Roundup #224

#224 – October 23, 2020

By Justin Long

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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

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


… 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

Covid short bits
1m+ cases: US, India, Brazil, Russia, France, Argentina, Spain
… getting close: Colombia, Peru, Mexico, UK.
Case highs: CzechPolandTurkeyJordan, …
More lockdowns: IrelandSpainTunisiaIranOman, …
Travel Bubbles: Bangladesh-IndiaIndonesia-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


If you haven’t seen The Network Effects ( 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

Last Five

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Justin Long, a missionary researcher serving with Beyond (a Missio Nexus member) provides the Weekly Roundup. Sign up to get it every week or visit his blog: Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

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