The Note’s Must-Reads for Thursday, March 31, 2011

By Jayson

Mar 31, 2011 4:17am

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at www.abcnews.com

Compiled by ABC News Digital News Associates and Desk Assistants Jayce Henderson, Claudia Morales, Jacqueline Fernandez and Jordan Manor

PRESIDENT OBAMA:
New York Daily News’ Aliyah Shaid: “President Obama’s approval ratings hit all-time low, half don’t think he deserves second term: poll” Half of Americans don't believe President Obama deserves a second term, a new Quinnipiac poll found – while showing his lowest approval ratings ever.  The survey, released Wednesday, reveals that just 41% of voters think the President deserves to be reelected in 2012.  LINK

LIBYA / FOREIGN AFFAIRS:
ABC News’ Jake Tapper, Jon Karl, and Russell Goldman: “President Obama Authorizes Covert Help for Libyan Rebels” President Obama has a signed a secret presidential finding authorizing covert operations to aid the effort in Libya where rebels are in full retreat despite air support from U.S. and allied forces, a source tells ABC News. LINK

Los Angeles Times’ Ken Dilanian: “CIA officers in Libya are aiding rebels, U.S. official say”  CIA officers on the ground in Libya are coordinating with rebels and sharing intelligence, U.S. officials say, but the White House is still mulling whether to provide weapons to those trying to oust Moammar Kadafi. LINK

The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller: “In Libya, CIA is gathering intelligence on rebels” The Obama administration has sent teams of CIA operatives into Libya in a rush to gather intelligence on the identities and capabilities of rebel forces opposed to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, according to U.S. officials. LINK

The Washington Post’s Colum Lynch: “Gaddafi selects former Nicaraguan official to represent regime at United Nations” Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi has selected a fiery former Nicaraguan foreign minister and U.N. General Assembly president, the Rev. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, to represent him at the United Nations. LINK

New York Daily News’ Lukas I. Alpert: “Syrian president Bashar al-Assad refuses to back down amid country- wide protests” Syria's president refused to lift decades-old restrictions or offer any concessions Wednesday in his first speech since widespread protests have rocked the country.  Defying expectations that he would lift an emergency law that has stifled political opposition, President Bashar al-Asaad instead blamed "conspirators" for sweeping unrest. LINK 

Bloomberg’s Peter S. Green: “Libyan Diplomat’s Resignation May Boost Rebels, Spur QaddafiThe resignation of Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa may help weaken Muammar Qaddafi’s hold on power, even as it may spur the dictator to more radical action by removing one of the few moderating voices left in his inner circle, according to analysts of the region. Koussa, a former intelligence chief who was among Qaddafi’s closest advisers outside his family, may be able to tell the allies who else among Qaddafi loyalists could be encouraged to leave the regime. LINK

USA Today’s Richard Wolf and Mimi Hall: “Analysis: White House faces tough choices on intervention” In the past month alone, the White House has formally condemned a repressive government's violence against its own people four times. LINK

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS:
The New York Times’ Marc Lacey: “An Arizona Senate Race Waits to See if Giffords Emerges to Run” Representative Gabrielle Giffords is still in the hospital, but some of her most ardent backers are so enamored of the idea of her running for the Senate that they describe the inevitable campaign commercials: the deep-voiced narrator recounting what happened to her, the images of her wounded, then recovering and speaking into the camera alongside her astronaut husband to call on Arizonans to unite. LINK

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN / BUDGET:
ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos: “Budget Negotiators Reach Tentative Deal To Avert Government Shutdown” Sources tell me that  budget negotiators on Capitol Hill have tentatively agreed on a deal that would involve at least $33 billion in spending cuts from this year’s budget.  That’s $23 billion dollars more than Democrats have previously agreed to in short-term continuing resolutions, and $28 billion less than Republicans previously passed in the House. LINK

Politico’s David Rogers: “Budget deal close with $33B in cuts” Budget talks came to life Wednesday but not without tension between the White House and Senate Democrats, worried that the administration was too quick to agree to $33 billion in spending cuts to try to move Speaker John Boehner toward what remains a very uncertain deal. Vice President Joe Biden and White House Budget Director Jack Lew came to the Capitol in the evening for a meeting with the party leadership requested by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).  LINK

CONGRESS / GOP / TEA PARTY:
The Boston Globe’s Mark Arsenault: “Push in Congress for Web users to control data” Congress is preparing to wade into the largely invisible and, for most consumers, mysterious practices employed by Google, Facebook, and other websites to harvest information about the individual preferences of computer users, fueling a battle that could shape the future of the Internet. LINK

The Hill’s Russell Berman: “White House, GOP edge closer to a deal on 2011 spending cuts” The White House and congressional Republicans edged closer to a budget deal Wednesday, as House and Senate Appropriations staff resumed negotiations at the direction of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). LINK

The Hill’s Erik Wasson: “In 2012 GOP budget plan Social Security gets a pass” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will largely give Social Security a pass in his highly anticipated budget while proposing a significant overhaul of Medicare and Medicaid, according to sources briefed on the plan. The 2012 budget resolution, which committee Republicans are still finalizing, is scheduled to be unveiled on Tuesday.  LINK

The Washington Time’s Seth McLaughlin: “Tea part to storm Capitol for ‘gut check’” Miffed at the inability of Republicans to deliver on promises of deep cuts in federal spending, tea partyers will converge on the Capitol on Thursday to warn both parties about political repercussions if they don’t act. LINK

ENERGY:
Los Angeles Times’ Neela Banerjee: “U.S. to reduce oil imports by a third by 2020, Obama says” President Obama on Wednesday outlined a plan to reduce oil imports to the United States by a third over the next 10 years, calling for further oil and gas drilling at home, development of biofuels and greater fuel efficiency in new cars and trucks. LINK

The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler: “Obama Outlines Energy Plan” President Barack Obama, under pressure to respond to rising gas prices, proposed a basket of ideas for reducing U.S. dependence on oil, endorsing for the first time a plan backed by oilman T. Boone Pickens to subsidize purchase of trucks and fleets that run on domestically produced natural gas. LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEOS:
The President’s Secret Plan for LibyaLINK
Who Profits from Energy IndependenceLINK

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