Good morning and happy Wednesday! The 49th season of Saturday Night Live will resume this weekend, and show creator Lorne Michaels has committed to staying through the 50th season next year. But after that? He has indicated retirement is on the table. And he did nothing to tamp down speculation that SNL legend Tina Fey could be his replacement when he endorsed the comedian’s candidacy during a recent interview. Who would you pick to take over the show?
In Today’s Brief
Congress: Leaders head to White House
Gaza: U.S. details post-war strategy
Nikki Haley: GOP debate ultimatum
Burger King: $1B franchisee deal
James Dolan: Denies lawsuit allegations
1) Failure to launch
A federal judge has blocked JetBlue Airways' plan to buy Spirit Airlines on antitrust grounds.
Deal grounded: U.S. District Judge William Young rejected the $3.8B acquisition, saying it would reduce competition and increase fares. Spirit is the nation's largest low-cost airline.
Biden win: The Department of Justice had sued to stop the merger, so the ruling was a victory for President Joe Biden's administration. The DOJ argued an independent Spirit was essential to travelers.
Next steps: JetBlue and Spirit said they are considering an appeal. The ruling caused Spirit's stock price to drop almost 50% while JetBlue saw a 5% rise. Frontier Airlines, the second-largest budget airline, could make another bid to merge with Spirit.
2) DMZ development
Reversing course: The North has always sought reconciliation and reunification with the South as an official policy despite its harsh rhetoric and periods of high tensions. But dictator Kim Jong Un now claims reunification is no longer possible.
Next steps: The North will close government agencies dedicated to inter-Korean matters. A peace arch constructed by Kim Jong Il, the current leader's father, will be dismantled. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol criticized the moves, calling them "anti-national."
Big picture: Some North Korea analysts are concerned Kim Jong Un is establishing a pretext and willingness for war, although he says he does not seek one. North Korea has recently conducted missile tests, held military drills and its weapons have reportedly been used by Russia and Hamas in the wars against Ukraine and Israel.
3) The GOP reset
It is a six-day sprint to next Tuesday's New Hampshire primary for the remaining Republican presidential candidates.
The scoreboard: Former President Donald Trump has led Granite State polls consistently, but former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has moved within striking distance in some. Haley should benefit from former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropping out, but Trump may get a boost after businessman Vivek Ramaswamy left the race and endorsed him.
On the clock: Haley reportedly faces donor pressure to defeat Trump after a disappointing third-place finish in Iowa. If she does not win or come close, her candidacy may stall before reaching her home state for South Carolina's primary next month.
Down south: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis managed to take second in Iowa, but he finished well behind Trump. He has little campaign infrastructure in New Hampshire and is expected to focus on South Carolina. But Trump already has a commanding lead in Palmetto State polls.
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President Biden will host congressional leaders at the White House today to discuss a stalled supplemental spending bill. Democrats and Republicans are at odds over border security and Ukrainian aid; they also face a looming government shutdown deadline (More)
The Department of Justice's report on the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting will be released tomorrow. Nineteen students and two teachers were killed in the 2022 incident at Robb Elementary School (More)
The push to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress is on hold. House Republicans are negotiating a new date for the president's son to give a closed-door deposition (More)
The U.S. wants to link Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization to a Palestinian state after the end of the Gaza war. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan detailed the strategy at the World Economic Forum (More)
Switzerland said it will host a global peace conference at Ukraine's request as the latter's war with Russia approaches its third year. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he wants China to participate (More)
Two commercial airlines collided on an airport runway in Hokkaido, Japan. No injuries were reported; a commercial jet and military plane crashed on the ground at a Tokyo airport earlier this month, killing five (More)
Nikki Haley said she will not attend another GOP debate unless Donald Trump participates. The former president has skipped the first five debates; ABC and CNN have scheduled debates in the coming days (More)
Iowa Caucus turnout was down with 110K voters participating amid severe weather conditions. The last competitive GOP caucus in 2016 had 187K voters; the 2020 Democratic caucus had 176K voters (More)
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson suspended his presidential campaign. The Republican finished sixth in Iowa and was polling at 1% nationally; Hutchinson has been very critical of Trump (More)
Business & Markets
Major indexes closed down yesterday, reacting to rising bond yields. The Dow Jones had the worst day, losing over 200 points (Dow -0.62%, Nasdaq -0.19%, S&P 500 -0.37%).
Burger King is buying its largest U.S. franchisee for $1B. The fast food chain will acquire 1K locations from Carrols Restaurant Group as part of a plan to revive its domestic business (More)
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has acquired full control of the Pilot truck stop chain. The deal comes after BH settled a lawsuit with the billionaire Haslam family alleging fraud related to their remaining 20% stake in the company (More)
Entertainment & Sports
Madison Square Garden Entertainment CEO James Dolan was accused of sexual assault and trafficking for disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein in a federal lawsuit. Dolan, who also owns the New York Knicks and New York Rangers, has denied the allegations (More)
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will return next season. He stormed out of a press conference when asked about his contract status following Monday’s playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills (More)
Elton John won an Emmy for a variety special surrounding his final North American concert. The performer is the 19th "EGOT" winner after previously capturing Grammy, Academy and Tony Awards (More)
Feel Good: It will be two weeks before we know who will play in Super Bowl LVIII. But we already know the participants for Puppy Bowl XX. You can meet -- and most importantly, see -- the adorable competitors right here.
Be Safe: Ford has recalled 140K vehicles due to engine-related issues. Ford Focuses from 2016-18 and EcoSport SUVs from 2018-22 are at risk of stalling out or losing power braking assist, leading to a greater crash risk.
Take Note: Did you know you can bring water through airport security if it is frozen? Neither did we. But a former TSA officer has shared that tip and others to improve your next airport experience.
Life Hack: Do you have a long drive coming up soon? Or are you just dreading another trip home after an exhausting day at work? Turn off the recirculating air in your car; that sleepy feeling comes from a lack of oxygen in the cabin.
Get Healthy: Pop quiz: What’s the body’s most abundant protein? The answer: Collagen. NativePath's Certified Grass-Fed Collagen Powder is made from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows and contains 18 grams of protein per suggested serving. Start incorporating it daily to support skin elasticity, joint health, bone strength, and muscle growth and maintenance.*
Netflix dropped a trailer for its long-awaited science-fiction mystery series, 3 Body Problem, about humanity's first contact with an alien civilization.
Looking Ahead …
Alabama is moving ahead with plans to perform the nation’s first execution using nitrogen gas after a federal judge rejected inmate Kenneth Eugene Smith’s request for a preliminary injunction. Smith still has appeals ahead of the Jan. 25 execution debate, but now the United Nations is arguing the unproven method may constitute torture under international treaties.
When was the last time you went to a library?
It's been a few weeks or months (44%)
Just the other day (32%)
Right before I graduated college (20%)
I've written more books than I've read (4%)