Here is a look at some of the stories that CNN plans to cover this week:
North Korea plans Kim Jong Il funeral
The funeral for North Korea's longtime leader Kim Jong Il is scheduled for Wednesday, CNN has learned.
North Koreans continue to pay respects for their late leader with military sites, factories and public buildings flyingÂ flags at half-staff -â€“ part of the repressive country's 11-day period of mourning.
North Korea said Friday that it would admit delegations from the South that wish to visit Pyongyang to express their condolences, according to a statement posted on a government website run by the North.
"We will guarantee all convenience and safety of the South Koreans during their visit," said the statement on uriminzokkiri.com, dated Thursday, adding that the North would open to the delegations "all air routes and land routes through Kaesong," its industrial park, some 45 kilometers (27 miles) north of Seoul, South Korea.
Seoul has made a number of gestures as it tries to navigate the uncertainty created by the North's leadership transition. Pyongyang has named Kim's youngest son, Kim Jong Un, as the "Great Successor" to his father.
GOP presidential candidates ready for caucus season
With the caucus season set to begin in Iowa in less than two weeks, GOP presidential hopefuls Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann and the rest may well work through the holidays to gain an edge.
Gingrich, whose rise in the polls in recent weeks has been overshadowed by Paul, lowered his expectations recently for an Iowa victory.
"My goal is to be the top three or four (in Iowa)," the former House speaker said at a campaign stop in Richmond,Virginia. "I'd love to win."
While Gingrich expects to come in third or fourth in Iowa, he said he has higher predictions for other early voting states.
"I probably will be in the top two in New Hampshire, and then to win South Carolina and Florida," Gingrich said.
His campaign took a blow when Gingrich failed to collect enough signatures to appear on the Virginia primary ballot. It leaves the longtime Virginia resident without a place on the state's ballot and raises questions about his campaign's organization.
Slam-dunk week as the NBA returns
With the long-awaited and belated NBA season set to begin on Christmas Day, the week ahead figures to be the busiest for U.S. professional basketball fans Â since the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat to win the title in June.
And speaking of sports, the coming week will see quite a few college football bowl games. A few standouts include California vs. Texas on Wednesday; Iowa will play Oklahoma on Friday; Virginia squares up against Auburn on Saturday.
Monday profile: Taking a stand or standing by her man?
Her husband has denied responsibility for the deadly violence sweeping his country. But Syria's glamorous, British-born first lady has been largely silent. Is she in denial, as some observers suggest? What must she be thinking?
Home for the holidays: TheÂ Obamas' Hawaii adventure
After Congress rammed throughÂ an amended version of the two-month payroll tax cut extension,Â President Barack Obama finished business in Washington then headed to Hawaii to join his family for the holidays.
The weeklong vacation has become an annual rite for the president, who is wrapping up an especially contentious legislative year marked by repeated partisan brinksmanship and declining public approval of a seemingly dysfunctional Congress.
As much as he needs the rest, the holidays have not been kind to Obama during his presidency.
In 2009, his visit to his home state was interrupted by an attempted terrorist attack on a jetliner outside Detroit. Obama, who was in his home state of Hawaii, was briefed on the incident but made no changes to his schedule.
During the Thanksgiving break of 2010, the presidentÂ got a busted lip in a gameÂ of basketball, resulting in 12 stitches.
Anderson Cooper + Kathy Griffin = New Year's fun
Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin will again be co-hosts of CNNâ€™sÂ New Yearâ€™s Eve celebration from 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, December 31. The odd couple will ring in 2012 for CNNâ€™s "New Year's Eve Live With Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffinâ€ť live from NYCâ€™s Time Square.
"Get ready, America.Â Pull up a chair and a box of your finest wine, because you've never seen a New Year's Eve show like this,â€ť said Griffin.
New York won't be the only game in town, though.Â TheÂ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las VegasÂ has scheduled a three-day bash beginning on December 30. Hip-hop star Drake, singer Corey Taylor and Guns Nâ€™ Roses are slated to perform.