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A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.

-- Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is clinging to power as protests against his government turned violent in Islamabad. Three people were killed and 400 wounded in confrontations with police over the weekend. On Monday, protestors knocked the state television network off the air for more than an hour. Sharif has met three times in a week with the head of Pakistan's army, raising concerns that the military is considering getting involved. (Washington Post)

-- U.S. drones fired on leaders of the al-Shabab militant group in Somalia on Monday, the Pentagon said, though whether the strikes were successful remained unclear. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said late Monday that the Pentagon was assessing the results of the "operation," though he did not say whether the strikes were limited to drones or whether U.S. commandos were present. Voice of America reported the strike may have been aimed at the mastermind of al-Shabab's attack on a Nairobi shopping mall in 2013. (Washington Post)

-- More than 300 donors have given federal candidates more than $123,200, the old aggregate limit struck down in the Supreme Court's McCutcheon v. FEC decision earlier this year. The donors include big names like George Soros, Sheldon Adelson and Charles and David Koch; of the $11.6 million those donors have given, their contributions favor Republicans by about a two-to-one margin. Many of the donations are going to new joint fundraising committees set up by candidates and party committees, which can collect one check that can be divided between many candidates. (Washington Post)

-- NATO leaders are expected to endorse the creation of a 4,000-member rapid reaction force for Eastern Europe in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine. A top Russian military official said Russia would change policy to account for NATO, which he called "one of the leading military dangers for the Russian Federation." President Obama will head to Estonia today to highlight the U.S. commitment to NATO before a summit meeting in Wales on Thursday. (New York Times)

-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with the Pentagon's larger footprint in West Africa, and a big look at the National Guard's new role on the Texas border. NYT inspects smaller hospitals in the VA system, which could put patients at risk. WSJ reports on Ukraine's efforts to stem Russian advances. USA Today fronts interviews with three Americans being held by North Korea. And the LA Times leads with Mayor Eric Garcetti's call for a $13.25 minimum wage by 2017.

National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.

-- California: State legislators finished their year's work early Saturday morning after racing to pass last-minute measures that piled up during August. Among the most notable bills headed to Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) desk: A measure that would make California the first state to ban single-use plastic bags, an overhaul of state groundwater policy, and a bill to give temporary and part-time workers up to three sick days a year. (Sacramento Bee) Republican talking point of the day: President Obama's job approval rating is at 45 percent in California. (Field Poll)

-- Michigan: Detroit's bankruptcy trial is set to begin today in federal court as attorneys for the city argue for a plan to wipe out billions in debt. Detroit hopes to be able to cut its $12 billion debt to $5 billion. Most of the city's creditors, including 30,000 retirees and city employees who receive pensions, have endorsed the restructuring plan. Some creditors, including New York-based Syncora, oppose the plan and are expected to appeal if the judge approves it. (Associated Press)

-- Louisiana: A federal district court judge on Sunday temporarily blocked enforcement of a new state law aimed at restricting abortions. The law took effect Monday, but Judge John deGravelles said the state could not penalize doctors or clinics for breaking it while the challenge was being considered. Pro-abortion rights groups said the law would force all five of the state's abortion clinics to shut down. (Associated Press)

-- Kansas: Is the money following the polling? State House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D) outraised Gov. Sam Brownback (R) by almost $500,000 in the last quarter. Davis raised $1.21 million, including many more small contributions, though Brownback maintains a cash-on-hand advantage. (Wichita Business Journal)

-- Alaska: Former Alaska Permanent Fund executive director Byron Mallot (D) and former Valdez Mayor Bill Walker (I) are considering merging their campaigns against incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell (R), with a formal statement likely by noon today. Tuesday is the deadline for changes to the November ballot. Negotiations center around Walker running for governor and Mallott running for lieutenant governor. (Alaska Dispatch News)

-- Texas: A fight between the state of Texas and residents who want a license plate with the Confederate battle flag has now lasted longer than the Civil War itself. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's (R) office has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the flag after a federal appeals court ruled last month that the Sons of Confederate Veterans could get their own license tag. The group first sought the tag back in 2009. (Dallas Morning News, Associated Press)

-- Michigan: Gov. Rick Snyder (R) led the annual walk across the 5-mile long Mackinac Bridge on Monday, accompanied by a robot built by students at a Macomb school. The robot can travel an impressive 10 miles per hour. No word on Snyder's top speed. (Associated Press)

DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.

-- President Obama has had it with this heat. He leaves this afternoon, en route to Estonia where he will reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Baltic members of NATO in advance of a summit meeting later this week in Wales. Wednesday's high in Tallinn, Estonia: 66 degrees, no chance of precipitation.

-- In a Labor Day speech at a festival in Milwaukee, Obama pitched union groups to get involved in the midterm elections in states like Wisconsin, Florida, Pennsylvania, Maine and Michigan, where Republican governors are running for re-election. Five labor leaders joined Obama on Air Force One for the flight out. Obama met with both Gov. Scott Walker (R) and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) on the tarmac in Milwaukee. (Washington Post)

-- Vice President Biden has meetings at the White House all afternoon. And/but: On Wednesday, he travels to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, N.H. (!!!) for an event on workforce engagement. Quick, draw conclusions!

-- One more week of blissful recess. Enjoy it.

TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where.

-- NRCC: How can you tell Labor Day is behind us? The political ads start flying. The NRCC goes up with its first buys in Arizona's 1st and 2nd Districts today, held by Democratic Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Ron Barber; West Virginia's 3rd District, held by Rep. Nick Rahall (D); and Iowa's 3rd District, where Rep. Tom Latham (R) is retiring. The committee has already been on air against Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) and for Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.).

-- DCCC: Democrats started advertising last month in New Jersey's open 3rd District, New York's 11th District (Rep. Michael Grimm), Florida's 2nd District (Southerland), Georgia 12 (Barrow), Arizona's 2nd District (Barber) and West Virginia 3 (Rahall). Today, they go on air in Arizona's 1st (Kirkpatrick), Iowa's 3rd (Latham's open seat) and Michigan's 1st District (Held by Republican Rep. Dan Benishek). Ads go up tomorrow in California's 31st District, where Rep. Gary Miller (R) is retiring. That's some pricey L.A. TV time, too (though it's a cable buy).

-- Colorado: UPDATE: Protecting Colorado's Environment, Economy and Energy Independence canceled their ads after last month's compromise that removed two fracking measures from the ballot. The ads were mischaracterized as focusing on the Senate race, when they were meant to be focused on ballot initiatives. We regret the error.

-- New Hampshire: Give them credit, the super PAC to end all super PACs is acting like a super PAC. Mayday PAC, the Lawrence Lessig project, will spend a little over $40,000 on online ads on behalf of former state Sen. Jim Rubens (R) and his longshot bid for a Senate nomination, according to new paperwork filed Monday. (FEC)

The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.

-- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) heads to Mexico this week on a trip that began as a trade mission, but will double as a chance to show off his policy chops. Christie has been reading up on foreign policy, and he has become friendly with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He also consults Robert Zoellick, the former World Bank chief.

-- Christie has stumbled into foreign policy hornets nests in recent months, referring to the "occupied territories" in front of one group of pro-Israel activists and donors and by suggesting to another group that Vladimir Putin wouldn't mess with the U.S. because of Christie's personality. One attendee who heard Christie's discussion of Putin and the situation in Ukraine called it "uncomfortable to watch." (New York Times)

B1: Business, politics and the business of politics

-- Former Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will join the investment bank Moelis & Co. as vice-chairman and managing director, the bank said Tuesday morning. Cantor will be based in New York, and he will open the D.C. office in coming months. (Wall Street Journal, Washington Post)

-- Stock futures are up about a tenth of a percent in pre-market trading today after markets made small gains on Friday. International markets are mixed today. (CNN)

C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.

-- The Pentagon will open a third drone base in West Africa, in the city of Agadez, Niger. It's part of an expansion of cooperation between U.S. and French troops against the growing presence of jihadist groups in the region. The Air Force has also been flying drones from a French base in Chad looking for hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by the terrorist group Boko Haram. (Washington Post)

-- Pardon the fascination, but your author is hugely intrigued by the coming referendum on independence in Scotland. The latest survey, conducted by YouGov, shows the "no" vote clinging to a narrow 6-point lead, 53 percent to 47 percent, down from a 14-point lead in mid-August. (The Telegraph) One huge caveat: That margin excludes respondents who are undecided. Why would you ever exclude undecideds?!?

C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work

-- Fairbanks, Alaska Mayor John Eberhart was ordered to pay a $37.50 fine after he broke state election law by sending a campaign email from his city council account. The city has spent $7,000 appealing the fine. (Associated Press)

-- The FBI created a covert network of fishermen, bush pilots and trappers across Alaska in preparation for a possible Soviet invasion in the 1950s, according to new documents released to the Government Attic. The project, code-named "Washtub," trained so-called "stay-behind agents" to live off secret caches of food and cold weather gear to report on Russian troop movements. The stay-behind agents received retainers of up to $3,000 a year -- about $30,000 in today's dollars -- an amount that would double after the Soviets invaded. (Associated Press)

Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.

-- U.S. Customs and Immigration officials have lost track of about 6,000 foreign students whose visas have expired since entering the U.S. (ABC News, Townhall)

Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today

-- The mayor of Winter Garden, Fla., last week kicked a constituent out of a town meeting because the man refused to stand during an opening prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. Mayor John Rees said he saw the refusal as disrespectful to troops overseas. The man who refused to stand, Joseph Richardson, has asked the city to change its invocation policy several times. (Orlando Sentinel, ThinkProgress)