🌊 Putting the CIA in China

Cali colleges to pay its athletes? Zuck: I was NOT placed in a chokehold, and the Eras Tour

Last Thursday, President Biden fell on stage during the US Air Force Academy’s commencement ceremony. You’d think such a simple incident would produce identical headlines, right? Wrong, of course. The spin jobs were impressive, both subtle and not subtle. Here are some examples.

The New York Post called it a “hard fall,” while Fox dubbed it a “tumble.” The Post added a second that read “Biden’s falls are a serious issue that may hurt… the nation,” while Fox added one that concluded, “This isn’t fair to anyone.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the WaPo wrote: “As Biden falls, here are other world leaders who have tripped, tumbled.” Reuters’ breaking headline read, “Biden trips and falls during graduation ceremony, recovers quickly.” Ahh, the old “quick recovery” to a trip and fall! And finally, NBC News’: “Biden ‘fine’ after fall onstage at Air Force Academy graduation.” They wanted you to know he was fine before you learned what happen.

This is why we exist: To provide unfiltered facts so you can decide what to think.

This is why we exist. We try to provide unfiltered facts so you can decide what to think.

In today's edition:

  • Cali colleges to pay its athletes?

  • Zuck: I was NOT placed in a chokehold

  • The Eras Tour

 🔑 Key Stories

Secret China Trip

CIA Director William Burns made a secret trip to China last month in an attempt to improve relations

  • Last November, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden agreed to talks in early 2023. The US’ top diplomat canceled those after the US shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon in February

  • Those talks haven’t been rescheduled, and China has rejected offers by the US for official meetings

  • On Friday, it emerged that Burns secretly traveled to China in May and met with intelligence officials to try to reopen “lines of communication.” He is the US’ highest-ranking official to visit China under Biden

Dig Deeper

  • Burns was the highest-ranking US official to visit China during Biden’s administration. He is considered one of Biden’s closest advisors and has previously traveled to Russia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to meet with top officials at politically tense moments

California Colleges to Pay Athletes?

California’s State Assembly passed a bill to require colleges to share some revenues with athletes

  • The bill would require California schools to give athletes all sports-related revenue that exceeds the amount schools made in 2021/2022. That money would be split evenly between men and women, then divided among teams based on their share of revenue

  • All members of the same team would make the same amount, regardless of position or skill level. Players would be eligible for up to $25k annually and more if they graduate

  • The state senate must pass the bill next; the NCAA fiercely opposes it

Dig Deeper

  • Supporters say the bill compensates the athletes who drive the multi-billion dollar college sports industry

  • Critics say it undermines the NCAA’s model and will harm college sports by giving a massive advantage to large schools that can pay more

Mixed Jobs Report

The US added 339,000 new jobs in May, exceeding economists’ expectations

  • That’s according to new monthly jobs data released by the Labor Department on Friday. The US added 15% more jobs in May than April. Many economists had predicted a more modest 190k job gain

  • At the same time, though, the unemployment rate – the share of people who are actively seeking a job but don’t have one – rose .3% to 3.7%. That means a net 310,000 fewer people had a job in May than in April

  • The report led major stock indexes to rise because it suggests the US economy remains strong

Dig Deeper

  • Some analysts said the strong job market may lower the risk of a recession later this year or early 2024. Others warned it may keep inflation high and force the Fed to raise interest rates further

Drag Ban Struck Down

A federal judge struck down a Tennessee law that banned drag shows in public

  • Tennessee passed a law in March banning drag shows in public or anywhere minors might be present. Repeat offenders could be charged with a felony and sentenced to up to 6 years in prison

  • Critics sued, arguing it violated drag performers’ free speech. The state argued drag shows are “obscene”

  • On Friday, a Trump-appointed judge struck down the law. He found that drag performances are “sexually explicit” but not “obscene” under the law, so restricting them violates the First Amendment. The shows deserve no “less protection than political, artistic, or scientific speech,” he said

Dig Deeper

  • A representative of the plaintiff call the ruling “a triumph over hate”

  • A top Republican state official said he was “disappointed” by the ruling. “I am confident…that this legislation does nothing to suppress the First Amendment,” he said. Tennessee’s attorney general said he would appeal the ruling “at the appropriate time”

🍿 Popcorn


  • Elsa hit with blue shell: The Super Mario Bros. Movie has surpassed Frozen as the 2nd-biggest animated movie in global box office history. It has grossed $1.3B worldwide

  • Todd man out: Chuck Todd is stepping down as host of NBC News’ Sunday morning show Meet the Press after 9 years with the program. Kristen Welker will replace him

  • ZZZuck 😴: Mark Zuckerberg denies that he was placed in a chokehold in a jiu-jitsu tournament. The referee told the NYT he heard him snore, but Zuck said, “That never happened”


  • Packed like Sardinians: A small town on the Italian island of Sardinia is promoting its ties to Arnold Schwarzenegger to boost its population. It is the hometown of his close friend and a former Mr. Universe

  • Kick in the crutch: A one-legged British crime boss has been extradited from Thailand back to the UK after 5 years on the run. He will serve 11 years in prison

  • I’m losin’ it: A 57-year-old Tennessee man claims to have lost 60 pounds from eating half portions of McDonald’s 3 times a day for 100 days

👇 What do you think?

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🌯 Roca Wrap

The Eras Tour was poised to be historic from the moment tickets went on sale

Swift was born in 1989 in West Reading, Pennsylvania, about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Her father was a stockbroker at Morgan Stanley; her mother a former marketing executive.

Swift took voice and acting lessons as a child. When she first visited Nashville, at age 11, she submitted demo tapes to record labels.

At age 13, Swift began working with a talent manager.

She modeled and recorded music, and received an artist development deal from a major label. Swift began making frequent trips to Nashville and when she was 14, her father secured a transfer to Morgan Stanley’s Nashville office, and the family moved there.

At age 14, Swift became the youngest artist signed by Sony. She rose through the music scene in the following years and released her first album – ”Taylor Swift” – in 2006. The album spent 157 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart – more than any other album from the 2000s.

As Swift’s popularity exploded in the following years, she became the world’s top-earning performer.

Her tour in 2015 grossed $250M – the highest of any tour that year. Her 2018 tour grossed $266M in the US and became the highest-grossing North American tour ever.

That most recent tour – her fifth – drew 2.9M attendees to 53 shows. But it would prove her last for 5 years.

While the pandemic put future shows on hold, Swift’s stardom soared. Between her last tour and this spring, she released 6 #1 albums. 2 of those albums were old albums she re-recorded after entering a public dispute with her former manager and label.

Rather than harm her brand, the dispute made her fans – the Swifties – even more loyal.

When the 32-year-old Swift announced her new tour on November 1, 2022, her fans were ready. A record 14M people tried to buy tickets on presale, causing Ticketmaster’s system to crash. 2.4M tickets were sold – the most ever by an artist in a single day.

Accommodating all the people who tried to buy tickets would have required Swift to put on 900 shows. The scheduled tour had just 52, all in the US between March and August.

The Eras Tour kicked off on March 17 in Glendale, Arizona, where she broke Madonna’s record for the most-attended concert in US history.

Swift performed 44 songs over more than 3 hours, with songs from each of the “Eras” of her career.

Swift has done 2 to 4 shows every week since, setting records at every venue. She performs 44 songs, 2 of which are acoustic performances she has never performed before and will never perform again.

More than selling out every stadium, she has captured whole cities: Hotels in Houston recorded more revenue during her 3-show stint than they did during the Final 4; in Boston, hotels and commuter trains to the stadium sold out days in advanced.

In April, the average cost of resale tickets for the tour was $1,311.

The tour is on pace to make ~$600M from ticket sales, of which Swift may take home up to $500M. The figure means Swift may be making around $10M per show.

Economists say Swift rode the perfect wave: By capturing pent-up demand among young. Americans who were sitting on extra cash at the end of the pandemic, she maximized her value.

But others would say it’s simpler than that: She’s an icon who puts on a great show.

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

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Better decade for music?
1970s: 48%
1980s: 30%
1990s: 15%
2000s: 4%
2010s: 3%

Yesterday's Question:

Just 20 Qs!

🧠 Final Thoughts

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Have wonderful Mondays. See you tomorrow.

—Max and Max