December 11, 2017 - Fire crews, using controlled burns, create a barrier in the foothills of Carpinteria, California, in the hopes of containing the Thomas fire in Southern California.

Insured losses totaled more than $12 billion: Damage from the Camp Fire was the costliest disaster in the world last year, topping out at $12.5 billion in insured losses, according to a new report by global reinsurance firm Munich RE. The Germany-based company said it had expected losses to be lower this year after a record-breaking 2017, in which insurers paid out about $230 billion worldwide. But a number of hurricanes, typhoons and wildfires ruined the outlook. Read more HERE and HERE.

RESTAURANT SECURITY

Pizza wars: Dominic Morano runs the iconic Prince Street Pizza in NYC’s SoHo for his dad Frank, whose anger is piping hot over an employee who left this shop after seven years to another pizza shop on the Upper West Side. The Moranos claim he had the nerve to take the recipe for this Signature Spicy Pepperoni Square with him, and the elder Morano is set to sue. READ MORE

CYBER SECURITY

Concerns about Amazon’s Ring: The smart home of the 21st century isn’t just supposed to be a monument to convenience, we’re told, but also to protection. But for some who’ve welcomed in Amazon’s Ring security cameras, there have been more than just algorithms watching through the lens, according to sources alarmed by Ring’s dismal privacy practices. READ MORE

CHINA

Another Chinese exec accused of espionage: Polish authorities detained and charged a local sales director of Huawei Technologies Co., a Chinese national, with conducting high-level espionage on behalf of China, amid widening global scrutiny by Washington and its allies of the technology giant. READ MORE

China cracks down on Twitter users: One man spent 15 days in a detention center. The police threatened another’s family. A third was chained to a chair for eight hours of interrogation. Their offense: posting on Twitter. The Chinese police, in a sharp escalation of the country’s online censorship efforts, are questioning and detaining a growing number of Twitter users even though the social media platform is blocked in China and the vast majority of people in the country cannot see it. READ MORE

U.S. company cancels clothing contract: A United States sportswear company has stopped using a Chinese supplier following concerns it was using forced labour in camps in northwestern China. Badger Sportswear, a company based in North Carolina, said it would stop sourcing clothing from Hetian Taida in Xinjiang. READ MORE

THE FUTURE

Robots again: There’s no denying that robotics in restaurants is a new trend. Restaurants nationwide are beginning to explore robots, artificial intelligence (AI), and other innovative technologies as a way to perform a variety of tasks more quickly, accurately, efficiently and safely. Robots are now able to measure ingredients, cook custom meals, prepare pizza dough, flip burgers, and even mix drinks. READ MORE

MISCELLANEOUS

Judge strikes down Iowa’s ‘ag-gag’ law: A federal judge in Iowa says it’s no longer a crime to go undercover at factory farms, slaughterhouses and any other ag-related operations. The 2012 law was a clear violation of the First Amendment, the judge said. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, one of the plaintiffs in the case, called the ruling “a win for free speech and animal protection.” READ MORE

Maduro inauguration prompts discord: President Nicolas Maduro celebrated the start to a second term as Venezuela’s leader Thursday, but his world got smaller as countries seized upon the inauguration to cut back diplomatic ties, reject his legitimacy and label him a dictator. READ MORE

Capitalism’s rise in Cuba: This is definitely not what Fidel pictured. Sixty years after Castro overthrew Cuba’s notoriously corrupt dictator Fulgencio Batista, one of the world’s last remaining Communist strongholds has become a hotbed of capitalism. READ MORE

Marijuana taxes falling short: California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed spending plan, released Thursday, projects the state will bank $355 million in marijuana excise taxes by the end of June. That’s roughly half of what was once expected after broad legal sales kicked off last year, indicating that illegal sales are still flourishing. READ MORE

Mexican drivers running on empty: Across central Mexico, drivers are running on empty or lining up for hours at service stations, as the government’s efforts to rein in fuel theft compound a nationwide gasoline shortage. More than one-fourth of Mexico City’s 400 gasoline stations are facing problems, Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said in a Twitter video. The states of Mexico, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacan, Guanajuato and Queretaro are among the worst affected. READ MORE