Five in a Flash: October 12, 2017

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

In today’s news: NAFTA, California wildfires, broadcast licensing, Facebook advertising, virtual reality, and Harvey Weinstein.


Trump says he is open to bilateral Canada, Mexico pacts if NAFTA talks fail (Reuters) – “U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was open to bilateral trade pacts with either Canada or Mexico if a three-way deal cannot be reached to substantially revise the North American Free Trade Agreement. . . . Trump’s comments came at a White House meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Washington to promote NAFTA’s benefits as a new round of renegotiations began near Washington.”

Winds whip new terror into deadly California wildfires (Chicago Tribune) – “Fueled by the return of strong winds, the wildfires tearing through California wine country exploded in size and number Wednesday as authorities ordered new evacuations and the death toll climbed to 21 – a figure expected to rise higher still. Three days after the fires began, firefighters were still unable to gain control of the blazes that had turned entire Northern California neighborhoods to ash and destroyed at least 3,500 homes and businesses.”

President Trump threatens to challenge broadcast licenses over fake news (Fortune) – “U.S. President Donald Trump suggested challenging licenses for NBC and other broadcast news networks following reports by NBC News that his secretary of state had called him a ‘moron’ after a discussion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. . . . In a tweet late on Wednesday, Trump said: ‘Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!’ Any move to challenge media companies’ licenses, however, would likely face significant hurdles. The Federal Communications Commission, an independent federal agency, does not license broadcast networks, but issues them to individual broadcast stations that are renewed on a staggered basis for eight-year periods.”

House Intelligence Committee to release Russian-backed Facebook ads (Washington Post) – “The leaders of the committee’s Russia probe, Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.) and ranking Democrat Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), told reporters Wednesday that they would move ‘as quick as we can’ to release the advertisements to the public – something Schiff in particular has long urged. Schiff added that the committee would only release the ads once the ‘personally identifiable information’ of individuals who may have unwittingly been made part of the Russian advertising campaign had been redacted.”

Facebook looks to lower-cost virtual reality with $199 Oculus Go headset (LA Times) – “Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg seems to be realizing a sobering reality about virtual reality: His company’s Oculus headsets that send people into artificial worlds are too expensive and confining to appeal to the masses. Zuckerberg on Wednesday revealed how Facebook intends to address that problem, unveiling a stand-alone headset that won’t require plugging in a smartphone or a cord tethering it to a personal computer like the Oculus Rift headset does. ‘I am more committed than ever to the future of virtual reality,’ Zuckerberg reassured a crowd of computer programmers gathered in San Jose for Oculus’ annual conference.”


How top NBC executives quashed the bombshell Harvey Weinstein story (HuffPost) – “[Writer Ronan Farrow] had been told by executives at NBC News that he didn’t have enough reporting to go on air with his Weinstein story, according to four sources, and he had been told by the network to stop reporting on it. NBC tried to put a stop to the interview with the woman accusing Weinstein of rape. The network insisted he not use an NBC News crew for the interview, and neither was he to mention his NBC News affiliation. And so that was how Ronan Farrow wound up paying out of his own pocket for a camera crew to film an interview.”

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Connor Mighell is a third-year law student at the University of Alabama School of Law with an undergraduate degree in Political Philosophy from Baylor University. He is a contributor at Merion West and the curator of "Five in a Flash," a weekday newsletter. His work has been featured at The Federalist, SB Nation, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Hill, The Dallas Morning News, and The New Americana.

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