Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Jess Fino discuss Austria's coronavirus lockdown and protests in Europe, plus more on elections in Honduras, the U.S. and Iran resuming indirect talks, a verdict in the case of Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi and an OPEC+ meeting.
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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Irene Villora, Jimmy Lovaas, Imana Gunawan, Amy Pessetto and Jess Fino. 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 November 25th
In this week’s forecast we’ve got elections in Honduras, the U.S. and Iran resuming indirect talks, a verdict in the case of Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, an OPEC+ meeting and Austria's coronavirus lockdown and protests in Europe.
You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
Honduras general election
Information compiled by Irene Villora
JIMMY: Hondurans will be voting in the country’s general election Sunday. However, they’ll be doing so amid a climate of political violence.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet recently expressed concern about the ongoing tensions and asked Honduran authorities to ensure transparent and peaceful elections that fulfill international democratic standards.
Since the primary elections were called in September of last year, 29 people, including candidates, have been killed, 14 more have been attacked and 12 others have experienced “aggressive behaviour.”
The U.N. also recorded 240 attacks against human rights activists and journalists in the country this year.
According to the country’s election authority more than 7,400 international observers will oversee the vote.
Hondurans will be electing a new president, nearly 300 municipal authorities and more than 100 National Congress deputies.
They’ll also be electing 20 representatives for the Central American Parliament.
So, three out of 12 presidential candidates are leading the race, according to the latest polls: Xiomara Castro of the leftist opposition Libre Party, the ruling National party’s Nasry Asfura and the Liberal Party candidate Yani Rosenthal.
Finally, outgoing two-term President Juan Orlando Hernandez has called on the candidates to respect the outcome of the elections. There are fears that the results could be challenged following a highly confrontational campaign marked by hate speech.
U.S. and Iran resume indirect talks
Information compiled by Jimmy Lovaas
JIMMY: The United States and Iran are set to resume indirect talks Monday in Vienna with the goal of possibly reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.
As you may recall, under the deal, Iran pledged to limit its nuclear program and allow international inspections in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.
The United States, however, withdrew from the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in May of 2018.
Then-President Donald Trump dismissed the agreement, which was between Iran, China, France, Russia, the UK, the US, Germany and the European Union as a “horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made.”
Since the U.S. withdrawal, Iran has moved further from compliance with the deal's stipulations through a series of steps, such as increasing enrichment purity and limiting inspector access.
Now, President Joe Biden has made restoring the deal a priority, albeit one with significant challenges.
Iran has insisted that the United States take the first step by lifting sanctions. Biden, on the other hand, said the US will come back to the deal once Iran returns to compliance.
The upcoming talks will be the seventh such round of negotiations. And according to State Department Spokesman Ned Price, this new round will need to start “precisely where the sixth round left off” if they’re going to “close the remaining areas of disagreement.”
Verdict in Aung San Suu Kyi trial
Information compiled by Imana Gunawan
JIMMY: A court in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw is expected to give its verdict on Tuesday in a case against deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, president U Win Myint and former Naypyidaw mayor Myo Aung.
The former leaders are charged with incitement.
Suu Kyi is already on trial for or has been charged in about a dozen criminal cases since Myanmar’s military overthrew the civilian government. The coup began in February over allegations of fraud during the November 2020 elections.
Earlier this month, Suu Kyi was charged with electoral fraud after the military-appointed election commission brought the case against her and 15 other officials.
She also faces charges of breaching coronavirus restrictions during the elections, violating the Official Secrets Act and engaging in corrupt practices.
Now, the upcoming verdict would be the first rendered in any of the cases against Suu Kyi and a conviction in this or any of the cases would likely bar her from running for office again.
Supporters of Suu Kyi and independent rights organizations have criticized the cases as a tool to discredit her and her National League of Democracy party.
Finally, the Myanmar government has tightly restricted information about all the ongoing trials so far, with defense lawyers currently the subjects of a gag order.
Information compiled by Amy Pessetto
JIMMY: The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, also known as OPEC+, will meet Thursday to discuss possible changes to its oil output plans.
The 23-nation alliance is gradually unwinding production cuts made in 2020 by raising output by 400,000 barrels per day.
Signs of a surplus in oil supplies have been building and, according to the alliance’s secretary general last week, the group will be quote "very, very cautious" when it reviews output policy at the meeting.
An increase in coronavirus cases and stricter lockdowns in Europe have once again stoked concerns about demand for oil.
In addition, some countries may be considering tapping national reserves of crude oil to combat high prices.
Oil prices have pulled back somewhat in recent weeks, but they continue to hover near a seven-year high.
Now, OPEC+ could change its production plans if demand is seen as a problem or if supply increases with the release of millions of barrels from countries' reserves.
However, that could set the stage for a power struggle for control of the global energy market.
Some OPEC+ members said the release of oil from inventories isn't justified by current market conditions, and the group may reconsider its plans to continue raising output.
Information compiled by Jess Fino
JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on Austria's coronavirus lockdown and protests in Europe. For more on that I recently spoke with Factal Editor Jess Fino.
JIMMY: Hey Jess.
JESS: Hey, Jimmy. Thanks for having me. Great to speak with you again.
JIMMY: You too. You know, the last time you were on the podcast things were looking up. We were talking about European travel reopening. But here we are less than six months later with another coronavirus-related lockdown. I guess my first question for you is, you know, what's going on?
JESS: I know, that seems like ages ago and now we are going a bit backwards. But yes, so, people in Austria were forced into a new nationwide lockdown that came into effect this Monday to try to contain a recent spike of coronavirus cases in the country. The fact is that Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe at around 65 percent. And this has driven government officials to decide to extend the lockdown for unvaccinated residents, even after the restrictions are lifted for the overall population on December 2. This also explains the controversial decision to introduce mandatory vaccination across its entire population. Austria is the first European country to announce such ones and I wouldn't be surprised is the first of many
JIMMY: Lockdowns and mandates -- two things that are never popular. I suspect these have elicited some strong reactions in Austria?
JESS: Oh, yes, of course. So the new lockdown is the first Among EU countries this fall. And as you can imagine, this led to large protests across the nation's capital over the weekend. Austrian officials hope the 20 day nationwide lockdown will help contain the spread of the virus. But after that, those who are unvaccinated will still be unable to go to restaurants, bars and non-essential shops. Now many are calling the measure a restriction of human rights. The move to make vaccination mandatory from February 2022 is expected to drive further tensions as well as potential lawsuits, you know,
JIMMY: Has Austria’s actions had any impact on its neighbors?
JESS: Yeah, so over the weekend we've seen several protests actually. So other countries are starting to follow suit with Czech Republic and Slovakia banning unvaccinated people from restaurants, bars and most public events. And more anti-coronavirus restrictions protests are expected in other European countries this weekend. And after last week, violent demonstrations in the Netherlands for example, that led to more than 100 arrests, as well as protests in Belgium, Croatia and Italy, to name a few of the larger ones that we've covered. Meanwhile, the WHO's regional director warned that unless measures were reinforced across Europe, half a million more deaths could be recorded by spring. So we are not out of the woods as of yet.
JIMMY: Well, that's certainly a concerning thought. I guess we'll leave it there for now, but I trust you'll let us know if there's any big developments. Thanks for the update, Jess.
JESS: No worries, Jimmy. Thanks so much.
JIMMY: Take care.
JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Irene Villora, myself -- Jimmy Lovaas, Imana Gunawan and Amy Pessetto. Our interview featured editor Jess Fino 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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