🌊 All Quiet on the Western Farm

PLUS: "Better Call Saul" sets un-Emmyable record

Good morning, Roca Nation.

British explorer James Cook became the first to sail past the Antarctic Circle 251 years ago today. Today, his heroic voyage is used as evidence of a flat earth. The flat-earth crowd argues that if he sailed 60,000 miles over the course of three years in search of the hypothetical continent Terra Australis without seeing anything but ice, it proves Antarctica has a circumference of ~60,000 miles.

What the flat-earth crowd fails to realize, however, is that Cook is just another guy who — even in the face of scurvy and ice storms — refused to ask for directions. He sailed around much more than Antarctica and, in fact, produced evidence of a round earth. But don’t trust us, we’re funded by Big Circle.

In today's edition:

🗞️ Key Stories: German farmers shut down streets

😢 Happy Hour: "Better Call Saul" sets un-Emmyable record

🚀 Roca Reports: Bosnia Brain Drain

🔑 Key Story

Berlin Streets Overtaken

Thousands of tractors clogged Berlin’s streets as farmers gathered to protest proposed subsidy cuts

  • In November, amid a budget crisis, Germany slashed agricultural diesel subsidies and tax breaks on farm vehicles. That triggered weeks of protests by farmers

  • Germany’s government has since dropped its plan to slash tax breaks on farm vehicles and agreed to stagger the diesel subsidy cuts over several years

  • Nonetheless, on Monday, protesters gathered in Berlin, many with tractors, to protest the subsidy cut. Germany’s finance minister addressed the crowd, warning that he “can’t promise” more “state aid” 

🔑 Key Story

Saudi Soccer Scandal

The chairman of English soccer club Newcastle United is facing a $74M lawsuit for allegedly participating in a harassment campaign on behalf of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince

  • Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund, the PIF, bought an 80% stake in Newcastle in 2021

  • Per a lawsuit, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Newcastle and PIF’s chairman, participated in a harassment campaign against a former Saudi official on behalf of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince. That official – now living in Canada – claims he has been harassed and his daughter and son unfairly jailed in Saudi Arabia

  • He is seeking $74M from Al-Rumayyan, the PIF, and others

Cold and Flu Season Made Optional

Getting Found Footage GIF by Eternal Family

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🔑 Key Story

Two SEALs Missing

The US is searching for two missing Navy SEALs who went missing during a nighttime operation off Somalia’s coast on Friday

  • The raid, conducted by Navy SEALs, targeted a ship that US officials believed was transporting Iranian weapons to the Houthis, a Yemeni militia

  • As SEALs boarded the vessel in heavy seas off the coast of Somalia, one SEAL fell overboard. Another dove into the water in a rescue attempt. As of writing, neither SEAL has been found

  • The US seized missiles from the vessel, which it claimed were destined for Yemen

🔑 Key Story

Lost City Discovered

Using laser-sensing technology, scientists discovered a long-lost civilization in the Amazon

  • Decades ago, archaeologists discovered earthen mounds in eastern Ecuador that they believed were built by ancient people. Scientists recently used laser technology to better study those mounds

  • Per a new study, researchers discovered 6,000+ mounds in total, which they believe ancient people built houses on. Those were surrounded by irrigation canals and connected by straight roads

  • Per the study, the mounds were part of an ancient city that was likely home to 10,000+ people at its peak and existed between 500 BC and 300 to 600 AD, roughly the same span as the Roman Empire

⚓ Dive Deeper

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Yesterday’s Poll: What is your go-to security question?

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🍿 Happy Hour

📺 Better call Oscars: After six seasons and 53 Emmy nominations, “Better Call Saul” finished with no Emmy wins. The “Breaking Bad” prequel set the record for most nominations without a win

🦮 Fluffiest fraud:The Guinness World Records is reviewing Bobi’s claim as the world’s oldest dog. Last February, it recognized Bobi as the oldest dog ever, though new findings have raised doubt about that claim

🤬 Pissed off: A couple successfully received a full refund and apology from Australian airline Qantas after spending their Bangkok-to-Sydney flight seated in what they discovered to be urine

🔥 It’s me, hi, I’m the arson, it’s me: A 38-year-old Quebec man who accused the government of deliberately setting forest fires pleaded guilty to starting 14 fires himself

🏴‍☠️ Pirates of the Connecticut Burbs: Police arrested a 62-year-old Connecticut man after neighbors complained that he dug up their yard and accused them of being pirates

👰🏻‍♀️ Wedding crashers: Mexican authorities arrested a bride on her wedding day for alleged extortion, handcuffing her in her gown and taking photos of her surrounded by police

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🌯 Deep Dive

Roca Wrap

You can only win or lose in this archipelago’s soccer league.

The Isles of Scilly are an archipelago located 28 miles miles southwest of Cornwall, a county on England’s southwestern tip. The island chain consists of five inhabited islands - St. Mary's, Tresco, St. Martin's, Bryher, and St. Agnes - along with numerous smaller uninhabited islets. St. Mary's is the largest and most populous, with most of the archipelago's 2,200 residents.

Like the rest of the country, soccer – or should we say football – is the island chain’s most popular sport.

Since about 1920, residents have played in their own soccer league with 20 games per season. Yet unlike most leagues, on the Isles of Scilly, there are only two clubs – making its league the world’s smallest.

The Woolpack Wanderers and the Garrison Gunners fight it out on a local field every Sunday.

Each year two team captains pick their squads for the upcoming season, meaning many residents play for both teams during their time in the league. Typically that process is conducted at a local pub over several pints.

Residents say it is getting harder to field two 11-person teams each season.

The Isles’ population has been decreasing in recent years as many of those aged 16+ continue studies in mainland England, where they remain for better job prospects.

“Sometimes we play with nine a side but tend to call the game off if it’s any less,” one player said.

Nevertheless, the world’s smallest league continues to play on.

“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” another player said.

“The local Scillonian Club always put on a platter of chips and sausages and we go and have a few pints after the match,” he said.

“Some have more than a few, but it’s just a really lovely way to spend a Sunday.”

Let us know what you think by replying to this email!

🌎 On-the-Ground

Roca Reports

Driving through rural Bosnia, you pass one abandoned building after another. Many have bullet holes or the marks of shelling; others are destroyed altogether. Money is one reason the buildings remain so decrepit, but a more significant reason may be that nobody wants them.

Bosnia has one of the world’s fastest-declining populations. Each year, its population shrinks by 1.4%. That has several causes: The economy is terrible and corruption is rampant, so people emigrate for work; people have little money and often little hope, so they don’t have kids; and the country can’t attract immigrants. That means that every year, there are fewer and fewer people living in Bosnia. 

Someone in Sarajevo told me that one of the biggest issues is that it’s nearly impossible to get a job without the right connections. “Nepotism is rampant,” he said. 

When I commented that connections help everywhere, he said Bosnia was worse: This isn’t a matter of one qualified person beating out another because he knows the manager. It’s a matter of someone totally unqualified getting hired over someone qualified because their family does a favor for the manager. He said most well-paying Bosnian jobs are allocated this way, with one exception: Foreign tech companies, which outsource to Bosnia and elsewhere in the Balkans. They’re outside of the Bosnian system, he said, and may be the most meritocratic part of the economy.  

For the Bosnians who leave, Germany is the most popular destination, followed by Switzerland and Austria. Those who can get American visas go there, but that is difficult. Typical German incomes are €2,000 a month, Bosnians told me, compared to €400 a month in Bosnia. Some people get visas to work legally; others sneak in or enter on tourist visas and work under the table.

The declining population is turning swaths of rural Bosnia into ghost towns. 

“This is a dead city,” one man in his 40s told me of Srebrenica. “Everyone gone,” he added in broken English.

Those who had left included his ex-wife, who took his two kids to Germany. When I asked what he did for work, he shrugged: “No work. I’m going Germany in January.” He spent his days drinking at a café. 

Another woman, in her 20s, said, “Growing up here was great. There were a lot of people…Now, it’s hard. Everyone has left.”

Another man, in his early 30s, had lived in the UK and worked as a dancer. After Brexit, he lost his visa and ended up a tour guide at an obscure Bosnian tourist attraction. 

“Everyone leaves and goes to Germany,” he said, estimating that’s where 90% of Bosnian emigrants go. “You make a friend for four or five years, then they leave.” 

When you ask those who’ve stayed why they have, they typically say they don’t want to leave their country, culture, and language. One guy I met at a club in Sarajevo had spent seven years working for a multinational corporation in Germany but moved home because he missed it. 

In Finland, I had met a Bosnian man who had brought his family there as refugees in the 1990s. They proceeded to lay roots in Helsinki, where the man and his son opened a successful café. Still, he longed to go back to Bosnia

“Everyone thinks it’s easier here, but it’s not. After taxes, rent, food, you end up making no more money, maybe just a little more money. And you work a lot more,” he said. When factoring in the homesickness and loss of culture, he said he wasn’t sure emigration was the right move. 

Bosnia is not unique in this regard. Eastern Europe, and especially the Balkans, has the world’s fastest-declining populations. Serbia’s population is shrinking by .9% each year, Croatia’s up to 3%. Each country has towns and villages that have emptied out. 

Yet Bosnia, one of the region’s poorest and youngest countries, may be suffering the worst brain drain. Every day, more people – doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers – leave, and fewer people remain to help the country prosper. 

Let us know what you think at [email protected]!

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The Clubhouse

Question of the Day: Have you been told that you resemble a celebrity and if so, who? Pictures are always welcome!

Reply to this email with your responses!

Yesterday’s Question: What is the best thing that has ever landed in your coffee?

Bruce: “One of my Nana's donuts, long ago. Miss her, miss them.”

Mary Anne: “Bailey’s”

Olivia: “Just decent robusta espresso in a suitably small cup. No nonsense, no frills.”

John from “Cleveland living in Washington”: “Best was couple shots of bourbon after shoveling snow”

Joi from Philly: “One morning I was out of cream for my coffee.  I cannot drink coffee without cream and sugar.  I thought and thought and then decided to plop a spoonful of vanilla ice cream into my cup and voila the best cup of coffee ever!!”

🧠 Editor’s Note

Final Thoughts

Hope you all are staying warm today. Max F wishes he could trade some of the heat he’s experiencing in Senegal for some of the chill the Roca team is experiencing in New York. By the way, we are still debating how it’s possible that it was raining when 30 degrees yesterday. It usually works the other way around! It snows when above 32! How does it go both ways?

Need a Roca in-house meteorologist ASAP.

—Max and Max