Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Agnese Boffano discuss the Israeli protests over a controversial judicial reform plan, plus more on World Athletics banning transgender women from competitions, Twitter ending its legacy verification system, Russia assuming presidency of the U.N. Security Council and elections in Bulgaria.
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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Halima Mansoor, Jeff Landset, Sophie Perryer and Alex Moore. Our interview featured editor Agnese Boffano. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
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Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.
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 March 30.
In this week’s forecast we’ve got World Athletics banning transgender women from competitions, Twitter ending its legacy verification system, Russia assuming presidency of the U.N. Security Council, elections in Bulgaria and a look at the Israeli protests over a controversial judicial overhaul plan.
You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
World Athletics bans trans, limits DSD athletes from female events
Information compiled by Halima Mansoor
JIMMY: Starting Friday, the global governing body for track and field is banning certain athletes from entering female World Rankings competitions. Specifically, athletes who experienced male puberty prior to transitioning. World Athletics claims it is prioritizing the “integrity of female competition.”
World Athletics has also set stricter requirements for athletes with sex development differences. Those athletes will be required to have testosterone levels below 2.5 nanomoles per liter of blood for at least 24 months to be eligible for female international events.
Previously, a higher testosterone cutoff was in place for restricted events ranging from 400 meters to one mile.
In the interim, World Athletics has announced athletes currently competing in "restricted events" have to keep testosterone levels below 2.5 nanomoles for at least six months to be able to compete again.
Now, the decision would restrict participation of athletes who identify as trans as well as those with naturally high levels of testosterone such as Caster Semenya, Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi.
Semenya has in the past refused hormone therapy due to harsh side effects.
World Athletics claims it is setting up “a working group” to examine “transgender inclusion.”
Twitter ends legacy verification system
Information compiled by Jeff Landset
JIMMY: It may be harder to tell notable Twitter users apart from imposters starting Saturday as Twitter ends its legacy verification system.
Elon Musk announced people can keep their blue check by paying $8 a month for Twitter Blue.
Ever since Musk took over the social media site, he has said he wants to “level the playing field” between journalists and regular citizens.
He also declared war against bots on the site, calling Twitter Blue a way to verify people using the site are real human beings.
Of course, the initial launch of Twitter Blue was a bit of a failure. People used the subscription service to impersonate celebrities and companies, including a tweet from a fake Eli Lilly account announcing insulin was free.
And now, in the wake of that failure, Musk is giving Twitter Blue subscribers even more power on the site.
He announced that only verified users would be able to vote in polls, which he has sometimes used to make large policy decisions, like unbanning former President Donald Trump.
Now, despite Elon Musk’s stated desire to make Twitter a haven for free speech, critics say he’s turning it into a right-wing echo chamber with the potential for misinformation and abuse.
Still, Twitter Blue may also serve as a desperately needed source of revenue for the company.
A recent report found that hundreds of Twitter’s top advertisers like Coca-Cola, Unilever and Wells Fargo had pulled their ad dollars through most of January.
Russia assumes presidency of U.N. Security Council
Information compiled by Sophie Perryer
JIMMY: Russia will assume leadership and administrative control of the United Nations’ highest security body on Saturday. That, while continuing to wage war in Ukraine.
The presidency of the Security Council rotates on a monthly basis around its 15 members in alphabetical order.
The last time Russia held the position was in February 2022, when it launched its full scale invasion of Ukraine.
Efforts to remove Russia from the body have proved futile given it has veto power as one of the five permanent members.
Now, while the Security Council presidency is predominantly an administrative and symbolic role, Ukraine has called on the U.N. to bar Russia from the role because of its actions in the conflict.
In one of its first acts as chair, Russia is reportedly planning to call an informal meeting to discuss the Ukrainian children taken to Russia amid the war. That, in the wake of the ICC issuing an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin for war crimes over these childrens’ apparent kidnapping.
Information compiled by Alex Moore
JIMMY: Bulgarians will once again vote in parliamentary elections on Sunday.
Those polls will be Bulgaria’s fifth election in two years and the first since last October’s elections that ultimately failed to produce a government in a deadlocked parliament.
Similar electoral precedents in Europe date back more than a century when Denmark held three elections in the span of five months.
Now, institutional trust among Bulgarians has cratered following the flurry of elections and the ultimate governmental impasse.
And with distrust of Bulgarian political parties surpassing 80 percent, voter turnout in October’s elections plummeted to just 39 percent. That was the lowest since Bulgaria’s first election in 1990.
Little is projected to change this time around, with turnout once again forecasted to be around 40 percent with the right-wing GERB-led coalition once again projected to win a plurality that is nowhere near a majority.
And that, combined with distrust of government institutions skyrocketing, means Bulgaria risks seeing anti-government protests similar to those that erupted in 2020.
Information compiled by Agnese Boffano
JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the protests that have gripped Israel recently. For more on that I spoke with fellow editor Agnese Boffano.
JIMMY: Hello, Agnese.
AGNESE: Hey, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Alright, Agnese, I hate to put you on the spot, but I’m hoping you can tell us what you know – or what we need to know – about the protests that erupted in Israel in recent weeks. I guess to start, can you explain what sparked all this?
AGNESE: Of course, yeah. The current right-wing coalition government in Israel, which is led by Prime Minister Netanyahu and which came to power following last year’s elections in November, they’ve begun to introduce a set of judicial reforms in the Knesset, or Israeli Parliament. And these reforms, which, among other members, are being adamantly pushed by far-right national security minister Ben-Gvir, they seek changes ranging from, you know, the Supreme Court no longer being able to rule laws unconstitutional to giving much more power to the coalition in the selection of judges. And this has angered a lot of people in Israel, as a result of which we’ve seen near-weekly protests across the country.
JIMMY: Just how widespread are the protests?
AGNESE: They’ve been taking place pretty much across Israel, with anti-government protesters, you know, going from blocking highways in Tel Aviv, they’ve been demonstrating outside the Knesset in West Jerusalem and eventually on Monday, we even saw significant strike action that actually led to the temporary halt of flights departing from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport and even strikes leading to the shutdown of medical facilities.
JIMMY: And how about violence? Have you seen any significant fighting in the protests or other types of unrest?
AGNESE: Yeah, definitely. These protests have definitely been met with violence from the police, with water cannons and tear gas used on multiple occasions to disperse the demonstrators, especially in Tel Aviv. We’ve had a few protesters injured; we’ve had dozens of anti-government protesters arrested by Israeli authorities in the process too.So they’ve definitely been widespread and we’ve definitely seen some violence as well.
JIMMY: And where do we stand now on the judicial reform plans? What’s the latest?
AGNESE: So I think Monday was an eventful day in Israel with regards to these judicial reform plans. So firstly, early in the morning Netanyahu dismissed the Defense Minister Galant from his position because the official called to retract the reform package. And this triggered a lot of demonstrations shortly thereafter, which again were met with, you know, water cannons and tear gas. But then, most importantly, in the evening Netanyahu actually announced that he would freeze these reforms to facilitate talks with the opposition, which are currently being mediated by President Herzog. And this is before the Knesset breaks for Passover, which is expected to break on the 5th of April, only to be brought back on the table when the session resumes on the 30th of the same month. And it’s interesting, You know, by the looks of it, because it might seem as though Netanyahu froze these changes as a result of these protests that took place on Monday, but it’s also important to note that, you know, he only decided to freeze the process after having succeeded in advancing two very important pieces of legislation: so firstly, the coalition managed to pass the third and final reading of a law that basically prevents Israel’s Supreme Court from declaring a sitting PM as “unfit to serve” and secondly, on Monday, the Knesset also passed all necessary procedures on a law that’s aimed at changing the way judges are appointed, which essentially gives the governing coalition a lot more power in the selection process of the Supreme Council and, you know, this law is now ready to be voted on.
JIMMY: Well, I guess considering all that, what do you think folks should be watching for next?
AGNESE: Firstly, we should continue to watch for any unlikely but nonetheless significant outcomes from these ongoing talks between the opposition and the coalition government. Protests are also expected to continue, especially counter-protests which, you know, we saw turn quite violent on Monday, with some ultra-right wing groups attacking not only the anti-government protesters but also Arab civilians during the demonstrations too. And more specifically, we should be watching for the next steps with the national security minister, Ben-Gvir. He was very adamant about pushing forward with the changing legislation, and was only appeased by Netanyahu to support the freeze after the prime minister granted him the control – the full control – of the national guard, which critics say might be used to his own advantage. They even say that – they fear that this will become his sort of “personal militia”
JIMMY: Well, Agnese, I think we’ll have to leave it there for today, but I thank you for keeping us plugged in. Always a pleasure to speak with you.
AGNESE: Thanks so much, Jimmy.
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 Halima Mansoor, Jeff Landset, Sophie Perryer and Alex Moore. Our interview featured editor Agnese Boffano 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 email@example.com
This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed.
Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.
Music: 'Factal Theme' courtesy of Andrew Gospe