Roundup 239

New Events

Northern Africa (266m)

Russia’s Wagner mercenaries calls the shots in fight for control of Libya. The Times
… “2,000 strong force spread across east & south report only to Russia”
From last week: “At the mercy of foreign powers” WPost
… “at least 20,000 mercenaries in Libya”

Eastern Africa (520m)

Ethiopia detains BBC reporter, AFP/FT translators. CPJ
… 3/3, the media workers were freed. France24
Massacre in the mountains (describes events of November 30, 2020). CNN
Ethiopia’s war leads to ethnic cleansing in Tigray region, US report says. NYT
U.N., U.S. demand Eritrean forces leave Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Reuters
Op/Ed: From Pariah to Kingmaker. Foreign Policy
… Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki is fueling bloodshed in Tigray …
The unintended consequence of Ethiopia’s civil war might be a border war with Sudan. AllAfrica

Western Africa / Sahel (457m)

Nigeria: kidnapped school girls were released. Al Jazeera
… The girls recount their ordeal – Reuters

How a spilled basket of tomatoes led to an argument, that led to ethnic slurs, that led to violence, that led to clashes that have paralyzed the nation. Economist

Middle Africa

CDC has announced travel restrictions for countries hit with Ebola. CNN
… for individuals coming to USA from Guinea and DRC …

Western Asia (303m)

In Iraq’s Biblical lands, scattered Christians ask “should I stay or go?” Reuters

“Constant fear”: Iraq and Syria fear ISIL resurgence. Al Jazeera
… “ISIL is everywhere in the Iraq-Syria desert.”
… “The ideology & socioeconomic fault lines that gave birth to it are still intact…”
… “Many fighters never left the Syria-Iraq border, just dispersed to regroup another day”

Lebanon: currency hits new low, more protests spark. AP
… crashing currency = sharp increase in prices = small road protests …
… Lebanon in desperate need of foreign currency; intl donors demand major reforms …

After Saudi dissident vanishes in Canada, Saudi exiles fear they are in jeopardy. WPost

Turkey re-opens restaurants, schoools as infection rate drops. MiddleEastEye
… “controlled normalization” policy …

New, mysterious aid group on Yemen’s horizon – basically no one seems to know who’s behind the Famine Relief Fund, other than it appears to be Gulf entities. New Humanitarian

South & Central Asia (2.0b)

Afghanistan: a year of violence on the road to peace. BBC
… A year ago, the Taliban made a deal: it wouldn’t attack US forces, and US would draw down
… it did not commit to a ceasefire with the Afghan government or its citizens
… targeted assassinations of the country’s judges, journalists and activists

Opinion/Survey: Pakistan’s blasphemy law doesn’t protect Hindus. Diplomat

Indian government regulation squeezes Christian charities – non profit licenses revoked, leaving millions without help. CT

India thinks Chinese cyberattacks could have caused blackout in Mumbai last year–“the worst in decades in India’s financial capital.” WSJ

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

“If the others go, I’ll go”: Inside China’s scheme to transfer Uighurs into work. Yet another investigation of China’s effort to reduce Uighur population density and assimilate Uighur culture into Han. This trend continues unabated. BBC.

After 47 of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy activists were arrested, 100s gathered outside a court in a rare protest. NYT

China expected to unveil hike in military budget as tensions rise. Reuters

Japan’s tsunami survivors call lost loves on the “phone of the wind.” Reuters

Southeastern Asia (700m)

Laos relaxes rules for foreign homebuyers to encourage property investment. SCMP

Thailand has a vision of vaccinated tourists. JapanTimes
… authorities roll out national inoculation program, consider vaccine passports, quarantine wavers …
… “open to scrapping 2-week quarantine for inoculated visitors”
… local tourism industry wants quarantines lifted by July for vaccinated visitors

The coup in Myanmar
Short-term scenarios: 1 protesters win, 2 continued strikes, 3 mediated settlement, 4 cruel crackdown
… “killing protesters can happen anytime… we have to keep doing what we should do”
… “no one is safe, whether you take to the streets or sit at home”
AP Photos: 1 month in Myanmar under military control. AP
“The shooting starts”: response growing more brutal. Economist
3/3: 38 protesters killed in “bloodiest day since coup”. Reuters
… 54 known killed since beginning of coup, and 1,700 arrested …
Britain calls for UN meeting. AFP
Myanmar military deploys “digital arsenal of repression” against protests. NYT
… surveillance drones, iPhone cracking devices, hacking software, some from the West
… delivering death threats against protesters via TikTok Link
Myanmar protesters play cat & mouse as military shuts down online platforms. CNA
“Back to the stone age”: striking bank workers bring an industrial economy to its knees. Frontier
… 10s of 1000s of workers walked off the job 3 weeks ago to pressure the military …
Frontline aid groups operating in country running low on cash. New Humanitarian
… protests have shut down Myanmar’s banking sector, cash transfers difficult …
… before the coup, ~1 million people relied on humanitarian aid …
“Watching the coup unfold from a conflict zone”: Frontier
… an account of the coup’s impact on distribution of aid to remote, conflict-hit areas.
US blocked Myanmar junta attempt to empty $1 billion from New York account. Reuters
UN Special Envoy: “Stability of the region depends on Myanmar.” UN
Myanmar’s neighbors press for Suu Kyi release, restoration of democracy. Reuters
International solidarity with the protest movement is needed. SkyNews
… but short of invasion, I’m not clear from even this piece what the intl community can do.
India: 300 Christian Chin refugees from Myanmar hold anti-coup protest. AP
A guide to praying for Myanmar. PDF

America/Europe

In the USA, the Salvation Army saw past-holiday giving increase by 27% over 2019. MinistryWatch

Some warnings about potential eruption following large earthquake swarm in Iceland. NYT

Data

Covid case data

… 3/5: 115.7m cases, 2.57m deaths
… 2/26: 113m cases
… 2/19: 109.5m cases
… 2/12: 107.9m cases, 2.37m deaths
… 2/4: 104.8m cases, 2.28m deaths
… 1/29: 101m cases, 2.19m deaths (2.1% CFR)
… 1/22: 97.3m cases, 2.08m deaths (2.1% CFR)
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYTCovidTracking

Longer Reads

New report from Syria Relief: “The Destruction You Can’t See”: the prevalence of PTSD amongst IDPs and refugees. PDF

Freedom House: new Freedom in the World 2021 report out. Link
… Total number of “Not Free” countries reached new post-2006 high
… India downgraded to “Partly Free” for first time since 1997
… 73 countries represent 75% of global population downgraded

Future & Technology

Google to stop selling ads based on your specific web browsing. WSJ
… “won’t use technologies that track individuals across multiple websites” …
… about 40% of advertising spending on the Internet flows through Google …

29 countries intentionally shut down or slowed access to the Internet at least 155 times in 2020; India topped the list. Many in the West take Internet access for granted, but this shouldn’t be presumed in less-free countries. Al Jazeera

Facebook’s new AI teaches itself to see with less human help: “self-supervised learning.” Wired

“Digital Suez”: how the Internet flows through Egypt. MiddleEastEye
… est. 30% of the global population’s internet connectivity transits Egypt … high charges; but also, any break would choke off substantial access …

India has introduced sweeping new rules to regulate online content, that could transform how the country uses the Internet. Straits Times