🌊 STDefense

STDefense stepping up, Raccoon brawl McDonald's closes, and Chewing Khat

The stage is set for America's biggest night of TV: The Kansas City Chiefs will take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. In advance of the big day, some restaurants are offering chicken wing reservations. Can only imagine the dismay on parents' faces when they hear their child who "can't make a dentist's appointment" booked 20 boneless honey BBQ wings 14 days in advance of a 4-hour couch session.

In today's edition:

  • STDefense stepping up

  • Raccoon brawl McDonald's closes

  • Chewing Khat

🔑 Key Stories

Djokovic Wins Australian Open

  • Djokovic, 35, is a Serbian professional tennis player widely seen as one of the best to have ever played

  • The Australian Open is one of the sport’s 4 biggest tournaments — “Grand Slams” — along with Wimbledon, the French Open, and the US Open

  • The title was Djokovic’s 10th at the Australian Open, extending a record. It was his 22nd at any of the Grand Slam tournaments, tying a record set by Rafael Nadal and fueling the GOAT debate

  • Australian officials disqualified Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, from last year’s Open and deported him

Dig Deeper

  • “This has been one of the more challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life,” Djokovic said after the Open. “Not playing last year, coming back this year... This is the biggest victory of my life considering those circumstances"

Tyre Nichols Video Released

Dig Deeper

  • The 5 Memphis police officers were part of a "Scorpion Unit" created in 2021 to tackle rising crime and patrol some of Memphis' toughest corners. Over the weekend, Memphis' police department announced it would disband that unit

Drone Strikes Iranian Arms Factory

A drone strike hit an Iranian military factory on Saturday

  • The factory is thought to build missiles and drones, including ones being used by Russia in Ukraine. It’s also located near a research center the US believes Iran is using to develop nuclear weapons

  • Iranian officials said its defenses intercepted the drones and that only one building was damaged; it’s unclear if that’s true

  • US officials reportedly believe Israel was behind the strike. Israel and Iran are rivals, and Israel is believed responsible for numerous recent attacks on Iranian military facilities

Dig Deeper

  • One Ukrainian official linked the strike to Russia's use of Iranian drones, tweeting, "Explosive night in Iran... Did warn you." Others say it's more likely that Israel conducted the attack for reasons totally unrelated to Ukraine

Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea Detected

2 cases of highly antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea have been detected in the US, health officials said

  • Gonorrhea is a sexually-transmitted bacterial infection. 700k cases were detected in the US in 2021. It’s normally treated with a course of antibiotics and is rarely deadly

  • In Massachusetts, though, researchers detected 2 gonorrhea cases that were less susceptible to 3 common antibiotics and resistant to others

  • While gonorrhea often develops resistance to specific antibiotics, such a hard-to-treat gonorrhea “superbug” has never been identified in the US

Dig Deeper

  • Scientists have warned for decades that drug-resistant diseases may someday pose a significant public health challenge. Researchers say certain bacteria and fungi already show signs of permanent resistance to antibiotics, and that in the future, new drugs may be necessary to fight diseases that were once easily treatable

MANSCAPED Now Sells Beard Products

Together with Manscaped

Breaking News! MANSCAPED® now sells beard products! That’s right – the company that helped you get the golden rod of a greek god has now created the BEST tools for you to turn heads with your perfectly-groomed, signature beard. It’s time to tame your mane with the all-new Beard Hedger™ Pro Kit featuring:

  1. The Beard Hedger™ - A cordless beard-sculpting trimmer featuring a titanium coated T-blade, a zoom wheel that lets you adjust to 20 different lengths, and a 60-minute runtime

  2. Beard Shampoo & Conditioner - Dermatologist-tested for sensitive skin to help you kick the face grit and leave your burly bristles feeling silky soft

  3. Beard Oil & Beard Balm - Designed specifically to help you moisturize, shine, and style your beard to look well-groomed from sun-up to get-down

  4. 3 FREE Gifts - Stainless steel Beard Scissors, a dual-sided beechwood Beard Comb, and a boar-bristled Beard Brush

Dig Deeper

🍿 Popcorn


  • Ossai of relief in Arrowhead: A late hit from Cincinnati Bengals defender Joseph Ossai set the Kansas City Chiefs up for a last-second field goal that sent them to the Super Bowl

  • Suffering from Frenchness? The AP clarified a viral tweet that discouraged the use of "dehumanizing 'the' labels," including "the poor," "the mentally ill," and "the French"

  • Down, set, ice luge: 2-time National Champion quarterback Stetson Bennett was arrested in Dallas for public intoxication at 6 AM on Sunday


  • A few decades later...: A crowdfunding effort allowed Arizona authorities to identify the body of a woman who died in the desert 52 years ago

  • I'm lootin' it: A Canadian McDonald's notorious for its rampant crime incidents and a raccoon brawl is closing. In 2017 alone, police responded to 800 calls from it

  • But first, let me take a selfie: A Colorado bear accidentally triggered hundreds of selfies from a motion-activated wildlife camera. It took 400 pics of the bear

👇 What do you think?

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🌯 Roca Wrap

After celebrating Ethiopian Christmas, we flew to Dire Dawa, a city in eastern Ethiopia, then drove to Harar, another city about 100 miles from Somalia.

With a local guide named Anwar, we drove through desert mountains, weaving around hairpin turns. There were more goats and donkeys on the road than cars. When we pulled over at one point, a group of baboons tried to break through the windows.

Monkey on car

A monkey hangs off the passenger-side mirror of our car

This area of the country is split largely between 2 ethnic groups – the Oromo and the Somali – who traditionally have herded animals to survive. The Oromo are Christian and Muslim; the Somali are Muslim.

While there are differences between the groups, khat is at least one thing that unites them. In this part of Ethiopia, everyone – regardless of religion, language, or culture –chews it.

Khat, pronounced “chat,” is a shrub that grows in East Africa. People chew the leaves – which contain a stimulant chemical – to get high. That high effect, called “merkana,” makes people relaxed, focused, and talkative. Khat is illegal in the United States, but not in Ethiopia.

It’s hard to overstate the prevalence of khat here and reportedly in Somalia and parts of Yemen, Kenya, and some other East African countries. The act of taking khat is “chewing,” and people chew all day, every day.

On the way to Harar, we pulled into a town that’s home to Ethiopia’s largest khat market. Hundreds of people were in the street, many running around with bushels of khat on their heads. We dropped into one dark, hot, windowless room in the market and saw a dozen or so shirtless men hurriedly weighing and rolling bundles of khat in preparation for wholesale.

“It’s like this 24/7,” our khat-addicted guide, Anwar, told us. “It never stops.”

“This is wholesale here, for export. We wouldn’t buy it here, this is to send to Somalia and the Middle East.”

We got back in the car and ascended through more mountains until we finally reached Harar, our destination.

Harar is mainly Oromo and Somali, but it’s also home to its own ethnic group, the Harari. Harar is said to be the 4th holiest city for Muslims, and for over 1,000 years, until the late 1800s, it was an independent Islamic kingdom.

Narrow stone street

A woman walks on a street in Harar's old city

Most other cities we visited in Ethiopia were chaotic, decrepit, and totally unforgettable. Not Harar, though: The city’s core, the Old City, is a walled maze of narrow alleyways, clay homes, cobblestone streets, and mosques. Anwar told us Harar had more Arab influence than any other Ethiopian city.

There were hardly any cars. Men and women sat on the streets sewing traditional clothes while vendors traded spices, food, and home goods. Old cities have often made me wish I saw them in the past; Harar still feels like it’s in a different century.

Harar city street

A street in Harar's old city

At its center is a square with a butcher who sliced us fresh camel meat. Anwar then paid a woman sitting at a stove nearby to prepare it for us. One camel dish was minced; the other was grilled. Both were served over injera – the Ethiopian sponge bread – and delicious.

And after lunch, we chewed.

For the equivalent of $10, a lady on the street sold Anwar a plastic bag containing a couple pounds of sticks. We walked up a narrow street lined with old men working on sewing machines, and took a seat on the curb.

Bag of leaves

A woman sells khat in the Harar market

“I grew up here,” he said, pointing at a sloped path leading to a house. He still lived there and said this was his lifelong khat-chewing spot.

Anwar handed us each a few sticks and told us to pick off the soft leaves and bundle them in our palms. Next, he said to pack the wad of leaves into our cheeks, chew it, and swallow the grass-tasting juice. When the leaves broke down, we swallowed them too. The sticks and hard leaves were to be left on the street for the goats.

We sat there, chewing and chewing. While we did so, Anwar estimated that 70% of the people walking past us were high. He said there were 2 kinds of people: Those who chew in the morning and afternoon, and those who only chew in the afternoon.

“You can see people here shouting at each other in the early afternoon,” he said. “It’s not because they are bad people, but because they are agitated without the khat.”

After an hour or so, my mouth was dry but I didn’t feel much. Anwar handed me some peanuts – "it helps beginners with the taste” – then packed a massive wad of leaves into my hand. I chewed it mixed with the peanuts.

A little while later, I started to feel calm, then everything sounded quiet. I noticed the repetitive “whoosh” of a sewing machine and the peacefulness of the street. The feeling was nice – relaxed, focused, comfortable.

Sewing man on street

The street where we sat for over 2 hours chewing

Extensive use of khat can damage your mouth, cause cancer, and more. But for now, I wasn't worried about that: When in Harar, I had to do as the Hararis do.

Send your thoughts and questions to [email protected]. We love hearing from you!

🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Which is the better fruity cereal?

Fruit Loops: 68%Fruity Pebbles: 32%

Yesterday's Question:

Just 20 Qs!

🧠 Final Thoughts

We hope you all had great weekends. Congrats to the Eagles and Chiefs; we send our sympathy to all Bengals and Niners fans (as well as to the millions who hate the Eagles).

If you don't care at all about football, we still hope you had a great weekend. And hope your weeks are off to a great start!

–Max and Max