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August 6, 2014

One man's art is another man's cruelty to animals.

The $45 million Aspen Art Museum is coming under fire for an art installation it has planned for this weekend's grand opening. Desert tortoises with iPads mounted on their backs will wander around the gala, displaying images of local ghost towns on the tablets. The pictures were actually taken by the tortoises during recent trips to the ghost towns.

Critics have started a petition to stop the "barbaric" project, and it has already been signed by 1,000 people. Aspen resident Lisbeth Oden said she was disturbed by the photo she saw of a tortoise with an iPad; she used to work with tortoises and learned about the sensitivity of their carapaces. "To have anything attached to them is just not right," she told The Denver Post. "It is exploitation of animals for human enjoyment."

The museum is defending itself; spokeswoman Sara Fitzmaurice says that the tortoises were saved from an irresponsible breeder who had them living in harsh conditions. She also said the tortoises will be moved to educational and conservation facilities after the exhibit closes on Oct. 5, and that in the meantime they are being closely monitored by a veterinarian. That vet, Dr. Elizabeth Kremzier, released a statement supporting the project: "In my opinion, the tortoises have adapted well to their new habitat, and the iPads have not interfered in any way with their natural behavior." Catherine Garcia

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 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 shutdown 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

January 19, 2018
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Facebook apparently has a new weapon against fake news: Facebook users.

In a post to the site Friday, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg explained that in an effort to surface only trustworthy news content, the social media giant will allow its users to opine on which news sources they believe are most credible. These results — culled via customer surveys — will help Facebook determine which content deserves to show up in users' news feeds.

The change is part of Facebook's ongoing effort to revitalize its news feed after it came under fire for promulgating false news stories from untrustworthy sources during the 2016 presidential election. "There's too much sensationalism, misinformation, and polarization in the world today," Zuckerberg wrote, adding that the "objective" solution is to have the "community determine which sources are broadly trusted." "We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that's not something we're comfortable with," Zuckerberg wrote.

Adam Mosseri, the Facebook official tasked with overseeing the news feed feature, told The Wall Street Journal that Facebook executives can't "decide what sources of news are trusted and what are not trusted, [in] the same way I don't think we can't decide what is true and what is not."

Of course, Americans have had quite a tough time determining what is and is not fake news. BuzzFeed News reported shortly after the 2016 presidential election that fake news did better on Facebook than real news in the final months of the election. Mosseri emphasized to the Journal that user opinions would be "just one of many [methods used] to order posts in users' news feeds."

Facebook will begin prioritizing posts by user feedback in the U.S. next week. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Kelly O'Meara Morales

January 19, 2018
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Investigators still do not know why Stephen Paddock shot and killed 58 people during an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas last October, CBS News reports. In a press conference Friday, authorities conceded that three months of investigation had not yielded any findings on Paddock's motivations, though Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo did emphasize that Paddock acted alone and that his girlfriend — who was at one point suspected of helping him — would not be charged with any crime.

During the press conference, Lombardo also discussed a newly released 81-page report that examined Paddock's actions in the months leading up to the shooting, which was the deadliest in modern American history. The evidence indicated Paddock had been planning an attack for a while; investigators found he purchased over 50 firearms in the 12 months leading up to the shooting, and that he had studied the response strategies of various law enforcement departments.

Lombardo noted that "disturbing" internet searches Paddock had conducted indicated he may have considered carrying out the attack at other concerts or at beaches in California, CBS News reported. Investigators also found child pornography on Paddock's computer.

Read the full report at the Las Vegas Review Journal. Kelly O'Meara Morales

January 19, 2018
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Justice Department said Friday that it intends to retry Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) after his corruption trial ended in a mistrial in November. Menendez, 63, was accused of taking luxury gifts, trips, and campaign donations from his friend and donor, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, in exchange for government favors. One juror afterwards told reporters that the deadlock was 10-2 in favor of acquittal, Politico writes.

"An early retrial date is in the best interests of the public, and the United States is available to schedule a retrial at the Court's earliest convenience," the Justice Department wrote in its filing Friday.

Menendez's 11-week trial was the first prosecution of a sitting senator in decades. He is up for re-election this year. Jeva Lange

January 19, 2018

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has responded to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) dismissively referring to him as "sort of the Steve King of the Senate," a reference to one of the House's most outspoken immigration hardliners.

"All I can say is we're not going to end family immigration for DACA," Graham had told MSNBC earlier Friday. "The Tom Cotton approach has no viability here. You know, he's become sort of the Steve King of the Senate."

Cotton was not amused. "The difference between Steve King and Lindsey Graham is that Steve King can actually win an election in Iowa," he told reporters, jabbing at Graham's short-lived campaign for the Republican nomination. "He didn't make it off the starting line, he didn't even make it off the kiddy table debates."

"Donald Trump won our party's nomination," Cotton added. "The voters have made it clear that they want Donald Trump's approach to immigration." Jeva Lange

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