Start your week smart: Trump defamation verdict, UN agency in turmoil, Vince McMahon, Ohio tanker truck, Mona Lisa

Two hundred and fifty years after American revolutionaries dumped tea into Boston Harbor, a fresh diplomatic storm is brewing between Britain and the US over the cherished beverage. What’s the source of this latest tempest in a teapot? A US scientist recently claimed the perfect cup of tea is made with a pinch of added salt. The reaction in the UK was decidedly, “We are not amused.”

Here’s what else you need to know to Start Your Week Smart.

The weekend that was

• A jury said that Donald Trump should pay $83.3 million in damages to E. Jean Carroll, an eye-popping sum that marks the sharpest legal setback for a former president entangled in multiple criminal and civil cases while he campaigns for the White House. Trump made defamatory statements disparaging her and denying her rape allegations.
• The main UN agency in Gaza is in turmoil after Israel accused some of its staff members of involvement in Hamas’ October 7 terror attacks. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency fired several employees in the wake of the allegations, which have not been made public.
Vince McMahon resigned from his role as executive chairman of TKO, the parent company of WWE, following disturbing allegations of sexual assault, trafficking and physical abuse. McMahon has denied the allegations, which came to light in a lawsuit filed by a former WWE staffer.
• A truck driver died, several northeast Ohio roads were closed and diesel poured into a river after a tanker lost control and exploded. The truck was carrying 7,500 gallons of diesel when it crashed, environmental officials said, and the fuel also leaked into Brandywine Falls.
Protesters hurled soup at the Mona Lisa in Paris, but the painting was protected from damage by its glass casing. The environmental group Riposte Alimentaire – which roughly translates to “Food Response” – said two protesters involved with their campaign were behind the vandalism.

The week ahead

If you enjoy filing your taxes early, it’s your lucky day. The IRS will begin accepting and processing 2023 federal income tax returns. For those of us who are not professional tax preparers, be sure to file your return and pay any remaining taxes owed by April 15 — although some exceptions do apply. The IRS is also set to launch its free tax filing pilot program on Monday. Known as Direct File, the program will be open on a very limited basis — at first only to federal and state government employees in 12 states. By March, the IRS expects to expand to some private sector workers who meet certain income and tax situations supported by the tool.

The House Homeland Security Committee plans to vote on a resolution to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, moving closer to making him just the second Cabinet secretary in history to be charged with high crimes and misdemeanors over what House Republicans claim is a dereliction of duty as crossings at the US-Mexico border reach record highs.

The Federal Reserve wraps up its first interest rate meeting of 2024. When policymakers last met in December, they broached the subject of reducing interest rates for the first time since kicking off a historic inflation-busting campaign in March 2022. And while no change is expected at this time, Fed officials think there will be three rate cuts this year, according to recent projections. Those cuts would bring the Fed’s target interest rate closer to 4.6% from the current range of 5.25% to 5.5%.

It’s the first day of Black History Month, a nationwide celebration that calls on all Americans to reflect on the significant roles that African Americans have played in shaping US history. Learn more about the origin of this observance and the man known as the Father of Black History here.

Actor Alec Baldwin is scheduled to be arraigned on two counts of involuntary manslaughter following his indictment earlier this month on charges connected to the 2021 fatal shooting on the set of the movie “Rust.” Similar charges were dropped against Baldwin last year, with prosecutors saying in a statement at the time that they could not “proceed under the current time constraints and on the facts and evidence turned over by law enforcement in its existing form” due to “new facts” in the case.

It’s Groundhog Day — the day when several oddly dressed men hold a rodent in the air before a crowd of (partially inebriated) revelers and announce his weather forecast. (Editor’s note: Know any good Groundhog Day jokes? Feel free to email us. We keep hearing the same ones over and over and … )

South Carolina holds its Democratic primary. While President Joe Biden doesn’t have a serious challenger, his campaign hopes his efforts in the state will recharge voters and echo 2020, when South Carolina — especially its Black voters — catapulted the candidate on a path to the presidency. The Republican primary is three weeks later on February 24.

One Thing: One year after the derailment
In this week’s One Thing podcast, CNN’s Jason Carroll tells us how the town of East Palestine, Ohio, has become divided in the year following the toxic train derailment, which prompted calls for stronger railroad regulations. Listen here.

Photos of the week

Check out more images from the week that was, curated by CNN Photos.

What’s happening in entertainment

TV and streaming
Tonight at 9 p.m. is the premiere of “The Many Lives of Martha Stewart.” This four-part CNN Original Series traces Stewart’s explosive rise to success, her staggering fall from grace and her momentous comeback — establishing herself as a style icon and one of the country’s most fabled figures.

Friday is the premiere of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” on Prime Video. The eight-episode espionage series is a reimagining of the 2005 husband-and-wife assassin film that brought Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie together. The series stars Donald Glover as John Smith and Maya Erskine as Jane Smith. Glover also co-created and executive produced the series with Francesca Sloane.

In theaters
Continuing down the espionage track is “Argylle,” a movie about a spy novelist whose books begin to mirror the actions of a real secret spy organization. The all-star cast features Bryce Dallas Howard, Henry Cavill, Ariana DeBose, Bryan Cranston, Dua Lipa, Sam Rockwell, John Cena, Samuel M. Jackson, Sofia Boutella, Catherine O’Hara … and a cat that looks suspiciously like one of Taylor Swift’s three cats — complete with its own custom backpack carrier that has a bubble window.

What’s happening in sports

At a glance …
And then there were four … The NFL’s conference championships are today, with the Kansas City Chiefs facing the Baltimore Ravens at 3 p.m. ET on CBS and the Detroit Lions playing the San Francisco 49ers at 6:30 p.m. ET on FOX. Fans in Baltimore are anticipating another sighting of Taylor Swift — and perhaps a shirtless Jason Kelce. The winners earn a trip to Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.

However … in this age of disinformation and deep internet rabbit holes, some on social media claim the Super Bowl is a scripted event and that the NFL already knows which two teams will be playing on February 11. Watch this video to learn all about the Super Bowl logo conspiracy theory.

In tennis at the Australian Open, Italy’s Jannik Sinner rallied from two sets down to beat Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in a thrilling five-set men’s final. On Saturday, defending champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus swept past China’s Zheng Qinwen 6-3, 6-2 to claim the women’s title.

For more of your favorite sports, head on over to CNN Sports as well as Bleacher Report, which — like CNN — is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery.

Quiz time!

Looking for a challenge to start your week? Take CNN’s news quiz to see how much you remember from the week that was! So far, 50% of fellow quiz fans have gotten eight or more questions right. How will you fare?

Play me off …

Everything is Awesome’
Today is International LEGO Day, which celebrates the date when the patent for the globally famous plastic brick system was filed. Fun fact: The name LEGO is an abbreviation of the two Danish words “leg godt,” meaning “play well.” (Click here to view)

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