Factal Forecast

U.K terror threat level “severe” after second attack in a month

November 18, 2021 Episode 31
Factal Forecast
U.K terror threat level “severe” after second attack in a month
Show Notes Transcript

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and David Wyllie discuss the terror probe underway in the United Kingdom, plus more on the North American Leaders' Summit, Venezuela's election, a coronavirus vaccine deadline for US federal workers and Israel's defense minister visiting Morocco.

These stories and more are also available in our weekly Forecast email and you can subscribe for free.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Irene Villora, Vivian Wang, Ahmed Namatalla and David Wyllie.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed? Drop us a note: hello@factal.com

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Read the full episode description and transcript on Factal's blog.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.



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 November 18th.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got the North American Leaders' Summit, an election in Venezuela, US federal workers facing a coronavirus vaccine deadline, Israel's defense minister visiting Morocco and a look at the terror probe underway in the United Kingdom.

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

"Three Amigos" summit

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: US President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador will sit down today in Washington, D.C., during a trying time between the nations.

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 strained the relationship between the three North American countries in ways that haven’t been seen in generations. 

After all, Trump raised issues with the North American Free Trade Agreement and border security and did so in arguably erratic ways. He also never convened or agreed to an official summit with his counterparts. 

After the election in 2020, both Canada and Mexico congratulated Biden on his win and promised to work together. 

Of course, the Biden presidency has come with its own set of challenges for both nations.

Biden has focused on climate change initiatives while in office, angering Canada’s oil producers by shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline. 

He has also been slow to move on some immigration issues, forcing Mexico to house people trying to get into the United States. 

Still, all three leaders could get something tangible done, especially after the Trump administration led to chaotic policy decisions.


Venezuela election

Information compiled by Irene Villora

JIMMY: Venezuelans will go to the polls to elect their regional and municipal leaders on Sunday. And those elections will include the participation of the opposition for the first time since 2017.

It’s been years of escalating tensions between the opposition and President Nicolás Maduro’s government, which hit a new high in 2019 after Juan Guaidó proclaimed himself interim president of the country.

The opposition announced in September that they would participate in Sunday’s vote after boycotting elections in the previous three years over “irregularities” in the handling of elections in the country. 

Now, despite reservations over the transparency of the vote, the opposition is trying to regain political relevance in Venezuelan institutions. 

And for the first time in 15 years, a team of EU observers will oversee the campaign leading to the polls. Small delegations from the UN and the Carter Center will also join the effort.

Now, more than 3,000 official positions will be renewed in this vote, including governors, mayors, councillors and lawmakers. 

And the elections will be overseen in a highly militarized environment with over 350 troops deployed to guarantee security on Sunday. 

And while it is unclear whether the opposition will be able to harvest enough support in the polls, the success of this election in terms of democratic standards could be a first step.

A step toward a presidential race with guarantees in a country marked by decades of power struggle.


U.S. federal vaccine mandate deadline

Information compiled by Vivian Wang

JIMMY: An order by President Joe Biden's administration that requires all federal employees to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus goes into effect Monday.

Biden announced in September that all federal employees will be required to be fully vaccinated by November 22nd or face disciplinary action. 

Under this mandate, federal workers need to have received their second dose of Pfizer, Moderna or Astrazeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, by November 8th to be considered fully vaccinated

The mandate comes into effect amid low vaccination numbers nationwide, with just more than 59 percent of Americans fully vaccinated.

Now, the mandate is facing several legal challenges from federal employees and contractors, and a union representing more than 700,000 government employees is pushing for the Biden administration to postpone Monday’s deadline for federal employees to match a newly extended January 4th date for contractors. 

In a separate case, earlier this week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration suspended enforcement of a similar mandate for large private businesses.


Israel’s Gantz visits Morocco

Information compiled by Ahmed Namatalla

JIMMY: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz will travel to Morocco on Wednesday to sign security-cooperation agreements as the two countries continue to strengthen ties. 

Israel and Morocco have been slowly building connections since the October 2020 agreement that saw Morocco agree to a U.S.-brokered deal to recognize Israel in exchange for the US recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region. 

In addition to increased diplomatic contacts, the past year has also seen the start of direct flights between the two nations and increased bilateral trade.

Now, Gantz’ visit will mark the second high-level meeting between officials from both sides since the signing of the normalization agreement, after Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid traveled to Morocco in August. 

That’s when Israel announced the formation of its first diplomatic mission to Morocco ahead of an expected opening of embassies. 

Of course, Israel’s growing ties with Arab countries continue to reduce leverage of Palestinians trying to gain statehood amid Israeli occupation and expansion of settlements that are at the center of decades of armed conflict in the region.


UK terror probe

Information compiled by David Wyllie

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the terror probe underway in the United Kingdom. For more on that I recently spoke with our Editorial Development Manager David Wyllie. 

JIMMY: Hi, David. 

DAVID: Hey, Jimmy.

JIMMY: Hey, a lot of concerning news coming out of the UK recently, including the terror threat level being raised. Can you catch us up to speed on that?

DAVID: Well, the UK’s terror threat level has been raised from “substantial” to “severe,” meaning an attack is considered highly likely before that an attack was only considered likely but security services decided to increase that level after an explosion outside Liverpool Women's Hospital on Remembrance Sunday, just a few days ago. 

JIMMY: What do we know about that bombing? 

DAVID: Police and security services have been piecing parts of the story together this week and are now able to say a little bit more about it. They believe that the suspect, named as 32-year-old Emad Al Swealmeen, an asylum seeker who was born in Iraq, died when a homemade IED exploded in the back of a taxi outside the hospital building. The UK government security minister Damian Hinds told the BBC that inquiries as to whether he acted alone were continuing, and we know that he had been planning the attack for more than six months. Police are continuing to search a property linked to him in the Liverpool area that he rented in April of this year. As part of the investigation, immediately after the explosion, four men were detained in the Liverpool area on Sunday and Monday who were then questioned by police and released without charge. No one else has been arrested.

JIMMY: And this isn't the only terror incident police are investigating, is that right?

DAVID: It's not. Security services considered the Liverpool attack to be the second terrorist incident in a month, with Sunday's bombing coming several weeks after the MP Sir David Amess was fatally stabbed as he met constituents in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex.

JIMMY: Besides raising the terror threat level, what else are police doing?

DAVID: Well, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, by the way that's the force that covers the London area and generally takes lead and terror investigations in the UK, she warned Londoners in late October to be alert for attacks over the Christmas period. But we haven't heard of any specific overt measures, just a general increase in the alert level. She did add that the counterterrorism investigations across the UK remain at record levels with more than 800 live investigations and 31 foiled plots since 2017. Two attacks in several weeks is undoubtedly cause for concern that there may be more and obviously takes people back to 2017 where five attacks in London and Manchester killed more than 30 people. Those were the worst Islamist attacks since the July 7th suicide bombings on London's transport network that killed 52 people back in 2005.

JIMMY: Well, I trust you let us know of any important developments in the weeks ahead. Until then, thanks for your insight here, David. I appreciate it.

DAVID: Thank you and thanks for having me on.

JIMMY: Take care.

JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Irene Villora, Vivian Wang and Ahmed Namatalla. Our interview featured editor David Wyllie 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 hello@factal.com


This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

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Music: 'Factal Theme' courtesy of Andrew Gospe