🌊 Worldwide Leader in Streaming?

PLUS: Case Closed: Swedes Don’t Nord What Happened

Let’s do some Thursday trivia.

Many musical artists use stage names, and often for good reason. Snoop Dogg’s real name, for example, is Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. In a world of Ice Cube, Biggie, and 2Pac, the name “Calvin” doesn’t exactly scream rap star. No wonder he named a song “What’s my name?”

After going down a Calvin Broadus-induced rabbit hole, today’s Thursday trivia theme is “Guess the famous artist’s stage name by their real name!”

  • Shawn Carter

  • Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta

  • Jason Desrouleaux

  • Farrokh Bulsara

  • Reginald Kenneth Dwight

Answers are in Final Thoughts. Also, we’re just learning that Dua Lipa is a real name…

In today's edition:

🏈 Super duper sports streaming package

🛫 Airline that's weighing passengers

🤔 Roca's Weekly Debate

And so much more!

–Max, Max, Jen, and Alex

Court: Trump Not Immune

ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery are forming a joint sports streaming service

  • Streaming subscriptions have made it difficult for consumers to access all sports content on one platform as they traditionally did with a cable TV package

  • The new venture seeks to solve that by combining all three companies’ sports offerings into one standalone service

  • Per a Citibank analysis, the new platform will include ~55% of all US sports rights. Existing users on any of the three companies’ streaming services will reportedly be allowed to access the new platform through a bundle

Dig Deeper

  • Prices haven’t been disclosed, but analysts expect it will be cheaper than cable TV packages

  • The CEO of Disney, ESPN’s owner, said, “This [platform] means the full suite of ESPN channels will be available to consumers alongside the sports programming of other industry leaders”

“Visit Gaza” — To Show or Not?

Streaming services are conflicted over whether to run an anti-Hamas “Visit Gaza” ad 

  • The ad, created by Israel’s government, mimics a tourism video, advertising “stunning beaches,” “Five Star Hotels,” and “vibrant nightlife” in Gaza. It then cuts to a Hamas fighter as a voiceover says, “This is what Gaza could have been like without Hamas”

  • YouTube briefly ran the video as a paid ad before taking it down, citing the platform’s policy against “shocking” content. The video remains on the Israeli National Public Diplomacy Directorate’s YouTube page as unpaid content. Meanwhile, Disney-controlled Hulu is still running it as a paid ad next to “mature” content

  • Some critics are now calling for a boycott of Hulu, and one pro-Palestinian group has organized a march to Hulu’s headquarters

Dig Deeper

Denim, but Made to Move

Roca loves a classic pair of denim jeans, but we’ve found it difficult to wear jeans as we travel the world to bring you the most interesting stories. That is, until we found DUER — the denim that is made to move

  • The performance denim collection by DUER is crafted with innovative performance fabrics designed for versatility — as if our favorite activewear and classic jeans had a baby

  • To get technical, that’s because it’s infused with 360-degree stretch, high-quality fibers for shape retention, and triple-stitched seams for added strength. Plus, it has temperature-regulating and antimicrobial properties to keep you feeling fresh, cool, and dry

  • So whether you’re dropping your kids off at soccer or being smuggled across a dense Croatian jungle — ok, maybe that second one is just our co-founder Max F — DUER helps you take the day in style and stride

  • Try your first pair today and unlock 15% off your first order!

Sweden Drops Nord Investigation

Swedish authorities closed their investigation into the September 2022 Nord Stream pipeline bombing

  • Nord Stream consisted of two undersea pipelines designed to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany. In September 2022, undersea explosions severely damaged both pipelines. The US and its allies blamed Russia; Russia blamed the US or Ukraine

  • Sweden, Germany, and Denmark launched investigations into the incident, but on Wednesday, Sweden closed its probe. The probe’s purpose was “to establish whether Swedish citizens were involved,” authorities said, and without such involvement, Sweden doesn’t have jurisdiction – legal authority or standing – to investigate it

  • Sweden handed over to Germany “material that can be used as evidence in the German investigation”

Dig Deeper

  • Last March, a New York Times report citing US intelligence officials claimed that a “pro-Ukrainian group” likely destroyed Nord Stream, while one award-winning American journalist has reported that President Biden ordered the bombing of the pipeline. Neither the US nor other Western governments have investigated that claim

Pakistan’s Election Mayhem

Amid bombings and with one of its most popular politicians in jail, Pakistan holds elections today

  • Pakistan is technically a democracy, although no democratically-elected prime minister has ever completed a full term. Its former prime minister and arguably its most popular politician, Imran Khan, is currently jailed and ineligible to run for office

  • The elections take place amid a number of bombings, most recently a pair on Wednesday that targeted political offices and killed 30+ people

  • The frontrunner is a former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who was formerly ousted and fled to England but has since returned

Dig Deeper

  • Pakistan's military generally decides who rules the country. Until 2017, it supported Sharif. After a falling out with him, it shifted support to Imran Khan – until it had a falling out with him that resulted in his arrest. Now, it's back to supporting Sharif

  • The jailing of Khan and his supporters has led to widespread anger among much of the population

Some Quick Stories for the Office

🇺🇸 House Republicans fell just shy of impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday as four Republicans joined every Democrat to reject the motion. Republicans “fully intend” to try to impeach Mayorkas again, a Republican spokesperson said

🇨🇳 China replaced its top financial regulator with the former chairman of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, China’s largest exchange. Since a recent peak in February 2021, the Chinese and Hong Kong stock markets have collectively shed $6.1T in stock value

🚙 Uber made $1.9B in net profits in 2023, its first annual profit ever and up significantly from a $9.1B loss the year prior. Uber’s shares rose as high as 1% following the news, bringing its stock price to a record high

✇ A US drone strike killed a senior commander of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia, believed to have been responsible for several attacks against US forces, including the deadly attack in Jordan. The strike also killed two other Kataib Hezbollah members, and the US reported no civilian casualties

🇮🇱 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hamas’ ceasefire proposal, calling “complete and final victory” for Israel the only solution. Per a draft of the proposal, Hamas proposed releasing Israeli hostages incrementally in exchange for a 135-day ceasefire

📦 The US bought more goods from Mexico than China last year for the first time in 20 years, new data show. The US imported $427B worth of goods from China last year, down 20% from the year prior. Meanwhile, imports from Mexico increased slightly to $475B

Weekly Debate

We’re trying something new this week.

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 day, we’re asking readers to respond to other readers’ responses. Those are located below the Wrap.

This week’s discussion:

Is technology advancing too quickly? Who should set the pace?

Here are reader responses to Karen and Louise, whose takes we shared in yesterday’s Current. What other thoughts do you have? Keep the debate going, and reply to this email!

V from Texas: “The problem with ‘moral boundaries’ is the lack of morality. Everyone has their line-in-the-sand. Previous standards have been set aside. There is no human answer. Humans have proven to be ridiculously weak, corrupt and of late, absurdly unreasonable. We need help... But most people reject the help available because it would mean changing and using self-control and saying 'no' to themselves. Giving in to every whim and desire is considered 'freedom'. It's actually slavery. Think about it. And every scientist who wants to pursue a new idea or invention, does it whether or not they THINK about the ramifications of it. If it CAN be done, it MUST be done. I disagree with that 'reason'ing.”

Mike from Cottonwood, California: “If you run the human experiment out far enough there is only one likely outcome, we will be the cause of our own demise. Technology is a double edge sword and our monkey brains generally don't know what we're doing but we love the novelty and convenience of technological advances. What are we trying to do as humans? Some are happy to exist in small cabins in the woods and others would be happy to live in a capsule in space. We will not get all countries of the world to collectively agree to curb advancement of technology. Therefore, we will continue a technological race until it turns ugly.”

 Respond by replying to this email! More replies are below the deep-dives.

Today’s Poll:

Find today’s poll in the On-the-Ground Wrap!

Answers to Friday’s poll and question are below the Wrap.  

Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

⛳️ Eye of the Tiger: Tiger Woods will play in next week’s Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, marking his first competitive rounds of 2024

🛩 Sell It Off: Taylor Swift has reportedly sold one of her two private jets amid her dispute with an online jet tracker account. Her lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to the college student behind the account

🚔 Free samples… in this economy?! Calgary police arrested a 30-year-old man for distributing “free samples” of cocaine at a downtown casino to promote his drug business

🛻 “Truck don’t surf”: Florida police arrested a 49-year-old man for driving his Dodge Ram pickup truck onto a closed beach after bypassing a “DO NOT ENTER” sign. He proceeded to drive in the ocean

⚖️ Pre-flight weigh-in: Finnair, Finland’s flagship airline, announced it will voluntarily weigh passengers along with their luggage through May to enhance flight safety by maximizing “flight balance”

🇫🇷 Average French man’s hobby: Over the past eight years, a French man built a 23.6-foot Eiffel Tower model using 706,900 matchsticks, aiming to surpass the world’s tallest matchstick record by two feet

Roca in Liberland

We send our co-founder Max Frost to investigate topics around the world and he writes about them here. He’s currently writing from Liberland. Subscribers receive the full stories.

On the way to Liberland, Dorian, my guide and a Liberland official, laid out his vision for a truly libertarian society. 

“Liberland is not pure democracy,” he told me.

“Everybody has the right to participate in referendums to strike down legislation. But only people with a sufficient amount of merits [the Liberland currency] can participate in creating new legislation…Basically, you get merits for paying taxes, either by donating money or with your labor.”

Most tax payment is voluntary, and people are incentivized to pay taxes because doing so gets them more sway over politics. 

“Only taxpayers get to vote. Their babies get the citizenship and passports and everything, but until they become taxpayers themselves, they do not get voting rights.”

Liberland has a “fully functioning” judicial system, with courts and registries. Its residents claim it’s far more effective than that in Croatia.

“In Croatia, if you want to pay somebody to build your house and they f*ck you over, it might take years for the court to handle it,” Dorian says. “But in Liberland, a breach of contract like this is handled much faster and much cheaper.”

In Liberland, taxpayers’ political power is proportional to how much tax they pay. “You vote with your merits, not by headcount.” If you have the most merits, you get the most votes. 

Liberland’s politics are divided between a congress, senators, and the people, who vote in referendums. Congress is elected; senators serve lifetime appointments and have a “curator type of role…to keep the mobs and politicians in check”; and citizens vote in referendums. To pass a law, they vote based on how many merits they have. To cancel a law, they can vote either by merits or by headcount. That gives the people “the highest amount of power,” Dorian said.

When I asked if that system is anti-democratic, Dorian said no.

“In every country rich people have more political power...but in a purely democratic country, a powerful rich person who wants to get more political power needs to do it via corruption, via bribery, via fake news. In Liberland, you can just build a school and then you have more political power.”

“It's a nice system to encourage people – especially powerful people – to contribute to public goods,” Dorian says, adding, “There is a nice incentive to pay taxes without it actually being forced.”

Poll Time!

Would you want a system like this?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Dorian added that Liberland has no regulations, although it is “required to honor international treaties. So basically, if you want to ship a container of drugs, this is not going to be allowed, but Liberland will not punish people who do drugs.”

Poll Time!

Should people be punished for doing drugs?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

“But due to the current situation – the semi-occupation by corrupt Croatian institutions – we have temporarily adopted Croatian criminal law to not complicate the situation further.”

I asked Dorian if he could get rid of one regulation from society, which it would be. 

He thought about it then said, “I would much rather you ask me, ‘If you would add one regulation.’ If I would add one regulation, it would be the requirement for all legislation to have expiry dates. And for them to be explicitly needed to be passed again in order to be valid. Because I think one of the huge issues which is also easy to miss in our modern society is that we are just adding legislation instead of questioning the existing one. So as time goes on there is just more and more and more and more legislation.”

“If we force the political system to periodically rethink all legislation, to think ‘Ok, it maybe made sense 20 years ago but does it make sense now?’ We would have much leaner, much more efficient, and much more sensible countries.’”

Poll Time!

Do expiration dates on all laws make sense?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

“You thought about that before, haven't you?” I said.

“Yes. We are likely going to implement this in Liberland.”

The Hanging Stone

Everyday we take a deep dive into an interesting story, place, or person. Subscribers get full access.

Per local legend, the world will end when a stone falls off a cliff in Siberia.

Siberia is a vast, sparsely populated region of central and eastern Russia. While it lacks a specific territorial definition, it is generally defined as the region between the Ural Mountains and the Pacific. It came under Russian control over a period starting in the 16th and ending in the 18th century.

Southern Siberia is home to Ergaki National Park, often referred to as “Russia’s Yosemite.” In Ergaki is a stone that refuses to fall.

Known as the Hanging Stone, the boulder is perched on less than one square meter of stone, making it appear as though it’s on the brink of falling. Yet it isn’t – and it has remained in that precarious position for millenia. While geologists believe the stone, weighing ~500 tons, was deposited there thousands of years ago, local legends say otherwise.

One myth claims that the stone rests on a giant woman known as “Sleeping Sayan,” a reference to the area’s indigenous people; in some versions, the stone is said to represent Sayan’s heart. Other myths believe when the Hanging Stone falls into the lake below, “Sleeping Sayan” will awaken and destroy the world. Some locals claim the stone has magical properties.

For years, people have speculated that the stone is about to fall. The area is earthquake-prone and, given its position, the stone is highly vulnerable to erosion. A group of 30 tourists once tried to push it over the ledge, but despite such efforts, the stone continues to stand where it has for eons.

However, since 2012, more and more cracks have been appearing on its surface, leading to dire predictions about its future. Are the cracks harbingers of a fateful fall, or will the Hanging Stone forever enjoy its view?

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

The Hanging Stone

Everyday we take a deep dive into an interesting story, place, or person. Subscribers get full access.

Per local legend, the world will end when a stone falls off a cliff in Siberia.

Siberia is a vast, sparsely populated region of central and eastern Russia. While it lacks a specific territorial definition, it is generally defined as the region between the Ural Mountains and the Pacific. It came under Russian control over a period starting in the 16th and ending in the 18th century.

Southern Siberia is home to Ergaki National Park, often referred to as “Russia’s Yosemite.” In Ergaki is a stone that refuses to fall.

The rest of this story is for subscribers only.

Join Roca Nation

This was an example of a Roca Deep Dive. Try a free two-week trial for Roca Premium and you’ll unlock:

  • A daily Deep Dive

  • Ad-free newsletter

  • Daily On-the-Ground

  • And so much more!

Roca Reader Takes

This week’s discussion:

On Monday we asked: Is technology advancing too quickly? Who should set the pace?

Trey from Silicon Valley, California: “As someone who has worked in the tech industry, the technological advancements achieved in recent history have been unfathomable. However, such advancements have unintended consequences. Like everything in life, balance is key. In general, society has become overreliant on technology to replace normal day-to-day functions. To be concrete, the most unintended consequence in the industry is the impact on mental health. It’s evident how the more connected you are with technology, the less connected you are with reality. Technology is not evil, it is a tool. Balancing when and how to use technology is essential to leading a factual and peaceful life with our time on earth. It is your individual responsibility to find that balance and use technology as a tool, not a replacement for reality. 

For who should regulate the pace of technology, it should be the people actually doing the work of creating it. The last thing I want is the government trying to control something they have no real understanding of (Just for context, I work for the Federal Government now). What does this mean? It means selecting individuals based on merit, not their title or affiliation to any of the large investment firms or government entities. Their identities need to remain confidential to reduce the possibility they may be corrupted by money, political influence, or any other factor that may sway them toward making a reckless and selfish decision. But hey, that’s my 2 cents seeing it up close.”

Do you have any more thoughts on today’s discussion after reading the above replies and poll results from Roca Readers? Respond by replying to this email!

Yesterday’s Poll:

Have you ever been 'catfished'?

Yes: 18%
No: 82%

Final Thoughts

Still can’t believe Dua Lipa’s a real name. Here are the answers to Trivia in the intro:

  • Shawn Carter - Jay-Z

  • Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta - Lady Gaga

  • Jason Desrouleaux - Jason Derulo (hope you didn’t overthink)

  • Farrokh Bulsara - Freddy Mercury

  • Reginald Kenneth Dwight - Elton John

    See you tomorrow,

    —Max and Max