Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal.
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More than a month after historic flooding swept through eastern Kentucky, killing nearly 40 people, many refugees are confronting the reality of the damage left behind. Climate change, topography and the coal industry all contributed to the historic flooding, and a hazardous information gap in rural America left many unaware until it was too late. Read more in this month’s Debrief.
Week of Sept. 2-9
A Look Ahead
Sept. 4 – Chile referendum on new constitution
On Saturday, approximately 15 million people in Chile will vote on whether to approve the new constitution presented by President Gabriel Boric earlier this year.
What’s happened so far
Chile’s former government proposed to draft a new constitution following the violent social unrest that enveloped cities across the country in 2019. In 2020, nearly 80 percent of the population approved changing the constitution, which has been in place since dictator Augusto Pinochet’s reign. A new draft was presented to the public in July. The vote is mandatory and the split between both sides is tight, with polls indicating that those voting to reject the draft lead by 10 percent. The draft includes major social reforms, a new bicameral legislature and the declaration of Chile as a plurinational state.
This is not only one of the most important moments of Chile’s political history, but also one of the most democratic and uniquely inclusive processes worldwide. Since the country is effectively split in two, the stakes for those who will lose out are extremely high, and historically, violence has erupted between the two factions. If the majority rejects the new “center-left” constitution, which is currently the most likely outcome, Boric said the constitutional process will restart from scratch, with political shake-ups more than likely.
Sept. 5 – New U.K. prime minister announced
On Monday, U.K. Conservative Party members will announce their choice for the new party leader and Britain’s next prime minister following Boris Johnson’s July resignation.
What’s happened so far
A wave of resignations in July, led by former Health Secretary Sajid Javid and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, pushed former Prime Minister Boris Johnson to hand in his resignation. A total of 11 candidates put forward their names to become the next U.K. prime minister, and ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss were named the final two candidates after several rounds of voting. Queen Elizabeth II will not return to London to appoint the new premier — a first in her 70-year reign. Instead, she will receive the new leader at her estate in Scotland.
Truss has remained the frontrunner in the leadership contest for much of the summer. The new leader faces numerous challenges upon entering office — inflation rose to 10.1 percent in August and energy prices are rising due to the conflict in Ukraine, factors which are both worsening the cost of living crisis. Numerous unions across different industries, including transport, are also striking for better wages. Both candidates have been criticized for not presenting detailed plans to revive the economy.
Sept. 6 – Taiwan’s top China policymaker to visit U.S.
The head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), which develops policy targeting mainland China, will visit the United States on Tuesday, after China conducted military exercises close to Taiwan airspace and waters in August.
What’s happened so far
In early August, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, the first trip to the island by a high-level U.S. official in 25 years. The United States has what it calls a “robust” unofficial relationship with Taiwan, despite not having diplomatic ties in an attempt to prevent conflict with China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory. Since Pelosi’s visit, China has halted cooperation with the United States in a range of areas, including climate change.
During his trip to the United States, MAC head Chiu Tai-san aims to build international support and cooperation to the island, with a special focus on Taiwan’s Strait. China could perceive the visit as strengthening ties between the United States and Taiwan, which could further strain the U.S.-China relationship. While an armed conflict is unlikely at the moment, China could increase the pressure on Taiwan by threatening military action or tightening security at its borders.
Sept. 7 – Brazil military parade
Brazil will hold a military parade Wednesday to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the country’s independence.
What’s happened so far
This year’s parade comes amid controversy over President Jair Bolsonaro’s pressure on the military to move the celebration from its traditional venue to the Copacabana area of Rio de Janeiro. Behind the move lies a suspected campaign strategy one month before the presidential elections. Although Copacabana has become the usual gathering spot for Bolsonaro supporters in protests — the president has wide support across the city — his voter base in Rio doesn’t seem to be as consolidated heading to this year’s polls. Bolsonaro is seeking a second term against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has wider popularity across the country.
Some members of the armed forces have bristled at Bolsonaro’s attempt to turn the annual national event into a political campaign, with many seeing the move as a test of loyalty to the president. But it’s not new for the Brazilian leader to portray the government and the armed forces as a joint entity — Bolsonaro is known for making statements praising military dictatorships and for claiming that he has unconditional support from the armed forces. Before and during this presidential campaign, Bolsonaro has made claims of electoral fraud and has said he will not accept the results if he loses the election.
Sept. 7 – North Korea supreme people’s assembly
Representatives from North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly will meet in Pyongyang on Wednesday, according to state media, to discuss a number of issues as the country deals with a new batch of coronavirus cases.
What’s happened so far
The body’s plenary committee met in early August to set a date for the September meeting of the assembly, which acts as nothing more than a rubber-stamp for its leader Kim Jong Un. The tightly-controlled legislature is expected to deliberate on issues such as laws around medicines and aerospace development, with coronavirus likely to feature due to a new outbreak.
Coronavirus cases continue to be an issue for North Korea, with four new cases being diagnosed two weeks after leader Kim Jong Un declared victory over the pandemic, following a prolonged period with no new infections. Previous congresses have been seen as a propaganda outlet for the leadership, who have used it to communicate a mixture of strategic aims and bellicose rhetoric aimed at the United States, South Korea and Japan.
Sept. 9 – EU to hold emergency energy talks in Brussels
The European Union’s member states will hold an emergency meeting next Friday to work on a response to the increase in energy prices across the continent.
What’s happened so far
Increased demand and limited supplies partly caused by the subsequent drop in Russia’s oil and natural gas exports to Europe following its invasion of Ukraine have led to rocketing gas and electricity prices across the continent. In an effort to develop a joint response to the crisis, the Czech Republic, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, called emergency talks with EU energy ministers in Brussels.
While some countries have launched price reduction measures individually, EU officials are hoping to come up with more effective measures as a a group. Czech Industry Minister Jozef Sikela is hoping to create a joint solution to fix the energy market, with some proposals including capping the price of gas used for electricity production. Meanwhile, the European Commission plans to cut EU dependency on Russian gas by two-thirds this year.
What Else Matters
Potential tropical storm in the Atlantic
The National Hurricane Center put the odds Tuesday at 80 percent of an area of low pressure in the Atlantic forming into a tropical depression within the next five days. The latest models suggest the storm will remain out to sea, but it’s too early to rule out potential impacts to the eastern United States.
Watch for: If it forms, Danielle would become just the fourth named storm of what has been an unusually quiet hurricane season thus far, including the first stormless August since 1997. Federal scientists, however, say conditions in the Atlantic basin remain conducive to a seventh-straight “above normal” season with anywhere from 14 to 20 named storms by the end of November. The traditional “peak” of activity is between mid-August and mid-October.
Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced he is retiring from politics this week, in protest of a political deadlock that has encompassed Iraq since last October’s elections. Subsequently, clashes broke out between al-Sadr’s supporters and rival Shiite militias across the country, with pro-Sadrist members knocking down several concrete walls fortifying Baghdad’s heavily militarized Green Zone. At least 23 people have been killed in the unrest across the country, with reports of more than 300 people also injured, including members of Iraqi security forces.
Watch for: Iraq’s parliament has postponed its sessions until further notice amid a country-wide curfew imposed earlier this week. Analysts are not optimistic that political dialogue led by the Supreme Court will end the violence, as many Iraqis blame the deadlock on the country’s ruling political elite. Most Iraqis are instead looking toward the Grand Marji’a Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, based in Iraq’s Najaf city, to bring unity in the rivalry between al-Sadr’s supporters and members of the pro-Iran Coordination Framework. Al-Sadr and his supporters previously called for early elections, arguing that polarization within Iraqi society might encourage voters to break free from the political stagnation and choose to form a majority government.
Jackson, Miss., water crisis
Mississippi’s capital city does not have enough water pressure to flush toilets or fight fires after a failure at its main water treatment plant. Jackson’s water issues started years ago, when it failed an EPA inspection in 2020 but officials say recent river flooding exacerbated long-standing problems with the plant. Many of the city’s 180,000 residents do not have access to running water and those that do are being told to boil it for at least three minutes. The National Guard is now in the process of distributing water, both potable and non-potable, to the city.
Watch for: The political finger-pointing over the crisis has begun. Jackson’s mayor, a Democrat, said it would take $2 billion dollars to fix the system, which the city does not have, and blamed “30 years of neglect.” The state’s governor, a Republican, slammed city officials asking for more financial help, saying the city already got enough money. He acknowledged at a press conference Monday that he did not speak with the mayor. Since then, the governor said the state would cash flow the operation to fix the water treatment plant, with the city responsible for half of the cost and that the city had accepted “those terms in principle.”
What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…
- European Parliament president visits Portugal
- Kosovo ID measure enters effect
- Lithuania’s largest bank to stop accepting payments from Russia
- Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gives state of the union
- Shanghai reopens schools
- Argentina raises minimum wage
- Emirates airlines suspends flights to Nigeria
- Lagos extends ban on motorcycle taxis
- Iraq to rule on dissolving parliament
- Russia holds VII Eastern Economic Forum
- Chile referendum on new constitution
- New UK PM and Conservative Party leader announcement
- Apple “return to office” deadline
- OPEC+ meeting
- Boris Johnson resignation
- Scotland school staff strike
- North Korea Supreme People’s Assembly meeting
- Japan eases coronavirus border controls
- Brazil’s independence bicentennial
- Apple launch event
- NFL season starts
- Toronto International Film Festival begins
- EU holds emergency energy talks in Brussels
- Conservative Party of Canada leadership election
- Sweden general election
- Israel’s Lapid visits Germany
- Israel to advance E1 settlement in Area C of the West Bank
- President Biden to visit Boston to tout infrastructure law
- U.S. secretary of state visits Mexico
- Human Rights Council holds meeting
- UN General Assembly
- Primaries in Delaware, New Hampshire and Rhode Island
- UK’s National Grid emergency exercise
- Pope Francis visits Kazakhstan
- Pope Francis attends Congress of Religions in Kazakhstan
- Party lists due in Israel’s Knesset
- Biden gun violence summit
- Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan hold talks
- NATO meeting in Estonia
- Munich Oktoberfest begins
- Chad peace talks
- Massachusetts primaries
- U.S. Fed policy meeting
- Intergovernmental commission between Russia and the Republic of the Congo meets
- Ontario school workers strike
- UK Labour party conference
- Arizona abortion law enters effect
- BMW Berlin Marathon
- Sao Tomean National Assembly Election
- Cuba family code referendum
- Italy elections
- IAEA 66th General Conference
- Japan’s former Prime Minister Abe’s state funeral
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