(CNN)Want to pay it forward in2019? January is National Blood Donor Month, and the Red Cross needs more than 13,000 donations every day to keep up its supply. You can make an appointment here.Here’s what you need to know toStart Your Week Smart.
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• It’s Carnival time! The festive season begins with Epiphany, marking for Christians the wise men’s visit to Jesus Christ, and runs until Mardi Gras, when Lent starts. Carnival’s US epicenter is New Orleans (I’ll nod to Mobile, Alabama, too), where more than 70 parades roll across the region through Fat Tuesday. Wherever you are, celebrate with a king cake.
• NFL playoff action continues, with the Chicago Bears hosting the Philadelphia Eagles at 4:40 p.m. ET. The game is on NBC.
• To Orthodox believers the world over, we wish you a merry Christmas. Because of a centuries-old calendar shift, most Christians marked the birth of Jesus Christ last month. But for those who didn’t — mostly in the former USSR, the Middle East and Africa — the 13-day delay means an extended holiday season and some really solid shopping deals.
• US and Chinese officials are due to meet for two days of talks in Beijing aimed at ending the monthslong trade war that’s rocking global financial markets.
• Actor Kevin Spacey is due in court to be arraigned on charges of indecent assault and battery stemming from a 2016 incident. Spacey is expected to plead not guilty.
• This is it, folks: college football’s biggest night. Alabama and Clemson face off for the national championship crown. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
• Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heads to the Middle East. The trip follows President Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement that US troops will leave Syria, even as the fight against ISIS continues in earnest. Pompeo will visit Saudi Arabia amid the trial of 11 suspects accused of killing Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The top US diplomat also is due for stops in Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait.
• American Catholic bishops wrap up a weeklong retreat near Chicago led by Pope Francis‘ own preacher. Billed as a spiritual — not a policy-making — meeting, it aims to give leaders a chance “to pray on the intense matters before us,” namely the clergy abuse scandal that made 2018 the church’s year from hell. The meeting, an expert said, could help prepare bishops to overhaul church culture, though some abuse survivors say they doubt it.
• The International Consumer Electronics Show kicks off in Las Vegas. The annual event is a can’t-miss for techies. Last year’s show featured the latest in voice-activated assistants, self-driving vehicles, virtual reality and futuristic TVs, plus a very ironic power outage. Stick with CNN Business all week for all the latest gadgets.
• New year, same old Brexit. The UK Parliament is due to begin debate on everyone’s favorite (attempted) divorce deal. British lawmakers go to the mat over Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal, which she pulled last month facing certain defeat. A vote is still expected next week, with Britain due to leave the European Union on March 29. A continued stalemate could create a so-called no-deal Brexit scenario.
• After a landslide victory decried as a sham by nations the world over, Venezuela‘s socialist President, Nicolas Maduro, is set to be sworn in for a second six-year term. Maduro said he’s “better prepared” now to oversee a nation in crisis, where 13,000% inflation has spawned food shortages and a migrant exodus.
• Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s “The Titan Games” banks on a kitschy Mount Olympus theme. It airs at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
• A trial is due to begin for an Egyptian actress accused of public obscenity for wearing a revealing dress at a film festival. Rania Youssef admits she may have misjudged reaction to her gown. The case typifies tensions between religious and secular authority in the Muslim world.
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