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March 1, 2016

You know Donald Trump made a mistake when he implicitly admits he messed up. On Monday, as Trump blamed a "lousy earpiece," Republicans and other conservatives split over Trump's refusal Sunday to disavow David Duke and his former organization, the Ku Klux Klan, on CNN. It may be easy to discount Mitt Romney's criticism that Trump disqualified himself, since Romney, seen as a GOP moderate, and Trump are already feuding. But here are three more conservatives arguing in three different ways that Trump's brush-off of the KKK endorsement is a really, really big deal.

Joe Scarborough, the host of MSNBC's Morning Joe, has been famously friendly with Trump in recent weeks. On Monday's show, after co-host Mika Brzezinski morosely set up the CNN clip, Scarborough lit into Trump: "That's disqualifying right there. It's breathtaking. That is disqualifying right there."

A former Republican congressman from Florida, Scarborough seemed personally offended: "I mean, is he really so stupid that he doesn't think Southerners are offended by the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke? Is he really so ignorant of Southern voters that he thinks this is the way to their heart, to go neutral, to play Switzerland when you're talking about the Klan!?"

On the more conservative end of the GOP spectrum, Hugh Hewitt offered a historical perspective. Trump's refusal to disavow David Duke "is what we call in politics a game-changer, equivalent to Mitt Romney's 47 percent comment four years ago, equivalent to Gerald Ford's comment in 1976 that Poland was free," he said on CNN, and even "as bad, much worse, actually," than several famous Hillary Clinton gaffes:

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) brought some home-town flavor and class resentment to the Trump take-down. King argued on Fox News that Trump's mixed message on the KKK and Duke shows that he'll say anything, "that he's temperamental, that he's erratic," and he lies when caught, a combination that makes him "not qualified to be president." Trump says "he's the tough guy, the tough guy from Queens," King added. "I grew up in Queens. The neighborhood he grew up in Queens, that's where the rich, pampered kids lived: Jamaica Estates. No tough guy ever came out of Jamaica Estates, I can tell you that."

None of the conservatives said they thought Trump's remarks would seriously hurt him on Super Tuesday. Peter Weber

8:02 p.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump's decision to add Chad to the list of countries on his latest travel ban came as a surprise to people inside the government, primarily because it all came down to a lack of office supplies.

The Department of Homeland Security asked Chad and every other country to submit samples of passport paper so the department could take a close look and see how secure they are, several U.S. officials told The Associated Press. Chad ran out of passport paper and asked if they could send a sample already made up of the same type of passport, but the Department of Homeland Security denied its request for an exemption.

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that Chad did not send in a recent sample of its passport paper, but said there are other reasons the country made it on the list, primarily that it "does not share public safety and terrorism-related information." Recently, Chad temporarily stopped issuing passports, so that might be the reason why they didn't have any paper hanging around, but it still seemed like an odd reason to put Chad on the list alongside countries like Syria and Libya. Chad is known for its counterterrorism efforts against Boko Haram, and when national security agencies learned that the Department of Homeland Security and the White House wanted to put Chad on the list, without much input from the State Department or Defense Department, they objected but were overruled, officials told AP. Catherine Garcia

7:06 p.m. ET
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The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a one-time treatment for lymphoma in adults, only the second time a gene therapy for blood cancer has been given the OK in the United States.

This is the first gene therapy approved for adults, and involves removing a patient's T cells, reprogramming them to find and kill cancer cells, then putting the cells back into the patient, The Associated Press reports. The treatment uses the same technology as a gene therapy recently approved in the U.S. for childhood leukemia, and will cost $373,000 per patient, its manufacturer said. Catherine Garcia

6:39 p.m. ET
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Not so fast, Bill O'Reilly.

On Wednesday evening, former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly decided to support his friend Sean Hannity while taking aim at CNN's Jake Tapper, tweeting, "Sean Hannity kicking serious butt in the ratings. Tapper on CNN as low as you can go." Tapper waited just 11 minutes before responding with a brutal correction. "'Low' would be sexually harassing staffers and then getting fired for it — humiliated in front of the world," he tweeted. "Now THAT would be low."

O'Reilly had to praise Hannity's ratings rather than his own because, as Tapper helpfully pointed out, the former O'Reilly Factor host was let go from Fox News earlier this year after The New York Times reported that several women had accused him of sexual harassment, and he paid out millions in settlements. Catherine Garcia

5:40 p.m. ET
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In an interview Tuesday with radio host Charlamagne tha God, rapper RZA confirmed that the actor Russell Crowe once spat on pop singer and rapper Azealia Banks at a party. RZA, a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, admitted Crowe's conduct after initially denying the incident occurred.

In October 2016, Banks recounted the incident in a Facebook post, in which she alleged that Crowe spat on her, choked her, and called her the n-word as he kicked her out of a party he was hosting last year. (Banks later deleted the post.) Banks said she had attended the party as RZA's guest and shortly after the incident, she told E! News, "I felt betrayed, I felt humiliated, I felt low. It almost felt like a set-up."

After Banks expressed her disappointment that RZA did not stick up for her at the time, the Wu-Tang Clan founder made his own Facebook post disputing Banks' account of the night and alleging she spent the night "insulting half the room." He wrote: "There was nothing funny about her behavior. I felt a little embarrassed because she was my guest. Still verbal abuse can be tolerated but when it goes physical ... Azealia threatened to cut a girl in the face with a glass, then actually grabs a glass ... Russell blocked the attack and expelled her from the suite."

In Tuesday's interview, however, Charlamagne tha God asked RZA whether Crowe really had physically touched Banks or spat on her. "Look, he spit at her," RZA conceded. The host followed up and asked, "Did you check him at that point? That's a white dude spitting at a black woman, you have to check him." RZA dodged, saying that while Crowe apologized to him, "the night was crazy, bro, and I don't want to relive it. It was super-duper awkward."

Later that day, Azealia Banks called out RZA in an Instagram post, condemning him in graphic terms for talking about her in the media given that he has not apologized to her for the incident. Kelly O'Meara Morales

5:34 p.m. ET
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A computer program called AlphaGo Zero taught itself how to play a strategic game that is far more difficult than chess, Google found in a recent study, a feat both impressive and a little frightening.

Go is an East Asian strategy game, played on a 19-by-19 grid that has unlimited configurations, NPR explains. Researchers at Google's DeepMind lab developed a program last year using databases of known human configurations for the game, which went on to beat the best Go player on the planet, world champion Lee Sedol.

This time around, researchers at DeepMind tried something new. Instead of teaching the program, then called AlphaGo, known human configurations for the game, they let the machine discover them itself, NPR says. Scientists found that the use of human knowledge could actually impose limits on their program, and that starting with a blank slate was much more effective.

The resulting updated program — dubbed AlphaGo Zero — spent three days playing 4.9 million games of Go against itself. Then, AlphaGo Zero beat the original human knowledge-based version 100 games to 0. AlphaGo Zero also discovered configurations that humans have not yet figured out.

While AlphaGo Zero has some far-reaching implications for the future, it remains to be studied whether this "blank slate" concept may be applied to solving complex problems. Read the full published study at Nature, or a more about the story of AlphaGo Zero at NPR. Elianna Spitzer

4:44 p.m. ET
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Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), in an interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd about rising health-care costs, proposed last week that emergency rooms should be able to turn patients away.

In the interview, Black cited her experience working in health care to explain why mandating that emergency room workers see every patient who comes in is ineffective. "I'm an emergency room nurse," she told Todd on Friday. "There are people that came into my emergency room that I, the nurse, was the first one to see them. I could have sent them to a walk-in clinic or their doctor the next day, but because of a law that Congress put into place ... you took away our ability to say, 'No, an emergency room is not the proper place.'"

Black is seemingly referring to the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which banned hospitals from transferring uninsured patients from private to public hospitals. "That crowds the emergency room," Black said of the directive. "It drives the cost of emergencies up." When Todd asked Black if she was advocating a repeal of the law, she replied, "I would get rid of a law that says that you are not allowed, as a health-care professional, to make that decision about whether someone can be appropriately treated the next day, or at a walk-in clinic, or at their doctor."

Black's position is largely unpopular, even among conservatives at the Heritage Foundation, who suggest an "outright appeal" of the 1986 law is "unlikely." Kelly O'Meara Morales

4:41 p.m. ET
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Defense Secretary James Mattis wants to review Department of Defense properties after an Oct. 6 report found that 19 percent of military bases are unneeded, he wrote in a letter earlier this month. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, released Mattis' letter and the accompanying report Tuesday.

Mattis is urging closures that would take place under the Base Realignment and Closure program (BRAC). The last round of BRAC evaluations was approved over 14 years ago, in 2005, and the DoD is hoping Congress will allow a new review in 2021.

The push to re-evaluate military bases has been met with frustration from lawmakers who worry about economic and electoral consequences if base closures were to occur in their districts. The Pentagon, meanwhile, estimates that closures would result in billions of dollars in savings.

Mattis explained in his letter to Congress: "The BRAC process provides opportunities for military forces to be more effective, for capabilities to be enhanced, and for savings to be applied to higher priorities." Elianna Spitzer

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