AT&T $85.4bn takeover of Time Warner approved by judge in blow to Trump

Merger will create telecoms and media giant but Trump had called deal not good for the country

AT&Ts politically charged takeover of Time Warner was approved by a US judge on Tuesday in a blow to the Trump administration, which had fought hard to have the deal scrapped.

US district judge Richard Leon dismissed the antitrust case brought by the justice department last November, the culmination of a 20-month ordeal that has seen the deal attacked by Donald Trump, critics of media consolidation and consumer groups.

Leon said the governments objections rested on improper notions and warned against an appeal. I hope the government has the wisdom and courage not to seek a stay, he said.

The $85.4bn merger will create a telecoms and media giant combining AT&Ts mobile, cable and satellite TV business with Time Warners portfolio of blue-chip media assets.

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Time Warner owns CNN, HBO, home to Game of Thrones and Veep, and Warner Brothers, whose franchises included Batman, the Lego movies and Harry Potter.

Corporate America had closely watched the case and the decision is likely to lead to more mergers. Seats for the ruling at the E Barrett Prettyman courthouse in downtown Washington were in such demand that lines began forming outside the courthouse a full day before the scheduled 4pm announcement.

The decision on a so-called vertical integration between two companies who do not make competing products could have a profound impact on future mergers. Vertical mergers, such as Amazons takeover of Whole Foods and drugstore chain CVSs purchase of health insurer Aetna, have become increasingly popular.

But the most immediate effect of the deal will be on the already consolidated media market. A clear win for AT&T will embolden Comcast, the USs largest cable company, to top Walt Disneys $52bn bid for 21st Century Fox, the media empire controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his family.

Comcast has made clear its intention to challenge that merger and is reportedly preparing a $60bn all-cash offer of its own. Comcast has already made an offer for Sky, the UK satellite TV business. 21st Century Fox owns 39% of Sky and has been in a long battle with UK regulators to buy the rest of the company.

AT&Ts wooing of Time Warner has been politically complicated from the outset. Announced in October 2016, it was seized on by then presidential candidate Donald Trump as the sort of deal his administration would block.

On the campaign trail Trump argued that a combined AT&T/Time Warner was too much concentration of power in the hands of too few. Trump weighed in again after the justice department filed its suit: Personally, Ive always felt that that was a deal thats not good for the country. I think your pricing is going to go up, he said last November.

Critics charged that Trump had come out against the deal because of Time Warners CNN, which has been highly critical of his presidency. The Trump administration has denied those charges.

In May it was revealed that AT&T had paid Michael Cohen, Trumps personal attorney, $600,000 for consultancy fees as it attempted to woo the White House. AT&Ts chief executive officer, Randall Stephenson, said the hiring had been a big mistake.

In court the justice department argued an integrated company would use its size to raise prices and that it was problematic for one company to own a top pay-TV distributor, AT&Ts DirecTV, as well as Time Warner, a company that makes content distributed by DirecTVs rivals.

AT&T in turn called the governments arguments absurd and has argued the deal is necessary for it to compete with tech companies like Netflix, Apple and Amazon as they spend billions to bolster their positions in media.

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Pepe the Frog creator kills off internet meme co-opted by white supremacists

Matt Furie concedes defeat after months of attempting to wrench back his peaceful frog-dude who had been appropriated as a racist hate symbol

The creator of Pepe the Frog has symbolically killed off the cartoon frog, effectively surrendering control of the character to the far right.

Matt Furie, an artist and childrens book author, created the now-infamous frog as part of his Boys Club series on MySpace in 2005. Pepe took on a life of its own online as a meme, before being eventually adopted as a symbol by the alt-right in the lead-up to last years US election.

In September, Hillary Clinton identified Pepe the Frog as a racist hate symbol, and Pepe was added to the Anti-Defamation Leagues database of hate symbols.

Furie launched a campaign to Save Pepe, flooding the internet with peaceful or nice depictions of the character in a bid to shake its association with white supremacy and antisemitism.

But he now seems to have conceded defeat, killing the character off in a one-page strip for the independent publisher Fantagraphics Free Comic Book Day. It showed Pepe laid to rest in an open casket, being mourned by his fellow characters from Boys Club.

Furie had been attempting to wrench back his peaceful frog-dude whom he has often said he imagined as an extension of his personality for more than six months. Pepes passing has been interpreted of his ceding control of the character.

Shaun Manning wrote in Comic Book Resources that the rehabilitation of Pepe was always going to be a struggle, and its hard to imagine Furie taking much joy in creating new Pepe strips knowing that, whatever his own intentions, the character would be read through tinted lenses.

While its unlikely Pepes official death will stop extremists from co-opting his image, this was, perhaps, the most effective way for Furie to reclaim his character; Pepes soul has returned to his creator. Rest in Peace.

Angela Nagle, a writer and academic whose book on the culture of the alt-right will be published at the end of next month, told the Guardian Furies campaign to reclaim his creation, while understandable, had been misguided.

I can see why he must be dismayed that his own creation is being used in this way, so I dont blame him for trying. In general though, I think its a dead end, yes.

One of the ways the alt-right resisted easy interpretation was through the kind of subcultural elitism and vague ironic in-jokey tone that Pepe represents well, she wrote.

Critics of the alt-right have a tendency to try to outdo them at their own game by trolling the trolls. This should be rejected in its entirety and not reclaimed in any way … There are many wonderful ideals for us to reclaim like beauty, utopianism, internationalism. Let them have their tedious nihilistic juvenile symbols.

Furie wrote in Time magazine last October that the experience of having his copyrighted creation appropriated as a hate symbol had been a nightmare.

Fantagraphics issued a statement denouncing the appropriation of the mellow, positive-vibed frog that he is in the hands of his creator, which had led to it being categorised as a hate symbol, causing Furie significant emotional and financial harm.

Having your creation appropriated without consent is never something an artist wants to suffer, but having it done in the service of such repellent hatred and thereby dragging your name into the conversation, as well makes it considerably more troubling.

Furie and Fantagraphics have been contacted for comment.

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Oscar winners 2017: the full list updated live

All the winners from the 89th Academy Awards, as theyre announced during the ceremony

Best supporting actor

WINNER: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Best makeup and hairstyling

A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
WINNER: Suicide Squad

Best costume design

WINNER: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land

Best documentary

Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
WINNER: OJ: Made in America

Best sound editing

WINNER: Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land

Best sound mixing

WINNER: Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours

Kevin OConnell wins at the 21st attempt for sound mixing for Hacksaw Ridge. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Best supporting actress

WINNER: Viola Davis (Fences)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Best foreign language film

Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
WINNER: The Salesman
Toni Erdmann

Best animated short

Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Best animated feature

Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life As a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
WINNER: Zootopia

Best production design

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
WINNER: La La Land

Best visual effects

Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
WINNER: The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best film editing

WINNER: Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land

Mahershala Ali, winner for Moonlight. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Best documentary short

4.1 Miles
Joes Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

Best live-action short

Ennemis Interieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights

Best cinematography

WINNER: La La Land

Best score

WINNER: La La Land

Best song

Audition (La La Land)
Cant Stop the Feeling! (Trolls)
WINNER: City of Stars (La La Land)
The Empty Chair (Jim: The James Foley Story)
How Far Ill Go (Moana)

Kenneth Lonergan wins best original screenplay for Manchester by the Sea. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Best original screenplay

Hell or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
WINNER: Manchester by the Sea
20th Century Women

Best adapted screenplay

Hidden Figures
WINNER: Moonlight

More to follow, as they are announced…

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