered globally since the outbreak of the pandemic

  • The researchers reached their conclusions by calculating expected rates of all 13 medical conditions from pre-Covid data and then comparing those to actual observed rates

KEY STORY
Russia Takes Avdiivka

Ukraine withdrew from the heavily contested city of Avdiivka, handing Russia its first victory in months

  • Russia had been trying to seize Avdiivka, a city in eastern Ukraine with a prewar population of 31,000, since October. Both sides poured thousands of troops into the battle

  • In recent weeks, superior manpower and artillery enabled Russia to make advances. On Saturday, Ukraine’s commander-in-chief announced Ukraine’s withdrawal from the city, citing his desire to “preserve the lives and health of servicemen”

  • Russia claimed a major victory; the Biden administration blamed the loss on Republicans, claiming that Ukraine lost the battle because of a lack of Western aid, especially ammunition

Dig Deeper

  • “This is the cost of congressional inaction,” a spokeswoman for the National Security Council said. “The Ukrainians continue to fight bravely, but they are running low on supplies”

  • Analysts say Avdiivka has little strategic value to the overall war effort. However, Russia’s victory will likely give it a morale boost

SPONSORED
Your Hydration Hack

Electrolytes unlock energy. Yet so many electrolyte replacement drinks are filled with ingredients that are bad for your health. LMNT is a tasty electrolyte drink mix that replaces vital electrolytes without the sugar and other dodgy additions

  • Each stick pack contains an optimal ratio of electrolytes, minus the sugar rush, artificial rainbows, or those ingredients you can’t pronounce

  • LMNT was born from the growing body of research that shows optimal health occurs at sodium levels 2-3x government recommendations

  • It’s the perfect morning staple for anyone on a mission to restore health through hydration, whether a US Olympian, or someone just trying to ward off a weekend hangover

Dig Deeper

KEY STORY
Trump’s Fraud Fine

A New York judge fined Donald Trump $355M and banned him from serving as the executive of any New York-based company for 3 years

  • The fine came months after the judge found Trump liable for fraud by artificially inflating the value of his assets

  • The ruling bars Trump from serving as an executive of any New York company for 3 years, and two of his sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., for 2

  • Trump is also barred from applying for loans from financial institutions registered in or based out of NY (most large banks), and the court will install an independent officer to monitor his company

Dig Deeper

  • The punishments will make it far more difficult for the Trump Organization – which owns, manages, and develops real estate, including in New York – to do business

  • Trump testified last year that he had $400M in cash on hand, but it’s unclear if he will be able to pay the fine without selling assets. The fine includes added interest, and Trump already owes $83M over a defamation case brought against him by columnist E. Jean Carroll

RUNDOWN
Some Quick Stories for the Office

💳 Capital One announced a deal to acquire credit card company Discover for $35.3B. Capital One’s CEO said the move is intended to create "a payments network that can compete with the largest payments networks and payments companies” 

🇮🇱 Israel’s economy contracted at an annualized rate of 19.4% over the fourth quarter of 2023, new data show. Net imports have fallen 42% and exports 18% as many Israeli industries have come to a halt

🇨🇳 FBI Director Christopher Wray said Chinese cyberattacks are at “a scale greater than [we have ever] seen before” — the latest in a series of warnings by US officials about China’s ability to hack critical infrastructure

🇷🇺 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s staff say Russian authorities refuse to reveal the location of Navalny’s body. Navalny’s wife pledged to continue her late husband’s fight for a “free, peaceful, happy Russia, a beautiful Russia of the future, which my husband dreamed of”

󠁵󠁳󠁫󠁳🚓 Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry (R) declared a state of emergency over a police shortage in the state. Many states have seen a surge in retirements and resignations since 2020, something blamed on both the pandemic and criticism of the police George Floyd’s murder

🇲🇽 The Mexican Army killed 12 cartel gunmen near the border with Texas, Mexican authorities said Sunday. The confrontation occurred in a town adjacent to the US-Mexico border where rival cartels have vied for control

🦒 Set off on an unforgettable journey through Africa with Indus Travels' exclusive tours! Explore Kenya and Tanzania's untamed wilderness on thrilling safaris. Discover Nairobi's vibrant cityscape and the picturesque landscapes of Lake Nakuru and Arusha. From the Serengeti to Mount Kilimanjaro, experience an adventure like no other. Book now to save up to $250pp with air*

*Sponsored content

COMMUNITY
Weekly Debate

Most news companies repress ideas they don’t agree with. We are different. To prove it, we’re making this a place where people can have a free and open debate. Each week we lay out a debate on Monday and feature responses below, replies to those the following day, and so on.

Read this week’s Roca Votes Wrap below and then let us know: Should the president have to undergo an annual cognitive exam?

In a related poll, we ask:

Today's Poll:

Should there be an age limit for politicians?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

COMMUNITY
Treasure Hunt

Welcome to the weekly Roca treasure hunt! The rules are simple:

  • Every day we give a hint. You get one guess, which you submit by emailing [email protected] with a Google street view screenshot

  • Unlock an extra hint each Thursday once you refer five friends

  • The first person to guess the answer wins this week’s prize: A free year of Roca premium!

Clue 1: Distillery’s yield but not a peak

Congratulations to Roca Reader Mike for being the first to correctly guess 308 Negra Arroyo Lane (Breaking Bad’s White Residence) as last week’s Treasure Hunt location.

Clue 1: Bill opened his window for the first time: Albuquerque is where Microsoft was founded

Clue 2: But it wasn't his window that got the diagnosis: The plot of Breaking Bad kicks off with Walter White's lung cancer diagnosis. Double entendres on window and diagnosis here

Clue 3: C6H12O6: Walt was a chemistry teacher

Clue 4: A fateful find for a toilet read: The turning point in the final season was when Walter White’s brother-in-law Hank, a DEA official, saw an inscription in a book on top of the toilet that linked Walt to the meth empire

Clue 5: White makes blue: Walter White's meth was distinctive for being blue

Know the answer? Send a street view screenshot to [email protected]!

POPCORN
Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

☕️ Brewtal firing: A Japanese high school principal lost his job and teaching license after a convenience store worker caught him selecting a large coffee from a self-service machine despite paying for a regular

🐊 Make it rain on them gators: A Nebraska zoo warned visitors against tossing coins into exhibits after workers removed 70 US coins from the stomach of a white American alligator named Thibodaux

👨‍⚖️ Santos v. Kimmel: Expelled US representative George Santos filed a lawsuit against late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel for tricking him into making Cameo videos that Kimmel then mocked on his show

Full video here… what did he do to deserve this?

⚾️ Foul play: Pitchers hit Sacramento State baseball player Matt Masciangelo eight times in nine plate appearances over the weekend. The pitches did not appear to be intentional

🚊 New York, New York: Images from a social media account allegedly show three subway surfers on top of NYC’s 7 train with two men who “appear to be having sex”

🚔 One final heist, boys? Italian police arrested a gang of six robbers in their 60s and 70s that was known for robbing post offices. The gang allegedly stole ~$215K from a post office last year

ON-THE-GROUND
Roca in Serbia

We send our co-founder Max Frost to investigate topics around the world and he writes about them here. He’s currently writing from Serbia. Subscribers receive the full stories.

There’s a stereotype about the Balkans – that people there hate each other. The “powder keg of Europe,” a place where “ethnic cleansing” is a term that’s casually tossed around. 

While an oversimplification, that stereotype is based in truth. Talk to enough people and, indeed, you learn many groups have problems with many others. In Bosnia and Croatia, the group people talk about the most are Serbs. 

In Bosnia, people told me Serbs are brainwashed, hyper-nationalistic killers. One man likened them to crocodiles. “Their brains haven’t evolved in millions of years! All they know is eat, sleep, f*ck.”

In Croatia, I was told that they are only good at one thing: “War crimes.” Another person added that Croatia is a liberal modern country while Serbia is an authoritarian backwards one. 

In Kosovo, where I went later in the trip, people called Serbs killers, terrorists, fascists – you name it. 

But who are the Serbs? After hearing so many people slander them, I decided to visit Serbia to get my own impression. I wanted to understand: How did Serbs see the world? What did they have to say about their neighbors? Were they misunderstood?

With that in mind, I set off for Serbia with one goal: Meet as many Serbs as possible. 

***

Ahead of the trip, I posted on Instagram, “Do we have any followers in Serbia or Kosovo? We are reporting there and want to get local perspectives.”

For context, Kosovo – with US backing – seceded from Serbia in 2008. The US and many other countries consider it independent; Serbia and many others do not.

The responses to the prompt were enlightening. 

“There is no value in the opinion of Serbs, their whole logic is: where there is one Serb, there is Serbia.”

“KOSOVO JE SRCE SRIBJE” – “KOSOVO IS THE HEART OF SERBIA”

“I don’t have much political info but I have to warn you. Our people are biased. All of Balkan is. Watch out”

“I’m from Bosnia all Serbs will do is throw a bitch fit over ottoman oppression. It’s all chauvinistic bs”

“Kosovo, make sure you report for our side properly. We were victims of the Serbian regime”

“Kosovo is Serbia !!! 🇷🇸🇷🇸🇷🇸

“Why mention Serbia twice? Kosovo is already Serbia”

“Yes! Kosovo is Serbia!!! 🇷🇸 💪

“You are entering a world of pain 😂

You get the point.

From the hundreds of responses – most of which were less nationalistic than the ones above – I lined up 10 Roca readers to interview in the country. With the goal of understanding Serbia and the Serb people, I headed to the border.

Reply to this email to let us know what you think!

ROCA VOTES
Is Your President Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

We founded RocaNews because we wanted news companies to give us just the facts – not tell us what to think. That inspires us each week to do the “Roca Votes” Wrap, in which we summarize a controversial topic and see how Roca Nation feels about it. Subscribers get full access.

In 2020, Donald Trump and Joe Biden became their parties’ oldest candidates in history. Now, Trump, 77, and Biden, 81, are on track to do it again. In light of the recent DoJ report on Biden’s memory and repeated gaffes by both candidates, we ask: Should they have to take cognitive tests?

A recent ABC/Ipsos poll finds that 59% of Americans think both Biden and Trump are too old. Among Independents, 91% think Biden is too old to be president, while 71% say the same of Trump.

To put their ages into context, Bill Clinton, whose second inauguration was in 1997, is younger than both candidates. President George W Bush, whose second inauguration was in 2005, is also younger than both (although was born within a month of Trump).

Last year, GOP candidate Nikki Haley called for a competency test for all candidates over 75.

"The test I’m proposing for Sen. Feinstein, President Biden and others is not complicated or difficult. The Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test is a widely used tool for detecting cognitive decline," Haley wrote last year.

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test requires you to repeat words and subtract 7 from 100 until you reach 65. In 2020, Donald Trump claimed to have aced it.

Haley’s proposal made headlines again this week, following special counsel Robert Hur’s DoJ report that claimed Biden couldn’t remember the year his son Beau died or exactly when he was Vice President.

The evening of the report’s release, Biden held a press conference to deny these findings – only to mix up the leaders of Mexico and Egypt and forget where the rosary his son Beau gave him was from.

Trump, meanwhile, recently confused Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi, called Victor Orbán the leader of Turkey (instead of Hungary), and said Biden would lead us into “World War 2.”

Biden’s press secretary announced this week that the president’s physician will not conduct a cognitive test on Biden this year.

“The president proves every day [in] how he operates and how he thinks,” she said. “That is how [his physician] sees it, and that is how I’m going to leave it”

She added that the special prosecutor is “not a medical doctor….It’s not for him to speak to [Biden’s mental acuity]. It’s just not.”

Some – including Bernie Sanders, 82 – have argued that competency tests for older politicians are “ageist”

According to its legal definition, age discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of their age

Yet that means that a majority of Americans are ageist: A recent CBS News/YouGov poll found that 76% of Americans – up from 58% in January 2022 – either strongly support or somewhat support an age limit on elected officials

Haley’s proposal would not bar candidates from office.

According to her, the test is to see if “those who are making major decisions about war and peace, taxation and budgets, schools and safety, can pass a very basic mental exam”

Whether it’s legal or not, most Americans appear to want it.

Reply to this email to let us know what you think!

ROCA VOTES
Is Your President Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

We founded RocaNews because we wanted news companies to give us just the facts – not tell us what to think. That inspires us each week to do the “Roca Votes” Wrap, in which we summarize a controversial topic and see how Roca Nation feels about it. Subscribers get full access.

In 2020, Donald Trump and Joe Biden became their parties’ oldest candidates in history. Now, Trump, 77, and Biden, 81, are on track to do it again. In light of the recent DoJ report on Biden’s memory and repeated gaffes by both candidates, we ask: Should they have to take cognitive tests?

A recent ABC/Ipsos poll finds that 59% of Americans think both Biden and Trump are too old. Among Independents, 91% think Biden is too old to be president, while 71% say the same of Trump.

To put their ages into context, Bill Clinton, whose second inauguration was in 1997, is younger than both candidates. President George W. Bush, whose second inauguration was in 2005, is also younger than both (although he was born within a month of Trump).

Last year, GOP candidate Nikki Haley called for a competency test for all candidates over 75. “The test I’m proposing for…President Biden and others is not complicated or difficult. The Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test is a widely used tool for detecting cognitive decline," she wrote.

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test requires you to repeat words and subtract 7 from 100 until you reach 65. In 2020, Donald Trump claimed to have aced it.

Haley’s proposal made headlines again last week following Special Counsel Robert Hur’s Justice Department report claiming Biden couldn’t remember the year his son Beau died or exactly when he was vice president.

The evening of the report’s release, Biden held a press conference to deny these findings – only to mix up the leaders of Mexico and Egypt and forget where the rosary his son Beau gave him was from.

Trump, meanwhile, recently confused Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi, called Victor Orbán the leader of Turkey (instead of Hungary), and said Biden would lead us into “World War 2.”

Biden’s press secretary announced this week that the president’s physician will not conduct a cognitive test on Biden this year.

“The president proves every day [in] how he operates and how he thinks,” she said. “That is how [his physician] sees it, and that is how I’m going to leave it”

She added that the special prosecutor is “not a medical doctor….It’s not for him to speak to [Biden’s mental acuity]. It’s just not.”

Some – including Bernie Sanders, 82 – have argued that competency tests for older politicians are “ageist”

According to its legal definition, age discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of their age

Yet that means that a majority of Americans are ageist: A recent CBS News/YouGov poll found that 76% of Americans – up from 58% in January 2022 – either strongly support or somewhat support an age limit on elected officials

Haley’s proposal would not bar candidates from office.

According to her, the test is to see if “those who are making major decisions about war and peace, taxation and budgets, schools and safety, can pass a very basic mental exam”

Whether it’s legal or not, most Americans appear to want it.

Join Roca Nation

This was an example of a “Roca Votes” Deep Dive. Try a free two-week trial for Roca Premium and you’ll unlock:

  • A daily Deep Dive

  • Ad-free newsletter

  • Daily On-the-Ground

  • And so much more!

EDITOR’S NOTE
Final Thoughts

Roca’s Executive Director Jen fittingly spent part of President’s Day Weekend in Philadelphia’s Old City, where she came across Benjamin Franklin’s widely-read Poor Richard's Almanack. As editor-in-chief, Franklin decided to differentiate his almanac from others by including a maxim in each issue, like “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead” or “guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

We hope you enjoy those as much as the folks in colonial America did. And who knows, maybe some of Roca's The Current intros will one day be in a museum too!

— Max, Max, Jen and Alex