The $787 million check that Fox must cut won’t restore damage to US democracy
Fox News will pay $787.5 million for transmitting lies that a small voting technology firm helped steal the 2020 election. But it’s impossible to put a price on damaged trust in US democracy.
The last-minute deal Tuesday between the conservative channel and Dominion Voting Systems, halting a blockbuster jury trial, delivered a staggering financial settlement after a process that had already exposed Fox’s willingness to parrot election conspiracy theories that its executives and anchors knew weren’t true.
The agreement delivered restitution to Dominion for the hits to its reputation, and repudiated false claims that its machines were used to simply flip vote totals from ex-President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden. It represented a huge victory for the firm’s lawyers and, in the context of a civil legal suit, the massive payoff validated the decision to bring the case.
“This is really the first time that anyone has paid a price for telling the lies about the 2020 election and we are very proud about that,” Dominion’s lead lawyer, Justin Nelson, told CNN’s Alex Marquardt, arguing that the settlement secured accountability for the firm and solidified a shared vision of national facts vital to the survival of democracy.
There have indeed been few consequences for the Trump lawyers and supporters who spouted falsehoods and nonsense about a fair election in 2020 that the ex-president lost, although some key figures and other right-wing networks face their own pending defamation suits from Dominion. Smartmatic, another voting technology company, is also suing Fox News for defamation in a case that’s pending. And Trump himself is facing several criminal probes related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the run-up to the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
Dominion’s lawyers argued that they performed a valuable civic service by teasing out the truth of how Fox News operates and the way that its leaders feared that fact checking Trump’s claims would cause viewers to defect to other right-wing outlets. Much of this information came out in a flurry of pre-trial legal filings that got huge media coverage.
But outside of the legal and financial context, does Nelson’s statement that this was a moment of public accountability really ring true, especially when Trump is continuing to make election falsehoods a central currency of his 2024 campaign? And is there any chance that Fox’s humiliation can repair some of the damage from the disastrous election aftermath in 2020? Will the settlement do anything to change a conservative media model that monetizes falsehoods?
Fox News is set to pay a heavy financial price in the settlement, and its reputation took massive blows after it emerged that its anchors knew Trump’s claims were spurious. But those prime-time stars will not be required by the terms of the settlement to apologize on air.
Ironically, the viewers whom they didn’t want to alienate by telling them the truth about the election may never know they were misled without the channel’s anchors having to admit it on TV.
This is one reason why it’s unlikely that news of the massive payout will make much of a ripple in the conservative media bubble and among the millions of Trump voters who have embraced his lies about 2020.
Meet the cheapest US states to buy a house
A new study analyzing Zillow data has found that the monthly median sale price of a house last year was more than $500,000 in Utah, California and Colorado — and more than a staggering $800,000 in Hawaii.
The study, conducted by Studio City realtors, found that Hawaii clocked in as the most expensive state in the U.S. for homebuyers. On the island, the average home price was $805,775 — hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the cheapest state on the list.
Studio City realtor Tony Mariotti noted that market turbulence contributed to a “significant increase” in house prices across the U.S.
Home prices went up nationwide in February after months of declines amid low inventory and a small uptick in demand — and experts have said they expect affordability will continue to be a problem for prospective homebuyers in the months ahead.
Here are the priciest and cheapest U.S. states to buy a home:
The most expensive states to buy a home
Eight states and Washington, D.C., saw a monthly median sale price of a house last year of $400,000 or higher, with Oregon sitting at that exact figure.
Washington state, Nevada, Montana and Washington, D.C., came in between $402,900 and $487,500.
California, Colorado and Hawaii were the top three most expensive, at $537,000, $537,125 and $805,775 in monthly median sale prices last year, respectively.
Costs differed in different areas within states: for example, the median monthly sale price of a house last year in California’s cheapest city of Red Bluff was $320,000 — while the ticket in its most expensive city of San Jose was $1,370,000.
Don’t just hug a tree this Arbor Day — plant one, too
Nearly five years ago, Hurricane Michael became the first Category 5 storm to hit the United States in 25 years. It left a trail of destruction in its wake, and my community of Panama City — located in the Florida Panhandle — was hit especially hard. Since then, working together as neighbors and citizens, we’ve made significant progress in key recovery areas, including rebuilding key and vital infrastructure, enhancing quality of life, developing our downtown, and attracting new businesses across a mix of industries. However, one of our most important recovery efforts lies within our tree canopy restoration — an often overlooked but vital area of disaster recovery and prevention.
When Hurricane Michael uprooted nearly 80 percent of Panama City’s trees — approximately a million trees, generating 5.7 million cubic yards of debris within the city — it created serious challenges. Not only did we lose the beautiful canopy from 100-year-old oak trees, but the vital function of the trees was lost, the first of which was the absorption of groundwater. The loss of so many trees significantly increased the risk of flooding in our community,
where we now experience flooding in areas that haven’t typically flooded in the 114-year history of the city. The second function lost from the lack of trees is shade.
Trees serve to mitigate the urban heat island effect, where an entire city is warmed by concrete being heated by the sun. These increased temperatures not only result in uncomfortably hot weather but can also lead to other extreme weather events like wildfires. Since the storm, Panama City has experienced increased flooding whenever thunderstorms roll through, in addition to wildfires that consumed over 40,000 acres last year – both due in part to the damaged tree canopy and loss of trees.
The problems facing VA modernization are bigger than its software systems
The list of criticisms of the new Veterans Affairs (VA) electronic health record system, Oracle Cerner, is long.
Thousands of doctors’ orders went missing, putting patient safety at risk. Its downtime has been high compared to the old system, though it has improved. The new system is expensive: $16 billion so far, up from the $10 billion originally estimated. And, so far, it has been rolled out at just five of the VA’s 171 sites.
One of the problems is that the old record system, VistA, has its own lengthy list of reasons why it cannot continue to serve as the main software for VA hospitals. VistA was coded in Mumps, a computer language so old that few programmers are available to work on it. This old system is also not cloud-based, and cloud-based systems are now standard. And each VA location has customized VistA for its own particular needs, which means that each system is, in its way, unique, and interoperability is not-at-all simple.
Even those who still love VistA concede that sticking with the old software is not a long-term solution. And even in the short-term, VistA is expensive to maintain, costing $900 million for this purpose just last year. So VA has been sinking money into two different electronic health record systems, each one broken in its own way.
As of last Friday, VA has called for a complete reset of the modernization program and a halt to any further Oracle Cerner rollouts.
How did this implementation go so wrong? And what should be done now?
Electronic health record (EHR) implementations often take a long time and go over budget. And while the VA implementation of its new EHR software has been challenging for a number of reasons, all of these reasons could be, and indeed were, anticipated.
VA is unique in its geographical breadth — most EHR rollouts occur in a single health care system that is physically situated in one state, not across 50. Most EHRs, including the new Oracle Cerner system, are designed around billing, which is not a focus for providers in VA hospitals. The VA patient population is also different than the general public, with different frequencies of disease (more PTSD and missing limbs; less pregnancy and pediatric care), and it requires management of referrals and care outside the VA system.
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