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Forecast Podcast: Portugal lifts restrictions, Women’s March, Japan gets new prime minister, US Supreme Court resumes, Kosovo-Serbia border protest

People gather on the streets of Seattle during the 2017 Women's March.

Listen to the full podcast episode here:

Show notes:

  • Portugal is set to lift nearly all remaining coronavirus restrictions on Friday as it leads the world in vaccinations.
  • The Women’s March is planning a rally across all 50 U.S. states on Saturday in response to controversial legislation introduced in Texas that significantly limits women’s access to abortion.
  • Japan’s parliament will likely convene on Monday in a special parliamentary session to confirm former foreign minister Fumio Kishida as the country’s new prime minister.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court will hold in-person oral arguments on Monday for the first time in the coronavirus era, however on a limited basis.
  • Ethnic Serbs block border in Kosovo — an interview with Factal Editor Alex Moore.

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

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Awais Ahmad, Lara von der Brelie, David Wyllie, Jeff Landset and Alex Moore.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe


This is an unofficial 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 September 30th.

In this week’s forecast we have Portugal lifting coronavirus-related restrictions, a Women’s March across the US, Japan’s parliament electing a new prime minister, the US Supreme Court resuming with in-person arguments and ethnic Serbs blocking the border in Kosovo. 

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

Portugal lifts restrictions

Information compiled by Awais Ahmad

JIMMY: Portugal is set to lift nearly all remaining coronavirus restrictions on Friday as it leads the world in vaccinations.

The lifting of restrictions is the final step in the three-phase plan the government announced in July. 

In August, localized curfews ended, allowing restaurants, stores and cultural venues to remain open until 2 a.m. 

And in September, outdoor mask mandates ended and the number of people present in public events increased to 75 percent capacity. 

Now, with more than 80 percent of the population vaccinated, the country will allow full occupancy in restaurants and cultural venues. Nightclubs and bars will also reopen for the first time since March of last year.

Of course, vaccine certificates or proof negative tests will still be required for air or sea travel, as well as major cultural or sporting events and at nightclubs and bars. Proof will not be mandatory in hotels and gyms. 

Still, as Portugal enters this new phase, Prime Minister Antonio Costa has reminded citizens of their personal responsibility, adding that “the pandemic is not over.”

Women’s March

Information compiled by Lara von der Brelie

JIMMY: The Women’s March is planning a rally across all 50 U.S. states on Saturday. The rallies are in response to a controversial abortion law in Texas that went into effet  September 1st.

That law bans all abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected — typically, at around six weeks pregnancy. 

The law does not make any exceptions for cases of rape or incest. 

Of course, similar laws have passed in other states, but Texas is the first state where it has been implemented after the Supreme Court refused to block the new legislation in a 5-4 vote.

Saturday’s march will be the first in-person Women’s March since the Trump presidency and it’s set to happen two days before the Supreme Court reconvenes on October 4th.

Saturday’s march also will be accompanied by supporting rallies around the world.

The event is expected to draw large crowds after the first Women’s March, held in January of 2017, made history as the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. 

Japan to determine new prime minister

Information compiled by David Wyllie

JIMMY: Japan’s parliament will likely convene on Monday in a special session to confirm former foreign minister Fumio Kishida as the country’s new prime minister. 

Just this week, Kishida was elected head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in a tight runoff vote against rival Taro Kono.

Incumbent Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga came to power following the health-related resignation of his predecessor Shinzo Abe, but Suga’s term has come to an end after his management of the coronavirus pandemic caused his popularity to plummet

Now, even though Kishida enjoys only moderate popular support, the Liberal Democratic Party holds a majority in parliament making his election all but certain. 

Of course, after the likely confirmation vote Kishida will take office and inherit a laundry list of problems, including recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, strained relations with China, domestic economic issues, and North Korea and its nuclear program. 

On top of all this, Japan is set to have an election by late November, meaning parliament is likely to be dissolved in mid-October to allow for a campaign — a campaign in which Kishida will lead the Liberal Democratic Party that has dominated post-war Japanese politics.

US Supreme Court resumes in-person arguments

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: The U.S. Supreme Court will hold in-person oral arguments on Monday for the first time in the coronavirus era.

The nation’s highest court called off oral arguments in March last year due to the pandemic. Since then, and for the first time in history, the justices have been hearing oral arguments by conference call

Those calls were streamed online and on C-SPAN as they happened. 

And that practice will continue because the only people allowed in the courtroom will be the justices, lawyers, reporters and essential court personnel. 

Still, when the court’s term begins on Monday, it will be the first time all of them work together in-person. But it will be safer than before because all nine justices have been vaccinated.

Monday will also be Amy Coney Barrett’s first time working from the Supreme Court — she was confirmed just days before the 2020 election but will be sworn in, ceremoniously, this week.

Now, the court will hear several high-profile cases this term, including a challenge to Roe v. Wade because of a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. The court will also hear a case that considers whether New York can restrict people from carrying concealed handguns in public. 

Finally, this could also be the final session for Justice Stephen Breyer. Many progressives have called for the 83-year-old justice to step down so President Joe Biden can nominate a younger replacement.

Ethnic Serbs block border in Kosovo

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the situation brewing in northern Kosovo on the border with Serbia. For more on that I spoke with Factal Editor Alex Moore.

JIMMY: Hi, Alex. 

ALEX: Hello, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: All right, I’m hoping you can help make sense of the situation in the Balkans. I guess to start, what is exactly going on?

ALEX: So, you noted it was northern Kosovo. Ethnic Serbs in partially-recognized Kosovo have blocked two of the main border crossing roads into Serbia for a week in response to a Kosovar law emulating an existing Serbian one that bars recognition of Serbian license plates.

JIMMY: You said Kosovo is partially recognized. Can you explain what that means?

ALEX: Sure. Yeah, so almost exactly 50 percent of UN countries recognize Kosovo’s independence, the other half don’t. They recognize it as still part of Serbia.

JIMMY: Gotcha. I’m sure the license plate issue isn’t happening in a vacuum. How does it fit into the bigger picture?

ALEX: Yeah, the blockages have just inflamed tensions that have already existed between the two and threatens a flare up in what is a volatile region that witnessed a pretty brutal war in the late 1990s, characterized by ethnic tensions between Kosovar Albanians and Serbs.

JIMMY: I guess the question I always ask is, what’s the international reaction to all this?

ALEX: Stakeholders such as the EU have urged calm and the NATO led peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo has stepped up patrols in response to the heightened tensions after Serbia increased combat readiness along the border. Albania, meanwhile, which is a member of NATO, sent its prime minister to Kosovo to urge Serbian de-escalation.

JIMMY: Well, what’s next? You know, what should folks be watching for?

ALEX: Along with continued direct action blocking the border between Kosovo and Serbia, any additional unrest among the minority Serb population in northern Kosovo. There was a grenade attack against an interior ministry building. So anything of that nature. Kosovo’s prime minister has suggested the diplomatic off-ramp of mutual recognition of one another’s license plates, so abolishing each side’s respective law. That does not seem to be likely to happen given that Serbia obviously continues to consider Kosovo a wayward province under its control. So it doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s right to hand out license plates, period, since it declared independence in 2008. The situation is certainly quite volatile, with Kosovar and Serbian forces in close proximity — the heightened alert level and the ethnic violence of the 90s a fresh memory — one incident could trigger a broader, dangerous clash.

JIMMY: A concerning situation no doubt. Thanks for the update and the insight, Alex. Appreciate it.

ALEX: No problem, Jimmy. Thanks for having me. 

JIMMY: Take care.

JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Awais Ahmad, Lara von der Brelie, David Wyllie and Jeff Landset. Our interview featured editor Alex Moore 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. 

Top photo: People gather on the streets of Seattle during the 2017 Women’s March. Source: Richard Ha