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May 2, 2014

New York's Satanic Temple wants to put its own Satanic monument on the grounds of Oklahoma's capitol building in Oklahoma City, and they're using legal channels to do so. Enough people think this is a good idea that the Satanists raised $30,000 in a crowd-funding campaign to build their statue.

That's a mock-up for a bronze statue of Baphomet — a pagan figure dating back to the 1300s, more recently embraced by Satanists — next to children. ("We want kids to see that Satanism is where the fun is," temple spokesman Lucien Greaves told CNN in December.) After the Oklahoma-bound statue is cast, the Satanic Temple will retain the mold to "pop these things out like evil, terribly expensive action figures whenever they need a new one," as Smith puts it.

The temple's crusade to conquer Oklahoma is a reaction to the installation of a privately financed monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Oklahoma capitol by State Rep. Mike Ritze (R) in 2012. The Satanists argue that the First Amendment doesn't allow Oklahoma to implicitly endorse Christianity (and Judaism) without letting the worshippers of the dark lord put up their own statue, too.

And they have a pretty strong legal case, actually — assuming a judge recognizes the Satanic Temple as a religion (unlike the Church of Satan, the Temple of Satan is, by Greaves' admission, more a group of activists/provocateurs who view Satan as a "literary construct"). Right now Oklahoma is avoiding the constitutional showdown on a technicality. Its Capitol Preservation Commission, which handles approvals of all monuments for the capitol grounds, isn't accepting any new applications until the state settles a lawsuit from the ACLU over the Ten Commandments monument.

But it doesn't matter what the federal courts rule, really. Oklahoma legislators will come up with a reason to exclude the monument to Baphomet — this is a state that precipitated a constitutional crisis so it could execute two convicted murderers — and they will have popular support to do so. Oklahoma is overwhelmingly Christian; according to Pew data from 2008, the state is 53 percent evangelical Protestant, 16 percent mainline Protestant, 13 percent Catholic, 12 percent unaffiliated, and 6 percent "other."

As a last resort — and I doubt it will come to this — Oklahoma will remove the Ten Commandments monument rather than allow Satanic statues on state property. And that's probably the point of mocking up Baphomet. Next stop: Texas? Peter Weber

12:02 p.m. ET

Mass bleaching caused by global warming and El Niño has killed 35 percent the coral in the northern and central parts of Australia's Great Barrier Reef in just the past few months, scientists said Monday. The southern section of the 1,400-mile reef has seen only minor damage. Warming waters have been causing bleaching in reefs around the world for two years, but the damage in the Great Barrier Reef off Australia's east coast has occurred over just two months. Bleached coral that hasn't died can recover if the water temperature drops. You can learn more, including how the report is affecting Australian politics, in the Associated Press report below. Harold Mass

11:24 a.m. ET

Mexican police rescued international soccer star Alan Pulido hours after he was kidnapped in northeast Mexico. Pulido, 25, appeared at a brief news conference on Monday and told reporters he was "very well." He had a bandage on his right hand. Pulido, a striker who has played for Mexico's national team several times, was leaving a party with his girlfriend on Saturday night in Ciudad Victoria in Tamaulipas state when their car was surrounded by several trucks. Pulido was taken away, and his girlfriend was left unharmed. You can watch Pulido's news conference below. Harold Mass

10:35 a.m. ET
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An estimated 700 Libyan migrants died last week as their boats capsized in the Mediterranean during an attempted crossing to Italy, adding to a swelling death toll of more than 8,000 migrants to Europe since 2014. In September 2015, those deaths were encapsulated in a photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian boy whose drowned body washed up on the coast of Greece.

Another such photo came out of a rescue effort off the coast of Libya on Sunday organized by a German humanitarian organization called Sea-Watch. It shows a German rescue volunteer named Martin cradling a drowned baby who appears to be sleeping.

Seeing the child's body floating in the water, "I took hold of the forearm of the baby and pulled the light body protectively into my arms at once, as if it were still alive," Martin said. "I began to sing to comfort myself and to give some kind of expression to this incomprehensible, heart-rending moment. Just six hours ago this child was alive."

You can view the sad, unsettling photo here. Bonnie Kristian

10:26 a.m. ET

Last Week Tonight occasionally does a segment called "How Is This Still a Thing?" where a narrator pokes holes in a real thing that John Oliver and his writers think should disappear, like daylight savings and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. On Sunday night, "in the interest of innovation," Oliver posted a twist on this idea, proposing "non-things that should absolutely be thing-afied," as he explained. Some proposals, like an all-dog Blue Man Group and a universal key word to get out of awkward small-talk, are kind of silly. The search engine for parents, crying house key, and biodegradable home treadmill are all great ideas. And his biggest innovation? Well, you can decide for yourself: "Why do we not yet have bread pants — which are, of course, sweat pants made of bread?" If that sounds unsanitary, well, yes, but watch below to see if Oliver can sell you on the idea anyway. Peter Weber

10:13 a.m. ET
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NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden "actually performed a public service" in exposing the agency's surveillance secrets, former Attorney General Eric Holder said in a CNN-produced podcast reported Monday.

"We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did," Holder conceded, but maintained that Snowden made a positive move in "raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made."

That said, Holder is hardly jumping on the anti-NSA bandwagon. He argued that Snowden broke the law and "harmed American interests" by revealing classified government secrets, actions Holder suggested deserve jail time. He encouraged Snowden to return to the United States to cut a deal with the feds, something the former NSA contractor has said he is willing to do if he is guaranteed a fair trial. Still, Holder added, "I think in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate." Bonnie Kristian

8:28 a.m. ET

Texas authorities have found six bodies of people killed in Memorial Day weekend flooding, and an 11-year-old boy washed away in a swollen creek is missing and presumed dead in Kansas, as heavy rains caused flash flooding around the U.S. Torrential rains in central and and southeastern Texas prompted several evacuations and rescues, along with the six confirmed deaths, and near Houston, prison officials evacuated some 2,600 inmates. Separately, Tropical Depression Bonnie has reached South Carolina and is expected to continue dousing North and South Carolina with rain and strong winds, according to the National Weather Service. You can see some of Bonnie's impact on South Carolina in the Associated Press video below. Peter Weber

7:51 a.m. ET
Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

Early Monday, Iraq's elite counterterrorism forces started moving into southern Fallujah, one of two remaining large Iraqi cities controlled by the Islamic State, according to Brig. Haider al-Obeidi. He described the ISIS resistance as "fierce," with snipers, mortars, and car bombs. Iraq announced the offensive last week, but has so far been encircling the city and capturing the surrounding areas. There are an estimated 50,000 civilians trapped in Fallujah, and the Iraqi government is telling those who can't escape to stay indoors. In Baghdad, meanwhile, ISIS claimed responsibility for several bombings on Monday that have killed at least 24 people. The car bombings in Baghdad are widely seen as an attempt to divide and distract Iraqi security forces. Peter Weber

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