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Start your week smart: World Cup, Pope Francis, Kenny DeLand Jr., NFL, Kevin McCarthy

<i>Paul Childs/Reuters</i><br/>Croatia's Josko Gvardiol celebrates scoring a goal in his team's 2-1 win over Morocco to clinch third place in the World Cup.
Paul Childs/Reuters
Croatia's Josko Gvardiol celebrates scoring a goal in his team's 2-1 win over Morocco to clinch third place in the World Cup.

By AJ Willingham, CNN

Welcome to the weird two-week stretch where nothing really gets done and everyone’s just riding it through the holidays. (Well, unless you work in the restaurant industry, or shipping, or retail, or the healthcare industry, or janitorial services, or at a gas station, or an airport, or a place of worship, or as a musician, or don’t celebrate anything around this time of year.)

Whatever you’re up to, here’s what you need to know to Start Your Week Smart.

The weekend that was

• Pope Francis revealed in an interview published today that he has already signed his resignation letter to be used in the event of him becoming “impaired” by health issues.

• American college student Kenny DeLand Jr. has been reunited with his mother in Lyon, France, and is on his way back to the US after being reported missing in Europe more than two weeks ago.

• Donald Trump has weighed in on GOP leader Kevin McCarthy’s bid to be the House’s next speaker, calling on his supporters in Congress to stop their opposition tactics against the California congressman.

• It was a crazy Saturday in the NFL: The Minnesota Vikings mounted the largest comeback in NFL history to beat the Indianapolis Colts 39-36, while the Buffalo Bills’ dramatic 32-29 win over the Miami Dolphins was paused after fans in Buffalo threw snowballs onto the field.

• Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 Saturday in the World Cup’s third-place game, ending a stirring campaign by the African nation. The World Cup final, between Argentina and France, is today.

The week ahead


Hannukah begins this Sunday and lasts through Monday, December 26th. Chag Urim Sameach! Want to learn more about Hannukah? We’ve answered all your burning (ha!) questions.


It’s a busy week for the January 6th investigation. The House select committee is due to hold its last public meeting on Monday, and committee leaders say the final report will be released Wednesday.

US Soccer and FIFA will hold a memorial for Grant Wahl, the American journalist who died while covering the World Cup in Qatar. The tournament has been plagued by several tragedies, including the sudden death of photojournalist Khaled Saif Salem al-Misslam and the death of Kenyan security guard John Njau Kibue, who reportedly died in a fall in Qatar’s Lusail Stadium.

Title 42, the controversial Trump-era immigration policy put in place during the height of the pandemic, is coming to a forced end on Wednesday. The lifting of these restrictions is expected to result in a massive surge of migrants at the Southern US border. The Biden Administration has released a plan to manage the predicted influx.


Wednesday is the winter solstice — the shortest and darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere — meaning that Thursday is the first day of our ever-brightening journey towards next June’s summer solstice. (We just need to get through winter first.)


All we want for Christmas is to avoid a government shutdown. After lawmakers passed a stopgap measure last week to extend a federal funding deadline, December 23rd is the new due date to finalize a full-year deal.


It’s Christmas Eve! To celebrate, brush up on the fascinating origins of Christmas traditions.

Inside the fall of a ‘crypto king’

In this week’s ‘One Thing’ podcast, CNN Business Senior Editor Allison Morrow retraces Sam Bankman-Fried’s fall from grace after the collapse of his cryptocurrency exchange FTX, which culminated last week in his arrest. She breaks down the indictment and explains how this saga could impact the future of the cryptocurrency industry. Listen here for more.

Photos of the week

Browse the best photos from the World Cup here, or check out more moving, fascinating and thought-provoking images from the week that was, curated by CNN Photos.

What’s happening in entertainment

Beauty and the Beast Live! A 30th Celebration is getting rave reviews

You can stream the show, starring Grammy Award-winners H.E.R as Belle and Josh Groban as The Beast, on Disney+ or Hulu. Apparently there’s even a spot of guitar shredding.

Learn the secrets behind your Christmas movie favorites

You’ll never be able to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Trading Places” the same way again — and that’s a good thing. (Oh, and if you’re a big “A Charlie Brown Christmas” fan, do I have the article for you!)

What’s happening in sports

Argentina and France face off in the World Cup final today

Quick, to your TV! The game airs live in the US at 10 a.m. ET, and there’s plenty of drama at play. Will Argentinian soccer legend Lionel Messi get his first World Cup win in the twilight of his career, or will Kylian Mbappé and the Blues score France’s second World Cup title in a row?

It’s bowl game time

Get your college football fix in before the playoffs at the end of the month. Some highlights this week:

Wednesday: Armed Forces Bowl, Baylor v. Air Force (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Friday: Gasparilla Bowl, Wake Forest v. Missouri (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Quiz time!

Take CNN’s weekly news quiz to see how much you remember from the week that was! So far, 51% of fellow quiz fans have gotten eight or more questions right. How will you fare?

Play me off

Light Up the Nights

What better way to welcome in Hanukkah than with a vintage banger from our favorite Orthodox pop group, the Miami Boys Choir? (Click here to rock out.)

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