A team of archaeologists has reportedly unearthed artifacts once thought lost to history: giant sphinxes from the 1923 film The Ten Commandments.
Evidently inspired by the Pharaoh Ramses, director Cecil B. DeMille ordered the set of the silent epic buried under the sand in California's Guadalupe Dunes shortly after filming was complete. Included in the burial were 21 sphinxes that lined the grand entrance to the film's Pharoah's City. Made out of plaster, each was 12 feet tall and weighed five tons.
One of the sphinxes was first spotted in 2012 by a team of archaeologists, The Lompoc Record reports, and excavators have now unearthed two. The second is smaller than the first, and the excavators think it might have been used as a prop that actors could haul around. Both will go on display in a local cultural center.
The project is "unlike anything else on Earth," the director of the excavation Doug Jensen said. "It provides a way to preserve an important piece of Americana."
Unfortunately, the team reportedly had to wrap up the dig on Monday — $120,000 can only get you so many giant sphinxes — but the members are keeping the whereabouts of the set to themselves. It's "a carefully guarded secret known only to a few," says the Record.
You can watch a video of the excavation below: --Nico Lauricella
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Monday that he will visit the site of the Pearl Harbor attack later this year, making him the first sitting Japanese leader to do so. Abe plans to visit the Hawaiian naval base for the 75th anniversary of the Dec. 7 surprise attack alongside President Obama on Dec. 26 and 27, The New York Times reports.
"We must never repeat the horror of war," Abe said. "I want to express that determination as we look to the future, and at the same time send a message about the value of U.S.-Japanese reconciliation."
The bombing of Pearl Harbor killed more than 2,000 Americans and sank several U.S. warships in 1941. Abe's gesture is seen as a reciprocation of Obama's visit to Hiroshima earlier this year. Jeva Lange
Donald Trump announced Monday that he has chosen retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson for secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Trump had teased the appointment in late November on Twitter, writing "I am seriously considering Dr. Ben Carson as the head of HUD. I've gotten to know him well — he's a greatly talented person who loves people!" Carson, though, had expressed through a surrogate that he felt he did not have enough government experience to run a federal agency and "the last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency." But "Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a presidency representing all Americans," Trump said Monday. Jeva Lange
At least 11 people were killed and more than 50 injured early Monday when a huge fire swept through the Regent Plaza Hotel in Karachi, Pakistan.
Police say the fire started in the hotel kitchen, but the exact cause is undetermined. A doctor at a Karachi hospital where victims were taken said several deaths were caused by suffocation, and there are foreigners being treated for burns. Local television news crews captured footage of guests at the four-star hotel using sheets to climb down from windows, and survivor Hamid Ali told one station that a man was standing on his balcony, pleading for help, but the hotel did not have a way to rescue him. Catherine Garcia
A federal judge ruled late Sunday night that Michigan must start its presidential recount at noon Monday.
In Michigan, Donald Trump received 10,704 more votes than Hillary Clinton, and Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, citing reports that computer science experts noticed irregularities in the state's election results, has raised millions of dollars to fund a recount. Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette and the Trump campaign filed suits last week, asking state courts to put a stop to the hand-counting of 4.8 million ballots. They argued that Stein, who received about 1 percent of the vote, is not "aggrieved," because it's impossible for her to win the recount. Judge Mark Goldsmith ruled Stein did show "the likelihood of irreparable harm" if the count was delayed, and rejected arguments by the state about the cost to taxpayers. The deadline to complete the count is Dec. 13. Catherine Garcia
During his eighth and final Kennedy Center Honors celebration as president, Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were treated to cheers and standing ovations by the audience.
Sunday's gala, hosted by Stephen Colbert, recognized Al Pacino, Mavis Staples, Martha Argerich, James Taylor, and Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmidt, and Joe Walsh, surviving members of the Eagles, for influencing American culture. The Obamas were introduced after the honorees, with Colbert saying, "For the past eight years, the White House has given us a leader who's passionate, intelligent, and dignified." The audience rose to give Obama a standing ovation, and the president stood and waved. "Sir, I don't even know why you stood up," Colbert quipped. "I was talking about Michelle."
At an earlier reception, Obama said the arts have "always been part of life at the White House, because the arts are always central to American life." During the ceremony, Don Cheadle spoke about Staples and her family's civil rights legacy; Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, and Darius Rucker performed medleys of Taylor's music; and Kevin Spacey shared instructions on how to sound like Pacino. The Eagles were to be honored in 2015, but postponed their participation due to founding member Glenn Frey's poor health. Frey died in January, and his widow, Cindy Frey, stood with his band mates on Sunday night. The ceremony will air Dec. 27 on CBS. Catherine Garcia
In Austria's presidential race, Norbert Hofer has conceded defeat to Alexander Van der Bellen.
Official results won't come in until Monday, but Van der Bellen, the former leader of the Green Party, is the apparent winner, as exit polls show him with 53.6 percent of the vote. Hofer is a member of the right-wing populist Freedom Party of Austria, and wrote on Facebook that he is "incredibly sad it didn't work" and asked "all Austrians to stick together. We are all Austrians, no matter what we decided today. Long live our home Austria." Van der Bellen said he "always campaigned for a pro-European Austrian. This is about values: freedom, equality, and solidarity." He also promised to "actively speak to all voters, including those of Hofer's party."
Being president is largely a ceremonial role in Austria. In May, Van der Bellen won the presidential election by slightly more than 30,000 votes, but Hofer and his party challenged the results. There was concern over how some ballots were handled, and the results were annulled. Had Hofer won, Austria would have become the first country in Western Europe to elect a far-right head of state since the end of World War II, CNN reports. On Twitter, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said "the whole of Europe has heaved a sigh of relief." Catherine Garcia
The phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday was set up well in advance and provocative on purpose, people involved with the planning told The Washington Post Sunday.
The U.S. has a military relationship with Taiwan, but closed its embassy there in 1979, and leaders from the two countries have not spoken since. Beijing views Taiwan as a province, and suggested the phone call was a clear example of Trump's inexperience. Some advisers are calling on Trump to take an aggressive approach to relations with China, and many on his transition team are seen as being hawkish on China, including incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus, the Post says.
Plans for Friday's call were being developed before Trump even became the Republican nominee, people involved with the plan told the Post, and the goal was to set him apart from previous presidents. At July's Republican National Convention, the party platform included a phrase, inserted by Trump allies, that reaffirmed assurances made to Taiwan by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, as well as tougher language toward China. The call is being touted by the Trump camp as being a congratulatory call placed by Tsai, whose office said she told Trump she is hopeful the United States will "continue to support more opportunities for Taiwan to participate in international issues." Those close to the situation told the Post that while this was a calculated communication, it does not signify a formal shift in U.S. relations with Taiwan or China, and senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters Sunday "everyone should just calm down."
The New York Times is also reporting that in September, a woman saying she was a representative of Trump's company went to Taiwan to get information on Taoyuan Aerotropolis, the biggest development project in Taiwan's history. The mayor of the area said investment opportunities were discussed, but no agreement was ever made. Trump Organization spokeswoman Amanda Miller told the Times there have been "no authorized visits to Taiwan on behalf of our brand for the purposes of development," and there were "no plans for expansion into Taiwan." Catherine Garcia