🌊 No Azkaban for JK Rowling

Plus: Havana Syndrome culprit identified

In 2006, a Coca-Cola employee had an idea to make money.

Her idea? Sell confidential formula docs and a vial of an unreleased Coke flavor to Pepsi. She got in touch with a Pepsi employee named Jerry who said he’d play ball. She gave Jerry the first batch of trade secrets for $75k stuffed in a Girl Scout Cookie box. Jerry then offered her $1.5M for the rest. She was thrilled. The only problem was that Jerry didn’t work for Pepsi – he was a special agent for the FBI. She and her accomplices ended up in prison.

In today's edition:

🪄 JK Rowling not to face charges

💀 Grim Reaper attends funeral

🇺🇸 The Two-Party Trap: Part 1

–Max, Max, Jen, and Alex

KEY STORY

Trump Posts Bond

Donald Trump posted a $175M bond, postponing enforcement of a $454M fraud ruling against him

  • In February, a New York judge ordered Trump to pay $454M for fraud. To delay paying the penalty while appealing the ruling, Trump had to post a $464M bond

  • Trump’s legal team called it “impossible” to secure that amount, though, and last week, an appeals court reduced the bond size to $175M

  • On Monday, Trump posted bond, meaning the state will not be allowed to begin seizing his assets until his appeal is resolved. Trump “looks forward to vindicating his rights on appeal,” his lawyer said

Dig Deeper

  • Trump has also paid $96.5M in bonds for two New York cases brought against him by E. Jean Carroll, a columnist who claimed Trump sexually assaulted her decades ago and then defamed her

KEY STORY

Return of the Gene Editor

A Chinese researcher jailed for genetically editing embryos that resulted in live births told a Japanese news outlet that he has returned to research

  • In November 2018, He Jiankui announced at a conference that he had genetically modified human embryos to make them more resistant to HIV. His procedure resulted in three live births

  • The news shocked the scientific community, which views genetically editing humans as taboo. In 2019, Chinese authorities sentenced He to three years in jail for “illegal medical practices”

  • In an interview with Japanese outlet The Mainichi, He said that since being released in 2022, he has established three labs and resumed work on genome editing. “We will use discarded embryos and comply with both domestic and international rules,” He said

Dig Deeper

  • He told the outlet that his prior research was “too hasty,” but stopped short of an apology or an admission of wrongdoing

  • He said of the three genetically-edited children that they are “perfectly healthy and have no problems with their growth.” He added that gene sequencing shows that there were “no modifications to the genes [of the children] other than for the medical objective, providing evidence that genome editing was safe. I’m proud to have helped families who wanted healthy children”

KEY STORY

Electrolytes 101

LMNT is a delicious and healthy electrolyte drink mix

  • LMNT replaces vital electrolytes without sugars, dodgy ingredients, or gross-tasting flavors

  • Our bodies need electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium, in order for nerve impulses to fire. Every message sent through your nervous system (including your brain) involves electrical transmissions – or nerve impulses – between nerve cells

  • Everyone from NFL teams like the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears to Ironman competitors, diet experts, and soccer moms rely on LMNT as the easiest (and most delicious) way to replenish electrolytes

Dig Deeper

KEY STORY

JK Rowling Won’t Face Charges

Scottish police said they aren’t bringing charges against JK Rowling under a new hate speech law

  • A hate speech law came into effect in Scotland on Monday that criminalizes derogatory comments based on disability, religion, sexual orientation, or transgender identity

  • JK Rowling – a feminist and critic of some trans policies – criticized the law on X, saying it will pressure people to “embrace a neo-religious concept of gender.” She added, “I'm currently out of the country, but if what I've written here qualifies as an offence under the terms of the new act, I look forward to being arrested”

  • Scottish police said that despite receiving complaints over her comments, they won’t charge her under the new law

Dig Deeper

  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, of the Conservative Party, expressed support for Rowling, telling The Telegraph that “people should not be criminalized for stating simple facts on biology”

  • Amid the controversy, Scotland’s first minister denied that the law will undermine free speech. “It is not Twitter police. It is not activists, it is not the media. It is not, thank goodness, even politicians who decide ultimately whether or not [a] crime has been committed,” he told Sky News. It is up to “the police to investigate…and the threshold for criminality is incredibly high”

KEY STORY

Prisoners Sue to See Eclipse

Six inmates in New York are suing the state’s corrections department over its decision to lock down facilities during the upcoming solar eclipse

  • On April 8, parts of the US – including parts of New York – will experience a total solar eclipse, while other areas will experience a partial one

  • Last month, New York’s corrections department issued a memo instructing all facilities to lock down during the eclipse, meaning that residents will be confined to their housing units

  • On Friday, six inmates sued, calling the eclipse a religiously significant event. The inmates – a Baptist, a Muslim, a Seventh-Day Adventist, two believers of Santeria, and an atheist – argued that the eclipse warrants “gathering, celebration, worship, and prayer”

Dig Deeper

  • In their complaint, the inmates wrote, “A solar eclipse is a rare, natural phenomenon with great religious significance to many”

  • New York’s corrections department has not commented on the lawsuit but said it respects inmates’ religious rights

RUNDOWN
Some Quick Stories for the Office

 🚙 Tesla reported its first year-over-year decline in quarterly vehicle sales since 2020, sending its stock tumbling

🇮🇱 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a strike that killed seven aid workers working for World Central Kitchen, an aid group founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, was unintentional

💰 Taylor Swift and Sam Altman were two of the 265 people to join the 2023 Forbes World's Billionaires List

🏀 Iowa’s 94-87 victory over LSU in Monday’s Elite Eight matchup averaged 12.3M viewers, shattering the previous record for the most-watched women’s college basketball game

📺 Jon Stewart claimed Apple asked him not to interview Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan while he was hosting a show on Apple TV+. Khan has brought a series of antitrust lawsuits against Big Tech companies

☀️ This Monday, April 8, millions of North Americans are preparing to witness the total solar eclipse. Don’t forget to order your Solar Eclipse Glasses, offering safe shades for direct sun viewing*

*affiliate link

COMMUNITY

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

This week’s Roca Votes asks: Has sports betting gone too far?

Personally, I really don't care what they decide to do with their money. Sports betting is the same as stocks.  It has discouraged me from watching any sports games.  I'd rather just use an ad-free app (apple games), and use Pi-Hole to block all news sites, trackers, ads, social media, etc.

“Gen-X'er” from Texas

I 100% agree with the sentiments expressed by the Gen X individual from Texas, and this isn't solely due to our shared generation. While I do enjoy watching sports games, I deliberately steer clear of engaging in betting… My primary concern lies in the ramifications of gambling addiction on individuals and society at large. It's disconcerting to think who will ultimately bear the financial burden of such addictions. I firmly believe in the "do you boo" mentality, but when it comes to the adverse effects of gambling addiction, there's a community impact that cannot be ignored

Elisha replies to Gen-X’er

I think sports betting should be illegal.   There are too many ways for corruption to leak in, people with little money to bet get involved looking for a quick road to riches and lose even the little money they have.  Gambling will always be there, so let people gamble  privately.

Sheila from Tucson, Arizona

Yesterday’s Poll:

Who should have the power to regulate sports betting?

Federal Government: 20%
State Government: 50%
Individuals: 30%

POPCORN
Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

🤠 She dodged a bullet: A 26-year-old man faces over a dozen charges for allegedly firing shots in downtown Nashville to celebrate his recent divorce

💀 Funeral crasher: A British woman who recently died of breast cancer at 68 requested that the “Grim Reaper” attend her funeral. She got her wish

✈️ Not quite first-class treatment: United Airlines is requesting pilots to take voluntary leave in May due to Boeing’s production struggles, which are delaying new aircraft deliveries

🏆 Kyle Festival: The city of Kyle, Texas aims to break the Guinness World Record for the largest same-name gathering with its “Gathering of the Kyles”

📺 55 Burgers, 55 Fries, 55 Tacos, One Pilot: HBO has reportedly ordered a pilot for the comedy “The Chair Company,” created by Tim Robinson and Zach Kanin

🏀 ESPN v. Albany: ESPN commentator Rebecca Lobo is taking heat for mocking Albany, NY, during the LSU-Iowa game. Lobo remarked on the air, “By the way, good luck finding something to do in Albany”

ROCA WRAP
The Two-Party Trap: Part 1

Over 20% of Americans may support RFK Jr. Yet because of the two-party system, millions may not be able to vote for him.

The “closest thing political science has to a law...is Duverger's Law,” Dustin Wahl, of the advocacy group Fix Our House, told Roca. Duverger’s Law says that in any political system with a single winner, politics split into two main parties. If you're not first, you’re effectively last, so smaller parties don’t make sense.

The US has a winner-take-all system; many European countries have proportional ones, where winning 25% of the vote wins a comparable share of the seats. Yet while the American system encourages a two-party system, it does not require one.

So why have two parties shared power for 170 years? 

The Founding Fathers famously warned against a two-party system: In 1780, John Adams wrote, “A division of the republic into two great parties…is to be dreaded as the great political evil”; George Washington cautioned similarly in his farewell address.

While those quotes can be misleading – Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia told Roca the founders “weren't thinking about the broader system. They were simply concerned about holding power themselves and minimizing the chance of tumult within the system” – two distinct parties had emerged by the end of Washington’s presidency.

Early American politics were divided between a group seeking a strong government and national bank (The Federalists, led by John Adams and Alexander Hamilton) and another that wanted a weak central government (The Democratic-Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson).

The Democratic-Republicans became dominant before splitting into the Democrats and Whigs. In the 1850s, the Whigs fractured and gave way to the Republicans. Every president since 1853 has been either a Republican or Democrat.

In their nearly two centuries in power, the parties have made it increasingly hard for outsiders to break their duopoly: In Sabato’s words, “When they're in power, [they] do everything they can to make sure they stay in power.”

That’s become especially true since 1980 – and helps explain RFK’s struggles today.

Russell Verney was the chief political consultant on Ross Perot’s 1992 campaign, the most successful independent campaign in decades. He told Roca that RFK’s struggles date to 1980. That year, John B. Anderson ran as an independent candidate. While he won no states, his 6.6% vote share nearly cost Ronald Reagan his majority. That was a “watershed” moment, Verney told Roca. “After John Anderson in 1980, they raised the barriers.”

“Every time there's a successful candidate, like Johnny Anderson, like Ross Perot, the Republicans and Democrats who make those rules in each of the states decide to increase the barriers against competition,” Verney said.

That’s what happened after Perot – a self-made billionaire and Navy veteran – won 19% of the vote in 1992, costing Bill Clinton a majority of the popular vote.

In 1996, the parties excluded Perot from the debate stage, helping kneecap his campaign; four years later, the Republicans and Democrats formalized a rule that a candidate must poll at least 15% across five polls – which they select – to make the debate stage. No third-party candidate has been in a national debate since.

Activists say ballot access is the primary way third parties are excluded from the system. In every state, candidates need signatures to get on the ballots. Each state then sets its own rules regarding signature collection.

The ruling parties restrict who can get on the ballot by limiting whose signatures count, when the signatures can be collected, and how many signatures are needed. They can do so as much as the courts allow.

Larry Sharpe – New York’s Libertarian candidate for governor in 2022 and the head of organizing for the pro-RFK Super Pac AV24 – says “nothing matters” without ballot access.

In 2020, the New York government restricted ballot access rules and made it impossible for him to get on the 2022 gubernatorial ballot. After, he said it became impossible to get media attention, and his campaign withered.

“The Supreme Court has said, literally, the Democratic Party, Republican Party are two private organizations,” he told Roca. “The problem is they control our ballots.”

Sharpe traces third-party candidates’ difficulty getting on the ballot to Ross Perot: “The biggest thing that happened was Ross Perot,” he said. “Ross Perot shook them up so bad, they didn't know what the hell to do with themselves.”

The parties deny that they restrict ballot access for their own interests and claim to be defending election integrity and fighting corruption.

But how does that look in practice? Tomorrow’s Wrap will answer that question.

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

EDITOR’S NOTE
Final Thoughts

Happy Hump Day Roca! We can’t wait to launch our new premium product this week. Stay tuned!

In addition, we’d love to know any feedback you may have on this newsletter. Do you enjoy Roca Votes? What are your favorite Wraps?

Our email is always open for feedback. Thanks for being here!

— Max, Max, Alex and Jen