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October 15, 2014

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

12:17 p.m. ET

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, rapidly established himself as "Mr. China" in his father-in-law's nascent administration last year, a New Yorker piece published Saturday reports. He talked repeatedly with Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai, conversations that happened alone or with a limited retinue of American officials, a break with past administrations' practice of marshaling a collection of experts for U.S.-China meetings.

Chinese accounts of Kushner's relationship with Cui raised alarmin the U.S. intelligence community, The New Yorker reports:

According to current and former officials briefed on U.S. intelligence about Chinese communications, Chinese officials said that Cui and Kushner, in meetings to prepare for the summit at Mar-a-Lago, discussed Kushner's business interests along with policy. Some intelligence officials became concerned that the Chinese government was seeking to use business inducements to influence Kushner's views. The intelligence wasn't conclusive, according to those briefed on the matter. "I never saw any indication that it was successful," a former senior official said, of Chinese efforts to compromise Kushner. The Chinese could have mischaracterized their discussions with Kushner. [The New Yorker]

In a statement to The New Yorker, Kushner's representative strenuously denied all wrongdoing, saying there "was never a time — never — that Mr. Kushner spoke to any foreign officials, in the campaign, transition, and in the administration, about any personal or family business. He was scrupulous in this regard." Read the full New Yorker story here. Bonnie Kristian

11:42 a.m. ET
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

After a late night of unproductive talks, Congress reconvened Saturday morning to continue negotiations to end the government shutdown — and, naturally, to throw lots of blame across the aisle.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Friday he believes there is a "really good chance" the matter will be resolved by Monday, but many lawmakers' remarks were not so optimistic. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) accused Senate Democrats of "holding government funding hostage," while House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the shutdown should be blamed on President Trump's "confrontation and chaos."

Trump himself resumed his early tweeting spree to again claim "Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration." Bonnie Kristian

10:11 a.m. ET
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After completing an autopsy, the coroner's office in Los Angeles concluded rock legend Tom Petty's October death resulted from an accidental drug overdose. Petty was found to have fentanyl, oxycodone, temazepam, alprazolam, citalopram, acetylfentanyl, and despropionyl fentanyl in his system when he died.

"Unfortunately Tom's body suffered from many serious ailments including emphysema, knee problems, and most significantly a fractured hip" for which he was prescribed strong painkillers, his family said in a statement Friday night.

"As a family we recognize this report may spark a further discussion on the opioid crisis and we feel that it is a healthy and necessary discussion and we hope in some way this report can save lives," the statement continued. "Many people who overdose begin with a legitimate injury or simply do not understand the potency and deadly nature of these medications." Bonnie Kristian

10:05 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Federal prosecutors on Friday announced felony charges against Rene Boucher, the man accused of brutally attacking his neighbor, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in November.

Boucher's alleged assault was primarily motivated by anger over Paul stacking a pile of trimmed branches and other brush, officials said. The stack was on Paul's land, but close to Boucher's property line, and when Boucher saw Paul making the stack, he reportedly reached a breaking point. Paul was surprised by the attack because he was wearing sound-canceling headphones, and he suffered five fractured ribs, pleural effusion, and pneumonia linked to his lung injuries.

The prosecutors said Boucher admitted to tackling Paul and maintains he was not motivated by politics. Boucher is charged with assaulting a member of Congress. He has signed a plea deal and faces up to a decade in prison with fines up to $250,000. Bonnie Kristian

8:24 a.m. ET
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ended Senate negotiations around 1:30 a.m. Saturday after no deal was reached by the midnight deadline to avert a government shutdown, proposing a three-week temporary spending bill to re-open the government through Feb. 8 while talks continue. Senate Democrats already rejected a similar four-week proposal, and so far they do not seem eager to support the condensed timeline.

However, Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) told reporters on their way home for the night that they secured McConnell's agreement for a vote with "an open amendment process" on Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by the same Feb. 8 deadline. DACA, which protects from deportation immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children, is primary among Democrats' demands in the spending talks.

The White House, meanwhile, issued a statement early Saturday morning indicating the Trump administration will not discuss DACA until the shutdown is over. "We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, labeling congressional Democrats "obstructionist losers" and the situation a "politically manufactured Schumer Shutdown." Bonnie Kristian

7:47 a.m. ET

President Trump responded to news of the government shutdown on Twitter early Saturday, blaming congressional failure to pass a spending deal on Democrats, who have insisted the spending bill address the fate of Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protects immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children.

Trump linked the shutdown to the 2018 midterm elections, arguing that a 60-vote Senate majority is what he needs to advance his agenda:

He closed his arguments with an all-caps tweet of "#AMERICA FIRST!"

The president intended to travel to his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, on Friday to spend the weekend there, but he postponed the trip because of the shutdown. Bonnie Kristian

5:20 a.m. ET
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

The U.S. government shut down at midnight on Friday after a four-week spending bill, which passed in the House Thursday, failed 50-49 in the Senate. It needed 60 votes to pass. President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) met privately Friday in an attempt to negotiate a deal, but at voting time, most Senate Democrats stood firm in their refusal to support a measure that does not protect young undocumented immigrants.

Republicans have portrayed Democrats' stand as unfair to the 9 million children who depend on the CHIP health insurance program. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Democrats "obstructionist losers, not legislators," and said "we will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands," The Washington Post reports.

After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proposed a new measure to fund the government for three weeks, instead of four, CNN reports. The Senate will reconvene on Saturday at noon.

This is the first government shutdown in more than four years, and the first to occur while a single party controls both the White House and Congress. Jessica Hullinger

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