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May 16, 2014

Gareth Edwards' Godzilla reboot is drawing widespread praise for its grounded, realistic take on the giant lizard — but in the end, it's still just a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster. Still, this new Godzilla movie raises an intriguing hypothetical question: if there was an actual Godzilla attack, how would the world react? In just seven minutes, Alternate History Hub breaks down the real-world implications of what would happen if Godzilla suddenly emerged from the ocean and attacked a U.S. city like Los Angeles.

Godzilla's initial appearance would be dangerous for anyone who was unlucky enough to encounter him — but it would also come with all kinds of additional consequences for civilians, including the possibility of being trampled in a panic or treated as an acceptable casualty by the U.S. military as they tried to stop him. Unfortunately, their efforts would probably prove ineffective: "In the most most conventional terms, Godzilla is nearly impossible to kill. Not even a nuclear bomb can kill him," says the video.

But the shock of the initial Godzilla attack would give way to massive shifts in politics, economics, and culture. In the United States, people would move away from the vulnerable coasts to the middle of the country; the entire shipping industry would be destabilized due to the unpredictability of Godzilla's oceanic movements; and militaries across the globe would invest in new technologies specifically designed to take the giant monster down. Check out the full analysis below. --Scott Meslow

11:14 a.m. ET

After witnessing how quickly President Trump gave up on negotiating the GOP's American Health Care Act, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell declared Trump the "laziest, most ignorant president in history." Just hours after Republicans on Thursday delayed a planned vote on their health-care bill, Trump announced he was done trying to convince on-the-fence Republicans and left them with an ultimatum: Pass the bill, or deal with ObamaCare staying in place. "President Obama never once said something like this in the crusade to get [the Affordable Care Act] passed because he knew how to stay with it and get it passed," O'Donnell said Thursday night on MSNBC.

O'Donnell argued that what Trump needs to be doing is reassuring uncertain Republicans of "what they're voting for." Instead, O'Donnell said Trump is sending a different message: "I quit, and I quit in the Senate" and "I don't have the patience or ability to stay focused on this." "This guy is the biggest public doubter of the bill — the president," O'Donnell said.

Watch it below. Becca Stanek

11:14 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

A frustrated President Trump warned Republicans that if they did not pass the GOP health-care bill Friday, ObamaCare will stay. A least one group of conservatives is none too pleased with that threat: the House Freedom Caucus, who mutinously said they would vote "no" on the legislation because it was too similar to former President Barack Obama's signature health law.

Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) vented to Independent Journal Review, "It's [Trump's] way or the highway? What kind of precedent does that set for a president? So the Congress has to roll over now because this is the way it's going to be?" Weber added: "Take it or leave it. What kind of statement is that?"

Many others have expressed surprise over Trump's uncompromising stance. "Trump, who has branded himself a dealmaker without parallel, gave this whole health-care process 18 days — including weekends and days Congress was out of session!" Politico's Playbook notes. "Nobody knows how this is going to play out. But in Congress, 18 days is nothing."

Even Republicans who are not members of the House Freedom Caucus are unwavering despite Trump's threats and last-minute tweaks to the bill. "It's still a 'hell no,'" Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) told IJR. Jeva Lange

10:53 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, voluntarily offered to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee over ongoing questions about Trump's campaign staff's possible collusion with Russia. Manafort reportedly earned tens of millions of dollars from 2006 to 2009 secretly working for a billionaire Russian aluminum magnate close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, toiling to promote Putin's interests and undermine anti-Kremlin opposition in former Soviet republics. A U.S. official told The Associated Press earlier this week that Manafort is a "leading focus of the U.S. intelligence investigation of Trump's associates and Russia."

In a press conference Friday, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) stressed that the committee was encouraging whistleblowers to come forward but that "we will not bring in American citizens in a neo-McCarthyism." FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers are being asked to come back in to be interviewed by the committee — ideally next Tuesday — before the committee can move forward with its investigation.

Nunes also reiterated that President Trump's claims that Trump Tower was wiretapped were unfounded. "There was no wiretapping of Trump Tower," he said. "That didn't happen." Jeva Lange

10:48 a.m. ET
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Tax prep companies like TurboTax and H&R Block have what you might call a vested interest in U.S. tax policy — and, specifically, in ensuring it stays complicated enough that their services remain necessary for millions of Americans.

In 2016, ProPublica reports, these two companies alone spent a combined $5 million on lobbying efforts, a portion of which opposed "return-free filing," a system in which the IRS would generate pre-completed income tax returns for many Americans who have a fairly simple tax filing process.

Return-free filing has been discussed but not realized in Washington for decades. "Comparing the distance between the present system and our proposal is like comparing the distance between a Model T and the space shuttle," then-President Ronald Reagan quipped in 1985. "And I should know — I've seen both."

Pre-populated returns could be available to about 60 million Americans, especially those who work at a single job that issues them a standard W2 form that they file along with the standard deduction. For contract workers who file 1099 forms or those with more complicated employment and deduction situations, manually filing taxes (and, for many, using tax prep services or software) would remain necessary even if return-free filing were implemented. Bonnie Kristian

10:34 a.m. ET
Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images

Conservative commentator David Brooks had some harsh words for Republicans in his column Friday in The New York Times. Underneath a headline declaring the "Trump elite" to be like "the old elite, but worse," Brooks argued the GOP health-care bill is "not molded to the actual health-care needs of regular voters." "It was written by elites to serve the needs of elites," Brooks wrote. "Donald Trump vowed to drain the swamp, but this bill is pure swamp."

The bill, Brooks said, appears to have been written only because the new GOP leaders "needed something they could call ObamaCare repeal — anything that they could call ObamaCare repeal," and because President Trump "needed a win":

They were more concerned with bending, distorting, and folding the bill to meet the Byrd rule, an arbitrary congressional peculiarity of no real purpose to the outside world. They were more concerned with what this internal faction, or that internal faction, might want. The result was a pedantic hodgepodge that made no one happy. [David Brooks, via The New York Times]

While Republicans may feel caught between supporting party leaders and opposing a bill that's widely disliked and "bad for most voters, especially Republican voters," Brooks warned: "This bill takes the most vicious progressive stereotypes about conservatives and validates them."

Read Brooks' full column at The New York Times. Becca Stanek

10:24 a.m. ET
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President Trump's revised immigration executive order shut down the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program for 120 days, a step of caution he and others have argued is necessary because of the danger refugees could pose to the United States. Terrorists will slip in among those legitimately seeking safe haven from war and famine in their home country, the thinking goes, so the safe choice is to limit or abolish refugee admissions entirely.

But a Washington Post analysis of recent refugee history suggests otherwise. Looking at the Afghan refugee crisis of prior decades, the Post finds refugees who are not resettled to a permanent new home in a safe nation are often prime targets for terrorist recruitment:

The concentration of refugees in the poorest regions of countries in the Middle East echoes the plight of refugees from the conflict in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, when over three million Afghan refugees fled to Pakistan after the 1979 Soviet invasion. ... These camps became the primary recruiting ground for some of the most radical and brutal mujahidin militias, particularly Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-i-Islami. The Taliban movement began among Afghan refugees studying in seminaries in northwest Pakistan. These refugee camps have remained a key recruitment ground for the Taliban and continue to destabilize Pakistan. [The Washington Post]

The parallels to the Syrian refugee crisis are not exact, but in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon today, communities of Syrian refugees kept in camps or other temporary housing have seen violence and extremism increase as refugees are stuck in a state of limbo, unable to put down roots or find gainful employment to occupy their time. Bonnie Kristian

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

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