10-year-old dinosaur enthusiast inspires Utah to name a state dinosaur

Congress might be able to learn a thing or two from the Utah State Legislature, where a conflict over replacing the official state fossil resulted in a creative, Cretaceous solution.

Republican state Sen. Curt Bramble appeared ready to declare war on the Allosaurus — the official Utah state fossil — last December, proposing it should be replaced by the Utahraptor. The issue first came to Bramble’s attention thanks to a 10-year-old family friend and dinosaur enthusiast, Kenyon Roberts, who likewise argued the Utahrapor’s case to The Salt Lake Tribune: "Its name has ‘Utah’ in it, and it’s only found in Utah. The Allosaurus has been found in Europe, Africa, and other states. The first Allosaurus skull was found in Colorado."

Convinced, Bramble decided to write legislation to dethrone the Allosaurus. But "there are historical reasons for keeping the Allosaurus," argued Utah State Paleontologist James Kirkland, who actually discovered the Utahraptor himself around 1990 near Arches National Park. For example, Utah’s Cleveland-Lloyd quarry provided researchers with 50 Allosaurus specimens, allowing paleontologists to make great strides towards understanding the Jurassic lizard.

In order to avoid conflict, Bramble went back to the drawing board and came up with a different bill — to introduce a state dinosaur, The Associated Press reports. And no, it’s not the state’s 83-year-old senator, Orrin Hatch. It’s — yes — the mighty Utahraptor.

Thank you for this fitting tribute to my decades of service. https://t.co/DKA9i44vdG #utpol

— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) January 23, 2018

Utah does not have a state dinosaur at present, so the new bill avoids any potential fights in the Legislature. Other states with official dinosaurs are Wyoming (Triceratops), Iowa (Tyrannosaurus), and New Jersey (Hadrosaurus foulkii). Jeva Lange

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions for "several hours last week," The New York Times reports. The interview is the first known instance of Mueller’s office questioning a member of President Trump’s Cabinet, although Congress has grilled Sessions on multiple occasions with inquiries pertaining to Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and the Trump campaign’s alleged involvement.

Last spring, Sessions recused himself from "any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States" conducted by the Justice Department, following reports that he had twice spoken with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 election. During his congressional interviews last year, Sessions frustrated lawmakers by repeatedly saying he did not recall the answer to questions or otherwise declining to respond.

Mueller is also slated to interview Trump’s former chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, in the coming weeks. In December, The Washington Post reported that White House lawyers have been "assuring the president that Mueller’s investigation is poised to wrap up by January or so." Jeva Lange

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