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Start your week smart: Christmas in Bethlehem, Trump criminal case, Wisconsin maps, Elijah McClain, Prague in mourning

By Andrew Torgan and Daniel Wine, CNN

(CNN) — It’s safe to say that 2023 has been anything but boring with wars, wildfires, mass shootings and political upheaval dominating the headlines. And while good news seemed to be in short supply, the year wasn’t all doom and gloom. Check out our Good News Generator for a dose of happy stories from 2023.

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

The weekend that was

• With Christmas approaching, Bethlehem should be teeming with visitors. But this year, the city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is almost deserted. Local leaders decided to scale back festivities as heavy fighting raged between Israel and Hamas in the devastated Gaza Strip.
The Supreme Court rejected a request by special counsel Jack Smith to fast-track arguments on whether Donald Trump has any immunity from federal prosecution for alleged crimes he committed while in office. Trump urged a federal appeals court to throw out the case, arguing that he is protected under presidential immunity.
• The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the state’s legislative maps, which give Republicans the advantage, are unconstitutional and ordered new lines drawn for the 2024 election. The 4-3 decision in a key battleground state carries major implications for the 2024 election.
• Two paramedics were found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who was subdued by police and injected with ketamine in Aurora, Colorado, in August 2019. Jeremy Cooper and Peter Cichuniec had pleaded not guilty.
• The Czech Republic observed a national day of mourning after the worst peacetime shooting in the history of the country left 14 dead and dozens wounded at Charles University in Prague. Bells tolled across the country for the victims of the attack.

The week ahead

Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate around the world! Joining in the festivities, Ukraine will mark its first official Christmas holiday on December 25, further distancing itself from the traditions of the Putin-aligned Russian Orthodox Church, which celebrates Christmas on January 7. Ukraine’s parliament voted over the summer to move the holiday to help Ukraine “abandon the Russian heritage of imposing the celebration of Christmas on January 7,” and help Ukrainians “live their own life with their own traditions (and) holidays.”

It’s Boxing Day — an official holiday in the UK that has nothing to do with empty gift boxes or punching someone in the face — and the start of Kwanzaa, a seven-day non-religious holiday observed in the US that celebrates African American culture.

Tuesday is also expected to be among the busiest travel days of Christmas week, according to the FAA, with more than 41,000 flights carrying travelers back from their holiday destinations.

On the heels of a call last week between President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to address the migrant crisis at the US-Mexico border, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and White House Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall are expected to travel to Mexico to discuss further actions with Mexican officials. Border security — which remains a vulnerability for Biden in 2024 — has been at the forefront this month as Senate negotiators tried to reach an immigration deal tied to the administration’s national security supplemental request. Those talks stalled, keeping Biden from clinching additional aid to Ukraine and Israel before the end of the year. The White House request also included $14 billion for border security.

SpaceX is planning a bicoastal doubleheader on December 28. Elon Musk’s reusable rocket company hopes to launch the US military’s secretive X-37B robotic space plane into orbit aboard its Falcon Heavy rocket. The four-hour launch window at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida opens at 7 p.m. ET. A few hours later at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, SpaceX plans to launch 21 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. Liftoff is targeted for 9:09 p.m. PT.

One Thing: Missed in 2023
In this week’s One Thing podcast, CNN correspondents and reporters look back on some of the under-covered stories of 2023 and examine what themes and trends could be major talking points in 2024. Listen here.

2023: The Year in Pictures

CNN Digital’s 2023: The Year in Pictures is an interactive photo gallery that will be updated weekly throughout December, so be sure to check back often. (Editor’s note: Some of the images are graphic. Viewer discretion is advised.)

What’s happening in entertainment

TV and streaming
The 46th annual Kennedy Center Honors will air Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on CBS. The 2023 honorees include comedian and host Billy Crystal, soprano Renée Fleming, singer-songwriter-producer Barry Gibb, rapper, singer and actress Queen Latifah, and singer Dionne Warwick. Latifah is the first female rapper to be honored at the prestigious ceremony.

The new stop-motion animation series “Pokémon Concierge” arrives on Netflix Thursday. Unlike in the various video games, movies and anime series, these Pokémon are not looking for a battle, but instead a little TLC at a peaceful resort.

In theaters
Christmas is shaping up to be a busy day at the box office. First up is “The Color Purple,” a musical reboot of the 1985 classic that stars Halle Bailey, Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, H.E.R, Colman Domingo, Phylicia Pearl Mpasi, Corey Hawkins and Danielle Brooks. (The film is a production of Warner Bros. Pictures, which, like CNN, is part of Warner Bros. Discovery.)

If speed is what you need, director and producer Michael Mann’s “Ferrari,” starring Academy Award nominee Adam Driver and Academy Award winner Penelope Cruz, roars onto the big screen. Driver plays the legendary automaker Enzo Ferrari, and Cruz portrays his wife Laura Garello Ferrari.

Finally, “The Boys in the Boat” is the 1930s-era story of the University of Washington’s rowing team, from their Depression-era beginnings to winning gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The film stars Joel Edgerton and is directed by George Clooney. Think “Chariots of Fire” with oars …

What’s happening in sports

At a glance …
What’s the true meaning of Christmas? Sports, apparently. There will be no shortage of games to watch on Monday beginning at noon.

In the NFL, the Las Vegas Raiders take on the Kansas City Chiefs, followed by the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, and the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. Speaking of the Ravens (nevermore?), they are the only team in the AFC to have already wrapped up their playoff spot. Over in the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles all have secured their trips to the postseason.

Basketball is another Christmas tradition with five matchups on the NBA schedule: Milwaukee Bucks vs. New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks vs. Phoenix Suns.

And we are smack in the middle of college football bowl season, with multiple games set to be played daily beginning Tuesday through Saturday.

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!

Take CNN’s Holiday Quiz! Brush up on fun and fascinating traditions from around the world. How will you fare?

Play me off …

‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’
What? Were you expecting Wham! or Mariah Carey? (Click here to watch)

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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