November 15, 2018

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

11:05 p.m.

Whakaari/White Island, New Zealand's most active cone volcano, erupted on Monday, injuring as many as 20 people, authorities said.

The volcano is in the Bay of Plenty, and the island is a popular tourist attraction. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it is believed that "100 people were on or around the island" when the volcano erupted, and some are unaccounted for. The government does not yet know if there have been any deaths.

Radio New Zealand said there are five helicopters, an ambulance crew, and a mobile triage unit on the way to the island, which is about 30 miles off the east coast of New Zealand's South Island. Catherine Garcia

10:40 p.m.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) believes the Democrats have a "solid" case for the impeachment of President Trump, he declared on CNN's State of the Union Sunday.

In fact, the case is so strong he's convinced if presented to a jury, it "would be a guilty verdict in about three minutes flat," Nadler said. There is "considerable direct evidence," he continued, and it "ill behooves the president or his partisans to say you don't have enough direct evidence when the reason we don't have even more direct evidence is the president has ordered everybody in the executive branch not to cooperate with Congress in the impeachment inquiry, something that is unprecedented in American history and is a contempt of Congress by itself."

On Monday, the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing where evidence gathered by the Intelligence Committee will be presented. Nadler said the scope and nature of the articles of impeachment are still being considered, and won't be decided until after the hearing. "We'll bring articles of impeachment, presumably, before the committee at some point later in the week," he said on NBC's Meet the Press. The articles of impeachment are expected to center on abuse of presidential power in regards to Ukraine policy and obstruction of the impeachment probe. Catherine Garcia

9:26 p.m.

The Saudi gunman who killed three people on Friday at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida went on Twitter before the shooting and accused the United States of being anti-Muslim, a U.S. official told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Saudi Royal Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammad Saeed Alshamrani also apparently tweeted his anger over U.S. support of Israel. The FBI confirmed it is operating on the assumption the shooting was an act of terrorism, with investigators working to determine whether Alshamrani, 21, acted alone or with others. Alshamrani was in the U.S. for flight training, and was killed by a sheriff’s deputy during the attack.

The official also told AP that investigators believe Alshamrani went to New York City a few days before the shooting, and they are trying to figure out the purpose of his trip. A second U.S. official told AP on Saturday that Alshamrani hosted a dinner party prior to the attack during which he and three others watched videos of mass shootings.

Rachel J. Rojas, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s office in Jacksonville, said a Glock 9 mm weapon that had been legally purchased in Florida was used to carry out the shooting. In response, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said he is against a "federal loophole" that lets foreigners purchase guns in the United States, and while he supports the Second Amendment, it "does not apply to Saudi Arabians." Catherine Garcia

8:41 p.m.

Caroll Spinney, the actor and puppeteer who made Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch come alive on Sesame Street, died Sunday. He was 85.

The Sesame Workshop said Spinney, who died at his home in Connecticut, lived with dystonia for many years. Spinney began working on Sesame Street in its earliest days in 1969, before retiring in 2018.

As Big Bird, Spinney traveled around the world, conducted symphony orchestras, danced with the Rockettes, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress.

In a statement, Sesame Workshop said Spinney's "enormous talent and outsized heart were perfectly suited to playing the larger-than-life yellow bird who brought joy to generations of children and countless fans of all ages around the world, and his loveably cantankerous grouch gave us all permission to be cranky once in a while." Catherine Garcia

2:30 p.m.

The shooting — which is now being considered an act of terrorism — that resulted in three deaths at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida, on Friday has placed the United States' relationship with Saudi Arabia under a microscope.

The suspected shooter, identified as Saudi Royal Air Force 2nd Lt. Mohammad Saeed Alshamrani, was an aviation student at the base. The killing has led some people to question whether the partnership should continue, especially considering there have long been doubts about the alliance for a variety of reasons, most notably accusations of human rights abuses in Yemen and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But President Trump seems committed to U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia, especially as his administration remains wary of Iran's influence in the Middle East. Trump said he spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman after the shooting, who offered his condolences to family and friends of the deceased. There didn't, however, seem to be much in the way of rethinking the alliance.

That doesn't mean others haven't. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who is aiming to challenge Trump as the next Democratic nominee, called the U.S. partnership with Saudi Arabia "unacceptable."

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a supporter of Trump, said he was assured by Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud that Saudi Arabia would not interfere with the investigation into the matter, unless requested. But he still said that Friday's shooting "has to inform" the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Tim O'Donnell

1:52 p.m.

NBC's Chuck Todd really isn't sure why Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), of all people, isn't more skeptical of President Trump.

Cruz, in an appearance on Sunday's edition of Meet the Press, said he still believes Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election, which has become a major talking point among Republicans defending Trump during the impeachment inquiry that was spurred, in part, by Trump asking the Ukrainian government to investigate the claim.

As he did last week, when Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) expressed a similar opinion, Todd seemed like he couldn't quite grasp what he was hearing. He then asked Cruz why he's so trusting of Trump considering he dealt with the president's attempts to manipulate a narrative about someone firsthand during the Republican primary battles in 2015 and 2016, including Trump's threat to "spill the beans" about Cruz's wife. The senator wasn't thrilled Todd brought that up, but he didn't backtrack on his comments about Ukraine.

Todd, for his part, wasn't buying Cruz's argument that Ukraine officials criticizing Trump during the election amounted to interference. The NBC host said Cruz, in comparing Ukraine's role in the elections to Russia, was basically comparing a pickpocket to Bernie Madoff. Tim O'Donnell

12:52 p.m.

Only four weeks remain in the 2019 NFL regular season, and Sunday's slate of games is a doozy.

It'll be a particularly telling week for the AFC East, where the New England Patriots might actually have a real challenger for the division crown for the first time in what seems like forever – and people are excited.

New England, behind quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichik, has won the last 10 division titles, but the upstart 9-3 Buffalo Bills, who were mostly an afterthought before the season, are right there.

Here's the thing, though: Neither team has done much against quality opponents this year, aside from New England's hardfought 16-10 victory in Buffalo way back in Week 3. New England is 10-2, but they were beat convincingly in their two most challenging games this year — road matchups with the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans — which has led to questions about whether the Brady-Belichik partnership might be winding down.

Buffalo, meanwhile, has only beat one team that currently has a winning record, and it's fair to say that the Tennessee Titans were nowhere near as good as they are now when that happened.

Both teams will be up against a major test Sunday with a chance to buck the trend. New England will host the Kansas City Chiefs and reigning MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes, while the Bills have the luxury of playing the Baltimore Ravens, the hottest team in the league thanks to potential 2019 MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. Per The Ringer, New England will need its statistically-impressive defense to play like it has against its non-Houston and Baltimore opponents, while Buffalo will need its improving quarterback Josh Allen to step up against Jackson. Tim O'Donnell

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