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🌊 Students Get Out of Hostage Crisis

Plus: What’s in America’s new $1.2T budget?

“I’ve made a huge tiny mistake.”

Nearly 70 years ago, Richard Beauvais and Eddy Ambrose were born on the same day in the same hospital in Manitoba. The hospital, however, mixed them up and sent them home with each other’s families. They spent the next 65 years living the lives meant for the other: Beauvais was raised in an indigenous community, while Ambrose was raised in a culturally Ukrainian family. In 2020, Beauvais took a DNA test that revealed his real ancestry, eventually linking him to Ambrose’s sister. On Thursday, Manitoba’s premier formally apologized to the men for the mix-up. Whoopsie daisy!

In today's edition:

🇷🇺 Russia moving troops to Russian region

🧐 Return of "Wyoming isn't real"

🤔 New Roca Votes

And so much more!

–Max, Max, Jen, and Alex


Moscow Terror Attack

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a terror attack that left 130+ dead at a Moscow concert hall on Friday night, but President Putin linked the attack to Ukraine

  • Four attackers fired indiscriminately at people entering a concert near Moscow on Friday, then lit the venue on fire. On Saturday, Russian authorities claimed to have arrested 11 people involved with the plot, including the gunmen

  • The Islamic State’s Afghanistan-based division, IS-K, claimed responsibility, but in a subsequent speech, Putin said the gunmen “moved toward Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them from the Ukrainian side to cross the state border”

  • The Moscow theater attack came weeks after the US government had warned “that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, [including] concerts.” The US embassy also warned its citizens in the country to avoid public gatherings. On March 19, Putin dismissed those warnings as “obvious blackmail” made with “the intention to intimidate and destabilize our society”

Dig Deeper

  • Hours before the attack, the Russian government began referring to the situation in Ukraine as a “war.” Until then, it had used the term “special military operation.” And earlier in the day, Russia’s government also claimed to have busted a Ukrainian-linked far-right terror cell in Moscow. The US and Ukraine fiercely denied having had anything to do with the attack

  • IS published video footage of the attack. Russia has been targeted by IS and other extremist groups in the past, often over its policies in Chechnya, Syria, and other Muslim-majority places


Budget Passed

President Joe Biden signed a $1.2T spending package, averting a partial government shutdown

  • The package keeps roughly ¾ of the federal government funded through October. Congress passed a different spending package earlier this month that will keep the other ¼ of the government funded

  • The package keeps spending at around 2023 levels. Both Republicans and Democrats claimed small victories, with Republicans touting increased funding for border control and Democrats pointing to increased investments in early education programs

  • Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) initiated an attempt to oust Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), citing his failure to secure spending cuts

Dig Deeper

  • Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was ousted late last year after passing a short-term spending package with Democratic support that omitted major spending cuts. Last October, Republicans elected Johnson in part on his pledge to cut spending


Nigerian Students Freed

The Nigerian army rescued 137 students abducted earlier this month and held for ransom

  • The students were abducted on March 7 from a town in northwestern Nigeria. Regional officials initially reported the number kidnapped at 287

  • The abductors demanded ~$690,000 in ransom by March 25, but Nigerian officials vowed not to pay and launched a military operation to rescue the students

  • On Sunday, officials announced the army had rescued 137 students. Officials said all students are now free and that the originally reported number of abductees – 287 – was likely an overcount

Dig Deeper

  • Mass kidnappings are common in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous and one of the world’s poorest countries by per capita GDP. The first such incident occurred in 2014 when Boko Haram – a terrorist group active in Nigeria’s northeastern regions – kidnapped 276 students from a girls’ school. Today, kidnappings are often carried out by criminals, referred to locally as “bandits,” for ransom


Fighting in Belgorod

Russia reportedly diverted troops from its front line in Ukraine to protect the Belgorod region

  • Since late last year, Ukraine has attacked Russia’s border regions, most prominently Belgorod and Kursk, with drones and artillery. Then on March 12, soldiers from three Russian volunteer organizations fighting against Russia invaded the Belgorod region

  • Russia claimed to have repulsed that invasion, but fighting flared up again last week

  • Per Bloomberg, Russia relocated soldiers from the frontline in Ukraine to protect Belgorod. Russian officials also evacuated 9,000 students from the region and closed some schools last week

Dig Deeper

  • In related news, in recent months, Ukraine has escalated its drone strikes against Russia’s oil industry, bombing at least nine refineries this year. Those strikes have reportedly taken a toll on Russia’s oil production

  • Per the Financial Times, the US has pressured Ukraine to stop that bombing campaign, fearing it or Russia’s response will drive up oil prices and thereby jeopardize Joe Biden’s re-election chances


Arrests and Protests in India

Protests broke out in India after the arrest of one of the country’s most prominent opposition politicians

  • India is holding national elections between April 19 and June 1. Critics accuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who is widely expected to win a 3rd term – and his BJP party of tilting India’s democracy in their favor

  • The chief minister (governor) of Delhi was arrested Thursday on bribery charges. As one of the country’s most prominent opposition leaders, his arrest led to allegations that Modi is a “dictator” 

  • The BJP denied being behind the arrest; the governor said that if he is corrupt, "no one in this world… is honest"

Dig Deeper

  • Kejriwal’s arrest prompted widespread criticism among India’s opposition, whose top figure called Modi “a scared dictator [who] wants to create a dead democracy”

  • Dozens were arrested at protests in Delhi, where people chanted, “Dictatorship won’t be tolerated”

Some Quick Stories for the Office

👑 Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, announced she has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. She asked for “time, space, and privacy”

🇯🇵 US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida plan to unveil next month a plan to boost military cooperation, the Financial Times reported

🌟 Astronomers predict a cosmic explosion known as a nova will occur anytime between now and September, briefly lighting up the night sky with a new “star”

🇪🇸 A Spanish judge ordered a temporary ban on social messaging app Telegram after media companies claimed users were pirating their content


Weekly Debate

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. Each week we lay out a debate on Monday and feature responses below, replies to those the following day, and so on.

Read the Roca Votes Wrap below and let us know:  Can Artificial Intelligence create art? If yes, who is the author of AI-generated art: The algorithm itself or the team behind it?

Today's Poll:

Is AI-generated “art” art?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

🍟 McBrawl: Two Virginia cops sustained injuries after a fight erupted over McDonald’s french fries, resulting in the arrest of five tow truck company employees

🧐 Is Wyoming real? On TikTok, Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Logan Gilbert resurfaced the conspiracy theory that Wyoming isn’t real. He asked, “Have you ever met somebody from Wyoming?”

🚽 Big Potty: A California school district’s app limits and tracks students on their two permitted seven-minute bathroom breaks each day

🏀 Water fighting Illini: The Illinois men’s basketball team celebrated their 89-63 win over Duquesne in the Round of 32 with a water gun fight in the locker room

😤 What a propane in the a**: A Cape Cod man discovered a propane tank buried in his yard after buying his home last July, with no prior disclosure

😳 Cold welcome: A man known as one of NYC’s “most notoriously negligent landlords” was briefly hospitalized after an attack at Rikers Island. He had surrendered to police for neglecting ~700 court-ordered repairs

Is AI Considered Art?

Imagine it’s 2030 and a ChatGPT-style app can create a TV show from a text prompt. You type in “high school chemistry teacher turns to making meth after getting diagnosed with cancer,” and the app spits out five seasons of Breaking Bad.

Assuming Breaking Bad had never been created, would watching AI-generated Breaking Bad be the same as watching the real-life version?

It remains to be seen whether AI will prove capable of creating such art: AI may never be able to produce cinema as innovative as Breaking Bad, or such projects may not be legal or commercially viable. Yet it seems likely that questions surrounding the role of AI-produced “art” will only grow.

In 2023, a 12-minute short film called “The Frost” premiered. “The Frost” was entirely AI-generated by a Michigan-based company using DALL-E, an Open AI text-to-image model.

While the movie’s director acknowledged its shortcomings – “It was a bit of a struggle to get certain things from DALL-E, like emotional responses in faces,” he said – the film was notable.

In last year’s 148-day Hollywood writers’ strike, AI was a major topic.

The writers feared that studios would use AI to replace them. Studios denied that plan, but protections surrounding AI became a key point of negotiation. The writers ended up getting the assurance that studios “cannot use AI to write scripts or to edit scripts that have already been written by a writer.”

Yet Hollywood industry leaders do expect generative AI to disrupt animation. Last November, DreamWorks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg said, “It took 500 artists five years to make a world-class animated movie. I don't think it will take 10 percent of that [with AI].”

He said stories will likely still come from humans. “In my opinion, I think [the ideas] are still going to come from creativity, from individual creativity” – yet AI will change the execution process.

The topic raises countless questions: Can AI create art? Would you want AI to create art? Who is the author of AI-generated art: The algorithm itself or the team behind it? Can humans create new ideas or, like with AI, are they borrowed from inputs?

All we know is that this is chapter one of generative AI, and the future is uncertain.

That leads us to this week’s Roca Votes question: Can Artificial Intelligence create art? If yes, who is the author of AI-generated art: The algorithm itself or the team behind it?

Final Thoughts

We’re eager to hear your thoughts on today’s Roca Votes Wrap. Can Artificial Intelligence create art? If yes, who is the author of AI-generated art: The algorithm itself or the team behind it?

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

— Max, Max, Alex and Jen