It’s Monday, it’s a new week, and while we won’t pretend to know everything that’s going to happen over the next seven days, we have some sense of what’s coming up.
Here’s your briefing on some of the most important and interesting stories happening in the week ahead.
1) Ramadan gets under way
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins next weekend (when it exactly begins depends on where in the world you live).
It is the most important month in the calendar for the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, who will fast between dawn and sunset to bring themselves closer to God. Drinking, smoking, sex and “sinful behaviour” are also forbidden at this time.
Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the holy month moves forward roughly 11 days every year. This means for Muslims in the Middle East, Ramadan is moving further away from the longest day of the year (and therefore fasting hours are getting shorter by the year).
In the United Arab Emirates, for example, people will fast for just under 15 hours this year. In the year 2030, it will come down to only 10 hours.
2) Do you have anything to add, Mr Barr?
Donald Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, will have some tricky questions to answer this week.
Let’s rewind a little: special counsel Robert Mueller wrapped up his investigation into the actions of President Trump and his team.
Mr Barr then wrote a summary of Mr Mueller’s report, and gave a press conference reiterating his points before releasing a redacted version of the report.
However, once they’d read the report, Democrats accused Mr Barr of misleading the public and of partisan behaviour. Democratic leaders in Congress said it was “clear” the report “appears to undercut” Mr Barr’s characterisation of it.
He’s now agreed to testify before two senate committees, one on Wednesday and the other on Thursday.
If you need to catch up, here are eight things we learned from the Mueller report.
3) Japan gets a new emperor
On Tuesday, Japan’s ageing Emperor Akihito will become the first emperor to stand down in two centuries. His son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will take over on Wednesday.
It’s the start of a new era in Japan – its name, Reiwa (which signifies order and harmony) will appear on coins, newspapers, driving licences and official paperwork. Here’s more on the significance of the term and the new era.
If you’re in Japan, it’s worth being prepared: the country is celebrating a 10-day holiday, and many basic facilities will stop. Banks will be closed for the whole holiday and the government says “those planning to withdraw large sums of money during the holiday are advised to do so in advance”.
There’s some interesting context about this abdication, too: it is leading to debate about the future of the royal family, and in particular the rule that women may not become emperor. More on that here:
4) Squeaky bum time
It was a term coined by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson for that period of a football game or season when things start to get rather tense.
We are well and truly into squeaky bum time now. With two games of the Premier League season left, only two teams can still win it, and it’s the closest title race in years.
Manchester City and Liverpool are neck-and-neck at the top, and both teams are displaying strong form. Liverpool are on course to gain one of the highest ever Premier League points totals – but may still not win it.
This could be a deciding weekend in the title race – Liverpool are away at Newcastle United, and Man City play Leicester City.
It’s not likely to be decided this weekend… but everything is possible.