Morning Must Reads: December 20

In the news: another Obamacare rule scaled back; Iran sanctions; defense bill passes; European Union's credit rating taken down a notch; Capitol dome and space station need fixing; Duck Dynasty

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Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

People gather for the lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in Washington, December 3, 2013.

  • “Millions of people facing the cancellation of health insurance policies will be allowed to buy catastrophic coverage and will be exempt from penalties if they go without insurance next year, the White House said Thursday night.” [NYT]
  • On Iran, senators defy White House, threaten new sanctions [WashPost]
  • “A comprehensive defense bill that cracks down on sexual assault in the military and adds protections for victims—but doesn’t include the most controversial proposals concerning new  rights for victims—was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate late Thursday.” [CBS]
  • “A bit of bipartisan Christmas cheer finally arrived in the Senate around 10 p.m. Thursday. That’s when senators locked in an agreement that will set up a series of votes Friday morning as the last of 2013…” [Roll Call]
  • “Credit agency Standard & Poor’s cut its triple-A rating of the European Union by one notch on Friday, saying it had concerns about how the bloc’s budget was financed, a view EU leaders and other officials dismissed as misguided.” [Reuters]
  • “Former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been released from jail following a pardon from Russian President Vladimir Putin…” [BBC]
  • Metaphor Alert: The U.S. Capitol Dome Is Cracked 1,300 Times, Needs Repair [TIME]
  • “U.S. astronauts are poised to begin a series of spacewalks as soon as Saturday to replace a coolant system aboard the international space station, a harbinger of the increasing maintenance the aging laboratory is likely to need in coming years as it orbits Earth at more than 17,000 miles an hour.” [WSJ]
  • What the Duck? [GQ]
    • The Duck Dynasty Fiasco Says More About Our Bigotry Than Phil’s [TIME]
  • The Worst Predictions of 2013 [Politico]
  • “In honor of the winter solstice, December 21, the shortest day and longest night of the year, LightBox presents the story behind the first photograph ever taken of the moon.” [TIME]
  • Paul Ryan finds God [BuzzFeed]
  • Joe Klein’s “Tis the Season

Happy Holidays from TIME! We’ll see you next in the New Year!