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January 19, 2016
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At an event hosted by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Tuesday, Donald Trump called for the Environmental Protection Agency to follow the ethanol volumes set by Congress in 2007 and to increase the volume of ethanol mixed into the nation's gasoline supply. "The EPA should ensure that biofuel... blend levels match the statutory level set by Congress under the [renewable fuel standard]," Trump said in a speech just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. The mandate has long been popular among Iowans, as 47 percent of the state's corn goes to ethanol production.

Trump's support came just hours after Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad attacked Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz for his opposition to ethanol mandates, which Cruz sees as an "unwanted subsidy to corn growers," The New York Times reports. "I'm convinced he may well lose this because of his stand on ethanol," Branstad said in an interview about Cruz's chances in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, adding that Cruz is "heavily financed by Big Oil."

Trump, however, says he's "100 percent" behind the ethanol industry. "Energy independence is a requirement if America is to become great again," Trump said, seemingly reading from notes in a departure from his usual animated manner of speaking. "My theme is 'Make America Great Again.' It's an important part of it." Becca Stanek

4:50 p.m. ET

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) was formally nominated as the Democratic Party's vice presidential candidate at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday afternoon. Kaine, who Hillary Clinton announced as her running mate last week, won the nomination by acclamation. If Clinton wins the election, Kaine will be the first vice president from Virginia since 1841.

Kaine is set address the convention for the first time as the party's vice presidential candidate later Wednesday evening.

Watch his nomination, below. Becca Stanek

3:43 p.m. ET

The freedom of the press has long been an indicator to political scientists and watchdog groups of the stability and the health of a democracy in a given nation, which makes recent developments in Turkey pretty concerning. Following the failed military coup earlier this month, local Turkish media reports that authorities have shut down three news agencies, 15 magazines, 16 TV stations, 23 radio stations, and 45 newspapers:

The media purge follows the dismissal of thousands of teachers, government workers, and military personnel. Jeva Lange

2:18 p.m. ET

We all have our hobbies, and Sen. Tim Kaine's hobby is harmonicas. He loves harmonicas. A lot. He carries multiple harmonicas in his briefcase. He once held a "Harmonica With Tim" promotional contest where the winner got dinner and a harmonica lesson with him. He randomly shows up at bluegrass jamborees with his harmonicas to jam. You don't get between Kaine and his harmonica.

Hillary Clinton's mountain music-loving running mate first learned to play the harmonica in seventh grade, and his skills now command the respect of fellow Virginians all across the state:

"One Sunday I'm there in the circle playing banjo and suddenly TV cameras show up," said Alan Graf, a lawyer and a musician, who often plays at the Floyd Country Store. "Tim Kaine walks in, and he sits down and someone goes, 'That's Senator Tim Kaine,' and I go, 'Oh great,' so much for a relaxed session with cameras beaming at you."

Mr. Graf was "leading" the song that Mr. Kaine joined in on, which in bluegrass means he can dictate who gets to take a solo during a break.

"And we're playing, and I notice Tim's looking at me," he said. "And I figured it was time for a solo. So I gave him the nod," he said with a pause, laughing. "Like Hillary."

[…] "But he took it, he took it, man," Mr. Graf said. "He just jumped on it. He was ready to go, and he took a pretty mean harp solo." [The New York Times]

Don't ask Kaine to put the harmonica down, though — he strictly doesn't dance. Read more about his hand reed hobby over at The New York Times, and watch him jam (in the blue jacket), below. Jeva Lange

1:49 p.m. ET

Another day, another Donald Trump presser. But on Wednesday, things got a little out of control even by Trump's meandering, hyperbolic standards. Here are some of the wildest moments. Jeva Lange

1. Trump says he would renegotiate the Geneva Conventions.

2. Trump tells Russia to find Clinton's missing emails, promises reward.

3. Trump completely goes off about Anthony Weiner.

4. Trump snaps at NBC's Katy Tur to "be quiet."

5. Trump asks entire room of reporters if they know what "the n-word is."

6. Trump whines "I have noooothing to dooo with Russssiaaaa" after getting asked about it again.

7. Trump says "France is no longer France."

8. Trump casually calls Obama the "most ignorant president in our history."

9. Trump claims Hillary Clinton's vice presidential pick Tim Kaine was terrible at running New Jersey... although Kaine is the former governor of Virginia.

10. Trump has to be corrected on the name of the man who shot Ronald Reagan.

11. Trump suggests he'd recognize Crimea as belonging to Russia.

12. Trump's own vice presidential pick releases a statement after the presser distancing himself from Trump's bizarre Russia rant.

11:56 a.m. ET

Donald Trump blasted President Obama for being the "most ignorant president in our history" in an off-the-rails press conference in Doral, Florida, on Wednesday:

Sure, Trump isn't one to hold back on a good hyperbole, but even this seems a little… much. Jeva Lange

11:30 a.m. ET

Donald Trump rejected claims that he is friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, going so far as to say that the DNC email hack wasn't actually done by the Russians — despite that being the FBI's leading theory. It was "probably China," Trump suggested, "or it could be somebody sitting in his bed."

Trump was met by a number of questions from the press in Florida about his relationship with Putin, who he said last year he "got to know ... very well because we were both on 60 Minutes, we were stablemates." But on Wednesday, Trump said, "I never met Putin. I don't know who Putin is ... I don't know anything about him other than that he'll respect me."

Again pressed about the DNC email hack, Trump said, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] emails that are missing."

"I have nothing to do with Russia!" Trump moaned when someone asked him about it again. Watch the surreal moment, below. Jeva Lange

10:49 a.m. ET
NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images

Russia is saying "your loss" to the International Olympic Committee by hosting its own tournament in Moscow for athletes banned from competing in track and field at this summer's Rio Olympics. "About 135 track and field athletes are going to compete. They include Olympic champions and medal-holders as well as less renowned athletes forbidden to compete in Rio," Yuri Borzakovsky, the head coach of the Russian athletics squad, told Russia's TASS news agency.

Athletes will include "Sergei Shubenkov, incumbent world champion in the 110-meter race; high jumpers Maria Kuchina, Olympic Champion Ivan Ukhov, and Daniil Tsyplakov; javelin throwers Dmitry Tarabin and Vera Rebrik; [and] triple jumper Yekaterina Koneva," TASS reported.

Russia's track and field competitors were banned after a state-sponsored doping scandal came to light. Calls for a complete ban on Russian athletes were eventually rejected despite evidence Russian officials tampered with urine samples at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. Jeva Lange

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