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February 13, 2017

The Alps. Sigmund Freud. Coffee. The scenic nation of Austria has made a name for itself in a number of notable ways, but do not discount being the setting of the The Sound of Music among them. In fact, President Donald Trump has reportedly promised a Sound of Music-obsessed musician the ambassadorship to Austria on a handwritten note, The Palm Beach Daily News reports.

The musician, Patrick Park, is a concert pianist, not to be confused with a guitarist by the same name whose accolades include writing the final song for the series finale of The O.C. This Patrick Park is instead described by The New York Times as "a regular on the Palm Beach social calendar who is an active charity fund-raiser." He has also seen The Sound of Music "like 75 times."

"I know every single word and song by heart. I've always wanted to live in the Von Trapp house," Park said. The Palm Beach Daily News writes that the president thought Austria would be a "good match" for Park because the nation "is steeped in musical culture."

"I'm flying to Vienna to check out the embassy, and then I'm going to Salzburg to see if the Von Trapp house is for rent," Park joked. "And then I'm going to learn to like schnitzel and sachertorte."

He added, "I have known [Trump] almost 20 years. Seeing the great things he has done makes me want to be part of his team. I'm excited beyond words." Jeva Lange

4:25p.m.

Get ready to one day see Apple CEO Tim Cook at the Academy Awards.

Apple, having previously set aside $1 billion to start producing original TV shows and films, has signed a multi-year deal for original movies with hit indie studio A24, Variety reported Thursday.

Some of A24's films include Moonlight, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2017, as well as Room, Lady Bird, The Florida Project, The Disaster Artist, and The Witch. Founded in 2012, the studio has had at least one film nominated at the Oscars for the past three years, and in 2019, its movies Eighth Grade, Hereditary, and Mid90s are among those in contention for top awards. Apple did not buy A24 completely, though, as had been rumored.

The deal with Apple is not exclusive, so A24 will make an unspecified number of movies for Apple and other movies elsewhere. It's not yet clear whether these films will be released in theaters or premiere exclusively on an Apple streaming platform, Variety writes.

This news shows that Apple is committed to attracting some serious talent for its slate of originals: the company reeled in Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, Chris Evans, and Charlie Day for its new Apple TV shows. Before this deal, Apple acquired the rights to two movies from the Toronto International Film Festival, Deadline points out.

Amazon and Netflix have both previously received Oscar nominations for their original films, and Netflix's Roma is thought to have a chance at Best Picture in 2019. No streaming platform has yet taken home that top prize — it remains to be seen who might get there first, but with Apple now in the mix, the race is on. Brendan Morrow

3:15p.m.

Roy Clark, country music star and Hee Haw host, has died at the age of 85, his publicist confirmed Thursday.

Clark died at his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma due to complications from pneumonia, Variety reports. A country music legend, Clark was perhaps best known for his role on the popular variety show Hee Haw, which he co-hosted for more than 20 years from 1969 through 1993. Some of Clark's hit songs include "Yesterday, When I Was Young" and "Honeymoon Feeling," and although he was mainly known for playing the guitar and the banjo, his talents extended to several other instruments including the harmonica and the mandolin, Fox News writes. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

The tributes to Clark poured in on Thursday, especially from those in the world of country music. "My first [Country Music Association Awards] memory is sitting on my living room floor watching Roy Clark tear it up," country musician Keith Urban tweeted Thursday, one day after the 2018 CMAs. "Sending my love and respect to him and his family for all he did." Brendan Morrow

3:08p.m.

President Trump is the definition of a frenemy.

Trump truly does like Fox News' Sean Hannity, and willingly grants him interviews that pander to the president's agenda. But when the duo isn't on camera or enjoying a late-night phone call, sources tell The Daily Beast, Trump makes fun of Hannity for asking "dumb" questions that make the host look like a sycophant.

The three people The Daily Beast talked to asked to remain anonymous because, as one put it, Hannity is a "perfectly nice guy." But he's too nice to Trump — and the president easily gets sick of it. Trump has often "zero[ed] in on the low-quality laziness of the host's questions," The Daily Beast details, once mocking Hannity's voice and complaining that his "softball" interviews weren't very fun. One source even "recalled a round of ripping on the TV talker's interview style and cloying devotion to Trump that lasted long enough that the source glanced at their watch and started feeling sorry for Hannity."

Despite laying into CNN's Jim Acosta at a press hearing last week, Trump actually prefers confrontational interviewers, Trump ally Jeff Lord tells The Daily Beast. Trump did call on Acosta to ask a question, after all. However, in spite of all the insults Trump throws at Hannity behind the scenes, sources say he still "loves Sean." Read more at The Daily Beast. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:15p.m.

Democrat Jared Golden beat incumbent GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin in Maine's 2nd District on Thursday — and made a little bit of history along the way.

Poliquin actually secured 46.2 percent of the vote to Golden's 45.5 percent with 95 percent of precincts reporting, per The New York Times and Politico. But Golden still came out on top due to Maine's ranked-choice voting system. It's the first federal race decided by ranked choice, and Golden's win means Republicans have now been ousted from every single congressional seat in New England.

On Election Day, Golden was slightly behind Poliquin in total votes, but neither candidate reached a majority, the Portland Press Herald reports. Maine's ballots also asked voters to rank their second-choice candidate, leaving the race to be decided by voters who'd ranked an independent candidate first. Golden prevailed in the second-choice round, with 10,232 votes to Poliquin's 4,695.

Maine voters have twice supported ballot initiatives to institute the ranked-choice process, the Press Herald notes. But Poliquin still questioned the legitimacy of the election on Thursday, saying he "won the constitutional 'one-person, one-vote' first choice election on Election Day" in a statement. The two-term congressman also promised to challenge the election results in court.

Regardless of the court's decision, we'll still have Poliquin's remarkably bad campaign ad to enjoy for generations. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:11p.m.

The United States is considering extraditing one of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's political enemies in an attempt to get Turkey to "ease pressure" on Saudi Arabia, NBC News reported Thursday.

The Trump administration has been examining ways to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in Pennsylvania with a green card for almost two decades, the report says. This effort is reportedly directly tied to the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who Turkey says was murdered by Saudi government operatives in Istanbul. NBC News reports that Gulen's extradition would be a way to "placate Turkey over the murder."

A U.S. official reportedly says there has been pushback against the possibility. "The career guys were furious" at the suggestion, said the official.

Turkey formally requested Gulen's extradition in 2016, after blaming him for an attempted coup, NBC News reported at the time. If extradition isn't an option, the Trump administration has also weighed the possibility of making Gulen relocate to South Africa. Turkey disputes the report and says there is "no connection" between Khashoggi's murder and the Gulen case. Alternatively, the release of Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who was sentenced to prison for evading sanctions, has also been considered, NBC News reports.

This news comes after Saudi Arabia once again changed its story about Khashoggi's murder, concluding the journalist was killed in an on-the-spot decision after previously calling his murder premeditated. News about Gulen's possible extradition drew immediate criticism, with NBC News' Benjy Sarlin summing it up: "So if I have this right," he wrote, "Trump looking into handing a prominent dissident over to an authoritarian regime to get them to ease up on a second authoritarian regime for murdering a second prominent dissident?" Brendan Morrow

1:47p.m.

Facebook may soon have to embark on another apology spree.

In a massive investigation published Wednesday, The New York Times painted a picture of "cascading crises" that have overtaken Facebook over the last two years. Crises which, per the Times' interviews with more than 50 people, Facebook ignored or used political ploys to keep quiet.

Facebook's plague of Russian interference has been well documented, and Facebook has largely maintained it learned of widespread attacks after the 2016 election. But the Times reports Facebook was alerted to Russian hacking in the spring of 2016 — a year and a half before admitting its Russian interference findings and launching its much-derided cleanup effort.

Conservatives have long claimed Facebook was biased against their content. The Times did find that Facebook had tight ties with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). But it also alleges Facebook hired the GOP-run consulting group Definers Public Affairs, which crafted articles to "blast Google and Apple for unsavory business practices," and downplay "the impact of the Russians' use of Facebook," and attacking liberal political donor George Soros.

Neither Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg nor COO Sheryl Sandberg commented on the Times' article. Facebook released a Thursday statement denying five of the article's claims, including that was "slow to investigate" Russian interference, and said it never asked Definers to "spread misinformation" and "ended its contract" with the firm Wednesday night. Read more at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:14p.m.

Plans for some Rohingya refugees to begin returning to Myanmar from Bangladesh will not proceed because officials say none are willing to go back, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees, members of a minority ethnic group that is largely Muslim, fled to Bangladesh to escape violence and persecution in Myanmar in the past year. Bangladesh's plan was for about 2,000 of them to begin returning Thursday, per BBC News. But the United Nations, which has classified the violence in Myanmar as "textbook genocide," brokered an agreement that means that nobody can be forced into going, and many say they are terrified at the prospect. "We are scared to return to Myanmar because if we go they will kill us," one refugee told CNN. Human rights organizations agree that it is not yet safe for the refugees to return, per AP.

Some refugees staged protests in refugee camps ahead of the planned start of the repatriation process, and the head of Bangladesh's refugee commission had said that they "have not found any volunteers" who would return but would "continue looking," CNN reports. Officials told the refugees that buses were ready to take them to Myanmar, but they chanted back, "We won't go!"

Now, the refugee commission says that the refugees are "not willing to go back now" but they will keep trying to "motivate them so it happens." Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday condemned Myanmar's actions, saying that "the violence and persecution by military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse." Brendan Morrow

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