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A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.
-- President Obama said Thursday his administration is preparing a response to ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, but that no military action has taken place in Syria because "[w]e don't have a strategy yet." Middle East partners are waiting to follow the U.S. lead in Syria, but diplomats privately express exasperation with what they see as a lack of a coherent U.S. strategy. Obama will consult NATO allies next week in Wales. (Washington Post)
-- Russian President Vladimir Putin called on pro-Russian separatists to allow Ukrainian soldiers safe passage a day after soldiers, tanks and heavy artillery began moving across the border in significant numbers. The Ukrainian government said Russian soldiers had captured key towns and sent the Ukrainian army into full retreat. The U.N. said 2,593 people have been killed in the fighting since mid-April. (Washington Post) U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told an emergency Security Council meeting Thursday that Russia had "outright lied" about its military activity inside Ukraine. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called the soldiers "Russian volunteers." (USA Today)
-- U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have identified almost a dozen Americans who are fighting for ISIS in Syria. The militant group is now recruiting foreign women as jihadist wives, intelligence officials say. At least two Americans have died fighting for ISIS, and officials estimate more than 1,000 Europeans have joined its ranks. The British government has identified 500 of its own citizens in Syria. (New York Times)
-- The pilot of an F-15 fighter jet that crashed in the mountains in western Virginia on Wednesday died in the accident, military officials said. The pilot, a member of the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was transferring the F-15 from Massachusetts to New Orleans. The pilot had reported an in-flight emergency before losing contact with Air Traffic Control. (Washington Post)
-- Your Labor Day Weekend forecast: Sunny and comfortable today, with humidity building into tomorrow with possible isolated showers or storms. The chance of rain increases on Sunday, with highs both days in the mid-80s to 90s. Labor Day should be hot and humid as well. (Capital Weather Gang) Sneak out of the office early today. Your boss totally won't know.
-- Front Pages: WaPo lede: "Obama: 'We don't have a strategy yet' on Syria." Three-column left front: "Russia said to press offensive in Ukraine." LA Times: "Russia sends armor into east Ukraine." NYT leads with U.S. intelligence agencies identifying Americans fighting in Syria. WSJ: "Obama Cools Talk of Strikes." USA Today full-page banner: "Russia 'Outright Lied.'"
National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.
-- WH'16: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) will hit the trail over the next few weeks. He's headed to two events in New Hampshire next weekend, including the Hillsborough County GOP gala, and he'll attend an Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event on Sept. 27. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is also going to be at the Iowa event. (New Orleans Times-Picayune) Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) will head to Iowa to keynote a fundraiser for Gov. Terry Branstad (R) on Sept. 8. The event is hosted by Cam Sutton, a retired Des Moines insurance executive who tried to get Chris Christie into the race in 2012. (Washington Post)
-- More WH'16: Hillary Clinton broke her weeks-long silence on the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., saying during a speech in San Francisco that the country can't ignore inequalities in the justice system. "Imagine if white drivers were three times as likely to be searched by police during a traffic stop as black drivers, instead of the other way around," Clinton said. (Associated Press) The Cautious Clinton returns.
-- Louisiana: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) does not have a home of her own in Louisiana, federal financial disclosures and property records show. Landrieu is registered to vote at a bungalow in New Orleans where her parents live. Landrieu said in a statement she lives in the home, on South Prieur Street, when she's not in D.C.; property records show the home is owned by her mother, Verna, and Nineland Partnership, an LLC owned jointly by the senator and her eight siblings. (Washington Post)
-- Massachusetts: Any Democrats getting deja vu? A new Boston Globe survey finds businessman Charlie Baker (R) statistically tied with Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), 38 percent to 37 percent. The poll shows Coakley leading her Democratic rivals, state Treasurer Steve Grossman and former HHS official Donald Berwick, by a wide margin in advance of the Sept. 9 primary. (Boston Globe) One note about the Globe poll: They don't seem to press for leaners very much.
-- New Hampshire: Hmm, maybe that poll showing a tightening race between Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) and former Sen. Scott Brown (R) was onto something. Shaheen is running her first negative ad, attacking Brown for voting to give subsidies to oil and gas companies. (Boston Globe)
-- Pennsylvania: The Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday gave Pennsylvania permission to expand its Medicaid program to 500,000 low-income adults by using Affordable Care Act money to purchase private coverage. The scheme is similar to the way Arkansas expanded Medicaid. Gov. Tom Corbett (R) is the ninth Republican governor to take the expansion money. (Washington Post)
-- California: Watch out, Democrats, a big-spending billionaire is going to drop a bunch of money in your district! No, it's not the Koch brothers, it's Tom Steyer, the environmental activist who has pledged to spend $50 million of his own money on the midterms. Steyer says he'll spend $1 million of that cash on California legislative races, possibly including races in which two Democrats face off in the November elections. Steyer advocated for an oil extraction tax and strict fracking rules that did not pass the legislature this year. (Sacramento Bee)
DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.
-- President Obama heads to Westchester County this afternoon for two DNC fundraisers at private residences. Then he heads to Newport, R.I., for a DCCC fundraiser. He heads back to Westchester to stay overnight.
-- Vice President Biden has meetings at the White House before heading to Delaware for the long weekend.
-- <b.Sylvia "Cookie" Harris, wife of Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Thursday. A spokesman for Harris's office said the cause of death was unknown. (The Hill)
Our deepest condolences to Rep. Harris, his kids and grandchildren.
TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where.
-- California: After a top-two primary in which Republicans tore each other up, Rep. Ami Bera (D) is starting to advertise in his Sacramento-based 7th District. Bera is spending about $40,000 on cable ads this week and about $60,000 on broadcast ads starting next Tuesday. The NRCC, the DCCC and most of their allies will be in this race late. AFSCME, meanwhile, is buying $125,000 in late time to help out Rep. Scott Peters (D) in his San Diego-area 52nd District.
-- Maine: Democracy for America hopes to make Sen. Susan Collins (R) sweat. The group, the offshoot of Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign, is spending $150,000 on ads for state ACLU executive director Shenna Bellows (D), according to new filings made Thursday. (FEC)
The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.
-- The Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling put corporations on a more even playing field with labor unions when it comes to election spending, and that measurably helped Republicans running for state legislative seats, according to a new study. The study found the probability of a Republican winning a state House seat jumped 10 percentage points in Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee after the ruling, and by more than 7 points in five other states. (Washington Post)
B1: Business, politics and the business of politics
-- The U.S. economy grew at a strong 4.2 percent annual rate in the second quarter of the year, faster than initially estimated. The economy shrunk at a 2.1 percent annual rate in the first quarter amid an unusually harsh winter. Most economists expect about a 3 percent growth rate in the third quarter. Business investment was much higher than initially anticipated, the Commerce Department said. (Associated Press)
-- Stock futures are higher this morning after markets dropped slightly on Thursday. Most world markets finished the day only slightly higher, though the Nikkei lost a fraction. (CNN)
C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.
-- Rick Perry is tanned, rested and ready. Or at least no longer in pain from back surgery that plagued him during his 2012 run and studying hard to bone up on the policy he'll need to offer if he takes another shot at the Oval Office. The big difference, according to longtime advisor Ray Sullivan: "Comfortable is the word I keep coming back to. It's been noticeable." (Washington Post)
C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work
-- Headline of the day: "'Oklahoma!' comes back to Oklahoma" (The Oklahoman)
-- This is why the open ocean terrifies your humble author: Watch a whale surface right next to a group of kayakers off the California coast.
-- A big thank-you to our intern extraordinaire, Sarah Ferris, who leaves us today for The Hill newspaper. Sarah contributed a ton to Read In's evolution over the last six months, for which we owe her a debt of gratitude.
-- No outrage for anyone today. Not at the beginning of a three-day weekend. Have a fun break, we'll be back Tuesday.