Roundup 233

New Events

A large fire tore through a Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, destroying 100s of homes, leaving 1000s displaced. Link

Central African Republic’s capital was attacked by armed groups seeking to overturn the 27 December election results. This is the culmination of a string of attacks that have caused nearly 100,000 to be internally displaced. Link

ChinaSource has an excellent survey of the top news stories related to religion and Christianity in China in 2020, edited from one originally published by China Christian Daily. Link

The United States banned all Xinjiang cotton, tomatoes over forced labor; this represents 20% of the world’s cotton from entering America. Canada and the UK also initiated bans. LinkUSA, Link. … China, meanwhile, demanded the US lift its ban, calling the accusations the “lie of the century.” Link

Ethiopia is warning Sudan it is running out of patience with a border dispute. Militia clashes have erupted, and some have been killed. Wednesday: Ethiopian aircraft entered Sudanese airspace, Sudan called for expulsion of Ethiopian ambassador. Link 1, Link 2

Massacres are still happening in northeast Ethiopia; the latest is as yet unclaimed. Link

Hindu pilgrims–multiple millions, probably–flocked to the Ganges River (this year, hosted in Uttarakhand) to participate in India’s Kumbh Mela festival, despite the danger of Covid-19. One pilgrim: “The greatest truth on earth is death. What’s the point of living with fear?” Link

The farmers’ protests continue in India: they have created camps around Delhi that are virtual cities. The Supreme Court suspended the implementation of the laws they are protesting, but the farmers want them repealed. Link 1, Link 2

India’s invisible farmers: the women who keep India’s farms running. Oxfam says 80% of farm work in India is undertaken by women. Link

Kashmir has weathered violence, political strife, but the current security crackdown and Covid-19 have brought tourism (and its economic benefits) to a near halt. Link

Iraq’s economy has been hammered: oil revenues are the worst in over a decade. I haven’t seen specific figures for other oil-centered countries but suspect this is true of many of them as well. The drop in oil revenues impacts every element of the economy, including subsidies for the poor (e.g. bread prices). LinkOil revenues, Link

The BTJ Centre for all Nations school in South Korea is emerging as a Covid-19 hotbed; government is warning of “strong measures against those obstructing anti-virus measures.” Link

Droughts, Covid-19 unemployment have led to ‘famine-like’ conditions affecting 1.3m in Madagascar. Link

Malaysia’s king has declared a state of emergency to shore up government in order to curb Covid-19. I’m not seeing any changes in borders, international travel yet, but there are new limitations to movement. Link

Nepal’s ruling Communist Party (elected in 2017) split in a political crisis in December, and early elections will be held in April and May. China and India are scrambling to try to influence the results. Link

Great analysis of Nigeria’s cattle crisis: how drought and urbanizatioon led to deadly land grabs. Both Nigeria’s cattle population (20 million) and people population (200 million) are the largest in Africa. City growth is invading cattle routes. Fundamentalist fighters are in the mix. Also, rainfall drops have caused desertification and drought. Solutions are hard to come by, so the crisis will continue on and more violence will be done. Link

Most of Pakistan was hit by one of the biggest power failures to ever affect the country: apparently, a power transmission station in southern Sindh province affected the entire network. Power failures are common. Link

The desecration of a Hindu shrine in Pakistan has people asking whether the nation can protect religious minorities. (India facing similar issues, of course.) This is mostly about Hindus vs Muslims but has implications for other minorities as well. Link

Vietnam gets its first Christian public library, opened by the Vietnam Bible Society. Link

Tunisian migrants to Italy rose 5x to 13,000 in 2020. Link

Thailand is launching some experiments to attract tourists, offering half a dozen golf courses as quarantine centers: enjoy the game, roam freely within the premises rather than confining themselves during two weeek quarantine. Thailand wants its tourists back. Link

Turkey is facing a severe drought due to poor rainfall–the “most severe drought in a decade.” Water levels across the country are critically low, and “Istanbul could run out of water in 45 days.” Of course, we’ve seen these kinds of short-term problems before (remember Cape Town a few years ago?), and I suspect the problem will be solved–but farms across Turkey are also on the verge of crop failure. Link

A mark of severe poverty: Uzbekistan struggling to prevent newborn babies from being sold by mothers due to financial and social insecurity. Link

Data

Covid case data

… 1/15: 92.6m cases, 1.98m deaths (2.1% CFR)
… 1/05: 88.2m cases, 1.9m deaths (2% CFR)
… 12/18: 73.9m cases, 1.6m deaths (2.1% CFR)
… 11/20: 57.0m cases, 1.3m deaths (2.2%)
… 11/13: 53.0m cases, 1.29m deaths (2.4%)
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYTCovidTracking

Increasing

New lockdowns: TunisiaTunisia, MalaysiaJapanPortugal, LinkChina (22 million), Link.

Travel bubbles

USA joins the bandwagon: international air travellers coming to America will have to produce proof of negative tests before they board a plane. Could impact ~100k travelers per year. Perhaps another ~100 countries have similar requirements. Link Saudi Arabia warns against travel to 12 countries due to Covid-19 situations there. Link

##New Resources HRW’s Link2021 World Report. Open Doors’ Link2021 World Watch List. Dancing in the Mosque looks like an interesting book about Afghanistan: “an Afghan mother’s heart-wrenching tale.” LinkReview here.

Longer Reads

CSIS has a list of 13 trends & stories to watch in “sub-Saharan Africa” (but includes the Horn). Link

The World Tourism & Travel Council says requiring vaccinations to travel is “discrimination.” Good luck with keeping it from happening, in my view. Link

Futures & Tech

Millions have left WhatsApp for Signal, Telegram due to WhatsApp privacy terms change. Link 1, Link 2. … and, WhatsApp is really battling privacy concerns in India (where it’s also being sued). India is its biggest market. Link … “Yes, you can continue to use WhatsApp – just change these three settings first.” Link

Muslim prayer apps are found to be tracking Muslims, selling data to companies with ties to US government. Link

The huge value of China’s market has led to self-censorship to win approval and access. Yet another example: Hollywood. Link

Venice is watching tourists’ every move, “in a bid to change tourism for the better”: “We know in real time how many people are in each part of the city, and which countries they are from… by analyzing phone data… information all aggregated automatically, so no personal details can be gleaned.” Less privacy-conscious countries probably will have the same kinds of technology soon, but won’t have the same kind of restraint. Link

Many countries entirely block the Internet & social media in the lead up to elections. The latest example is Uganda, which has ordered a complete Internet blackout “until further notice”. Link

Car makers are competing with PlayStation makers for semiconductors. Link

MIT Technology Review has an analysis of the five AI trends that are likely to shape 2021 and beyond–written & sponsored Baidu, a Chinese multinational. Link

China is training its surveillance cameras to detect maskless drivers, concerned that they could become superspreaders. This is a use of technology that other places could rapidly justify and implement. Link

Iran’s power outages have been worsened by illegal, power-sapping crypto mining. Link