Roundup #224

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

BBC publishes investigation of Sudan’s Islamic schools. Link
… “Systematic abuse documented over an 18 month period”
… 30k schools across Sudan, typically run by sheikhs …

Sudan protests:
… Sudanese back on streets to march against dire living conditions. Link
… Protests & strikes across Sudan. AllAfrica
… Four killed in Port Sudan. AllAfrica

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Nature: “Understanding and managing new risks on the Nile with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.” Suggests the risk of water shortage in Egypt is relatively low. PDF

“On the verge of another locust invasion, worst in 25 years.” Link
But FAO says E Africa better prepared to fight latest wave. Link

Christian couple arrested in Somaliland (h/t M Catalyst). Link
… “whoever dares to spread Christianity in this region…”

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Burkina Faso: 
How one of the most stable nations in Africa descended into mayhem. Link
… Over 2 million displaced. Link
… “one step short of famine.” Link

New report of a missionary martyr in Mali. CT

Nigeria, protests vs SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad)
Police opened fire on pro-reform protesters in Lagos. NPR
… “Nationwide protests push authorities to the edge.” FP
… Lagos “shut down”. CBS
Op/Ed: “Nigeria is murdering its citizens.” NYT
… “there is a sense that the country could burn to the ground.”
… SARS=“moneymaking terror squad with no accountability”

Nigeria’s population of extremely poor reaches 102m. Vanguard

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Armenia v Azerbaijan
Front lines of brutal war: “hints of a long, punishing fight.” NYT
A new weapon complicates an old war: impact of drones. LAT
N-K: Civilians and churches under fire. BBC
Azer. advancing deep into Arm. territory. Eurasianet
And, of course, war is amplifying spread of Covid-19. Independent
Azer Evangelicals: “It’s not a religious war.” CT
“Pain and loss drive war fever.” NYT
… “Az is in full war mode as it engaged in the heaviest fighting”
… “suffered a bitter defeat in 1990s, quietly rearming since”
… “clashes broke out 3 weeks ago, Az plunged into all-out war”

Iraq’s internal exiles: three years after victory over ISIS, over a million are still displaced and hundreds of thousands are in camps. Link

Further: ‘Resilience has its limits’: the heavy toll of coronavirus on Iraq’s displaced. Link

And, “How the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) will shape the region for decades to come.” Link

Christian refugees from Iraq on their new lives in Jordan. NPR
… “2/3rds of Iraq’s Christians have left since the US invasion in 2003.”
… “waiting to leave for mainly Australia, after Canada and the States.”

Beyond the headlines: Lebanon’s year of turmoil and disasters. Link

Saudi Arabia: 4,000 workers, 100,000 facemasks to ensure safe Umrah. Link

Yemen: Prisoner swap seeks to restart stalled peace talks. WSJ
… “more than 1,000 prisoners, rare sign of progress”
… Photo: children begin classes in the ruins of war. Twitter

South-central Asia (2.1B)

Afghanistan: “Living with the Taliban”: “first of three studies exploring how the Taliban rule, and the impact of that rule on residents.” Explores Ghazni in a very bleak picture. Link

At Afghan peace talks, hoping to end their father’s war. Link

India:
Peak holiday season set to send Covid-19 cases surging. Link
… “no need to congregate in large numbers to prove your faith or religion”
… the coronavirus as a demon towering over Durga Purja festival. Link

Pakistani Shias live in terror of blasphemy laws & sectarian violence. Link
… Sunnis using blasphemy laws to target, murder ‘heretics’
“Some of the worst ever floods in Pakistan.” ReliefWeb
… 4 million impacted by monsoon flooding …
… 1.4m children at risk of homelessness, disease

Kyrgyzstan: President steps down. Link
… Sadyr Japarov now both PM and President.
… states he intends to run for a full term in office if allowed to … Stratfor

East Asia (1.6B)

An article began making the rounds alleging the Chinese government, in the course of Sinicizing the Bible, had altered the story of Jesus & the adulterous woman. J. Pittman (ZGBriefs) dives into the truth behind it, and why it’s less a story than it would seem. Link

… also, ChinaSource series on “How the Church grows in China” is well worth a read. Link

China threatens to detain foreign citizens (e.g. American nationals) if their home governments do something Beijing doesn’t like (such as prosecute Chinese nationals). Link
… and makes veiled threat at Hong Kong-based Canadians. Link

China defends Tibetan “vocational training programme.” Link
… urges Tibetans not to “overdo religion.”
… program impacts 15% of 3.5m Tibetans.
… context: China forcing 500,000 Tibetans into labor camps. Link

Thousands held as crackdown on language protesters continues. Link
… at least 8k Mongolians detained over resistance to plans to phase out use of Mongolian language in schools.

Economist cover on the persecution of the Uighurs. Link

As Belt & Road initiatives slow in Africa, thousands of Chinese workers leave. SCMP

North Korea unveiled a big new ICBM: the “largest road-mobile liquid-fueled missile anywhere,” which analysts expected to “have the range to hit much of the US mainland.” Certainly got NKor some attention. Link

Southeast Asia (700M)

Thai protests
Emergency decrees declared. NYT
… gatherings of 5+ not permitted
… news & online content “creating fear” banned
Protesters defy new state of emergency. FP
How pro-democracy movement gained momentum. BBC
“Tens of thousands in mass defiance” BBC
Protests enter day 7. @joyce_karam

Lockdown tests faith in Covid-hit Philippines. Link

New Data

Covid-19

… 10/23: 41m cases, 1.1m deaths
… 10/16: 40m cases, 1m deaths
… 10/9: 36.5m cases, 1.0m+ deaths
… 10/1: 34.4m cases, 1.0m+ deaths 
… 9/25: 32.3m cases, 984k deaths
Trackers: Johns Hopkins, NYT, CovidTracking.com

Covid short bits
1m+ cases: US, India, Brazil, Russia, France, Argentina, Spain
… getting close: Colombia, Peru, Mexico, UK.
Case highs: Czech, Poland, Turkey, Jordan, …
More lockdowns: Ireland, Spain, Tunisia, Iran, Oman, …
Travel Bubbles: Bangladesh-India, Indonesia-Singapore.
… 3m migrants stranded due to Covid, want to return home, can’t. Link 
Opening: India (schools, cinemas)
UNICEF to stockpile more than 0.5 billion syringes by year’s end. Link
… “the world will need as many syringes as doses of vaccine”…

Other data

Great infographic visualizing refugee flows from country of origin, to country of asylum, to country of resettlement. (Also, a great blog post on the process of review and iteration.) (And, h/t to reader and long-time friend Jon Hirst for surfacing this content.) Link

Another: 50 cognitive biases in the modern world. Link

Conflict trends in Africa, 1989-2019. 2019 saw a record high in state-based conflicts in Africa. PDF

Also, ICRC: rising food prices, job losses, unabated conflict spark fears of rising hunger in communities across Africa. PDF

Reading

If you haven’t seen The Network Effects (nfx.com) website, it’s an interesting and useful read. They just added the “15th Effect”–Tribalism. Link

“Africa has just months to react to an invasive malaria mosquito” threatening mass outbreaks across Africa. Malaria is usually only found in rural areas, but this mosquito can thrive in urban areas… Link

Futuristics & Technology

Satellites map every tree in Sahel, Sahara using AI. Link
… “will be possible to map location, size of every tree worldwide”
… what other stationary things might be mapped using similar tech?

Singapore’s “world-first face scan” plan sparks privacy fears. First country to use facial verification its national ID plan, “doing away with the need to remember a password or security dongle.” (Although obviously China uses facial recognition to track lots of people–the difference is not immediately obvious to me.) Link

We’re only listening to help you: “Sales calls have gone virtual, and now AI is listening in.” Covid-19 has caused thousands of sales people to start using Zoom. Now companies are using AI systems to analyze their pitches and provide feedback. Link

Well, that didn’t take long: entrepreneurs are building tools that create emails or marketing copy using AI/GPT-3: “Give these apps some notes and they’ll write for you.” Wired

Stopping viral spread: A new system for preventing dengue fever: scientists inject mosquitoes with a natural bacterium (Wolbachia, which hinders the insect’s ability to transmit viruses), then release them into the wild. The infected mosquitoes mate with others, infecting them with the bacterium, who infect others… passing the bacteria to large majorities. Essentially, they’re enabling the mosquitoes to do what they always do–but preventing them from passing on dengue, and multiplying that same prevention through the mosquito community. (Could similar methodologies be used in other contexts to, for example, enable people to use social media platforms without passing on social ‘viruses’? or in other contexts…?) Link

A better universal translator: Facebook has released the first AI model that translates between 100 languages without relying on English as an intermediate step (e.g. Chinese->English->French, instead Chinese->French). Link

Apparently, keeping Covid vaccines safe from theft and counterfeiting is going to be a big deal. Link

Cheap drones from China, Turkey, Israel are fueling conflicts: “giving smaller countries affordable ways to project force with greater lethality at lower risk.” Link

Other smaller bits
AI-powered robots now making pizza. Link
The strange new world of being a deepfake actor. Link
Wikimap is a map of all geotagged Wikipedia articles. Link
A new app to help you with jetlag. When we start traveling again. Link
Paypal lets users buy/hold/sell cryptocurrency. Link
More on the CommonPass App, enabling air travel. Link

Roundup #223

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Starvation used as a weapon of war in S Sudan conflict. Link
… food insecurity in W Bahr el Ghazal, Jonglei, C Equatoria
… “intentionally deprived communities of critical resources”

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Eastern Sudan rocked by protests, calls for independence. Link
… “historically marginalized tribe” [Beja] “leads unprecedented calls for a secession of Eastern Sudan after a controversial peace deal”

Also, Sudan protests over shortages of bread and fuel and rising food prices. Link
… “prices have doubled, some cases tripled… many eating only one meal a day”

Uganda: thousands finally return to places of worship. Link

Flooding hits 6 million people in East Africa. Link
… # affected by seasonal flooding increased 5x in 4 years

2 million Somalis face acute food insecurity crisis. Link
… “combined effects of widespread, severe flooding, Desert Locust infestation, Covid-19, cumulative impacts of previous shocks”…

Djibouti (<2%C) building the largest free trade zone in Africa. Link
… gateway for 90% of Ethiopia’s imports
… $3.5-billion China-backed initiative

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Senegal: “The pilgrimage must go on.” Link
… pilgrims from across Senegal flock to holy city of Touba …
… “festival that could draw millions” despite Covid concerns
… West Africa’s largest religious gathering–the Magal
… “pilgrims do not book hotel rooms–residents open up homes”

How religion inspires the Nigerian diaspora to play a role in Africa’s development. Link

In Togo, there is no place to hide. Link
… Africa’s oldest single-family autocracy is tightening its grip with foreign made surveillance tools.

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Emirates resumes flights to some European cities. Link

#ArmeniaVsAzerbaijan
Rockets, cluster munitions rain down on civilians. Link
Is N-K conflict a Christian-Muslim clash, or simply politics? Link
Stereotypes, hatred drive Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Link
Turkey strongly backing Azerbaijan. Link
Presence of Syrian mercenaries in Azerbaijan. Link
Iran warns war could escalate into regional conflict. Link
… This NYT op/ed agrees, explores reasons. Link
Karabakh’s critical supply line fights to stay open. Link
Half of N-K population displaced by clashes. Link
On the road to Karabakh: a report’s diary. Link

Iran hits highest Covid death toll since July. Link
… now at 475,000 cases and 27,000 deaths confirmed.
… “just the confirmed numbers… likely numbers are higher…”

This is perhaps one of the most fearsome videos of the Beirut blast I have seen. Really gives you an idea of the impact on the city and its people. Link

Saudi eases restrictions for Umrah pilgrims. Link
… first group of worshippers allowed into Grand Mosque …

Long-read: “A threat from within”: Iraq & the rise of its militias. Link

South-central Asia (2.1B)

India seeks up to 500m Covid-19 vaccine doses by July. Link
Outbreak spreads through rural areas. Link
… refusals to be tested: “we can’t afford to quarantine”
… infections rippling into every corner of the country
… megacities have populous mostly on guard
… rural India is resisting… no one wearing masks… no social distancing

“Awaiting the migrant.” Link
… a look at the travails of migrant workers in India …
… AP seeing a “severe shortage of workers”

Pakistan’s drug habit is endangering the region. Link
… long-read reminder in Diplomat of the “Golden Crescent”

Kyrgyzstan: “on edge of chaos”. Link
… Police, protesters clash in post-election melee. Link
… Anarchic power transition unfolds under shadow of violence. Link
… as dawn breaks, protestors control government buildings. Link
… 2 presidents have been overthrown in the past 15 years
… PM Boronov resigns amid protests of vote-rigging. Link
… parliament election results cancelled. Link
… opposition groups make rival power grabs after toppling govt. Link
… no clear leadership after days of unrest. Link

East Asia (1.6B)

“Chinese Christians deserve a better label than persecuted.” Link
… an important and informative long-read from Brent Fulton in CT, exploring four different narratives often shared about the Chinese church, and how we need to move beyond these stereotypes.

Phase 1 Study: China’s experimental vaccine appears safe. Link

China forcing 500,000 Tibetans into labor camps. Link

America closes immigration door to 91.9 million communists in China. Link
Pew: Negative views of China soar in 14 (mostly Western) countries. Link
… these trends could impact both recruitment & deployment …

Chinese families postponing plans to send kids abroad to study. Link
… 4 out of 5 affluent Chinese parents with children studying foreign curriculums, taking foreign examinations, say they have postponed plans to send kids abroad;
… concerns mount among wealthy, middle-class mainland Chinese after US revoked 1,000 visas of graduate students.
… continued trend impacting ministry to international students

China ramps up a war of words over Taiwan. Link
… and Economist asks if America would have the stomach for a fight. Link
… “prospect of war remains remote, but…”
… watching this trend carefully. incr propaganda could blunder into actual clashes.

Japan to allow travel to 12 (largely East/SE Asian) countries. Link

Southeast Asia (700M)

Protests spread across Indonesia over jobs law. Link
… in 60 locations spread from Aceh to Papua, over 1 million participating.

Protests against Thai government, monarchy continue to escalate. Link
Anti-govt groups make demands ahead of October 14th protest. Link

Thailand Health Ministry wants to reduce foreign tourist mandatory quarantine period to 10 days for those arriving from ‘safe’ countries (#TravelBubble). Link

Haven far from home: the Bosniaks of Malaysia. Link
… interesting ethnography that explores the history of a diaspora

Singapore’s Changi Airport suffers 35% drop in profits. Link
… “has a ‘daunting’ forecast for the future of air transit”

Others/West (1,125M)

USA, graph: not much evidence of evangelical collapse in the last decade; in fact, some evidence of a small increase in size. @ryanburge

Only 4 European countries are below crucial Covid level. Link
… ‘alarm threshold is 7-d average of 20 cases per 100,000 people’
… (only 2 states and 2 islands are below that in the USA.)

France: Paris will close bars, cafes for 2 weeks. Link
… stemming a surge of covid cases in the capital …

New Data

Covid-19

… 10/9: 36.5m cases, 1.0m+ deaths
… 10/1: 34.4m cases, 1.0m+ deaths 
… 9/25: 32.3m cases, 984k deaths 
… 9/11: 28.1m cases, 909k deaths 
… 9/4: 26.0m cases, 862k deaths 
… 8/28: 24.2m cases, 826k deaths
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYTCovidTracking.com

Africa-wide confirmed Covid cases near 1.5 million. Link

Head of emergencies at the WHO thinks roughly 10% of the world has been infected with coronavirus (20x confirmed case total). Link

Other data

UNODC Report: interlinkages between trafficking in persons and marriage. Link

New Longreads

PDF: Ten ways to make ten friends from unreached people groups. Link

Viral effects are not network effects. Link
… viral = existing customers bring new customers for free
… network = each customer adds incremental value for all customers
… most PR efforts on mission-related websites are viral, not network

EMQ Oct/Dec 2020: Rethinking People Group Missiology. Link
… member-only content, but many readers will be part of orgs with access. Summation of a many-month conversation (of which I was part).

Op/Ed: Coronavirus church closures are not persecution. Link
… from a writer who spent 20 years in intl religious freedom work

No email should take more than 5 minutes to write. Link
… (ideally, no more than 30 seconds.)

Futuristics & Technology

CommonPass app, the “answer to Covid-free air travel?” Link
… beginning trials now.
… digital health pass designed to allow travelers to carry their Covid-19 test status in a standardized, global format.

Want to see what the detonation of a 50-megaton thermonuclear bomb looks like? Recently released, previously classified footage will show you. 40 minute video, the detonation is about 22:30. Link

Long essay: the end of the American Internet. Link
… 80 to 90% of Internet users are now outside the USA
… more smartphone users in China than USA+W Europe

Pew deep dive on Americans sourcing news from Youtube. Link

Atlanta Falcons uses ‘disinfecting drones’ to sanitize the stadiums. Link

Swarms of Azeri drones vs Armenian tanks & artillery. Link
… a new iterative advance in warfare

State of AI Report 2020. Link
… deep, technical PPT. I haven’t gotten through it yet.

Youtube’s plot to silence conspiracy theories. Link
… “It turns out that human nature is awful, and the algorithms have figured this out, and that’s what drives engagement.”
… new AI changes reduced watch time of ‘borderline content’ by 70%

Roundup #222

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

“Riders on the Storm: Rebels, Soldiers, Paramilitaries in Sudan’s margins.” First in a 3-part analysis feature covering unrest in Sudan. ACLED

Sudan relationship between religion and state “defined.” Link

Nearly 500 villages were destroyed in Darfur during the war. Link

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Ethiopia ends closure, fully reopens to tourists. Link

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Should Christians join Burkina Faso’s militias against terrorism? CT has a long-read on the escalating violence in the country, and experiments with “a controversial lesson in self-defense.” Link

Nigeria will reopen all schools from October 12. Link

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Turkey backs Azerbaijan in war with Armenia as Russia stands by. Link
Armenia, Azerbaijan reject Russia-mediated talks as fighting rages. Link
How the familiar drumbeat in Nagorno-Karabakh exploded. Link
Eurasianet’s explainer: “a long time coming”. Link
Foreign fighters headed to Nagorno-Karabakh. Link

US says it will vacate the embassy in Baghdad. Link

Over 3 million tourists visited historical locations in Turkey in the June-August period of the year as travel restrictions related to Covid eased. Link

But, tens of thousands of holidays cancelled as Turkey added to Covid quarantine list by UK on Thursday night. Travel bubbles, barriers will continue to come and go. Link

Lack of Internet has caused many Middle Eastern businesses to fail amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Link

Saudi Arabia plans to resume tourist visas by early 2021. Link

South-central Asia (2.1B)

India: crimes against scheduled castes up 7%, against scheduled tribes up 26%. Link

Amnesty Intl halts India operations, citing government reprisals. Link

India’s Covid-19 cases pass the 6 million mark. Link
“In inexorable climb, Kerala [and other states] cases rise by 7,000.” Link
India allows states to reopen schools gradually despite rising cases. Link

Super-spreaders to blame for explosive outbreak: group of about 8% of India’s cases led to almost 2/3 of its total infections. Link

Poverty runs a thread through Indonesia as Covid-19 puts millions on the brink: “as the pandemic reverses decades of progress…” (Long read, photos, stories). Link

Pandemic has health ‘crushing blow’ to Kashmir tourism. Link
… Useful long read on the importance of tourism in the region.

Covid-19 accelerates online adoption of Hindu ritual for the dead. Link
pind dåan ritual, conducted a year after death so soul attains salvation
… held in sacred locations (Varanasi, Gaya, Siddhpur)
… new firms offering ‘online’ pind daan – usually for Indians living abroad

Covid-19 study in India delivers a few surprising results. Link
… median hospital stay < 5 days, possibly because of limited quality care
… deaths of over-65s drop off – probably because Indians 65+ are wealthy, have access to good health care.
… children of all ages can become infected and spread it to others.

Pakistan is the 5th most climate-vulnerable country in the world. Link
… this op/ed looks at the recent impact of climate events on the country.

Field reports in Central Asia of border re-openings and hospitals catching up with medical cases. Lots of thanksgiving for Covid recoveries, spiritual openness. Also grief over some losses.

East Asia (1.6B)

China: Xi Jinping defends ‘totally correct’ Xinjiang policies despite growing human rights concerns–“approach bringing stability & prosperity… must continue for ‘a very long time.'” (Don’t expect any changes in this trend line any time soon.) SCMP

China is distributing a Covid-19 vaccine prior to its approval. There’s no information about its effectiveness, how long its protection might last, or any side effects. Long read on the subject: New Yorker.

China’s “revenge tourism”–pent up demand for tourism. Link
… 550m people will make trips during the 8-day Golden Week holiday …

S Korea braced for its first major holiday during a pandemic: the 5-day Chuseok began last Wednesday. Link

Zoom, drones, virtual offerings: South Korea’s ancestral rights go digital in Covid-19 times. Link

Southeast Asia (700M)

Indonesia: Jakarta running out of burial space. Link
… races to prepare 2ha plot for Covid-19 graves as cases continue to rise

Indonesia’s police dispersed 4+ million gatherings since March. Link
… also, conducted 23m cyber patrols against hoaxes …

Laos government takes steps to protect Christians. Link
… “working in rural areas to step up protection from harassment”
… but they continue to be harassed, anyway. Link

Malaysia’s Mahathir says he will not contest the 2023 election. Link
… the dude would be 98 years old. It says something about his vitality and influence that this would even be a question. Would that I be as energetic at that age.

Johor Menteri Besar says border with Singapore should reopen: the Johor state government can’t find employment for 100,000 Malaysians who may lose their jobs due to the prolonged closure. Link

Myanmar fights Covid-19 in its biggest city. Link
… also, in war refugee camps …

Philippines: lack of food has left 7.6 million families hungry. Link
… 30.7% of Filipinos … up from 20.9% in July.

Singapore will be the first country in the world to use facial verification in its national identity scheme. Link

Thailand will extend its state of emergency through October while gearing up to reopen its borders to foreign visitors. “Also approved special tourist visas for foreign tourists starting next month.” Link

Thailand’s special tourist visas are aimed at long-stay visitors. Link
… will be able to stay in Thailand for 90 days, and extend visa twice.
… requires a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, plus a Certificate of Entry.

Several field reports from SE Asia of severe economic impacts (selling phones to eat), weekly Covid deaths, etc.

Others/West (1,125M)

South Africa ends foreign travel ban, but airports remain deserted. Link

New Data

Covid-19

… 9/11: 28.1m cases, 909k deaths 
… 9/4: 26.0m cases, 862k deaths 
… 8/28: 24.2m cases, 826k deaths 
… 8/21: 22.4m cases, 788k deaths 
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYTCovidTracking.com

690 million continue to go hungry.
3 billion cannot afford a healthy diet. Link

Pew: “Lukewarm faith shrinks as more say religion is ‘very important’ or ‘not at all.'” Link

S Korea study: 9 in 10 recovered Covid-19 patients have side effects. Link

New Longreads

As Covid-19 closes schools, the world’s children go to work. Link
… former students taking illegal, often dangerous jobs in India, other developing countries …

Siberia was once a vast prison ground. Today, the banks of the Ket River are home to a range of solitary settlements. “They had exchanged their jobs and apartments for the liberty of a life in the wild.” (Remoteness can be another factor in reachedness, although in this case there’s quite a number of people who are Russian Orthodox.) NYT

“Making your church manlier won’t make it bigger” is a long read from CT focusing on demographics in the church over time. The author argues “denominational growth has nothing to do with sex ratios in the pews.” A useful introductory survey of the topic. Link

“Higher education and religious liberalization among young adults.” Just encountered this study, published in 2011, which concludes “college students are no more likely to develop liberal religious beliefs than non-students; in some cases, collegians actually appear more likely to retain their initial beliefs. Changes in religious beliefs appear instead to be more strongly associated with network effects.” Link
… in other words, it’s not what school you go to, it’s your friends. This jives with Rodney Stark’s sociological analysis of the process of conversion, which is influenced heavily by your friendships.

K: The overlooked variable is the key to the pandemic. Atlantic
… interesting long read from Zeynep Tufekci on dispersion and the implications for Covid-19 transmission and contact tracing. While this is mostly about the virus, there are some implications to glean concerning exponential transmission of anything.

Sabre data used by the FBI to surveillance/track suspect travelers. Link

Futuristics & Technology

Drones, fever goggles, arrests: millions in Asia face ‘extreme’ Covid surveillance: tracking measures handing “unchecked powers” to authoritarian regimes, experts warn. Link
… similar piece from Straits-Times.

“How to make video calls almost as good as face to face” is an excellent long-read with practical advice on tech and practices. Link

“Game changing 15-minute Covid-19 test” cleared in Europe. Link
… Similar report: “Now at the boarding gate.” NYT

China has over 940 million Internet users. China Daily
… Internet penetration rate in China has reached 67%.
… 98% of poor villages could access the Internet through fiber-optic cables.

Ransomware victims who pay up could incur steep fines from US government if the crooks responsible are under economic sanctions. Link

Amsterdam and Helsinki have opened ‘AI registers’ to track how algorithms are being used in municipalities. Link

Texas company to close all of its Illinois coal-fired power plants. Cheaper, cleaner natural gas and renewable energy is making it difficult to profit from burning coal. Link
… Related, China to switch from coal heating to natural gas at 7 million households in the north by the end of October. Link

Interesting use of AI: Google launches ‘AI secretary’ that waits on hold for phone users. “Hold for Me notifies users when call is picked up, leaving them free to put the phone down.” Link

Movements that plateau as distinct from those few…

Movements that plateau (as distinct from those few that have fizzled entirely)–they reach a certain size, and maintain it, yet don’t grow beyond it. Why? Because they hit various barriers which they fail to surmount, and then institutionalize to maintain their existing growth? Having institutionalized, it is then perhaps best to spin off a new movement (a “new wineskin”) to get her the barrier that the existing movement couldn’t surmount. In the long run, many movement practitioners note it is easier to start a new church than to try to teach an existing church to reproduce when it hasn’t in a long time. It may be the same is true of movements.

Roundup #221

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Sudan ends 30 years of Islamic law by separating religion, state. Bloomberg 
… agreed to do it, but it doesn’t look like it’s done, yet …

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Somalia: 
Violence continues: truck bomb kills 3, wounds 3. NYT 
Dozens dead in central Somalia as villagers battle al-Shabab. Al Jazeera

Ethiopia: Covid-19 reveals risky life on the buses for Ethiopia’s child conductors. AllAfrica 
… “Tarekegn, who left his village in southern Ethiopia when all schools shut in March, is one of countless migrant boys working as minibus assistants in cities across Ethiopia.” 
… “When there is no work, I starve”

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Burkina Faso: over 0.5m children under 5 ‘acutely’ malnourished. Link

Nigeria: 
groans as food prices rises. AllAfrica 
but Buhari said food crisis averted. AllAfrica

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Lebanon: “How a massive bomb came together in Beirut’s port.” NYT 
… 15 tons of fireworks, jugs of kerosene and acid, thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate, and a system of corruption and bribes that let the perfect bomb set for years … “The disaster-in-waiting was the result of years of neglect and bureaucratic buck-passing by a dysfunctional government that subjugated public safety to the more pressing business of bribery and graft.”

Damascus struggles to import food as Syrians go hungry. SyriaDirect 
… 9.3 million are currently food insecure, 2.2m more at risk

Israel/USA: Shofar lessons are a necessity in the age of Covid. RNS 
… Synagogues are shuttered. Jewish law requires Jews to hear the shofar in person, blown on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. So many Jews are scrambling to figure out how to blow their (mostly decorative) shofars.

South-central Asia (2.1B)

Deadly rumor has Turkmen citizens with Covid symptoms avoiding hospitals. RFE 
… “they will give me an injection now and kill me” 
… stories are rumors, unclear if they are true or not. 
… “The Turkmen people are sure the government is lying to them about many things, including about the absence of the coronavirus, and now they are also worried the authorities may kill them if they are unfortunate enough to actually be infected with the disease.”

#Afghanistan: 
Woman loses three husbands to war. RFE 
… remember the question the Sadducees asked Jesus about the woman with 7 husbands, all brothers? Not entirely theoretical. 
Afghan govt-Taliban peace talks begin this week. NYT 
Near record violence risks derailing peace talks. UN

#India: 
Coronavirus crisis shatters India’s big dreams. NYT 
Maharashtra (#2 Top40) nears 1 million cases, rivals Russia, economy stifled. CNA 
Rich prosper during the pandemic while poor stand precariously at the edge. Diplomat 
Pandemic pushes biggest jobs programme to brink in rural India. CNA 
First nationwide serological survey suggests India has 6.8m cases in May. Straits Times 
India’s death rate: nuances, complexities, gaps, shouldn’t be relied on. CNN

Half detained in UP under national security law are suspects in cases of cow killings. CNA

A year after rendering millions stateless, India has yet to hear a single appeal. FP 
Remember the big deal about the national registry published last year? See: 
… India to create a registry to “weed out those living illegally in the country.” Link 
… India pushes to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from neighbors. Link

#Pakistan’s sprawling Karachi “broken” by monsoon floods. Al Jazeera 
… “record rains inundated Pakistan’s largest city, paralysing city authorities as people were left to fend for themselves”

Another Christian sentenced to death under blasphemy charges. JPost

East Asia (1.6B)

#China: 
new language policy sparked rare backlash in Inner Mongolia. CNN 
“national security” crackdown creates speech crimes in Hong Kong. RFA 
“purification of classrooms”: new law erases history, silences teachers, rewrites books. LATimes 
doubles down against foreign teachers spreading Christianity. SCMP 
freezes US journalists’ credentials, hinting at expulsions. NYT 
… “their fate depends on what the United States does to Chinese media employees.” 
Three camps in Xinjiang’s Uchturpan believed to hold 10% of Uighur population. RFA 
China and India agree to de-escalate. NBC 
From Asia to Africa, China promotes its vaccines to win friends. NYT 
“Sit, eat, wait for death”: life in the Shenzhen sticks. Sixth Tone 
… life of migrant workers in Sanhe 
China offers state-sponsored pre-marital counseling to slow divorce rate. HKFP 
… 4.15m divorces last year, up from 1.3m from 2003 …

Smugglers still ply trade on NKor-China border despite shoot-on-sight orders. RFA 
… “economic hardship driving North Koreans to break strict quarantine rules”…

Southeast Asia (700M)

Indonesia: when learning is really remote. NYT 
… students climb trees and travel miles for a cell signal.

Indonesia’s Islamic council advises Muslims to pray at home as infections rise. Straits Times

Laos set to cede majority control of its electric grid to a Chinese company in order to stave off a potential debt default, while critics accuse Beijing of “debt trap diplomacy” to gain strategic advantage. Link

Malaysia: 
relaxes entry ban on expats, professional visits from 23 countries. Straits Times 
… incl US, UK & European, Iran, Bgd, Pak, Phil, others. 
considers fully reopening border with Singapore. CNA 
… but also reports +182 cases, highest jump in 3 months. CNA 
… government allows restaurants to stay open to 2am for tourists. Straits Times

Malaysia says it won’t extradite Uighurs to China. Reuters 
… “and will allow safe passage to a third country should they feel their safety is at risk”

Myanmar Covid cases rising: 
… increases Covid-19 lockdown measures, airlines suspend services. CNA 
… schools closed, stay-at-home orders, domestic airlines suspend … 
… Thailand tightens border with Myanmar. CNA

Three years after Rohingya exodus: 
Myanmar soldiers confess to mass murder of Rohingya Muslims. CNN 
Myanmar erases names of Rohingya villages from maps. Daily Star

Europe/North America (1,125M)

France resurgence: 10k daily new cases. Link

Fire destroys most of Europe’s largest refugee camp, on Greek island of Lesbos. NYT

America’s “Zoom Towns”: people moving to better places and remote-working. Housing market is up 8% for most of USA. Mostly higher-wage workers who can transition to work-from-home. Will impact attendance of individual churches. NPR

USA: Low-wage workers hurt most by the pandemic. Link 
Also: Job losses have now hit 40% of low-income homes. Link 
… American workers “in the business of feeding, pampering, and caring for other Americans” were most hurt by social distancing restrictions. 20% of American workers are in food preparation/serving and transportation work. Job losses here will also impact church and mission finances. If a church’s demographic is toward more low-wage workers, the church likewise will be impacted.

A majority of young adults in the US live with their parents for the first time since the Great Depression. Pew

New Data

Covid-19


… 9/11: 28.1m cases, 909k deaths 
… 9/4: 26.0m cases, 862k deaths 
… 8/28: 24.2m cases, 826k deaths 
… 8/21: 22.4m cases, 788k deaths 
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYTCovidTracking.com

Infograph: ~1.3 billion people “live in the dark” (no electricity). Link 
… some correlation, but not 1:1, to % evangelized/% Christian

Daily Chart: Personal freedom still limited in most of the Islamic world. Economist

Calculating the odds of catching Covid on a plane flight. Link

Anecdotally, Catholic missionary numbers declining due to Covid-19. Link

New Longreads

The other way Covid could kill: hunger. NYT 
…Worldwide, the population facing life-threatening levels of food insecurity is expected to double 
…This is an area where many churches and ministries are helping, and more could…

Covid-19 futures: a framework for exploring medium and long-term impacts. Four scenarios, 10 pages, pre-print. Lancet

Where will Africa’s students study abroad in post-Covid-19 times? Link 
… a quarter of a million African students go abroad for education 
… China is now the primary destination country for students …

Attention is your scarcest resources. Link

“The largest contemporary Muslim pilgrimage isn’t the hajj–it’s the Shiite pilgrimage to Karbala in Iraq.” Link

Futuristics & Technology

Pfizer may win the Covid vaccine race, but distribution could be another matters. ABC 
Just transporting the vaccine at scale could be an issue. National Post

Forget TikTok. China’s powerhouse app is WeChat, and its power is sweeping. NYT 
… vital connection for diaspora, global conduit for propaganda, surveillance and intimidation. The US has proposed banning it.

Anduril’s new drone offers to inject more AI into warfare. Wired 
… a swarm… controlled by a single person on the ground… can perform recon…

“No, Amazon won’t delivery you a burrito by drone any time soon” is a great article exploring the reality: a lot of technologies get hyped years before they become a reality. Link

… for more on that subject, consider the Gartner’s “Hype Cycle” for emerging technologies – Link

Not quite hyped yet: Apple’s AR glasses, new glimmers of hardware on the horizon. Wired

Weirdest thing I’ve seen: RoboRoach, which allows you to “briefly” control a roach via a cybernetic backpack. Comes with its own surgery kit to attach to a roach (insect sold separately). Link

More

See all past Roundups here.

Roundup #220

New Events

Reminder re Covid-19: I include a lot of this mainly as it pertains to travel barriers, bubbles, and access options. The pandemic has been having a significant impact on mission deployment as well as the work of many DMMs around the world.

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Covid-19 lockdown lifted in Sudan. AllAfrica

Staple food prices in Sudan have risen by 50%. Guardian

Sudan’s declaration on separation of state & religion last week? 
Now: Sudan govt hesitates after declaration – Middle East Eye 
… reveals divisions between government, military

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Ethiopia is bringing 2,000 migrants home from Saudi Arabia. AllAfrica 
… “amid growing international concern over conditions in migrant detention camps.”

Eritrea releases 20+ Christian prisoners. BBC 
… had been jailed for years for their faith

At least 120 killed in Ethiopian ethnic clashes this month. Bloomberg 
… in Benishangul-Gumuz region (est. 62% Christian) …

Kenya: Covid-related school closures have led to rise in FGM. Al Jazeera 
… “school holidays normally a bit short for the girls to recover” 
… “men only marry circumcised girls”

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Nigeria: just another data point – violence in Kaduna continues. Link

Cameroon: no end in sight to the internal unrest in NW. Link

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Abu Dhabi requires visitors to wear a wristband during 2-week quarantine. Link 
… presumably tracks movements to enforce quarantine. 
… (Jordan requires the same thing.) 
… all arrivals tested for Covid-19. 
… All arrivals/transits must provide negative certificate to fly/arrive. 
… Dubai remains open for tourists, but arrivals must test negative.

“Boiling again”: Lebanon’s old Christian rivalries rear up amid crisis. Link

Turkey’s Interior minister Soylu: all security cameras (including traffic cams) will be connected to a new agency under the Presidency. Purpose, he said, is the prevention of events or incidents that may “disturb public order”. Link

Famine threat returns to Yemen amid upsurge in fighting. UN

Bahrain, Dubai, Israel make peace, normalize relations. Link 
… Israel, Bahrain have long cooperated under the radar, esp. on surveillance. Link

Israel will go into full lockdown starting 9/18. Link 
… in 2nd wave, Arab community hard hit …

Saudi Arabia to resume some international flights 9/15. Link

Dubai’s Emirates airline rebuilding, to reach 15 destinations in Africa by October. Link

South-central Asia (2.1B)

India: over 5m infected, virus outbreak still soaring. ABCNews 
… added more than 1 million cases in September alone 
… expected to become the worst-hit country within weeks

India needs to create 90 million new jobs to absorb the 60 million new non-farm workers who will enter the workforce based on current demographics. McKinsey

India: Rise in Covid leads to rise in child marriage, child labor. BBC

Pakistan: Rebel attacks have increased in northwest, in the Pashtun border region. Al Jazeera

Uzbekistan to lift ban on international flights October 1. RFE

East Asia (1.6B)

China’s anti-poverty drive is about transforming people’s thoughts. Economist, $

China: US State department lowers travel warnings, but… USA Today 
… warns of arbitrary detention and exit bans … 
… full text of the travel advisory: Link

China building massive surveillance database of foreigners. Link 
… in this case, tens of thousands of Australians … 
… reality is, if you’re working on China, there’s probably a file on you. So…?

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific airline attempts ‘survival’ by grounding 2/3 of its fleet. Link

Continued trend of repressing non-Han Chinese minorities: School for children in Tibetan areas of China started under harsh new restrictions, with children in one county ordered into Chinese boarding schools, and the language of classroom instruction in another switched from Tibetan to Mandarin. RFA

South Korea: Seoul seeks $4m in damages from church over new Covid-19 outbreak. Link

Southeast Asia (700M)

Malaysia won’t rush to reopen its borders as Covid-19 has not slowed. Link

Malaysia suspends Malaysia My Second Home program abruptly. Link

Myanmar’s second wave of Covid-19 takes toll on under-60 population. Link

Covid restrictions return to Jakarta. Link 
… “We have buried so many people… we are tired.”

Europe/North America (1,125M)

Greece to build permanent migrant camp. Link 
.. to replace destroyed Moria camp.

USA: Small business failures loom as federal aid dries up. NYT 
“dying by the thousands…and no one is tracking the carnage.” WPost 
… nearly half of all American workers are in businesses with under-500 employees … 
… how many entrepreneurs/small business folks are on your donor rolls? or in churches? …

USA: 10 key findings about the religious lives of teens and their parents. Pew 
… Finding 2 – about half of teens have the same religious beliefs as parents, but half don’t, and of those, about 1/3 say their parents don’t know about the differences.

USA op/ed: likely that life in the first half of 2021 will look much like life does now. Link

New Data

Covid-19


… 9/18: 29.9m cases, 942k deaths 
… 9/11: 28.1m cases, 909k deaths 
… 9/4: 26.0m cases, 862k deaths 
… 8/28: 24.2m cases, 826k deaths 
… 8/21: 22.4m cases, 788k deaths 
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYTCovidTracking.com

New Longreads

Covid-19 and climate change expose the dangers of unstable supply chains. McKinsey 
… “Manufacturers have built intricate production networks to deliver efficiency but have left little margin for error. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how fragile lengthy, complex supply chains can be—and how much society has riding on their continued smooth functioning.”

“New wave of famine could sweep the globe” warns UN. Link 
… Notable: DRC, Nigeria, Yemen, South Sudan

Southern Africa: Mozambique’s jihadists and the ‘curse’ of gas and rubies. BBC

Futuristics & Technology

Iranian hackers can now beat encrypted apps (like Telegram), researchers say. NYT

Seen: “The Commerce Department announced Friday morning that it would ban U.S. business transactions with China-owned social apps WeChat and TikTok on Sunday.” I am uncertain as to what impact this will have in the USA as of yet. Suggestions for analysis would be welcomed!

Covid Vaccine Tech 
Low tech, high speed: inside China’s race to a vaccine. Link 
… 3 experimental vaccines approved for “emergency use” 
… China inoculates thousands before trials completed. Reuters 
1 in 7 Russian Covid-19 vaccine volunteers report side effects Link

Covid Vaccine Supplies 
Russia to supply 100 million doses to India. Link 
Bill Gates: Covid-19 vaccine roll out in India likely next year. Link 
… “India is a leading vaccine producer; we need cooperation from India on manufacturing” 
S Kor plans budget of ~US$200m to buy vaccines. Link

Satellite ministries cross boundaries. CT, $ 
… that’s their promise and their peril. GOD TV in Israel, among other things.

Forbes: 74% of US coal plants now more expensive than renewables. Link 
… 86% will be by 2025 …

“The Essential Eight” strategies to mitigate cyber security incides. Link

New paper: “Dissent does not die in darkness” Link 
… examines network shutdowns and collectie action in African countries …

More
See all past Roundups here.

Roundup #219

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Sudan ends 30 years of Islamic law by separating religion, state. Bloomberg 
… agreed to do it, but it doesn’t look like it’s done, yet …

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Somalia: 
Violence continues: truck bomb kills 3, wounds 3. NYT 
Dozens dead in central Somalia as villagers battle al-Shabab. Al Jazeera

Ethiopia: Covid-19 reveals risky life on the buses for Ethiopia’s child conductors. AllAfrica 
… “Tarekegn, who left his village in southern Ethiopia when all schools shut in March, is one of countless migrant boys working as minibus assistants in cities across Ethiopia.” 
… “When there is no work, I starve”

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Burkina Faso: over 0.5m children under 5 ‘acutely’ malnourished. Link

Nigeria: 
groans as food prices rises. AllAfrica 
but Buhari said food crisis averted. AllAfrica

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Lebanon: “How a massive bomb came together in Beirut’s port.” NYT 
… 15 tons of fireworks, jugs of kerosene and acid, thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate, and a system of corruption and bribes that let the perfect bomb set for years … “The disaster-in-waiting was the result of years of neglect and bureaucratic buck-passing by a dysfunctional government that subjugated public safety to the more pressing business of bribery and graft.”

Damascus struggles to import food as Syrians go hungry. SyriaDirect 
… 9.3 million are currently food insecure, 2.2m more at risk

Israel/USA: Shofar lessons are a necessity in the age of Covid. RNS 
… Synagogues are shuttered. Jewish law requires Jews to hear the shofar in person, blown on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. So many Jews are scrambling to figure out how to blow their (mostly decorative) shofars.

South-central Asia (2.1B)

Deadly rumor has Turkmen citizens with Covid symptoms avoiding hospitals. RFE 
… “they will give me an injection now and kill me” 
… stories are rumors, unclear if they are true or not. 
… “The Turkmen people are sure the government is lying to them about many things, including about the absence of the coronavirus, and now they are also worried the authorities may kill them if they are unfortunate enough to actually be infected with the disease.”

#Afghanistan: 
Woman loses three husbands to war. RFE 
… remember the question the Sadducees asked Jesus about the woman with 7 husbands, all brothers? Not entirely theoretical. 
Afghan govt-Taliban peace talks begin this week. NYT 
Near record violence risks derailing peace talks. UN

#India: 
Coronavirus crisis shatters India’s big dreams. NYT 
Maharashtra (#2 Top40) nears 1 million cases, rivals Russia, economy stifled. CNA 
Rich prosper during the pandemic while poor stand precariously at the edge. Diplomat 
Pandemic pushes biggest jobs programme to brink in rural India. CNA 
First nationwide serological survey suggests India has 6.8m cases in May. Straits Times 
India’s death rate: nuances, complexities, gaps, shouldn’t be relied on. CNN

Half detained in UP under national security law are suspects in cases of cow killings. CNA

A year after rendering millions of people stateless, India has yet to hear a single appeal. FP 
… Remember the big deal about the national registry published last year? See: 
India to create a registry to “weed out those living illegally in the country” – Link 
India pushes to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from neighbors – Link

#Pakistan’s sprawling Karachi “broken” by monsoon floods. Al Jazeera 
… “record rains inundated Pakistan’s largest city, paralysing city authorities as people were left to fend for themselves”

Another Christian sentenced to death under blasphemy charges. JPost

East Asia (1.6B)

#China: 
new language policy sparked rare backlash in Inner Mongolia. CNN 
“national security” crackdown creates speech crimes in Hong Kong. RFA 
“purification of classrooms”: new law erases history, silences teachers, rewrites books. LATimes 
doubles down against foreign teachers spreading Christianity. SCMP 
freezes US journalists’ credentials, hinting at expulsions. NYT 
… “their fate depends on what the United States does to Chinese media employees.” 
Three camps in Xinjiang’s Uchturpan believed to hold 10% of Uighur population. RFA 
China and India agree to de-escalate. NBC 
From Asia to Africa, China promotes its vaccines to win friends. NYT 
“Sit, eat, wait for death”: life in the Shenzhen sticks. Sixth Tone 
… life of migrant workers in Sanhe 
China offers state-sponsored pre-marital counseling to slow divorce rate. HKFP 
… 4.15m divorces last year, up from 1.3m from 2003 …

Smugglers still ply trade on NKor-China border despite shoot-on-sight orders. RFA 
… “economic hardship driving North Koreans to break strict quarantine rules”…

Southeast Asia (700M)

Indonesia: when learning is really remote. NYT 
… students climb trees and travel miles for a cell signal.

Indonesia’s Islamic council advises Muslims to pray at home as infections rise. Straits Times

Laos set to cede majority control of its electric grid to a Chinese company in order to stave off a potential debt default, while critics accuse Beijing of “debt trap diplomacy” to gain strategic advantage. Link

Malaysia: 
relaxes entry ban on expats, professional visits from 23 countries. Straits Times 
… incl US, UK & European, Iran, Bgd, Pak, Phil, others. 
considers fully reopening border with Singapore. CNA 
… but also reports +182 cases, highest jump in 3 months. CNA 
… government allows restaurants to stay open to 2am for tourists. Straits Times

Malaysia says it won’t extradite Uighurs to China. Reuters 
… “and will allow safe passage to a third country should they feel their safety is at risk”

Myanmar Covid cases rising: 
… increases Covid-19 lockdown measures, airlines suspend services. CNA 
… schools closed, stay-at-home orders, domestic airlines suspend … 
… Thailand tightens border with Myanmar. CNA

Three years after Rohingya exodus: 
Myanmar soldiers confess to mass murder of Rohingya Muslims. CNN 
Myanmar erases names of Rohingya villages from maps. Daily Star

Europe/North America (1,125M)

France resurgence: 10k daily new cases. Link

Fire destroys most of Europe’s largest refugee camp, on Greek island of Lesbos. NYT

America’s “Zoom Towns”: people moving to better places and remote-working. Housing market is up 8% for most of USA. Mostly higher-wage workers who can transition to work-from-home. Will impact attendance of individual churches. NPR

USA: Low-wage workers hurt most by the pandemic. Link 
Also: Job losses have now hit 40% of low-income homes. Link 
… American workers “in the business of feeding, pampering, and caring for other Americans” were most hurt by social distancing restrictions. 20% of American workers are in food preparation/serving and transportation work. Job losses here will also impact church and mission finances. If a church’s demographic is toward more low-wage workers, the church likewise will be impacted.

A majority of young adults in the US live with their parents for the first time since the Great Depression. Pew

New Data

Covid-19


… 9/11: 28.1m cases, 909k deaths 
… 9/4: 26.0m cases, 862k deaths 
… 8/28: 24.2m cases, 826k deaths 
… 8/21: 22.4m cases, 788k deaths 
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYTCovidTracking.com

Infograph: ~1.3 billion people “live in the dark” (no electricity). Link 
… some correlation, but not 1:1, to % evangelized/% Christian

Daily Chart: Personal freedom still limited in most of the Islamic world. Economist

Calculating the odds of catching Covid on a plane flight. Link

Anecdotally, Catholic missionary numbers declining due to Covid-19. Link

New Longreads

The other way Covid could kill: hunger. NYT 
…Worldwide, the population facing life-threatening levels of food insecurity is expected to double 
…This is an area where many churches and ministries are helping, and more could…

Covid-19 futures: a framework for exploring medium and long-term impacts. Four scenarios, 10 pages, pre-print. Lancet

Where will Africa’s students study abroad in post-Covid-19 times? Link 
… a quarter of a million African students go abroad for education 
… China is now the primary destination country for students …

Attention is your scarcest resources. Link

“The largest contemporary Muslim pilgrimage isn’t the hajj–it’s the Shiite pilgrimage to Karbala in Iraq.” Link

Futuristics & Technology

Pfizer may win the Covid vaccine race, but distribution could be another matters. ABC 
Just transporting the vaccine at scale could be an issue. National Post

Forget TikTok. China’s powerhouse app is WeChat, and its power is sweeping. NYT 
… vital connection for diaspora, global conduit for propaganda, surveillance and intimidation. The US has proposed banning it.

Anduril’s new drone offers to inject more AI into warfare. Wired 
… a swarm… controlled by a single person on the ground… can perform recon…

“No, Amazon won’t delivery you a burrito by drone any time soon” is a great article exploring the reality: a lot of technologies get hyped years before they become a reality. Link

… for more on that subject, consider the Gartner’s “Hype Cycle” for emerging technologies – Link

Not quite hyped yet: Apple’s AR glasses, new glimmers of hardware on the horizon. Wired

Weirdest thing I’ve seen: RoboRoach, which allows you to “briefly” control a roach via a cybernetic backpack. Comes with its own surgery kit to attach to a roach (insect sold separately). Link

More
See all past Roundups here.

Roundup #218

New Essay

There are 3,980 provinces in the world in my database.

Of these, I estimate 179 are less than 0.1% Christian (Stage 0), and 505 are less than 2% Christian (Stage 1). We can call these the “unreached” provinces in the world–they don’t precisely fit some definitions, but this is pretty close. These 684 provinces will be home to ~2.5 billion people in 2025. With so few Christians among them, this is the heart of the remaining “frontier mission” task.

A different situation is found in the middle tier of provinces. Stage 2 provinces are those between 2% and 8% Christian, and Stage 3 are those between 8% and 32% Christian. These contain 624 provinces, with about 2.8 billion people. This is roughly comparable to the World Christian Database’s “World B”–heavily evangelized, minority Christian. This is something of a grey zone – lots of Christians, and a fair amount of access, but many pockets of people who will never meet a Christian or hear the Gospel.

Finally, Stage 4 and Stage 5 are all the provinces over 32% Christian. These include 2,672 provinces, with about 2.8 billion people. These are the heavily engaged areas with significant Christian presence.

Most of my attention is focused on the Stage 0 and 1 provinces. Among these 684, there are 40 provinces each with populations in excess of 8 million people. Together they total 1.6 billion people–two-thirds of the least-reached 2.5 billion or 20% of the world’s 7.8 billion. Living in places that are less than 2% Christian, they have minimal access to the Gospel.

Changing this situation for any single one of these provinces would have dramatic global, political, economic and religious implications. But doing so is not easy.

One notable example: the per-province population is far larger in the less-reached areas. 2.5 billion people over 684 provinces is an average of about 3.6 million per province, whereas 2.8 billion people over 2,672 provinces is an average of about 1.1 million per. Each Stage 0/1 province would therefore likely need as many as 4x as many workers as the more heavily Christian ones do.

A further complication: many of the Stage 0 & 1 provinces are relatively poor in terms of economy, infrastructure, and resources. Tools which amplify the work of Christian workers in Stage 4 and 5 provinces are not available in these places. Worse, they are often deeply impacted by wars, diseases, poverty, and religious oppression. Fr example, the number two province on the Top 40 list, Maharashtra, is the most Covid-infected province in India.

Is the problem really workers and resources, however? These kinds of problems are solvable–if. There is a bigger problem to be grappled with.

All of the people in each of these provinces are equally in need of the Gospel. God loves all of them equally. However, they are not all equal in access. Reaching people in Stage 4 and 5 is largely a matter of marshaling Gospel resources already present in the province. While it is possible (and sometimes preferable) to send resources from other provinces (e.g. cross-cultural missionaries), it’s not essential.

Reaching people in Stage 0 and 1 provinces who have not yet heard the Gospel nearly always requires some sort of worker to come from a distance–either from a neighboring district within the province, or from a neighboring province, or from around the world. These provinces are often “the ends of the earth” moreso than “Jerusalem, Judea or Samaria.”

Doing this requires effort, intentionality and resources–and most of all focus on the part of people who already have ready Gospel access.

It seems to me the biggest barrier in achieving this focus is this: those of us in Stage 4 and 5 provinces often take for granted the blessing of Gospel access around us. We think people in Stage 0 and 1 provinces aren’t Christians because they choose not to be. This is not the case. Massive movements are happening in many of these places: people are open to the Gospel. The problem is, they haven’t heard. And how can they, when so few go? And so few go, because so few send. This is a problem that needs to be tackled.

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Possible peace deal between Sudan, 5 rebel groups – Link 
… “hopefully the signing means an end to one of the bloodiest and longest wars in recent African history”

Chad: complex security, environmental crises worsen conditions for over 360,000 – UN 
… Departments of Fouli, Kaya on Lake Chad declared ‘war zones’ 
… Security challenges, increased food insecurity, flash floods, etc

A look at the impact of Coronavirus in Algeria – BBC

Waves of Russian, Emirati flights fuel Libyan war – NYT 
… “egregious violations by leaders who flout the embargo have reached new levels” 
… Last week, rebels called for peace talks, but this is why I am cynical

East Africa/Horn (520M)

A virtual tour of Malawi – NYT 
… beautiful photos. Located in East Africa, ~80% Christian.

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Senegal port removed 3,050 tons of ammonium nitrate from its port – NYT 
… and trucked it to Mali, “for use by Malian mining companies.” AP

Mali: where the state is weak, militants broker talks between rival clans – Reuters 
… “turned to mediation in a bid to further entrench their local control” 
… “in the sparsely populated semi-arid lands northeast of Bamako…”

Nigeria’s internal conflict is “a Molotov cocktail of anger, frustration, religious extremism, toxic politics, corruption and deep rut,” according to a leading bishop in the country. Crux

Report: 6 million Nigerians have fled Boko Haram in 10 years – Guardian 
… and, factors behind conflict between farmers, herders in Nasarawa state – ReliefWeb

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

New research in Iran says 1.5% of Iranians profess to be Christians. Christianity Today … research by GAMAAN, secular Netherlands-based research group …

Lebanon: 
Over half could face food shortages – UN 
… Lebanon was already in economic collapse even before the Aug 4 blast 
Water shortages compound desperate situation in Beirut – UN 
Half of Beirut’s health care centers out of commission – WPost 
The church steps up in Beirut – MNN 
… “could not be prouder of the church… almost instantly hit the ground”

Horrific story: African migrants locked up in Saudi coronavirus centres – Al Jazeera 
… more, with photos – Telegraph 
… Ethiopia tried to silence people writing about it – Telegraph 
… “two centers, one in Al Shumaisi, the other in Jazan. Housing thousands of Ethiopians for months. 200,000 migrants slated for deportation, rounded up and left in squalid conditions in detention facilities.”

A country-by-country survey of Covid-19 situations in the Middle East – Link

Turkey’s economy contracted 9.9% during Q2 due to lockdown – Link

South-central Asia (2.1B)

#India: 3.8m Covid cases, +83k/day 
Daily record high of 83k new cases as restrictions eased – Straits Times 
Worst impact: Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi – Link 
Metro services to reopen nationwide – Jakarta Post 
New job portals, apps trying to help 10s of millions left jobless by Covid – Straits Times 
Others want laws to preserve jobs for locals (not migrants) – Straits Times 
… the Indian economy contracted 23.9% in April-June, unemployment to 8% 
… 19 million salaried, formal economy jobs lost during lockdown

#Afghanistan: 
Not just Covid: Afghanistan hit by new wave of polio cases amid pandemic – RFE

#CentralAsia 
Cleaning up toxic uranium legacy: waste seeping into rivers, farmland. Link

Nepal: police used tear gas, water cannons to break up a Hindu religious rally of 2,000 residents who had defied government bans on public gatherings to stop Covid-19 spread. Link

East Asia (1.6B)

#China:

Scenes from China’s Guizhou province (Stage 3, 5% Christian) – Atlantic … Stage 3 province, about 5% Christian …

In China, the censorship of the Great Firewall is fostering young nationalists. Politico

Curbs on Mongolian language teaching prompt large protests – NYT 
… The Uighurs are the most notorious story, but seeing a lot of other “less notorious” stories about curbs on non-Han cultures in China. 
… Mongolian schools stay empty as a civil disobedience protest – RFA 
… The everyday ethnic politics of Han-Hui relations – Link

It’s not just China-USA: Cracks in China-Europe relations run deep – Diplomat 
… “tension driven by deeper structural factors… likely to stick…”

Wuhan reopens all schools – CNA 
International flights to Beijing resume as restrictions eased – Straits Times

Facial recognition and bathtime bookings: how universities are re-opening. CNA … “the world’s largest population of university students is heading back to campus in a migration defined by lockdowns, patriotic education and cutting-edge surveillance equipment.”

#SouthKorea 
Scrambles to add hospital beds as resurgence strains system – Straits Times

Southeast Asia (700M)

Nikes for Chicken: online bartering soars in Covid-hit Philippines – Al Jazeeera

#CovidGrowth: 
Indonesia has new daily high in new cases – Straits Times 
Malaysia to ban entry of people from countries with 150k+ cases – Straits Times 
… bars entry for long-term pass holders from India, Indonesia, Philippines CNA

#CovidEase: 
Vietnam: resume some Asian flights as curbs on business travel ease – Link 
Cambodia: tourism establishments gradually reopen as situation eases – Straits Times 
… tourism down 64% over last year = loss of ~US$3 billion …

#Thailand: 
Government wants to reopen tourism – Link 
Interesting look at the patronage culture in Thailand – Link 
Continued growth in protests, arrests of protesters – Link

Europe/North America (1,125M)

Covid reappears in Italy, migrants become a target of politicians – NYT

Another data point in travel bubbles and barriers impacting national economies: Despite reopening of borders in the world’s second most popular tourist destination, Spain’s foreign tourist arrivals plummeted by 75%. Tourism is responsible for 12% of Spain’s GDP. It had hoped for more tourists, but after an explosion of new Covid-19 cases, many countries began issuing travel warnings re travel to Spain, and quarantine restrictions on people coming back. Jakarta Post

Russia cases surge past 1 million, now in 4th place – Moscow Times

New Data

Covid-19


… 9/4: 26.0m cases, 862k deaths 
… 8/28: 24.2m cases, 826k deaths 
… 8/21: 22.4m cases, 788k deaths 
… (out 8/14) 
… 8/7: 17.3m (+1.8) cases, 674k deaths 
… 7/24: 15.5m (+1.7) cases, 633k deaths 
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYTCovidTracking.com

Worldwide, 7,000 health workers have died of Covid-19 since beginning – Al Jazeera 
… “health worker infections put recovery at risk” – Sydney Morning Herald 
… will especially impact poorer places where workers not easily replaced …

The looming hunger pandemic. Foreign Affairs 
… In last 30 years, rates of extreme poverty halved, hunger dropped by 25% 
… In last 4 years, number going to sleep hungry every night rose from 796 to 821 million 
… Acute hunger up 70%, from 80m to 135m people 
… War is the big factor. Climate change plays a role. Covid-19 compounding these

Nearly half of the world’s students cannot return to classrooms due to Covid-19. UN 
… almost 1 billion students face either school closures or class uncertainty

New Longreads

Netflix’s “Indian matchmaking” offers wisdom for churches. CT 
… introducing singles can help build the church 
… Justin: globally, 2/3 of new Christians are babies born to Christian families 
… Helping believers marry believers & raise believing children = key part of growth

The WEA MC has a long survey/analysis of Covid-19 impacts that is worth reading. WEA

Your ‘surge capacity’ is depleted–it’s why you feel awful. Link 
… “Our culture is very solution-oriented… it’s a destructive way of thinking when you’re faced with a problem that has no solution, at least for a while…”

Covid and culture shock feel the same to your brain–and here’s why. Link 
… “When someone moves to a completely new culture, many of the ‘autopilots’ your brain uses for thousands of small decisions every day become ineffective. In a similar way, your current environment has likely changed sufficiently enough that many of your own ‘autopilots’ are no longer working.”

Your unbelieving friends need more stories than syllogisms. CT 
… interesting link to the DMM principle of using Bible stories and personal testimonies that link to individual real life situations 
… “apologetics can become a monologue rather than a dialogue”

Fascinating longread on “The culture of dying” – Al Jazeera 
… looks at how the culture we’re raised in & the religion we choose help us navigate death 
… “the mourners gathered in her aunt’s home… wondering who some of these people were…” 
… “none of us were equipped on how to grieve” 
… “Islamic guidelines provided a practical framework” 
… “don’t talk about grief, sadness… seen as a lack of faith in God’s will” 
… “with medical advancements, our experience of death has become diluted” 
… “those who believed in God showed greater acceptance of death, greater growth in response to loss” 
… “made me wish we had more rituals,… lack can leave people feeling lost” 
… Covid & adapted funerals … 
… “in Islam, this last journey is most sacred…” 
… “absence of rituals meant unable to feel a sense of closure”

Related economic impacts of Covid-19:

… Child labor increasing – “instead of starting 7th grade, this 12-year-old is working in Mexico’s fields.” This is certainly happening elsewhere as well. Link

… “Coronavirus despair forces girls across Asia into child marriage” – Al Jazeera 
… “desperate families plunged into poverty because of the pandemic”

And new market opportunities: “Huge empty ‘ghost’ cruise ship tours” – “using his ferries to offer tours of these hulking vessels would get passengers as close as possible.” – Link

Unoccupied and uncleaned buildings are developing mold infections. Wired

Futuristics & Technology

Desperate for people to fly, Delta, United and American all announce permanently ditching change/cancel fees – Verge

Analysis of a lack of broadband internet around Covid-19 solutions demonstrates that while most have some access to the Internet, the quality of Internet access is not easily distributed. Phone calls, SMS messaging, limited browsing is available very broadly around the world–but high bandwidth inexpensive/nearly-free broadband (necessary for things from telemedicine to video church, etc) is not evenly distributed, and often unavailable in poorer areas. Link

Cambodia plans China-style Internet firewall. Asian Review 
… “national internet gateway” includes “censorship angle”

China complains about app bans in India – Straits Times

How WeChat censored the Coronavirus pandemic – Wired

Apple, Google launching Covid-19 “Exposure Notification” with new OS revisions. TechCrunch

The hot new amenity for churches: a professional video studio. Fast Company

Drug cartels loading bombs on drones to assassinate enemies. Link 
… “widespread on battlefields, now proliferating to organized crime…”

So maybe we’ll get flying jetpacks after all… ABC News

Self-surveillance? Amazon’s new health tracker will use AI to monitor your tone of voice – QZ 
… “Hey Alexa, how did I do in that conversation? Alexa: you need to relax more.”

AI/GPT-2 being used to update Stephen Hawking’s communicator – Forbes 
… one positive example of the usefulness of AI autocomplete of communications

More
See all past Roundups here.

Roundup #216

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Over 100,000 visit Egypt’s Red Sea since inbound tourism resumes. Daily News

Argument: Could Libya be partitioned? FP 
… Haftar has lost the initiative, “the only option left for his international backers” is to divide the country

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Ethiopia’s Oromia reeling from state violence. AllAfrica 
… security forces kill/injure a “staggering number of protesters”

Over a dozen killed in hours-long Mogadishu hotel siege. Al Jazeera 
… 16 dead, 43 wounded in al-Shabab attack on upscale beachfront hotel in capital

Somali pirates carry off first hijacking in three years. Reuters

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Mali coup: 
Rebellion amid protests that President stole recent parliamentary election. NYT 
Another explainer: What has caused Mali’s political unrest? Al Jazeera 
… briefly, current crisis started in March when opposition won election but tally overturned by courts 
President, PM arrested by soldiers after mutiny. Africa Report 
The (high ranking) soldiers who brought down the government. Africa Report 
… Rebels say they are committed to handing over to caretaker govt, fresh elections 
… Mali is the 8th largest African country, mineral rich, and 2/3 under age 25.

The looming influx of foreign fighters into sub-Saharan Africa. Link 
… armed conflicts escalating across sub-Saharan Africa …

1 million flee escalating violence in Burkina Faso. UN 
… 5% of total population displaced …

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Syria could have 2 mln cases of Covid by 8/31. Al-Monitor
… “no way near reimposing restrictions to curb the spread”

In response to the last Roundup’s side question, Patrick Johnstone noted Beirut was, in fact, not the largest non-nuclear explosion in history. It is #5 on the current list. The largest was in Halifax, Canada, in 1917. It is notable that ammonium nitrate figures in 4 of the top 11 events. It’s obviously some pretty explosive stuff. Wikipedia

South-central Asia (2.1B)

Covid-19 has delayed or stalled the process of 85k *Bangladeshi migrants traveling for work. Daily Star 
… about 85% expected to travel to Saudi Arabia 
… and, 70% of migrants returning to Bangladesh are struggling to find employment. Daily Star

Who tells the stories of India’s countryside? Diplomat 
… a survey of some websites devoted to following the life, woes, hopes of India’s rural population

India is entering a dangerous new phase. Guardian 
… rising infections in small towns and villages with limited access to health care 
… villagers flout rules as cases surge: “largely given up” on social distancing. Al Jazeera 
Millions likely infected in New Delhi, says new survey Al Jazeera

Migrants start to return to work in Delhi, even as Covid deaths soar. Al Jazeera

Indian Muslim artisan hopes Hindu idols can help his Covid-hit business. Straits Times 
… the pandemic clobbered his pottery business, so a Muslim artisan in Dharavi turns to a Hindu god…

Indian temple reports huge Covid-19 outbreak as cases surge. Reuters 
… Lord Venkateswara temple, one of the largest and most wealthy Hindu shrines 
… 743 temple employees infected by the virus … 
… many large religious centers of all faiths being impacted …

No human pyramids in Mumbai’s “Lord Krishna” festival due to Covid. Reuters 
… festival “normally attracts thousands onto the streets” 
… “no public festivities in Mumbai this year”

India will soon surpass China in # of world’s tallest religious statues. Link

Ganges River flows with history and prophecy for India. AP 
… gorgeously photographed look/longread about the Ganges 
… the Ganges is key to Hinduism

Heavy rains flooding new Delhi, suburbs – South Asia monsoon kills 1,300. Al Jazeera

Nepal bans transport, public/religious gatherings for a week in capital due to rise in Covid cases. Link

Remittances to Pakistan hit record high due to subdued hajj spending. Reuters 
… one’s loss is another’s gain …

#Central Asia:

Death and denial in Turkmenistan. Diplomat 
… inconsistent messaging about Covid-19 has “doomed the people to confusion and death” 
… “A Central Asian state rarely covered in depth by international media” 
Kazakhstan: exhortations to maintain social distance have little impact. Eurasianet

East Asia (1.6B)

China’s hidden crisis: a growing elder care gap. Sixth Tone 
… Shanghai, where 1/3 are over 60, can take months to secure even basic care for elderly relatives

Changes to China’s hukou system: Economist 
… the rich find it easy to move to big cities; the poor are pushed to small ones 
… controlling where people can move and live can also have barrier implications for Gospel spread

“Repression of religious institutions in China under Xi Jinping” RFI 
… “new era of religious oppression rapidly approaching the worst level since PRC founding…”

China’s influence reaches into American universities. WSJ 
… some classes will now carry a warning label: “may cover material politically sensitive in China” 
… “weighing measures to shield students and faculty from prosecution by Chinese authorities” 
… ministry to international students even in open countries is being observed, and is not without risk

Hong Kong purges sensitive content from school textbooks. CNA 
Four in 10 American firms could leave HK over national security law. Inkstone

“The death bell will ring for southern Mongolian identity.” Bitter Winter 
… CCP launching 3-year plan to progressively replace Mongolian with Chinese in schools in Inner Mongolia

China using access to Covid-19 vaccines for diplomacy. WSJ 
… promising “early access to countries of strategic interest”

Crowds smaller for Yogurt festival in Tibet, due to Covid. RFA 
… religious events everywhere being impacted by Covid

NKor: Kim Jong-un admits big economic plans failed. NYT 
… holds rare congress to chart new economic course … 
Kim Jong-un delegates some authority incl foreign policy to sister. Straits Times 
… not sure what to conclude from this …

Korea Protestant churches under siege in new Covid-19 storm. Korea Herald 
… “lax government controls allowed churches to become transmission hotbeds” 
… Sarang Jeil Church is worst (600 cases) but many smaller-scale breakouts also 
… “churches often play unique role as social hubs in their neighborhoods…” 
… “Police raid church” to get list of congregants. Korea Herald 
Worship services banned in Seoul, Ihceon, Gyeonggi provinces. Bloomberg

Southeast Asia (700M)

How Indonesia failed to control coronavirus. Reuters 
… unorthodox treatments, the world’s lowest testing, minimal contact tracing, lockdowns resisted … 
… fastest infection spread in East Asia … 25% positivity rate in testing in Jakarta … 
Government still evaluating when to reopen Bali to foreign tourists. Straits Times

Thailand: 
… Virus forces rethink in Bangkok, world’s most visited city. JT 
… Expected 40 million tourists in 2020; will likely only see 8 million 
… Cases rise, plans for “travel bubble” shelved. JT 
… Covid-success turns economic failure: bankruptcies rise, unemployement swells. Asia Times

Protests in Thailand, where speaking out can be perilous. NYT 
… Some are even defying the taboo against criticizing the monarchy

Europe/North America (1,125M)

“Long-haulers are redefining Covid-19”: understanding the lingering illness some experience. Atlantic 
… if mission personnel contact Covid-19, some may face this too …

USA: Christian leaders debate how to do church amid pandemic. USA Today

France facing another wave of Covid-19. NYT 
… until a solution (eg a vaccine) is found, there will be recurring waves 
… while there are recurring waves, travel barriers/bubbles will be frequently seen

#TravelBubbles will be the rule as countries try to stop spreading infection: 
Croatia to go on UK’s “red list” after infection rate triples. Telegraph 
Hong Kong bans Air India after infections arrive. The Hindu 
India proposes air bubble pact with Bangladesh. Daily Star 
Malaysia’s Penang halts medical tourists after arrivals from indonesia. CNA

It snowed chocolate in a Swiss town. Link 
… feeling a calling to Olten, Switzerland? …

New Data

Covid-19


… 8/21: 22.4m cases, 788k deaths 
… (out 8/14) 
… 8/7: 17.3m (+1.8) cases, 674k deaths 
… 7/24: 15.5m (+1.7) cases, 633k deaths 
… 7/17: 13.8m (+1.6) cases, 590k deaths 
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYTCovidTracking.com

Violence targeting humanitarian aid workers. ACLED 
… these places will be risks to church/mission workers, too …

New Longreads

“Giving up on God”: the global decline of religion Foreign Affairs 
… “the majority of the countries we studied”: 49 of them
… as demonstrated by a poll on “the importance of God”
… “biggest transformative issue is fertility”
… adherents, church attendance, and other religious demography not discussed

“Catering to the digital nomad”: Several countries with fragile tourist economies offer visas that allow foreign nationals to live and work for a period of at least 6 momnths: why work from home, when you can work from Barbados, Bermuda…? NYT

Witch hunts are still a global problem in the 21st century. DW 
… August 10th declared a World Day against Witch Hunts …

Futuristics & Technology

I am making Feedly the center of my newsgathering world. The pro version has recently released the ability to bring in both Twitter feeds and newsletters. It’s incredibly useful. Feedly

Yet another data point on “Chinese surveillance tech spreads around the world.” Statista

“In event of moon disaster”: an example of deepfake technology – Link 
… manufactured scenes have been with us for a long time
… earliest example I know of was Forrest Gump.
… deepfake technology is intended to deceive, hard on a casual viewing to detect …
… this is a demonstration of how advanced the tech has gotten …

Another form of deepfake: a college student makes a fake blog using the GPT-3 AI model, and one of his posts reaches the number one spot on Hacker News. Technology Review

China blocking all encrypted HTTP traffic using TLS 1.3/ESNI. ZDNet 
… ESNI (Encrypted Server Name Indication) had successfully hidden which sites were being visited 
… allowing older TLS technologies that included the site name being visited in cleartext 
… government can infer what is being accessed from the site being visited

Five things we know about flying right now. NYT
… #1: the middle seat saga continues, Delta looks best to me …

Why we think our phones are secretly listening to us. Medium

“This plane flies itself. We went for a ride.” Wired

Roundup #217

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Libyan rivals call for peace talks, but may be wishful thinking. NYT

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Egypt’s farmers fear Ethiopia dam will be their end. NWA Online

Kenya’s health workers, unprotected and falling ill, are walking off the job. NYT 
… 100s have tested positive, some have died, health facilities overwhelmed, government officials accused of stealing funds

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Nigeria: Lots of headlines generated out ICC estimate that between 50k and 70k Christians killed in Nigeria over the past decade, due to attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani. Link

A different perspective: “Allegations of Christian genocide in Nigeria is false, misleading” – “90% of the victims of the violence are Muslims” – I’m not familiar with this particular group, or how justified or political their statement is. Still, it’s probably true that there are complexities to this issue, and while many are martyred “in situations of witness” it may not always be “for their faith.” All Africa

International flights to Nigeria may be resuming on a limited basis. AllAfrica

But, Nigeria says it will bar entry to citizens of countries that block Nigerians. WHTC

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Turkey turns another historic church into a mosque – CT

Turkey’s “hedonist” singles become new target of AKP heavyweight – Al-Monitor 
… average age of marriage is 24.8/27.8, but younger people putting off into 30s 
… Compare to China piece from Sixth Tone cited below, plus changes in Korea demographics

Lebanese face threat of widespread hunger after Beirut explosion. WSJ 
… Kuwait to rebuild the destroyed wheat silos at Lebanese port Al Arabiya

Lebanon returns to lockdown after post-explosion surge in virus. Al-Monitor 
… ban on movement from 6pm to 6am, malls closed, social gatherings banned

Wage abuse is hurting Qatar’s migrant worker population. Al Jazeera 
… “says her employers have refused to support staff financially and have even confiscated passports and ATM cards…”

Iran’s quiet ban on Muslims visiting other places of worship. IranWire

Iran’s health officials: “Don’t travel. Don’t spread the virus.” IranWire 
… Muharram religious holidays from August 26-29 usually involve significant travel

Iraq: A Nigerian talks about what it’s like to live in Iraq. Interesting insights into what life is like on the ground. TechCabal

Israel: coronavirus cases top 100,000. Al-Monitor

South-central Asia (2.1B)

#Afghanistan: 
Flash flooding in Parwan kills 100, injures 300, destroys homes. RFE 
… also, waist-deep flooding brings Karachi to a halt. Al Jazeera 
With delay in peace talks, creeping sense of ‘siege’ around Kabul. NYT

Rural Afghan province still struggles with Internet access. RFE 
… yet another illustration of how the Internet isn’t a silver bullet for everything, incl. evangelism.

The making of a Hindu India: Al Jazeera 
… “If India is today a Hindu nation, it is also a tinderbox in which the self is defined by the perpetual hatred of others.”

#CentralAsia 
In theory, Kyrgyzstan opens to tourists from 31 countries. Eurasianet 
… but tourists from Kazakhstan have been turned away at the border 
Azerbaijan facing a water shortage. EurasiaNet 
Kazakhstan negotiates deal to buy Russian vaccine. Diplomat 
… Russia claims safe, effective, but has not completed large-scale human trials 
Kyrgyz authorities allow Friday prayers, Kazakhstan lifts some restrictions. RFE

East Asia (1.6B)

Life on the Slow Train: views of a vanishing China. Sixth Tone 
… an amazing, fascinating look at the “green railways” and the “life of the underclass” from a photographer who has spent decades traveling them, collecting over 200,000 digital photographs since 2006.

A similar piece: Life on the edges of China’s livestreaming boom. Sixth Tone

Single and Proud: China’s Millennials embrace a solo lifestyle. Sixth Tone 
Yet another intriguing piece: “being single was once a source of shame. Now, it’s becoming a badge of freedom–and businesses are scrambling to cash in.” 
Number of singles in China has now surpassed 200 million

Is China actually rewriting the Bible? ChinaSource 
… Brent Fulton dives into the nuances of the story

China: “Vaccine front-runner already inoculating workers” BBC 
… half of the leading 6 candidate vaccines being tested are Chinese … 
… expect vaccine diplomacy … also, rumors/conspiracy theories/resistance to Chinese vaccines

Hong Kong is indeed applying its national security law to people outside Hong Kong. Latest example is American citizen Samuel Chu, on charges of “inciting secession” and “colluding with foreign powers.” This trend may chill travel to or through Hong Kong? Religion News

US sanctioning Chinese cotton grower XPCC due to its connections with Uighurs and Xinjiang – and the sanctions will have a complex effect on other companies. XPCC produces 7% of the world’s cotton. WPost

More US sanctions on Chinese firms and executives, this time on those active in contested South China Sea. I doubt many of these sanctions will go away in 2021, regardless of which administration is in charge. I theorize US-China tensions will continue for the foreseeable future. WSJ

And in a slightly darker turn of events, China fired missiles (one dubbed an “aircraft killer”) into the South China Sea, probably as a warning to the US. Al Jazeera

SKor’s total fertility rate hit a record low of 0.92 in 2019. Korea Herald 
… South Korea isn’t the only nation facing this reality. Many countries – including markedly Muslim nations like Turkey, Egypt, Iran – are seeing demographic crashes.

Governments and churches around the world have been facing off over religious freedom, and the nexus of Covid-19-related worship bans is intersecting those conflicts. Different people are going to have different opinions about whether this is really a religious freedom issue or not. Korea Herald 
… “How SKor’s evangelical churches found themselves at the heart of the Covid crisis” Guardian

NKor troops, police ordered to shoot on site anyone who comes within 1km of the NKor-China border, regardless of their reason for being there: “trying to prevent the transmission of coronavirus through contact with people from China.” RFA

The North Korea rumor mill is talking up possible comas again. This analysis suggests most of this is likely false. NK News

About 396k travellers are staying in SKor illegally. Straits Times 
… stranded and over the 90-day tourist visa limit. 
… “Immigration service making efforts to repatriate illegal aliens, 
… but an increasing number of nations were unwilling to accept their citizens back”

Japan to relax re-entry restrictions on foreign residents in September. Diplomat

Southeast Asia (700M)

Bali bans foreign tourists for rest of 2020. CNA

Myanmar expands Rakhine lockdown to cover 1 million. Jakarta Post

Thailand eyes more foreign patients as hospitals urge easier access. CNA 
… more of that medical tourism idea

Europe/North America (1,125M)

Somali-centered online news source Hiiraan Online carries a story, “Everybody is getting sick,” about thousands of refugees and immigrants “working for huge plants in the Panhandle [of Texas] repeatedly exposed to coronavirus after the plants were deemed essential and ordered to remain open.” The story is of course somewhat political in nature but does capture some insights about the lives, work, and numbers of immigrants and refugees in this area. Hiiraan

Russian evangelicals fined for ‘missionary activity’ during pandemic. Christianity Today 
… “in the first 6 months of 2020, more than 40 punished for violating anti-missionary law” 
… some fined for handing out tracts and literature 
… some fined, deported for private home meetings

Virus resurgence in France. ABC 
… 20% of France in “red zone”; masks imposed on Paris.

New Data

Covid-19


… 8/28: 24.2m cases, 826k deaths 
… 8/21: 22.4m cases, 788k deaths 
… (out 8/14) 
… 8/7: 17.3m (+1.8) cases, 674k deaths 
… 7/24: 15.5m (+1.7) cases, 633k deaths 
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYTCovidTracking.com

2020 Report: the state of food security and nutrition in the world. PDF

Infographic: the world’s most valuable unicorns. CBInsights … 488 unicorns (billion-dollar startups) worldwide, worth $1.5T. … #1 is ByteDance, owner of TikTok.

New Longreads

“Our hands are tied”: local aid workers exposed in pandemic. Hiiraan Online

10 Pacific Islands kept out Covid-19, at cost to their tourist economy. Link

The seduction of pessimism (and why optimism is, in the long run, more accurate). Link

QAnon is a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Christianity Today … also: Evangelicals are looking for answers online, and finding QAnon instead. Technology Review

“Scenario planning: formulating strategy in the face of high uncertainty” reviews the nature of scenario planning and reviews “Covid-19 and the future of work,” four scenarios from a consulting firm on the post-pandemic world of work in 2023. Link 
… the original four scenarios report is here

Deloitte has developed “The world remade by Covid-19: planning scenarios for resilient leaders.” Deloitte

First documented Covid-19 reinfection reported in Hong Kong. NYT 
… there have been anecdotal stories, but this is the first documented case that I’m aware of. But the good news: although the prior exposure did not prevent reinfection, the man had no symptoms the second time – it was completely asymptomatic. (This suggests he could infect others though he did not have the bad symptoms.)

Interesting piece on the impact of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on the early Protestant Reformers and the Reformation. CT

Futuristics & Technology

I experimented with Feedly receiving e-mail newsletters, but rapidly discovered it has a maximum of 25. I reverted to all newsletters coming straight into my Gmail client, because I get rather more than 25. (Also, Feedly’s layout of newsletters left something to be desired.) Still, Feedly Pro has some incredibly useful skills, including an AI article recommender based on previously saved articles, and the ability to bring a Twitter list into Feedly.

With hacks and cameras, Beijing’s electronic dragnet closes on Hong Kong. NYT 
… American internet giants are struggling to respond.

“Big Tech embraces new cold war nationalism” is another example of globalized tech feeling the heat of rising nationalist barriers. Foreign Policy

Interesting ‘DiceKeys’ tech uses a special set of 25 dice and a photo scanner to generate a 192-bit key: a highly random, mathematically unguessable key that can be a master password for password managers, etc. Schneier

American Airlines may lay off 19,000 workers. CNN 
… “unless it gets more help from Congress.” The downturn in air travel is impacting the economics of airlines. There is surely there is some “horse trading” going on here, but the reality is that there will be fewer flights (especially international flights) in the near-term future, and those flights may be more expensive. Air travel is probably going to get more difficult than in the near-term past.

AI-based traffic management controlling traffic lights. ZDNet

Graze Growing has invented a full autonomous commercial lawn mower, in an interesting application of autodrive technology to disrupt $100 billion lawn mowing market. Link 
… Interesting to think about which jobs will be lost …

New Google Pixel Buds can translate spoken words from French, German, Italian and Spanish into English. Verge

Facebook blocks group critical of Thai monarchy amid government pressure. Straits Times 
… yet another example of how local governmental norms/rules impact global organizations

Buzzfeed uses censored portions of China’s Baidu mapping platform, compared to Google Maps, to identify prisons and internment camps in Xinjiang. Buzzfeed

More
See all past Roundups here.