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Forecast podcast: After wreaking havoc on the Caribbean, Hurricane Fiona heads north

An aid worker with American Red Cross vest on, walks down a rainy sidewalk that is blocked by debris from Hurricane Fiona

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Joe Veyera discuss Hurricane Fiona, plus more on annexation votes in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, elections in the Czech Republic, Cuba holding a referendum on a progressive Family Code and a state funeral for former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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These stories and others are also available in our free weekly Forecast newsletter.

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

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


Factal Forecast podcast transcript

his 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 September 22.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got annexation votes in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, elections in the Czech Republic, Cuba holding a referendum on a progressive Family Code, a state funeral for former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a look at Hurricane Fiona. 

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

Annexation votes in Russian-occupied Ukraine regions

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: Russia will move to annex occupied portions of Ukraine in a series of referendums starting Friday.

Voting will take place in the four eastern and southern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia. Those are regions Russia either largely or partially occupies.

Condemnation of the planned votes has been swift, however, with foreign leaders quickly saying they would not recognize the results which are sure to mirror those of Crimea’s 2014 vote in which 97 percent supported annexation into Russia.

Now, coinciding with the votes, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would undergo its first military mobilization since World War II. That announcement followed a series of stunning defeats at the hands of Ukrainian counterattacks which can partially be attributed to Moscow’s manpower issues

In a speech that signified that Putin was doubling down on the war effort for at least the medium term, it was announced that existing contract soldiers would have their contracts extended indefinitely, while Russia would undergo significant mobilization of reserve forces. 

The annexation votes potentially intertwine with this mobilization by opening the door to existing conscripts entering the war en masse for the first time after Russia annexes the occupied regions.

Czech Republic holds elections for upper house, local councils

Information compiled by Jess Fino

JIMMY: Elections will take place across the Czech Republic on Friday and Saturday to elect municipal councils and a third of the Senate.

This week’s vote will also elect new city and district councils, with polling stations open on Friday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 8 am to 2 pm. 

The possible second round of voting is scheduled for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

Now, while Czechs living abroad will not be able to vote from a distance, citizens of other European Union member countries who’ve been granted temporary or permanent residence in a Czech municipality can vote in the local elections

Finally, the elections come at a time of discontentment in the nation, with protests held this month calling on the ruling coalition to control rising energy prices and inflation.

Cuba family code referendum

Information compiled by Irene Villora

JIMMY: Cubans will go to polls on Sunday to endorse or reject a new progressive family code. A code already approved by lawmakers and by a popular consultation. 

The rare referendum will give Cubans a say on the validity of a new law that legalizes same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples. The law also outlaws corporal punishment of children and expands women’s rights and the rights of the elderly. 

More than 200,000 staff and volunteers are expected to work at polling stations on the day of the vote, and more than 1.6 million Cubans are expected to participate in the referendum.

Now, in the popular consultation held in July, nearly 76 percent of participants voted in favor of passing the bill.

Still, public opinions on the family code are polarized and the vote on Sunday is expected to be close. 

Representatives of the Cuban Catholic Church have openly opposed amendments that recognize same-sex marriage and surrogate pregnancies and have urged the public to vote against the bill. 

Cuba’s family code has not been revised since 1975 and its passing would be a Cuban human rights milestone.

Japan’s former Prime Minister Abe’s state funeral

Information compiled by David Wyllie

JIMMY: Mourners and foreign dignitaries will pay their respects to former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday during a state funeral at the Nippon Budokan indoor arena in Tokyo.

Abe was shot and killed by an assassin using a homemade gun while on the campaign trail in Nara on July 8, just two days ahead of the House of Councilors elections. 

The alleged gunman remains in detention for medical evaluation. 

In the days after the assasination, the decision was made to grant a state funeral to Abe, who was Japan’s longest serving post-war prime minister.  

Thousands of people, however, gathered in Tokyo this week to demonstrate against the decision, despite heavy rain and winds from Typhoon Nanmadol.

Now, state funerals in Japan are an honor normally only afforded to members of the Imperial Family and so Abe’s has been contentious, with the Japanese government footing the bill for the ceremony, which may cost more than $11 million

Lawmakers, as well as members of the public, have also called into question the legality of the decision amid intensified scrutiny into Abe’s ties to a controversial church.

Hurricane Fiona

Information compiled by Joe Veyera

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is an update on Hurricane Fiona. For more on that I spoke with our lead for The Americas desk Joe Veyera.

JIMMY: Hi, Joe.

JOE: Hi, Jimmy. Thanks for having me. 

JIMMY: Well, you know, I’m glad you’re here. Wish it wasn’t because we’ve got a deadly hurricane on our hands, but hoping you can get us up to speed on things. What can you tell us about Hurricane Fiona? 

JOE: Yes, so Fiona was the first major hurricane of the Atlantic season. A little unusually late, the first one usually appears by September 1 and the season ends November 30. At least five people have died in the wake of the storm and it left pretty widespread damage across the Caribbean. It knocked Puerto Rico’s power grid offline, left more than a million people in the Dominican Republic without water service and it brought heavy rainfall and devastating flooding. The full extent of the damage though, may not be known for several more days. 

JIMMY: Yeah, I guess we’ll have to wait to see how the recovery efforts go. You mentioned five people dying. Do we know where exactly those deaths occurred?

JOE: Yes, so in Guadeloupe, one person was killed after their house was swept away by floodwaters. In Puerto Rico, two are dead: one swept away by a river and another dying in a generator fire. And two others were killed in the Dominican Republic: a motorcyclist struck by a falling power pole and another by a falling tree.

JIMMY: Wow. Where’s the hurricane now?

JOE: So right now it’s closing in on Bermuda. The forecast track has the storm remaining well off the US east coast. We’ll see Bermuda — not likely to take a direct hit from the storm on Thursday, but a close enough brush to cause, you know, significant flooding, heavy rainfall; we don’t know what kind of damage they might see. And then the storm is heading for Atlantic Canada this weekend.

JIMMY: Well, considering all that, and I know you’re not a meteorologist and you don’t control the weather but, you know, what do you think folks should be watching for next?

JOE: Well, the storm right now is a Category 4, so a pretty substantial one. Like I said, Bermuda not expected to take a direct hit, but there is a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning in effect at the time we’re recording this. Strong winds and heavy rainfall in addition to storm surges are expected for Nova Scotia. And finally, just watching the response in the aftermath to the damage we saw on the Caribbean. President Biden has already approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico. Sadly, this was just about five years to the day since Hurricane Maria caused widespread damage across the territory – and that storm damaged more than 80 percent of the electric transmission and distribution system and the island has been plagued by blackouts in the years since. I believe, as of Tuesday, 100,000 or so customers were back online, but that’s out of 1.5 million. So, still a lot of work to be done there to get back to any sort of normalcy.

JIMMY: Well, Joe, I think we’ll leave it there for today, but I trust you will be keeping an eye on the storm. Thanks for your time.

JOE: Anytime. 

JIMMY: Take care

JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, Jess Fino, Irene Villora and David Wyllie. Our interview featured editor Joe Veyera and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any 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

Top photo: An American Red Cross worker surveys damage in Salinas, Puerto Rico, left behind by Hurricane Fiona on Sept. 19. (Photo: Isaac León Vales / American Red Cross)

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