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

-- Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday announced a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine after a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pro-Russian separatists said they had not been consulted on the cease-fire. President Obama has arrived in Estonia to reaffirm U.S. support for Baltic states before traveling to Wales for a NATO summit tomorrow. NATO leaders will approve plans for at least 4,000 troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe, near NATO borders with Russia. (Washington Post, Associated Press)

-- Obama has authorized sending an additional 350 troops to Baghdad to increase security at the U.S. Embassy compound, raising the U.S. security presence in Iraq to about 820 people. The White House and the Pentagon said the troops would not serve in combat roles. So far, the U.S. has carried out 124 airstrikes against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq. (Los Angeles Times)

-- U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded a video purporting to show the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff by Islamic State fighters is authentic. The militant who killed Sotloff speaks to the camera in a British accent, raising the possibility that it is the same man who killed James Foley last month. Sotloff, 31, had been missing in Syria for almost two years. (Washington Post)

-- International health authorities are warning that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is accelerating, and the opportunity to control its spread is shrinking fast. CDC Director Tom Frieden, just back from a week-long tour of the impacted countries, said he was shocked by the speed with which the disease is spreading. The WHO predicts more than 20,000 people could contract the disease before it is contained; 1,500 have already died. (Washington Post)

-- Front Pages: WaPo, LA Times, NYT and WSJ all lead with Steve Sotloff's murder at the hands of Islamic State militants. USA Today fronts a report that Home Depot's computer system has been hacked and takes a deep dive into California's historic drought.

National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.

-- WH'16: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has told Democratic fundraisers he will run for president even if Hillary Clinton does too, a reversal of earlier hints that O'Malley would avoid a clash with Clinton. O'Malley will keynote a New Hampshire Democratic Party fundraiser on Sept. 26, and he will visit California to fundraise for his PAC this month, too. (Wall Street Journal)

-- Colorado: The Republican Governors Association is running a new ad attacking Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) for his decision to grant clemency to Nathan Dunlap, a convicted murderer who had been scheduled to be executed last year. Former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) has said he will have Dunlap executed if he's elected. (Denver Post, twice) This is something we heard a lot last month during a reporting trip to Colorado: Democrats, including some of Hickenlooper's close allies, are worried that the Dunlap decision could come back to haunt Hickenlooper. He hemmed and hawed over the clemency last year, which fed a growing impression that he's not the most decisive leader.

-- Arizona: Attorney General Tom Horne (R) has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a 9th Circuit decision to hold new regulations on abortion medications while a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood takes place in Tucson. The rules would ban RU-486 after the seventh week of pregnancy. Arizona has also asked the Tucson court to halt the Planned Parenthood case. (Arizona Republic)

-- Illinois: That's a lot of vino: Venture capitalist and gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner (R) confirmed Tuesday he belongs to the Napa Valley Reserve, a wine club that requires a $100,000 initiation fee. A Montana magazine published a photo showing Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel carrying expensive bottles of wine at a resort in 2010. (Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune) Not a great image for a candidate already fighting Mitt Romney comparisons.

-- California: Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has endorsed Rep. Mike Honda (D) over his challenger, entrepreneur Ro Khanna (D), in the contentious intra-party duel in the Silicon Valley-based 17th District. In a statement, Brown praised Honda for helping secure funding for BART expansion in the San Francisco Bay area. (Roll Call)

-- Tennessee: More than 9,000 rape kits, some up to 30 years old, have gone untested across Tennessee, the state Bureau of Investigation said this week. Memphis alone accounts for 7,000 untested kits. The report came after the state legislature passed a law requiring police agencies to report the number of untested rape kits in their backlogs. (Tennessean, Washington Post)

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

-- President Obama is in Tallinn, Estonia, the first stop of a NATO-focused trip. Obama has already held a bilateral press conference with President Toomas Ilves, and later he meets the presidents of Latvia and Lithuania, too. This afternoon, Obama leaves for Fairford, U.K., where the NATO summit will be held tomorrow.

-- Vice President Biden is in New Hampshire and Maine, where he will highlight the shipyard's workforce engagement program. The White House keeps saying the shipyard is in New Hampshire, but an astute reader points out that the facility is actually just across the river, in Kittery, Maine.

-- House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) has hired Moira Bagley Smith, a veteran of Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) office, the RNC and the Kentucky GOP, to serve as his communications director. Scalise also hired Dan Sadlosky, a legislative aide to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), as a policy advisor. (Politico)

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

-- Battle for the Senate: Candidates, parties and outside groups have spent at least $153 million to run about 427,000 individual television ads in Senate races this cycle, according to estimates from the Center for Public Integrity. Outside groups have made up the highest percentage of ads in North Carolina, where voters have been subjected to more than 40,000 ads. Candidates have spent the most in Minnesota. More than 30,000 individual ads have run in Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia and Alaska. Click through for an amazing map. (CPI)

-- Alaska: Fighting ugly with ugly: Sen. Mark Begich (D) and former Attorney General Dan Sullivan (R) have both pulled advertisements that reference a murder and sexual assault case that has yet to go to trial. Begich's ad claimed Sullivan approved a lighter sentence for the accused, while Sullivan's named the accused and said he should be put in jail for life. Both campaigns pulled their ads after an attorney representing the victim's family asked them to take down references to the case. (KTVA)

-- Ohio: Rep. Bill Johnson (R) is emptying his warchest early. The Ohio Republican will spend $440,000 on broadcast spots in the Columbus, Wheeling, Youngstown and Zanesville markets between now and Election Day. He's got a tough district to communicate with, too. It snakes down the Ohio border with Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.

The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.

-- The Obama administration hopes to persuade 5 million people to sign up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act when open enrollment begins Oct. 1, and they have to make sure the 8 million who have already signed up renew for another year. This time, the administration only has three months, not six, to achieve their goal. And the renewal process has not yet been fully determined, leading some health insurance providers to worry that this year's enrollment period will be as complicated as last year's. (New York Times)

B1: Business, politics and the business of politics

-- Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos on Tuesday named Fred Ryan, the former Politico CEO and Allbritton Communications president, as the paper's new publisher. Ryan was introduced to Bezos through Jean Case, philanthropist and wife of AOL founder Steve Case. Ryan will take over for Katharine Weymouth on Oct. 1. (Washington Post)

-- The California Public Utilities Commission has recommended a $1.4 billion penalty against Pacific Gas & Electric for a 2010 gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in a San Francisco suburb. Judges found nearly 3,800 violations of state and federal law by PG&E in operations of its gas pipelines. (Associated Press)

-- Stock market futures are trading higher on Wednesday after a mixed day on Wall Street yesterday. World markets are trading higher across the board today. (CNN)

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

-- Old and busted: Wall Street's influence on Capitol Hill. New hotness: The oil and gas industry's influence on Capitol Hill. Former Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was once Wall Street's best liaison to Congress, but the rise of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) gives oil and gas companies a new foothold with House GOP leadership. (New York Times) An interesting point: The top six Republican leaders have a combined 64 years experience in the House. The top three Democrats have 80 years experience.

-- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) once saw an opportunity to transform Atlantic City into a Las Vegas-style resort town. When the Revel Casino Hotel opened in 2012, he called it a "game changer." On Tuesday, Revel closed for good, the second casino in 24 hours to shut its doors. Trump Plaza closes later this month, taking another few thousand jobs with it. Gambling revenue is half what it was in 2006. (Washington Post)

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

-- FXX's round-the-clock Simpsons marathon made the channel the highest rated network on cable among viewers between 18 and 49 for three nights during the 12-night run. Before the marathon, FXX was ranked 49th among cable networks with the 18-to-49 demographic. During the marathon, it jumped to 3rd place. Prime time episodes averaged 1.32 million viewers. (New York Times) Mmm, ratings.

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

-- The Treasury Department reports foreign entities owned more than $6 trillion in U.S. government debt at the end of June, a new record high. As recently as 2001, foreign-owned debt was less than $1 trillion. More than $4.1 trillion is characterized as "foreign official" debt holdings, meaning it's owned by institutions controlled by foreign organizations. (CNSNews)

Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today

-- Charlotte, N.C. police arrested Ty Turner, an African American gay rights activist, while he put voting rights information on parked cars during a Moral Monday protest on Labor Day. Police took Turner to an empty parking lot rather than to jail before Moral Monday protestors demanded his release. (ThinkProgress)