Pope Francis sets foot in the Holy Land next week. Incredibly, he’s only the fourth pope to visit, and it comes exactly 50 years after the first, when Pope Paul VI visited Jerusalem, ending a 900-year estrangement with the Greek Orthodox church. But every stop on the trip is fraught with political sensitivities. Francis will spend half a day in Jordan, visiting the site of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River, before going to the West Bank where he will celebrate Mass in Bethlehem. But instead of a quick 10-minute drive from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, the pope will fly by helicopter 28 miles to an official “welcoming ceremony” at Tel Aviv Airport. He then flies back to Jerusalem to meet Israeli leaders, visit the holy sites and Israel's Holocaust memorial. The arrangements reflect Jerusalem's disputed status. Israel claims the city as its undivided capital but its control of east Jerusalem, captured in 1967, is not recognized under international law. Being the Holy Land, it’s complicated!
Europe goes to the polls next week. Voters in the 28 member states of the European Union will elect 751 members of the European Parliament. Each country has its own electoral laws and each one decides on what day its citizens will go to the polls in a four-day election period from Thursday to Sunday. But next week's European elections will not only see new MEPs elected, the vote will also determine who becomes the next president of the European Commission. The current President -- the head of the EU’s executive branch -- stands down in the fall. Usually, the president is simply nominated by EU member states, but José Manuel Barroso’s successor will be elected this year by the Parliament. So it means voters across the E.U. will have a say for the first time in who takes over at the helm of European Commission. Six candidates are in the running, two of them in a very European “job-share.” Among them, the former prime minister of Belgium and the man who was PM of Luxembourg for 18 years! The results from all 28 states will be announced Sunday evening.
Just a few weeks after William and Harry wowed the crowds in Memphis and paid homage to “The King” at Graceland, the man who one day actually will be King is coming to North America. Prince Charles arrives in Canada Sunday, his 17th visit to the country he will one day rule. Charles and Camilla may not wow the crowds in the way William, Kate and baby George did Down Under, but the royal couple's latest visit to Canada is no less significant. The four-day trip features events to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday and the couple will mark the centenary of the World War I. And not to be upstaged by his new grandson’s appearance with a bilby at Sydney Zoo, Prince Charles will come face-to-face with Hudson the polar bear when he visits Winnipeg.
Hopes were high two years ago of an end to Burma’s isolation. Myanmar, as it was renamed by its former military rulers, was brought in from the cold after a deal between Aung San Suu Kyi (second only to Nelson Mandela as the world’s most famous ex-prisoner of conscience) and its former army chief- turned President Thein Sein. All of it brokered behind the scenes by the United States. and sealed, first with a visit by Hillary Clinton in 2011, and by then President Obama a year later. But Burma’s progress has stalled. The United States extended some economic sanctions against Burma this week for another year, citing the ongoing conflict and human rights abuses against Muslims in Rakhine State, and the continued role of the military in the country’s political and economic activities. Today, in a further sign of the country’s stalled progress, Aung San Suu Kyi led a rally in Rangoon to demand a change in the constitution that would allow her to run in presidential elections due next year. The constitution dates back to the time of Burma’s military junta, and effectively bars Suu from running.
And forget the Olympics. Competition is just as tough at the World Latte Art Championship this weekend. The organizers say the tournament “highlights artistic expression” in the swirly patterns baristas produce in your daily cup of joe. Entrants are judged on visual attributes, creativity and consistency: They have to produce identical patterns in two different cups of coffee, using just the steamed milk and form poured over a shot of espresso to create their magic. Last year’s winner, Hisako Yoshikawa of Japan, drew a rose in her cup. Thirty-two contestants are going cup-to-cup, and the winner will be toasted Sunday in Melbourne, Australia.