1. GOP candidates fight for spotlight in 2nd debate

Seven Republican candidates clashed in their second 2024 presidential primary debate Wednesday, battling for attention as they trail far behind front-runner Donald Trump. Trump skipped the forum and tried to upstage it with an event in Michigan. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis criticized Trump for calling six-week abortion bans in GOP-led states a “terrible thing,” and for being “missing in action” at the debate. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley criticized DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie accused Trump of dodging the debate to avoid defending his record. The former president told workers at an auto-parts plant that the shift to electric vehicles is a “hit job” on Detroit. The Washington PostThe Detroit News

2. Senate approves formal dress code

The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a formal dress code requiring business attire on the chamber floor. The resolution reversed a casual dress code Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared last week. That move triggered a backlash focused on Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), known for wearing shorts and a hoodie. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) led the push to require business attire, including coats and ties for men, saying it was necessary to show “reverence” for the Senate. Fetterman quipped last week that he would “save democracy” by wearing a suit if House Republicans voted to avert a government shutdown. This week, he voted for the formal dress code. USA TodayThe Philadelphia Inquirer

3. Nagorno-Karabakh government to dissolve

The breakaway Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh’s government will officially dissolve Jan. 1 after surrendering to Azerbaijan, Samvel Shahramanyan, president of Nagorno-Karabakh, said in a decree Thursday. Hundreds of Armenian Americans held demonstrations in California this week calling for the Republican candidates in Wednesday’s presidential primary debate to condemn Azerbaijan’s takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh. The region has long been internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but was governed by ethnic Armenians from the fall of the Soviet Union until last week, when the Azerbaijani military claimed control of the area and its 120,000 inhabitants. Tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians are fleeing to Armenia. The Washington PostThe Guardian

4. Economists say short shutdown wouldn’t trigger recession

Economists on Wall Street and in the Biden administration said a federal government shutdown — more likely after House Republican leaders rejected a Senate fix on Wednesday — would be unlikely to significantly slow the economy and trigger a recession if it was brief, The New York Times reported. The assessment is largely based on what happened to the economy in previous shutdowns. But the experts warned a prolonged shutdown could slow growth and compound pressures on the economy from high interest rates, renewed federal student loan payments, rising gas prices and a potentially extended strike by auto workers, according to the Times. The New York TimesThe Washington Post

5. North Korea releases US soldier who dashed over border

North Korea has released Travis King, the 23-year-old U.S. soldier who, facing disciplinary action, ran across the border from South Korea in July. U.S. officials said Wednesday that Pyongyang transferred King to China, where he was handed over to American authorities. The Defense Department said King was being flown to a military hospital in Texas. “Pvt. King appears to be in good health and good spirits as he makes his way home,” a senior Biden administration official said. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the United States “made no concessions” to Pyongyang to secure King’s return. North Korean state media said King was being expelled after confessing he “illegally intruded.” NPR

6. Oil prices rise to highest level in a year

U.S. crude oil futures rose 3.6% to $93.68 per barrel on Wednesday, the highest level since August 2022. The price of the U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, has jumped more than 30% since June. The surge started in early July after OPEC and allies led by Russia cut supply to a level lower than demand to boost prices. The three-month rally has revived concerns that oil could reach $100 a barrel, although the pace of the increases has slowed in the past week. India, a key consumer, has warned that higher prices are hurting its economy, raising questions about whether demand will fall next year. The Wall Street JournalBloomberg

7. Judge declines to recuse herself in federal Trump case

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Wednesday rejected a request from former President Donald Trump’s lawyers that she recuse herself from Trump’s federal 2020 election interference case. Trump’s legal team claimed Chutkan had “suggested that President Trump should be prosecuted and imprisoned.” Chutkan said she had mentioned Trump in cases against people charged for their alleged roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters trying to reverse his loss to President Biden. But she said her statements “certainly do not manifest a deep-seated prejudice that would make fair judgment impossible — the standard for recusal.” AxiosCNN

8. Menendez pleads not guilty to bribery charges

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal corruption charges. Federal prosecutors last week accused Menendez and his wife, Nadine, of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gold bars in exchange for using his political influence to help Egypt’s government and do favors for three New Jersey businessmen. Menendez remained defiant, denying he took bribes. Nadine Menendez also pleaded not guilty. Sen. Menendez has said that the cash investigators found in his house was personal savings from legal income that he stashed for emergencies. More than half of Senate Democrats, including fellow New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, have called for Menendez to resign. The Associated PressReuters

9. Biden extends aid as saltwater creeps up Mississippi

President Biden announced Wednesday that the federal government was making disaster assistance available for Louisiana as the state struggles to slow saltwater that is creeping up the Mississippi, threatening parts of the state that rely on the river for drinking water. The river’s flow normally keeps saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico from pushing inland. But for the second year in a row, hot, dry conditions have reduced runoff, slowing and lowering the Mississippi and allowing Gulf water to flow in. Biden’s declaration will give the state access to more equipment and other resources to fight the saltwater intrusion. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards thanked the administration for “responding quickly.” The Associated Press

10. Remains identified as those of Colorado woman missing since 2020

A Colorado coroner on Wednesday identified remains found Friday as those of Suzanne Morphew, a Colorado woman who disappeared in May 2020. Morphew’s husband, Barry Morphew, was criminally charged in her death but the case was dismissed in April 2022 at the request of prosecutors who cited lack of progress in the search for her body. Barry Morphew had been arrested in May 2021 and charged with murder. He has repeatedly denied involvement in his wife’s disappearance. Police have made no new arrests since locating the the body of Suzanne Morphew, a 49-year-old mother of two. “We are left with many more questions than answers,” Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze said. NBC News