The Note's Must-Reads for Tuesday, December 31, 2013

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, Amanda VanAllen, Will Cantine and Jordan Mazza

FAA APPROVES DRONE DELIVERY TESTING ABC News' John Parkinson: " FAA Approves Six 'Delivery By Drone' Test Sites" If drones piloted by operators a world away can successfully deliver a GPS-guided missile strike into a war zone, then why can't they distribute a dozen DVDs through U.S. airspace to your doorstep? While opening up federally-regulated airspace to privately-owned unmanned aircraft was once a far-fetched, futuristic concept, it is now well on its way after the Federal Aviation Administration approved six test sites Monday for operators to conduct "large scale" research and test flights across the country. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Andy Pasztor: " FAA Authorizes Commercial-Drone Testing" Aviation officials on Monday selected a handful of universities and state agencies to operate sites for drone testing, in a step toward eventually integrating commercial unmanned aircraft into the U.S. aviation system. Under the six operators chosen by the Federal Aviation Administration, research will be conducted by industry experts and academics on the safe operation of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, across a broad array of geographical areas, climates and types of airspace. The work is expected to target everything from federal certification of the safety of commercial drones to the reliability of air-to-ground communication links to verifying a generation of new, lower-cost sensors designed to avoid midair collisions. LINK

RUSSIAN TERROR USA Today's David Jackson: " White House Condemns Terroristic Attacks In Russia" The Obama administration is condemning new terrorist attacks in Russia, little more than a month before the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. In a statement, the United State is also offering more support to Russia for Olympic security. A suicide bombing on a trolley bus Monday in Volgograd killed at least 14 people, Russia's health ministry said. A day earlier, a bombing killed at least 17 at the city's main railway station. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks. LINK

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY Bloomberg's John Kerry: " Kerry's Energizer Bunny Diplomacy Takes Risks for Wins" After less than a year as secretary of state, John Kerry has emerged as a relentless evangelist for can-do - or try-to-do - diplomacy who's taken risks, veered off-script and notched some tangible if tentative wins. In 10 months and more than a quarter million miles crisscrossing the globe and negotiating long into many nights, the top U.S. diplomat has made progress toward eliminating Syria's chemical weapons, slowing Iran's nuclear program, resuscitating Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and negotiating legal protections so some U.S. forces can remain in Afghanistan after next year. LINK

HEALTH CARE The Hill's Jonathan Easley: " 7M ObamaCare enrollment target a tall order despite recent surge" Experts say the Obama administration faces a tall order in hitting the 7 million enrollees the Congressional Budget Office projected would sign up for ObamaCare in 2014. After a surge of enrollees in December, 1.1 million people have enrolled in the federal exchange, and another 1 million have enrolled through the 14 state-run marketplaces. That falls short, however, of the administration's stated goal of 3 million enrollees by the end of 2013. Perhaps even more importantly, the makeup of those enrollees remains unclear. LINK

Politico's Jonathan Allen: " Official who led rollout steps down" The official in charge of developing the Affordable Care Act's website is retiring from federal service on Tuesday. Michelle Snyder, the chief operating officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, had intended to leave last year after four decades in public service but stayed on to "help me with the challenges facing CMS in 2013," the agency's chief, Marilyn Tavenner, wrote in an email to staff on Monday. LINK

The Washington Times' Tom Howell: " Obamacare Supervisor Retires, Second Official to Leave Since Shaky Rollout" An Obama administration official who supervised the balky rollout of the health care law is retiring, the nation's Medicare agency said Monday. Michelle Snyder served as chief operating officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and oversaw the development and debut of, the federal Obamacare website that suffered from rampant glitches in October and November before its turnaround by early December. LINK

SENATE The New York Times' Carl Hulse: " Senate Discord Drains Power of Finance Chief" After the Reagan landslide of 1980 swept Bob Dole into the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee, Mr. Dole was not sure how to break the news to Russell B. Long, the Louisiana Democrat who had presided over the panel with unquestioned authority for 15 years. "Who is going to tell Russell?" asked an anxious Mr. Dole. LINK

BUDGET CUTS The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery: " Younger military veterans are angered by budget cuts to their pension benefits" After 25 years of service, including combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, Lt. Col. Stephen Preston retired from the Army and began collecting a pension of nearly $55,000 a year. The money made it possible for Preston to go back to college, get his MBA and embark on a second career in corporate strategy. LINK

REGIONAL New York Daily News' Ben Chapman and Erin Durkin: " Bill de Blasio says he won't horse around over New York's controversial carriages" New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio made it clear Monday that outlawing horse-drawn carriages is at the top of his to-do list. "We are going to get rid of the horse carriages. Period," de Blasio said when asked about his plans for the tourist attraction. "There are some moving parts to work out. But we are going to quickly and aggressively move to make horse carriages no longer a part of the landscape … They are not humane, they are not appropriate for the year 2014. It's over. So, just watch us do it." LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEO " Terror Attacks Hot Russia Leading Into 2014 Winter Olympics" LINK

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