Listen to the full podcast episode here:
- In response to soaring coronavirus death tolls, Russian President Putin declared a week of “non-working days” starting Friday as part of a series of new, stricter restrictions introduced to combat the spike.
- Truck drivers across several Brazilian states are planning to strike Monday over the increase in fuel prices and new government’s proposals for the sector.
- The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments starting Monday concerning Texas’ highly restrictive abortion law that bans the procedure after roughly six weeks of pregnancy and enables lawsuits against abortion providers.
- A UN report due to be released on Monday is expected to reveal numerous allegations of human rights violations in Tigray, Ethiopia, that occurred during the year-long conflict.
- Sudan Coup — an interview with Factal editor Ahmed Namatalla
These stories and more are available in our weekly Forecast email and you can subscribe for free.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:
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 October 28th.
In this week’s forecast we’ve got Russia shutting down workplaces due to the coronavirus, Brazil truck drivers planning to strike, a Supreme Court hearing on the Texas abortion ban, a UN report on abuses in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and an update on the Sudan coup.
You can read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
Russia workplace shutdown
Information compiled by Bada Kim
JIMMY: In response to soaring coronavirus death tolls, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a week of “non-working days” starting Friday. It’s part of a series of new, stricter restrictions introduced to combat the spike.
Russia has repeatedly hit record highs for coronavirus deaths the last few months and now ranks fifth in the world in total fatalities since the start of the pandemic.
In an effort to curb the spike, Moscow, which is the epicenter of the country’s clusters, will shut down all businesses aside from supermarkets and pharmacies during the period.
And while Putin’s decree states all employee salaries “should be” paid, placing pressure on many businesses already crippled from the pandemic, the government only pledged support for small and medium-sized businesses, for an amount equal to the minimum wage.
Now, Russia’s struggle through this particularly bad phase of the pandemic does not appear close to an end.
Despite it being one of the world’s first countries to launch a booster shot campaign in July, the country reports sluggish vaccination rates with just about 35 percent of the country’s population fully vaccinated.
Finally, while the Kremlin has ruled out another nationwide lockdown so far, surging infections are expected to continue putting pressure on Russia’s healthcare system.
Brazil trucker strike
Information compiled by Jess Fino
JIMMY: Truck drivers across several Brazilian states are planning to strike Monday. The action is a response to the increase in fuel prices and new government proposals for the sector.
Drivers have held blockages over the past month in protest of rising fuel prices and Petrobras’ pricing policy, and in the process cut access to several fuel distribution centers leading to shortages.
Earlier this month, President Jair Bolsonaro announced “diesel aid” for around 750,000 truck drivers by the end of next year, but drivers rejected the offer, calling it “insufficient.”
And now, just days before the planned strike, the federal government canceled a last-minute meeting with drivers where officials were expected to reach agreements to avoid the strike.
Now, the strike is expected to last up to two weeks with action mobilized mainly in the Port of Santos in São Paulo, but likely to spread across other states.
Officials warn the country is “facing a very chaotic situation,” not only with fuel prices but with the quality of roads, in a country heavily dependent on trucks to deliver goods and services.
Finally, a large number of drivers are expected to join the strike, particularly after the government failed to meet with their representatives, which could lead to more fuel shortages as well as political unrest in a deeply divided country.
Supreme Court hears Texas abortion ban arguments
Information compiled by Alex Moore
JIMMY: The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments starting Monday concerning the highly restrictive Texas abortion law. That law bans the procedure after roughly six weeks of pregnancy and enables lawsuits against abortion providers.
The controversial law, which was passed exclusively by Republican legislators, was designed specifically to survive attempts to dismantle it in the court system by turning the enforcement mechanism over to private citizens through a lawsuit stipulation.
The Supreme Court allowed the bill to take effect on September 1st in a narrow 5-4 vote with Chief Justice Roberts dissenting.
Now, it remains unclear if the court will address the core question of the law: whether the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling remains precedent.
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court’s ruling could potentially pave the way for widespread erosion of the constitutional right to an abortion without excessive government restriction.
After all, at least seven other Republican-led states are looking to copy Texas.
UN report on Tigray, Ethiopia
Information compiled by Sophie Perryer
JIMMY: A UN report due to be released on Monday is expected to reveal numerous allegations of human rights violations that have occurred during the year-long conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia.
Investigators from the UN human rights office carried out more than 200 interviews with eyewitnesses, authorities and humanitarian actors during a three-month inquiry over the summer of 2021.
After fieldwork across Tigray was completed, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet indicated the report would contain multiple allegations of violations including attacks on civilians, extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances and sexual violence.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation has continued to worsen in Tigray, with more than 5.2 million people in need of aid.
A UN humanitarian flight on Oct. 22 was also forced to return to Addis Ababa after being unable to land due to airstrikes in the Tigrayan capital of Mekele.
Now, Bachelet has urged the Ethiopian government to heed the recommendations of the UN investigation and to give humanitarian actors unhindered access to the Tigray region.
The EU said it was awaiting Monday’s report to inform sanctions it plans to impose on those involved in the Tigray conflict.
In the United States, the Biden administration said it is prepared to impose sanctions on the Ethiopian government and any other parties accused of prolonging the war.
Human Rights Watch has called on Bachelet to hold an inter-sessional briefing on the situation in Tigray before the end of the year.
Information compiled by Ahmed Namatalla
JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the military coup in Sudan. For more on that I recently spoke with Factal editor Ahmed Namatalla.
JIMMY: Hi, Ahmed.
AHMED: Hello, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Alright, Ahmed, I’m hoping you can shed some light on the recent developments in Sudan. What’s going on?
AHMED: Sudan’s military ruler Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan took power this week. He dissolved the joint government that he led with civilians and a sovereign council — the executive body that governed the country for the past few years, which was also jointly led with civilians. He briefly detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his wife before returning them home. He said he did this for their own security. And this marks the fifth coup in the northern part of Africa over the past 15 months, not counting Tunisia.
JIMMY: What was the military’s justification for launching the coup?
AHMED: Gen. Burhan said that he wanted to save the country from “civil war.” He cited recent unrest — protests in parts of the country, a lot of them related to the deteriorating economic situation over the past few years. There were protests in the east that blocked Port Sudan and prevented exports and imports from getting into the country. He said that there were too many factions fighting and he had to move. Now, notably, this came just a few weeks before he was due to turn over power to a civilian leader of that sovereign council, which would have given Sudan its first civilian leadership since the ouster of President Bashir in 2019.
JIMMY: I understand a lot of people within Sudan are protesting this, but how is the international community reacted?
AHMED: It’s been swift and it’s been more clear cut than in past events in the region. The UN and US, the EU, multiple European countries all condemned this action. The US suspended $700 million in aid to Sudan. And we have to keep an eye on the reaction from Arab neighbors because those have, over the past few years, had much more leverage over leaders in the region. So the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, who have supported the military coup in Egypt in 2013 and the Tunisian president’s power seizure in July, have expressed support for the military and have veered from calling this a coup.
JIMMY: Interesting. Well, you know, what else should folks be watching for with this? What’s next?
AHMED: So the big things we’re watching for are how the UAE and Saudi Arabia will proceed because they hold a lot of leverage. And if they start pouring money into Sudan, like they did in Egypt and like they’re talking with Tunisia about right now, then this would give us an indication of where Sudan is headed. We also have to watch Gen. Burhan’s announcement of a new government this week. He said he was also going to appoint a new constitutional court. And the biggest thing to watch for are events on the ground. There are still protesters out on the streets. The military has a recent history of using violence to suppress dissent. So there really are some bad signs for things to come if the military does not back off its stance and if protesters demanding transition to civilian rule decide not to disperse.
JIMMY: Well, I know you’ll be keeping an eye out on all that for us, and I appreciate it. Thanks, Ahmed.
AHMED: Thanks, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Take care
JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Bada Kim, Jess Fino, Alex Moore and Sophie Perryer. Our interview featured editor Ahmed Namatalla 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed.
Top photo: Food is distributed to people in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Source: World Food Programme | Claire Nevill