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OBAMA AGENDA: A visit to Russia’s backyard

“For the second time this year, President Barack Obama will travel to Russia's backyard to assure nervous nations of his ironclad commitment to their security. But his objectives will be clouded by the West's inability to halt the Russian aggression in Ukraine that has stoked fears in other former Soviet republics,” the Associated Press reports.

The president’s trip comes as NATO leaders meeting in Wales this week are expected to approve “a rapid-reaction force capable of deploying quickly to Eastern Europe,” officials of the alliance told the New York Times.

In response, Russia said it would revise its military doctrine to prepare for “changing military dangers and military threats,” the Times reports.

Per the Associated Press: “U.S. military forces attacked the extremist al-Shabab network in Somalia Monday, the Pentagon said, and a witness described ground-shaking explosions in a strike that reportedly targeted the group's leader.”

And The Times discovered more bad news involving health care and veterans, reporting that smaller military hospitals are putting patients at risk.

OFF TO THE RACES: The post-Labor Day sprint begins

Both Obama and Biden used Labor Day to highlight GOP opposition to raising the minimum as midterm election season unofficially begins, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Republicans have an edge to take the Senate, according to McClatchy’s newest midterm outlook.

But a divided America will elect two Congresses this fall, McClatchy writes.

“Tepid fundraising, underperforming candidates and a lousy party brand are threatening to deprive House Republicans of the sweeping 2014 gains that some top party officials have been predicting this year,” Politico reports.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., tops Roll Call’s latest list of vulnerable senators.

“As odds improve that the GOP will control both chambers of Congress next year, Senate Republicans are starting to plan an agenda intended to extract policy concessions from President Obama without inducing the capital's market-rattling brinkmanship of recent years," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Wealthy political contributors have opened up their wallets in a big way since the Supreme Court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the Washington Post reports.

The Times reports that potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie gave a disturbingly poor answer to a question about Russian aggression in Ukraine, “displaying little grasp of the facts and claiming that if he were in charge, Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, would know better than to mess with him.”

ALASKA: “The campaign of Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, is changing a political ad to remove references to a gruesome murder case after the victims’ family called on the campaign to stop using the case for political purposes,” CNN reports.

KENTUCKY: The veterans group made a $300,000 ad buy to attack Sen. Mitch McConnell’s record on funding for veterans care.

MASSACHUSETTS: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman’s 92-year-old mother is featured in a six-figure ad buy from an outside group she helps fund.

TEXAS: It is still unclear who is responsible for Rick Perry’s twitter mistake, The Washington Post reports.


*** Tuesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall interviews Medal of Honor recipient & MSNBC Military Analyst Col. Jack Jacobs on the newest U.S. airstrikes targeting ISIS and Al-Shabab. She also talks to The Nation sports editor Dave Zirin about 49ers’ player Ray McDonald’s arrest on domestic violence charges, CEO of RoboKind Fred Margolin for NewsNation’s “Born in the U$A” series, and “Sons of Anarchy” actor Theo Rossi about his work with The Boot Campaign to provide assistance to military families.

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, Fmr. Ambassador Michael McFaul, the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart and Anne Gearan and Gen. Barry McCaffrey.