The Group of 7 say they won't recognize the outcome of a referendum that would peel Crimea from Ukraine and allow it to join Russia. In a statement released Wednesday, the seven nations — Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Britain, and the United States — called on Russia to "cease all efforts to change the status of Crimea," warning that a referendum would be "contrary to Ukrainian law and in violation of international law."
"Any such referendum would have no legal effect," a statement from the G7 read. "Given the lack of adequate preparation and the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it would also be a deeply flawed process which would have no moral force."
The referendum is due to take place Sunday. Jon Terbush
The White House blocked several major news organizations from an informal, off-camera briefing Friday in White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's office, sparking protest and outrage from the White House Correspondents' Association as well as other outlets. CNN, The New York Times, Politico, the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed, and much of the foreign press were not allowed in the room, CNN's Elizabeth Landers reports, although conservative outlets including Breitbart, The Washington Times, and One America News Network were allowed to attend. Networks including NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox were also included.
Reporters from The Associated Press and Time boycotted the press gaggle in protest of their colleagues' exclusion.
Reporters held out of today's White House briefing. pic.twitter.com/8uqelMjrtp
— Noah Bierman (@Noahbierman) February 24, 2017
In a statement, the White House Correspondents' Association wrote that the board is "protesting strongly against how today's gaggle is being handled by the White House. We encourage the organizations that were allowed in to share the material with others in the press corps who were not. The board will be discussing this further with White House staff."
Some at CNN & NYT stood w/FOX News when the Obama admin attacked us & tried 2 exclude us-a WH gaggle should be open to all credentialed orgs https://t.co/8Vjcs0KCPR
— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) February 24, 2017
On Thursday, chief strategist Stephen Bannon warned at CPAC: "[The press] are corporatist globalist media that are adamantly opposed to a economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has. Here's where it's going to get worse. He's going to continue to press his agenda. And, as economic conditions get better, as more jobs get better, they're going to continue to fight. If you think they're going to give you their country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken. Every day it is going to be a fight." Jeva Lange
Leaked draft of ObamaCare replacement bill indicates Republicans plan to reduce Medicaid spending, limit subsidies
Politico shed some light on what Republicans may have in mind for their promised ObamaCare replacement plan Friday, when it published the contents of a leaked draft of a House Republican bill:
The legislation would take down the foundation of ObamaCare, including the unpopular individual mandate, subsidies based on people's income, and all of the law's taxes. It would significantly roll back Medicaid spending and give states money to create high-risk pools for some people with pre-existing conditions. Some elements would be effective right away; others not until 2020.
The replacement would be paid for by limiting tax breaks on generous health plans people get at work — an idea that is similar to the ObamaCare "Cadillac tax" that Republicans have fought to repeal. [Politico]
Though House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has promised repeal legislation will be introduced soon, Republicans have been less vocal about how they will go about replacing the Affordable Care Act, which has provided an estimated 20 million Americans with coverage. This draft suggests the GOP is "sticking closely to previous plans floated by Ryan and [Health and Human Services Secretary Tom] Price in crafting their ObamaCare repeal package," Politico reported.
Major League Baseball returns Friday with the first spring training exhibition games of the season. The pre-season games started a week earlier than normal this year due to the World Baseball Classic, which begins next month.
Going head-to-head Friday afternoon in the Grapefruit League are the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox, and the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees. In the Cactus League, the Cincinnati Reds will face the San Francisco Giants, and the Tampa Bay Rays will face the Minnesota Twins later Friday. For a preview of the matchups, you can visit Sports on Earth.
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) February 24, 2017
Regular season baseball kicks off on April 2, with 29 teams seeking to dethrone the reigning World Series champions, the Chicago Cubs. Jeva Lange
On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order placing "regulatory reform" task forces within federal agencies to help identify "costly and unnecessary regulations." The watchdog groups created by Trump will reportedly have 90 days to examine existing regulations and identify which "can be repealed or modified," The Hill reported.
Trump signed the order shortly after reiterating his pledge to nix "75 percent of the repetitive, horrible regulations that hurt companies [and] hurt jobs" during a speech Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. At a meeting with business executives last month, Trump suggested he might cut even more than 75 percent of existing regulations.
The oldest images in the world might have been discovered in France — and they're made of "pixels."
Archaeologists have uncovered 16 stones in a prehistoric camp in France's Vézère Valley, where people belonging to the earliest modern human culture in Europe used to live, The Independent reports. The images on the stones illustrate mammoths and wild cows using a technique shared by computers and televisions, in which a picture is formed using an arrangements of tiny dots. The images from Vézère are estimated to be 38,000 years old.
"It's not so much the final effect that we found interesting, it's the conception of it — the use of individual points to form the body or the outline of a figure," explained New York University Professor Randall White to The Independent. "If you look carefully at the aurochs, there's really a significant control of the line."
The technique of creating an image from small dots would be used again thousands of years later by "pointillists" such as Vincent van Gogh and Georges Seurat. But the images on the prehistoric stones date back to a "very early [time] when people [were] really just beginning to grapple with the production of images," White said. "They have mastered some of the fundamental aspects of line and shape, but there's clearly a long way to go in terms of precise reproductions."
— Flamingosaurus Rex (@theflamingosaur) February 10, 2017
"It's almost digital in its nature," White said. "Why this fixation on dots? I'll admit it's a puzzle." Jeva Lange
President Trump has repeatedly expressed his intent to "get along well" with Russia, although some of his critics worry about exactly how friendly he means to be. Certainly this stunt will do nothing to lessen their concerns: At CPAC on Friday, someone passed out Russian flags emblazoned with the word "Trump" to the audience.
— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) February 24, 2017
— ronjboyd (@ronjboyd) February 24, 2017
The optics apparently sparked some concern. Staffers quickly confiscated the flags:
Crowd at CPAC waving these little pro-Trump flags that look exactly like the Russian flag. Staffers quickly come around to confiscate them. pic.twitter.com/YhPpkwFCNc
— Peter Hamby (@PeterHamby) February 24, 2017
Snap Inc.'s Peter Hamby reports that the flags weren't a rogue move by protesters — rather, they were passed out by "unwitting college kids," who, judging by their sense of humor, might want to pick up a copy of next week's New Yorker. Jeva Lange
President Trump vowed Friday that his administration, with the help of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will be rounding up "the gang members, the drug dealers, and the criminal aliens and throwing them the hell out of our country." "And we will not let them back in," Trump assured the audience while speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the largest annual gathering of conservatives. "They're not coming back in, folks. If they do, they're going to have bigger problems than they've ever dreamt of."
Trump touted his administration's "swift action" to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, and promised construction of a "great, great border wall" will begin very soon. He insisted these steps would allow the U.S. to stop the drugs from "pouring into our country and poisoning our youth." "We get the drugs, they get the money. We get the problems, they get the cash," Trump said. "No good, no good. Going to stop."
Trump's promise came a day after Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told Mexico that there would be "no mass deportations."
Catch Trump's comments below, at the 25:45 mark. Becca Stanek