RocaNews - 🌊 Pox Americana

August 3, 2022

Who are the best-selling fiction authors of all time? This question stumped the office yesterday, but it turns out we were overthinking it: #1 is Shakespeare and #2 is Agatha Christie. The most shocking part was seeing Dr. Seuss at #12. You're telling me There's a Wocket in my Pocket! was.... fiction?

In today's edition:

  • Stop! In the name of pay
  • Influencer eats sea predator
  • Least-visited South American country
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 Key Stories

Stephen King: Stop the Merger

Stephen King said the US government should block a merger that would create a mega book company

  • King’s books include The Shining, It, and The Green Mile. He's one of the best-selling authors of all time
  • The merger would see the world’s largest book publisher — Penguin Random House — acquire Simon & Schuster. The resulting company would dominate the book publishing industry
  • The US government is considering whether the merger would reduce competition. King said that it will, and that as publishers merge, “it becomes tougher and tougher for writers to find money to live on"
Dig Deeper
  • The companies involved in the merger say it is pro-competition, and that the new company will give authors more resources to develop and distribute their books

Speaker Pelosi Lands in Taiwan

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. She arrived Tuesday and left today after meeting the Taiwanese president and other top officials

  • Pelosi is the 3rd-ranked US politician and highest-ranked politician to visit Taiwan since the then-House Speaker did in 1997
  • The trip is meant to show US support for Taiwan, a self-governed island off the coast of China. China considers it a renegade province; the US supports it
  • China had warned of major consequences if Pelosi visited, including a military confrontation. As of print, China is preparing for large military drills surrounding Taiwan
Dig Deeper
  • While the Defense Department and President Biden tried unsuccessfully to convince Pelosi to skip the trip, both Pelosi's Democratic Party and 26 Republican senators have supported it

States Declare Monkeypox Emergencies

California, New York, and Illinois have each declared a state of emergency in regards to monkeypox

  • The 3 states account for nearly half of the US’ 6,326 confirmed cases. As recently as Friday, California's government said it was too soon to declare an emergency
  • Emergencies let states modify laws and use extra resources for public health and safety
  • A New England Journal of Medicine study looking at monkeypox between April and June found that 95% of cases spread through sexual transmission, and 98% were in gay and bisexual men. 41% of those with monkeypox had HIV

Judge: Visa Can Be Sued for Porn

A US court ruled that an abuse survivor can sue Visa for facilitating payments on P*rnhub

  • The lawsuit concerns a 13-yo girl who was coerced into making an explicit video. The video was later uploaded to P*rnhub, where it was repeatedly taken down and re-uploaded
  • In total, it received 2.7M+ views in violation of child abuse laws, which makes the profits illegal
  • The judge said that Visa, which facilitated payments on P*rnhub, may have “created an incentive to commit a crime” and “provided the tool used to complete a crime.” Visa denies the charges
Dig Deeper
  • The case is linked to a 2020 NYT article that shed light on how P*rnhub, the world's biggest adult website, profited off videos of abuse and other crimes. Payments companies began blacklisting the website after that article
popcorn Popcorn
  • Kiss my puttTiger Woods was offered between $700M - 800M to join the Saudi-backed LIV golf tour, according to LIV CEO Greg Norman
  • Back to living mas: Taco Bell announced that it will bring back its famous Mexican Pizza as a permanent menu item in September
  • Do you even Lyft? Uber bookings hit an all-time high over the last 3 months, clocking in at 24% higher than the same time last year
  • Some-fin wrong: A Chinese influencer is under police investigation after she posted a video of herself eating great white shark meat
  • Catch me if you crypto: 11 individuals, including 3 Americans, were charged for creating a $300M crypto pyramid and Ponzi scheme
  • No Sid the sloth? Woolly mammoth bones in New Mexico were dated to 37,000 years ago, suggesting humans lived here earlier than thought

finger What do you think?

Today's Poll:
Are you for or against Nancy Pelosi going to Taiwan?

Today's Question:
During your lifetime, when did culture hit its peak?

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

I didn’t know what was happening when my bus pulled up to the last Brazilian town before Guyana. A man ran on board and shouted something in Portuguese; then looked at me and said, “Guyana?”

Next I was in the back of his car as he floored it on the dark road to the border. We arrived at 7:40 PM; I got my Brazilian exit stamp. The Brazilian guard told me to hurry up – the Guyanese border closed at 8:00 PM. Back in the car, we drove another half mile. 

On the way, a car was headed straight at us. My driver swerved into the left lane and stayed there. A minute later we pulled up to the Guyana border, where I realized the direction of traffic had flipped: Guyana drove on the left; Brazil on the right. 

The driver kicked me out at the Guyana checkpoint and asked me for $10. I only had $6; He took the money and drove back toward Brazil. Alone at the border, an officer stamped my passport. I got a ride to town with a border employee finishing his shift. 

We rode in a beat-up sedan that was playing reggae music. The guard and driver were speaking in English, but I could only understand a fraction of what they were saying. English is Guyana’s official language, but it’s spoken with a Caribbean – “Jamaican” – accent and slang that can make it incomprehensible. 

Guyana is the least-visited country in South America and one of the least-visited in the world. It was the only British colony in South America. 40% of its people are Indian (brought by the British as laborers), 30% are black (brought by the British as slaves), 10% are Amerindian (Native American), and the rest are a mix of the above. 

Guyana is home to 700,000 people – fewer than Denver – most of whom live along the coast. The country’s interior is mostly uninhabited and unexplored rainforest. A single dirt road passes through the interior, connecting Guyana’s capital, Georgetown, to Brazil. 

Before I left Brazil, someone told me that I was about to leave the “Latin world.” They were right: The moment I entered Guyana, it felt like I had left South America for the Caribbean, where other former British colonies include Jamaica, Trinidad, and the Bahamas. The music, the language, the food: It was nothing like Brazil or Peru.

I got dropped off at a hotel in a 2,000-person town called Lethem, a couple miles from the border. I reserved a room for $50, the most I’d pay anywhere on the trip. I had dinner at the hotel – curry and roti, like Indian naan – and sat outside for a beer, but was advised not to go out at night. It was hot and buggy; reggae music blasted on a speaker.

I saw the town the next day: Dirt roads, palm trees, low cement buildings, more bicycles than cars. If I were suddenly dropped there, I would have guessed I was in Africa. 

I was taking a van deeper into the country that afternoon and needed to kill time. Someone I met suggested I visit the village school, so I took a taxi there.

The school was a compound of sparse cement buildings on a dirt patch. A teacher told me there were 60 teachers and 1,100 students, grades 6-11, some of whom traveled 3+ hours to get there. On the day I visited, a foreign oil company was holding an assembly. The company had run a national competition to name a tugboat they were using for an offshore oil rig; it selected the name proposed by a student at the school and was presenting the school with $1,000, basketballs, and more. 

Oil is the big topic in Guyana. In 2014, it had none. After a series of oil discoveries beginning in 2015, though, it now has more oil per person than any other country. 6% of Exxon’s daily output now comes from Guyana. The question is whether it will use the money well, or waste it. 

At the school, I approached an older white guy, dressed in a shirt and tie [see title photo above!]. He introduced himself as Bruce Thompson. He was an extremely charismatic British man who had decided to spend his retirement teaching in Guyana, where he’d been for 7 years.

We talked for 20 minutes. He was hilarious and one of the most interesting people I have ever met. He had been a volunteer in Guyana back in the 1970s, then lived in numerous countries around the world. He lived in Ethiopia for a period, where he was kidnapped by rebels. 

“They thought we were spies. We spent 5 months sitting under an acacia tree. Then one day, they let us go. They called us the Mad Hatters: We went out into the desert and were never seen again. Except 5 months later, we returned!”

I asked what would happen to Guyana’s oil money: “Why it’s going to America, of course!”

And on the difference between Guyana and Brazil, where he had also lived: “Things work in Brazil. They were able to put a former president in jail. Here? Never. The politicians own the courts, everything.”

Bruce also mentioned that his wife had died of Covid a year prior. He took her to a hospital in Brazil but it was too late. 

In my taxi, I mentioned the conversation to my driver. “Oh yeah, everyone knows him. We call him Mr. Jolly.”

Back at the hotel, I got a message that the van was ready. Minutes later, it pulled up – caked in mud, with gas jugs tied on the roof. I climbed in, and we set off on a dirt road to the interior. 

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

 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Would you want to work as a well-paid candy taste tester?
Yes: 61.4%
No: 38.6%

Yesterday's Question:

Who's someone from history you wish were on social media? Why?

Rick from Pennsylvania: "Winston Churchill! His brilliance mixed with his consumption of 1 full bottle of champagne at lunch daily plus he then drank throughout the day & night. His writings would blow up social media like nothing ever seen before."

from Kansas: "JFK. he would be a social media star!! i just *know* that he would post thirst traps on TikTok… and we would just eat them up"

Juan Pablo from NYC: "Cleopatra or any of ancient Egypt's pharaohs, it would be fun to see how would they post their extravagances on social media"

 Newsletter Shoutout:

Let's hear it for Roca Rider Allie from Centertown, MO who referred 10+ friends to The Current! As a thank you, we're shouting out an organization important to Allie: The HALO Foundation. 

Allie shared with us: "[Its] an amazing organization that provides housing, healing, and education to thousands of homeless and at-risk children worldwide. 

I am a volunteer at one of their homes and it is amazing what they do. They always greet me with a smile and I love interacting with the residents. These people truly change lives and show people that they can have a fresh start."
Today's Clue (Day 2 of 4):
A King and Queen unite to build a castle of sorts
Day 1: Where can you catch actors, writers, and famous people alike?

We're back this week with a classic Roca Treasure Hunt! The correct answer to this week's Hunt will be a  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

Happy Wednesday, all. We're trying to figure out ways to make Hump Day something we look forward to in our office. Please send us suggestions, if you have any. 

In the meantime, have a great day. We'll be back with more news tomorrow!

- Max and Max

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