1. Ukraine Inaugurates a New President
He’s the Willy Wonka of Kiev – he also happens to be one of its richest men. And today Petro Poroshenko was inaugurated as the new president of Ukraine. The 48-year-old “Chocolate King” is estimated by Forbes magazine to be worth $1.6 billion. He started his rise by importing cocoa beans into the Soviet Union in 1991. It grew to become the popular candy manufacturer Roshen, part of a business empire that now includes ship-building and a TV station. And if anyone can bridge the gap between Kiev and Moscow, it might just be Poroshenko. In 2001, he helped found the pro-Russian “Party of the Regions” – the political machine of the man he replaces, ousted president Viktor Yanukovych who Poroshenko served as foreign minister, and briefly as economics minister after Yanukovych came to power in 2010. But Poroshenko was one of those to desert Yanukovych soon after the protest movement broke out in late November 2013.
2. Pope Hosts Israelis, Palestinians
Two weeks after his trip to the Holy Land, this weekend Pope Francis entertains the Presidents of Israel and the Palestinian Authority as they “pray for peace.” Francis unexpectedly invited Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas after visiting Bethlehem last month but has stressed the initiative is purely spiritual and is not part of an attempt by the Vatican to mediate in the conflict. Israeli-Palestinian relations have taken a further turn for the worse in recent days following the formation of a new Palestinian unity government as part of a reconciliation deal between Abbas and the Islamist Hamas. Israel says it will build 1,500 new homes in Jewish settlements on land which the international community says Israel occupies illegally. “Building peace is difficult” says the Pope, “but living without peace is a constant torment.” Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down in late April and there have been no high-level meetings for a year.
3. Shimon Peres Exits the Stage
His Vatican trip will be Shimon Peres’s final bow on the international stage. On Tuesday, Israel’s Parliament will elect a new president and later this month the world’s oldest head of state will pass the torch to a successor. During 66 years in public life, Peres has twice been Prime Minister, spent many years at the right hand of Israel’s founding premier David Ben-Gurion, and won the Nobel Peace Prize. Peres was responsible for some of the defining decisions that ensured Israel’s survival and prosperity. He was the country’s arms procurer in its early years, and, in his 70s, as foreign minister, was the architect of the peace efforts with the Palestinians – winning the Nobel with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for the peace talks that produced the Oslo Accords. He’s got one final act before he bows out. Peres will come to the United States on a farewell visit to receive the Congressional Gold Medal – one of only nine individuals to receive both the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom. And in the race to appoint his successor, who is the most popular choice for president, even among right-wing Israeli voters? Shimon Peres!
4. World Cup Begins, Ready or Not
It rivals the Olympics as the greatest show on earth – for the rest of the world anyway. On Thursday the 2014 soccer World Cup begins in Brazil – the most expensive ever staged. But what should have been a moment the world catches a glimpse of the new Brazil risks becoming a debacle. The stadium which will host the opening game - the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo – is unfinished. The infrastructure upgrades — roads, airports, bus and train lines — are in even worse shape. Less than half of what was promised will actually be delivered. And the mood in Brazil is grim. A new Pew poll suggests 60 percent of Brazilians believe the World Cup will be bad for Brazil. But the hosts go into the tournament as the favorites. Team US faces an uphill battle. Stuck in the “Group of Death” with Germany and Portugal, the Americans may very well struggle to get out of the opening round – even coach Jürgen Klansman knows it, telling the New York Times magazine “We cannot win this World Cup.” But all eyes are on Brazil – and events off the field. We’ll all be back in Rio in two years’ time for the Olympics. Keep your fingers crossed the wrinkles will have been ironed out by the time of the main event.
5, Pulpy Pandas Hit Hong Kong
Panda-monium is set to hit Hong Kong next week! It’s part of a worldwide tour to create awareness for the conservation charity, WWF. French artist Paulo Grangeon crafted 1,600 papier-mâché pandas from recycled materials – they’ve already visited France, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Taiwan and have been part of nearly 100 exhibitions. In 2008, Serge Orru, who heads the French section of the World Wildlife Fund, came up with the idea to put the Pandas on display at various landmarks around the world. The idea was to raise awareness for conservation efforts, which have all but proven futile for the bears. The pandas come in six different shapes and sizes – and 1600? That’s the number still alive in the wild. And few sites will have been as picturesque as Hong Kong.