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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, Jeff Landset, Sophie Perryer and Imana Gunawan. 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 September 2nd.
In this week’s forecast we’ve got some Russian diplomats being forced to leave the US, nationwide protest marches in Brazil, a US House committee deadline for Trump White House records, the NFL season kick off and an update on the 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.
Russian diplomats asked to leave U.S.
Information compiled by Alex Moore
JIMMY: Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, says that there are two dozen Russian diplomats that are going to be forced to leave the US on or before Friday after their visas expire.
He claims the maneuver is the US retaliating against Moscow.
The US, however, denies that claim. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price says that the diplomats can apply for a visa extension.
Russia, meanwhile, is claiming that the US tightened visa procedures. They say that all of the diplomats will depart without replacements.
Now, the expulsion of the Russian diplomats deepens a visa row between Moscow and Washington that has been ongoing for years.
Most recently, Russia drew Washington’s ire after Moscow ordered the US to stop employing Russians, forcing the embassy and consulates to slash 75 percent of the staff.
Both countries also expelled 10 diplomats each earlier this year following the imposition of additional sanctions on Moscow.
Finally, the visa row presents another front of tension between the U.S. and Russia. Relations between the two have continuously spiraled since the 2014 annexation of Crimea and introduction of broad western sanctions on Russia.
Nationwide marches planned in Brazil
Information compiled by Jeff Landset
JIMMY: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is calling for his supporters to take to the streets on Tuesday. Of course, that call is coming amid a corruption investigation that may lead to his removal from office.
He was elected in 2018 after campaigning as an anti-corruption outsider.
And over the summer, a congressional probe into Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic uncovered a vaccine purchasing scandal. It found that after the government spent months haggling over drug prices it purchased an unapproved vaccine from India for more than 10 times the price that was originally quoted.
That led to the country’s Supreme Court authorizing a criminal investigation into Bolsonaro.
And while Bolsonaro has promised his supporters won’t be violent, it’s unclear if that will remain the case.
Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lewandowski has already warned Bolsonaro or any supporters not to attempt a coup on Tuesday.
U.S. House committee deadline for Trump White House records
Information compiled by Sophie Perryer
JIMMY: Eight U.S. federal agencies have until Thursday to release a trove of documents relating to the January 6th Capitol riot. They were subpoenaed from the House committee investigating the incident.
Now, the committee held its first hearing in relation to the Capitol insurrection on July 27th and it issued its first round of subpoenas on August 26th.
In this initial round of requests, it’s seeking communications records from former President Trump’s White House, including details of the events up to and on January 6th and information on attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.
The committee has also reportedly sent letters to 35 private-sector companies, including social media networks, requesting them to preserve the records of Trump, his family and GOP lawmakers who attended or endorsed the “Stop the Steal” rally which preceded the riot.
Of course, it’s unclear whether all or indeed any of the information the committee is seeking will be released by the deadline, for several reasons.
While the Biden administration said it will not draw on executive privilege to prevent former officials from testifying as part of the investigation, it’s not clear whether this pledge extends to the release of documents.
Trump could also launch legal proceedings to block the subpoenas, which would likely lead to a drawn-out court battle.
Finally, the scale and scope of the subpoenas could also make it difficult for federal agencies to deliver the requested documents by the deadline.
First game of 2021 NFL season
Information compiled by Alex Moore
JIMMY: The National Football League will kick off its 2021 season next Thursday as the Dallas Cowboys travel to Tampa, Florida, to face the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.
All 32 NFL teams have confirmed that they will operate at full capacity this coming season. Quite the shift from last season, when numerous teams went the entire season without allowing any fans in at all.
And while some teams are opening stands only to vaccinated fans, others have no restrictions on spectators.
As for players, the NFL maintains that it’s open to a vaccine mandate for all of those on rosters. The NFL Players Association, however, has upheld its opposition to a mandate, instead pushing for a return to last season’s daily testing for all players regardless of vaccination status.
Now, while the NFL operated with flexibility regarding rescheduling games due to coronavirus outbreaks last year, it is being more rigid this year. The league is advising that teams will risk forfeiting games if there is an outbreak among unvaccinated players.
As for fans, it remains to be seen how the surging Delta variant will interact with full-capacity stadiums.
A comprehensive and peer-reviewed study of the 2020 season did find a link between games that had large numbers of fans and increases in local coronavirus infections.
U.S. leaves Afghanistan, Taliban rule officially begins
Information compiled by Imana Gunawan
JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is an update on the situation in Afghanistan. For more on that, here’s Factal editor Imana Gunawan.
JIMMY: Hi, Imana.
IMANA: Hey, Jimmy, thanks for having me.
JIMMY: Well, here we are. Last week we were all watching to see if the Biden administration was going to stick to its deadline and get Americans out of Afghanistan by August 31st. And I guess we have our answer.
IMANA: Yes, so our military is officially out. The last few US planes left the Kabul airport earlier this week, which concludes 20 years of military presence in the country. It also closed a chapter of history that basically ended with a quite chaotic and deadly evacuation process for both US servicemembers and also Afghan civilians.
JIMMY: The administration has been pretty insistent that while there were obviously some pretty terrible incidents that took place during the evacuation they were successful in getting thousands of people out of the country.
IMANA: Yes, in that regard, they were pretty successful in getting a lot of people out. The White House said that since August 14th American forces helped airlift more than 120,000 US citizens, foreigners and Afghans, while coalition forces also transported their citizens and Afghans. However, not all who wanted to go were evacuated, officials say, although diplomatic processes will still continue to ensure safe passage for both Afghans and foreign nationals who want to leave the country.
JIMMY: Do we know how many Americans are still in Afghanistan?
IMANA: So President Biden released a statement on August 31st saying that the US believes about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with “some intention to leave.” He says most of those who remain are dual citizens or longtime residents who had earlier decided to stay because of family roots in Afghanistan.
JIMMY: Well, besides just watching for these folks to make it back to the US, you know, what should folks be watching for?
IMANA: Well, one thing that's really interesting to watch for is that the Taliban is officially ruling the country now -- and they are now ruling a country that's vastly different from the one they last ruled in the late 1990s. Now the new Taliban rulers have to face critical challenges with an economy devastated by war and corruption, despite billions of dollars in aid over the past two decades.
JIMMY: Now, I know the Taliban likes to make it sound like they knew they'd be in control of the country in a matter of weeks, but it's hard to believe they're actually prepared for what comes next. What kind of situation are they facing?
IMANA: Well, nearly half of the population needs humanitarian assistance to survive with basic services at risk of completely collapsing, according to the United Nations chief Antonio Guterres.
JIMMY: Well, that sounds awfully precarious. Any indication on how they plan to govern?
IMANA: So over the past few weeks the group has been sending messages to set kind of a more conciliatory and tolerant note, but really its first big test will be the formation of a new government and whether it will genuinely be inclusive.
JIMMY: Yeah, honestly, it's difficult to hear the Taliban's messaging and suss out if it's just propaganda or rhetoric aimed at appeasing folks or if it's actually an indication of how they plan to rule the country. And of course, they're still facing some resistance, correct?
IMANA: Yes, in Panjshir province, which is actually the last area that's not under Taliban rule. There are “several thousand members of local militias and remnants of Army and Special Forces units” that have been holding out against the group. It's also, you know, a historic hotbed of resistance, according to Reuters. On the security front, the group faces the threat of local Islamic State affiliate ISIS-Khorasan which was responsible for a suicide bombing last week that killed nearly 170 Afghans and also 13 US military personnel amid all of the evacuations.
JIMMY: Well, I guess we'll just leave it there for now, but I'm sure we'll be discussing this again in the weeks ahead. Thanks for catching up to speed, Imana. Appreciate it.
IMANA: Thank you so much for having me.
JIMMY: Take care.
JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, Jeff Landset and Sophie Perryer. Our interview featured editor Imana Gunawan 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
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