Fox News’ Settlement, Mexico’s Spyware, & AI Wins Awards
April 19, 2023
Fox News Forks It Over
Fox News has settled. On Tuesday, as a crowd gathered to hear opening arguments between the two parties, the media giant agreed to pay $787.5 million to Dominion Voting Systems as part of a settlement agreement in a defamation lawsuit filed by the voting systems company against Fox over deliberately airing false conspiracy theories about its products following the 2020 presidential election. Fox also acknowledged a Delaware judge’s ruling that it was “CRYSTAL clear” that the company had lied about any election interference by Dominion, though it stopped short of acknowledging any wrongdoing.
“The truth matters. Lies have consequences,” said Dominion attorney Justin Nelson after news of the settlement payment broke. “Over two years ago, a torrent of lies swept Dominion and election officials across America into an alternative universe of conspiracy theories, causing grievous harm to Dominion and the country.”
The company reported having $4 billion in cash in its most recent quarterly earnings report, so the sum will cause a significant dent. Fox (a publicly traded company) might also face internal conflict due to the Dominion suit. Before the settlement was announced, a group of Fox News shareholders was already gathering evidence to possibly prepare for a lawsuit against the company’s management, while a lone shareholder has already sued the company’s leadership for mishandling the company’s election coverage.
According to a law professor, the timing of the settlement deal might also have been part of Dominion’s plan to expose Fox’s lies to the public. The company “wanted compensation for the harm done to it, but it also wanted an extra measure of accountability for the harm it thought was done to the country, and part of that accountability came from the exposure that this late settlement provided,” said RonNell Andersen Jones, a law professor at the University of Utah. “If they’d settled in February, the country wouldn’t know the things that Fox said internally about Trump, and its own audience, and about the sources it was platforming. And that’s significant.”
Some Good News
- Ghana first to approve ‘world-changer’ malaria vaccine (BBC)
- The Kissimmee River has been brought back to life—and wildlife is thriving (National Geographic)
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Not So Quiet On Eastern Front
- Early this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy both made visits to their troops as both militaries prepare for a new phase in their conflict. Ukraine’s and Russia’s militaries have been battered by the almost-15 month war – leaked Pentagon documents show that Ukraine is running low on air defense rounds required to stop Russian rocket bombardments, while Russia’s special forces have taken heavy losses due to the sustained offensive.
- On Monday, Putin paid a visit to a command post in Ukraine’s Kherson province before taking a flight to the Russian National Guard headquarters in Luhansk province. On Tuesday, Zelenskyy appeared at Avdiivka, a city close to the front lines of the war in Donetsk province. Ukraine reportedly received shipments of Patriot missile systems earlier this week, while Russia appears to be shipping Cold War-era tanks to its front lines.
Pega-sustained Surveillance Programs
- According to an investigation by the New York Times, Mexico has continued to use an Israeli spyware program named Pegasus despite promising to stop. The software, which can infect a smartphone without a trace, allows users – in this case, Mexico’s military – to download every bit of data from a phone while also live-monitoring keystrokes, watching through a camera, and even listening through a microphone.
- After the Biden administration blacklisted the Israeli company behind the software in 2021, Israel’s defense ministry announced that it would ban sales of Pegasus to countries with a risk of human rights violations. Despite Mexico’s past abuses of the software, including spying on journalists and activists, Israel has continued to allow Mexico to use the software. Evidence shows that the government has used Pegasus as recently as the second half of 2022 to spy on human rights defenders despite President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s vow to end its use.
Additional World News
- Blinken confirms attack on US diplomatic convoy in Sudan as fighting continues (ABC)
- Kremlin says Brazil’s Ukraine plan deserves attention, hasn’t seen any proposal from France (Reuters)
- Israeli police say two men shot near Jewish tomb in Jerusalem in suspected ‘terror attack’ (CNN)
- Poland building electronic barrier on border with Russia (AP)
- Russian parliament votes to introduce life sentences for treason (Reuters)
- EU lawmakers call for summit to control ‘very powerful’ AI (Reuters)
- Will India legalize same-sex marriage? Its top court hears arguments this week (NPR)
“Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty.” – Plato
Saving Reporter Gershkovich
- On Tuesday, a Russian judge denied the appeal of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who has been charged with spying and detained for over two weeks. With his request for bail or house arrest denied, Gershkovich is expected to be held in prison until at least May 29, the scheduled end of his initial detention.
- Lynne Tracy, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, was present in the courtroom during the appearance. She said, “I can only say how troubling it was to see Evan, an innocent journalist, held in these circumstances.” The Wall Street Journal has, of course, denied the spying charges, and called for their journalist to be released.
A Crisis In Colorado
- American Rivers, the conservation group that compiles the annual endangered list of waterways, released a new report that names the 277-mile stretch of the Colorado River that goes through the Grand Canyon as the most endangered waterway in the U.S. The group named drought, warm temperatures, and poor river management for its place on the list.
- “The Colorado River is on the brink of collapse and the Grand Canyon is in the crosshairs … trying to solve the basin’s water challenges by sacrificing the health of the Grand Canyon would be an utter tragedy,” said Sinjin Eberle from American Rivers. “This is an all-hands-on-deck emergency.”
- The White House is currently looking into how the Colorado River’s water supply is divvied up among different states and Native American tribes. More restrictions, which are likely to be handed down any day now, will damage the fragile ecosystem and wildlife, not to mention the sacred sites scattered along its path.
Additional USA News
- A 20-year-old woman was shot and killed after her friend turned into the wrong driveway in upstate New York, officials say (CNN)
- Who bears the burden, and how much, when religious employees refuse Sabbath work? (NPR)
- Christie, Trump take aim at DeSantis over Disney rift (Politico)
- Ben Wallace: Top British defense official casts doubt on veracity of leaked Pentagon documents (CNN)
- 17 men from warring criminal groups arrested in California Sikh community shootings (NBC)
- Supreme Court sides with New Jersey in dispute over port police agency (Politico)
- U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, other top Tennessee Republicans back Trump (Axios)
AI’m Not Sure Who Made That One
- The art world is full of strange people, self-referential works, and beautiful displays of human creation – mostly. This week, a prize-winner in an international photography contest let the world know that he’d pulled a fast one on the judges of the Sony world photography awards by submitting an AI-generated image, which won the creative open category.
- Boris Eldagsen, a German photographer, announced on his website that he would be refusing the award due to his image being, well, not a photograph. He said he submitted the image to the competition to see if international awards events were prepared to deal with an influx of AI-generated images. “They are not,” he says. “AI images and photography should not compete with each other in an award like this. They are different entities. AI is not photography. Therefore I will not accept the award.”
- While Eldagsen had hoped to use his image to spark a dialogue about AI-generated art, he and Sony’s judges have butted heads over how to have that conversation. “Given his actions and subsequent statement noting his deliberate attempts at misleading us, and therefore invalidating the warranties he provided, we no longer feel we are able to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue with him,” said a spokesperson for the competition. As for Eldagsen’s take on AI-generated images, he sees them as a way to create art without the limits associated with classical photography. “All the boundaries I had in the past – material boundaries, budgets – no longer matter,” he says. You can view the image here.
- Judge seals Alec Baldwin settlement terms in fatal shooting (AP)
- Greenland’s melting ice could be changing our oceans. Just ask the whales (NPR)
- Holocaust survivors, descendants join forces on social media (AP)
- How happy are you at work? The answer may have to do more with your age, survey shows. (USA Today)
- Netflix is shutting down its original DVD business after 25 years (The Verge)
- Long accused of Indigenous appropriation, Boy Scouts ask if it’s time to change (NBC)
- Scientists discover pristine deep-sea Galápagos reef ‘teeming with life’ (Guardian)
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