🌊 Rock n’ Open Brain Surgery

PLUS: First Malaria vaccine rollout

Why aren’t we named Stanley?

Stanley mania has gotten out of control. For the uninitiated, the Stanley is the hottest — or coldest, depending on your drink — cup on the market today. The 40-oz., stainless-steel drinking vessel took the internet by storm in 2023 and has taken on a life as more than a cup: It’s a status symbol and, in come cases, an emotional support object. Last week, police arrested a 23-year-old California woman for grand theft after she allegedly stole 65 Stanley cups valued at ~$2,500 from a store. Well… now she’s the one in hot water.

In today's edition:

🗞️ Key Stories: Rock n'Open Brain Surgery

🕺 Happy Hour: North Carolina school bans mirrors

🌎 Roca Reports: A Bad Marriage

🔑 Key Story

First Malaria Vaccine Rollout

Cameroon launched the world’s first routine malaria vaccine campaign for children

  • Africa accounts for ~95% of global malaria cases and ~96% of related deaths. Children under five account for 80%+ of malaria-related deaths

  • In 2022, the WHO endorsed the world’s first malaria vaccine, called “RTS,S,” which was developed by British pharma company GSK

  • On Monday, Cameroon – a Central African country – began the world’s first malaria vaccine rollout for children. Authorities are offering the vaccine free to all infants up to six months old and reportedly hope to vaccinate a total of 250,000 children by 2025

🔑 Key Story

Grand Hindu Temple Opens

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over the opening of a Hindu temple on a contested religious site

  • In 1992, a Hindu mob burned down a 16th-century mosque on a site that many Hindus consider holy

  • Many Hindu activists, including Modi, have since supported plans to build a Hindu temple dedicated to Ram, a major Hindu deity, on that contested site

  • In 2019, a court greenlighted that plan; on Monday, the $250M temple opened. Modi said the temple would lay “the foundation of India for the next 1,000 years”; critics claimed it stokes religious tension

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🔑 Key Story

Rock n’ Open Brain Surgery

A Florida guitarist played rock music while undergoing brain surgery, WSVN Miami reported

  • Christian Nolen, a professional guitarist, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Doctors scheduled him for an awake craniotomy, a type of surgery in which the patient is kept awake for parts of it

  • During those operations, doctors ask patients to perform tasks so doctors can monitor their cognitive and motor abilities. For Nolen’s surgery, doctors asked him to play guitar

  • Nolen – who called the experience “insane” and “out of this world” – said he played the Deftones and System of a Down during the surgery. He has since been discharged from the hospital

🔑 Key Story

Exxon Sues Investors

Exxon Mobil sued two investors to block a proposal that would force the company to further reduce carbon emissions

  • Two “activist investors” – investors who buy stakes in public companies to influence their decision-making – backed a shareholder proposal urging Exxon to strengthen its climate pledges

  • In response, Exxon sued those groups, claiming they broke federal regulations and “[do] not seek to improve ExxonMobil’s economic performance or create shareholder value”

  • One of the investors accused Exxon of seeking to “prevent shareholders from using their rights”

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⚓ Dive Deeper

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Daily Poll

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Yesterday’s Poll: Who do you think will win the Republican primary race?

Donald Trump: 83%
Nikki Haley: 17%

🍿 Happy Hour

🪞 Kids these days: A North Carolina middle school removed bathroom mirrors to try and stop students from leaving class to film TikTok videos. Bathroom breaks have reportedly declined since the change

“What could they possibly be doing in the bathroom right now?”

⚽️ It’s just a game: The Guinean Football Federation and national team urged fans to celebrate responsibly after six people died following their 1-0 victory over Gambia in the Africa Cup of Nations

🦒 Safe travels, Benito: A four-year-old giraffe named Benito embarked on a 50-hour journey from the cold, solitary confines of Juárez’s Central Park zoo to an animal park in Puebla, 1,200 miles south

🏀 Green with Embiid: On the 18th anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game, Joel Embiid went off for 70 points, making him the 9th player in NBA history to score 70+ in a game

🔩 Passengers get screwed: Virgin Atlantic canceled a Manchester-to-New York flight just before takeoff after a passenger reported four screws missing from the plane’s wing during a safety briefing

🤘⬇️ Horns down: Police charged four Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity members at Oklahoma State University for unlawfully disposing of a longhorn carcass ahead of their game against the Texas Longhorns

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🌯 Deep Dive

Georgia’s main cathedral removed a painting depicting former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Georgia is a country of 3.7M people in the Caucasus. Formerly part of the Soviet Union, it gained independence in 1991 but has since fought a series of wars against pro-Russian breakaway regions and one war with Russia itself in 2008.

History is complicated in Georgia, with many denouncing Soviet (and now Russian) influence yet others praising it. Confounding its history is the fact that Joseph Stalin – a Soviet dictator who was responsible for tens of millions of deaths – was born in Georgia in 1878. Born Iosif Dzhugashvili, Stalin trained to be a priest before becoming involved in communism.

Several months ago, a pro-Russia party, Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, donated an icon – a religious picture used in Christian Orthodox churches – to Georgia’s main cathedral in its capital, Tbilisi. The icon depicted St. Matrona of Moscow, a 20th-century Russian healer, meeting with Stalin.

Some Georgian nationalists praised the icon as a testament to Stalin’s religious background; others condemned it as glorifying a dictator.

On January 10, a Georgian activist threw eggs filled with blue paint on the icon and then publicized that stunt on social media. That provoked angry mobs to congregate around her house, with some threatening to do “what the state and law failed to.” The paint did not damage the icon, but the activist is currently in hiding due to death threats.

On January 11, though, the cathedral announced that “due to the lack of evidence proving that J. Stalin and St. Matrona ever met, such a meeting has not been included in the canonic text about her life.” It asked the donors to modify the icon to remove Stalin, threatening that if they did not, it would.

The icon has since been taken down to remove Stalin, but is the dictator’s memory still alive in Georgia?

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

🌎 On-the-Ground

Roca Reports

“I don’t even know the national anthem.”

The last people I met in Bosnia were a Roca reader named Dagmar and her former boss, now friend, Milan. The pair – both Serbs – work in sales in Banja Luka. We met at a trendy café with 90s American rap playing in the background and spoke over beers and espresso. 

To both Dagmar and Milan, Bosnia is hardly a country. And if it’s not a country, Milan asked, why should it stay together?

“This is something that was forced to happen, like anything that is a forced marriage, it cannot work,” Milan said. “Do you know of any other warring factions that had a bloody war for four years and then were made to live together again?” 

Milan and Dagmar agreed that Bosnia is cursed because the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war forced the country to stay together. According to them, the US and EU forced laws, a national anthem, a flag, and more upon the country without consensus from its people.  

“I don’t even know the Bosnian national anthem. If they played it right now, I wouldn’t know it,” Milan said. 

Dagmar added, “And you feel nothing about that flag.”

“If the Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks decided to have a flag with a penis on it, everyone would wave it because it’s a joint decision,” Milan said. “But no one cares about this flag because it was forced upon us.”

He continued: “This country is perfect for politicians. It’s like Mecca for them. They can do whatever they want because you have foreigners who are sort of running things, and the politicians can just do whatever they want.”

“They have their own little barns for the people, their sheep. Their own cattle. And as long as you feed them the narrative of lies, of nationalism, of threats from the other side – for politicians, this is excellent.”

Milan likened Bosnia’s politicians to an abusive spouse. 

“They build all their careers in not letting go,” he said. “If you have a husband who is violent and keeps tight on his family, doesn't let go, it doesn't work.”

The “marriage” worked best right after the war, Milan said, when 60,000 NATO troops were in the country and people were doing their own thing. 

“Things were much better than now because there was a bigger division. The country was separated. We all did our things. We had our own passports…Nobody cared.”

“But then, forces from outside, they enforced a lot of these things. By basically forcing a system upon the people – it doesn't work. The more you push, the bigger the resistance.”

Among the policies allegedly forced on Bosnia was a law prohibiting genocide denial. Milan said no one he knows follows that. “I would never call it genocide,” Milan said of Srebrenica. “You can put that on the internet. It was terrible, but you would not call it genocide. Although under the forced law, I cannot say that.”

Milan’s proposed solution was clear: Split the country and let the Serbs and Bosnians go their own way. It’s also a solution that many politicians have floated and that many in the US and Europe fear could result in another war.

“There's a famous Kurdish saying,” Milan said before we left. “May you live in interesting times.”

“Unfortunately, we do.”

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

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The Clubhouse

Question of the Day: 

Yesterday’s Question: Should TikTok have banned Rashid Al Haddad.(“TimHouthi Chamalet”)?

Zach: “I think teens scrolling Tik Tok for hours, consuming useless content and making selfie dance videos is more destructive to society than the pirate kid. The app shouldn’t exist so banning him is moot.”

Michael, age 27 from Georgia: “Absolutely ban him, who is to say he isn’t a pirate or a terrorist with him being on a stolen container ship. Sure let’s give this criminal all kinds of attention and credit just because he might be attractive. That’s the problem with the media and trends. If you’re attractive or have enough money or act wild enough it is easy to become popular and famous for the wrong reasons. With all the drama with Israel and Hamas and the Houthis, this is not what needs to be trending. Its a little funny but alarming when you focus on the fact he’s a criminal and probably a racist, and both criminals and racists need to have their behaviors put on extinction.”

Sheri: “TikTok is not in the business of suppressing free speech unless its something that will not advance their ideology. Let the speech speak for itself.”

🧠 Editor’s Note

Final Thoughts

On second thought, our open rate would probably lower if you got the email from [email protected] each day.

Hope you have a great Tuesday. It’s the day of the New Hampshire primary, so we’ll be keeping an eye on the results as they come in. So far, Nikki is up 6-0 in votes thanks to the Dixville Notch voters who for some reason get to vote before everyone else.


—Max and Max