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OBAMA AGENDA: Keeping 5,500 troops in Afghanistan into 2017

"President Barack Obama plans to keep 5,500 U.S. troops across Afghanistan into 2017, senior administration officials told NBC News — well more than the small security force he promised last year."

Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to the Middle East soon amid rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

Writes the Wall Street Journal: "The chances of a Federal Reserve interest-rate increase in 2015 are diminishing amid new signs of anemic economic activity, a disappointing development for central bank officials who have been hoping to move this year after a prolonged period of easy-money policies."

CONGRESS: Boehner hoping to take a debt-limit fight off the table?

John Boehner is hoping to move a debt ceiling bill before he leaves Congress, POLITICO writes.

Roll Call looks at the people not named Paul Ryan who say they're thinking about House Speaker bids.

The Wall Street Journal with a reminder: Congress still hasn't figured out a way to avoid a big premium increase for Medicare recipients for 2016.

OFF TO THE RACES: The politics of gun control

The Washington Post reports on how, after years of hesitation, gun control has been thrust into the spotlight in the Democratic primary.

New CNN polling: "Donald Trump holds double-digit leads over Ben Carson in both South Carolina and Nevada, the third and fourth states scheduled to hold nominating contests in next year's race for the presidency, with Trump widely seen in each state as the best candidate to handle a range of top issues, according to new CNN/ORC polls."

BIDEN: The Wall Street Journal gives a good summary of Democrats' weariness with Joe Biden's indecision.

BUSH: NBC's Jordan Frasier reports that we'll get Bush's third quarter FEC report, his health records, a year of his tax returns and a list of bundlers today.

And/but: The Wall Street Journal notes that some are criticizing Bush's low threshold to define "bundler," which could mask his biggest contributors.

Setting the stage for the cash on hand number… POLITICO reports that his team is tightening its belt and running a more modest operation on the road.

CLINTON: From NBC's Hill team: "The House Select Committee on Benghazi will interview top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Adebin behind closed doors on Friday, sources familiar with the committee told NBC News Wednesday evening. The interview comes just days before Hillary Clinton is scheduled to testify before the committee herself during a public hearing on October 22."

The reviews for her debate performance in Iowa were positive, writes the New York Times.

A second Republican has said that the Benghazi committee "was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton."

CRUZ: He's got $13.5 million cash on hand - putting him close to or at the top of the GOP field.

PAUL: From Vaughn Hillyard: "Rand Paul on Wednesday dismissed the need for employment protections for members of the LGBT community, saying there "plenty of places" that will hire gay people and that their sexual identity is best kept out of the workplace."

Ron Paul testified in the corruption trial of his former aides and said that prosecutors are trying to hurt his son's campaign.

RUBIO: He's courting Scott Walker's former donors, writes the Wall Street Journal.

SANDERS: He appeared on Ellen -- and yes, he danced.

TRUMP: His supporters sparred with protestors at a rally in Richmond.

His team is claiming that they have 1,000 endorsements in New Hampshire.

Yahoo looks at his record of working with women in the real estate business.