🌊 And… we have a Speaker!
And… we have a Speaker! New York City man locked in vault, and Roca on the Ground: Fog of War
Tragic news out of Maine last night: A shooter went on a rampage and took the lives of between 16 and 22 people. He started off at a bowling alley and moved on to a nearby bar and grille. The shooter was admitted to a mental health center this summer and was recently reported to have been “hearing voices.” As of publishing, a manhunt is underway for him. More on that situation below.
In today's edition:
And… we have a Speaker!
New York City man locked in vault
Roca on the Ground: Fog of War
🔑 Key Stories
New Speaker Elected
House Republicans elected Representative Mike Johnson (R-LA) as speaker of the House
Since the House voted to oust Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) earlier this month, House Republicans have nominated four potential replacements. The first three dropped out due to insufficient support
On Wednesday, every House Republican voted to elect the fourth candidate, Johnson
Johnson, 51, supports Trump, is staunchly pro-life, opposes further aid to Ukraine, and supports bills seeking to limit discussion of LGBT issues in schools. He has never held a House leadership role before
Johnson said he wants to dispense with formalities and start legislating on important topics. “The American people's business is too urgent in this moment…The crisis is great,” he said
In a statement, President Biden congratulated Johnson and said he intends to work “in good faith” with him. “We need to move swiftly to address our national security needs and to avoid a [government] shutdown in 22 days,” the statement read
Mass Shooting and Manhunt in Maine
A lone gunman killed between 16 and 22 people near Lewiston, Maine
Lewiston is a city of 38,000 people around 36 miles (58 km) north of Portland
On Wednesday night, a gunman opened fire at a bowling alley before doing the same at a nearby bar and grille. Local outlets have reported between 16 and 22 victims
The alleged attacker was identified as a 40-year-old firearms instructor who spent two weeks this summer at a mental health institute after hearing voices. He managed to escape police and as of publishing, a manhunt is still ongoing
Lewiston and several other nearby cities and towns are currently in lockdown
Cohen Testifies Against Trump
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Michael Cohen testified against Donald Trump in Trump’s New York civil trial
Cohen – Trump’s former longtime lawyer – went to jail after pleading guilty to several crimes, including lying to Congress. He is now a major Trump critic
New York’s attorney general is currently suing Trump for allegedly misrepresenting his net worth. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Cohen testified against Trump and claimed that Trump specifically ordered him to distort the value of his assets
During cross-examination, Trump’s lawyers attempted to undermine Cohen’s credibility by pressing Cohen about his criminal history. In response, Cohen appeared to walk back several of his former admissions, including statements to a judge in which he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and other crimes
During a break in the trial, Trump told reporters, “This judge is a very partisan judge with a person who is very partisan sitting alongside him, perhaps even much more partisan than he is”
The judge overseeing the trial interpreted the latter part of that to mean that Trump was attacking the court clerk, which would violate a gag order preventing him from doing so. Later in the day, the judge fined Trump $10,000 after ruling that he had violated the gag order
Protests in Panama
A new mining contract has led protesters to block major roads across Panama
A major copper mine opened in Panama in 2019 produces 3.5-5% of the country’s GDP. In 2021, though, Panama’s top court ruled that the contract allowing a Canadian company to operate that mine was unconstitutional
On Friday, Panama’s government approved a new 20+ year contract with the same company. That will pay Panama $375M annually – ten times more than before
Protesters who oppose that for environmental and political reasons have since blocked Panama’s roads
Those in favor of the mine argued that it would employ thousands of people and help the country emerge from a post-pandemic economic slump. They also said it would allow the government to improve public services, such as healthcare
One Panamanian activist told Roca the mine would cause an ecological disaster and exacerbate an already-dire water shortage there. She and others also claimed much of the funds would be misused or embezzled
Hostage Negotiations Heat Up
Hamas told mediators it is willing to release more hostages in exchange for humanitarian goods and a reduction in airstrikes
On Friday, Hamas released two American hostages; on Monday, it released two elderly Israeli women. One of those women confirmed she and other hostages were held in an underground tunnel system
Per mediators, Hamas is willing to release civilian hostages in exchange for fuel, other humanitarian goods, and a reduction in airstrikes. One senior Hamas official told Sky News that Hamas would work with Qatari and Egyptian officials to release civilian hostages if Israel stops airstrikes in Gaza
Hamas reportedly plans to keep the soldier hostage and eventually trade them for Palestinians in Israeli jails
Some analysts have suggested Hamas’ prisoner releases are calculated to buy time for the group to prepare for Israel’s invasion
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Gaza’s Health Ministry claimed 6,500 Palestinians have died so far
The UN – which is operating shelters for 600,000+ Palestinians displaced since the beginning of the war – said on Tuesday it may have to shut down operations if it doesn’t receive more fuel
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Oops…I changed it again: Spotify reportedly plans to change its royalties model early next year. Songs will reportedly have to reach a streaming threshold before generating royalties
You mad, bro?: Sports personality Chris “Mad Dog” Russo backed down after saying he’d “retire on the spot” if the six-seeded Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Phillies to reach the World Series
City that truly never sleeps: A man in New York City got stuck overnight in a steel-reinforced concrete jewelry vault while accessing his safe deposit box. Firefighters tried to breach the vault’s walls for ~10 hours
Most normal Florida pharmacy: Police arrested a 23-year-old Florida man after he gave CVS employees a handwritten note threatening to shoot someone unless they gave him “all bottles” of Xanax, Adderall, Viagra, and other drugs
Incan thirst trap: Archaeologists revealed a model of what Peru’s most famous mummy, “Juanita” or the “Inca Ice Maiden,” would’ve looked like
A little too stoked, bro: Police arrested a Utah man accused of attacking a skateboarder with a machete because “he thought the victim was a fish”
👇 What do you think?
Had you heard of Mike Johnson (R-LA) before today?
What is the best movie you have seen this year and why?
Reply to this email with your answers!
See yesterday's results below the Wrap!
🌯 Roca Wrap
Earlier this month, footage went viral of a missile strike in Gaza.
One clip showed cars on a busy road and a missile slamming directly into one of them.
“With pinpoint accuracy, the IDF conducted an aerial operation to eliminate a terrorist in Gaza,” said an Israeli news source that shared the video on Telegram to hundreds of heart reactions.
“Scenes of the first moments of the occupation aircraft bombing the vehicles of displaced people in the Gaza Strip,” said a Palestinian source, which received hundreds of crying face emojis.
Then on October 17, a Palestinian hospital was bombed, killing between 50 and 500 people – depending on your source. Within minutes, major news outlets published articles reporting that it was an Israeli strike; other outlets, including many pro-Israel ones, published that it was a Palestinian rocket attack.
Wall Street Journal: “Israeli Airstrike on Gaza Hospital Kills More Than 500, Palestinian Officials Say.”
The Telegraph: “Islamic Jihad responsible for Gaza hospital attack, says IDF.”
In both instances, there was no immediate way of knowing which side was accurate, leaving people to consume the information that aligned with their opinion. As of now, US intelligence agencies believe a Palestinian rocket that broke apart after malfunctioning caused the blast. While the truth will theoretically prevail once more evidence comes out, is that always the case?
On the Ground
I (Roca editor Max Frost) am currently on a reporting trip in the Balkans. I spent last week in Bosnia, where nearly 100,000 people died in a war between 1992 and 1995. To this day, no one can agree on what happened at the war’s most infamous event.
A characteristic of the Bosnian War was “ethnic cleansing.”
Bosnia is divided between Orthodox Serbs, Muslim Bosniaks, and Catholic Croats. During the war, each group kicked the others out of their territory. In one predominantly Serb area in the country’s northwest, tens of thousands of Muslims were displaced and fled to a village called Srebrenica.
Fearing a humanitarian disaster, the UN designated Srebrenica a “safe zone” and deployed troops to protect the village from attack. Serb forces surrounded Srebrenica in July 1995, though, and threatened to invade. Rather than fight, the UN left. A massacre ensued.
As the Serbs approached, tens of thousands of Muslims fled into the forest. Serb forces proceeded to kill all the men and boys. Other Muslims took shelter at a UN base, but the UN eventually turned all of them over to the Serbs, who killed all those men and boys. Most of the women, children, and elderly were bused to a different city and survived.
Nearly 30 years later, people in Bosnia still don’t agree on what happened.
Every Muslim I spoke to said it was genocide, and a UN court also ruled it as such. One man I met was five years old when it happened and survived by staying with his grandmother while his parents fled into the forest. At the memorial, there are over 8,000 tombstones with bodies found in mass graves.
But every Orthodox Serb I spoke to said it was not a genocide.
“Bulls*it,” said one Serb whom I spoke to about it.
“Not a genocide,” said another.
“What was it?” I asked.
Some of them disputed the facts: “4,000 people died,” said one, calling the 8,000 figure “lies” and “propaganda.”
Others didn’t deny the number, but said it had to be contextualized as part of a war where combatants on all sides committed egregious acts. Others said it wasn’t a massacre of the unarmed but a brutal battle.
What both groups told me was that the event is now politics.
In Bosnia, politicians can signal where they stand on major issues by sharing their stance on Srebrenica. Both sides accuse the other of playing it up or down, depending on how it suits their arguments.
28 years after Srebrenica, the fog of war remains in the form of politics.
Regardless of who bombs what in Gaza, will the same be true there?
If you have thoughts, let us know at [email protected]!
🌊 Roca Clubhouse
Do you use any smart home products?
The replies below are in response to yesterday’s “Roca Votes” Wrap.
Would you have fired Fekete? If you were Fekete, would you have sued? Should employers care who eats food on a business trip if the food’s cost falls within the per diem?
Is there a difference between buying your partner a meal versus coffee on the company card? What was worse: Violating company policy, or lying about it?
Thomas from Brisbane, Australia: "Companies are entitled to their own policies on reimbursements, but I personally find Citi’s rule on partners a tad foolish. That said, as a trusted person, Fekete should never have lied. I think Citi were right to fire anyone comfortable with lying on financial forms."
Jon: "Both the employee and employer are petty (because he lied but was within his per diem). How ridiculous!”
Tanna: "The company card is for the employee only. It is not a friends and family offer! I also think lying about it was worse than the act of using the card for his partner's meal. The meal situation may have been justifiable (did not have another card and planned to pay the company back for the meal, perhaps), but lying about it is a whole different level."
Joe: “The CEO of Citibank made 24.5 million in 2022. If she worked 250 days (she probably worked more, but it’s a good ballpark), she made $98,000 per day, and I would love to see the receipts from her client dinners etc.. Citibank’s net income in 2022 was 12.7 billion. $106 per day is not a great per diem given airline/hotel/business district price gouging. The man is traveling and working on behalf of your company, perhaps leaving a partner and family behind to carry a heavier load, maybe paying transportation to bring a loved one along. Please leave him and his modest per diem alone. We and our western European allies always claim to be free countries, but the number and reach of the conditions required to earn a living and participate in our institutions often does not make our societies feel very free.”
Anna: “The fact that Fekete lied meant that he knew what he did was against policy, regardless of the monetary value. I think it would have turned out differently if he had owned up to it and taken the lesser expense reimbursement, but lying and getting away with it would set a precedent that Citi couldn’t/shouldn’t set. So yes, they were right in terminating him and his wrongful termination suit was to try and wipe the egg of his face. No luck there! The amount of irony in this story is almost unbelievable.”
🧠 Final Thoughts
Thanks for all the feedback to our “Roca Votes” Wraps! We’re so glad you are enjoying them.
We founded RocaNews because we wanted news companies to just give us the facts – not tell us what to think. We love seeing what YOU think in each Roca Votes story.
—Max and Max