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OBAMA AGENDA: “We will not be cowed by barbaric killers”

In a joint op-ed in the Times of London, Barack Obama and David Cameron write that "we will not be cowed by barbaric killers ... We will be more forthright in the defense of our values, not least because a world of greater freedom is a fundamental part of how we keep our people safe."

"Russian President Vladimir Putin pushed a cease-fire deal with Ukraine that would freeze in place gains made by Russian-backed separatists, setting the stage for the kind of partitioning Moscow has used to tame other neighbors," writes the Wall Street Journal.

Reuters: “As fighting between the army and Russian-backed rebels rages in eastern Ukraine, preparations are under way near its western border for a joint military exercise this month with more than 1,000 troops from the United States and its allies.”

(A little context via NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube: This refers to a long-scheduled ANNUAL exercise -- planned well-before the Russian crisis arose -- called Exercise Rapid Trident. About two hundred U.S. soldiers from the 173rd Airborne in European Command will work with the Ukrainian military on a peacekeeping exercise at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in Yavoriv, Ukraine. This is in the far northwestern part of Ukraine. The exercise begins on September 15.)

The Associated Press: "For the first time in the Syrian civil war, al-Qaida fighters are hunkered down on Israel's doorstep, and Israelis in the lush, hilly Golan Heights who have long considered Syrian President Bashar Assad their bitter foe are now worried about something more ominous — that they could become the militants' next target."

The Washington Post editorial board skewers Obama's ISIS rhetoric: "Mr. Obama should stop attempting to minimize the threats in the Middle East or the U.S. role needed to combat them. Without American leadership in forging political solutions and assaulting the Islamic State’s strongholds, any strategy is doomed to fail."

NBC's Pete Williams reports that the Department of Justice will announce a civil rights probe of the entire Ferguson police department.

Noted: Another immigration quote for the timeline from House Speaker John Boehner, via Roll Call. "It wasn’t likely to happen this year because of the flood on the border, and the president’s own pounding his chest about using his phone and his pen. But I did outline that, you know, there’s a possibility that Congress could take this issue up next year.”

In gay marriage legal news, via the Times-Picayune: "U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman on Wednesday became the first federal judge at the trial court level to endorse state bans on gay marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last summer in the U.S. v. Windsor, a case that has become the foundation of some 22 successful lawsuits filed by marriage rights activists in federal courts across the country."

OFF TO THE RACES: Wrapping last night’s Hagan-vs.-Tillis debate

John Harwood writes for the New York Times about how voting restrictions could - or could not - tip the scales in the midterm elections.

Chris Christie touted a "North American energy renaissance" during his visit to Mexico City, the New York Times reports.’s Aliyah Frumin writes on Christie’s “Atlantic City problem.”

The Washington Post notes: "A roiling national debate over how to deal with the radical Islamic State and other global hot spots has prompted a sudden shift in Republican politics, putting a halt to the anti-interventionist mood that had been gaining credence in the party."

ALASKA: PolitiFact gave a "Pants on Fire" rating to that controversial (and now pulled) Mark Begich ad criticizing Dan Sullivan over a "light sentence" for a sex offender. "Active, who is awaiting trial, received a shorter sentence than he was supposed to, but the mistake that led to this sentence happened before Sullivan became attorney general. So to pin the error on Sullivan is wrong, and to suggest that he actively approved the sentence is a fabrication. The ad is not only inaccurate, it makes an inflammatory accusation."

The battle over the ad continues, with Dan Sullivan telling a Fairbanks newspaper "It is more than shameful that Mark Begich would put distortion and lies on the air. The guy will do anything to get re-elected and he’s showing it.”

ARKANSAS: A minimum wage initiative has made the ballot in Arkansas, writes the Arkansas News.

IOWA: File this Joni Ernst quote away. "Yes, I have talked about privatizing Social Security as an option. Again, that is one solution, so what I recommend is we look at a number of solutions because we really don’t know which was is the best way to go yet."

KANSAS: The Wichita Eagle: "In a stunning development, candidate Chad Taylor asked Wednesday that his name be removed from the ballot, paving the way for independent candidate Greg Orman to face U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts head-on in November. 'After much consideration and prolonged discussion with my supporters, my staff, and party leadership at every level, I have decided to end my campaign for the United States Senate,' Taylor said in an exclusive statement to The Eagle."

From one of us(!): "What's especially interesting is that no one knows with which party Orman would caucus if he wins. What's also important to note is that Republicans must pick up a net six Senate seats to win back control of the Senate. So a GOP loss in Kansas — if Orman wins and if he caucuses with the Democrats — could make things more difficult for Republicans to win the Senate."

Writes Nathan Gonzales of Roll Call: "Pat Roberts Is the Most Vulnerable Republican Senator in the Country"

Also in Kansas, the Democrat running (well) against incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback has a bit of a black eye Thursday after abruptly pulling his first campaign ad. Why? Republicans revealed that an actor in the ad was arrested in 2007 for soliciting sodomy in a Topeka park.

KENTUCKY: A CNN poll shows Mitch McConnell with a four point lead over Alison Lundergan Grimes -- within the margin of error.

NORTH CAROLINA: Via NBC's Perry Bacon Jr., Kay Hagan said in a televised debate Wednesday night that the U.S. should strike ISIS in Syria and that the president erred by failing to weaponize Syrian rebels earlier. Thom Tillis wouldn't say whether there should be strikes or not, saying only that the president "needs to start acting and showing some leadership."

MSNBC’s Michael LaRosa has more on the debate: “North Carolina Democratic Senator Kay Hagan and her Republican challenger Thom Tillis squared off in their first televised debate Wednesday night in Raleigh where Tillis painted Hagan as a ‘rubber stamp’ for Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Hagan repeatedly knocked Tillis for his deep cuts to education while giving tax breaks to millionaires at the expense of women, seniors and students. ‘Speaker Tillis feels that those who have the most should have the most help,’ Hagan said.”

WISCONSIN: DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is taking heat from Republicans after using a stark metaphor to describe Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s record on women’s issues. “Scott Walker has given women the back of his hand. I know that is stark. I know that is direct. But that is reality,” she said. "What Republican tea party extremists like Scott Walker are doing is they are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back. It is not going to happen on our watch."

VIRGINIA: The jury in the McDonnell trial begins its third day of deliberations today.


*** Thursday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Peter Alexander interviews Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Gayle Lemmon, Bloomberg’s Indira Lakshmanan, NBC’s Senior Political Editor Mark Murray, NBC’s Craig Melvin, Chris Jansing, Kier Simmons and Ayman Mohyeldin, MSNBC’s Zack Roth, Buzzfeed’s Katherine Miller and CNBC’s John Harwood.

*** Thursday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall interviews Huffington Post Senior Military Correspondent David Wood on the ISIS threat and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) who says he is going to introduce legislation giving President Obama authority to order airstrikes against ISIS in Syria; Mary Coleman, who works at Popeyes in Milwaukee on today’s fast food strikes around the country; and Denny Moe from Denny Moe’s Superstar Barbershop & Marsha Bonner Cutting for a Cure Founder of the HUGS movment in our exclusive on Born in the U$A series.

*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Lisa Monaco, assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, USA Today’s Susan Page, msnbc’s Steve Kornacki, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and NBC’s Richard Engel, Ayman Mohyeldin, Craig Melvin, Pete Williams and Ron Allen.

*** Thursday’s “Ronan Farrow Daily” line-up: Ronan Farrow interviews Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) & King’s College London’s Peter Neumann about the ISIS terror threat and westerners traveling to Syria to join the Islamic State. John Gaskin of the St. Louis NAACP joins to discuss the Justice Department’s inquiry into the practices of Ferguson police. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the NIH will look at the cost of fighting Ebola and prospects for the latest American to contact the disease. And Peter Pham of The Atlantic Council will discuss the terror group getting overshadowed by ISIS right now – al-Shabab.