🌊 No Stockholm Syndrome for Elon

Young Thug trial begins, Sports Illustrated gets exposed and Roca Reports: The Syrian Survivor

28 years ago today, President Bill Clinton made a move that united the country: He ended the 55 mph national speed limit. The federal speed limit began in 1974 as an energy-saving measure. It was particularly cruel that Nixon signed it into law that year, because “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd came out in 1973. Imagine having to drive 55 mph while listening to that guitar solo.

In today's edition:

  • Young Thug trial begins

  • Sports Illustrated gets exposed

  • Roca Reports: The Syrian Survivor

 🔑 Key Stories

Young Thug Trial Begins

Rapper Young Thug’s trial began on Monday 

  • Young Thug, original name Jeffrey Williams, is an Atlanta-area rapper who formed his own music label, YSL (“Young Stoner Life” or “Young Slime Life”), in 2016

  • In May 2022, Georgia prosecutors charged Thug and other YSL members with conspiring to commit crimes in violation of Georgia’s RICO laws. They allege YSL was a violent street gang run by Thug

  • Young Thug’s trial began on Monday. The rapper – who has pleaded not guilty – faces 120+ years in jail. Prosecutors intend to call 400+ witnesses during the trial, several of whom have already pleaded guilty to charges Young Thug is accused of

Cargo Ship Hijacking

A US warship captured five armed men who seized an Israel-linked cargo ship off the coast of Yemen

  • On Sunday, attackers boarded an Israel-owned cargo ship, prompting a distress call. The attackers appeared to be linked to the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen, which has threatened to seize Israel-linked ships passing the country

  • A US Navy destroyer responded and “demanded release of the vessel,” the US said, prompting the attackers to flee. They were subsequently captured

  • After, two ballistic missiles were fired at the US destroyer from “Houthi controlled areas in Yemen”; both missed

Tesla Sues Sweden Over Strike

Tesla sued Sweden over labor strikes that have disrupted its operations in the country

  • On October 27, a Swedish manufacturing union called a strike for ~130 Swedish mechanics who work for Tesla. Other unions, including one representing postal workers, joined the strike in solidarity

  • As part of the strike, PostNord – Sweden’s partially state-owned postal service – is refusing to deliver registration plates for new Tesla cars

  • On Monday, Tesla sued Sweden and the country’s postal system, demanding it be allowed to receive plates directly from the government

ByteDance Out of Gaming

TikTok owner ByteDance announced mass layoffs in its video game division

  • In 2019, ByteDance – the Chinese-based company behind TikTok – launched Nuverse, a video game company. It has since invested billions to become a major video game producer

  • Yet Nuverse’s games have failed to become successes and ByteDance has faced increased regulatory and legal scrutiny in recent years

  • On Monday, ByteDance began major layoffs in its video game business. It now plans to abandon much of its video game strategy

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ICYMI

  • Is “authentic” lowkey goated? Merriam-Webster named “authentic” as its top word of 2023. The dictionary noted a “substantial increase” in “authentic” searches

  • Authors Fabricated: Sports Illustrated employees reported that the magazine has published numerous AI-authored articles under AI-generated author profiles

  • Emergency wing seating: Officials said that a Southwest Airlines passenger opened the plane’s emergency exit hatch and went onto the wing at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport

Wildcard

  • Bless you father for you have sinned: The Diocese of Brooklyn demoted a priest after he allowed pop star Sabrina Carpenter to film a provocative music video in his church

  • Oh happy mistake: A 60-year-old Illinois man who regularly purchases “Lucky for Life” lottery tickets accidentally won $25K a year for life after a gas station clerk gave him a ticket with extra lines

  • Where nightmares come true: California police arrested a 26-year-old man for indecent exposure and being under the influence of a controlled substance after he wandered naked around Disneyland

👇 What do you think?

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Today's Question:

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🌯 Roca Wrap

From the conspiracy-theorist Facebook and YouTube pages of Ingo’s country home, there may be no place more different than Cologne.

Cologne, Germany’s fourth-largest city, is famously progressive. Sometimes likened to Germany’s San Francisco, one Roca reader who lives there called it “the most sexually liberated city on Earth!” Its center is a maze of pedestrian alleyways lined with restaurants, shops, and bars, which stay open all night. The city is famed for its carnival, which is like the German Mardi Gras.

Cologne is also famed for its beer, “kölsch,” which is light and comes in small glasses that are easy to drink a lot of. In Cologne’s restaurants, bars, and beer gardens, servers carry large metal trays that hold dozens of glasses. If your glass is less than half full, they automatically put another on your table. 

Given this party atmosphere, you can imagine the shock after New Year’s Eve 2015/16. 

On January 1, 2016, Cologne police announced that the prior night’s New Year’s Eve street party had been “mostly peaceful” and “relaxed.”

Yet later that day, local media began reporting a number of sexual assaults against women. On January 4, the police modified their statement: “A very large number of sexual assaults” had taken place, they said, with most culprits described as having “an appearance largely from the north African or Arab world.”

On January 5, police said they had received 23 complaints and that their assessment that New Year’s Eve was “relaxed” was “wrong.” The full scale of what transpired didn’t become clear until months later: An estimated 650 women had been sexually assaulted in Cologne on New Year’s Eve and an estimated 22 women raped.

A government report found that around 1,000 “Arab or North African men” had come to the city’s New Year’s Eve street party heavily intoxicated. In groups of between two and 20 men, they encircled women and groped, raped, insulted, or robbed them.

The assaults capped off a year in which Germany accepted 1.1M asylum-seekers. You can imagine the backlash this generated and how it fuelled hostility toward immigrants and support for parties like the AFD.

The last person we spoke to in Germany was Muhammad – a Roca reader who was among those 1.1M refugees.

Now living near Cologne, he told us what it was like to be on the opposite end of the migrant crisis.

This was part 1 of a 2-part premium Roca series. Part 2 is a subscriber-only article, but we’re giving it away to all readers free below.

Muhammad recalls walking down the street in his town in northeast Syria in 2014. He was a senior in high school.

“I was on my way to an exam center,” he said.

“I was walking and singing something, then a black car drove by. After 30 seconds, I black out for three seconds. And then I see that everything is dusted and I’m covering the wound with my hand. I thought to myself, ‘F*ck, this is not happening now. It’s too early to die.’”

Muhammad, 18, had been struck by a car bomb.

“I had a shell in my belly and I couldn’t move,” he recalled. “I begged some motorists to take me to the hospital.”

After a five-hour operation, Muhammad was stable. But his father decided this was the last straw. He began planning to send Muhammad and his 17-year-old brother to Europe.

Muhammad believes he had been caught in the crossfire of a bomb planted by the Syrian opposition to kill “someone in the Syrian intelligence who terrorized the city with his twisted ways.”

Before coming to Europe, Muhammad tried to study in Damascus, a much larger city. But that was also “dreadful.”

“I saw shells and rockets come down,” he said. “And the intelligence and security services there hate the people where I come from. They thank that all of us are ISIS. I got slapped by an officer when he saw where I came from. That was the last straw that broke my back.”

He returned home and set off for Europe on July 10, 2015. He and his brother first had to cross through ISIS territory. He described ISIS as “psychopaths,” and said crossing their checkpoints was frightening. “If you say anything wrong, they will take you away.”

From there, they passed through territory controlled by Kurdish militias and then into Turkey, which he described as “the hardest part, because the Turks hate our guts.” Having reached the Turkish city of Izmir, human traffickers accepted $1,500-per-person payments and brought Muhammad and his brother to Greece.

From Greece, they traveled through Macedonia and Serbia, where they met more human traffickers – who identified themselves as American and Israeli – at a hotel. They brought Muhammad and his brother into Hungary, where they were jailed for four days. They then entered Austria and, next, Germany.

“Life in Germany was hard at first, because no one wants to help single men,” Muhammad recalled. “But we learned the language until we got into universities and work. Our life now is kind of balanced and 100% better than before.”

And if he stayed in Syria?

“Life in Syria right now is a living hell,” Muhammad said. “My family suffers every day, and a lot of people live off the money they get from their relatives abroad. I work two jobs besides studying so I can support my family back in Syria.”

Have thoughts? Send them to us at [email protected]!

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