• The Current
  • Posts
  • 🌊 “Now Boarding Those with Allergies”

🌊 “Now Boarding Those with Allergies”

Laser that redirects lightning, Worst bet ever? and Live from the Border

Due to a cocktail of bad weather, stretched finances, and flopping New Year's resolutions, a psychologist once dubbed the third Monday of January "Blue Monday." Why he wanted to label the saddest day of the year? We have no clue — maybe he stubbed his toe that morning, or watched a little too much Big News programming...

In today's edition:

  • Laser that redirects lightning

  • Worst bet ever?

  • Live from the Border

 🔑 Key Stories

Laser Redirects Lightning

A new laser can redirect lightning strikes

  • On Monday, an international group of researchers published the results of a study in the journal Nature Photonics that showed it is possible to use a laser to guide lightning

  • The most common protection device today is a metal rod invented by Benjamin Franklin ~300 years ago. The “Franklin rod” is used to intercept the path of a strike and divert it into the ground

  • The new laser shoots high-energy pulses at lightning to redirect its strikes to safe places or nearby rods. It’s ~10 years away from commercial use

Dig Deeper

  • The prototype is undergoing further testing, but the researchers hope the laser, with further development, could help governments and businesses safeguard critical infrastructure including power stations, airports, and launchpads, among other uses

"Now Boarding Those With Allergies"?

Some travelers with food allergies want airlines to give them access to pre-boarding, per the Wall Street Journal

  • The travelers filed complaints with the Department of Transportation requesting airline carriers implement policies, such as pre-boarding access, to protect travelers with food allergies

  • The complaints allege that carriers’ policies vary widely and don’t do enough to ensure safety. Pre-boarding would give passengers time to clean their areas to prevent potential reactions

  • ~30M Americans have food allergies. Allergic reactions account for ~3% of in-flight medical events

Dig Deeper

  • Many airlines are specific about pre-boarding allowances because the time it takes to board an aircraft directly impacts profitability. Flights need to board and move as quickly as possible to maintain tight schedules. Some carriers, like Southwest, let passengers with peanut allergies board early if those passengers notify the airline in advance. The complaints want all airlines to mandate pre-boarding access for all food allergies

UK's PM to Appoint "Free Speech Tsar"

Rishi Sunak, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, is expected to soon announce the UK’s first “free speech tsar” 

  • The role will be responsible for ensuring universities don’t censor academics or visiting speakers for controversial views, and will have powers to investigate universities suspected of censorship

  • The leading contender for the role is suspected to be a Cambridge philosophy professor who has spoken out against “cancel culture” on campuses

  • Sunak campaigned on “anti-woke” policies. On Monday, he also blocked a Scottish law allowing trans people to change their legal names without a medical diagnosis

Dig Deeper

  • While the Scottish law would not apply to England and Wales, Sunak said the law, if passed, would have undermined UK's equality law. As it stands, UK legislation protects people from discrimination, including prejudices based off a person's sex and/or "gender reassignment." Sunak is reportedly planning to make changes to UK's equality law to "make it clear that sex means biological sex rather than gender"

Italy Captures Most-Wanted Mafia Boss

On Monday, Italian police arrested Italy’s most-wanted mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro

  • Denaro is the boss of the Cosa Nostra Mafia, a criminal organization behind dozens of murders, money-laundering, and drug-trafficking schemes

  • Among other charges, he was sentenced to life in prison for a series of deadly bombings in Italy in 1993, but evaded capture for 30+ years. Police arrested him at a private clinic in Sicily where he was receiving chemotherapy under a fake name

  • It’s thought he’s Cosa Nostra's last "secret-keeper,” holding key info on the mafia’s highest-level crimes

Looking for a safe, easy way to beat stress and improve your sleep, focus, and mood? Check out the Apollo wearable!

  • Created in a neuroscience lab and backed by clinical trials, this band uses touch therapy to send soothing vibrations that strengthen and rebalance the nervous system

  • It's intended to support your circadian rhythm, helping build resilience to stress

  • Apollo wearers report fewer sleepless nights and deeper sleep; better focus; and improvements to overall mood and energy. They reported experiencing an average 40% less stress, 25% more concentration, and 19% more time in deep sleep

Dig Deeper

  • Apollo can be worn on the wrist, ankle, or clipped to clothing. It’s unobtrusive and easy to use, day or night. Get 10% off with the link below:

🍿 Popcorn


  • Shooting foul: University of Alabama basketball player Darius Miles and another man have been charged with murdering a woman in a shooting on Sunday

  • Man gets Chargered: A bettor placed $1.4M on the Los Angeles Chargers when they were up 27-0 to win $11,000. The Chargers ended up losing

  • Russia not serving love: The Australian Open banned Russian flags at the tourney after one was spotted court-side at the match of a Russian vs. Ukrainian


  • Mmmm... bribery: A Canadian court upheld the election results of a small-town mayoral race in which one candidate was accused of bribing voters with cinnamon buns

  • Outback Gump: An Australian woman ran all the way across Australia, traveling 3,900 miles in just 350 days. That equates to running a marathon a day

  • Jack Sparrow, this you? A California coin dealer reported that he was robbed of $100,000 worth of rare coins at a convention in New York this month

👇 What do you think?

Today's Question

Do you brush your teeth more than twice a day? 🪥

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today's Question:

What’s the quickest way to offend you?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

Last year, a record 2.76M unauthorized immigrants crossed the US-Mexico border. Roca’s co-founder Max Towey and Executive Director Jen Flanagan visited El Paso, Texas — one of the busiest border cities — to learn about the migration situation firsthand. Jen will cover what we learned in the coming newsletters.

El Paso is the primary migrant entry point on the US-Mexico border. What we learned during our visit, though, was that it was not always that way.


2 main factors are believed to be driving the increase in migrant arrivals to the US.

The first is Title 42, a pandemic-era policy implemented by President Trump in 2020. Normally, undocumented migrants entering the US claim asylum, which protects those facing persecution in their home country from deportation. Asylum-seekers may remain in the US until their case is completed, which can take 4+ years. At that point, they are either granted asylum or targeted for deportation.

Title 42 allowed for the rapid deportation of asylum seekers on public health grounds, and since 2020, it has been used 2.5M times. The Biden administration initially weakened the policy. After arrival numbers grew, though, it backtracked and expanded it.

This November, though, a federal judge found Title 42 unlawful, and ordered the Biden administration to stop using it by December 21. In anticipation, thousands of migrants entered the US.

On December 19, though, a legal challenge extended the policy, leaving the migrants who crossed the border in limbo. Many migrants are still arriving, expecting Title 42 to end or be weakened soon. Others who have been deported are trying to enter the US again.


The second factor is increased arrivals from 3 countries in particular: Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, all of which face major economic and/or political problems.

Until October for Venezuelans, and January for Cubans and Nicaraguans, migrants from those 3 countries were exempt from Title 42 deportation. So many Venezuelans were coming, though – 30,000 in September alone – that the US began deporting them, prompting their arrival numbers to decline.

As that happened, however, arrivals from Cuba and Nicaragua surged. A combined 68,000 migrants arrived from those countries this November. This month, the US began deporting those migrants as well.


So there is more migration to the US, but why to El Paso specifically?

Cartels control most illegal immigration across the US-Mexico border. They work with smugglers to establish the illegal crossings, which move over time.

Until 2019, migration into El Paso was relatively low compared to other border cities. It’s unclear exactly why Mexican cartels have shifted the main entry point to El Paso, but the area around the city is now the most popular illegal crossing point.


This December, all the above resulted in a migrant surge that the city couldn’t handle.

If migrants are exempt from Title 42, border patrol processes them and places them in state-run shelters to facilitate their asylum process. Yet in December, there were so many arrivals that border patrol couldn’t process them all and the shelters filled to capacity. Many thus ended up on the streets.

Migrants who face Title 42 deportation will not register with border patrol, and end up in shelters, primarily operated by the El Paso Catholic Diocese and local charities. This December, those shelters overflowed, leaving many on the streets.

The gap between migrant arrivals and shelter capacity peaked in December. It has since shrunk, resulting in fewer migrants living on the streets.

We were also told that shelters and border patrol accelerated migrant processing ahead of a visit by President Biden last week to give the appearance of open streets.


Still, El Paso remains at the center of a historic surge in migration. We arrived there last week, hoping to learn more about the city and migration.

We had dozens of conversations with migrants, charities, border patrol, lawyers, and locals. We’ll be featuring those here in the coming newsletters.

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

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Are you superstitious?

Yes: 33%No: 67%

Yesterday's Question:

Just 20 Qs!

🧠 Final Thoughts

We are so excited to hear our travels with you in the coming weeks. We learned so much and wanted to conduct the trips in a way that would be most interesting to you. The world is a fascinating place, and the interesting often outweighs the bleak.

Max T is back from the US-Mexico border (still can't speak Spanish), while Max F is still in Africa. We hope all of you who suffered through last night's playoff game are on the mend.

Max and Max