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Shiny monolith removed from mountains outside Las Vegas. How it got there still is a mystery

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Shiny monolith removed from mountains outside Las Vegas. How it got there still is a mystery
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Shiny monolith removed from mountains outside Las Vegas. How it got there still is a mystery

2024-06-22 06:32 Last Updated At:06:40

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A strange monolith found jutting out of the rocks in a remote mountain range near Las Vegas has been taken down by authorities.

How it got there is still unsolved.

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This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the mysterious Monolith is removed on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Gass Peak, part of the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. A strange monolith found jutting out of the rocks in a remote mountain range near Las Vegas has been taken down by authorities. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A strange monolith found jutting out of the rocks in a remote mountain range near Las Vegas has been taken down by authorities.

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the mysterious Monolith is removed on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Gass Peak, part of the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. A strange monolith found jutting out of the rocks in a remote mountain range near Las Vegas has been taken down by authorities. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the mysterious Monolith is removed on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Gass Peak, part of the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. A strange monolith found jutting out of the rocks in a remote mountain range near Las Vegas has been taken down by authorities. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department shows a monolith near Gass Peak, Nevada on Sunday, June 16, 2024. Jutting out of the rocks on a remote mountain peak near Las Vegas, the glimmering rectangular prism's reflective surface imitates the vast desert landscape surrounding the mountain peak where it has been erected. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department shows a monolith near Gass Peak, Nevada on Sunday, June 16, 2024. Jutting out of the rocks on a remote mountain peak near Las Vegas, the glimmering rectangular prism's reflective surface imitates the vast desert landscape surrounding the mountain peak where it has been erected. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department shows a monolith near Gass Peak, Nev., on Sunday, June 16, 2024. Jutting out of the rocks on a remote mountain peak near Las Vegas, the glimmering rectangular prism's reflective surface imitates the vast desert landscape surrounding the mountain peak where it has been erected. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department shows a monolith near Gass Peak, Nev., on Sunday, June 16, 2024. Jutting out of the rocks on a remote mountain peak near Las Vegas, the glimmering rectangular prism's reflective surface imitates the vast desert landscape surrounding the mountain peak where it has been erected. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the mysterious Monolith is removed on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Gass Peak, part of the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. A strange monolith found jutting out of the rocks in a remote mountain range near Las Vegas has been taken down by authorities. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the mysterious Monolith is removed on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Gass Peak, part of the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. A strange monolith found jutting out of the rocks in a remote mountain range near Las Vegas has been taken down by authorities. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

“It remains unknown how the item got to its location or who might be responsible,” Las Vegas police said Friday in a series of posts on X announcing the removal of the glimmering, 6-foot-4 prism.

Its discovery over the weekend, and quick removal because of public safety and environmental concerns, revived a pandemic-era mystery that captured the public’s imagination when shiny monoliths evoking the object that appears in the Stanley Kubrick movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” began to appear around the globe.

Members of the Las Vegas police search and rescue team found the object near Gass Peak, part of the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge where bighorn sheep and desert tortoises can be found roaming.

It was the latest discovery in a series of mysterious columns that have popped up since at least 2020.

In November of that year, a similar metal monolith was found deep in the Mars-like landscape of Utah’s red-rock desert. Then came sightings in Romania, central California, New Mexico and on the famed Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas.

All of them disappeared as quickly as they popped up, adding to the lore.

“This thing is not from another world,” Lt. Nick Street of Utah’s Department of Public Safety said at the time.

The Utah monolith, believed to be the first in the series, had been embedded in the rock in an area so remote that officials didn’t immediately reveal its location for fear of people getting lost or stranded while trying to find it. But internet sleuths quickly found the coordinates, and hordes of curious tourists eager to see and touch the otherworldly object arrived, flattening plants with their cars and leaving behind human waste in the bathroom-free backcountry.

Authorities said the same concerns led them to tear down the latest monolith on Thursday.

It was illegally installed on federal land established to protect bighorn sheep and is home to rare plants and desert tortoises. The Desert National Wildlife Refuge, which is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the largest wildlife refuge outside of Alaska and can cover the state of Rhode Island twice.

Christa Weise, acting manager of the wildlife refuge, confirmed Friday that the monolith had been removed but said she couldn't comment on whether federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation.

The police department said the object was being kept at a secret location while authorities try to figure out the best way to dispose or store the massive structure made out of a reflective sheet of metal that was molded into a prism and secured with rebar and concrete.

Photos accompanying the department's social media posts showed the object on its side after its removal, which left a large indent in the ground because the rebar had been buried deep into the dirt and rocks.

The department said it “discourages anyone from venturing off marked trails or leaving objects and items behind.”

“This poses a danger to you and the environment,” Las Vegas police said.

In Utah, the removal of the monolith there also left behind a hole in the red rock. The Bureau of Land Management said Friday that it was still actively investigating the Utah case.

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the mysterious Monolith is removed on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Gass Peak, part of the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. A strange monolith found jutting out of the rocks in a remote mountain range near Las Vegas has been taken down by authorities. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the mysterious Monolith is removed on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Gass Peak, part of the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. A strange monolith found jutting out of the rocks in a remote mountain range near Las Vegas has been taken down by authorities. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the mysterious Monolith is removed on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Gass Peak, part of the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. A strange monolith found jutting out of the rocks in a remote mountain range near Las Vegas has been taken down by authorities. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the mysterious Monolith is removed on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Gass Peak, part of the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. A strange monolith found jutting out of the rocks in a remote mountain range near Las Vegas has been taken down by authorities. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department shows a monolith near Gass Peak, Nevada on Sunday, June 16, 2024. Jutting out of the rocks on a remote mountain peak near Las Vegas, the glimmering rectangular prism's reflective surface imitates the vast desert landscape surrounding the mountain peak where it has been erected. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department shows a monolith near Gass Peak, Nevada on Sunday, June 16, 2024. Jutting out of the rocks on a remote mountain peak near Las Vegas, the glimmering rectangular prism's reflective surface imitates the vast desert landscape surrounding the mountain peak where it has been erected. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department shows a monolith near Gass Peak, Nev., on Sunday, June 16, 2024. Jutting out of the rocks on a remote mountain peak near Las Vegas, the glimmering rectangular prism's reflective surface imitates the vast desert landscape surrounding the mountain peak where it has been erected. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department shows a monolith near Gass Peak, Nev., on Sunday, June 16, 2024. Jutting out of the rocks on a remote mountain peak near Las Vegas, the glimmering rectangular prism's reflective surface imitates the vast desert landscape surrounding the mountain peak where it has been erected. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the mysterious Monolith is removed on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Gass Peak, part of the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. A strange monolith found jutting out of the rocks in a remote mountain range near Las Vegas has been taken down by authorities. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

This photo provided by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the mysterious Monolith is removed on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Gass Peak, part of the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. A strange monolith found jutting out of the rocks in a remote mountain range near Las Vegas has been taken down by authorities. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris moved swiftly Monday to lock up Democratic delegates behind her campaign for the White House after President Joe Biden stepped aside amid concerns from within their party that he would be unable to defeat Republican Donald Trump.

Biden's exit Sunday, prompted by Democratic worries over his fitness for office, was a seismic shift to the presidential contest that upended both major political parties' carefully honed plans for the 2024 race.

Aiming to put weeks of intraparty drama over Biden's candidacy behind them, prominent Democratic elected officials, party leaders and political organizations quickly lined up behind Harris in the hours after Biden announced he was dropping his reelection campaign.

Biden's departure frees his delegates to vote for whomever they choose. Harris, whom Biden backed after ending his candidacy, is thus far the only declared candidate and was working to quickly secure endorsements from a majority of delegates.

Additional endorsements Monday, including Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, left a dwindling list of potential rivals to Harris.

Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, who had been one of the notable holdouts to Harris, initially encouraging a primary to strengthen the eventual nominee, endorsed Harris Monday. Pelosi said she was lending her “enthusiastic support” to Harris' effort to lead the party.

More than 700 pledged delegates have told AP or announced that they plan to support Harris at the convention, which is over one-third of the pledged delegates she needs in order to clinch the nomination. Democratic National Committee rules most recently set 1,976 pledged delegates as the benchmark to win the nomination.

Winning the nomination is only the first item on a staggering political to-do list for her after Biden's decision to exit the race, which she learned about on a Sunday morning call with the president. If she's successful at locking up the nomination, she must also pick a running mate and pivot a massive political operation to boost her candidacy instead of Biden's with just over 100 days until Election Day.

On Sunday afternoon, Biden’s campaign formally changed its name to Harris for President, reflecting that she is inheriting his political operation of more than 1,000 staffers and a war chest that stood at nearly $96 million at the end of June. It got bigger by Monday morning: Campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt said Harris had raised $49.6 million in donations in the first 15 hours after Biden’s endorsement.

Harris spent much of Sunday surrounded by family and staff, making more than 100 calls to Democratic officials to line up their support for her candidacy, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the effort. It comes as she tries to move her party past the painful, public wrangling that had defined the weeks since the Biden's disastrous June 27 debate with Trump.

Speaking to party leaders, Harris expressed gratitude for Biden's endorsement but insisted she was looking to earn the nomination in her own right, the person said.

In a sign that the Democratic Party was moving to coalesce behind her, Harris quickly won endorsements from the leadership of several influential caucuses and political organizations, including the AAPI Victory Fund, which focuses on Asian American and Pacific Islander voters, The Collective PAC, focused on building Black political power, and the Latino Victory Fund, as well as the chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the entire Congressional Black Caucus. Harris, if elected, would be the first woman and first person of South Asian descent to be president.

Notably, a handful of men who had already been discussed as potential running mates for Harris — Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly — also swiftly issued statements endorsing her. Aides to Shapiro and Cooper confirmed that Harris spoke with them Sunday afternoon. In her brief call with Cooper, the North Carolina governor told Harris he was backing her to be the Democratic nominee, according to Cooper spokeswoman Sadie Weiner.

But former President Barack Obama held off on an immediate endorsement, as some in the party have expressed worry that the quick shift to Harris would appear to be a coronation, instead pledging his support behind the eventual party nominee.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who left the party earlier this year but considered re-registering as a Democrat to vie for the nomination against the vice president, told CBS News on Monday that he would not be a candidate.

It’s an indication of how she will have to balance her day job and her new role as candidate, Harris made her first public appearance Monday morning at the White House, where she opened her address to National Collegiate Athletic Association championship teams by praising Biden's “unmatched” legacy, saying she was “deeply grateful for his service to our nation.”

Harris was filling in at the event for Biden, who is recovering at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware after contracting COVID-19 last week.

She was later set to travel to Wilmington, where the Biden campaign had been headquartered, to meet with her new campaign staff.

Harris, in a statement, praised Biden’s “selfless and patriotic act” in deciding to leave the race and said she intends to “earn and win” her party’s nomination.

“I will do everything in my power to unite the Democratic Party — and unite our nation — to defeat Donald Trump and his extreme Project 2025 agenda,” she said.

Biden planned to discuss his decision to step aside later this week in an address to the nation. He wrote in a letter posted Sunday to his X account, “I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as President for the remainder of my term."

Nearly 30 minutes after he delivered the news that he was folding his campaign, Biden threw his support behind Harris.

“Today I want to offer my full support and endorsement for Kamala to be the nominee of our party this year,” he said in another post on X. “Democrats — it’s time to come together and beat Trump.”

The Democratic National Convention is scheduled to be held Aug. 19-22 in Chicago, but the party had announced it would hold a virtual roll call to formally nominate Biden before in-person proceedings begin. The convention's rules committee is scheduled to meet this week to finalize its nomination process and it is unclear how it will be adjusted to reflect Biden's exit.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus chairwoman Nanette Barragan, who emphasized that she was “all in” behind the vice president, said she spoke Sunday with Harris, who communicated that she preferred to forego a virtual roll call for the nomination process and instead hold a process that adheres to regular order.

The Democratic National Committee’s chair, Jaime Harrison, said in a statement that the party would “undertake a transparent and orderly process” to select “a candidate who can defeat Donald Trump in November.”

AP writers Leah Askarinam, Maya Sweedler and Chad Day contributed.

Follow the AP's coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.

Vice President Kamala Harris arrives to speak from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024, during an event with NCAA college athletes. This is her first public appearance since President Joe Biden endorsed her to be the next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Vice President Kamala Harris arrives to speak from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024, during an event with NCAA college athletes. This is her first public appearance since President Joe Biden endorsed her to be the next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024, during an event with NCAA college athletes. This is her first public appearance since President Joe Biden endorsed her to be the next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024, during an event with NCAA college athletes. This is her first public appearance since President Joe Biden endorsed her to be the next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024, during an event with NCAA college athletes. This is her first public appearance since President Joe Biden endorsed her to be the next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024, during an event with NCAA college athletes. This is her first public appearance since President Joe Biden endorsed her to be the next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024, during an event with NCAA college athletes. This is her first public appearance since President Joe Biden endorsed her to be the next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024, during an event with NCAA college athletes. This is her first public appearance since President Joe Biden endorsed her to be the next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024, during an event with NCAA college athletes. This is her first public appearance since President Joe Biden endorsed her to be the next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024, during an event with NCAA college athletes. This is her first public appearance since President Joe Biden endorsed her to be the next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

A campaign sign with President Joe Biden's name cut out stands in Northwood, N.H., Sunday, July 21, 2024. Homeowner Tom Chase, 79, said he removed Biden's name last week and was relieved and delighted that the president withdrew from his 2024 campaign and endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)

A campaign sign with President Joe Biden's name cut out stands in Northwood, N.H., Sunday, July 21, 2024. Homeowner Tom Chase, 79, said he removed Biden's name last week and was relieved and delighted that the president withdrew from his 2024 campaign and endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)

FILE - Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and President Joe Biden arrive for an event in the East Room of the White House, May 9, 2024, in Washington. She's already broken barriers, and now Harris could soon become the first Black woman to head a major party's presidential ticket after President Joe Biden's ended his reelection bid. The 59-year-old Harris was endorsed by Biden on Sunday, July 21, after he stepped aside amid widespread concerns about the viability of his candidacy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

FILE - Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and President Joe Biden arrive for an event in the East Room of the White House, May 9, 2024, in Washington. She's already broken barriers, and now Harris could soon become the first Black woman to head a major party's presidential ticket after President Joe Biden's ended his reelection bid. The 59-year-old Harris was endorsed by Biden on Sunday, July 21, after he stepped aside amid widespread concerns about the viability of his candidacy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

FILE - Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. is seen on Capitol Hill, Jan. 10, 2017, in Washington. She's already broken barriers, and now Vice President Harris could soon become the first Black woman to head a major party's presidential ticket after President Joe Biden's ended his reelection bid. The 59-year-old Harris was endorsed by Biden on Sunday, July 21, after he stepped aside amid widespread concerns about the viability of his candidacy. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

FILE - Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. is seen on Capitol Hill, Jan. 10, 2017, in Washington. She's already broken barriers, and now Vice President Harris could soon become the first Black woman to head a major party's presidential ticket after President Joe Biden's ended his reelection bid. The 59-year-old Harris was endorsed by Biden on Sunday, July 21, after he stepped aside amid widespread concerns about the viability of his candidacy. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

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