🌊 Ecuador Goes Bananas
Judge gags Trump, sumos on a plane, and Florida’s insurance fiasco
Waffle House workers are the latest to hold walkouts demanding better pay and working conditions. Workers at several locations are asking for a $25 hourly minimum wage — a huge jump from the sub-federal minimum wage servers see today. They say working conditions are unsafe, citing regular in-store brawls and the chain’s reputation for staying open during severe storms — there’s even a “Waffle House Index” that gauges storm severity.
Waffle House customers would like to add just one request to the workers’ list of reforms: A free nightly livestream of the Waffle House dining room from midnight to 3 am. UFC pay-per-views can get expensive...
In today's edition:
Judge gags Trump
Sumos on a plane
Florida’s insurance fiasco
🔑 Key Stories
Ecuador Elects Son of Banana Tycoon
Ecuadorians elected Daniel Noboa, the 35-year-old son of a banana tycoon, as the country’s next president
This May, Ecuador’s current president called early elections. In August, cartel assassins killed a law-and-order presidential candidate. Safety has since become one of the election’s top issues
During a Sunday election, 52% of Ecuadorians voted for Noboa, meaning he will become president
The center-right Noboa – who went to Harvard and belongs to one of South America’s wealthiest families — pledged to fight crime and increase opportunities for young people. He will serve until 2025
“I…thank all those people who have been part of a new, young, improbable political project, a political project whose purpose was to give back a smile to the country,” Noboa said following his victory
Drugstore chain Rite Aid filed for bankruptcy on Sunday
Rite Aid began in 1962 as a single store, “Thrif D Discount Center,” in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It changed its name in 1968, went public, and grew to become one of the US’ largest drugstore chains
In recent years, though, it’s faced soaring debt, increased competition, and thousands of lawsuits accusing it of contributing to the opioid crisis
On Sunday, it filed for bankruptcy. Per bankruptcy filings, it operates 2,100 pharmacies across 17 states and has 45,000+ employees. It will begin closing stores
“It became evident that a restructuring through chapter 11 would best position Rite Aid for long-term success,” its new CEO – an expert in bankruptcy proceedings – said in a filing
Judge Gags Trump
A federal judge issued a gag order banning former President Trump from making public statements attacking people related to his election fraud case
In August, a grand jury indicted Trump on four charges related to his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election. His trial for that case begins the day before “Super Tuesday,” a pivotal day of voting in the Republican primary
Trump has made public comments criticizing prosecutors, witnesses, and the judge overseeing the case. Prosecutors urged the judge overseeing the case to issue a gag order barring Trump from making such statements
On Monday, the judge banned Trump from publicly criticizing witnesses, prosecutors, or court staff. Trump “does not have the right to say and do exactly as he pleases,” she said, adding that “No other defendant would be allowed to do so, and I’m not going to allow it”
Trump’s lawyer described his public comments as part of the “rough and tumble” of politics and the gag order an effort to “censor a political candidate in the middle of a campaign”
Trump will still be allowed to criticize the judge, the Justice Department, and the charges in general. He will also be allowed to criticize former Vice President Mike Pence – a witness in the case who is running against Trump in the primary – but not in relation to this case
Let us know what you think of this ruling in Today’s Poll below!
Anti-Palestine Hate Crime
Prosecutors charged an Illinois landlord with murder and hate crimes after he allegedly fatally stabbed a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy
The boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, was born in the US and had recently turned six. He and his mother – an immigrant from the West Bank – lived in a town southwest of Chicago, Illinois
On Saturday, their 71-year-old landlord allegedly entered their home and yelled, “You Muslims must die” before stabbing both the boy and his mother
The boy died in the hospital; his mother is recovering. Police charged the landlord with murder and hate crimes and said he was radicalized after watching the news
In a statement, President Biden said he was “shocked and sickened” to learn about the incident, adding that “this horrific act of hate has no place in America”
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that he is “heartbroken” about the news and added that the Justice Department (DoJ) has opened a federal hate crime investigation
The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of the US’ most influential Muslim advocacy groups, called for more “balanced media coverage” of events in Israel
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Drinking beyond thirst can be a bad idea. It dilutes blood electrolyte levels (especially sodium levels), which can lead to headaches, low energy, cramps, confusion, or worse
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Like father like son? Drake’s 6-year-old son Adonis released his debut song, “My Man Freestyle.” The song’s music video shows Adonis shooting hoops and giving a pep talk, among other things
Parental foul on AB : Police arrested former NFL star wide receiver Antonio Brown in Florida after he allegedly failed to pay ~$31,000 in child support. He was released on bail
Breaking good? Under pressure from US law enforcement, Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel – led by jailed kingpin El Chapo’s sons – is reportedly prohibiting fentanyl production, punishable by death
Sumos on a plane: 27 sumo wrestlers forced Japan Airlines to add an extra flight from Tokyo to a southern Japanese island over weight limit concerns
Relive your childhood in 4K: Analogue – a hardware company known for its modern spins on classic video game consoles – is releasing a version of the Nintendo 64 with 4K resolution
Dishonesty sandwich: A judge ruled that Citibank lawfully fired a London analyst for gross misconduct after he lied about consuming sandwiches on his expense report during a business trip. He later admitted his partner had consumed some of the food he had bought
👇 What do you think?
Should Donald Trump be allowed to criticize witnesses and prosecutors in the case against him?
What is the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Reply to this email with your answers!
See yesterday's results below the Wrap!
🌯 Roca Wrap
Fewer and fewer companies will insure property in Florida. Why?
Last year, six Florida insurance companies went bankrupt, at least a dozen stopped issuing new property policies in the state, and three others withdrew from the market entirely. Meanwhile, the average Floridian pays $6,000 per year for property insurance – the most of any state and nearly quadruple the $1,700 US average.
Roca spoke to experts who have studied Florida’s insurance crisis to understand more.
Property insurance essentially works like this:
Customers – ie., homeowners – take out a policy from an insurance company that covers certain types of damage to their property. If a customer wants reimbursement from their insurer for damage, they must submit a “claim”. An insurance company can either agree to pay that, agree to pay a portion of it, or refuse to pay anything, at which point the policyholder can either accept that offer or sue their insurer.
Insurance companies themselves take out “reinsurance,” which is insurance on their potential losses. In most states – such as Florida – insurance companies calculate how much policyholders must pay monthly (premiums) in part by factoring in their own reinsurance costs. In a high-risk area like Florida, where hurricanes and other natural disasters pose significant property risks, insurers charge higher premiums because their reinsurance rates are higher.
Roca spoke to Mark Friedlander, the Communications Director of Insurance Information Institute, a nonpartisan, Florida-based insurance research group. Friedlander told Roca that Florida currently faces a “man-made” insurance crisis caused primarily by years of rampant legal system abuse and claim fraud.
Until recently, Florida had what is known as an “assignment of benefit” (AOB) system, wherein insurance policyholders could give a third party – such as a lawyer or contractor – the authority to file a property claim, make repair decisions, and collect insurance payments on behalf of the holder. Florida also had “one-way attorney fees,” wherein those who sue an insurance company over a property claim are entitled to compensation for their legal fees if they are awarded any money. For instance, if a person filed a claim, was denied, sued, and then won even $.01 more than the insurance company at court, the insurer would have to cover the policyholder’s legal bills. Both one-way attorney fees and AOB were intended to help consumers in the litigation process.
But scammers have gamed that system to exploit insurance companies. Friedlander told Roca that claim fraud essentially works like this:
Someone approaches a homeowner and asks if they would like a new roof, new shingles, or any other type of home improvement. If the homeowner says yes, then the scammer can receive AOB for their property insurance policy and hire a contractor to fix the “damage” at an inflated rate. The scammer would then file a claim with the insurance company, falsely alleging that the house’s “damage” was created by an insured event, such as high winds.
If the insurance company agrees to pay, the scammer walks away with cash; if it refuses, the scammer sues, forcing the insurer into a costly and protracted legal battle. To make matters worse, if a judge ends up awarding the scammer a single penny more than the insurer, then the company becomes liable to pay their legal fees on top of any other fines.
Friedlander told Roca that last year, Florida accounted for 9% of the US’ property claims yet 80% of the US’ property claim lawsuits.
Over the past three years, 100,000+ such lawsuits have been filed in the state, costing insurers $3B a year just to defend themselves. Friedlander said the six insurance companies that went bankrupt last year were essentially “litigated out of business,” while others were forced to stop issuing new policies. Those that have stayed afloat have raised premiums by an average of 102% since 2020.
As insurance companies have gone under or left the state, thousands of Floridians have turned to the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corporation for property insurance. Citizens provides property insurance when other insurers cannot or will not. Intended to be an “insurer of last resort,” Citizens has instead become the state’s largest insurer with 1.4M customers and an 18% market share – far above what it says it can reasonably manage.
While Friedlander acknowledged that climate change-linked natural disasters are driving up insurance premiums nationwide and in Florida, he attributed Florida’s “extreme” prices to non-climate factors. Yet another expert Roca spoke to called climate change the “big driver” of rising insurance costs.
Dr. Jeremy Porter is the Head of Climate Implications for First Street Foundation, a nonprofit that tries to quantify and model climate risk. Porter told Roca that hurricanes have become more powerful and slower-moving, increasing the frequency of billion-dollar disasters. That has driven up insurance companies’ reinsurance costs, in turn driving up premiums.
Porter told Roca that proof of climate change’s effects on the insurance industry is in the geographic distribution of price changes. For example, insurance premiums in high-risk areas – such as South Florida – are rising at faster rates than in lower-risk areas, such as the Panhandle.
While claim fraud and legal system abuse also help drive up premiums, Porter said those cannot account for why premiums are rising faster in some places than in others. He also believes that by increasing the frequency and severity of storms, climate change is making it easier for scammers to commit fraud, thereby contributing to higher fraud rates.
Porter claimed that the insurance market is a signal of how climate change will impact high-risk states like Florida in the future. In a recent report, First Street claimed that the US is currently in a “climate bubble,” and insurance companies are just now starting to adjust to decades of worsening natural disasters. The report predicts the long-term outcome will be higher insurance costs and devalued properties in high-risk areas, most prominently Florida.
Last year, Florida passed legislation ending one-way attorney fees and AOB, although fraud rates remain high.
18 of the state’s 47 smaller property insurance companies are currently on regulatory watchlists for potential failure, and the state-run Citizens is operating well above its capacity. Both Friedlander and Porter predicted that if a major hurricane were to hit Florida, the effects could be devastating, forcing many insurers out of business and pushing Citizens into a crisis.
If you have thoughts, let us know at [email protected]!
🌊 Roca Clubhouse
Do you prefer watching
College football: 53%
Professional football: 47%
Yesterday’s Question was related to the “Roca Votes” Wrap. Should Harvard release the names? Regardless of legality, are business leaders justified in blacklisting the students who signed? Would you blacklist the students? Is blacklisting students for signing the letter “Cancel Culture”?
Luis from Porto, Portugal: "I do not agree with the students, but cancel culture has always created mysterious interactions. The students state an opinion, but no one is willing to engage in conversation, they just immediately jump into blacklisting. That to me doesn't feel like a rational chain of events. It almost feels like everyone is afraid of confronting these opinions."
Edward from Bullhead City, Arizona: "I don't believe it is the university's responsibility to release the names. However, if the students truly believe what they stated and in their demands, then they should step up and release the list of names themselves. As a law enforcement employer (retired), I had to disqualify (blacklist) anyone who held those type of beliefs. Anyone who justifies Hamas murdering civilians, under any circumstances, has extremely poor judgement, and is very naive.”
Andrew: “Hamas’ attack on and capture of civilians is abhorrent. Didn’t those students see that sickening footage? No one in their right mind can condone that, even if it was a retaliatory measure. I whole heartedly agree that these students should be publicly named and shamed, and hopefully they see the error of their ways. No employer should hire an individual that openly supports terrorism in any form.”
Des from Charlestown, Massachusetts: “Should Harvard release the names? Yes. Regardless of legality, are business leaders justified in blacklisting the students who signed? Yes. Would you blacklist the students? Yes. The # 1 reason I fire people is because they have poor judgement (and I obviously failed by not catching this failing in the interview process.) These folks have already proven they have bad judgement, so I’d never hire them. Is blacklisting students for signing the letter “Cancel Culture”? No. It’s a sound hiring practice.”
Jeff: “I disagree that there should be a forced revealing of the students at Harvard who were a part of the letter. I feel like being young and having ideals is important, and as we age we either reinforce or change our stances on a number of things. These kids will grow a tremendous amount in their lifetimes, so let them be who they are today and not try to impede upon their futures by taking a stance that frankly may not be incorrect, or at least not 100% incorrect.”
Matt: “Cancel culture is one of the least mature trends of our age. However, I think that employers should have absolute freedom to determine who works in and shapes their businesses. For that reason, withholding employment falls in a different category than ‘canceling.’ These statements, cast into the arena of the public eye, are voluntary interviews, so to speak. If these students fail to display the judgement and discernment the employer desires, the employer is not morally obligated to hire them.”
Hank: “Blacklisting students is silly. College is supposed to be a space for learning and trial and error. These students made what many believe was a mistake in signing this letter but that doesn't define them as people. Secondarily, when I was in college I signed up for many clubs as a freshman that I rarely, if ever, participated in, there is a 100% chance that names would be released of people who would have no idea they were about to be in trouble for a statement they never read because they put their name on a listserv a few years ago.”
Jim: “Harvard absolutely should not release the names of the students, and the corporations are way out of line to refuse to hire anyone involved. This show of force in opposition to the expression of opinions is sickening, and it shows how firm a hold the Isreali lobby has on the American power structure. Let's be clear: Israel is a country, run by a specific regime. It is not a religion. Criticizing Israel is not anti-semitic any more than criticizing Italy is anti-Catholic. How about someone tell us what exactly is untrue in the Harvard Students' statement? Sure, we can disagree with the statement of opinion that Israel is 100% responsible, but what about the factual statements?”
🧠 Final Thoughts
As we wrote yesterday, we founded RocaNews because we wanted news companies to give us just the facts – not tell us what to think. That has inspired us to write yesterday’s “Roca Votes” Wrap, in which we summarize a controversial topic and see what you think.
We received a record replies to the Wrap, and we did our best to capture all sides. Our inbox remains open, as always, for additional thoughts, comments, or feedback. Thanks for being the best audience out there.
—Max and Max