January 14, 2016

Donald Trump is known for pulling out all the stops at his campaign rallies. His latest gimmick? A band of children singing his praises. The "USA Freedom Kids," as they're called, might not exactly be "America's newest pop group," but the tiny trio's anthem was certainly a hit at Trump's rally in Pensacola, Florida, on Wednesday.

In addition to the "Star-Spangled Banner," the USA Freedom Kids performed an original piece — "The President Donald Trump" song:

Cowardice, are you serious?

Apologies for freedom, I can't handle this!

When freedom rings, answer the call!

On your feet, stand up tall!

Freedom's on our shoulders, USA!

Enemies of freedom face the music.

Come on boys, take them down!

The Freedom Kids even managed to slip Trump's favorite catchphrase into their song, too: "President Donald Trump knows how to make America great, deal from strength — or get crushed every time!" Watch below. Jeva Lange

9:00 p.m. ET
Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images

Rescue workers in the rebel-held Idlib province in Syria say at least 26 people, mostly schoolchildren, were killed Wednesday in air strikes conducted by either Syrian or Russian warplanes.

The Syrian Civil Defense group said on Facebook the attack was against a residential area and school in the village of Haas, near Aleppo, with 20 children among the dead. The monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several locations were hit in Haas, including an elementary school and a middle school, killing one teacher and 15 children.

On Syrian state television, a military source was quoted as saying several militants were killed in the air strikes, but did not mention children. In a statement, Anthony Lake, the head of UNICEF, said if the attack was deliberate, "it is a war crime." Catherine Garcia

7:58 p.m. ET
AFP/Getty Images

With the battle for Mosul still underway in Iraq, the U.S. and allies are already looking ahead to their next big fight: taking control of Raqqa, Syria, from the Islamic State.

Raqqa is the terror group's de facto capital, and there is a sense of "urgency" to capturing the town, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the U.S. commander in Iraq and Syria, said. "Intelligence feeds tell us there is significant external operations planning taking place, centralized in Raqqa," he said, without elaborating on the plots. The U.S. is still training local forces whose assistance is needed to take over and hold the city, and also trying to figure out how to get Turkey and Kurdish YPG fighters, known enemies, to work together in the operation.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the Raqqa fight will start "within the next few weeks," and there are enough resources to fight for Mosul and Raqqa at the same time. "Yes, there will be overlap, and that's part of our plan and we are prepared for that," he said Tuesday. "And second, there's no delay. This is proceeding on plan, even as Mosul is proceeding on plan." The U.S. anticipates the fight for Raqqa will take longer than the battle for Mosul; that offensive began last week, with Iraqi forces making their way through smaller villages as they head to Iraq's second-largest city, held by ISIS since 2014. Townsend also said ISIS is using drones in a "constant and creative" way; while they typically use them for reconnaissance, during one incident, they pretended a drone was crashing in order to lure the enemy into an explosion, The Guardian reports. Catherine Garcia

6:36 p.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Fox News on Wednesday released its latest poll, showing Hillary Clinton ahead of Donald Trump by three points, within the margin of error of the poll of likely voters.

Clinton leads Trump 44 to 41 percent, down from last week when she was up six points. In a four-way race between Clinton, Trump, Libertarian Gary Johnson, and the Green Party's Jill Stein, Trump's biggest supporters are white evangelical Christians (+56) and whites without a college degree (+28), while Clinton's are blacks (+77), unmarried women (+27), voters under 30 (+18) and women (+10). Clinton is seen as being better to handle foreign policy (+15 points), immigration (+3), and terrorism (+3), with the economy viewed as Trump's strength (+4). Less than half of likely voters see Trump as being qualified to be president (46 percent) and more than half don't trust his judgment in a crisis (56 percent). Catherine Garcia

4:58 p.m. ET

Two earthquakes shook central Italy on Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey has confirmed. The first quake measured at a 5.4 magnitude and was followed up just a few hours later with a stronger, 6.0-magnitude earthquake. Though the quakes' epicenters were near the cities of Visso and Perugia, buildings and windows in Rome — nearly 100 miles to the south — were reportedly rattled by the shaking.

The central Italian regions hit by the quake are reportedly suffering from power outages and structural damage, but there are not yet any known injuries or casualties. The tremors hit the same area of Italy that was shaken in August by a 6.2-magnitude earthquake, which ravaged towns and killed nearly 300 people. Becca Stanek

4:54 p.m. ET

Muskets went out of fashion in the mid-19th century, when the smoothbore weapons gave way to the muzzle-loading rifle. But former Rep. Joe Walsh, who represented Illinois' 8th district as a Republican congressman from 2011 to 2013, plans to arm himself with the erstwhile firearm for the inevitable insurrection, should Donald Trump lose to Hillary Clinton in November:

If you're not swayed by Walsh's call to arms, perhaps you'd like to go to battle with Jake Tapper instead? Kimberly Alters

3:54 p.m. ET

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo started his interview with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday's episode of New Day by him telling he "looked like Grumpy Cat" at the Alfred E. Smith charity dinner last week — and things just got more tense from there. Giuliani, a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, promptly responded to Cuomo's observations that he looked upset about the jokes Hillary Clinton was making about him at the Al Smith dinner by saying that, as a former prosecutor, he was just unhappy because the "crimes she committed are so many."

But for each claim Giuliani made about the crimes Clinton had allegedly committed, Cuomo came back with a fact that disputed it. "You certainly can have your own opinion, but you seems like you are feeding the Trump argument that [the FBI investigation into Clinton's private email server] was fixed, that it was rigged," Cuomo said.

When Giuliani was eventually cornered into admitting he has "no facts to prove" Trump's claims that the investigation of Clinton's email usage was rigged, he accused Team Clinton of bribery instead — at which point Cuomo couldn't hide his disbelief. "I mean, Rudy! I have looked up to you my entire life because you're so accurate," Cuomo said. "And all of a sudden you're in Trumpland, and the facts are all over the place."

Eventually, Cuomo tells Giuliani, "You're not even close to connecting anything right now." Watch the entirety of the contentious interview in the two videos, below. Becca Stanek

2:50 p.m. ET

The Chicago Cubs lost in a brutal 6-0 game against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the World Series. But if you're a glass-half-full kind of person, you might point out that a Cubs-in-five World Series is now a little bit closer to actually happening. If it were indeed to happen — be it in five or six or seven games — then the Cubs would have their first World Series win since a goat allegedly cursed them in 1945.

Incidentally, another "goat" has used a Cubs World Series win as an example of the impossible since he wrote the song "Cubs in Five" in 1995. Enter Mountain Goat's singer (and novelist) John Darnielle, who explained how he came to write the song, and what it means to him now, over at Slate:

[1995 is] a good time for baseball — there's a whole lot of characters and great stories, and the arrival of the superstations to the Southern California cable market means I can watch all the Cubs games I want. They're not good yet, but they have character. I'm at my mom's house watching a game while she's at work. Specifically, I'm on the couch strumming my cheap Korean nylon-strung 3/4–size guitar, and at some point, I reflect idly on an on-again, off-again relationship I've been having for the last several years that's given me a great deal of pleasure and at least as much pain. […]

"Why don't you love me like you used to do?" ran a song on the outgoing answering machine of the person to whom the song was anonymously directed, at whom I was very angry on that day (for reasons lost to history), but with whom I could never stay angry for long, because that's how it is when you're a fan: You keep cheering, even when the circumstances might tell a less devoted partisan to seek out fairer pastures. You play nine innings. You keep hoping. [Slate]

Here's to hoping. Read the entire essay at Slate. Jeva Lange

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