Why News Corp is like Russia

Murdoch can take the losses.

Russia ultimately won the Second World War thanks to its unique ability to sustain massive losses – and the same could be true for Rupert Murdoch and News Corp.

A huge legal settlement with rebel US shareholders yesterday added yet further to  News Corp’s massive  phone-hacking bill .

They accused the News Corp board of allowing Rupert to “siphon value away from News Corp and its shareholders for the benefit of Murdoch, his family and his friends”.

They also claimed the board had been negligent in the way it dealt with the hacking scandal.

The $139m settlement of that suit adds to the claimed $340m of costs incurred as a result of the hacking scandal to February this year.

Murdoch’s scorched earth policy since the hacking scandal has been as ruthless as it has been effective and something that few other media companies in the world could have afforded to engage in.

Since the July 2011 revelation that the News of the World had hacked the voicemail messages of Milly Dowler Murdoch has closed the biggest selling Sunday newspaper in Britain, the News of the World (sacking more than 200 staff) and has engaged in a forensic audit of his surviving redtop title – The Sun – which is unprecedented in UK corporate history.

The News Corp Management and Standards Committee’s internal purge has seen at least 23 Sun journalists arrested.

Whatever it costs, Murdoch is determined to win out in the long run by retreating as far as he has to and dynamiting his own assets along the way.

Back in July 2011, there was giddy moment for the Murdoch-haters when it looked like The Guardian’s revelations around phone-hacking had dealt him a fatal blow.

His willingness and capacity to absorb financial losses since then in order to salvage his newspaper empire shows that he is determined to win the long war.

Photograph: Getty Images

Dominic Ponsford is editor of Press Gazette

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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear