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Forecast: New storms threaten millions in California, World Economic Forum gathers in Davos, and North Korea convenes Supreme People’s Assembly

Dozens of individuals in various suits stand in front of the welcome banner and entry to the 2022 World Economic Forum

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.

At least 18 people have died in California after a string of deadly storms have flooded the state since the start of the new year. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Joe Veyera discuss the impact of these atmospheric rivers with more on the way. 

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of Jan. 13-20
A Look Ahead

Jan. 13 – Czech Republic presidential elections

The first round of the Czech Republic’s presidential election begins Friday, with the second round due two weeks later.

What’s happened so far 
Three candidates have emerged as favorites in the race. The first and, perhaps most divisive, is former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who was just this week acquitted on charges of fraud relating to EU subsidies. Former army chief Petr Pavel, who also served a leading role in NATO, is another favorite, while Danuše Nerudová, who would become the country’s first female head of state and its youngest, rounds out the top candidates. 

The impact 
The vote will serve as a unique referendum on the Czech Republic’s past and future. Despite a decorated military career, Pavel continues to face criticism over his involvement with the Communist Party prior to the Velvet Revolution that brought Prague independence. Babiš faces similar accusations alongside the charges of fraud and various conflicts of interest. As such, Nerudová positioned herself as a break from the past and champion of the future, pairing strong pro-western views with pro-LGBT+ and green energy policies that have made her popular among young voters. She will attempt to make history, mirroring the similar candidacy of neighboring Slovakia’s Zuzana Čaputová, the country’s first female leader who won in 2019 on a similar platform.

Jan. 13 – UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine  

The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet on Friday to discuss the “maintenance of peace and security” of Ukraine.

What’s happened so far 
Fighting remains active along Ukraine’s eastern front as Russia continues to advance around the Donetsk city of Bakhmut, as well as in several regions in Kharkiv recaptured by Ukraine in September and October. With Russia increasing its military presence in Belarus since late 2022, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba suggested Russia was preparing for a “large offensive” in January and February in the direction of Kyiv similar to that experienced at the onset of the invasion more than 320 days ago.

The impact 
The U.N. said it was focusing its efforts on alleviating the humanitarian crisis of the conflict, with council members expected to discuss the possibility of granting the U.N. humanitarian access to “all places under Russian control.” This first security council meeting on Ukraine in 2023 is also expected to touch on promoting safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, following the Dec. 13 IAEA agreement to allow for experts to be stationed at all facilities.

Jan. 15 – Biden in Atlanta for MLK Jr. Day

U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Atlanta on Sunday and speak at the Ebenezer Baptist Church to celebrate the birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The visit comes on the eve of Martin Luther King Day.

What’s happened so far 
In addition to being the church where King preached until his assassination in 1968, Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church is also where Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., has served as senior pastor since 2005.  Biden’s trip comes on the heels of Warnock’s recent runoff election win that helped Democrats secure an outright majority in the U.S. Senate.

The impact 
The visit will be Biden’s first trip to Georgia since January 2022 when he spoke about voting rights at the Atlanta University Center. That visit didn’t go as planned — some voting rights groups boycotted the speech, calling it a “photo op.” The White House has not indicated what topics Biden’s remarks on Sunday may include.

Jan. 16 – World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos

Roughly 2,500 global power brokers will meet in the Swiss ski town of Davos starting Monday for the World Economic Forum’s annual summit on the state of the world economy. 

What’s happened so far 
The theme of this year’s conference is “cooperation in a fragmented world.” The first forum was held in 1971 and every year has attracted a larger roster of presidents, CEOs and billionaires. While the conference consists mainly of high-concept presentations and art, Davos has several diplomatic achievements. The 1988 Davos Declaration brokered peace between Turkey and Greece, and the first draft of Israel and Palestine’s 1994 Cairo agreement was reached at the conference, among others.

The impact 
The Davos forum has been criticized for its private-jet-inflated carbon footprint and the excessive promotion of globalization, leading to conspiracies about its founders and intentions. Needless to say, security will be on high alert. Global issues at the top of the agenda include the Ukraine-Russia War, rising food and energy prices and pandemic preparedness. Notably, a Russian delegation will not attend the conference. All in all, 52 heads of state and 600 CEOs will participate in what is expected to be the most attended Davos forum yet.

Jan. 17 – North Korea holds Supreme People’s Assembly session  

North Korea’s parliament will hold a session Tuesday, during which members will gather to discuss government budgets and other issues. 

What’s happened so far 
The January session follows a key meeting in late December last year, where the party set out policy goals for the new year, including “strengthening self-defensive capabilities” amid mounting international sanctions on its weapon program and the impact of coronavirus. Because North Korea’s parliament rarely meets and the majority of the members are from the ruling Workers’ Party, meetings usually serve to approve major policies and agendas set out by the party. According to state media, the agenda of this session will include work of the Cabinet, government budgets, organizational matters and “the law on the protection of the cultured Pyongyang dialect.”

The impact 
Following an unprecedented number of missile tests and international sanctions last year, the hardline goals North Korea has set out for the new year have led many to predict that the isolated country will continue its military buildup. While this will indeed add to the possibility of escalation, North Korea has always been anything but predictable and analysts will be closely watching the decisions that come out of the parliamentary meeting.

Jan. 18 – NATO military chiefs meeting

NATO’s Military Committee, the organization’s highest military body, will meet Wednesday in Brussels for a two-day summit.

What’s happened so far 
At the committee’s last summit in September, Sweden and Finland joined for the first time after both applied for NATO candidature. The two nations will also participate in Wednesday’s summit amid ongoing tensions between Sweden and NATO ally Turkey over the former’s membership bid. The 32 chiefs of defense will also meet with their partners in the Kosovo peacekeeping force, which is currently grappling with elevated security challenges in the region. 

The impact 
Ukraine is expected to be high on the agenda, with two sessions dedicated to the current state of the conflict and ongoing NATO support. On Jan. 20, NATO allies are expected to attend a meeting of the so-called “Ramstein format,” hosted virtually by the United States, to discuss further military support for Ukraine including the supply of tanks. 

Jan. 18 – New nursing strikes in UK 

Nurses across England will stage two more days of industrial action beginning Wednesday after their first-ever strike last month amid a row over pay and patient safety.

What’s happened so far 
Tens of thousands of nurses took part in strikes in December to demand better pay conditions and improved patient safety. The Royal College of Nursing accused the government of having “failed to act” following the first round of action. The union said it will not be striking in Wales and Northern Ireland this time, but it might do in the future.

The impact 
The government has invited unions to hold talks to discuss “the coming year,” but it is unclear if salaries will be a topic. Unions said they were open to calling off strikes if the government negotiates this year’s pay, but according to reports, the government has ruled that out due to the proximity to the end of the financial year, with public sector pay already settled. The strikes come at the busiest time of the year for the national health system, with the number of trusts taking part this time rising from 44 to 55.

What Else Matters

Portions of the Capitola Wharf in Santa Cruz California have fallen into the ocean. At the time of the photo it is mostly cloudy, the waves are typical.
Severe storms damaged the pier at Capitola Wharf in Santa Cruz, Calif., earlier this week. (Photo: J. Maughn / Flickr)

California storms 

At least 18 people have died since a series of severe winter storms began impacting California in late December. The storms brought historic rainfall to the San Francisco Bay Area and parts of the Central Coast, triggering widespread power outages, flooding and landslides.  

Watch for: Gov. Gavin Newsom said the death toll is expected to rise and warned that at least “three more of these atmospheric rivers in different shapes and forms” will impact the state in the coming days, on top of the six that have already brought up to 30 inches of rain in some areas. The incoming systems could further exacerbate flooding concerns that have already forced tens of thousands of people from their homes. While most of the state’s reservoirs remain below average, the storms have boosted water levels in the Sacramento region and along parts of the Sierra Nevada mountains, but the stormy month is unlikely to have a major effect on drought conditions. 

Brazil protests 

Last Sunday, a group of about 4,000 supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro marched to the Planalto Palace and stormed three public buildings after two months camped in front of the country’s army headquarters in Brasilia (members’ link). Supporters of the former far-right president set up the camp at the capitol to protest after Bolsonaro lost the election in October against former president and historic left-wing figure Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (members’ link). Bolsonaro reiterated electoral fraud claims and calls for civil disobedience throughout his campaign, including assuring that the Brazilian military would not allow the left to consolidate in power if Lula won the election. At least 1,200 people were detained after the riot and pro-Bolsonaro camps around the country were dismantled. Bolsonaro, who left Brazil after the election, was hospitalized in Florida with abdominal pain on Jan. 9 following calls by some U.S. lawmakers to expel the former president. He denied his role in the riot and condemned the acts of violence.

Watch for: Brazil’s justice minister launched an investigation to determine what led to this week’s escalation, including tracing any funding and material support received by Bolsonaro supporters. Brasilia’s government will also investigate the participation of public servants amid increased security in the capitol. Widespread reporting by national and international media shows a coordinated campaign through social media and lobbies with interests in exploitations in the Amazon led to the success of the riots — Bolsonaro’s administration saw record deforestation in the region. Those arrested could face between 15 and 30 years of jail time if the storming of government buildings is considered an act of terrorism. 

Peru protests 

Since the ouster of Peruvian former President Pedro Castillo on Dec. 7, wide-scale protests challenging the current government led by Dina Boluarte have erupted with periodic waves of violence, such as seen in Juliaca on Monday. Some 17 people were killed, with countless citizens and police officers injured after thousands of people from across the country clashed with security forces near Juliaca’s international airport. Dozens of fiery road blockades, indefinite work strikes and border closings continue across several provinces, while at the same time Peru’s public prosecutors are investigating the government’s role in at least 21 deaths during protests in December

Watch for: It is difficult to see where this crisis ends, particularly with the position both the government and the protesters are set on taking. The latter will continue their indefinite strike and, at the very least, cause disruption through the dozens of blockades that are paralyzing several regions. The government’s position to try and appease sectors of the population by bringing forward elections to 2024 was not sufficient and their direct response to the protests to some degree has fueled the social situation further. 

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Jan. 13-20 

Jan. 13

  • Czech Republic presidential elections
  • European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen visits Sweden 
  • UN Security Council session on Ukraine
  • President Joe Biden hosts Japan’s PM Fumio Kishida

Jan. 14

  • Kazakh Senate election
  • NFL playoffs begin

Jan. 15

  • Biden in Atlanta for MLK Jr. Day

Jan. 16

  • World Economic Forum
  • World Future Energy Summit

Jan. 17

  • North Korea Supreme People’s Assembly session
  • United States Conference of Mayors meeting
  • Paris Fashion Week begins
  • President Biden hosts Golden State Warriors 

Jan. 18

  • NATO military chiefs meeting
  • New nursing strikes in the UK

Jan. 19

  • Sundance Film Festival begins

Jan. 20

  • Start of electoral campaign in Tunisia

Jan. 21-27 

Jan. 21 

  •  Slovakia Referendum Election
  • 2023 Winter European Youth Olympic Festival 

Jan. 22

  • Lunar New Year

Jan. 23

  • EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting
  • Brazil’s President Lula da Silva meets with his Argentine counterpart

Jan. 25

  • EU justice ministers meet in Stockholm

Jan. 27

  • WHO meeting to decide on coronavirus emergency 

Jan. 28-Feb. 3 

Jan. 30

  • World Health Organization executive board meets

Jan. 31

  • Pope Francis will visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan

Feb. 3

  • EU-Ukraine summit

Feb. 4-10 

Feb. 4 

  • Venice Carnival begins
  • World Cancer Day

Feb. 5

  • Ecuador referendum election
  • Monaco National Council election
  • 65th Annual Grammy Awards

Feb. 6

  • EU general affairs council meeting

Feb. 9

  • Special European Council meeting

Feb. 10

  • New York Fashion Week begins

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