RocaNews - 🌊 Peeping Xi

July 27, 2022

"What's up, doc?" 82 years ago today, an unnamed bunny debuted on the big screen with these opening words. We have since come to know that inquisitive fluffster as Bugs Bunny, the cartoon character with the most movie appearances ever. If only he starred in Fast & Furious... "What's up, Rock?" 

In today's edition:

  • Doctored Alzheimer's study?
  • Fast food chain with 50k lottery tix
  • Frost in danger?
Sign up for the Roca Current →

 Key Stories

Senate: China Spied on the Fed

A US Senate report outlined a decade-long effort by China to infiltrate the Fed, the US’ central bank

  • The Fed controls the supply of US dollars, making it one of the world’s most influential financial organizations. The report alleged that China attempted to bribe and intimidate Fed officials to access private data about the US economy
  • The report also cited a “failure of the [Fed] to combat this threat effectively,” although it didn’t disclose how much data, if any, was actually stolen
  • Fed Chairman Jerome Powell called the Senate report “unfair, unsubstantiated, and unverified”

BlackRock Cuts Back on ESG Influence

BlackRock, the world’s largest investor, is cutting its support of climate-related shareholder proposals

  • BlackRock manages ~$8.5T and holds equity in ~14K companies. In recent years, it said it would support more proposals aimed at making companies more environmentally sustainable
  • This year, though, it backed 24% of environmental or socially-oriented proposals, down from 43% last year
  • BlackRock’s CEO cited difficult economic conditions and a desire not to “micromanage.” He added, “We focus on sustainability not because we’re environmentalists, but because we are capitalists”

Alzheimer's Research Fabricated?

A Science investigation revealed that a key 2006 Alzheimer’s study may have used fabricated data

  • Alzheimer’s causes brain deterioration and is the leading cause of dementia. It affects ~6M Americans
  • The 2006 study linked a certain protein to Alzheimer’s and has been cited 2,000+ times. Science estimates that the US government devoted $1.6B in 2022 alone to research based around its findings
  • But a Vanderbilt researcher recently accused the study’s authors of forging data after he discovered edited pictures. If true, that may undermine years of research. The study’s authors are yet to respond
Dig Deeper
  • Last year, the Vanderbilt professor identified 70 instances in which images presented in the study appeared to be tampered with. Although the finding raises questions about the role of a specific "amyloid" protein in Alzheimer's, a significant portion of Alzheimer's research remains unaffected

Senate Passes Semiconductor Bill

The US Senate passed a bill providing $280B to increase domestic semiconductor production

  • Semiconductors are used to make chips that are essential to TVs, phones, electric vehicles, and other tech devices. President Biden framed the bill as a way to decrease US’ reliance on foreign suppliers that are vulnerable to conflict and other supply chain disruptions
  • The bill includes $52B in subsidies for companies, $24B in tax breaks, and $200B primarily for research
  • 17 Republicans supported it, as did all Democratic-voting senators besides Bernie Sanders, who called it corporate welfare. The House will likely pass it soon
Dig Deeper
  • The US' share of global chip production has fallen from 40% to 12% over the past several decades, and the US commerce secretary says it has invested "nearly nothing" in domestic chip production, while China has invested ~$150B. The US' main foreign chip supplier is Taiwan, and the US worries China could seize the island and cut the US off from the vital tech
popcorn Popcorn
  • Back to kylergarden: NFL quarterback Kyler Murray's massive $230M contract will default if he fails to watch 4 hours of film per week
  • Eat my space dust: Russia will "quit" the International Space Station after 2024 with the intention of building its own orbital station
  • Raising hopes: The founder of Raising Cane's bought Mega Millions lottery tickets for all 50k employees. The pot is now $850M
  • But wait, there's more! More human remains have been found at the bottom of drought-stricken Lake Mead in Nevada
  • Time Person of the Year: New York Jets QB Zach Wilson has seen his popularity soar amid rumors that he slept with one of his mom's friends
  • Ruling on the field reversed: Actor Tony Dow from Leave it to Beaver is still alive despite representatives announcing that he died

finger What do you think?

Today's Poll:
How do you feel about the discontinuation of the Choco Taco?
Don't care

Today's Question:
What's a subject or topic that high schools should teach that they don't?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap!

 Roca Wrap

We sent Roca co-founder Max Frost on a mission to cross the Amazon without flying. He's documenting the trip here over the coming newsletters. 

Frost is also posting videos and pictures of the trip on his Instagram

After nearly 36 hours on a cargo boat, I arrived in Nauta, a riverside town deep in the Amazon. I disembarked onto a muddy riverbank lined with shanties and went to find a ride to Iquitos.

Iquitos, a city of 400,000 an hour’s drive away, is the largest isolated city in the world. The only road out of the city ends in Nauta; beyond that, it’s hundreds of miles of rainforest. Everyone and everything that enters the area comes by river or air. 

I caught a motorcycle ride to the bus station, where I booked a seat in a van headed to Iquitos. Before we took off, though, the mix of food poisoning and grilled crocodile I ate that afternoon caught up to me. I ended up violently ill in the bus stop bathroom. When I emerged, we set off for Iquitos.

Seated next to me was a local tour guide who offered to help me get my boat ticket downriver. When we reached Iquitos an hour later, he brought me on his motorcycle to his agency, where I booked a ticket for an overnight boat the next night to the border with Brazil.

That left me with 24 hours in Iquitos. I found a nearby hotel, took my second shower of the trip, and ate some grilled chicken. The next morning, I set out to explore. 

Iquitos was unlike any other city I’ve visited. The streets were packed, but not with cars: Nearly every vehicle was a 3-wheel rickshaw, a motorcycle, or a colorful, open-air bus. Each time a light turned green, there was a deafening sound of accelerating motorcycles that made it impossible to hear anything else. The sun, heat, and humidity were as intense as the noise. 

A 3-wheel taxi picked me up to go to the port, where I was looking for a boat to visit a nearby nature reserve. My driver suggested I visit a different reserve that he said was closer, better, and cheaper. I agreed, and upon arrival, he found me a boat driver. Both the taxi and boat drivers ripped me off, the only time that happened to me in Peru.  

My driver and I climbed into his motorized canoe, and just as we were about to set off, another young guy jumped in. Without explanation, we set off up the river, the city quickly fading from view. 

Something about my driver made me uncomfortable, and I thought for a second that this second guy had come to help him rob me. That didn't happen – we dropped him off at a village after 5 minutes – but I was on edge for the next 20 minutes, particularly as we boated up the river and into something like a mangrove forest, where no one else was around. 

In reality, it was fine: After 25 minutes, we reached a group of buildings where Peruvian schoolchildren were playing. This was the reserve, which was actually a rescue center for animals that had been saved from poachers and traffickers but were too traumatized to survive in the wild. The center’s guide, who had come from Spain to do wildlife conservation work, told me that the center is making less than $100 a day, a fraction of what it did before the pandemic and potentially not enough to remain in business. 

Back in the city, I visited Iquitos’ main market, next to which is Belém, a striking, vast network of huts connected by planks and built on stilts ten or more feet off the ground. When the water level is high, the water goes right up to the houses' doors. The neighborhood looked incredible and I wanted to walk into it, but I had read it wasn’t safe.

Near a view over the neighborhood, a nice, older Peruvian woman sold me a cupcake and invited me to sit on her stoop. 2 minutes later, someone named Christian, whose gender I couldn’t tell, came up and gave the woman a hug. Christian began talking to me in Spanish, asking where I was from. 

“You know it’s not safe here,” Christian said. “Lots of bad people. Be careful with your phone. People will rob you.” Then she gestured to a staircase that descended into Belém. “If you want to see it, I’ll show you around. You’ll be safe with me.”

I wouldn’t have gone, but the older woman I was with smiled and said I’d be safe. So Christian led me down the stairs and into the neighborhood, suggesting I take pictures but hold my phone tightly. I took a few, but started to feel paranoid, totally exposed. I saw 2 other men walk by; Christian was looking around, then at me and smiling. I suggested we walk back. 

Christian led me back up the stairs, then to the roof of the woman’s home where I had had the cupcake. There was a great view. Christian then asked for a selfie, told me to be careful in Iquitos, and escorted me back to the street. 

I still don’t know what Christian wanted, but the situation raised alarm bells. I felt that I was getting set up for a robbery, but everything ended up fine. Christian was either another hospitable Peruvian, or setting me up for a mugging that didn’t materialize. 

Back in the market, I ended up in a section dedicated to Amazonian medicines. There were dried snakes, containers of different animal bloods, insect pastes, and ayahuasca – a vine used in indigenous cultural ceremonies that causes intense psychedelic trips, diarrhea, and vomiting. 

After a few more hours exploring the city, I grabbed my bag from the hotel and got a ride to the port. My destination – a Peruvian town on the border with both Brazil and Colombia – was a 12-hour ride away. 

Unlike the last boat – a slow, cargo ship where I slept on a hammock – this was the high-speed boat. It was long and wooden, with about 20 rows of 2 seats on either side of an aisle. The boat had open sides and was low in the water. I could reach out and touch the river. 

We pulled out of the port around 7 PM and sped away from the city. Within minutes, we were flying through the darkness of the Amazon. Ahead lay Brazil.

If you have thoughts, let us know at!
Future Wrap ideas or requests? Let us know!

 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

More iconic American family?
Kennedys: 72.8%
Rockefellers: 27.2%

Yesterday's Question:

What is a non-negotiable household rule for you?

Michael from Hawaii: "No goats or chickens in the house. We live on a farm"

Dave from Texas: "When it comes to household tasks that are assigned by my wife (and vice versa). Ask me to do something OR tell me how to do it, but not BOTH"

Shawn from Indiana: "Take your shoes off at the door! I don’t want your sticky Walmart parking lot goo on my floors"
Today's Clue (Day 2 of 4):
Barefoot girls from Clue 1 doing something that became an anthem
Day 1: "If I were an Angel, where would I fly to? Paradise, but CCR was there"

We're back this week with our first music-themed Roca Treasure Hunt! The correct answer to this week's Hunt will be a music-related landmark in the United States. Thursday's newsletter will contain a bonus clue, which is automatically unlocked by referring 2 people to this newsletter. In total there will be 5 clues about 1 landmark.

This week, first place takes home $250; second and third place take home $100 each. 

You get one guess, which you submit by replying to a newsletter with a Google street view screenshot.


 Final Thoughts

On this Hump Day, we present camel fact #1859: Camels' humps are not just for storing water. They can carry up to 80 pounds of fat, which lets them survive for weeks without food.  

At Roca HQ, we are using that logic to justify the dozens of Dunkin' munchkins we are eating this morning. 

Have a great Wednesday!

- Max and Max

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