Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Vivian Wang discuss the deadly earthquake in northwest China, plus more on EU scrutiny of the tech giant Meta, French troops leaving Niger, holiday travel in the U.S. and the results of Chad’s constitutional referendum.
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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Vivian Wang, Irene Villora, Sophie Perryer Joe Veyera and Matthew Hipolito. Produced and edited by Jimmy Lovaas. 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 December 21st.
In this week’s forecast we’re discussing an earthquake in northwest China, EU scrutiny of the tech giant Meta, French troops leaving Niger, holiday travel in the U.S. and the results of Chad’s constitutional referendum.
You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you’ll find a link to in the show notes.
Information compiled by Vivian Wang
JIMMY: Up first, we’ll take a look at the deadly earthquake in China. For more on that I’ve got fellow Factal editor Vivian Wang.
JIMMY: Hello, Vivian.
VIVIAN: Hi, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Thanks for talking with us today. News broke of a strong earthquake in China earlier this week and I'm hoping you can get us all caught up. To start, can you give us a bit of an overview?
VIVIAN: Sure thing. The earthquake struck China's northwestern Gansu Province just before midnight on Monday and so far more than 130 people have died and around 1000 have been injured. More than 200,000 buildings were damaged, too, along with critical infrastructure. It's one of China's poorer regions, not to mention one of the colder ones, so wasn't a good place or time to have a major earthquake. It's one of China's deadliest in years.
JIMMY: And how are the recovery efforts going? I know it's a pretty rural and mountainous area, so surely that's affecting things, but any other big concerns you see?
VIVIAN: One of the biggest issues right now is that emergency responders and survivors are battling sub-zero temperatures. The window for successful rescues is shorter because it's so cold and more than 87,000 people that have been displaced also need to be kept warm and fed. It's a big operation. There are still about a dozen people also missing in Qinghai, a neighboring province. The earthquake actually triggered sand boils there, which is when liquefied soil and water bubbles up to the surface. They can happen after a shallow quake and a lot of homes were buried or washed away by them in two villages there.
JIMMY: Has there been much of an international reaction to the earthquake? I know that quake was in northwest China, but have there been any effects outside of the region?
VIVIAN: That part of China isn't close to any international borders so there weren't any direct effects outside of the region, but there's been the usual extending of sympathies and condolences from other countries. Interestingly, Taiwan's actually offered support, despite the obvious tension between them, but China hasn't really responded or made any kind of announcement that they'll allow overseas rescue teams.
JIMMY: Well, I know this quake just happened a couple of days ago so it's probably too early to know the extent of the destruction and, more importantly, the total human toll that we're looking at from this disaster, but still considering all that, what do you think folks should be watching for next?
VIVIAN: Well, hopefully there won't be any major aftershocks, but local analysts have said there could be strong ones around magnitude five in the near future, which could cause even more damage and hamper recovery efforts. And even without a major aftershock in the aftermath of any big earthquake, recovery efforts can be a very slow and drawn out process, even more so in a relatively poor, rural part of China.
JIMMY: Well, Vivian, we'll stop there for today, but thank you so much for your time. I know you'll be keeping a close eye on the situation for us in the days and weeks ahead. Always appreciate it.
VIVIAN: Thanks for having me on, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Take care
Meta must clarify measures against child sexual abuse
Information compiled by Irene Villora
JIMMY: The European Commission has issued a Friday deadline to Meta. The tech giant is being asked to clarify how it is protecting minors from sexual abuse.
This is the third request by European regulators to Meta to provide further information on its child protection policies, including limiting the spread of violent and terrorist content online.
This time, the European Commission wants to know how Meta is protecting children using Instagram from sexual abuse.
If Meta fails to meet the deadline, it could face an official investigation and a fine of up to 10% of the company’s annual worldwide turnover.
It’s part of a wider push by the EU to scrutinize tech giants operating in member nations and ensure they are properly protecting users.
Companies including Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and X, formerly Twitter, have been designated as digital “gatekeepers” and are currently in the middle of a six-month process to show they are compliant with all the relevant regulations.
French troops depart Niger
Information compiled by Sophie Perryer
JIMMY: All French troops are expected to have left the West African nation of Niger by Friday. It’s the culmination of a two-month-long drawdown led by the French government.
According to Niger’s military authorities, more than 1,300 French soldiers and 80% of logistical equipment has already been withdrawn. About 157 French troops remain in the country.
After seizing power in a military coup in late July, Niger’s junta began breaking ties with its historic military partners like France and earlier in December, the junta also terminated two defense pacts with the EU.
Instead, Niger’s military government has grown closer with Russia. A Russian delegation visited Niamey on Dec. 4 and the two nations signed a series of defense cooperation agreements.
Still, it’s not yet clear whether Russia will send troops to Niger to replace the departing French soldiers.
In the short term, this is likely to hamper Niger’s ability to battle the insurgent groups present in its northern areas and in the wider Sahel region.
Holiday travel season
Information compiled by Joe Veyera
JIMMY: Over 100 million people are expected to travel across the U.S. starting Saturday as the holiday season gets underway in earnest.
Unlike in 2022, when travel across North America was heavily impacted by severe winter weather and flights cancelations, disruptions are expected to be limited this year.
The FAA says air travel will peak on Thursday with almost 49,000 flights scheduled nationwide. A further 44,000 are scheduled for Friday.
And then there’s the road traffic.
Auto club AAA estimates more than 115 million people will travel more than 50 miles from home over the final 10 days of the year. That’s the second-highest figure since AAA began tracking trends back in 2000.
Forecasts suggest any weather disruptions prior to Christmas Eve will be concentrated in the central and western U.S., where two weather systems are expected to bring heavy rain and snowfall.
Another storm system could bring heavy rain to the East Coast in the days following the holiday.
Chad announces provisional constitutional referendum results
Information compiled by Matthew Hipolito
Chad has been under the control of a military government since April 2021, when President Idriss Déby was killed during a rebel offensive and his son Mahamat Déby seized power.
In the days after the dynastic coup, junta leader Mahamat oversaw the repression of pro-democracy protests in which dozens of people were killed.
Opponents say the new constitution will legitimize Mahamat Déby’s grip on power and maintain the centralized system of power Chad has had since gaining independence from France in 1960.
Pro-democratic protests are increasingly rare in the wake of the deadly violence during the 2022 demonstrations.
Instead, Chad’s junta is likely to continue down the path of democratic backsliding which began when Mahamat’s father took power in a military coup in 1990.
JIMMY: One final note for you, with the holiday and the New Year coming up, the podcast will be off for a couple of weeks. So our next episode will be out January 11th.
In the meantime, be sure to follow us on X, formerly known as Twitter, where we’ll still be posting breaking news.
And 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 Irene Villora, Sophie Perryer, Joe Veyera and Matthew Hipolito. Sophie Perryer contributed additional writing. Our interview featured editor Vivian Wang and our podcast is produced and edited by me – Jimmy Lovaas. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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