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December 20, 2021

"Stay classy, San Diego." This is how a BBC broadcaster signed off his final show after 21 years with the network. It's a great quote, but it doesn't hit quite the same without Ron Burgundy's stache. The best quote of the weekend, though, belonged to Jake Paul after KO'ing Tyron Woodley: "BING BONG."

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Key Stories


2021: Year of the Startup

  • About 1.4M new businesses registered with the US government as of September 30, setting an annual record
  • The number suggests more new businesses formed in 2021 than in any year, ever. 2020 set the existing record of 1.1M
  • Record numbers of people have left their jobs during the year's economic boom and many began working independently. Others were laid off in 2020 and needed new ways to earn income
  • Startups have also had easier access to capital with record low interest rates and high venture spending

The record number is part of a trend that pre-dates the pandemic: Before 2020, 2019 set the record with 987k new businesses formed.

Build Back Never

  • US Senator Joe Manchin (Democrat, West Virginia) confirmed that he will not vote for the Build Back Better social spending bill, blocking it indefinitely
  • The bill, costing at least $1.75T,  would be the biggest social spending overhaul since the New Deal. Passing it would require all 50 Democratic senators' support 
  • Manchin said the bill would "dramatically reshape our society," which he couldn't support given the national debt and inflation
  • President Biden's press secretary called it a “sudden and inexplicable reversal...and a breach of his commitments to the president” and others

While the most attention has fallen on Manchin, insiders say he was speaking on behalf of a number of Democrats who didn't support the bill. Last week, President Biden predicted he and Manchin would "bridge our differences" eventually.

Hong Kong Election Flops

  • A record-low 30.2% of voters turned out in Hong Kong's legislative elections
  • The UK ruled Hong Kong from 1841 until 1997, when it transferred the territory to China under a promise to preserve the city's democratic system. Many accuse China of breaking that promise
  • This election was the first since China passed an election law that lets authorities disqualify candidates who fail a test for "patriotism," and halved the number of seats people could directly elect
  • Dozens of opposition politicians have been jailed or forced out of politics. Many Hong Kongers boycotted the vote, calling it a sham

In 2016, turnout was 58.3%. The prior low was 43.6% in 2000. Some people interviewed by the Wall Street Journal said they voted out of civic duty; others called the vote a "joke."

Hollywood Cold Streak Ends


  • Spider-Man: No Way Home shattered a 2-year long Hollywood box office cold streak
  • No Way Home brought in $253M in North America, the 3rd-biggest Hollywood opening ever. In 1 weekend, it made more than any movie has total during the pandemic
  • The only 2 movies to have had bigger domestic opening weekends were Avengers: Endgame ($357M) and Avengers: Infinity War ($258M)
  • Globally, it brought in $587M, also the 3rd-biggest opening ever. Data suggest 90% of moviegoers this weekend watched No Way Home 

Spidey brought good news for Hollywood, which has suffered flop after flop since 2020. The movie benefited from people who rushed to see it opening weekend amid fears online spoilers would ruin it.

finger What do you think?

Today's Poll:
Are the last 2 weeks of the year especially calming or stressful?

Today's Question:
Your favorite news story of 2021?

Reply to this email with your answers!

See Friday's answers below the Wrap!

popcorn Popcorn

Culture & Sports 
  • Internet celeb Jake Paul knocked out former UFC champ Tyron Woodley in the 6th round of their pay-per-view bout on Saturday night
  • Saturday Night Omicron: SNL canceled its live audience and taped with a limited cast this weekend. Musical guest Charli XCX bailed as well
  • The NHL will cancel all Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators games through at least Dec. 26, due to the spread of omicron
  • It's not just the NHL... the NBA will postpone 5 games in the leadup to its Christmas showdowns, which may become the battle of the benches
  • For that reason, Disney' YouTube TV is restoring access to ESPN, ABC, & other Disney channels after reaching a new deal
  • Former McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook will pay $105M to settle a lawsuit over sexual relationships with his staff
  • Candy pain: Big Candy is reporting a candy cane shortage, due to supply chain issues and a poor peppermint crop
  • Rat sightings in New York City have increased by 40% in the first 11 months of 2021 compared to 2020. Vigilante rat hunters are trying to change that
  • Ghislaine Maxwell's attorneys have requested the judge to refer to her as "Ms. Maxwell" instead of "defendant" when he addresses the jury
  • 5 Ice Age mammoth skeletons in “near-pristine condition” have been discovered in southern England

Roca Wrap

A Newsletter Exclusive


Who should trans athletes compete with? As swimmer Lia Thomas posts NCAA-championship level times, a debate rages around that question.

Thomas is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania. Through the 2019/2020 season, she competed on the Ivy League university’s men’s swimming team. Last year, Thomas completed a testosterone-suppression treatment and transitioned. This season, she’s competing on the school’s women’s team. 

The NCAA, which governs US collegiate sports, allows a trans female (male-to-female) to compete on a women’s team after completing 1 year of testosterone-suppression treatment. According to the NCAA, “any strength and endurance advantages a transgender woman arguably may have as a result of her prior testosterone levels dissipate after about one year of estrogen or testosterone-suppression therapy.”

On average, those who go through puberty as men have larger hearts and lungs, less body fat, and more muscle mass than women. That confers an advantage in many sports. The NCAA says a year of testosterone-suppression treatment eliminates that advantage; many disagree, saying that while that treatment may erase some of the advantage, it does not level the playing field.

In the case of Lia Thomas, who was a 6-time finalist at the Ivy League men’s championships, her times are slower than when she was on the men’s team. Compared to 2019, this year, her times have been 16 seconds (6%) and 65 seconds (6.9%) slower in 2 of her main events, the 500-free and 1650-free.  

Yet compared to other women swimmers, she’s dominant: Early this season, she beat last year’s NCAA championship times in both the 500- and 200-free events. She has set a slew of pool and meet records. Her 200-free time is the 17th-fastest in history and 3 seconds off the American record; her 500-free time is 21st in history. 

Trans activists have celebrated Thomas’ achievements: "I think it's amazing," said ACLU Trans Justice coordinator Naiymah Sanchez, who believes trans people’s freedom to compete as they identify is overdue. An SB Nation op-ed says concerns about Thomas are an “anti-trans panic.” 

The NCAA says the science backs up its 1-year treatment period, and that concerns about people transitioning for a competitive advantage are unsubstantiated. Those who do transition face extremely difficult decisions, the organization says, and their choices should be respected. 

Thomas says the team has been “unbelievably supportive.” “I feel very supported, treated like any other member of the women’s team,” she says.

Others have blasted the situation as unfair, including a Pennsylvania state rep pushing a law that would limit women’s sports to biological women. “Women should be competing in their own category, so we know who the best is,"  Rep. Barbara Gleim said. The Pennsylvania law is one of several state legislatures across the country are considering.  

Last week, 2 Penn swimmers told sports site Outkick the Coverage that the school’s administration has pressured athletes to avoid the media, and that discontent is brewing. 

“Our interests are in direct conflict with the interests of Lia in regards to fair competition and getting to compete,” one of the swimmers said. “While we support Lia as a person to make decisions for her own life, you cannot make that decision and then come and impede on other people and their rights.”

After that, 10 parents of UPenn student-athletes wrote to the NCAA, asking the organization to change its rules. They claimed the rules present a “direct threat to female athletes in every sport,” and that “as the governing body, it is unfair and irresponsible to leave the onus on Lia, Lia’s teammates, Lia’s coaches, UPenn athletics and the Ivy League.”

By all indications, Lia Thomas is following the NCAA’s rules – that may be the one thing both sides of the discussion can agree on. The debate around the fairness of those rules, though, won’t end anytime soon. 

If you have thoughts, let us know at and don't forget to share this Wrap with family and friends by using this link here!
Future Wrap ideas or requests? Let us know here!

think Games

Trivia with some extra fizz: Rank the below sodas by sugar content per serving (12 oz.).
  1. Mountain Dew
  2. Coca-Cola
  3. Pepsi
  4. A&W Root Beer
Find out the answer at the bottom of Roca Clubhouse.

wave Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

Better superhero: Batman or Spiderman? 

Batman: 47.3%
Spiderman: 52.7%

Yesterday's Question:

Just 20 Questions!

General Feedback:

Cassandra: "Thanks for the awesome news! I don’t feel existential dread every time I read the news now!"

Anna from Budapest: "You can tell your dear friend Elsa, that Spirited Away is in fact not a Disney movie, but a Studio Ghibli movie... it's fine, we forgive you. Still, a small tear has been shed. Thanks for your amazing work!!! You guys rock!!!"


20 Questions: 1-5

Every Friday, we ask the Roca Riders 20 questions and feature a few of our favorite answers. 

1. Describe your favorite restaurant
"Outback Steakhouse- don't @ me"
"Basically Cheers. Non-pretentious cozy setting"
"Something on the ocean, with seafood, dolphins leaping with the sun setting in the background, waves crashing, and someone wipes my mouth for me when I clap twice"

2. What’s your favorite city you’ve visited?
"Las Vegas"
"Venice is incredible and close runner-up is Dubrovnik"
"New York City — I go there often and am always finding something great that I hadn’t experienced before"

3. Describe the worst date you ever went on
"Was on a blind date. I was told we were going to a nice restaurant.  It ended up being Taco Bell."
"Caught her swiping Tinder"
"Recently... she showed up for a concert we both wanted to see and she looked me up and down and said... REALLY! (It was a blind date set up by an acquaintance). I was just flabbergasted."

4. Most embarrassing thing that's happened to you at work?
"Zipper down half the day."
"Cursing out a coworker on Zoom thinking my mic was off"
"As a server dropping a tray full of water on the table was pretty bad."

5. Time you looked coolest at work?
"Showed up with matching socks once"
"Accidentally dressed as a minion to work when we were living out of a bag cause we were moving and those were my only clean clothes"
"Winning US Navy Sailor of the Year while stationed at NSA"
Games Answer(s):
Least to Most: Coca-Cola (39 g), Pepsi (41 g), A&W (45 g), Mountain Dew (46 g)

Final Thoughts 

We imagine some of you are thinking today's Wrap topic waged more into the "culture war" than normal. 

We decided to cover the Lia Thomas story because it's something many people have been talking about. When topics come up on controversial subjects, our goal isn't to ignore them; it's to provide sober, fact-based news that lowers the blood pressure. We hope we did that and that you learned something new.

We also hope you all had great weekends. Don't forget to wrap up that Christmas shopping ASAP!

-Max and Max

wave Today's Instagram Wrap is on armchair investigators. In 2021, solving a crime took nothing but a keyboard and some elbow grease.
Thanks for reading! See you again soon!
As always, send thoughts and feedback to
Written by Max Frost and Max Towey | Graphics by Billy Carney

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