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Fox News' Swedish 'security advisor' has heads scratching

A trans-Atlantic wave of puzzlement is rippling across Sweden for the second time in a week, after a prominent Fox News program featured a "Swedish defense and national security advisor" who's unknown to the country's military and foreign-affairs officials.

Swedes, and some Americans, have been wondering about representations of the Nordic nation in the U.S. since President Donald Trump invoked "what's happening last night in Sweden" while alluding to past terror attacks in Europe during a rally Feb. 18. There hadn't been any major incident in Sweden the previous night.

Then, Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly convened an on-air faceoff Thursday over Swedish immigration and crime between a Swedish newspaper reporter and a man identified on screen and verbally as a "Swedish defense and national security advisor," Nils Bildt.

Bildt linked immigration to social problems in Sweden, lamented what he described as Swedish liberal close-mindedness about the downsides of welcoming newcomers and said: "We are unable in Sweden to socially integrate these people," arguing that politicians lacked a systematic plan to do so.

But if viewers might have taken the "advisor" for a government insider, the Swedish Defense Ministry and Foreign Office told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter they knew nothing of him. Calls to Swedish officials Saturday weren't immediately returned.

Bildt is a founding member of a corporate geopolitical strategy and security consulting business with offices in Washington, Brussels and Tokyo, according its website. His bio speaks to expertise on defense and national security issues, saying his experience includes serving as a naval officer, working for a Japanese official and writing books on issues ranging from investment and political climates to security issues in working in hostile environments.

But security experts in Sweden said he wasn't a familiar figure in their ranks in that country.

"He is in not in any way a known quantity in Sweden and has never been part of the Swedish debate," Swedish Defence University leadership professor Robert Egnell said by email to The Associated Press on Saturday. He and Bildt — also known then as Nils Tolling — were in a master's degree program in war studies together at King's College London in 2002-2003, and Bildt moved to Japan soon after, he said.

The executive producer of "The O'Reilly Factor" said Bildt was recommended by people the show's booker consulted while making numerous inquiries about potential guests.

"After pre-interviewing him and reviewing his bio, we agreed that he would make a good guest for the topic that evening," executive producer David Tabacoff said in a statement.

The network said O'Reilly was expected to address the subject further on Monday's show.

Bildt didn't respond Saturday to email inquiries; a person who answered the phone at his company agreed to relay one. He told Dagens Nyheter on Friday that he was a U.S.-based independent analyst, and Fox News had chosen its description of him.

"Sorry for any confusion caused, but needless to say I think that is not really the issue. The issue is Swedish refusal to discuss their social problems and issues," he added in a statement to the news website Mediaite, explaining his profession as being an independent political adviser.

Trump's initial remark about "last night in Sweden" stirred a burst of social media mockery, while Trump explained on Twitter that he was referring to a Fox News piece on immigration and Sweden that he'd seen the night before.

Trump and his supporters, though, saw vindication when a riot broke out Monday after police arrested a drug suspect in a predominantly immigrant suburb of Stockholm. Cars were set on fire and shops looted, but no one was injured.

Trump took to Twitter again Monday to declare that large-scale immigration in Sweden was "NOT!" working out well, upsetting many Swedes.

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Associated Press writers Jan Olsen in Copenhagen and Mesfin Fedaku in New York contributed to this report.

Trump says he won't attend correspondents dinner this spring

President Donald Trump, who has been criticizing the news media and is famously thin-skinned, says he won't be attending the White House Correspondents' Association dinner — sparing himself the dubious honor of being an in-the-house target of jokes.

The annual fundraiser for college scholarships and venue for reporting awards mixes politicians, journalists and celebrities and is typically attended by the president and first lady. Remarks by a comedian, often roasting the president, and a humorous address by the president himself, often roasting the press and political opponents, have highlighted the event, which C-SPAN has carried live.

In a tweet Saturday, Trump wrote: "I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!" He gave no reason for not attending.

Trump has long had an adversarial relationship with news media. Since taking office, however, he has stepped up his criticism by accusing some prominent news outlets of publishing "fake news" and calling them "the enemy of the American People!"

Trump had been a regular at the WHCA dinner in recent years, befitting his celebrity status as a reality TV star and beauty pageant owner. He skipped the dinner in April 2016, which came amid the presidential campaign and was the last of the dinners in which President Barack Obama was the honored guest. That didn't mean Trump wasn't the butt of jokes. At one point Obama told guests that Trump "has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world — Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan."

If he attended the dinner Trump would be a prime target of jokes, the camera showing his reaction to one-liners. In 2011, he was on hand — and appeared humiliated — as Obama lobbed joke after joke at his expense. At the time Trump was a proponent of the debunked claim that Obama wasn't born in the U.S.

In a statement following Trump's tweet, WHCA President Jeff Mason said: "The WHCA takes note of President Donald Trump's announcement on Twitter that he does not plan to attend the dinner, which has been and will continue to be a celebration of the First Amendment and the important role played by an independent news media in a healthy republic."

Ward Chamberlin Jr., public broadcasting pioneer, dies at 95

Ward B. Chamberlin Jr., who pioneered public broadcasting, led stations in New York and Washington and helped launch the career of Oscar-nominated documentarian Ken Burns, has died from complications from dementia. He was 95.

His daughter, Lyn Chamberlin, confirmed Saturday to The Associated Press that her father died Thursday in Bedford, Massachusetts.

She says in a statement that her father was "a man of indomitable spirit, vision, and enormous compassion who touched everyone who ever met him."

Ward Chamberlin Jr. was born on August 4, 1921. He worked as the operating officer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and had a strong role in the creation of PBS and National Public Radio. He had held executive roles at WNET/Thirteen, American Playhouse, PBS and WETA.

Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows

Guest lineups for the Sunday TV news shows:

ABC's "This Week" — House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California; Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

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NBC's "Meet the Press" — Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez; Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.

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CBS' "Face the Nation" — Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio; former CIA Director John Brennan.

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CNN's "State of the Union" — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J.; Reps. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., and Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.

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"Fox News Sunday" — Govs. Scott Walker, R-Wis., and Terry McAuliffe, D-Va.

Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows

Guest lineups for the Sunday TV news shows:

ABC's "This Week" — House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California; Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

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NBC's "Meet the Press" — Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.

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CBS' "Face the Nation" — Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio; former CIA Director John Brennan.

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CNN's "State of the Union" — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J.; Reps. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., and Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.

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"Fox News Sunday" — Govs. Scott Walker, R-Wis., and Terry McAuliffe, D-Va.

Little Big Town's momentum grows with Ryman residency

At the close of the first-ever residency at the Ryman Auditorium on Friday, country vocal group Little Big Town gave the audience a glimpse of how some of the first performers on that stage sounded like.

"We're going to try to sing without mics. That's the way it used to be here," said singer Karen Fairchild before the four-piece vocal group launched into "The Beginning."

The Grammy winning band launched their residency at the 125-year-old venue in Nashville, Tennessee, nicknamed the "Mother Church of Country Music," for its role in popularizing the genre. Without amplification, the room grew quiet as the four vocalists stood on the edge of the stage and let the acoustics of the venue carry their voices.

Little Big Town marks a return to their roots with the album "The Breaker," out Friday, with the No. 1 single "Better Man," written by Taylor Swift. It's the first single off their new record.

The four-piece Grammy-winning country group is also celebrating an addition to the family — singer Kimberly Schlapman recently announced that she has adopted a daughter, Dolly Grace.

Singer Phillip Sweet said the timing of these milestone events has given him pause. "It's almost like this moment is marked by this beautiful little life that has come into our world," he said. "And it's so precious and special and I think it makes us truly stop and enjoy that moment in our real lives."

Sweet and Schlapman, along with husband-and-wife Jimi Westbrook and Karen Fairchild, make up the vocal band that hit a career high in 2015 with the multiplatinum hit "Girl Crush," which earned accolades at the 2016 Grammys. They also experimented outside the genre with a pop record "Wanderlust" produced by Pharrell Williams in 2016.

And the band didn't let that momentum fade.

"We didn't want people to know who wrote it for a little while because we wanted everyone to hear the song with no subtext," Sweet said of "Better Man." ''I feel like people listened with different ears because of that."

In a departure from previous records, the band members only had a hand in writing three songs on the album. "Don't Die Young, Don't Grow Old," co-written by Fairchild and Schlapman with "Girl Crush" writers Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose after Westbrook's sister Joyce died in 2015 due to cancer, has a poignant message for the band.

"It was kind of therapeutic for them obviously to write it," Sweet said. "This is what you would say to someone you loved. Just a reminder to always live in the moment every chance you get."

The group has a tradition on release week to play their entire album beginning to end. Friday's show was the first of at least nine dates they have booked at the Ryman throughout the year, with more dates likely to be added. Built in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, the building has become synonymous with country and bluegrass and served as the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. Musical icons from Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, The Carter Family, Patsy Cline, Earl Scruggs and Bill Monroe have all graced its stage over the past 125 years.

Sally Williams, general manager of the Ryman Auditorium and vice president of concerts and entertainment at Opry Entertainment Group, said the Ryman wanted the first residency to reflect the diversity of the musicians who have performed there.

"We wanted to be working with someone who was genre bending, who was very firmly rooted in country music, which is Nashville, but also very open and creative and inclusive of other genres," Williams said. "And Little Big Town is so much that."

The band also welcomed two of country music's biggest stars to the stage, Sam Hunt and Chris Stapleton, to sing with them during the show. After playing their new album in full, they finished the evening with a collection of their biggest hits including "Pontoon," ''Tornado," ''Boondocks" and "Girl Crush."

Swift, who has said she's not touring in 2017, performed "Better Man" during a special performance in Houston as part of the pre-Superbowl festivities, but Sweet said the band is ready if the pop star ever wants to perform the song with them.

"I mean, come on, Taylor," Sweet said. "We would love to do it. If she's up for it, we're up for it."

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Online:

www.littlebigtown.com

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Follow Kristin M. Hall at twitter.com/kmhall

Ellen, Wal-Mart give scholarships to school's senior class

Ellen DeGeneres has handed out college scholarships to the entire senior class of a New York City charter school.

DeGeneres surprised the 41 students from Brooklyn's Summit Academy this week at her California studio during the taping of Thursday's episode of her chat show . The four-year scholarships paid for by Wal-Mart will cover tuition for any state university in New York. DeGeneres says the entire gift is worth $1.6 million.

The school's first graduating class was last year. School officials tell DeGeneres that 93 percent of members of the class are enrolled in college.

Oprah Winfrey slated to address graduates at 2 colleges

Oprah Winfrey has agreed to give commencement speeches at colleges in Massachusetts and New York.

Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, both say Winfrey will address students at their spring graduation ceremonies.

One of Smith's graduating students and another from Skidmore previously attended the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, a boarding school that the media mogul opened in 2007 for poor girls in South Africa.

Winfrey, a graduate of Tennessee State University, is scheduled to speak May 20 at Skidmore and a day later at Smith. Each school says it will award her an honorary degree.

Winfrey also was at Skidmore in October 2013 to visit two graduates of her South African school.

'24:Legacy' producers apologize for using Kenya attack video

The executive producers of the new Fox television series "24: Legacy" apologized Thursday for using footage from a terror attack at a Kenya mall that killed 67 people.

The footage from the September 2013 attack on Westgate mall in Kenya's capital was used to depict a fictional terror attack in Egypt in the show's fourth episode, which aired Monday.

"We regretfully included news footage of an attack in Nairobi. It will be removed from all future broadcasts and versions of the show," producers Evan Katz and Manny Coto said in a statement.

They statement said they apologized "for any pain caused to the victims and their families and are deeply sorry."

It was not immediately clear how the footage of the Kenya attack was obtained.

The series debuted earlier this month.

Some Kenyans had reacted angrily on social media under the hashtag #SomeoneTellFox.

The al-Qaida-linked Somali group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the Sept. 21, 2013 attack at the upscale mall to punish Kenya for contributing troops to an African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia. The group has carried out other fatal attacks in Kenya.

Alan Colmes, liberal voice on Fox, dead at 66

Alan Colmes, the radio and television host and commentator best known as the amiable liberal foil to the hard-right Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel, has died.

Fox spokeswoman Dana Klinghoffer confirmed his death Thursday. Fox also aired a tribute to Colmes, narrated by Hannity, and a statement from his family saying that he died Thursday morning after "a brief illness." Colmes was 66 and is survived by his wife, Jocelyn Elise Crowley, the sister of longtime Fox contributor Monica Crowley. In a statement issued through Fox, Hannity called Colmes "one of life's most decent, kind and wonderful people."

Colmes was a New York City native and Hofstra University graduate who worked for years in radio, notably on WABC and WNBC, and standup comedy before joining Fox in 1996. That same year he and the conservative Hannity began a 12-year run as co-hosts of the popular "Hannity & Colmes" program, which brought Colmes both fame and ridicule. Admittedly a minority voice on the conservative channel, Colmes was often mocked as too nice and easily overshadowed by the ever-aggressive Hannity. The liberal media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Media likened him to the hapless Washington Generals, the dependable losers to basketball's Harlem Globetrotters. Al Franken, in his best-selling "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," imagined Colmes earning his salary by "adding toner to the copiers and printers, loofah-ing Roger Ailes in his personal steam room, and ordering Chinese food for editors working on misleading video packages."

Colmes was aware of the criticism, but said that getting mean was not his style.

"People say to me, 'Why don't you fight fire with fire?'" he told The Associated Press in 2003. "You fight fire with water, not fire."

Colmes continued to appear as a commentator on Fox after his show with Hannity ended. He also was an author, his books including "Thank the Liberals" and "Red, White & Liberal."

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