RIP TikTok?

1 US senator (Republican) and 2 House reps (1 Republican/1 Democrat) introduced bills to ban TikTok from the US....

In what could be his last hurrah, Lionel Messi is heading to the World Cup final. The Argentinian star, who once auctioned off a gold cast of his foot for $5M to help Japanese tsunami victims, delivered an amazing, Zoom-stopping performance. He and Argentina await the winner of France-Morocco today. If Morocco wins, we have a surprise for you...

Scroll to Final Thoughts for the reveal.

In today's edition:

  • TikTok on the clock

  • Dog reunited after 7 years

  • The plight of Paul Whelan

🔑 Key Stories

Lawmakers Propose TikTok Ban

1 US senator (Republican) and 2 House reps (1 Republican/1 Democrat) introduced bills to ban TikTok from the US

  • In 2020, then-President Trump attempted to ban TikTok over concerns that it may share US users’ sensitive data with the Chinese government. The Biden administration later canceled that effort, but concerns about TikTok have remained

  • The new bill would essentially ban “any social media company in, or under the influence of, China [and] Russia,” the lawmakers said. That includes TikTok

  • TikTok’s critics claim it gives China’s government influence over US users and access to their data

Dig Deeper

  • Over the past 2 weeks, 6 states — Utah, Alabama, South Dakota, South Carolina, Maryland, and Texas — have partially or totally banned TikTok on government-issued devices; Nebraska also did so in 2020. Indiana is also suing TikTok over a number of data- and privacy-related issues

New Zealand Bans Tobacco for Next Generation

  • New Zealand, which already has one of the developed world’s lowest smoking rates, hopes to have <5% of its people smoking daily by 2025

  • The law, passed Tuesday, essentially bans anyone born after January 1, 2009 from ever legally buying tobacco products. It also reduces the number of places that can sell tobacco from 6,000 to 600, and limits nicotine amounts to less addictive levels

  • The ban does not include e-cigarettes, which studies show are popular among New Zealand’s youth

Dig Deeper

  • “There is no good reason to allow a product to be sold that kills half the people that use it,” a top New Zealand public health official said. “And I can tell you that we will end this in the future, as we pass this legislation”

Musk No Longer World's Richest Man

French billionaire Bernard Arnault overtook Elon Musk as the world’s richest man, per Forbes data

  • Musk, 51, is the CEO of Tesla, Twitter, and SpaceX, as well as a founder of several other companies. He has been the world’s richest man since September 2021, when he surpassed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos

  • But Musk has lost $100B+ in net worth this year as Tesla’s stock — of which he owns 14.1% — has fallen ~60%. Forbes now values him at ~$178B (€167B)

  • Arnault, 73, is worth ~$189B (€177B), per Forbes. He owns a ~48% stake in luxury conglomerate LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton, Hennessy, Dior, and more

Dig Deeper

  • Per Bloomberg, Musk's net worth peaked at $340B (€320B) in November 2021. Tesla's stock price peaked that same month at $407.36 a share; it is now trading at $160.95

US Inflation Lower Than Expected

US prices rose 7.1% in November from a year prior, less than what many analysts had projected

  • November prices rose 0.1% from October, less than the 0.3% increase most analysts had predicted. Core inflation — which excludes food and energy prices — rose 0.2% from October and 6% on an annualized basis, less than estimated gains of 0.3% and 6.1%, respectively

  • Gasoline, utility, medical care, and used-car prices fell from October, while food and shelter costs rose

  • Stocks jumped on the news, amid hopes that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates by less than expected. Higher rates slow inflation but raise recession risk

Dig Deeper

  • Analysts say that some conditions that have contributed to high inflation — supply chain issues, disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine, and pandemic-related spending — may be letting up. Others say it's too soon for optimism

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🍿 Popcorn


  • RIP, Coach: Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach died Monday night from heart complications at 61. Leach was a beloved college coach whose off-field personality was perhaps more memorable than his on-field record

  • T-t-t-t-t-wain Prize, junior: Adam Sandler will receive the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor this spring at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC

  • Lion in the sand: A well-known Los Angeles mountain lion named "P-22" was tranquilized after killing a dog on a walk in the Hollywood Hills


  • Bomb-ception: Movie director Christopher Nolan has refused to use CGI effects to recreate an atomic bomb explosion for his upcoming movie Oppenheimer. He instead has employed real-life explosives

  • Round of a-paws, please: A dog has been reunited with her owners 7 years after running away. Jazzy was found in Florida nearly 800 miles from her home in Texas

  • Davy Jones' closet: A pair of jeans from an 1857 shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina sold for $114k. Auction officials dubbed them the world's oldest pair of jeans

👇🏻 What do you think?

Today's Poll

Do you prefer roundabouts or traffic lights? If you're upset that we didn't say rotary, that's also an option.

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Today's Question:

What's the nicest thing you ever saw a teacher do in school? (Yesterday was the "worst" and we got some stories...)

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

This is part 1 of a 2-part series on Paul Whelan, an American jailed in Russia since 2018.

4 years ago next week – December 22, 2018 – Paul Whelan arrived in Moscow to attend a friend’s wedding. But he never showed up.

Whelan was born in Ottawa, Canada, in 1970, but spent most of his life in the US. With British parents of Irish descent, Whelan has Canadian, American, Irish, and American citizenships. He keeps passports for all 4 countries.

Whelan variously worked as a police officer, in other police-related roles, and for an IT company. He was a Marine Reserve, and in 2003, began serving in Iraq.

5 years later, Whelan was accused of attempting to steal $10,000 from the government and using false credentials to advance in the military. He was convicted for crimes “related to larceny,” and received a bad-conduct discharge. Back in Michigan, he became head of global security for a car parts manufacturer.

Whelan had a known passion for Russia, which he visited for the first time in 2007 as part of a program that let Marines take a break while on long deployments. He became fascinated by the country and visited repeatedly over the following years. He brought his family to visit, learned the language, and made friends on VKontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook. When Whelan visited Russia for his friend’s wedding, he was meant to act as a tour guide for the American guests.

When Whelan arrived in Moscow, a Russian friend – Ilya Yatsenko – met him at the airport. Whelan had visited Yatsenko before and become close with him, even though, as he told his parents, Yatsenko worked for the FSB, Russia’s spy agency.

“Paul was relaxed; he knew this person for 10 years,” one of Whelan’s lawyers later said. “He considered him a friend and so wasn’t expecting a setup.”

On December 28 – the day of the wedding – Yatsenko arrived at Whelan’s hotel with a bottle of whiskey. Soon after, FSB agents stormed Whelan’s room, searched him, and found a flash drive.

Whelan has both said that he thought the flash drive contained pictures from Yatsenko’s vacation, and that Yatsenko planted it on him. Russian authorities claimed that it contained “state secrets,” though, specifically a list of Russian spies. They claimed to have caught Whelan "red-handed" conducting a "concrete, illegal act."

Whelan’s friends and family became concerned when he didn’t show up to the wedding, but it wasn’t until 3 days later, on New Year’s Eve that they learned what had happened: A Russian news article said he had been arrested on charges of spying.

Whelan denied the accusations, as did all corners of the American government. A year-and-a-half later, though, his trial began.

During that, Whelan’s “friend,” Yatsenko, testified against him, saying that he spent years trying to recruit him into becoming a US spy. Days later, the judge read the verdict: Guilty of espionage, sentenced to 16 years in a penal colony.

"Russia says it caught James Bond on a spy mission,” Whelan commented to a reporter during the trial. “In reality, they abducted Mr. Bean on holiday."

Whelan was transported to a prison colony about 300 miles east of Moscow.

The question was: Could anyone get him out?

Part 2, coming tomorrow.

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

🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

What's the proper name for the device that controls your TV?Remote: 91.8%Clicker: 5.1%Control: 4.1%

Yesterday's Question:

What's the worst thing you ever saw a teacher do in school?

Connor from Massachusetts: "In middle school (around 2007), we had an older male principal who, after every lunch, had the popular girls in his office for milk and cookies. Boys were never allowed and it was always a privilege for the girls to go. Looking back, it is so creepy, weird, and would not fly today!!!"

Pat from New Jersey: "My first day of school Catholic kindergarten-my nun teacher showed us around the classroom and presented this large blade paper cutter as a tongue cutter for talkers."

Janie from South Carolina: "In the first grade, my teacher Miss Rose taped a boy named Harold to his chair (both legs and both arms.) His mouth was also taped shut. I was terrified of her and of going to school and always had stomachaches!?! PS — Despite this trauma I went all the way through school to earn a Ph.D."

🧠 Final Thoughts

If Morocco wins this afternoon, we will be there to document the World Cup finals. If they lose...catch us at Applebees for 2 for $25.

The stakes are high....

-Max and Max