Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the upcoming week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. Published every Thursday, Forecast is a newsletter to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Get it in your email by subscribing for free.
A look ahead:
Nov. 14/ NASA launches SpaceX mission: The Resilience, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, is scheduled to launch from Florida carrying four astronauts atop a Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday evening.
- What’s happened so far: Crew-1 is the latest step in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a partnership with the aerospace industry to develop spacecraft and launch systems for carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. Originally scheduled for Oct. 31, the mission was delayed to address issues with Falcon 9’s engines. The suspect engines have been replaced, and the preparation leading up to the launch has since proceeded without a hitch — the Falcon 9 rocket with the Resilience on top rolled out to the launch pad on Nov. 10, and the mission’s Flight Readiness Review has concluded successfully.
- The impact: SpaceX has already made history as the mission’s Crew Dragon system recently became the first human-rated commercial spacecraft system in history to be certified by NASA. If successful, Crew-1 would become SpaceX’s first operational astronaut mission for NASA. The Commercial Crew Program’s overarching goal is to eventually allow NASA to focus on deep space missions by leaving operational flights to the private sector.
Nov. 15/ Turkish President Erdogan to visit Cyprus: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is set to visit Cyprus on Sunday, where he will advocate for a two-state solution to the decades-long division of the island nation.
- What’s happened so far: Erdogan’s visit comes one month after the election of a staunch ally in the northern breakaway region of Cyprus that analysts say will strengthen Turkish power in the region. The Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974, when a brief Greek-inspired coup prompted a Turkish military invasion. In a highly symbolic move, Erdogan plans to visit a beach resort in the north that had been sealed off since the island’s division.
- The impact: Erdogan said it is time for a realistic proposal for a two-state solution in Cyprus, a move vehemently opposed by the island nation. The visit comes as Turkey seeks to assert its influence in the region amid heightened tensions between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus over access to hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
Nov. 15/ Gilgit-Baltistan assembly election: Voters across Gilgit-Baltistan will vote Sunday as 330 candidates vie for seats representing 24 constituencies in the region, located in the disputed Kashmir territory.
- What’s happened so far: Sunday’s vote will be the third assembly election since the mountainous region was given the authority to rule itself in 2009. However, the assembly has few legal powers and remains largely governed by Pakistan. Gilgit-Baltistan is located at the junction of China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other parts of Kashmir. Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full but administer separate portions of it. In early November, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said his government will grant provisional provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan, drawing condemnation from India. Observers say Khan’s move is likely seen as a tit-for-tat response after India angered Pakistan last year when it announced status changes for Indian-administered Kashmiri territories and took away some privileges.
- The impact: Although Khan did not reveal details, the upgrade to provincial status would see a more empowered local assembly and likely bring Gilgit-Baltistan closer to the status of Pakistan’s other provinces. Aside from India’s interests in seizing the territory, Gilgit-Baltistan is also at the heart of the $65 billion China-Pakistan infrastructure development plan, putting its 1.2 million population in the crosshairs of three nuclear-armed world powers.
Nov. 15/ First round of Brazilian municipal elections: Brazilians will head to the polls to choose their local representatives Sunday, in a vote President Jair Bolsonaro hopes will increase his support for a possible presidential reelection campaign in 2022.
- What’s happened so far: The vote comes as the country sees a fall in coronavirus cases, though officials still fear the pandemic will keep voters away from polls. Election season also brought an epidemic of political violence in the country, with at least 82 candidates and militants killed in the run-up to the vote and more than 170 other attacks reported between January and October. On Monday, Ricardo de Moura, candidate for councilor in Guarulhos in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, was shot and injured while talking to voters in a live video.
- The impact: Bolsonaro hopes to increase the number of ring-wing local officials across Brazil during Sunday’s vote, claiming he needs mayors who are in tune with his ideas. The president said that if there is a second wave of coronavirus, mayors “will be extremely important” in convincing governors not to carry out “lockdowns,” which Bolsonaro believes will harm the economy and generate unemployment. Several areas of the country could see a rise in tensions and violence over the next few weeks, as cities where candidates do not reach a majority will hold a second run on Nov. 29.
Nov. 16/ Pfizer expected to apply for coronavirus vaccine use: Pfizer said it will likely apply for emergency authorization of its coronavirus vaccine in the third week of November, as early as Monday.
- What’s happened so far: In May, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer teamed up with German company BioNTech to launch a vaccine trial. They moved into a Phase 2/3 trial with 30,000 international volunteers in July. That was then expanded and the companies received permission to test the vaccine on children as young as 12. On Monday, Pfizer announced that the trials show the vaccine can prevent more than 90 percent of people from getting coronavirus. The company also announced it would apply for Emergency Use Authorization to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration once it has two months of safety data.
- The impact: Pfizer estimates it will produce up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. If it does get that emergency approval, those doses could be distributed by the end of this year. However, Pfizer’s vaccine uses two shots, both of which must be kept at 94 degrees below zero Fahrenheit — something that could slow distribution plans.
Nov. 17/ Facebook, Twitter CEOs testify before Senate: Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey are slated to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday to address the “censorship and suppression” of a New York Post article as part of their handling of the 2020 election.
- What’s happened so far: Republican lawmakers took aim at the social media giants for limiting the distribution of a controversial story about Hunter Biden in October, with Twitter saying the article violated its rules by containing images with personal and private information. Zuckerberg, Dorsey and Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai already appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee last month for a hearing on content-moderation practices, with Republicans claiming the sites deliberately censor conservatives.
- The impact: The upcoming hearing is expected to be the latest broadside against the liability protections provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which shield companies from lawsuits for user-created content.
Nov. 18/ U.S. House leadership election: Following the results of last week’s election, House Democrats are set to vote Wednesday on leadership positions, including speaker, following a worse-than-expected showing across the country. Republicans are expected to hold their leadership election Tuesday, with senior office holders running unopposed.
- What’s happened so far: Before the election, current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled her intent to run again for the position if the Democrats retained the House. She has since sent each Democratic member a letter asking for support. Pelosi faces criticism from the progressive and moderate wings of the party who blame her for a campaign that saw a weakened majority. Pelosi’s most serious potential challenger, House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, has ruled himself out of the race.
- The impact: With a potentially Republican Senate, it’s likely President-elect Joe Biden will need to focus his efforts on deal-making with Senate leader Mitch McConnell in order to pass major legislation. While it’s unlikely he’ll have problems passing bills in the House, it may still help Biden to have an ally known for her ability to make deals and whip votes.
What else matters:
Ethiopian conflict: Approximately 9 million people are at risk after a conflict erupted earlier this month in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray, an area already suffering from coronavirus and a recent locust infestation, according to the United Nations. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent federal troops to fight forces of the semi-autonomous territory following months of rising tensions and after an alleged attack on federal military bases.
- Watch for: Thousands of Tigray residents are fleeing to the Sudanese border, seeking safety in the Arab country that has seen its share of violence in recent months. Sudanese officials said they’re working with NGOs to prepare accommodations in Al Qadarif and Kassala states, while the government reiterated its support for the Ethiopian prime minister’s actions. Although federal forces claim they’ve taken control of large parts of Tigray and killed hundreds of their opponents, concerns are mounting about the possible escalation to a prolonged civil war, considering both sides’ manpower and access to heavy weaponry.
Armenia and Azerbaijan peace agreement: Russia brokered a peace deal (members’ link) between Armenia and Azerbaijan to end a bloody six-week conflict, predominantly over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. The agreement allows Azerbaijan to maintain territories taken over the course of the fighting. Armenia will withdraw from select territories it conquered in the 1990s, but retain control over the rest of the region. The strategically vital Lachin Corridor will now serve as the de-facto line of contact between the two sides, with roughly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers policing the area.
- Watch for: Unrest broke out in Yerevan almost immediately after the peace deal, as enraged Armenians felt their government gave away too much in the accord. Demonstrators beat Armenia’s parliament speaker in the street, while others overran the nation’s parliament building. The regions’ collective eyes are now on how the peace deal will be implemented, especially with the flow of refugees into the region. Many of the 800,000 Azerbaijanis who fled the region after the 1990s war now plan to return to Nagorno-Karabakh. (Read more about the conflict in this month’s edition of The Debrief.)
Nov 14: SpaceX Crew-1 mission launches
Nov. 15: Legislative Assembly elections in Gilgit-Baltistan; first round of Brazilian municipal elections; Turkish president visits Cyprus
Nov. 16: Pfizer expected to apply for coronavirus vaccine use
Nov. 17: Facebook and Twitter CEOs to testify at U.S. Senate; U.S. House Republicans hold leadership elections
Nov. 18: U.S. House Democrats hold leadership elections
Nov. 21: G20 Leaders’ Summit
Nov. 22: Presidential election in Burkina Faso
Nov. 26: U.S. Thanksgiving
Dec. 5: Kuwait parliamentary elections
Dec. 6: Cameroon regional elections
Dec. 7: Ghana general election
Dec. 8: Last day for U.S. states to resolve election disputes
Dec. 10: Hanukkah begins
Dec. 11: U.S. government funding deadline
Dec. 14: U.S. Electoral College votes
Dec. 12: UN-Britain climate summit
Dec. 23: President of U.S. Senate receives electoral vote certificates
Jan. 5: Georgia Senate runoff
Jan. 6: U.S. Congress counts electoral votes