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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

12:28 p.m. ET
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Investigators have found "no evidence" that the London attacker had ties to the Islamic State or al Qaeda, The Associated Press reported Monday. The attacker, a 52-year-old English native born Adrian Russell Ajao but known as Khalid Masood, was fatally shot by police at the scene of the crime after killing four people in a SUV and knife attack last week.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu told AP that Masood had "an interest in jihad," but that he apparently did not discuss the attack with international terrorist groups. Masood's attack "appear[ed] to be based on low sophistication, low tech, low cost techniques copied from other attacks," Basu added.

"At this stage we have no specific information about further threats to the public," Britain's Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley said late last week. Jeva Lange

12:21 p.m. ET

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons (Del.) revealed Monday on MSNBC's Morning Joe that he's bracing for a political showdown over President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Coons said he doesn't think Gorsuch will get the requisite 60 votes from the Senate to be confirmed. If Gorsuch does not get the necessary 60-vote margin because of Democrats' refusal to support him, Coons hypothesized Republicans will "almost certainly" resort to eliminating the Supreme Court nominee filibuster via the "nuclear option" — a tactic first introduced by Democrats under former President Barack Obama.

While Coons said he understands Democrats' lingering frustrations over Republicans' refusal to grant a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland — who was nominated by Obama to fill the same seat Gorsuch now seeks — he also indicated he is irked by his party's approach and by partisanship in general. "I think this is tragic," Coons said. "In talking to friends on both sides of the aisle, we've got a lot of senators concerned about where we're headed. There's Republicans still very mad at us over the 2013 change to the filibuster rule, we're mad at them about shutting down the government, they're mad at us about Gorsuch, and we are not headed in a good direction. I'm very concerned about where we're headed."

Watch the segment below. Coons' comments about the Gorsuch start at the 2:13 mark. Becca Stanek

11:18 a.m. ET

Paleontologists have discovered the world's largest dinosaur footprint in a region of Australia's Dampier Peninsula coastline dubbed "Australia's Jurassic Park." The print measures nearly 5 feet, 9 inches in length. Previously, the biggest dinosaur footprint ever discovered was one found last July in Bolivia that measured nearly 3 feet, 9 inches long.

The footprint found in Australia is believed to have been left by a type of sauropod dinosaur, "long-necked, large plant-eaters" that Gizmodo noted "have been found on every continent except Antarctica." "The giant footprints are no doubt spectacular," Steve Salisbury, the lead author of the study and a professor at the University of Queensland, told CNN. "There's nothing that comes close."

The record-setting footprint wasn't the only fascinating find made by Salisbury and his team: They also discovered the region was once home to a remarkably diverse dinosaur population. "The tracks provide a snapshot, a census if you will, of an extremely diverse dinosaur fauna," Salisbury told Gizmodo. "Twenty-one different types of dinosaurs all living together at the same time in the same area. We have never seen this level of diversity before, anywhere in the world. It's the Cretaceous equivalent of the Serengeti! And it's written in stone." Becca Stanek

11:06 a.m. ET

Jeffrey Lovitky is suing President Trump. It's a rather daunting task: Lovitky works at a one-man law firm that NPR describes as "a single room just large enough for a desk, a credenza, three bookcases, and two chairs." In fact, Lovitky wishes he wasn't suing Trump at all.

"It is intimidating. I am intimidated," Lovitky told NPR. "I mean, I would rather not be doing this."

But Lovitky has found something wrong with President Trump's financial disclosure form from last May. The form blends Trump's personal liabilities with his corporate liabilities, and as a result, it is impossible to distinguish the personal alone. Ultimately, "the report withholds from citizens something the law says they should have: an accounting of the president's personal liabilities," NPR writes. If Lovitky's case successfully survives the expected return-fire — a motion to dismiss the case for lack of standing — he could "end up setting a precedent that ordinary Americans can sue to seek enforcement of federal ethics laws."

"You go back to the basic premise of what is each individual's civic responsibility?" Lovitky explained. "What do you owe?

Lovitky's federal lawsuit is one of 108 that name Trump as a defendant since Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20. Listen to Lovitky's story below. Jeva Lange

10:40 a.m. ET
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Honolulu-born former President Barack Obama is returning to his tropical roots to work on his memoir, The Washington Post reports. On the heels of post-presidency vacations through Palm Springs, the Caribbean, and Hawaii, Obama is now staying on the South Pacific island of Tetiaroa, where he reportedly plans to write his book.

The French Polynesian atoll once belonged to Marlon Brando and is a favorite vacation spot of celebrities. Obama reportedly arrived at the Tetiaroa resort alone and will stay for at least a month. It is unclear if the rest of his family will be joining him; daughters Malia and Sasha are busy with an internship and high school, respectively.

Former first lady Michelle Obama is also working on a memoir. Her joint deal with her husband is reportedly worth at least $60 million. Jeva Lange

10:28 a.m. ET
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

The Associated Press tallied up the potential costs of North Carolina's bathroom bill, and the total isn't pretty. Because of the legislation passed last year rolling back LGBTQ protections and requiring transgender individuals to use the restroom that corresponds to their biological sex, The Associated Press estimated North Carolina will "suffer more than $3.76 billion in lost business" by the end of 2028.

One of the biggest blows is the canceled construction of the PayPal facility, which The Associated Press reported would have "added an estimated $2.6 billion to the state's economy." Other costs include called-off concerts, the NCAA's refusal to host tournaments in North Carolina, and the NAACP's national economic boycott — to name just a few.

Shortly after the bill was signed into law last year, then-Gov. Pat McCrory (R) assured North Carolinians the law would not impact the state's status as "one of the top states to do business in the country." Lt. Gov Dan Forest has maintained the bill's effect is "minimal to the state" and warned people not to be "fooled by the media" into thinking the issue is "about the economy."

But The Associated Press found North Carolina's economy "could be growing faster if not for the projects that have already [been] canceled," noting its cost estimate is "likely an underestimation." In total, North Carolina has lost out on "more than 2,900 direct jobs that went elsewhere," AP reported.

Because the estimate is based on projects and events the state has already lost out on, North Carolina won't be getting that money back even if the law gets repealed. Read the full story over at The Associated Press. Becca Stanek

9:53 a.m. ET
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

While many moderate Republicans are now eyeing opportunities to cooperate with Democrats on health care, still others are doubling-down on their repeal message. For House Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), whose ultra-conservative faction helped take down the GOP health-care bill, the do-or-die message has earned him positive feedback in his home state, Politico reports. As one local flier advertising a Meadows rally raves: "This is the face of leadership! Thank Mark and all those who gave us an opportunity to get health care right."

"I respect [Meadows] for staying true to his principles," said one of Meadows' constituents, Jerry Moore of Highlands, North Carolina. "Trump promised repeal. That was no repeal."

"What's happening now is no longer the Trump plan. It is the Obama plan," agreed the local GOP chairman, Jackson County's Ralph Slaughter.

The Affordable Care Act covered thousands of people in North Carolina in 2016, but only one insurer in the state participates in the ObamaCare exchanges. Still, as Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor told Politico: "People like the Affordable Care Act. They don't like ObamaCare. And they just don't realize [they're the same]."

For his part, Meadows said Sunday: "This is not the end of the [health-care] debate. It's like saying that Tom Brady lost at halftime." Jeva Lange

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