🌊 Rogan No Longer Spotify Wrapped

PLUS: Baby Shark is more than a song?

¡Important Announcements!

Roca Nation: We hope you all had terrific weekends. To ensure your Mondays do not get off to a dull start, we have some exciting news.

In September, a Roca Reader from Croatia reached out to us to suggest we visit “Liberland,” a self-declared Libertarian country in the Balkans. That led us down a rabbit hole until eventually our editor, Max Frost, became the first journalist ever to be smuggled into the “country.” Today we begin the On-the-Ground series documenting his trip. Everyone has access. We think you’ll love it.

Secondly: We’ve become extremely alarmed with the silencing of dissenting views by Big News. If those companies don’t like someone’s point of view, they’ll simply ignore it. Always a problem, it’s been getting rapidly worse. This has inspired us to launch a new “debate of the week” section.

Today we give a prompt to which you can respond. We’ll include your responses tomorrow, and readers can respond to those for Wednesday, and so on. The goal is to not ask one-off questions, but to actually create a forum for debate. We’re excited to see how this goes.

In today's edition:

🦈 Baby shark found

⚽️ FIFA picks 2026 World Cup final location

🤬 Biden curses out Trump

And so much more!

–Max, Max, Jen, and Alex

KEY STORY
Spotted: First Wild Baby Shark

Researchers may have photographed a newborn great white shark in the wild for the first time

  • While having been thoroughly studied, great whites have never been observed giving birth in nature. Most scientists speculate that they give birth far offshore, but that isn’t certain

  • Last July, a photographer and University of California student caught an unusual-looking shark on a drone camera. The duo researched it and have now published their findings in a paper, which concludes the shark was at most “one day old” – marking a breakthrough for shark research 

Dig Deeper

  • The shark appeared to be covered in a milky substance, which the authors argue was the “intrauterine milk,” a type of nourishment mother sharks feed pups in their uterus

  • In addition, the duo had observed pregnant female sharks in the area. “On this day, one of them dove down, and not long afterwards, this fully white shark appears,” one of them said. “It’s not a stretch to deduce where the baby came from”

KEY STORY
US Strikes Middle East

The US began conducting retaliatory strikes against Iran-backed militias following the deaths of three US soldiers in Jordan

  • On Friday night, the US bombed 85 targets in Syria and Iraq, including logistic centers and drone and ammo storage facilities used by Iran-linked militias

  • The US and the UK then struck 36 targets in Yemen, which it said the Iran-backed Houthis were using to conduct attacks on Red Sea shipping

  • US officials said this was the beginning of an extensive operation. Iran-linked officials warned that the region was on the “edge of an abyss”

Dig Deeper

  • The US had given several days’ warning of the strikes, thereby enabling Iranian troops to vacate the area. While the move was intended to reduce Iranian casualties and therefore the risk of escalation, US-Iran tensions continue to climb

  • Over the weekend, the US’ national security adviser refused to rule out strikes on Iran itself. The defense secretary added, “They have a lot of capability. I have a lot more”

SPONSORED
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  1. Shatter your phone into a million pieces

  2. Block unknown callers – but risk missing important calls from new numbers

  3. Stop spammers from ever getting your number in the first place with Incogni

Dig Deeper

KEY STORY
Wikileaker Sentenced

A former CIA software engineer was sentenced to 40 years in jail for causing “the largest data breach in CIA history”

  • The CIA had identified the defendent – Joshua Schulte – after a series of leaks in 2017.  While in jail pending trial for that leak and other crimes, Schulte began waging what he called an “information war” against the US by using contraband cell phones and burner accounts to secretly transmit more classified documents to WikiLeaks

  • On Thursday, a judge sentenced Schulte to 40 years in jail

Dig Deeper

  • “Joshua Schulte betrayed his country by committing some of the most brazen, heinous crimes of espionage in American history,” a US attorney involved in the case said following the reading

  • In a journal, Schulte had written that his goal was to “breakup diplomatic relationships, close embassies, [and] end U.S. occupation across the world

KEY STORY
Joe Rogan Returns to YouTube

Joe Rogan reached a new ~$250M deal with Spotify that will bring his podcast back to YouTube, The Wall Street Journal reported

  • In 2020, Rogan – by far the world’s most popular podcaster – signed a $200M deal with Spotify that gave the platform exclusive rights to full episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” (JRE), taking the show off its original platform, YouTube

  • The new deal will let Rogan put the show back on YouTube and give Spotify a cut of the revenue it makes there and on other platforms. It ensures that Spotify will keep the rights to Rogan, who is by far its biggest money-maker

Dig Deeper

  • Spotify signed Rogan during a period in which it was spending aggressively in hopes of dethroning Apple as the world’s top podcasting platform. Many of Spotify’s bets – including ones on Kim Kardashian- and Meghan Markle-linked shows – failed and were canceled. The bet on Rogan, though, paid off, helping it dethrone Apple

RUNDOWN
Some Quick Stories for the Office

🕵️ Federal authorities are investigating allegations against former WWE CEO Vince McMahon. McMahon resigned last month after a former employee accused him of abuse and trafficking her to other WWE staff

📱Meta stock jumped over 20% to an all-time high after posting a large sales increase and announcing it would pay a dividend to its investors. The company’s share price is now more than 5x its low point in November 2022

🏛️ At least three people confirmed to Politico that President Biden refers to Donald Trump as a “sick f*ck” behind closed doors. One source quoted Biden as recently saying, “What a f*cking asshole the guy is”

💰 Exxon and Chevron reported their final 2023 profits, which were their second-highest since 2012. The figures were lower than the record highs of 2022, but remained elevated compared to before the Ukraine War

🤕 A group of UK academics said their study found that playing rugby at school constitutes a form of child abuse. They accused those involved with the sport of grooming parents and children to tolerate brain damage

🇸🇻 El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele won re-election. Bukele has overseen a massive crackdown that has reduced the country’s murder rate by 91%, albeit at a massive cost to civil rights 

COMMUNITY
Weekly Debate

We’re trying something new this week.

Most news companies repress ideas they don’t agree with. We are different. To prove it, we’re making this a place where people can have a free and open debate. We’ll kick off this week’s debate with the prompt below and Roca Votes story (after On-the-Ground). We’ll feature responses to those here tomorrow and then replies to those the following day, and so on.

This week’s topic:

Is technology advancing too quickly? Who should set the pace?

Read the Roca Votes first, then respond by replying to this email!

Today's Poll:

Have you received a spam call in the last week?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today’s poll is sponsored by Incogni.

Answers to Friday’s poll and question are below the Wrap.  

POPCORN
Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

💿 In her tortured poets era: Taylor Swift announced her new album “The Tortured Poets Department” after winning an award at the Grammy’s. It will come out April 19th

🚔 Oh no, Mr. Mahomes…: Texas police arrested Patrick Mahomes Sr. – former MLB pitcher and father of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes – on suspicion of “driving while intoxicated 3rd or more”

😇 Forever winter: A Kentucky wildlife center’s groundhog, Major, died on Groundhog Day at 10. He passed on his prediction to the center’s other living groundhog, Josie Burrows

🎵 Tracy 🤝 Luke: Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs stole the show at the Grammy’s with their duet of “Fast Car.” Chapman wrote the iconic hit, but Combs 2023 cover of it took it to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100

🧓🏻 Hurrah for old age! Willits, California, will celebrate 116-year-old Edith “Edie” Ceccarelli’s birthday – the US’ oldest living person and the second-oldest on Earth – with a parade on Monday

⚽️ Soccer’s newest Jersey: FIFA chose MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, to host the 2026 World Cup final

ON-THE-GROUND
Roca in Liberland

We send our co-founder Max Frost to investigate topics around the world and he writes about them here. He’s currently writing from Liberland. Subscribers receive the full stories.

The Danube – Europe’s second-longest river – starts in a town in southern Germany.

From there it flows through Austria, Hungary, and the Balkans, where it runs into the Black Sea. As Central Europe’s main waterway, it has for centuries played a major role in transport, agriculture, and trade for the continent’s civilizations. It has also defined many borders, including that between Serbia and Croatia.

Between those countries, the Danube twists and turns for 117 miles (188 kilometers) carving dozens of islands out of the two countries. In 1940, a question emerged: To whom should those islands belong?

Back then, Croatia and Serbia belonged to the same country, Yugoslavia. The question therefore didn’t really matter – it was comparable to two US states disputing uninhabited land – and it faded into the background.

But then in 1991, Croatia declared its independence, prompting a war against Serbia-dominated Yugoslavia. When that ended, the countries failed to agree on a border. Specifically, they couldn’t agree on who had the right to between 39 and 54 square miles (100-140 square kilometers) of islands in the Danube.

Most of the land was controlled by Serbia but claimed by Croatia, although there was an outlier: Gornja Siga, a Danube island claimed by neither side. Both countries feared that claiming the territory would undermine their claims to islands on the opposite side, so neither did so. From 1991 on, Gornja Siga thus sat there, one of only a handful of unclaimed places on Earth.

Then on April 13, 2015, a Czech parliamentarian named Vít Jedlička and his partner Jana Markovicova arrived on the island and proclaimed their own country: Liberland.

They did so under a legal principle known as Terra Nullius, Latin for “nobody's land.” The doctrine says that if nobody has claimed land, a state may do so by occupying it. That’s what Jedlička did, who proceeded to establish his own government and request diplomatic recognition from the world’s countries.

I had never heard of this until a Roca reader messaged us on Instagram to say he was from Croatia and that this was a story worth checking out. I got a hold of Vit – President Jelička – who offered to facilitate a trip. A couple weeks later, I became the first American journalist to be smuggled into the country that doesn’t exist. The next On-the-Ground will document the journey there.

ROCA VOTES
Does Big Tech Have Too Much Power?

We founded RocaNews because we wanted news companies to give us just the facts – not tell us what to think. That inspires us each week to do the “Roca Votes” Wrap, in which we summarize a controversial topic and see how Roca Nation feels about it.

This week, the first human patient received a brain implant from Elon Musk’s Neuralink. A few days later, Apple launched its Vision Pro virtual reality headset, which Apple CEO Tim Cook has reportedly gone “all in” on. These are two of the many headlines that show how the future is unfolding before our eyes.

As a few CEOs develop and push new technology that then shapes how the rest of the world lives, it begs the question: Do tech execs have too much power?

One of the themes in Christopher Nolan’s 2023 blockbuster Oppenheimer was how a few scientists changed the course of humanity with “willful blindness.” In Oppenheimer’s words, “Now I am become death destroyer of worlds.” Meanwhile, the rest of the world had no say, and today, we live in a world shaped by fear of the Los Alamos scientists’ work.

VR headsets are not atomic bombs, however a similar power dynamic may be at work. A small group of tech companies and moguls are changing the fabric of society quickly and unilaterally. Generative AI, for example, is a technological development that could radically change everyday life, yet nobody appointed Sam Altman and his peers architects of our future. Or did we?

One might argue that the public consents to technological changes by “voting with their wallets.” For example, Apple sold 200,000 Vision Pro headsets in its first ten days of pre-orders. It anticipates it will sell one million units in 2024. ChatGPT was the fastest tech company to one million users ever. Despite widespread calls to regulate social media and smartphones, 90% of US adults “actively” use social media and even more have smartphones.

A common argument Roca Nation has expressed against the government regulating such technological progress – generative AI, for example – is that it would simply allow others, including our adversaries, to pull ahead. That argument is nearly identical to Oppenheimer’s about the atomic bomb: “I don't know if we can be trusted with such a weapon. But I know the Nazis can't.”

Another argument is that regulation shifts the power to the government, which may be no better than the companies or individuals. And some would argue that there is nothing wrong with the pace of change. In a recent interview, one AI engineer working in pharmaceuticals told me, “You can’t stop the progress of technology.”

That leads us to this week’s debate: Is technology advancing too quickly? Who should set the pace?

Reply to this email to let us know what you think!

ROCA VOTES
Does Big Tech Have Too Much Power?

We founded RocaNews because we wanted news companies to give us just the facts – not tell us what to think. That inspires us each week to do the “Roca Votes” Wrap, in which we summarize a controversial topic and see how Roca Nation feels about it. Subscribers get full access.

This week, the first human patient received a brain implant from Elon Musk’s Neuralink. A few days later, Apple launched its Vision Pro virtual reality headset, which Apple CEO Tim Cook has reportedly gone “all in” on. These are two of the many headlines that show how the future is unfolding before our eyes.

As a few CEOs develop and push new technology that then shapes how the rest of the world lives, it begs the question: Do tech execs have too much power?

One of the themes in Christopher Nolan’s 2023 blockbuster Oppenheimer was how a few scientists changed the course of humanity with “willful blindness.” In Oppenheimer’s words, “Now I am become death destroyer of worlds.” Meanwhile, the rest of the world had no say, and today, we live in a world shaped by fear of the Los Alamos scientists’ work.

VR headsets are not atomic bombs, however a similar power dynamic may be at work. A small group of tech companies and moguls are changing the fabric of society quickly and unilaterally. Generative AI, for example, is a technological development that could radically change everyday life, yet nobody appointed Sam Altman and his peers architects of our future. Or did we?

One might argue that the public consents to technological changes by “voting with their wallets.” For example, Apple sold 200,000 Vision Pro headsets in its first ten days of pre-orders. It anticipates it will sell one million units in 2024. ChatGPT was the fastest tech company to one million users ever. Despite widespread calls to regulate social media and smartphones, 90% of US adults “actively” use social media and even more have smartphones.

A common argument Roca Nation has expressed against the government regulating such technological progress – generative AI, for example – is that it would simply allow others, including our adversaries, to pull ahead. That argument is nearly identical to Oppenheimer’s about the atomic bomb: “I don't know if we can be trusted with such a weapon. But I know the Nazis can't.”

Another argument is that regulation shifts the power to the government, which may be no better than the companies or individuals. And some would argue that there is nothing wrong with the pace of change. In a recent interview, one AI engineer working in pharmaceuticals told me, “You can’t stop the progress of technology.”

That leads us to this week’s debate: Is technology advancing too quickly? Who should set the pace?

Join Roca Nation

This was an example of a Roca Deep Dive. Try a free two-week trial for Roca Premium and you’ll unlock:

  • A daily Deep Dive

  • Ad-free newsletter

  • Daily On-the-Ground

  • And so much more!

COMMUNITY
Roca Reader Takes

Friday’s Poll:

Are you familiar with Shane Gillis?
Yes: 20%
No: 80%

Friday’s Question:

Should athletes be allowed to take performance-enhancing drugs?

Danielle: “No, they shouldn’t be allowed to take PEDs. If an athlete doesn’t want to take drugs, but everyone around him or her is, s/he’s going to face enormous pressure to just to be able to compete. It’s kind of garbage.”

Summer: “An Ye Harm None, Do As Ye Will. Fine, take the drugs. Provide seperate competition for those who do and those who do not partake. Body building has survived years with seperate drug free and drug dependent competitions. But the people pushing these drugs should be required to actually disclose the long term effects of using them, and of discontinueing  them. Then we can just sigh and say, well, that's just how it is when our professional drug enhanced athletes suffer shortened lives and horrible chronic conditions like the old punch drunk boxers and mentally disabled football players. It's okay as long as the rich can enjoy their profits on the show of the poor struggling to use their bodies to improve their financial lot in life.   Some of the poor will chose health, and some will choose to give up everything for the dream of wealth they will never have for long.”

H from New Jersey: “It’s disappointing to me to think of athletes using PEDs, it then becomes a contest of who has the better drugs and control”

EDITOR’S NOTE
Final Thoughts

Thank you to the many of you who sent in feedback about the new newsletter design. We’re glad that you seem to like it and are excited to keep improving.

Also, please join the Roca Debate! Is technology advancing too quickly? Who should set the pace?

Reply to this email to let us know what you think! 

—Max and Max