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Forecast: Haiti gang violence surges, South Korea launches first moon mission, and Kansas votes on abortion rights

An outdoor restaurant with a sign on a table requesting that people mask. A table in the background shows a couple people without masks.

Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal.

We publish our forward-looking note each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead.

Hundreds have been killed, injured or gone missing in a recent surge of gang violence in Haiti, according to the UN. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Jaime Calle Moreno discuss the dire situation facing Haitians stuck in the crossfire of a gang war, particularly in Cité Soleil – the most impoverished area of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.  

Listen now or download on your favorite platform.

Week of July 29-Aug. 5
A Look Ahead

July 29 – Los Angeles mask mandate

Officials in Los Angeles County will decide this week on whether to reinstate a mandate Friday requiring face masks indoors as coronavirus cases and deaths rise.

What’s happened so far 
Cases in Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States, flattened in recent days ahead of the decision, but Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said cases at a community level must decline to “medium” by Thursday to avoid a mask mandate on Friday. Given the decline in cases over recent days, she added Tuesday that the county may be in the position to pause the implementation of a mandate.

The impact
Current guidelines encourage masks in indoor public places and requires them in high-risk settings such as on public transport, in airports and in seniors centers. A new mask mandate would mean anyone over the age of 2 has to wear them in indoor public environments, including shared office spaces, restaurants and bars. However, some cities in Los Angeles County may opt not to enforce it.

Aug. 1 – Boeing strike

Hundreds of employees of one of the world’s largest aircraft builder are poised to strike at its plants in St. Louis on Monday, after negotiations with the company failed to reach a deal on a new contract.

What’s happened so far 
Two unions representing about 2,500 machinists and other workers are demanding higher pay and retirement benefits than Boeing is willing to offer, prompting rejection of the proposed contract and the call to strike in two separate votes last Sunday with “overwhelming support,” according to the unions. Boeing claims it made a “highly competitive offer.” 

The impact 
The strike will come just days after Boeing reports second quarter results and will take place at factories that produce military planes and equipment, the division responsible for the majority of the company’s $1.2-billion loss in the first quarter. The company said it will activate a “contingency plan” to ensure operations continue at affected factories. There’s been no publicized timetable for a return to talks between both sides.

Aug. 1 – Germany to stop buying Russian coal 

Germany, one of the biggest consumers of Russian energy, will begin to end its dependency Monday

What’s happened so far
World leaders quickly enacted sanctions on Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine in February. But cutting off the country’s fuel export was easier said than done because of how heavily the European Union relies on it. Researchers believe Russia earned close to $100 billion from fossil fuel exports during the first 100 days of the war. In June, the E.U. finally announced sanctions that will partially end that reliance over time. 

The impact 
The sanctions have led to an increase in heating and fuel prices around the world. Russia is weaponizing this by cutting supplies. European countries must now find alternative sources. If prices continue to go up, the world economy will suffer and it may even lead to a global recession.

Aug. 1 – PLA Day in China  

China will celebrate its traditional military holiday Monday amid rising tensions with the United States over a potential visit to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

What’s happened so far 
Monday marks the 95th anniversary of the founding of China’s People’s Liberation Army. The celebrations have previously included a military parade, but it’s unclear whether such an event is planned for this year. Chinese officials are expected to confer the highest military honor on three nominees deemed to have made an outstanding contribution to safeguarding national sovereignty.

The impact 
The West is likely to be keenly observing military displays for any indication of the scale of both weaponry and personnel, after U.S. officials said earlier this week that the Chinese army was behaving more aggressively in the region. The event is also an opportunity to gauge any changes in China’s rhetoric toward Taiwan after the island carried out military drills simulating a Chinese invasion. 

Aug. 2 – South Korea’s first lunar exploration mission launches 

South Korea is set to launch its first ever moon mission, a lunar orbiter nicknamed “Danuri,” aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Tuesday.

What’s happened so far 
South Korea has made expanding its space program a priority recently, successfully launching its first domestically made rocket, the “Nuri,” just last month, making the country the seventh nation ever to independently launch a homegrown rocket carrying a satellite weighing at least one ton into space. Newly-elected President Yoon Suk-yeol has vowed to begin a “space economy” era for the country, aiming for South Korea to develop a lunar lander by 2031.

The impact 
South Korea building a robust and successful space program, as envisioned by the government, could create friction with its neighbor North Korea, who has already slammed the Nuri rocket launch as hypocritical. South Korea is also planning to launch its first domestically-made spy satellite in 2023, in a project to place five of them into orbit by 2025.

Aug. 2 – Kansas abortion amendment

On Tuesday, voters in Kansas will be the first to weigh in on possible abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, in the form of a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution. 

What’s happened so far 
In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, several states, primarily in the South and Midwest, enacted significant restrictions on the procedure, mostly in the form of trigger laws. In Kansas, the right to an abortion is enshrined in the constitution, while neighboring Missouri and Oklahoma now have near-total bans on the books. The latest public polling shows a tight race with the yes campaign holding a slight lead, but enough undecided voters remaining to swing the result. 

The impact 
If voters approve the amendment, abortion would remain legal in the state in the short-term, but politicians would have significantly more power to enact new restrictions. Thus far, anti-abortion advocates have remained quiet on what limits they may seek. On a national level, the result of the vote may also indicate how big of a role abortion rights could have on the November midterms

Aug. 3 – OPEC+ holds 31st meeting  

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is scheduled to hold its 31st virtual meeting on Wednesday.

What’s happened so far 
The previous OPEC+ meeting held on June 30 was the last meeting led by now-deceased OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo. The bloc subsequently published a report in July outlining how crude oil spot prices rose during the previous month to eventually settle at $117.72 a barrel. Citing ongoing political insecurity in Eastern Europe and the resurgence of coronavirus in countries, the report also said the world oil demand growth remained unchanged from the previous month’s assessment.

The impact 
The latest report revealed that the amount of oil the OPEC group is required to pump could rise to as much as 32 million barrels per day by the end of 2023 to meet global demand. Analysts believe this raises concerns of “a global supply deficit.” As the bloc’s biggest exporter of crude oil, Saudi Arabia’s output is expected to be discussed at the bloc’s upcoming meeting, along with the impact of Western sanctions on Russia and Iran on global demand.

Aug. 4 – Hungary’s Viktor Orban gives opening address at CPAC 

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will speak at the U.S. Conservative Political Action Conference that kicks off Thursday in Texas.

What’s happened so far 
The invite does not come as a surprise after the nationalist leader spoke during the first CPAC conference to take place in Europe in Budapest back in May. Orban, whose rule has included crackdowns on immigration and press freedom, said at the time that conservatives across Europe and the United States must “take back” institutions in Washington and Brussels by aligning “troops” ahead of 2024 votes, which include the U.S presidential election and the vote for the European Parliament.

The impact 
Orban’s speech is expected to include some topics already brought up in his address in May, including gender, “cancel culture” and the media. The four-day event, headlined by former U.S. President Donald Trump, will also feature other international figures such as Nigel Farage, former leader of U.K.’s Brexit Party, and Mexican actor Eduardo Verástegui.

What Else Matters

Two individuals walk from right to left in front of a pile of trash in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Trash accumulates in December 2021 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which suffers from inadequate garbage collection and sanitation amid waves of gang violence. (Photo: César Muñoz Acebes / Human Rights Watch)

Haiti gang violence

Between July 8-17, more than 450 people were killed, injured or feared missing in the Cité Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as part of an ongoing gang war. The violence has caused a crippling economy to halt entirely and left thousands of civilians trapped in their homes with widespread food and fuel shortagesno access to clean water. Many others have been displaced entirely. Port-au-Prince has been seeing a surge in violence since January, exacerbating the predicament of millions of Haitians across the country. 

Watch for: With multiple gangs vying for control of various neighborhoods, and a weak central government with few resources to combat it since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, the fragile situation will remain dire for the foreseeable future. The U.N. recently unanimously voted to ban the sale of small arms to Haiti’s “non-state actors,” but China vetoed a full weapons embargo. In early June, the Palace of Justice was occupied by gang members, and while retaken by security forces, any attempts of trials and hearings have been unsuccessful. Fighting between gangs will undoubtedly continue, and with migrant repatriations not stopping, the incoming humanitarian interventions will remain relatively futile as long as the gang war continues unabated.

Pakistan flooding

Hundreds of people have been killed in Pakistan since mid-June as unusually heavy monsoon rains continue to lash across large parts of the country, leaving some of its largest cities, especially Karachi, paralyzed in their wake. Outside of Karachi, which has seen at least 31 people killed so far, the country’s Baluchistan province remains the worst affected with more than 100 people killed and thousands of structures damaged or destroyed since the beginning of the monsoon season.

Watch for: Residents in the worst-hit cities have criticized the government for its lackluster response in dealing with the monsoon season that brings devastating rains to the country each year. Officials cited climate change as the biggest factor in the widespread damage caused by these torrential rains, which continue to intensify each year. Meanwhile, experts believe other factors like lack of emergency preparedness and poor urban planning also play a role. Above normal rainfall is expected to continue across the country throughout the season, which usually occurs between June and September, but weather authorities forecast a drier season during its second half beginning on Aug. 15. 

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

July 28-Aug. 5 

July 28

  • Commonwealth Games begin

July 29

  • Los Angeles weighs reinstating mask mandate

July 31

  • Second round of Congolese National Assembly elections
  • Senegalese National Assembly elections

Aug. 1

  • Germany to stop buying Russian coal
  • Boeing strike in St. Louis, Mo.
  • PLA Day in China

Aug. 2

  • Primaries in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington
  • SpaceX launches South Korea’s first space exploration mission

Aug. 3

  • OPEC+ meeting
  • Israel’s Likud primaries

Aug. 4

  • Primaries in Tennessee
  • Hungarian President Viktor Orban gives opening address at CPAC

Aug. 5

  • Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan meet in Sochi

Aug. 6-12 

Aug. 6

  • Brighton Pride in England
  • Amsterdam Pride in the Netherlands
  • Hamburg Pride in Germany

Aug. 7

  • Colombia expected to open border with Venezuela 

Aug. 9

  • Kenya general election
  • Primaries in Connecticut, Vermont, Minnesota and Wisconsin
  • Nagasaki marks 77th anniversary of 1945 nuclear attacks
  • World Junior Ice Hockey Championships begin
  • Turkey to resume gas exploration off its coast in the Mediterranean
  • NFL owners expected to approve Denver Broncos’ new ownership

Aug. 11

  • Perseid meteor shower peak expected
  • Singapore expected to end stay of former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Aug. 13-19

Aug. 13

  • Primaries in Hawaii
  • ASLEF strike 

Aug. 14

  • Pakistan Independence Day

Aug. 15

  • India Independence Day

Aug. 16

  • Primaries in Alaska and Wyoming, runoffs in South Dakota

Aug. 19

  • London Underground strike

Aug. 19-26

Aug. 14

  • Pakistan Independence Day

Aug. 15

  • India Independence Day

Aug. 16

  • Primaries in Alaska and Wyoming, runoffs in South Dakota

Aug. 18

  • Workers at U.K.’s Network Rail and 14 train operators strike

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