RocaNews - 🌊 Hips Don't Pay Taxes

August 1, 2022

Hate to start a new week with an In Memoriam, but RIP to 11-time NBA champion Bill Russell and trailblazing Star Trek star Nichelle Nichols. These two inspire us to shoot for the stars, even with creepy monsters like the Remans up there. Happy August, Happy Monday, let's ride! 

In today's edition:

  • Shakira to jail?
  • Wuhan lockdown
  • Frost gets tatted
Sign up for the Roca Current →

 Key Stories

Did Politicians Trade Favors for Equity?

According to the WSJ, the family members of several prominent US politicians received stakes in the profits of a casino that received federal approval

  • The casino is operated by the Catawba Nation, a South Carolina tribe of ~3,600 members. In 2020, they received tentative approval to open a casino just across the state border in North Carolina; a year later, Congress approved their casino project
  • Relatives of 4 high-ranking Democratic and Republican congresspeople and officials received equity in a company that profits off of the casino
  • The matter is raising ethics and corruption concerns
Dig Deeper
  • Those who received shares include a brother of Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, who introduced the bill that enabled the casino's construction; the husband of former Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley; and a campaign manager for both Hillary Clinton and then VP-candidate Joe Biden

Pelosi Departs on Asia Trip

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left the US for Asia

  • Pelosi, the 3rd-ranked US politician, is visiting 4 East Asian countries. She also plans to stop in Taiwan, a self-governing island claimed by China
  • China, which opposes any effort to deny its claim to Taiwan, warned of “severe consequences” if Pelosi makes the trip. Last week, Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned President Biden that “those that play with fire will perish by it”; state-approved Chinese media have suggested her jet be shot down
  • President Biden and the US military have advised against her stopping in Taiwan
Dig Deeper
  • As tensions rise, both China and Taiwan have increased their military readiness. Over the weekend, China held drills near Taiwan, while Taiwan conducted drills simulating the island's defense. If she visits, Pelosi will be the highest-ranking American to visit the island since Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997

Shakira to Jail?

Spanish authorities are seeking an 8-year jail sentence for Colombian pop superstar Shakira

  • With 80M+ album sales worldwide, Shakira is the best-selling Hispanic female singer of all time
  • Spanish authorities accuse Shakira of failing to pay €14.5M ($15M) in taxes spanning from 2012-2014, when they allege she lived in Spain with her partner and family. Shakira’s legal team claims that she has paid the proper amount of taxes, and that she wasn’t a Spanish resident at the time in question
  • Spanish prosecutors are now seeking 8 years in prison and a $24M fine for Shakira

Massive Floods Hit Midwest

Days of flooding in the Midwest have killed 28+, with dozens more missing

  • Most deaths (26) have been reported in Kentucky, however, Missouri, West Virginia, Virginia, and Ohio have also been affected. The floods have done hundreds of millions of dollars in damage
  • The flooding is a result of both overflowing rivers and heavy rain, which some meteorologists attribute to shifts in the jet stream — bands of high-speed winds in Earth’s atmosphere
  • The US weather agency said the odds of such rainfall are “less than a 1 in 1,000… in a given year”

Jackpot Winner Bags $1.34B

A ticket bought in Illinois was the sole winner of the Mega Millions lottery jackpot, worth $1.34B

  • The jackpot is the second-largest ever, after a $1.6B jackpot in 2013. That prize was split by 3 people, though, whereas one person will take this pot
  • Beginning in April, the Mega Millions lottery rolled 29 times without a winner. The winning numbers were 13, 36, 45, 57, and 67, with the final “Mega Ball” being 14. The grand prize is worth $780.5M if cashed out in-full, but more if taken in installments
  • What would you do if you won a $1.3B jackpot?
popcorn Popcorn
  • Right back where we started from: 2 asymptomatic Covid cases were identified in Wuhan, and ~1M people in the city's suburbs are now in lockdown
  • That's Artist* Jack Sparrow: Johnny Depp's debut art collection sold out within hours, crashing the gallery's website and earning him $3.6M 
  • Apology day: Will Smith made his first on-camera apology on Friday, expressing remorse to Chris Rock and his family

  • Breaking bronze: Albuquerque unveiled new bronze statues of Breaking Bad main characters Walter White and Jesse Pinkman
  • Rose, this you? Marine archaeologists discovered jewels from a 1656 Spanish shipwreck on the ocean floor near the Bahamas
  • Orwhaleian policy: Nautical authorities have proposed speed limits in the North Atlantic to prevent collisions with endangered right whales

finger What do you think?

Today's Poll:
Can covers of famous songs be better than the original?



Today's Question:
Have you noticed yourself becoming more anxious in recent years? If so, what's causing that? 

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap!

 Roca Wrap

In June, Roca co-founder Max Frost spent 3 weeks crossing the Amazon by boat. He's documenting it here over the coming weeks. 

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

On day 9 of my trip, I reached Atalaia do Norte, the last town before the uncontacted frontier – an area larger than many countries that’s home to thousands of people who have never had contact with the outside world. 

My guide, Philipe, and I had traveled 2 hours by boat from Tabatinga, a city on the border with Peru and Colombia. It was dark when we arrived, but still hot and muggy. Philipe’s father picked me up on a motorcycle. 

People were out playing soccer, eating at restaurants, taking walks. Everyone said hi as we passed; home to 20,000 people, Atalia is a place where everyone knows everyone. There are hardly any cars, just motorbikes.   

For dinner, I sat outside with Philipe, his younger brother, and his cousin Kaio at a small restaurant packed with people on plastic chairs watching a soccer match. We drank Heinekens and ate a delicious sweet and spicy fish stew, served over rice. I felt totally at ease. 

We started the next day with breakfast at the local market, where fishermen were selling freshly caught piranhas. We took a seat at a plastic table. 3 guys next to us, who were staying at Philipe’s family’s hotel, started talking to me in English. 

“Phlipe’s father said you’re a journalist?” I explained a bit about Roca and what I was doing.  I asked who they were.

“We’re journalists,” one of them said. “With the Guardian.” 

2 weeks prior, a British journalist who worked with the Guardian and was writing a book about illegal activity in the Amazon had been found murdered in the rainforest nearby. They were investigating the murder, which authorities said was committed by illegal fishermen fishing in protected Amazon lands. The fishermen may have belonged to a cartel that dominated this portion of Brazil.

As I would later learn, the cartel operates like a conglomerate: It has an illegal fishing division, a drug trafficking division, an illegal logging division, a poaching division. Unlike in northern Mexico, where cartels fight for influence in drug wars that kill thousands, a lone cartel reportedly controls this territory. That makes it relatively stable – unless you cross them. 

The journalists were shocked that I was in the area so casually. Before leaving they said, “It’s not safe here. Be careful.”

The menacing warning was totally at odds with the chill vibe of the town. 

We boarded Philipe’s boat, and Kaio pointed out a covered area on the dock where hammocks were strung up and a dozen or so people in haggard clothes were sitting. They were from indigenous tribes upriver, and they stayed here when they came to town for doctor’s appointments or other activities. Each tribe had its own dock.

We spent the day boating between villages along the Javarí river, which forms the border between Peru and Brazil. The north and west bank of the river was Peru; the south and east, Brazil. 

Our first stop was a Peruvian village that consisted of 6 or so huts along a riverside dirt path. There was no electricity; the school was one room. In the center of the village, a tree was being carved into a dug-out canoe. A few women greeted us as we got off the boat. 

We needed the village president’s permission to visit a massive tree in the nearby rainforest, but the women said he was in town, selling fish. They suggested we talk to the president’s brother. 

The brother was about half my height but had the features of a man. I asked his age; he was 27. The women we saw were small too. Whether from malnutrition or genetics, the people of the village were tiny.

He led us into the rainforest, where we found the famous Samauma tree, which was so tall we couldn’t see the top of it. The tree’s thick roots began well above my head before diving into the ground. I was told the tree was 450 years old. 

The next stop was a village of a dozen or so homes on the Brazilian side of the river where Kaio’s relatives lived. Unlike the Peruvian village, it had electricity. Its homes were nicer, too. 

My guide explained that the Brazilians in the area had come from elsewhere in Brazil hundreds of years ago to harvest rubber and never left. On the Peruvian side, by contrast, many people were indigenous. 

A local guy took us on a walk into the jungle. He told me that he had seen jaguars in the area several times. Nearby, my guide pointed out a tall palm tree. At the top was a young girl, tossing down acai berries. We had lunch at the relatives’ house, delicious fish stew made from fish caught that morning.

Later in the day, we visited an indigenous tribe on the Brazilian side. The people – shirtless men, bra-less women – lived in a thatched longhouse. It had 2 entrances: Men entered from one side; women and children from the other. Each family had its own space within the longhouse. It had taken 3 months to construct and they had been living in it for 20 years.

The tribe first had contact with outsiders in the 1700s, but remained isolated until several decades ago. At that point, they linked up with the nearby town, giving them access to schools, doctors, jobs, and more. Even so, they’ve kept many traditions. The women still don’t work; the men still hunt and fish for sustenance. 

In the longhouse, a woman approached me with a fruit. She stuck a stick into it, and when she pulled it out, it was covered in a dark blue goo. She proceeded to paint a tribal sleeve tattoo on my arm that lasted the next 2 weeks. I was told it signified a wild boar. 

The tribe’s shaman offered me both a mystery medicinal powder, which they were snorting through a long tube, and ayahuasca, the psychedelic vine.

I didn't have the guts to try either. Besides, I didn't need drugs to feel further out than I already did.

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

 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

When you hear bi-weekly, which is your first thought?
Once every two weeks: 76.8%
Twice a week: 23.2%

Yesterday's Question:

Just 20 Questions! 
New Treasure Hunt begins tomorrow. Stay tuned and good luck.
Last Week's Treasure Hunt
Last week’s music-themed Treasure Hunt location was the Big Pink, a house in West Saugerties, New York, where Bob Dylan and The Band recorded The Basement Tapes, and The Band wrote their album Music.

Clue Explanations: 

Clue 1: If I was an Angel, where would I fly to? Paradise, but CCR was there

Explanation: John Prine, in his song Angel from Montgomery, describes a woman who feels stuck and wants to leave. John Prine also wrote Paradise, about Kentucky's Green River, where he asked half his ashes to be spread around. CCR's third studio album and hit song is named Green River, actually known as Putah Creek.

Clue 2: Barefoot girls from Clue 1 doing something that became an anthem

Explanation: A reference to the lyrics of CCR's Green River, which  mention barefoot girls "dancing in the moonlight" – the hit single of the band King Harvest.

Clue 3: The namesake of the band that did the aforementioned anthem in Clue 2

Explanation: King Harvest named themselves after the 1969 song King Harvest (Has Surely Come) by The Band, one of their musical influences.

Bonus Clue: You didn't actually think we were going to do Woodstock did you?

Explanation: 1969 might lead people to think of Woodstock as the location, but this answer eliminates that. Still, the Big Pink is close to Woodstock. 

Clue 4: Tough to be released from a basement

Explanation:  A reference to the song I Shall be Released, written by Bob Dylan and recorded in collaboration with The Band in the basement of the Big Pink.


And congratulations to our winners Katy from Alabama, Amanda from New York, and Julie from Ohio, who took home $250, $100, and $100 respectively.

 Final Thoughts

We hope you all had great weekends. We shattered the record for 20 Questions responses, and are still sifting through those. Can't wait to bring you those and more interesting news throughout this week!

- Max and Max

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