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The Note's Must-Reads for Friday, December 14, 2012

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' Jayce Henderson and Carrie Halperin

FISCAL CLIFF: The Los Angeles Times' Lisa Mascaro and Melanie Mason: " Signs of drift in 'fiscal cliff' talks" President Obama called House Speaker John A. Boehner to the White House on Thursday night to try to break the deadlock in the year-end budget talks, but their third face-to-face session ended after nearly an hour with no sign of progress. Earlier in the day, a top Senate Democrat said increasing the Medicare eligibility age was off the table - an important stance to liberal Democrats. LINK

The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane: " Obama, Boehner meet on 'fiscal cliff,' but no deal is reached" President Obama summoned House Speaker John A. Boehner to the White House on Thursday, but their talks over the looming "fiscal cliff" failed to break the impasse over taxes and clear the way for a deal to head off painful austerity measures set to hit in January.After the 50-minute session in the Oval Office, aides to both men described the meeting as a frank exchange and said the lines of communication remained open. But Boehner prepared to return to Ohio for the weekend, with no further negotiations on his schedule. LINK

The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman and Jackie Calmes: " With Gap Wide and Time Short, Obama and Boehner Meet" With time running short to work out a deal to avert a year-end fiscal crisis, President Obama called Speaker John A. Boehner to the White House on Thursday evening to try to move talks forward even as pessimism mounted that a broad deal could be struck that bridges the substantial gap between the parties on taxes and entitlements like Medicare. LINK

SUSAN RICE: The Hill's Julian Pecquet: " Susan Rice abandons bid to be the next secretary of State" Susan Rice on Thursday withdrew her name from consideration as President Obama's next secretary of State, allowing the White House to avoid a bitter confirmation battle with Senate Republicans. In a letter to Obama notifying the president of her decision, the ambassador to the United Nations said she wanted to spare the White House a heated battle with those who have criticized her over the administration's handling of the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. LINK

The Washington Time's Dave Boyer: " Battered by Benghazi, Rice withdraws as State candidate" Embattled U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice withdrew her name Thursday from consideration to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton after months of criticism over her comments about the terrorist attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, in September. Although the decision had been building for weeks, Mrs. Rice's request was a stunning setback for President Obama, who angrily defended her in a November news conference and challenged the Republican critics that "they should go after me" over the handling of the Benghazi attack. Mrs. Rice is a longtime senior adviser on foreign policy for the president and had been seen as a front-runner for Foggy Bottom in his second term. LINK

USA Today's Aamer Madhani: " Lawmakers react to Rice's withdrawal" After weeks of mounting criticism against U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Sen. John McCain offered a measured response on Thursday to Rice's decision to remove herself from consideration to be the next secretary of State. "Sen. McCain thanks Ambassador Rice for her service to the country and wishes her well," said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers. "He will continue to seek all the facts about what happened before, during and after the attack on our consulate in Benghazi that killed four brave Americans." LINK

U.S. DEFENSE: The Wall Street Journal's Adam Entous: " U.S. to Deploy Defense Systems to Turkey" U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta intends to sign an order Friday for the deployment of two batteries of Patriot air-defense systems, along with up to 400 American troops who will man them, to Turkey as part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization push to shore up Ankara's defenses against possible attacks from Syria, U.S. officials said. The deployment approved by Mr. Panetta would mark a sharp expansion of the Pentagon's role along Syria's borders and comes amid increasing U.S. concern that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, under pressure from rebels forces, could resort to using chemical weapons. The U.S. says Mr. Assad recently used Scud missiles as part of his offensive against rebels, alarming countries in the region. LINK

HEALTH CARE: ABC News' Shushannah Walshe: " Health Care Deadline Looms: How States Are Setting Up the Exchanges" All of the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," doesn't go into effect until 2014, but states are required to set up their own health care exchanges or leave it to the federal government to step in by next year. The deadline for the governors' decisions is Friday.The health insurance exchanges are one of the key stipulations of the new health care law. They will offer consumers an Internet-based marketplace for purchasing private health insurance plans. LINK

ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT: Bloomberg's Mark Drajem: " Tougher Fracking Regulations Backed by 66%, Poll Shows" Support for regulation of hydraulic fracturing has increased in the past three months, a sign that the gas-drilling practice is facing greater public scrutiny. A Bloomberg National Poll found that 66 percent of Americans want more government oversight of the process, known as fracking, in which water, chemicals and sand are shot underground to free gas trapped in rock. That's an increase from 56 percent in a September poll. The poll found 18 percent favored less regulation, down from 29 percent three months ago. LINK

OTHER: Politico's David Rodgers: " Vilsack warns Congress on farm bill" In some of his strongest language to date, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warned Congress Thursday that it must pick up the pace of farm bill talks and can't expect a fallback to prevent milk prices from spiking after New Year's when the current dairy provisions expire. Vilsack said it was "unlikely" there could be an extension of the current 2008 farm law, and House and Senate negotiators need to be meeting "24/7 until they get a resolution." LINK

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