Happy Monday! After a pair of truly heartbreaking losses yesterday by the Detroit Lions and the Baltimore Ravens, the Super Bowl LVIII matchup is set. The happiest people this morning? San Francisco 49ers fans, Kansas City Chiefs fans, and NFL executives drooling over the marketing possibilities of Taylor Swift rooting on her boyfriend during the biggest game of the year.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Three U.S. service members were killed and dozens more were injured over the weekend when an Iranian-backed militia—likely in Syria—launched a drone strike against a U.S. military installation in northeast Jordan near the Syrian border. President Joe Biden said Sunday that the U.S. would respond. “These service members embodied the very best of our nation: Unwavering in their bravery. Unflinching in their duty. Unbending in their commitment to our country—risking their own safety for the safety of their fellow Americans, and our allies and partners with whom we stand in the fight against terrorism,” he said. “[H]ave no doubt—we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner [of] our choosing.” While Iran-affiliated militias in the Middle East have launched more than 150 attacks on U.S. and allied troops in the region since Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel, this is the first attack that has resulted in the deaths of U.S. troops.
- The U.S., U.K., and Germany are among at least 11 countries that announced over the weekend that they were pausing funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) after allegations emerged that 12 of the U.N. agency’s workers participated in Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel. Of the 12 staff members, nine have been fired, one is confirmed dead, and the identities of two have yet to be confirmed, according to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. The pause in funding only affects new obligations after January 24, not money allocated prior to that date, according to the State Department. The countries pausing their funding said they will wait for the outcome of the U.N.’s investigation into the agency to make final decisions about supporting the agency in the future.
- Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired at the USS Carney, a U.S. Navy destroyer, in the Gulf of Aden on Friday—the first time a U.S. warship has been directly targeted since the Iranian-backed group began attacking ships in the Red Sea in October. “The missile was successfully shot down by USS Carney,” U.S. Central Command said. “There were no injuries or damage reported.” The U.S. conducted a strike on a Houthi anti-ship missile ready to launch on Saturday, the latest in a series of strikes on the Iran-backed militia.
- Ukrainian security services said Saturday that they suspect five people—including some high-ranking members of the defense ministry—of involvement in a plot to embezzle $40 million in state funds meant as payment for 100,000 mortar shells that were never provided. The allegations are part of an ongoing struggle with military graft as the war in Ukraine approaches the end of its second year.
- The Biden administration informed key lawmakers on Friday of its intent to sell Turkey $23 billion in updated F-16 fighter jets and Greece as many as 40 F-35 stealth fighters. The four leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees said they would not block the sales, effectively greenlighting the deal. The sale to Turkey had become functionally contingent on its decision to allow Sweden to join NATO, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan approved last week.
- A New York jury awarded writer E. Jean Carroll a total of $83.3 million in damages—$18.3 million in compensatory damages and $65 million in punitive damages—from former President Donald Trump in her defamation case against him for statements he made denying that he raped her several decades ago. Carroll recently won a civil suit against Trump based on those allegations, with the jury awarding her $5 million. Trump, who left the courtroom before the verdict was read, will likely appeal the decision.
- The Justice Department found that former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed 13 women employed by the state’s executive office and that his staff retaliated against at least four of the women he harassed. The findings emerged as part of a settlement between the DOJ and New York, which requires additional reforms from the governor’s office, including expanded independent reporting processes. Cuomo, who maintains he did not harass anyone, resigned in 2021 after New York Attorney General Letitia James found the governor had sexually harassed 11 women, some of whom were not state employees.
- Italian tennis player Jannik Sinner came from two sets behind Daniil Medvedev to win the Australian Open on Sunday, the 22 year old’s first Grand Slam title. In the women’s final, Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka defended her title on Saturday, defeating China’s Zheng Qinwen in straight sets and becoming the first woman in a decade to win two consecutive Australian Open titles.
Turning Down the Gas
The U.S. officially became the number-one global exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2023, surpassing Qatar and Australia and shipping out 91.2 million metric tons of the energy source across the globe. Growth has been explosive in the eight years since the U.S. began exporting LNG, but a new rule out of Washington could dampen those numbers.
The Biden administration announced on Friday that it would pause all approvals of pending applications for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports in the name of achieving President Joe Biden’s climate goals. The move was cheered by environmental advocates and many of Biden’s allies on the left, while Republicans and industry groups warned the pause could hurt both the U.S. economy and European allies who have come to rely on American LNG amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. In an election year, Biden appears to be gambling that additional action on climate will light a fire under disaffected young voters upset with his support for Israel—and not blow up the status quo.
According to the Department of Energy, natural gas supplies roughly a third of the U.S.’ primary energy consumption. Liquefied natural gas simply refers to the gas that has been cooled to return to a liquid state, which makes it easier to store and, critically, ship. The U.S. currently has seven functioning LNG export terminals, with five more under construction. “None of that is going to be affected,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told CNBC on Friday. “All the stuff that’s under construction, that’s been authorized, none of that is going away. Certainly the stuff that’s being currently exported, there’s no impact.” But for any terminals seeking a permit, the future is now murky.