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Ramaswamy stands out in Republican debate and Yevgeny Prigozhin's reported death: Morning Rundown

Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who is polling third behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, took the spotlight at the GOP debate.
TEPCO has begun releasing its first batch of treated radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima, northern Japan, on Aug. 24, 2023.AP

Vivek Ramaswamy stood out during the first Republican presidential debate. Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is believed to have died in a plane crash in Russia. And four people were killed last night in a shooting at a Southern California biker bar.

Here’s what to know today.

Key takeaways from the first Republican presidential debate

Even in his absence, former President Donald Trump loomed large at the first Republican presidential debate, where eight candidates spent two hours discussing the economy, abortion, American aid to Ukraine and more.

Some candidates were cautious about how they spoke about Trump. But businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who is polling third behind Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, took the spotlight with his eager defense of the former president. His short, snappy answers throughout the night also led his competitors to hurl criticisms his way — much to the pleasure of DeSantis’ campaign. More on that below.

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Here are more debate takeaways, from the rush of world news that seemingly upstaged the entire event, to the on-the-spot question candidates were forced to answer about Jan. 6.

Highlights and analysis from the debate:  

Prigozhin, Wagner group chief, listed among those aboard plane in deadly crash north of Moscow

Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led his fighters in a short-lived mutiny against the Kremlin in June, was listed as a passenger on a jet that crashed near Moscow on Wednesday, killing all on board according to Russian authorities.

NBC News has not confirmed that Prigozhin was killed in the fiery crash. But if it proves true, it is a sudden and shocking end for the global warlord and onetime ally of President Vladimir Putin, whose group fought on the front lines in Ukraine and has been linked to violence in Syria, Mali, the Central African Republic and other countries.

The Kremlin has so far remained silent on Prigozhin’s fate, even as bodies were recovered from the crash site and fragments of the mercenary chief’s private jet were found miles away on Thursday.

Read live updates on this developing story.

Trump to surrender in Georgia as his allies do the same

Donald Trump is expected to surrender to Fulton County authorities today in the district attorney’s investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Yesterday, several of his co-defendants turned themselves in, including onetime Trump attorney Jenna Ellis, former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, and Sidney Powell, a former member of Trump’s legal team. Trump is among 10 remaining defendants who have until tomorrow afternoon to surrender.

Fukushima wastewater is headed to the ocean

Treated radioactive wastewater from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan began flowing to the ocean this morning, a process that will see an estimated 1.3 million metric tons of water released over the course of about 30 years. The release will allow for the decommissioning of the Fukushima plant — its meltdown as a result of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in 2011 rivaled the 1986 incident at Chernobyl in severity. 

While Japanese officials insist the water is safe, opponents are concerned about food safety and potential long-term effects. Within hours of the water release, China announced a ban on all seafood from Japan.

Gunman among 4 dead in California biker bar shooting

The gunman believed to have carried out a shooting that left three people dead at a California biker bar was a former law enforcement officer targeting his wife, three sources told NBC News. The shooting yesterday evening at Cook’s Corner Bar in Trabuco Canyon, in Orange County, also left six people injured. Here’s what else we know so far.

New safety rules proposed for nursing pillows

The Consumer Product Safety Commission staff recommended the first federal requirements to make nursing pillows safer, just two weeks after an NBC News investigation found at least 162 babies have died in incidents involving the pillows since 2007. 

CPSC staff recommended requiring nursing pillows to be “sufficiently firm that the product is unlikely to conform to an infant’s face,” to reduce the likelihood of babies’ suffocating. They also call for more prominent warning labels on the pillows. Reporters Suzy Khimm and Elizabeth Chuck dive in to the new proposals.

Today’s Talker: The infamous Fyre Festival is back for round two…

… and the first round of tickets are already sold out. Six years after the notorious scam, founder Billy McFarland announced he’s relaunching the failed music and camping retreat. The first drop of presale tickets for Fyre Festival II went for $499 a pop. But details have yet to be revealed about a lineup, accommodations and the location, which, at the moment, is vaguely described as “The Caribbean.”

Politics in Brief 

Abortion rights: South Carolina’s state Supreme Court upheld restrictions that would ban most abortions around six weeks of pregnancy, months after the court’s sole female justice retired.

Jan. 6: A Capitol rioter known to online sleuths as “Shield Grampy,” a reference to his age and his use of a police shield during the insurrection, has been arrested by the FBI. 

Staff Pick: The plight of ‘atomic veterans’

Veterans who say they were sickened by radiation exposure during their military service celebrated when the PACT Act was signed into law a year ago, expanding benefits to former service members exposed to toxic substances.

As cancer and old age whittle down the remaining number of so-called atomic veterans, I wanted to know how many survivors the law is helping. The figures I obtained from the Department of Veterans Affairs have left many feeling dejected. — Melissa Chan, reporter

In Case You Missed It 

A Kentucky school district has canceled in-person classes less than two weeks into the school year amid an outbreak of Covid, the flu and strep throat.

Some Lahaina residents whose homes were spared during the Maui wildfires are staying put, even without water and electricity.

The FDA is urging people to stop using certain brands of eyedrops found to have fungal and bacterial contamination.

India became the first country to reach the moon’s south pole

Select: Online Shopping, Simplified

Introducing hair oil into your regimen can help restore your hair’s shine and nourish your scalp. Here’s what to know about hair oils, like which ingredients to consider depending on your hair type and expert-approved products to try. 

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