Morning Reads

Good morning — Happy Kwaanza and Boxer Day and a belated Merry Christmas!

On this date in 1919, New York City got one of the best gifts ever when Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000. 

Holiday news dump –> What better time than Christmas Eve for the NSA to release its “heavily redacted” reports to the White House’s Intelligence Oversight Board? They detail how the agency collected intelligence in ways that, according to Bloomberg’s David Lerman, “may have violated the law or U.S. policy over more than a decade, including unauthorized surveillance of Americans’ overseas communications.”

Mixed news –> In Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone, the disease has become significantly less lethal as more health care infrastructure comes online. Around a quarter of the most recently admitted cases are now succumbing to a disease that last year killed 70 percent of those infected (via: AP). BUT: “Sierra Leoneans have a reputation for partying in the face of hardship,” writes Emma Farge for Reuters, so this year authorities have basically cancelled Christmas celebrations to avoid the risk of the virus spreading through large gatherings.

The “state” part is difficult –> Liz Sly reports for WaPo that “the Islamic State’s vaunted exercise in state-building appears to be crumbling as living conditions deteriorate across the territories under its control.”

Cleaning skeletons out of the closet –> Jeb Bush is readying himself for a presidential run by dumping investments that might prove controversial under the scrutiny of a presidential race. That includes quitting the board of a health care company that’s done quite well as a result of Obamacare. Joseph Tanfani has the story for the LAT. 

Looking ahead –> TNR headlines that Obama “made environmentalists very happy this year.” Rebecca Leber looks ahead at what he can do in 2015 to maintain the momentum.

“Jaws” ruined everything –> Salon’s Lindsay Abrams reports that an Australian researcher has shown that Steven Spielberg’s 1976 horror classic is “driving real government policies in Western Australia — policies that permit the killing of sharks for no justifiable reason.” Abrams calls it “a chilling case study in the ways that politically motivated crusades can spin out of control.”

A holiday tradition –> Last year, MoJo’s Tim Murphy turned an analytical eye to the strategic situation at the North Pole, and concluded that even the mighty US military would probably lose a real war on Christmas. However, Santa’s geographic isolation makes him especially vulnerable to international sanctions.

Mother –> At Slate, Phil Plait offers some really beautiful time-lapse video of Earth taken from the International Space Station. Here’s one of them…

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