The Note's Must-Reads for Thursday, March 27, 2014

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

Compiled by ABC News' Jayce Henderson, Will Cantine and Matt Busekroos

SYRIA ABC News' Ali Weinberg: " US Official Can't Say Syria Chemical Weapons Fully Tracked Down" During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria, a State Department official could not confirm that the international community has located Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's entire chemical weapons supply. Sen. Tim Kaine asked Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman whether there were any doubts about the thoroughness of Assad's declaration of chemical weapons, all of which are supposed to be destroyed by June 30 as part of a deal brokered by Russia. LINK

PRESIDENT OBAMA The New York Daily News' Joseph Straw: " President Obama Admitting Nuclear Fear But Cutting NYPD's Radiation-Detection Funding Confuses Pols" New York lawmakers Wednesday seized on President Obama's comments that he's more worried about the risk of a nuke detonating in Manhattan than about Russia's aggression. They said his fears didn't match his proposed budget, which would cut federal funds for the NYPD's radiation-detection program to $4.7 million a year from $10.4 million. "This is dramatic, it's draconian, it doesn't make sense," said Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.). LINK

The Hill's Justin Sink: " Vatican Trip Blessing For Obama?" The biggest global star of the millennium's first decade will meet his successor at the Vatican on Thursday. Barack Obama, who wowed the world in 2008, will shake the hand of the first Latin American Pope - a gesture fittingly akin to passing the baton of hope and change. The White House would surely like some of Francis's star power to rub off on Obama, from whom the gilt of popularity has flaked away in his second term in the Oval Office. The president cited Francis last year in demanding action to narrow the gap between rich and poor, and a reciprocal note of approval from the pontiff would unquestionably be welcomed by an administration struggling to move its agenda in an election year. LINK

Bloomberg's Margaret Talev: " Obama's Visit With Pope Francis Offers Chance To Recharge Image" He has been hailed as one of the world's most popular figures, a hope-and-change symbol cultivating an outsider's image to repair his organization's reputation and shape global attitudes. That was Barack Obama in 2008. Now, the president is seeking to recapture some of that public affection by getting close to a leader who currently plays that role, Pope Francis. LINK

Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown and Edward-Isaac Dovere: " Obama Wants Halo Effect" President Barack Obama was once the biggest superstar on the international stage. On Thursday, he heads to the Vatican to benefit from the popularity of his replacement: Pope Francis. The visit is a rare chance for Obama to associate himself with a world leader whose cool factor far outweighs his own, and it comes at a critical time in his presidency. The White House is still recovering from what aides call a "lost year," and the president's job approval ratings at home are dipping to new lows. LINK

The New York Times' Michael Shear and Peter Baker: " Obama Renewing U.S. Commitment To NATO Alliance" President Obama has spent much of his presidency mired in the challenges of a world well outside the borders of Europe - the turmoil of the Middle East, the power struggles in Asia and the terrorist threats percolating in northern Africa, Pakistan and elsewhere. But Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its stunningly fast annexation of Crimea have demanded a renewed focus on the part of the world that dominated American attention in the 20th century. LINK

HEALTHCARE The Wall Street Journal's Louis Randofsky and Anna Wilde Mathews: " Extension Of Health Law Signup Period Worries Insurers" The Obama administration's decision to let some consumers enroll in health plans beyond Monday's deadline sparked concern among insurers and prompted fresh attacks from opponents of the health law. A surge of consumers is expected to hit before Monday's deadline to sign up for insurance and avoid a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. In the past, heavy traffic has stalled the federal site. On Wednesday, U.S. officials said consumers who say they began trying to sign up for health coverage by Monday's deadline will be allowed to continue after that date and won't face penalties for remaining uninsured. LINK

USA Today's Susan Davis: " Lawmakers' 2014 Tactics Stretch Beyond Obamacare" The battle lines are drawn over President Obama's health care law, but lawmakers in both parties acknowledge that the midterm elections need to be about more than Obamacare in order to win. "Eighty-five percent of all Americans are not affected by the Affordable Care Act," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday at an event where Senate Democratic leaders rolled out their 2014 legislative agenda. For Senate Democrats, the motivation to expand the debate is to quell GOP momentum in the midterms where Democrats are playing defense to retain their majority. LINK

The Washington Times' Tom Howell Jr.: " Deadline For Health Care Enrollment Open-Ended" The Obama administration said Wednesday that it doesn't know how many people will take advantage of the latest extension to buy insurance on the health care exchanges, in a move that signals just how determined President Obama is to make his law's economics work. The extension, which the administration leaked Tuesday and officially announced Wednesday, says those who tried to enroll before the March 31 deadline can have more time to finish their applications on the federally run exchanges. LINK

BOSTON BOMBING The Boston Globe's Matt Viser: " Marathon Bombing Report Critical Of intelligence Agencies" A sharply critical congressional report on Wednesday said federal officials suffered multiple communication failures in the year before the Boston Marathon bombing and called on authorities to significantly tighten up scrutiny of "hot lists" of potential terrorism suspects when they embark on foreign travel. The 37-page report, produced by the staff of the House Committee on Homeland Security, takes the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, and other officials to task for missing opportunities to scrutinize Tamerlan Tsarnaev after he was first investigated by the FBI in 2011. LINK

SECRET SERVICE The Washington Post's Carol Leonnig, David Nakamura and Mihael Birnbaum: " Secret Service Incident In Netherlands Was On Heels Of Car Wreck During Obama's Miami Trip" As the U.S. Secret Service arrived in the Netherlands last weekend for a presidential trip, managers were already on high alert to avoid any further em­barrassing incidents involving agents. The agency's director had admonished supervisors after two counter-sniper officers suspected of drinking were involved in a March 7 car accident during a presidential visit to Miami, according to several people with knowledge of the incident. The driver passed a field sobriety test and was not arrested. LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEO " Obama Addresses Russian Threat: Borders Cannot Be Redrawn By Force" LINK

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