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August 18, 2014
Vedur.is

Imagine a typical volcano. Then picture a 16-mile-wide volcano that stretched from Philadelphia to 30 miles past New York City. Now imagine this gargantuan volcano squished under a thick ice sheet that would unleash a torrent of meltwater as soon as an eruption began. Finally, envision this super-massive, ice-encased volcano unleashing the largest lava flow on Earth in the last 12,000 years, and you'll probably have some idea as to why Iceland's authorities are sounding the alarm over the recent rumbling emerging from the Bárðarbunga volcano.

After the most powerful earthquake since 1996 struck the area early Monday — part of a swarm of thousands of smaller earthquakes indicating magma movement underneath Bárðarbunga — Iceland's meteorological office raised the threat of eruption to "orange," the second-highest alert possible (the highest alert is reserved for an active eruption). Officials are primarily concerned with the threat of a very large eruption damaging Iceland's extensive hydroelectric power grid.

So why should you be concerned with Bárðarbunga, non-Icelanders? One need only look back to 2010, when the ash plumes of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano caused airline chaos across Europe and the world, to see the far-reaching consequences of a major volcanic eruption. Still more alarming was the eruption of the nearby Laki volcano complex in 1783-4, which unleashed a cloud of highly toxic gas that killed 25 percent of Iceland's residents before killing thousands more in Europe. Bárðarbunga is Laki's big sister.

Care to monitor the volcano yourself? Here's a handy webcam of the (hopefully) snoring giant. Mike Barry

10:09 a.m. ET

President Trump on Thursday issued an ultimatum to conservative House Republicans reluctant to support the American Health Care Act: Pass this bill Friday, or lose the chance to repeal ObamaCare. Meanwhile, reports leaked out claiming the dealmaker president regretted taking up arms for House Speaker Paul Ryan's bill in the first place, rather than pursuing tax reform as his first major legislative victory.

But after two days of hectic negotiations, last-minute concessions, a revised (and worse) score from the Congressional Budget Office, and a rescheduled vote, it seems the White House is already beginning to lay the burden of blame should the bill fail to pass the House in Trump's mandated Friday vote. And, surprise surprise, it's not landing at the doorway of the Oval Office:

On top of the White House being willing to accept only select responsibility for the bill's fate, CNBC's John Harwood reports that a senior White House aide said that a decisive defeat of the bill in Friday's House vote would in fact be the best outcome for the president, "100 percent." Kimberly Alters

10:05 a.m. ET

Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough laid into President Trump on Friday for how badly he has botched his first major legislative effort, health-care reform. The morning after House Republican leaders delayed a planned vote on their proposal to repeal and replace ObamaCare, an exasperated Scarborough argued Trump should have spotted these looming problems from the get-go. "This was obvious," Scarborough said. "... This was such an obviously stupid play done by somebody or a group of people who didn't know how Washington worked."

Aside from deciding to lead with health care, Trump's first mistake was the decision to lead with House Speaker Paul Ryan's "version of health care," Scarborough contended. Scarborough argued Ryan's version is "completely opposite of what Donald Trump promised every day on the campaign trail."

If Trump weren't such a "neophyte," Scarborough said he would've known not to listen to Congress. "His problem is getting momentum legislatively, passing tax reform, passing regulatory reform, getting the wind behind their backs, and letting Ryan fight with John McCain and others in the Senate, they come together with a bill, and then he comes in at the end and plays peacemaker," Scarborough said, calling that strategy "so obvious for anybody who knows how Washington works."

"But it's a lot tougher than it looks on TV, isn't it?" Scarborough said. Trump has issued an ultimatum to Republicans, ordering them to pass the health-care bill Friday or deal with ObamaCare remaining in place.

Catch Scarborough's rant below. Becca Stanek

9:36 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Donald Trump made his superior health a focal point of his presidential campaign, going as far as to reveal his medical records on a Dr. Oz TV special, where he was ruled to be in ship-shape, if slightly overweight. And Trump — who loves fast food and considers giving a speech to be sufficient exercise — was even praised as being "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency" by his own physician.

Randomly, Friday brought even more praise of President Trump's glorious wellness. In a morning discussion with Axios' Mike Allen, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin effused that Trump has "got perfect genes."

Mnuchin added that Trump has stopped eating KFC and McDonald's. "He has incredible energy and he's unbelievably healthy," Mnuchin shared. Jeva Lange

9:15 a.m. ET

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney's best advice for people whose home state may no longer require maternity benefits, thanks to Republicans' health-care proposal? Figure it out yourself. "Why do we look to the federal government to try and fix our local problems?" Mulvaney said Friday on CBS This Morning.

Mulvaney defended the American Health Care Act's new provision that repeals the essential health benefits requirement, which Talking Points Memo explained demands insurers "cover a list of 10 essential benefits, including maternity care." "If you live in a state that wants to mandate maternity coverage for everybody, including 60-year-old women, that's fine," Mulvaney said, noting some states already require the coverage of select essential benefits.

"But what if you live in a state that doesn't do that?" CBS This Morning co-host Alex Wagner asked. "Then you can figure out a way to change the state that you live in," Mulvaney said.

"So you should move?" Wagner asked. "No, they can try to change their own state legislatures and their state laws," Mulvaney replied. Watch the interview below. Becca Stanek

8:46 a.m. ET
Molly Riley-Pool/Getty Images

A scheduled House vote on the Republican health-care bill was delayed Thursday evening after conservative Freedom Caucus members announced a "no" stance on the legislation following an afternoon meeting with President Trump. Losing the support of the Freedom Caucus, which believes the GOP health-care replacement is too similar to ObamaCare, ultimately left Republicans with too few votes for the bill to pass. By Thursday evening, Trump had issued a frustrated ultimatum: Either Republicans approve the American Health Care Act on Friday, or ObamaCare stays.

By Friday morning, Trump had taken to Twitter in an attempt to crank up the pressure on the mutinous Freedom Caucus:

Some observers have pointed out that Trump's attempts to coerce the Freedom Caucus could easily backfire. "I can't think of a Freedom Caucus member who would change their vote as a result of this attack," tweeted Axios reporter Jonathan Swan. "If anything would just enrage [and] solidify." Jeva Lange

8:12 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The CIA reportedly developed software to turn Mac computers into "listening posts," with the spy agency apparently able to track users' activities whenever they connected to the internet, a new WikiLeaks document dump has revealed. The information comes on the heels of an initial group of CIA documents, released by WikiLeaks on March 7, that showed the CIA could hack iPhones, Androids, Microsoft Windows computers, Cisco routers, and Samsung smart TVs, The New York Times reports.

Apple said that it discovered the vulnerability in its Mac computers and fixed it in all computers released after 2013. "We have given [WikiLeaks] instructions to submit any information they wish through our normal process under our standard terms," Apple said in a statement Thursday. "Thus far, we have not received any information from them that isn't in the public domain. We are tireless defenders of our users' security and privacy, but we do not condone theft or coordinate with those that threaten to harm our users."

While "all of the surveillance tools that have been disclosed were designed to be installed on individual phones or computers," The New York Times adds that Cisco Systems, for one, "warned customers this week that many of its popular routers, the backbone of computer networks, could be hacked using the CIA's techniques." The CIA has defended its techniques as being an "innovative" and "cutting-edge" means of protecting the country from adversaries.

It might not just be your computer spying on you, though — read about the spooky ears on your fridge and TV here. Jeva Lange

8:01 a.m. ET
MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 88, was freed Friday from imprisonment, six years after he was ousted from his three-decade reign by Arab Spring protesters, The New York Times reports.

Mubarak's fall had once been seen as a hopeful model of Arab citizens holding their leaders accountable for human rights abuses and corruption, only for Mubarak's example to eventually fizzle out in court, where he received just one conviction on a minor corruption charge. "At this point, I really don't care," said activist Ahmed Harara, who lost sight in both eyes after being shot by police in the 2011 Cairo protests. "I realized years ago that this is not just about Mubarak and his regime — it's an entire system that has now resurrected itself." Jeva Lange

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