A collection of opinionated commentaries on culture, politics and religion compiled predominantly from an American viewpoint but tempered by a global vision. My Armwood Opinion Youtube Channel @ YouTube I have a Jazz Blog @ Jazz and a Technology Blog @ Technology. I have a Human Rights Blog @ Law
Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Opinion | Expanding the House of Representatives would help fix U.S. democracy - The Washington Post
Ron DeSantis takes control of Disney’s governing district after ‘don’t say gay’ row
"Move comes after Florida governor lashed out at theme park’s protest of law restricting sexual orientation discussion in schools
The Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, has signed a bill that wrests control of Walt Disney World’s self-governing district, in a move seen as punishing the company for its opposition to his so-called “don’t say gay” law.
“Today the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” he said at the bill signing in Lake Buena Vista in his trademark bullish style. “There’s a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day.”
DeSantis’s head-on dispute with Disney, and the legislation banning classroom teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity that prompted it, are two signature moves by the Republican designed to affirm his status as a culture warrior. He is widely expected to take those credentials to the national stage in next year’s presidential election in which he would face another brash Florida Republican – Donald Trump.
The bill gives DeSantis the power to appoint the five members of the board that controls government services for the Reedy Creek district covering Disney’s Florida theme park properties that stretch over 27,000 acres (11,000 hectares). It brings to an end the Mouse House’s special privileges which had stood for more than half a century, granting the company its own police and fire department and autonomy over zoning and other public functions.
Disney World, with its 75,000 employees, is the largest employer in central Florida. It attracted over 36 million visitors in 2021, according to the Themed Entertainment Association.
The collision between one of the rising stars in the increasingly far-right Republican party and the world-renowned entertainment conglomerate began in March 2022 when DeSantis signed the officially titled “Parental Rights in Education” bill. It barred instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation issues in kindergarten to third-grade classes, spanning the ages of about five to nine.
The “don’t say gay” measure formed part of a spate of similar anti-LGBTQ+ billsthat have swept the US amid a rightwing assault on progressive policies they mock as “woke”. It provoked an outcry from LGBTQ+ and other groups across the country, with Joe Biden denouncing it as “hateful”.
After initially hesitating to be drawn into the affray, Disney’s chief executive at the time, Bob Chapek, came out against the changes. He said he had called the governor to express his disapproval and vowed to suspend all political donations in Florida.
DeSantis’s retaliation came swiftly. He convened a special legislative session and invited the Republican-controlled legislature to dissolve Disney’s self-governing district.
As a further nod to the politicised nature of his action, DeSantis made overt the connection between his hostile move against Disney and his anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. He appointed one of the architects of the “don’t say gay” law to sit on the new five-person board controlling services in the Disney area.
The new board member Bridget Ziegler is married to the chairman of the Florida Republican party. She was a founder of the rightwing education group Moms for Liberty.
The other four members of the panel are: Martin Garcia, an influential Republican lawyer in Tampa who donated $50,000 to DeSantis’s reelection coffers last year; Brian Aungst, an attorney who is son of a former Republican mayor of Clearwater; Mike Sasso, an attorney; and Ron Peri, founder of the Gathering ministry which espouses Christian nationalism.
At the ceremony ending Disney’s special status on Monday, DeSantis portrayed his move not as a culture war tactic but as a question of good governance. “Allowing a corporation to control its own government is bad policy, especially when the corporation makes decisions that impact an entire region,” he said.
“This legislation ends Disney’s self-governing status, makes Disney live under the same laws as everybody else, and ensures that Disney pays its debts and fair share of taxes.”
Speakers at the event included a parent who criticized Disney for speaking out against the state’s education bill, saying the company “chose the wrong side of the moral argument”. Another person who identified himself as a longtime Disney theme park employee took issue with the company’s policies regarding vaccinations.
Associated Press contributed to this report
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Opinion | Expanding the House of Representatives would help fix U.S. democracy - The Washington Post
Opinion The House was supposed to grow with population. It didn’t. Let’s fix that.
February 28, 2023 at 7:55 a.m. EST
"What if we increased the size of the House?
Given that most of us are pretty frustrated with Congress, this might sound crazy. But growing the House of Representatives is the key to unlocking our present paralysis and leaning into some serious democracy renovation.
I am using my Post column this year to explore why we are pulling apart as a people and how we can change that dynamic and come together. In January, I wrote about our desperate need to renovate our democracy. It has endured for more than two centuries, serving us well in some ways and very imperfectly in others. We are still completing a critical transition to broad power-sharing across communities and among citizens of all backgrounds. Our institutions weren’t originally built for this — and we have been cobbling on additions and extensions decade after decade.
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Now, the pace of change has accelerated, and all our deferred maintenance is catching up with us. We need a plan for functional institutions of self-government in 21st-century conditions. We all know it, but we’re stuck. There’s so much work to do. Where to begin?
I propose we start with the first branch of government — the branch of the federal government that was designed by the framers to be closest to we the people.
How to renovate American democracy
As originally conceived, the House was supposed to grow with every decennial census. James Madison even included in the Bill of Rights an amendment laying out a formula forcing the House to grow from 65 to 200 members, then allowing it to expand beyond that. (His proposal actually stands as an open-ended amendment still available for state ratification, but the math it uses wouldn’t work for the country’s 21st-century scale.)
George Washington spoke just once at the Constitutional Convention — and on its final day — to endorse an amendment lowering the ratio of constituents to members to 30,000. The expectation was that good, responsive representation required allowing representatives to meaningfully know their constituents, constituents to know and reach their representatives, and Congress to get its business done.
Today, House members represent roughly 762,000 people each. That number is on track to reach 1 million by mid-century.
The number has gotten so high because of the 1929 Permanent Apportionment Act has as a de facto matter capped the size of the House. The bill set the decennial reapportionment of the House on autopilot. It assigned the Census Bureau the job of reporting a new 435-seat apportionment plan for the House to the president following each decennial census. The president in turn simply reports the new apportionment to Congress. Congress can change this number if it wants to, but it has not wanted to for nearly a century now.
As a result, we are the only Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development democracy that hasn’t continuously adjusted the size of its legislative assembly over the past century. It also gives us the highest representation ratio of any OECD country by a long measure. Both the German Bundestag and the British Parliament are larger than our House of Representatives, even though their populations are roughly one-quarter or one-fifth of ours.
Why, exactly, was the House supposed to grow?
The Federalist Papers, a set of essays written to advocate for the new Constitution, explain its features via a set of key design principles: “energy,” “republican safety,” “due dependence on the people” and a need to fuse the principle of popular sovereignty with a union of states. A growing House of Representatives was meant to advance all these principles.
The goal of “energy” meant the government needed to be able to get things done. But citizens also needed to be protected in their liberties despite the energies of the government. That’s the ideal of “republican safety.” The principle of “due dependence on the people” meant officeholders should take their cues from voters, not donors, special interests or party activists. The principle of popular sovereignty pointed toward a governmental frame that would flex and adjust with the ever-changing shape of the people. The principle of an association of states was meant to provide a stable foundation for the whole enterprise.
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The House was supposed to provide the necessary elasticity, turning over every two years and continuously growing; the Senate was to be a steady rudder, with only a third of its members potentially rotating out in any election cycle.
This starter set of design principles for constitutional democracy was expanded, with the post-Civil War amendments and civil-rights-era legislation and jurisprudence, to include equal protection and universal inclusion.
Taken as a full set, these principles — the originals plus the 19th- and 20th-century additions — are a good starting point for designing the institutions of self-government for free and equal citizens. And a bigger House is the renovation we need now to achieve alignment with all of them.
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Why this one renovation above all others? Four reasons:
For starters, with today’s high ratio of lawmakers to residents, representatives are too removed from their constituents. Constituent services are strained. Smaller districts would mean better responsiveness, which would align with the principle of popular sovereignty.
Relatedly, Congress has a much larger budget to track and manage, and many more agencies to review, than it did a century ago. More House members would make for more effective legislative oversight of the executive branch. That aligns with the principle of republican safety.
Third, the smaller the district, the less expensive the campaign, and the less politicians will be dependent on donors, instead of the people, as the principle of due dependence requires.
Fourth, a bigger House with smaller districts would enhance equal protection and inclusivity. More seats would mean more shots; smaller districts would give candidates from minority groups and nontraditional backgrounds a more feasible path to electoral victory.
But what about the issue of energy? Wouldn’t a bigger House make it harder to get things done? Here the most important point is that the principle of inclusion requires us to learn how to operate on a larger scale than we have in the past.
Let’s spend a bit of time on this one.
Over the past five years, I’ve chaired three large task forces, including one on civic education, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ commission on the future of democracy that motivates these columns. Each had a minimum of three co-chairs. We used this triumvirate structure to get a diversity of perspective into the leadership. We also built bigger task forces than in a past era, again to optimize for inclusion of the full range of relevant viewpoints. We operated a committee of 40 where the number would have been set at 20 in another era.
As we shifted to these scaled-up forms of operation, we introduced new tools. They included digital discovery tools such as instant polls and word clouds to bring a range of viewpoints to the surface, breakout groups and structured deliberations to make progress on specific questions, and rapid prioritization exercises with sticky notes on wall boards.
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These are small examples, but the point is that a host of new practices and tools are being developed as people learn how to carry out the work of deliberation in larger and more diverse committees. In 1929, people might have thought it wasn’t possible to do good work with an assembly of more than 435 people. But now, nearly 100 years later, much more is possible.
Yes, a bigger House would have to be an innovative House. But energy could be achieved, even with significant growth.
In contrast, our current cap of 435 means our national legislature no longer adjusts and shifts in meaningful ways with population changes. Lack of proximity to representatives leaves constituents in an information vacuum about officeholders, easily filled by polarizing national narratives and misinformation. The ever-growing size of districts reinforces the power of incumbency and money. We have rigidified ourselves to a breaking point.
This year, two representatives have filed bills to enlarge the House. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has filed the Restoring Equal and Accountable Legislators in the House Act. And Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) has filed the Equal Voices Act. Let’s take their proposals seriously.
We need the dynamism, flexibility and elasticity. By fixing the House, we can break gridlock — and then we can start to fix other things. Bigger is better."
How does the brain age across the lifespan? A new study offers clues. - The Washington Post
How does the brain age across the lifespan? New studies offer clues.
"Our brains are built to change over our lifetime, meeting the challenges set by every life stage.
Do brains peak in childhood? Is it all downhill after 30? Can a 65-year-old brain keep up with an adolescent?
While growth charts tracking metrics like height and weight give a relatively clear picture of the range of human physical development, less has been known about the key milestones of normal brain aging.
To find out more, an international team of researchers collected brain scan data from multiple studies representing 101,457 brains at all stages of life. The youngest scan in the study came from a 16-week-old fetus; the oldest was from a 100-year-old.
Across this large data set, some striking milestones emerged.
- The thickness of the cerebral cortex, the wrinkled outer layer of the brain, peaks at about age 2 — the region is involved in processes like perception, language and consciousness.
- Gray matter volume, which represents the overall number of brain cells, peaks in childhood about age 7.
- White matter, made up of the connections between neurons that allow for regions of the brain to quickly communicate, is at its highest volume at about age 30 and begins to decline in later adulthood.
- The volume of ventricles, fluid-filled cavities within the brain, increases rapidly at later age — larger ventricle size has been associated with some neurodegenerative diseases.
Importantly, the study is meant to serve as a broad reference rather than an exact road map personalized to individual people, said Jakob Seidlitz, a study co-author and research scientist at the Lifespan Brain Institute of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania.
“Absolute differences in size in these features are somewhat meaningless,” Seidlitz said. “They’re useful insofar as mapping a reference for any given age, given how dynamic these processes are.”
Brain development also gets increasingly variable the older we get. Even different parts of the brain, like regions involved in vision vs. speech, hit their own milestones at different points in life, said Sahar Ahmad, a research instructor at the UNC School of Medicine who specializes in neuroimaging over development.
While some of these structural elements have been tied to behaviors — white matter has been associated with more efficient decision-making, for example — there are still more complex genetic, cellular and functional changes underpinning the big, structural shifts.
And, while the brain is largely set up by birth, with the creation of new neurons largely complete, how different parts of the brain communicate with one another change over life.
The good news is, that unlike other parts of the body, our brains are built to change over our lifetime, meeting the challenges set by every life stage. While nobody can predict the exact ages of brain development, here’s a general guide to how the brain may change at various ages.
Babies’ brains are like sponges, soaking up all kinds of environmental information, particularly from their parents or caregivers. In the first year or so, for example, babies can learn any language, but that capacity is quickly narrowed based on the sounds or signs they hear or see. That rapid fine-tuning is why it can be much more difficult to learn new languages later in life, particularly ones that are different from a native language.
Part of this sponginess is due to the huge number of synapses, or the connections between neurons, formed over the first couple years of life.
“Early in life, we have a whole lot of excitatory connections, so there’s a lot of learning potential,” said BJ Casey, professor of neuroscience and psychologist at Barnard College, who studies adolescent brain development.
Important cellular and genetic processes are also underway. While most neurons are born by the time of birth, other types of cells in the brain such as glia are developing and maturing rapidly in the first years of life. Glial cells — which can help form synapses, insulate connections, provide nutrients and destroy pathogens in the brain — will continue to mature for several decades.
Both neurons and glia also accrue mutations throughout life, but the ones “occurring during [early] development seem to be very important at setting up risk for diseases later in life,” said Chris Walsh, professor of pediatrics and neurology at Harvard Medical School, who studies the genetics of brain development.
Starting at about 18 months to two years, the brain shifts toward learning, which involves both strengthening important connections and decreasing ones that aren’t being used. To help the brain prioritize certain experiences, more inhibitory connections, which act as brakes for information processing, develop across brain circuits.
To decrease connections, babies lose about half of those synapses they had just formed in a process known as synaptic pruning. To strengthen connections, myelination, the process by which neuronal connections are wrapped and insulated with the fatty protein, myelin rapidly increases throughout childhood and beyond.
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This increased signal-to-noise ratio for information that corresponds with children’s experiences is especially important as they learn to process emotions, interact in social settings and develop more complex communication skills.
Because there is so much connection building and strengthening during childhood, the brain is particularly sensitive to interactions with caregivers and others in their environment. Stress stemming from trauma or neglect in this period can therefore have deeply profound effects on the rest of a child’s brain development over life.
From the ages of about 10 to 19, there are dynamic changes in brain networks involved in learning how to process emotions and motivations around different experiences, as teens navigate life that begins to move away from the safety of home.
“During adolescence, you have to learn to fend for yourself,” as you won’t have the same protection from parents as you did when you were younger, Casey said. “Learning the boundaries of society’s rules is exactly what adolescence is about, preparing you to be a functioning adult.”
This heightened sensitivity to the environment is reflected in another bout of widespread synaptic pruning and myelination, but especially in circuits underlying emotion and reward processing. It’s why teens are incentivized to explore new experiences, no matter how risky or threatening they can be.
Young Adulthood: 20 to 39
The mid-to-late 20s are often thought of as a kind of “peak” of brain development or an example of when the brain has “matured.” This myth stems in part due to the observation that white matter volume, a proxy for the “speed” of information processing, reaches a high level at these ages.
Neuronal networks are continually honed and adjusted into young adulthood, especially those involved in rational thought and considering future consequences. Yet, the brain is by no means “done” with its development.
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As the brain progresses into the 30s and 40s, adult synaptic plasticity, or the ability for connections to strengthen or weaken in response to activity changes, is thought to reprioritize rather than diminish.
“The system is just working differently. It’s moved into something that’s maybe a little more strategic and longer term, and not into ‘I need to remember exactly what this is and be really quick and sharp like I was in my 20s,’” said Mark Harnett, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT who studies how neurons communicate in circuits and networks underlying complex behaviors. But those two things “are actually challenging to implement simultaneously.”
Late Adulthood: 40s and beyond
When you lose your keys or forget a name, it may feel like your brain isn’t working as well as it used to. But new research dispels the belief that plasticity, the brain’s capacity to respond to change, diminishes in the adult and aging brain.
Harnett’s lab recently showed the presence of “silent synapses,” connections that are inactive until they’re recruited to help form new memories, in adult mice. These synapses had long been associated with early development, but Harnett and his lab have now also confirmed their widespread presence in adult human brains across ages and different regions.
The findings, which suggest that your brain can dynamically change throughout adulthood, are changing the way scientists view the aging brain.
“Everyone feels like plasticity goes away as you get older and neurons just die,” Harnett said. “Here we found something that’s really robust. It’s like, hey, there’s all these silent synapses and all this extra plasticity capacity in the adult cortex. That’s awesome, we didn’t know that was there. That’s super exciting!”
In the 40s and beyond, life shifts toward the challenging roles of adulthood — career, caring for family and giving back to the next generation. Because of how variable individual experiences can be, brain milestones are also trickier to set at specific ages later in life.
Experiences such as engagement in a community, lifestyle choices or exposure to stress or toxins can drastically affect brain development and aging. A 50-year-old who is highly social and regularly exercising, traveling or volunteering might have a “younger” brain than a 50-year-old who is largely isolated from others and rarely engages in enriching activities.
Research suggests that older adults who engage in memory training tasks, crossword puzzles, and even video games can improve some cognitive functions, but the mechanisms underlying those findings are still unknown.
Late in life, the brain does shrink in size and can begin to degenerate. Yet older individuals also have the potential for greater wisdom built off a lifetime of experiences. Some researchers have suggested that the brain circuitry tied to emotional processing and moral decision-making might be involved in different components of wisdom, although that research is still limited.
“I don’t think that we provide the respect to the aging and the wisdom that they’ve accumulated throughout a life span,” Casey said."
Murdoch Acknowledges Fox News Hosts Endorsed Election Fraud Falsehoods - The New York Times
Murdoch Acknowledges Fox News Hosts Endorsed Election Fraud Falsehoods
"Rupert Murdoch, the conservative media mogul, spoke under oath last month in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox by Dominion Voting Systems.
Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the conservative media empire that owns Fox News, acknowledged in a deposition that several hosts for his networks promoted the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald J. Trump, and that he could have stopped them but didn’t, court documentsreleased on Monday showed.
“They endorsed,” Mr. Murdoch said under oath in response to direct questions about the Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo, according to a legal filing by Dominion Voting Systems. “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight,” he added, while also disclosing that he was always dubious of Mr. Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.
Asked whether he doubted Mr. Trump, Mr. Murdoch responded: “Yes. I mean, we thought everything was on the up-and-up.” At the same time, he rejected the accusation that Fox News as a whole had endorsed the stolen election narrative. “Not Fox,” he said. “No. Not Fox.”
Mr. Murdoch’s remarks, which he made last month as part of Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox, added to the evidence that Dominion has accumulated as it tries to prove its central allegation: The people running the country’s most popular news network knew Mr. Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election were false but broadcast them anyway in a reckless pursuit of ratings and profit.
Proof to that effect would help Dominion clear the high legal bar set by the Supreme Court for defamation cases. To prevail, Dominion must show not only that Fox broadcast false information, but that it did so knowingly. A judge in Delaware state court has scheduled a monthlong trial beginning in April.
The new documents and a similar batch released this month provide a dramatic account from inside the network, depicting a frantic scramble as Fox tried to woo back its large conservative audience after ratings collapsed in the wake of Mr. Trump’s loss. Fox had been the first network to call Arizona for Joseph R. Biden on election night — essentially declaring him the next president. When Mr. Trump refused to concede and started attacking Fox as disloyal and dishonest, viewers began to change the channel.
The filings also revealed that top executives and on-air hosts had reacted with incredulity bordering on contempt to various fictitious allegations about Dominion. These included unsubstantiated rumors — repeatedly uttered by guests and hosts of Fox programs — that its voting machines could run a secret algorithm that switched votes from one candidate to another, and that the company was founded in Venezuela to help that country’s longtime leader, Hugo Chávez, fix elections.
Despite those misgivings, little changed about the content on shows like Mr. Dobbs’s and Ms. Bartiromo’s. For weeks after the election, viewers of Fox News and Fox Business heard a far different story from the one that Fox executives privately conceded was real.
Lawyers for Fox News, which filed a response to Dominion in court on Monday, argued that its commentary and reporting after the election did not amount to defamation because its hosts had not endorsed the falsehoods about Dominion, even if Mr. Murdoch stated otherwise in his deposition. As such, the network’s lawyers argued, Fox’s coverage was protected under the First Amendment.
“Far from reporting the allegations as true, hosts informed their audiences at every turn that the allegations were just allegations that would need to be proven in court in short order if they were going to impact the outcome of the election,” Fox lawyers said in their filing. “And to the extent some hosts commented on the allegations, that commentary is independently protected opinion.”
A Fox News spokeswoman said on Monday in response to the filing that Dominion’s case “has always been more about what will generate headlines than what can withstand legal scrutiny.” She added that the company had taken “an extreme, unsupported view of defamation law that would prevent journalists from basic reporting.”
In certain instances, Fox hosts did present the allegations as unproven and offered their opinions. And Fox lawyers have pointed to exchanges on the air when hosts challenged these claims and pressed Mr. Trump’s lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. Giuliani to present evidence that never materialized.
But the case is also likely to revolve around questions about what people with the power to shape Fox’s on-air content knew about the validity of the fraud allegations as they gave pro-Trump election deniers a platform — often in front of hosts who mustered no pushback.
“There appears to be a pretty good argument that Fox endorsed the accuracy of what was being said,” said Lee Levine, a veteran First Amendment lawyer who has defended major media organizations in defamation cases. He added that Fox’s arguments were stronger against some of Dominion’s claims than others. But based on what he has seen of the case so far, Mr. Levine said, “I’d much rather be in Dominion’s shoes than Fox’s right now.”
Dominion’s filing casts Mr. Murdoch as a chairman who was both deeply engaged with his senior leadership about coverage of the election and operating at somewhat of a remove, unwilling to interfere. Asked by Dominion’s lawyer, Justin Nelson, whether he could have ordered Fox News to keep Trump lawyers like Ms. Powell and Mr. Giuliani off the air, Mr. Murdoch responded: “I could have. But I didn’t.”
The document also described how Paul D. Ryan, a former Republican speaker of the House and current member of the Fox Corporation board of directors, said in his deposition that he had implored Mr. Murdoch and his son Lachlan, the chief executive officer, “that Fox News should not be spreading conspiracy theories.” Mr. Ryan suggested instead that the network pivot and “move on from Donald Trump and stop spouting election lies.”
There was some discussion at the highest levels of the company about how to make that pivot, Dominion said.
On Jan. 5, 2021, the day before the attack at the Capitol, Mr. Murdoch and Suzanne Scott, the chief executive of Fox News Media, talked about whether Mr. Hannity and his fellow prime-time hosts, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, should make it clear to viewers that Mr. Biden had won the election. Mr. Murdoch said in his deposition that he had hoped such a statement “would go a long way to stop the Trump myth that the election was stolen.”
According to the filing, Ms. Scott said of the hosts, “Privately they are all there,” but “we need to be careful about using the shows and pissing off the viewers.” No statement of that kind was made on the air.
Dominion details the close relationship that Fox hosts and executives enjoyed with senior Republican Party officials and members of the Trump inner circle, revealing how at times Fox was shaping the very story it was covering. It describes how Mr. Murdoch placed a call to the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, immediately after the election. In his deposition, Mr. Murdoch testified that during that call he likely urged Mr. McConnell to “ask other senior Republicans to refuse to endorse Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories and baseless claims of fraud.”
Dominion also describes how Mr. Murdoch provided Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, with confidential information about ads that the Biden campaign would be running on Fox.
At one point, Dominion’s lawyers accuse Ms. Pirro, who hosted a Saturday evening talk show, of “laundering her own conspiracy theories through Powell.” The filing goes on to say Ms. Pirro bragged to her friends “that she was the source for Powell’s claims.” Dominion notes that this was “something she never shared with her audience.”
The filing on Monday included a deposition by Viet Dinh, Fox Corporation’s chief legal officer, who was one of the many senior executive cautioning about the content of Fox’s coverage. After Mr. Hannity told his audience on Nov. 5, 2020, that it would be “impossible to ever know the true, fair, accurate election results,” Mr. Dinh told a group of senior executives including Lachlan Murdoch and Ms. Scott: “Hannity is getting awfully close to the line with his commentary and guests tonight.”
When asked in his deposition if Fox executives had an obligation to stop hosts of shows from broadcasting lies, Mr. Dinh said: “Yes, to prevent and correct known falsehoods.”
In their filing on Monday, Fox’s lawyers accused Dominion of cherry-picking evidence that some at Fox News knew the allegations against Dominion were not true and, therefore, acted out of actual malice, the legal standard required to prove defamation.
“The vast majority of Dominion’s evidence comes from individuals who had zero responsibility for the statements Dominion challenges,” the lawyers said."
Opinion | Florida Could Start Looking a Lot Like Hungary - The New York Times (DeSantis, America's new devil!)
Florida Could Start Looking a Lot Like Hungary
"In 2017, the government of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban passed a law intended to drive Central European University, a prestigious school founded by a Hungarian refugee, George Soros, out of the country. At the time, this was shocking; as many as 80,000 protesters rallied in Budapest and intellectuals worldwide rushed to declare their solidarity with the demonstrators. “The fate of the university was a test of whether liberalism had the tactical savvy and emotional fortitude to beat back its new ideological foe,” wrote Franklin Foer in The Atlantic.
Liberalism, sadly, did not: The university was forced to move to Vienna, part of Orban’s lamentably successful campaign to dismantle Hungary’s liberal democracy.
That campaign has included ever-greater ideological control over education, most intensely in grade school, but also in colleges and universities. Following a landslide 2018 re-election victory that Orban saw as a “mandate to build a new era,” his government banned public funding for gender studies courses. “The Hungarian government is of the clear view that people are born either men or women,” said his chief of staff. In 2021, Orban extended political command over Hungarian universities by putting some schools under the authority of “public trusts” full of regime allies.
Many on the American right admire the way Orban uses the power of the state against cultural liberalism, but few are imitating him as faithfully as the Florida governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. Last week, one of DeSantis’s legislative allies filed House Bill 999, which would, as The Tampa Bay Times reported, turn many of DeSantis’s “wide-ranging ideas on higher education into law.” Even by DeSantis’s standards, it is a shocking piece of legislation that takes a sledgehammer to academic freedom. Jeremy Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America, described it as “almost an apocalyptic bill for higher education,” one that is “orders of magnitude worse than anything we’ve seen, either in the recent or the distant past.”
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Echoing Orban, House Bill 999 bars Florida’s public colleges and universities from offering gender studies majors or minors, as well as majors or minors in critical race theory or “intersectionality,” or in any subject that “engenders beliefs” in those concepts. The bill prohibits the promotion or support of any campus activities that “espouse diversity, equity and inclusion or critical race theory rhetoric.” This goes far beyond simply ending D.E.I. programming, and could make many campus speakers, as well as student organizations like Black student unions, verboten.
There’s more. Under House Bill 999, general education core courses couldn’t present a view of American history “contrary to the creation of a new nation based on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence,” creating obvious limits on the teaching of subjects like slavery and the Native American genocide. The bill also says that general education courses shouldn’t be based on “unproven, theoretical or exploratory content,” without defining what that means. “State officials would have unfettered discretion to determine which views are ‘theoretical’ and banned from general education courses,” says a statement by the libertarian-leaning Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.
Finally, the bill centralizes political control over hiring by allowing faculty to be cut out of the process. Right now, some boards of trustees have the power to veto hiring recommendations made by faculty and administrators, though Young says they rarely use it. Under House Bill 999, rather than an up-or-down vote on candidates vetted by university bodies, trustees could just hire whomever they want. “They don’t even have to hire someone who applied through the regular process,” said Young. “They can just say, ‘Here’s my friend Joe, he’s going to be the new history professor.’”
This would give DeSantis’s cronies enormous power over who can teach in Florida’s colleges and universities. Last month, I wrote about the governor’s campaign to transform the New College of Florida, a progressive public institution, into a bastion of conservatism. At the time, some faculty members suspected that DeSantis’s new trustees might find their grandiose plans stymied by bureaucratic obstacles. Young believes that House Bill 999 would sweep many of those obstacles away.
The bill, of course, is only one part of DeSantis’s culture war. His administration has already limited what can be taught to K-12 students about race, sex and gender. (Some teachers removed all books from their classroom shelves while they waited for them to be reviewed for forbidden content.) When Disney spoke out against one of DeSantis’s education measures, the governor punished the corporation. And he is pushing legislation taking aim at the news media by making it easier for people — especially those accused of racial or gender discrimination — to sue for defamation.
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Last year, a court blocked parts of DeSantis’s “Stop W.O.K.E” act, a ban on critical race theory that a federal judge called “positively dystopian.” In the likely event that House Bill 999 passes, the courts may block it as well. But the governor, a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, has made his political program very clear.
“DeSantis seems to be putting into practice some of the political lessons Orban has to teach the American Right,” Rod Dreher, an American conservative living in Budapest, recently wrote with admiration. If you want to see where this leads, Hungary has a lot to teach us."