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Forecast Podcast: Scottish elections, Amazon union fight, Eid restrictions, Myanmar leader hearing, Colombia protests

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Scottish citizens will vote for a new government following months of public inquiries into some of the country’s most prominent politicians. The National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing to consider objections to last month’s Amazon union election in Alabama. multiple countries across the Middle East are tightening restrictions ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to appear before a court as she remains under house arrest. And an interview with Factal editor Irene Villora about the national strike that has ground Colombia to a halt.

These stories and more are available in our weekly Forecast email and you can subscribe for free.

Note: Factal and Emergent Risk International’s regular briefings have become essential to global security professionals. The risk analysts at ERI and journalists at Factal provide a wealth of information presented in a rapid-fire, hour-long presentation. Whether it’s new developments in coronavirus relief or recovery, or signs of civil unrest around the globe, experts will break down what the latest headlines mean for security roles. Plus, they’ll always take questions.  The next briefing is May 13 from noon to 1 pm PDT.   Register online.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Lara von der Brelie, Joe Veyera, Ahmed Namatalla, Sophie Perryer and Irene Villora.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.


Intro: [music: ‘Factal Theme’ by Andrew Gospe]

Transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is May 6th.

In this week’s forecast we look at Scotland’s parliamentary elections, a labor board’s hearing on Amazon’s union vote, Eid restrictions in the Middle East, a court appearance for Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and the protests in Colombia. 

You can read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

Scotland’s parliamentary elections

Information compiled by Lara von der Brelie

JIMMY: Scottish citizens will be voting for a new government today. The elections come after months of public inquiries into some of the country’s most prominent politicians.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party holds a minority government and is considered likely to win. 

However, the party’s lead in the polls narrowed after a public dispute between Sturgeon and her predecessor, Alex Salmond, over a string of sexual assault allegations against him. 

Some fear their fractious relationship and Salmond’s new Alba Party could hurt the Scottish National Party’s chances of securing a majority in Scotland’s parliament. 

Sturgeon has faced backlash over allegations that she mishandled the complaints against Salmond. 

And while Salmond was cleared of all sexual assault charges and an independent investigation found Sturgeon did not breach ministerial code, a separate probe called her government’s actions ”deeply flawed.”

Still, Salmond said his party will help Sturgeon get the supermajority she needs to secure a second referendum on Scottish independence. 

Sturgeon, on the other hand, said the plan could backfire and split the pro-independence vote — allowing UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to block a public decision on the future of the Union. 

Scotland voted against Brexit in 2016 and would likely rejoin the European Union if it gained independence. 

Labor board hearing on Amazon union election

Information compiled by Joe Veyera

JIMMY: On Friday the National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing to consider objections to an Amazon union election in Alabama.

That election last month ended with employees at the Bessemer facility rejecting the effort by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

The retail union involved claims corporate giant Amazon interfered with the election by allegedly threatening to close the warehouse and warning it would lay-off most of the proposed bargaining unit if the vote was successful. 

The labor board said the evidence submitted by the union could constitute grounds to overturn the election results

Meanwhile, Amazon dismissed the allegations, suggesting the union is “misrepresenting the facts in order to drive its own agenda.” 

The company is grappling with a wave of recent strike actions organized by unions across Europe, as warehouse workers and delivery drivers protest working conditions during the pandemic. 

Friday’s hearing will be overseen by the labor board’s regional director, but regardless of how they ultimately rule on the challenge, either side will be able to appeal the decision to the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. 

The board could order a new election, or even order the company to bargain with the union if it finds Amazon’s conduct to be “extraordinarily egregious.”

Eid restrictions across Middle East

Information compiled by Ahmed Namatalla 

JIMMY: Starting Saturday, multiple countries across the Middle East will be tightening restrictions ahead of Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. 

The holiday is often marked by cross-country travel and large family gatherings and officials have announced preemptive measures in an effort to contain a resurgence in coronavirus spread.

Cases are on the rise or holding at elevated levels in most Middle Eastern nations.

What’s more, Jordan and Morocco recently identified cases of the more contagious Indian variant of the coronavirus. 

This raises concerns of a new wave of transmission in two of just a few countries that have been able to lower their case counts with emphasis on strict lockdowns and vaccine drives.

Authorities in the region will be imposing a wide range of measures around Eid. 

Turkey, which has seen thousands of coronavirus cases each day for weeks, has been on a nationwide three-week lockdown since April 29th. State-affiliated media is crediting that with preventing a worse outcome. 

Meanwhile in Oman, the government announced a nighttime curfew and shutdown of non-essential businesses for a week starting Saturday. 

Iraq, on the other hand, will be going into full lockdown for 10 days starting Wednesday.

Aung San Suu Kyi hearing

Information compiled by Sophie Perryer

JIMMY: On Monday, Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to appear before a court

She has been under house arrest since being detained in the early hours of Feb. 1st, as the military forcefully seized power from her civilian government in a coup. 

Former State Counselor Suu Kyi faces a total of six charges, including one count of violating the official secrets act, which carries a maximum jail term of 14 years. 

She’ll appear in court alongside two other leaders from Myanmar’s former civilian government.

Her defense team says they have been denied private access to their client, and have only been permitted to hold video meetings under observation from security forces.

Suu Kyi has previously criticized the pace of the junta’s legal process. And while she has appeared in court on multiple occasions since the coup, the purpose of the hearing, like her fate, remains unclear.

Colombia tax reform protests

Defensores de Derechos Humanos attempt to engage police in Medellín, Colombia on April 28, 2021.
Defensores de Derechos Humanos attempt to engage police in Medellín, Colombia on April 28, 2021. (Photo: Humano Salvaje / Flickr)

Information compiled by Irene Villora

JIMMY: Hello, Irene.

IRENE: Hi, Jimmy. How are you?

JIMMY: I’m good. Thanks for talking with us today. I’ve been checking in on the Colombia protests a little bit this week, and they’ve been surprisingly active. When did all this start? And for that matter why?

IRENE: Yes, the protests started on April 28. As reaction of the population to a tax reform that was proposed by the Colombian government in April 15. This tax reform was presented as a measure to help out the people whose incomes had been affected by the pandemic. But the main aspects of the tax reform meant taxing the middle class quite heavily for basic services and products, which in a bruised economy, like the one Colombia has now, after the pandemic is really not ideal.

JIMMY: We’ve seen a lot of graphic images. Just how bad is the situation there?

IRENE: Well, since the beginning of the protests, which have been quite deadly, we’ve seen a lot of clashes in the streets, a lot of views of police brutality, this is quite common. In Colombia, where protests are quite rare. The population has traditionally only gotten out to the streets to protest when they are quite desperate about the situation. We’ve seen a death toll of over 20 people, approximately and 1000s of injuries. So the government started feeling the pressure and decided to withdraw the tax reform.

JIMMY: I see. Have there been any resignations over this?

IRENE: Yeah, the finance minister resigned a little bit forced by the government, and his replacement has already been appointed. But I don’t think this is going to be a point of inflection to calm down the protests.

JIMMY: Now, is the tax reform fully withdrawn, or is it just on hold on sorts?

IRENE: Yes, the tax reform was withdrawn on May the second because of the spark of civil unrest, it didn’t even make it to the, to the phase of approval. So it’s not project anymore. The government is studying whether they’re going to present another negative bill. The they are going to be meeting with leaders of the protests over next week to see if they can agree our way out of the crisis. And if they can agree on some basic points, that could contribute to the eventual approval of a reform, but one that affects the population slightly less.

JIMMY: I see. Have things calmed down now that the tax reform measure has been withdrawn.

IRENE: We have not seen yet. withdrawal of people from the streets. I would not expect so at least on the line agreement is reached between the parties. But also we have to bear in mind that in Colombia or in Latin America, in general, when people take to the streets to protest is normally because they are in a very rough situation already after this pandemic. families don’t have anything to feed their children, and I think is going to take significant steps on the government side to make people go home. On the other side, as well. We have to take into account that a lot of the people who are protesting can only last for so long in the streets because their livelihoods depend on what money they’re able to make every day. And the thing that they’re investing in bringing protesting outside, they are not investing in making money to buy the food of the day.

JIMMY: Well, that certainly puts things in perspective there. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us about it today. Hopefully this situation will end without further bloodshed.

IRENE: Yeah, let’s hope so. Thanks Jimmy.

JIMMY: One note before you go. Every other week Factal and our partners at Emergent Risk International co-host a Global Security Briefing. The next one is May 13th from noon to 1 pm Pacific and, as always, will feature risk analysts at ERI and Factal co-founder Cory Bergman breaking down what the latest headlines mean for security roles. We’ll put a link to the sign-up in the show notes. 

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Lara von der Brelie, Joe Veyera, Ahmed Namatalla, and Sophie Perryer. Our interview featured editor Irene Villora and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe. 

Until next time, thanks for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can, of course, subscribe for free. And if you have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing hello at factal dot com.

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed.