🌊 Vincent Van GPT

Award-winning AI artwork, cities with the most millionaires, and Fyre Festival Part II?

Happy National High Five Day to all of you who celebrate. We don't want to do back-to-back editions of "things that aren't old as you might think," but the high five is surprisingly new. It originated in the 70s —  perhaps with Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker in October of '77 — and made it into the Oxford Dictionary in 1980. 

Is anyone else now sad thinking about the fact that Ferdinand Magellan didn't get even one high five for circumnavigating the globe? What more did he have to do...

In today's edition:

  • Award-winning AI artwork

  • Cities with the most millionaires

  • Fyre Festival Part II?

 🔑 Key Stories

Secret Chinatown Police Station?

US prosecutors charged 2 men for allegedly running a secret Chinese police station in NYC’s Chinatown 

  • The Ministry of Public Safety (MPS) is China’s main domestic law enforcement agency. The US claims it has created up to 100 secret police stations globally to surveil and intimidate Chinese dissidents

  • In October, the FBI raided an office in NYC’s Chinatown that it suspected of being a secret police station; on Monday, it arrested 2 US citizens in relation to that

  • The FBI claims both admitted to deleting texts from an MPS official. US prosecutors charged them with obstructing justice and conspiring to work for China

Dig Deeper

  • In separate charges released on Monday, the US accused 34 MPS officers living in China of operating an online “troll farm” to harass Chinese dissidents in the US. Those officials are allegedly part of an elite task force tasked with spreading disinformation

Fox, Dominion Settle

Fox News and voting machine company Dominion settled a defamation lawsuit for $787.5M

  • Dominion is a US company that sells voting machines that are widely used in the US. It sued Fox News for $1.6B for hosting guests after the 2020 presidential election who accused Dominion of rigging the election for Biden

  • On Monday, a judge delayed that trial by 1 day amid rumors that both parties would settle. On Tuesday afternoon, after the trial’s first day, they settled

  • Per the deal, Fox News will pay Dominion $787.5M. “We acknowledge…that certain claims [made] about Dominion [were] false,” Fox News said afterward

Dig Deeper

  • Fox News still faces a similar lawsuit from Smartmatic, another voting machine company. Dominion also has pending lawsuits against Newsmax and OAN, 2 news companies that aired similar claims about Dominion, and several Trump associates. All those parties have denied wrongdoing and pledged to fight the charges in court

AI Art Scandal

The winner of a major photography prize turned down the award and revealed it was AI-generated

  • On March 14, the World Photography Organization announced the winners of the annual Sony World Photography Awards. One was “PSEUDOMNESIA: The Electrician,” created by German artist Boris Eldagsen

  • After winning, Eldagsen released a statement on his blog saying that the picture was AI-generated. “I applied…to find out if the competitions are prepared for AI images to enter,” he wrote. “They are not”

  • Eldagsen says Sony refused to host a Q&A on the subject; Sony says Eldagsen deceived them

Indonesian Troops Ambushed 

Indonesian separatists ambushed 36 members of Indonesia’s military while they were trying to rescue a kidnapped pilot, resulting in at least 6 deaths

  • Indonesia consists of 17,000+ islands, the largest of which is New Guinea. On the western half of New Guinea is a region of Indonesia known as Papua

  • Some Papuans have demanded independence for decades, including the Free Papua Movement (FPM), an armed group that fights the Indonesian government

  • In February, the FPM kidnapped a 37-yo New Zealander pilot who landed in Papua. This weekend, the Indonesian soldiers sent to free him were ambushed. The FPM claims it killed at least 6 soldiers and captured 9 more

Dig Deeper

  • An FPM spokesperson said the ambush was retaliation for previous attacks on FPM members by Indonesia’s military, and claimed without proof that the FPM had executed the 9 captured soldiers

  • After the ambush, an Indonesian official said the military would combat the group “with maximum force”

How Much Can You Learn in A Few Minutes?

Together with Brilliant

Learning should not stop after graduation. If you ever quipped to a classmate in math class: “When am I ever going to use this stuff?!” We could relate…

  • That was until we started using the Brilliant app, which made us see math and computer science in a new light

  • The lessons are bite-sized, interactive, and perfect for a commute to work or a midday break (no hour-long lectures and yawns)

  • Brilliant is a great tool to lace up your brain and take it for a run through topics like casino probabilities and artificial intelligence

  • Some things Roca HQ has learned in the past week from Brilliant: Using math to make musical harmonies, what influences the speed of a ‘wave’ in a sports stadium, and the math behind the Monty Hall problem

Dig Deeper

  • Whether you're a professional looking for an edge or a lifelong learner just staying sharp, Brilliant is the app that 10M+ people use to master the concepts behind AI, data science, and more in minutes a day

  • You can try Brilliant with a 30-day free trial. Plus, RocaNews readers get 20% off an annual premium subscription

🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Where the wealthy things are: New York City (340k) has more millionaires than any other city. Tokyo (290k) and San Francisco (285k) are right behind

  • Netflix and cease? Netflix is ending its DVD-by-mail service. It started the service 25 years ago but will wind it down by the end of September

  • Elvis included? A Hawaiian resort that a hurricane destroyed in 1992 is being rebuilt for $250M. The resort famously appeared in the 1961 Elvis movie Blue Hawaii

Wildcard 

  • Real-life survivor: 11 Indonesian fishermen survived for 6 days without food or water on a tiny island off the coast of Australia after a cyclone wrecked their boat

  • Vienna waits for loo: An Austrian Airlines flight had to turn around 2 hours into its trip to New York after the crew realized that 5 out of its 8 toilets weren’t working

  • Chinese Communist Pole-y: China is building its 5th base in Antarctica, per new satellite imaging. It was last seen building on Antarctica in 2018

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll

I consider myself to be...

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today's Question:

What are you grateful for today?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

The founder of the 2017 Fyre Festival said he plans to run it back: “Fyre Festival II is finally happening,” he tweeted last week.

Billy McFarland was a US concert promoter and live events organizer who founded several entertainment companies. One of them was Magnises, a “VIP” credit card. Another was Fyre Media, an app for booking musicians for events.

In 2016, at age 25, McFarland and rapper Ja Rule announced a new venture: “Fyre Festival,” an ultra-luxurious and exclusive concert in the Bahamas. They lined up $26.4M from over 100 investors.

As a venue, McFarland leased an uninhabited Bahamas island called “Norman’s Cay.” It had no roads, running water, or sewage system.

To promote the event, McFarland enlisted the world’s most popular influencers, including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, and Emily Ratajkowski. He and his organizers paid a total of $5.2M to performers and influencers.

The first video ad billed Fyre Festival as a highly exclusive event on a “remote private island…once owned by Pablo Escobar.” It offered the “best in food, art, music, and adventure…on the boundaries of the impossible.” McFarland said that $1M in “real treasures and jewels” were “hidden around the island.”

The advertised lineup listed 33 artists, including Blink-182, Lil Yachty, and Pusha T. Ticket packages sold for up to $100,000. Attendees were promised pristine beaches, lodging in glass domes, and world-class dining.

But before the concert, the island’s owners canceled their lease with McFarland over his Pablo Escobar claims, which were false. For a new venue, the organizers chose a parking lot complex on a larger island.

The festival ended up behind schedule and over budget. Planning for food, stage equipment, and more was months behind schedule. Organizers began to abandon some projects, including accommodation construction.

One talent producer traveled to the island 2 months before the festival.

“This was not a model-filled private cay,” she later wrote. “This was a development lot covered in gravel…There was not enough space to build all the tents they would need. There was not a long, beautiful beach populated by swimming pigs.”

In April 2017, just days before the festival began, Comcast backed out of a $25M investment. Unprepared and in debt, organizers reportedly begged McFarland to cancel the event.

Nearly every artist dropped out in the days ahead of the festival. Then the night before the first arrivals, heavy rains soaked most of the guest tents and blankets. The first arrivals were placed on school buses and forced to wait in hours-long lines.

Pictures from the festival immediately went viral.

Some showed the “geodesic domes,” which were actually FEMA tents. Others showed the “world-class” food: cheese and bread with salad dressing.

The festival was canceled, and those that arrived flew off the island in the coming days.

Lawsuits were later filed against McFarland and Ja Rule for defrauding concertgoers and investors. Authorities opened an investigation into McFarland in May 2017, a month after the festival. He later pleaded guilty to wire fraud for tricking investors into investing in the company. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison and ordered to return $26M to victims.

McFarland was released from jail last year.

This March, he tweeted, “I owe people $26M…I’m the best at coming up with wild creative, getting talent together, and delivering.” The next month, he said he was going to complete the “biggest comeback of all time.”

Then last Sunday, McFarland tweeted that Fyre Festival II “is finally happening.”

“Tell me why you should be invited.” Further details aren’t known.

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

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

What time do you go to sleep at night? 

7 PM - 9 PM: 7%

9 PM - 11 PM: 57%

11 PM - 1 AM: 29%

1 AM or later: 7%

Yesterday's Question:

What genre of music speaks to you the most?

Walt from Cincinnati: "Hip-hop, a genre of music I couldn't stand as an emo / pop-punk teenager, has quickly become my favorite genre of music. So much to say lyrically: be it personal stories, shining light on injustice, playful (or not so playful) braggadocio, and comedy. Sonically has so much variety: sampling from all over music history and creating brand new original beats, sometimes together. Hip hop has changed the way I look at the world and has shined a light on lifestyles that are not my own."

Renee from Florida: "Classic R&R from the 1970s -- the greatest era for it, featuring the greatest upper echelon, intelligent, at once profound and ethereal, Rock band of all time, Pink Floyd."

Jordan from California: "Jazz.  Because it is a freeing and expressive form of music"

🧠 Final Thoughts

Happy Hump Day, everyone. If the announcement of Fyre Festival II doesn't help you finish your week strong, we’re not sure what will.

See you tomorrow!

-Max and Max