The Note's Must-Reads for Friday, August 23, 2013

Compiled by ABC News' Jayce Henderson, Carrie Halperin and Will Cantine

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

SYRIA ABC News' Shushannah Walshe and Luis Martinez: " U.S. Intelligence Still Trying To 'Nail Down The Facts' On Reports Of Syrian Chemical Weapons Use" U.S. intelligence is trying to "nail down the facts" about reports of a large-scale chemical weapons attack inside Syria by the Assad regime. Some of those reports cite mass casualties that range from 1,000 to as many as 1,800 Syrian civilian deaths. "The most recent estimates we've seen range from a thousand to 1,800, which is obviously a broad range," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters at the State Department's daily briefing. Psaki said U.S. intelligence is taking the lead in trying "to nail down the facts" for the U.S. government. "Clearly, we wouldn't be doing that if we weren't deeply concerned by these reports … or didn't believe that they were worth looking into." LINK

PRESIDENT OBAMA AND HIS ADMINISTRATION The Los Angeles Times' Michael Memoli and Kathleen Kennessey: " President Obama proposes college ratings based on affordability" The Obama administration will wade into the controversial business of rating colleges and universities based on their "value," President Obama announced Thursday as he unveiled a set of proposals aimed at tackling the rising cost of higher education. The "college scorecard" would help students decide whether a school is worth the hefty tuition bills and help the government decide where to spend federal aid money, while giving image-conscious schools an incentive to keep costs down. LINK

The Washington Times' Valerie Richardson: " Obama Urged to use executive order to recognize Native Hawaiians" Democrats are urging President Obama to bypass Capitol Hill once again and accomplish by executive order what Congress refused to do for 13 years: grant formal federal tribal recognition to Native Hawaiians. The effort lost its most visible champion in January when Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat, retired without having won passage for his namesake legislation, the so-called Akaka bill. The measure has not been introduced in the current Congress. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Colleen McCain Nelson and Caroline Porter: " Obama Wants College Aid Tied To Rating System" Calling growing student debt levels a "crisis," President Barack Obama laid out a plan Thursday aimed at reining in rising tuition costs by creating a system to rate colleges and eventually tie federal student aid to the institutions' performance. The president called for rating colleges before the 2015 school year on measures such as affordability and graduation rates-"metrics like how much debt does the average student leave with, how easy is it to pay off, how many students graduate on time, how well do those graduates do in the workforce," Mr. Obama told a crowd at the University at Buffalo, the first stop on a two-day bus tour. LINK

The Boston Globe's Tracy Jan: " Obama Targets High Cost Of College" President Obama unveiled a plan Thursday to rein in exploding college costs, drawing skepticism from some New England college presidents concerned about tying federal funding to a new performance rating system. Under Obama's plan, the federal government would develop a report card by 2015 for all public and private colleges that would measure tuition increases, graduation rates, student debt, and even graduates' earnings to help students pick schools that offer the best value. LINK

BUDGET/DEBT CEILING The Hill's Bernie Becker: " Boehner ups the ante for a budget showdown in September" Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told House Republicans on Thursday that he wants to push through a temporary spending measure that incorporates automatic cuts, upping the ante for a September budget showdown. Boehner's comments, delivered in a conference call with the rank and file, show that Republicans aren't backing down from a face-off that could potentially lead to a government shutdown, even after GOP divisions over spending flared up shortly before the August recess. LINK

Politico's Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan: " Debt ceiling drama underway" House Republicans have no idea how they're going to lift the debt ceiling this fall - top aides and lawmakers freely admit it. But Republicans say their best hope is to try to leverage Democrats' desire to blunt sequester cuts to get something in return for raising the nation's borrowing limit. LINK

BRADLEY MANNING The USA Today's Tom Vanden Brook and Jim Michaels: " Manning Wants To Serve Time As A Woman, Get Therapy" Bradley Manning's latest bombshell - that the convicted Army private wants to live the rest of his life as a woman named Chelsea and begin hormone treatment soon - has exposed rifts in the way the government and society view transgender men and women. Manning, 25, received a 35-year prison sentence on Wednesday for leaking a trove of classified information to the website WikiLeaks. On Thursday, Manning revealed in a statement to NBC's Today show that he will now be known as Chelsea and live as a woman. LINK

NASDAQ The New York Times' Nathaniel Popper: " Pricing Problem Suspends Nasdaq for Three Hours" The United States stock market showed again on Thursday that it remained vulnerable to technological breakdowns even as regulators and market operators work to keep up with trading that is increasingly electronic and driven by speed. The latest trouble shut down trading on the Nasdaq market and its more than 3,000 stocks - including some of the most popular among investors, like Apple and Google - for more than three hours Thursday afternoon. LINK

Bloomberg's Sam Mamudi & Whitney Kisling: " Nasdaq Shutdown Brings Half of Stock Market to Standstill" A faulty connection between the two biggest operators of U.S. stock exchanges brought half of the world's largest equity market to a standstill, the second time this week U.S. trading was shaken by a computer malfunction. Connectivity was disrupted between NYSE Arca, where about 11 percent of American share volume occurs, and the data processing subsidiary of Nasdaq Stock Market, home to 2,150 U.S. companies, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. LINK

911 AFTERMATH The Washington Post's Billy Kenber: " Outgoing Director Robert S. Mueller III tells how 9/11 reshaped FBI mission" When the first plane hit, on the pivotal day that would redefine the role of the organization he had just been appointed to lead, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III's thoughts turned to the weather. "I remember .?.?. seeing the first plane go into the towers and thinking: 'It's a beautiful day. Somebody really must have gotten off course to have the plane go into the towers,' " he recalled this week. LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEO " Texas Lt. Gov. Calls Cops To Seek Relative Release" LINK " Doctors Uncertain Of What Happened To Beau Biden" LINK

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