🌊 War of the Writers

Gaetz and AOC co-sponsor stock bill, shirtless lawmaker votes on Zoom, and the story of Harry Belafonte

The plot has thickened in the death of Cash App founder Bob Lee. When it happened last month, it appeared to be a random stabbing on the streets of San Francisco. Then, a week later, we learned that the alleged killer was an acquaintance of Lee's. Prosecutors now say that Lee had drugs in his system and that he may have been having an affair with the alleged killer's sister.

So there's your uplifting lead story! Have a great Wednesday.

In today's edition:

  • Gaetz and AOC co-sponsor stock bill

  • Shirtless lawmaker votes on Zoom

  • Story of Harry Belafonte

 🔑 Key Stories

Gaetz 🤝 AOC

Progressive House representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Trump-aligned representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced a bill to ban Congress members from trading stocks

  • AOC is a Democratic Socialist and member of the “Squad” group of progressive legislators; Gaetz is a prominent Trump ally from Florida

  • Last week, Gaetz, AOC, and another bipartisan pair of representatives introduced a bill that would ban Congress members and their families from owning stocks

  • The group called it a “complete prohibition on Congressional stock ownership.” It’s the strictest Congressional stock ownership bill yet proposed

Dig Deeper

  • “The fact that Members of the Progressive Caucus, the Freedom Caucus, and the Bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, reflecting the entirety of the political spectrum, can find common ground on key issues like this should send a powerful message to America,” said one of the Republican representatives who co-introduced the bill

Hollywood Writers Striking

11,500 Hollywood screenwriters began striking on Tuesday, shutting down some TV shows

  • Many screenwriters – who write scripts for TV shows, movies, and more – are represented by the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Every 3 years, it negotiates a labor deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents big studios

  • The WGA claims streaming services have hurt writers’ income and job stability. Talks to reach a new deal failed, and WGA began striking Tuesday

  • The strike will cause talk and live scripted shows to go off-air. They will be replaced for now

Dig Deeper

  • The WGA claimed change is necessary to prevent screenwriting from becoming a part-time “gig” job and that writers face an “existential crisis” in this negotiation: “The survival of writing as a profession is at stake,” it said

  • In a statement, the AMPTP said it offered “generous increases in compensation for writers” and said it also remains committed to negotiations to “break this logjam” and “avoid hardship”

Australia’s Vaping Restrictions

Australia will restrict vaping to therapeutic uses only and require vapes to be sold in “pharmaceutical-like packaging”

  • In 2021, Australia classified nicotine vaping products as medicines that were only accessible with a prescription. Australians could still buy nicotine-free vapes, though, and a black market thrived

  • The new rules make all vapes – nicotine or otherwise – available only to those whose doctors have prescribed them to help stop smoking

  • They also ban disposable vapes, limit nicotine levels, and restrict their sale to pharmacies

Dig Deeper

€49 German Euro Pass

Germany launched a €49 ($54) monthly pass for unlimited rides on the country’s public transport

  • Germany has the EU’s largest rail system. As of 2020, 91.4% of Germans had access to public transport

  • Last summer, to help reduce the burden of rising costs, Germany launched a temporary €9 ($9.50) all-you-can-ride monthly public transit pass. 62%+ of Germany’s ~83M people bought the pass

  • On Monday, Germany launched a €49 ($54)-per-month replacement that offers unlimited rides on all public transport except high-speed trains. On the day of the pass’s launch, 3M+ people signed up for it

Dig Deeper

  • Germany’s transport minister called the pass “the biggest public transport reform in German history.” The deal’s opponents have said the funds would be better spent renovating Germany’s aging rail system

🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Not your average Joel: Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid won the NBA’s MVP award for the 2022-2023 season. Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo came in 2nd and 3rd

  • Keep Chegging along: Shares for online education company Chegg dropped nearly 50% on Tuesday after the company said ChatGPT is hurting its business

  • Loneliness epidemic: The US Surgeon General claims that widespread loneliness in the US poses health risks as deadly as smoking up to 15 daily cigarettes

Wildcard

  • Land of 10,000 yikes: A Minnesota state senator cast a vote shirtless on Zoom before quickly turning his camera off. The lawmaker has not yet commented on the incident

  • Son of a bee! An Arizona woman was stung more than 75 times when a swarm of bees attacked her during a family photo shoot. She has since recovered

  • The death piano-lty: Japanese authorities have removed a public piano from a train station concourse over reports that pianists played too loudly or past the 10-minute limit

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll

Should bicyclists be treated more as vehicles or pedestrians?

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Today's Question:

What's a historical event you could read about all day? Why?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

Harry Belafonte was born Harold Bellanfanti in Harlem in 1927.

His parents were Jamaican immigrants, and he spent much of his childhood in Jamaica. He attended high school in New York City before dropping out, joining the Navy, and serving in World War 2.

Belafonte’s Navy shipmates introduced him to the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois and other black thinkers, which sparked an interest in civil rights and black history. He then discovered a passion for acting and enrolled in an NYC acting school after the war.

Belafonte found himself in a class alongside Marlon Brando, who later starred in the Godfather. He also took a job at a Harlem theater for African Americans where he befriended Sidney Poitier, who in 1964 would become the first black actor to win the Oscar for Best Actor.

Belafonte struggled to find acting roles he liked but excelled as a singer. In 1949, he began a 2-week stint as an intermission performer at a popular Manhattan nightclub.

Belafonte was a hit and ended up spending 5 months at the club. He rose through the New York jazz scene playing with legends like Miles Davis, then received a major label contract in 1953.

In 1956, Belafonte released “Calypso,” an album that featured his most popular song, “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).” That album became the first album ever to sell 1M copies, beating Elvis Presley to the record.

Belafonte's success made him a major force for racial integration.

He became the first black artist to perform in many venues, and when he began acting in movies, forced advertisers and media companies to allow multi-racial casts. He repeatedly appeared publicly with famous white performers, and in 1957 he married a white woman.

That behavior prompted criticism from many Americans, particularly after a movie in which he appeared to have a relationship with a white woman. But by 1959, he was the highest-paid black performer in history. He put much of that money into the civil rights movement.

Belafonte became a close confidant of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and often paid his and other activists’ bail. MLK would stay at Belafonte’s house when he was in New York, and after MLK was assassinated in 1968, he continued to provide money to MLK’s family.

Belafonte helped fund MLK’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He also provided much of the start-up money and continued funding for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, one of the most prominent civil rights groups.

Belafonte later became focused on humanitarian issues. He helped organize both a boycott of South Africa over its apartheid policies, and the Live Aid concert, which raised $127M ($350M in 2022 dollars) for African famine relief.

Belafonte was politically active – and controversial– later in life.

In 2002, he said that President George W. Bush’s black secretary of state “came into the house of the master. In 2006, he called Bush “the greatest terrorist in the world.”

In 2013, he referred to the billionaire conservative Koch brothers as “white supremacists.” He also vocally campaigned against Donald Trump.

Belafonte died in his New York City home of heart failure on Tuesday. He was 96.

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

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Have you played chess in the last year?

Yes: 24%
No: 76%

Yesterday's Question:

What is a false stereotype you think Europeans have about the US?

Adam from Virginia: "I think they think everyone here is fat. Not true for the most part although we do have very highly processed food, we aren't ALL fat”

Maggie from Illinois: “I think a false stereotype that Europeans have about the US is that we all think we're better than the rest of the world. At least from my experience, that couldn't be farther from the truth.”

Tim from Mississippi: “A false stereotype that Europeans have about Americans is that we are loud and obnoxious. Oh wait…that’s mostly true.”

🧠 Final Thoughts

We hope that NYC’s government reads The Current and feels inspired to offer free transit passes to all of us in New York. And while we’re pitching German-inspired ideas: We wouldn’t mind if NYC replaced a few hotdog stands with bratwurst stands, too.

Happy Wednesday, Roca!

—Max and Max