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Forecast Podcast: Scrutiny grows over Uvalde, Texas, police response following new discrepancies

A detail view as people embrace outside a memorial to honor the victims killed in this week's school shooting outside Robb Elementary School. A makeshift memorial filled with flowers and photos of the 21 victims in honor of the victims, most of whom were around 10 years old. President Biden traveled to Uvalde, Texas, to help console the community as it grieves from, and seeks to comprehend, last week's massacre at Robb Elementary School.

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Jeff Landset discuss the latest developments in the investigation into the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting, plus more on Tropical Storm Alex, US, Japan and South Korea meeting to discuss North Korea, a constitutional referendum in Kazakhstan and local elections in Mexico.

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

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Joe Veyera, David Wyllie, Alex Moore, Irene Villora and Jeff Landset.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed? Drop us a note: hello@factal.com.


Podcast Transcript

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 June 2nd.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got Tropical Storm Alex, US, Japan and South Korea meeting to discuss North Korea, a constitutional referendum in Kazakhstan, local elections in Mexico and the latest on the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting. 

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

Tropical Storm Alex

Information compiled by Joe Veyera

JIMMY: The remnants of Hurricane Agatha may reform to become the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, with the potential to impact Florida starting on Friday.

Agatha made landfall over a sparsely populated area of southern Mexico as a Category 2 storm  this past Monday. It was the strongest hurricane to ever come ashore during the month of May during the eastern Pacific season. 

According to local officials, the storm killed at least 11 people and 33 others remain missing.

The remnants are expected to form the basis of a new system as they emerge near the Yucatán Peninsula. 

As of Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said there was about an 80 percent chance of Agatha’s remnants reforming into a tropical storm in the next five days.

If the storm does reform, it will take on the name Alex.

Now, the National Hurricane Center is warning of heavy rainfall across western Cuba, southern Florida, and the Florida Keys by the end of the week, “regardless of development.” 

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is predicting a seventh consecutive “above-normal” Atlantic hurricane season, with anywhere from 14 to 21 named storms.

U.S., Japan and South Korea meet to discuss North Korea

Information compiled by David Wyllie

JIMMY: Officials from the United States, Japan and South Korea will meet in Seoul on Friday. They’ll be discussing North Korea following a series of missile launches and rumored preparations for a new nuclear weapons test.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed in April to speed up development of the country’s nuclear forces at a parade during which advanced weaponry, including a new intercontinental ballistic missile, was showcased. 

North Korea then tested a series of missiles in a show of strength timed around President Joe Biden’s Asia trip. 

Of course, aside from its bellicose rhetoric, North Korea is dealing with a serious outbreak of coronavirus. State media recently reported more than 100,000 people showing symptoms of “fever” over a 24-hour period.

Now, an increase in tensions or a new nuclear test would be an early trial for South Korea’s new president Yoon Suk Yeol. He took office in May as North Korea turned more belligerent. 

A nuclear weapons test would also definitely end North Korea’s self-imposed moratorium – one it declared following its sixth nuclear test in 2017. 

South Korea has already accused North Korea of violating that moratorium by testing a long-range ballistic missile.

Finally, a U.S.-led effort to tighten sanctions on North Korea recently failed at the United Nations after being vetoed by Russia and China.

Kazakhstan constitutional referendum

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: On Sunday, for the first time in nearly three decades, voters in Kazakhstan will vote in a referendum – this one deciding on sweeping constitutional changes proposed by the president to decentralize power.

The reforms were announced by President Tokayev in March shortly after historic protests rocked the country in January

The package addresses around a third of all Kazakh constitutional articles and is intended to strengthen the country’s parliament at the expense of presidential power. 

Now, despite Kazakhstan’s crackdown on the January protests, the proposed constitutional changes are in some ways a direct concession to protester demands, such as a change that would strip the president of the ability to overrule acts of regional and local leaders. 

Still, while Tokayev’s reforms are real, many of the proposed changes are simply reinstating pre-existing measures that the former long-standing dictator Nursultan Nazerbayev removed. 

As such, many have called these reforms another example of Tokayev moving to further sideline Nazarbayev and his family from Kazakh politics.

Mexico local elections

Information compiled by Irene Villora

JIMMY: Six Mexican states will hold local elections on Sunday. It will be a litmus test of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s popularity and the strength of the opposition.

Citizens of Hidalgo, Durango, Tamaulipas, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo and Aguascalientes will go to the polls to elect new governors and, in the case of Durango and Quintana Roo, other local officials

The states of Tamaulipas and Quintana Roo are especially relevant this election cycle due to their economic significance — Tamaulipas is a strategic land crossing for goods between the United States and Mexico, and Quintana Roo is at the heart of the nation’s tourism industry.

Now, Sunday’s vote could foreshadow the results of the upcoming 2024 presidential election

If President Obrador’s Morena party consolidates its territorial dominance the opposition could struggle to gain momentum. The government coalition already controls 17 of Mexico’s 32 states.

Finally, despite record levels of election-related violence last year, no candidates this year, at least so far, have been directly targeted.

Latest on Uvalde, Texas, shooting

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is a look at the latest developments in the investigation into the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting. For more on that I spoke with Factal Editor Jeff Landset.

JIMMY: Hi, Jeff. 

JEFF: Hi, Jimmy, how are you? 

JIMMY: I’m all right, all things considered. Now, it’s been just over a week since the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and, you know, there’s two things we know for sure. One, there’s likely no end in sight for the grieving by those who lost loved ones in Uvalde. And two, there’s a lot of unanswered questions. I’m hoping that even if you can’t answer all those questions, you can at least help us understand what to look for in the weeks and months ahead. What’s the latest?

JEFF: So, Jimmy, the main thing that is going on right now is the investigation into the shooting, especially the police response to the shooting at the elementary school that left 19 students and two adults dead. Several things the police said had happened are turning out to be not true.

JIMMY: Do you have any specific examples? 

JEFF: Yeah, state police had said the shooter entered through a propped-open door, but days later they acknowledged that a teacher actually closed the door and it didn’t lock for some unknown reason. Police also originally said officers confronted the gunman before he entered the school but later they said he went into the building unopposed. So it took officers more than an hour to kill the gunman after he went into the school after that.

JIMMY: I know the Justice Department announced that it will conduct a Critical Incident Review of the law enforcement response to the shooting and state authorities are looking into that as well. What can you tell us about that investigation?

JEFF: Yeah, so the investigation into the shooting itself could get ugly. The Texas Department of Public Safety has said that the chief of the school district’s police department didn’t respond to a follow-up interview request. The chief was at the school and he was the incident commander during that police response. ABC News actually reported that the decision to stop cooperating came after DPS called the delayed police entry into the classroom “the wrong decision.”

JIMMY: Do you think we’ll see any lawsuits out of this?

JEFF: You know, Jimmy, that’s probably unlikely to go forward because of Texas law. However, public outrage about the shooting may lead politicians to change the laws.

JIMMY: You know, speaking of politicians, there’s been a lot of calls for political responses to this and to other recent mass shootings. There are a lot of calls for change. Where does all that stand?

JEFF: Yeah, so the outrage started almost immediately in Uvalde. Beto O’Rourke, who is the Democrat running for governor, confronted sitting Gov. Greg Abbott at a news conference the day after the shooting, shouting that “this is on [him].” Gov. Abbott has said that tougher gun control is “not a real solution,” in his words, and some other pro-gun politicians like him have said that the US really has a mental health crisis and that is the main driving factor. So, a lot of folks argue that it’s both camps. So, today, as we’re recording, Governor Abbott called on the Texas Legislature to form special committees to make legislative recommendations in response to the shooting. It’s a lot less action than some people have called for. The Texas Senate Democrats have been pushing for a special session to raise the age to purchase guns and require universal background checks. At the same time, multiple states are seeing pushes for new state laws aimed at curbing gun violence and lawmakers in the US Congress are also working on new gun control legislation. It’s not clear if any of the efforts will be able to make it through a deeply divided legislature. But, of course, you know, state legislatures or Congress could come up with something and it still would face an uncertain future considering the makeup of the Supreme Court. At the end of the day, all that is for sure, is really that we have nearly two dozen people who have lost lives, numerous injured children and a grieving community.

JIMMY: Well, Jeff, unfortunately, we’re out of time, but I really appreciate you’re catching us up to speed. 

JEFF: Yeah, no problem.

JIMMY: Take care.

JIMMY: One quick note before you go. Every month Factal journalists take a look back at big global stories that you might have missed in a newsletter. We call it The Debrief.

This month’s edition of The Debrief discusses the recent dust storms to hit Iraq, and the convergence of environmental and political factors which contributes to their increasing frequency and intensity. 

Just like The Forecast, The Debrief is free. We’ll put a link to it in the show notes. 

Now, today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Joe Veyera, David Wyllie, Alex Moore and Irene Villora. Our interview featured editor Jeff Landset 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@factal.com

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

Copyright © 2022 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

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