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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Joe Veyera, Sophie Perryer, Vivian Wang, Jeff Landset and Ahmed Namatalla. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
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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 August 19th.
In this week’s forecast we’ll look at San Francisco’s vaccine mandate, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stepping down, the Tokyo Paralympics, President Joe Biden holding talks on cybersecurity and the rapidly changing situation in Afghanistan.
You can read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
San Francisco vaccine mandate goes into effect
Information compiled by Joe Veyera
JIMMY: Starting Friday, patrons at restaurants, bars, clubs, and gyms in San Francisco will be required to show proof of full coronavirus vaccination. The mandate also applies to attendees of large events at indoor venues.
With this new requirement San Francisco becomes the third major US city to tie activities like indoor dining and workouts to vaccination status. However, one big difference between San Francisco’s mandate and similar ones in New York City and New Orleans is that San Francisco is the first to require full vaccination for entry.
New York only requires patrons to show they’ve had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. And New Orleanians can get around the vaccine requirement if they show a negative PCR test.
Of course, most of the country is grappling with rising coronavirus case figures due to the spread of the Delta variant. San Francisco, at least so far, has avoided a similar spike in hospitalizations due to its high vaccination rate.
Now, San Francisco’s new requirement goes into effect for customers this week, but staff have until October 13th to reach full vaccination status.
Finally, vaccination mandates are likely to become more prevalent in the coming months. An increasing number of venues and promoters are rolling out their own requirements, including live entertainment giants AEG and Live Nation.
New York Gov. Cuomo steps down
Information compiled by Sophie Perryer
JIMMY: On Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will leave office in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal.
A monthslong inquiry released by New York Attorney General Letitia James earlier this month alleged Cuomo engaged in "unwelcome and nonconsensual touching" and made "numerous offensive comments” to at least 11 women, including nine state employees.
In his resignation speech, the governor denied the allegations against him yet he said he took “full responsibility” for his actions, adding his decision to step down was motivated by a desire to ensure the state remained able to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, Cuomo’s fall from grace ends a decade-long tenure as governor during which he has been praised for his stable leadership, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
President Joe Biden described the accusations and Cuomo's subsequent resignation as “so sad,” adding the governor had “done a helluva job” on infrastructure and voting rights.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will take over for Cuomo and in the process become the state’s first-ever female governor.
Finally, while Cuomo no longer faces impeachment, he remains under criminal investigation by at least two New York state district attorneys in relation to the sexual harassment allegations. Also, the state Assembly, which received criticism for ending the impeachment inquiry, will issue its own report on the allegations.
Tokyo Paralympics opening ceremony
Information compiled by Vivian Wang
JIMMY: With the Tokyo Olympics wrapping up last week, the Paralympics are set to begin Tuesday, albeit with no spectators, as the metropolitan area extends its state of emergency amid a coronavirus surge.
Now, about 36 percent of Japan’s population is fully vaccinated. But, they’re still seeing record high cases across the country. And the Summer Olympics certainly saw its own share of infections. More than 500 people involved with the Olympics have tested positive for the virus since July 1st.
Still, Olympics organizers managed to keep the infection rate relatively low. The Paralympics, however, are facing a tougher situation, considering it will face the largest wave of cases among the local population Japan has seen so far.
Biden holds talks on cybersecurity
Information compiled by Jeff Landset
JIMMY: On Wednesday, President Joe Biden and his national security team will meet with business executives about state-sponsored hacking.
Ransomware attacks and data breaches have wreaked havoc on several companies and even the U.S. government over the past year.
In fact, it was just last December that several media outlets reported that Russian hackers had access to several branches of the federal government dating back months using an exploit in SolarWinds software. Russia, for its part, denied its involvement.
And in March, it became known that a separate exploit involving Microsoft Exchange led to hackers having full access to thousands of servers, affecting companies worldwide.
Hackers have also recently targeted a massive fuel pipeline and the world’s largest meat-processing company. Biden has taken a tougher stance on these cyberattacks, telling Russian President Putin in a phone call last month to do more to crack down on them.
Of course, cybersecurity is mostly up to each individual company, but the Biden administration wants more public-private cooperation to put up a better defense.
It’s unclear if the companies will go that far, though, because it could lose them business in the Chinese market.
Information compiled by Ahmed Namatalla
JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the situation unfolding in Afghanistan. For more on that we’ve got Factal editor Ahmed Namatalla.
JIMMY: Hi, Ahmed.
AHMED: Hi, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Hey, can you catch us up to speed on what exactly happened in the past week in Afghanistan? We went from headlines about Afghan forces retaking control of some areas to the Taliban posing for photos in the presidential palace in the span of like 10 days.
AHMED: Yes, it all happened very fast and it made a lot of people wonder why didn't anybody see this coming? Like you said, over the matter of just a few days, it appeared that the Taliban took control of the entirety of the country. When, in fact, it did take a bit longer than that. They have been on this offensive since May when the US started to withdraw its troops. And even longer before that, they've been notching victories over the US-backed Afghan military. It only accelerated with the US withdrawal.
JIMMY: Do you think the speed of everything caught folks off guard?
AHMED: Yes, so everybody. It was pretty remarkable how prepared they were. When they decided to make that final push, the city that really signaled that there are no more lines of defense was Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and that's because the very following day they moved in on Kabul. And it was pretty remarkable to see almost no resistance on the part of the Afghan army, although there were some battles here and there. But for the most part, there was no resistance.
JIMMY: What was the American response to it? Can you talk a little bit about that?
AHMED: So, Secretary Blinken did recognize that this all happened -- as did President Biden -- that this all happened more quickly than they anticipated. Just days earlier, President Biden said he didn't see a scenario where a few thousand Taliban fighters would be able to take over the country from the estimated 300,000 strong Afghan military equipped with billions of dollars of US-made weapons. It was just not on their radar.
JIMMY: Biden said he stands “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw American troops, but he also essentially blamed Afghan security forces saying they lacked the will to fight. Do you think it's fair to blame the Afghan forces? After all, they lost tens of thousands of people fighting the Taliban.
AHMED: You know, I'll leave fairness to someone else to decide. But the numbers are clear. The Afghan military has already sacrificed quite a bit in this fight. And also analysts would argue that it was because of the methods and training and the way that the relationship was set up between the Afghan military and the US side they were entirely reliant on US equipment and intelligence. It was arguably the air support that gave them superiority and allowed them to keep the Taliban at bay for all these years.
JIMMY: So perhaps it's more of an issue of a capability to fight versus a willingness to fight.
AHMED: A lot will come out about that. I'm sure this will be analyzed and I'm sure it was a bit of both. There is no question that the Taliban have support on the ground and how deep that runs in the American-trained army, the Afghan army, that is something that we're gonna, I'm sure we're going to be hearing a lot about later on. We're gonna see based on how they proceed, how much support they have.
JIMMY: I know everybody's eyes are on the Kabul airport and we're all hoping to see evacuations continue safely, but what else should we be watching for?
AHMED: The big thing I'm watching for is developments on the political front and how they go about governing. On Tuesday, their co-founder, Mullah Baradar, flew into Kandahar -- notably flying into Kandahar, not Kabul, the capital. This marked his return after about at least a decade in exile. He was previously imprisoned in Pakistan. And his return really marks the dawn of a new age. There's talk of him becoming president. Mind you, that there has been no talk of them holding elections or allowing for anything that would jeopardize their hold on power. But they have spoken of, you know, forming a unity government; unclear who's going to unite with them. They have talked about, you know, having “positive relations” with countries around the world without making exceptions. And most notably, they've talked about allowing for more freedoms, especially for women. They're saying all the right things. It just remains to be seen how much of that they'll actually implement.
JIMMY: Well, for the sake of the Afghan people, let's hope for the best here. Thanks, Ahmed. Appreciate you catching us up on all this.
AHMED: Thank you, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Take care.
JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Joe Veyera, Sophie Perryer, Vivian Wang and Jeff Landset. Our interview featured editor Ahmed Namatalla and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
Until next time, thanks for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can, of course, subscribe for free. And if you have 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.
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