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July 16, 2014

A crater in northern Siberia thought to be 262 feet wide has caught scientists off guard, and questioning just how the enormous hole came to be.

Aerial footage of the crater in the Yamal area was posted online last week, and scientists from the Center for the Study of the Arctic and the Cryosphere Institute of the Russian Academy of Scientists headed to the site on Wednesday. As NPR reports, it looks as though rock and earth exploded from the inside of the hole, and it could have been caused by a gas explosion (Yamal is home to the largest natural gas reservoir in Russia), a meteorite, or an eruption of underground ice. The internet, of course, is convinced it's the work of aliens.

Before the mysterious crater appeared, The Siberian Times says Yamal — which translates to "the end of the world" — was most famous for being home to birds, reindeer, and wooly mammoth fossils. --Catherine Garcia

11:02 a.m. ET

Concerns over an injury to Tom Brady's throwing hand are apparently very, very real. After the New England Patriots quarterback missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday, the betting line for Sunday's AFC championship game against the underdog Jacksonville Jaguars dropped from favoring the defending Super Bowl champs by as much as 10 points against the Jags to about 7.5, Covers writes.

Lines don't swing that much and that swiftly by accident. Some oddsmakers and sharps were clearly worried that Brady might actually miss the game.

The line's move worried sportsbook Bookmaker.eu enough "to take the game off the board entirely, meaning they weren't accepting wagers on this matchup until receiving more clarity regarding the severity of Brady's injury," The Action Network writes. Super Bowl futures bets were also yanked.

Reactions from fans ranged from panic to yawns. After all, this isn't exactly the first time Brady's health has been in apparent jeopardy before an important game. "Remember Brady's 'flu-like' symptoms before the 2014 AFC championship game in Denver?" Sports Illustrated writes. "Or the boot he was spotted in before Super Bowl XLII? In January 2005, he had a 103-degree fever the night before the AFC title game."

By 10:15 a.m. ET, the Patriots-Jags game was back on the board at Bookmaker at -7 with an over/under of 46, The Action Network reports, although the Super Bowl futures "remain off the board." Brady is scheduled to speak to the media later Friday. Jeva Lange

9:46 a.m. ET
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Former Apprentice villain Omarosa Manigault Newman is rumored to have a penchant for recording confidential discussions and may be a person of interest in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as a result, the New York Daily News reports.

Manigault Newman's last day as the director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison is Saturday. While she claims to be leaving to "pursue other opportunities," the decision to bring "members of her 39-person bridal party to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for an extended wedding photo shoot" might be the most memorable moment in her short tenure, Politico writes.

Recently, though, Manigault Newman has allegedly been checking out high-profile attorneys, including Harvey Weinstein's former lawyer Lisa Bloom and Bill Cosby's former lawyer Monique Pressley, a person familiar with the meetings told the Daily News. "The 43-year-old apparently believes she may become a fixture in Mueller's investigation," the Daily News writes.

The person close to Manigault Newman said "everyone knows Omarosa loves to record people and meetings using the voice notes app on her iPhone. Don't be surprised if she has secret audio files on everyone in that White House, past and present staffers included."

Manigault Newman told Good Morning America in an interview in December that "when I have a chance to tell my story to tell — quite a story — as the only African-American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people, and when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear." Read more about what she might have caught on tape at the New York Daily News. Jeva Lange

9:43 a.m. ET

Don't expect President Trump to take a swim in the ocean anytime soon.

In an exclusive interview, InTouch Weekly met with adult film star Stormy Daniels to discuss her alleged affair with Trump in 2006. The Wall Street Journal reported that Daniels was paid by Trump's lawyer to keep quiet about the encounter during the 2016 campaign — but what she did reveal to InTouch Weekly is that that the president really, really does not like sharks. "He is obsessed with sharks. Terrified of sharks," she said.

Trump divulged his shark fixation to Daniels in a suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where she said she met the mogul shortly after their initial tryst in Lake Tahoe, California. Daniels said that when she came into the room, she could see Trump was watching Discovery Channel's Shark Week. She added that Trump told her that while he donates to several charities, he would "never donate to any charity that helps sharks. I hope they all die."

Sharks have long been a concern for Trump. Politico's Josh Dawsey did some sleuthing and discovered that the president once prophesied a dark future in which sharks outlive humans:

The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold also pointed out that the Trump Organization hasn't given money to organizations that support Trump's least favorite sea creature. Kelly O'Meara Morales

9:12 a.m. ET
ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images

Almost a year to the day after the inaugural Women's March protest, Democratic women are on pace to make record-breaking contributions to midterm races, Bloomberg Politics reports. Democratic female candidates are especially benefiting from the surge, receiving 44.2 percent of their contributions from other women on average in the first three quarters of 2017, the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington found, while a record-breaking 266 Democratic women so far have said they have raised money for House races in 2018.

"Anyone who was committed to Hillary [Clinton] is committed to the bigger picture," explained one major Democratic donor, Susie Tompkins Buell. "These deep dark days have really brought the best out of women."

Trump is thought to have earned 41 percent of the women's vote in 2016, although Quinnipiac found this week that his disapproval rating among women is 63 percent, compared to 57 percent with Americans overall. Emily's List, a national organization committed to electing women, said some 26,000 people have been in touch about getting involved politically in 2018. In 2016, that number was just 920.

With the second annual Women's March set to take place this weekend, philanthropist and Clinton donor Barbara Lee told Bloomberg that 2018 "has the potential to be the year that women turn the tide and transform our country." Jeva Lange

8:13 a.m. ET

Canadian immigrant Mark Steyn expressed concern over the future of American society while defending white supremacists during a bizarre and alarming segment on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show Thursday night.

Steyn set out by mocking CNN's Chris Cuomo for claiming that "the real problem" in America is white supremacy, not undocumented immigrants. The white supremacists are "the real monsters," Steyn quoted Cuomo as saying, "not these hardworking illegal immigrants." Steyn added: "For the purposes of argument, let's just say [Cuomo is] right."

You might wonder where, exactly, Steyn could go from there. The answer is that he ruled that it is "irrelevant" if white supremacists are "monsters" because "the white supremacists are Americans. The illegal immigrants are people who shouldn't be here." Steyn then attempted to argue that "the organizing principle of nation states is that they're organized on the behalf of citizens, whether their citizens are cheerleaders or white supremacists or whatever. You're stuck with them."

Steyn additionally could not get over the fact that "the majority of grade school students in Arizona are Hispanic," deducing from this that "the border has moved north" while ignoring the fact that some 56.6 million people prove you can actually be both American and Hispanic at the same time, as ThinkProgress points out. Watch the full interview below. Jeva Lange

6:53 a.m. ET

If Congress doesn't pass a spending bill by midnight Friday, the federal government will start shutting down Saturday, with most of the impact starting Monday. About 850,000 federal workers would be sent home without pay, or furloughed, though employees deemed "essential" would stay on the job without pay (in the last shutdown, Congress paid all federal employees retroactively). A shutdown wouldn't be pretty, especially if it lasted for more than a few days, and it would cost the government in ways big and small.

Things that wouldn't change: The U.S. Postal Service would deliver mail as normal, Social Security and Medicare would be unaffected, veterans would still get health care, and air traffic controllers, Forest Service firefighters, and FDA food safety inspectors would stay on the job. And "it's a stretch, at best, to think the military would bear the brunt of a partial government shutdown," as President Trump and other Republican leaders have argued, The Associated Press says. "All military members would be required to report for work as usual. Paychecks would be delayed only if the shutdown lasted beyond Feb. 1." The White House also wants to keep national parks and memorials open.

But the 850,000 employees not working will stall activities at most federal agencies, and that will cause some havoc. Most intelligence analysts would be furloughed, AP says, and 61 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be sent home during a bad flu season. The IRS would likely furlough thousands of employees as it tries to implement the new GOP tax law, and biomedical and public health research at the National Institutes of Health would grind to a halt, adversely affecting some projects. "Day 1, the world doesn't fall apart," J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, tells AP. But "things start to crumble" over time. Peter Weber

5:50 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The federal government appears headed for its first shutdown since 2013, but if you had plans to visit a national park or monument next week, you may not be out of luck. The Trump administration is still trying to figure out which federal employees would be furloughed and which would stay on the job during a shutdown, but Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is working to keep national parks open even if park employees are sent home, The Washington Post reports. The goal: "to minimize anger over the disruption of services."

The idea of keeping national parks and monuments open was reportedly pushed by White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, who told Fox Business this week that a shutdown "would look very different under a Republican administration than it would under a Democrat." In the last two shutdowns, Republicans controlled at least one house of Congress and a Democrat was in the White House, and Republicans shouldered most of the blame for ruining vacations. This time, "there is no desire to weaponize closing of public parks or monuments for partisan, political reasons," said John Czwartacki, a spokesman for Mulvaney's office.

How to keep the parks open is still being worked out, and there are risks involved with allowing unsupervised tourists to wander around federal lands. But politics aside, this seems like a nice gesture. After all, if Trump isn't changing his vacation plans for a government shutdown, why should you? Peter Weber

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