🌊 Vox P̶o̶p̶u̶l̶i̶ OpenAI

Plus: First Neuralink patient puts brain chip to great use

CNN and Fox called. We're moving up. Sorry.

We've had a great time at Roca, but the whole "not bending reality to fit an agenda" thing has gotten old. So the Maxes are splitting up — one to CNN, the other to Fox. If you think we're sellouts, you're dead wrong. The higher salaries mean nothing to us. We’re only doing this because we believe the nation desperately needs more clickbait, culture war, and fear-mongering.

Billy, Jen, Alex and the rest of the team will stay with Roca, which is now an energy drink company. Let’s have a great April!

In today's edition:

🎮 Brain chips being put to great use

🪐 Pluto finally gets some love

🤔 Roca Votes

–Max, Max, Jen, and Alex

KEY STORY

Neuralink Patient All-Nighter

The first Neuralink patient said he used the brain chip to stay up all night playing Civilization 6

  • The 29-year-old man, Noland Arbaugh, is a quadriplegic who lost control of and feeling in his arms and legs after a “freak diving accident” in 2016. In January, Arbaugh underwent a two-hour surgery to have a Neuralink brain chip installed

  • In videos posted by Arbaugh and Neuralink, he showcased his ability to control a cursor, including to play chess. He said he also used it to stay up all night to play strategy video game Civilization 6

  • “[The implant is] not perfect, I would say that we have run into some issues…but it has already changed my life,” he said

Dig Deeper

  • He said the brain chip has enabled him to start learning Japanese and French and made it easier to read. “[It’s] like using the force on the curser,” he said. “I could get it to move wherever I wanted, just stare somewhere at the screen, and it would move where I wanted it to”

KEY STORY

US Visa Scandal

At least 22 American workers fired from an IT company alleged it illegally replaced them with lower-paid foreign workers, raising questions about how companies use American visa laws

  • Every year, the US issues 85k H1-B visas, which allow companies to employ highly-skilled foreign workers

  • Per the Wall Street Journal, 22 US former employees at an Indian IT company recently filed complaints with a commission enforcing US anti-discrimination laws

  • The complaints allege that the workers were discriminated against based on their race and age and replaced with cheaper Indian H1-B workers. The claims may fuel criticism of the H1-B visa system

Dig Deeper

  • Some critics have long accused companies of using the H1-B visa system to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor. Former President Trump once called it a “cheap labor program”

SPONSORED

The Smallest, Mightiest Hearing Aid on the Market

Conversations have never been clearer, thanks to Horizon by hear.com

  • This tiny German hearing aid is now taking the US by storm

  • Why? Partly because it’s tiny. Like James Bond-device tiny

  • Partly because it boasts the world’s first-ever dual-processing system. In non-science-y talk, it just means you get maximum speech clarity with minimal background noise

  • Partly because it’s designed for the 21st century with easy-to-adjust settings in an app and extra benefits like the ability to serve as headphones and stream music, too

Dig Deeper

KEY STORY

Israel’s Political Crisis

Israel’s Supreme Court froze funding to ultra-Orthodox seminaries unless their students serve in Israel’s military, triggering a political crisis

  • Ultra-Orthodox Israelis – the Haredim, who form 13% of Israel’s population – are exempt from mandatory military service. Their seminaries (yeshivas) also get state funding

  • The military exemption has become a major political issue amid Israel’s war in Gaza

  • On Thursday, Israel’s top court paused funding to yeshivas unless their students join the military, throwing Israel into a political crisis

Dig Deeper

  • The ruling threatens to splinter Israel’s ruling coalition, which relies on support from Haredi parties

  • Opposition leader Yair Lapid praised the court ruling, saying, “There are 66,000 young, draft-age Haredi men. If you enlist 10,000 of them, there’s no need to extend conscripts’ service”

  • The ruling is particularly contentious as it comes after a controversial attempt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to reduce the power of Israel’s courts

KEY STORY

Voice Engine Too Powerful?

OpenAI revealed a new voice cloning technology but said it wouldn’t yet release the tech to the public due to concerns about its use

  • OpenAI says the new software – Voice Engine – can recreate a person’s voice after only 15 seconds of recording them talk

  • It can imitate voices and translate audio between languages while keeping someone’s voice the same

  • Upon debuting the tech on Friday, OpenAI said it would delay wider release because of concerns about public safety. It has similarly limited access to Sora, its text-to-video software

Dig Deeper

  • “We recognize that generating speech that resembles people’s voices has serious risks, which are especially top of mind in an election year,” the company said in a statement

RUNDOWN
Some Quick Stories for the Office

📱 AT&T – the US’ second-largest mobile network provider by subscriber count – disclosed on Saturday that 73M customers’ data were leaked and made available on the dark web

🇺🇸 Conservatives and liberals clashed over President Biden’s and other Democratic leaders’ marking of “Transgender Day of Visibility” on Sunday (Easter)

🇨🇦 Canada’s Niagara region declared a state of emergency ahead of the April 8 total solar eclipse, which is expected to draw millions of visitors to its path

🎤 Lizzo announced that she quit the music industry. "I'm getting tired of putting up with being dragged by everyone in my life and on the internet," wrote the singer, who faced criticism last year after backup dancers accused her of mistreating them

🇬🇧 London police arrested a man for apparently supporting Hamas, sparking protests against the arresting officers

COMMUNITY

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

Read the Wrap below and reply to this email to answer this week’s topic: Has sports betting gone too far?

Today's Poll:

Do you think sports betting apps should be legal?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

POPCORN
Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

🏀 Burns baby Burns:  Four teams remain in the 2024 NCAA men’s basketball tournament: #1 UConn, #1 Purdue, #4 Alabama, and #11 NC State. The DJ Burns-led NC State Wolfpack upset Duke last night

🌝 Mmmm, solar eclipse flavor: SunChips will sell exclusive solar eclipse flavors during totality – the period when the moon completely blocks the sun – on April 8th

🚣 Finishing number two: A University of Oxford rower who lost a rivalry race against Cambridge on Saturday complained about “poo” in the River Thames, claiming that it caused an E. coli outbreak

🏀 Caitlin v. Angel, Pt. 2: LSU and Iowa will face off in a much-anticipated Elite 8 matchup in the NCAA women’s tournament tonight. It’s a rematch of last year’s national championship

🪐 Justice for Pluto: Arizona’s governor signed legislation designating Pluto Arizona’s “official state planet,” while dodging the question of whether it’s actually a planet

🔫 Young gun-trepreneurs: Authorities arrested two 10-year-olds in Florida after a deputy’s son reportedly traded his late father’s handgun for $300 at an elementary school gun sale

ROCA VOTES
Has Sports Betting Gone Too Far?

In 2023, Americans wagered a record $120B on sports betting – more than they spent on tobacco and state lotteries.

Has the industry gotten out of hand?

People have been sports betting in the United States since the country’s founding. By the early 20th century, however, doing so was almost entirely illegal.

Then in 1931, Nevada legalized casino gambling and became a gambling powerhouse. It was the only state where you could legally place a sports bet on single games until 1978, when New Jersey began allowing casino gambling in Atlantic City. 

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush signed a law that effectively banned sports gambling in all states but Nevada. Then in 2018, the Supreme Court overturned that law and ruled that states were free to establish their own sports gambling laws.

Today, 38 states and Washington, DC have legalized sports betting to varying degrees, with more expected to follow suit in the coming years.

In 2021, Americans bet an estimated $58B on sports, meaning last year’s $120B figure was a 100% increase – in just two years. 2024 is on track to do even bigger numbers: The American Gaming Association expects that 68M Americans – just over one in four adults – bet on the 2024 Super Bowl. As the market has exploded, sports media and leagues have embraced it.

Roca looked up the top ten sports podcasts on Spotify from 2023 and found that every single one had a sports betting sponsor – oftentimes as the presenting sponsor, with their logo on the podcast’s cover artwork. Companies that have aggressively promoted sports betting include Disney-owned ESPN, The Ringer, and Barstool Sports.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver came out in favor of legalized sports betting in 2014. The NBA has since embraced it, naming DraftKings and FanDuel as exclusive partners and announcing last month that NBA League Pass will integrate live betting odds and allow viewers to place live bets.

All-Star NBA player Tyrese Haliburton recently decried the trend, saying, “To half the world, I'm just helping them make money on DraftKings or whatever…I'm the prop."

The highest-played player in MLB history, Shohei Ohtani, is now embroiled in a gambling scandal. He accuses his longtime interpreter of stealing millions from him to bet on sports, although given his closeness with the interpreter, their cordiality the day the story broke, and the assumption that a bookie wouldn’t let an interpreter rack up millions in debt, some question his involvement. Other betting scandals have recently bubbled up in college sports, the NFL, and NBA.

Many argue that legalizing sports betting has only brought an in-the-shadows industry into the mainstream. People bet regardless, the argument goes, now it’s just in the open.

But others argue that the widespread embrace of gambling has normalized it and turned many people who wouldn’t be gamblers into them.

Still others say sports betting should be legal, but the US – in allowing such companies to partner with major leagues and let people gamble through mobile apps – has gone too far.

That leads us to this week’s debate of the week: Has sports betting gone too far?

EDITOR’S NOTE
Final Thoughts

April Fools! CNN and Fox did call to complain about the rise of Roca’s nonpartisan news cashing in on people who are tired of their partisan and polarizing platforms — but the rest is a joke. Roca is here to stay with the best way to stay informed each day with unbiased information so you can form your own opinions.

— Max, Max, Alex and Jen