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Weekend Roundup: Where Pope Francis and Xi Jinping Cross Paths

Pope Francis and President Xi Jinping were both in Washington and New York this week for engagements at the White House and the United Nations. They didn't meet. But their paths certainly crossed. The pope made the moral case for tackling poverty and climate change. President Xi affirmed he will intensify the "reform and opening up" policies that have lifted 500 million people in China out of poverty over the last 30 years -- a feat accomplished more rapidly than any other society in history. And, as the leader of the world's second-largest economy, he pledged to join forces with the U.S. and others to spearhead the global battle against climate change.

Francis' detractors may call him a "communist in a cassock" while Xi's party is Communist in name only, but this alliance of purpose that pairs the prayers of the pope with the formidable state capacity of China could actually move the big needle.

Paul Vallely, one of the pope's most sympathetic biographers, writes that Pope Francis has "switched the focus of the Catholic Church away from a high-profile fight against abortion and gay marriage and onto a mission to serve the poor and extend mercy to all. He is far more concerned with issues related to money than to sex." Writing from Rome, Piero Schiavazzi marvels at the pope's "diplomatic triple backflip" -- meetings with the liberal American president, the predominantly conservative U.S. Congress and the U.N. General Assembly in the space of a few days. Massimo Faggioli outlines the challenges the Argentine pontiff faces in converting the American body politic, as well as his own Catholic flock, to his view of the world. Religious scholar Jack Miles sees in the sermonizing pontiff "a prophet of hope rather than doom." Bianca Jagger, too, hopes the pope can change the political climate ahead of the upcoming U.N. summit in Paris on a new global warming treaty. These photos and videos capture images of the pope's tour of the U.S..

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon explains the importance of nations gathering at the U.N. this week to commit to sustainable development goals over the next 15 years. The World Bank's top environmental official, Paula Caballero, reminds us "there is no Planet B." In an interview, NASA scientist William Borucki says his exploration of the universe has given him a more urgent perspective on his planetary homeland: "The Earth is a very special place," he warns. "Unless we have the wisdom and technology to protect our biosphere, it could become like many other dead worlds."

Writing from Beijing, Wang Tao argues that China and the U.S. should join forces to fight the common enemy of the 21st century -- climate change. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd lists the 10 top questions about China these days and worries about a "potentially irreparable strategic drift" if it cannot establish a constructive, but realistic, relationship with the U.S.. Jimmy Carter, who normalized relations with China as president, echoes this concern and says China and the U.S. "must do more than agree to disagree." Reflecting on conversations during a recent visit to Beijing, I argue that opening negotiations on "cyber detente" between the two global powers is the highest priority. Writing from Shanghai, Shen Yi contrasts the optimistic welcoming of President Xi among the West Coast tech entrepreneurs to the chilly reception inside the Washington Beltway and says "cyber governance is better than cyberwar."

William Overholt argues that America's emphasis in recent years on military might has been accompanied by the disengagement of the U.S. Congress from global economic leadership. "The enemy is not Russia or China," he writes, "but us." From Beijing, Hu Bo starkly acknowledges that the U.S. and China are engaged in a strategic rivalry yet can still find a peaceful modus vivendi in the South China Sea. WorldPost China Correspondent Matt Sheehan chronicles how President Xi has become a "strongman" by accumulating power at the top and, along with the HuffPost reporter team, outlines the key issues between the U.S. and China. Daniel Marans talks to economists who think "China's economic problems may be worse than we think."

Ahead of the U.S. visit of Asia's other top leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to Facebook, Bhagwan Chowdhry sees the potential of "reversing the brain drain" of Indian talent to Silicon Valley. Maina Chawla Singh checks in with young people of the Indian diaspora to assess their view of Modi and his campaigns on digital economy and clean energy.

World Reporter Nick Robins-Early explains how Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban became "the villain of Europe's refugee crisis." Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff says the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe must shake the international community -- and the United Nations -- out of its idleness. Karam Alhamad tells the story of his father who is still living under President Assad and the Islamic State group in Syria. Nadeen Aljijakli argues that the U.S. is falling far short of its responsibility in settling Middle Eastern war refugees. World Reporter Charlotte Alfred chronicles the travels of Syria's "piano man" as he journeys from the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk near Damascus to Europe. These Instagram photos document the often harrowing trek of refugees northward across Europe.

As if confronting the woes of Greek debt and the refugee influx were not enough for Germany, Sebastian Matthes writes from Munich that the Volkswagen smog test scandal has severely tarnished the reputation of Germany's auto industry -- and perhaps of Germany itself -- for "credibility and reliability." Christoph Löbel reports from Munich that Chancellor Angela Merkel's popularity is taking a hit for her handling of the refugee crisis.

From Athens, Pavlos Tsimas wonders what a government led by "Tsipras 2.0" will look like. Sotiris Mitralexis proposes a name for the policies we can expect of the new Greek prime minister since bailout strictures are already in place: TINA (There Is No Alternative). Nikos Agouros is resigned to the long path ahead to recovery as Greece grapples with shedding debt and taking on more refugees. Writing from Madrid ahead of a parliamentary vote in Catalonia on Sunday that is expected to favor secessionists, Montserrat Domínguez calls the idea of Catalan independence "an illusion."

In this week's "Forgotten Fact," Charlotte Alfred explains how explosions hurt more civilians in Yemen than in Syria this year.

From Mexico City, Homero Aridjis recalls the devastating earthquake there 30 years ago that he says continues to shake up Mexican society and politics. Former Israeli President Shimon Peres looks back on the "tides of peace and waves of war" he has experienced in his long life and warns against the "treacherous" illusion that we can ignore suffering around us and not one day reap the consequences. Ange Kagame offers inspiring personal testimony to the "power of forgiveness" in healing Rwanda. WorldPost Senior Editor Kathleen Miles reports that, in remarks on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari called for more airstrikes against ISIS and said he would not oppose Russian involvement if it helped solve the Syrian crisis. Also speaking in New York, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah says relations with the U.S. are the most positive in years. This week, Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, was observed by Muslims around the world. The celebrations are profiled here in videos and photos.

In our exponential technology series this week, WorldPost Associate Editor Peter Mellgard ventures into the future industry of sex robots. Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and Huw Price speculate on the evolution of earthly intelligence in the eras ahead and suggest it may well be post-human. HuffPost Live interviews Nicolas Berggruen about the $1 million Nobel-like prize for philosophy he announced last week.

In our Singularity series we gauge just how close scientists are to reverse engineering the human brain. Fusion reports on Edward Snowden's unique theory about aliens out there in the universe -- that they may be communicating with us, but we can't read their encrypted signals. Finally, in a striking photo essay, Katherine Brooks shows what early modern photography looked like in Japan.

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