Roundup #235

By Justin Long

Issue No. 235 – 29 Jan 2021

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New Events

Northern Africa (266m)

10 years on: how Egypt’s hopes and the Arab Spring were crushed. IndependentNYT

Sudan: 250 killed, 100,000 displaced as violence surges in West Darfur, South Darfur provinces. AllAfrica

Protests continue in Tunisia, and “are getting worse.” Demonstrators were angered to protest by a lack of jobs, but are getting angrier due to police brutality. Cabinet reshuffles to assuage protesters are getting lost in the mix of politics. Link

Eastern Africa (520m)

Ethiopia: Inflation surges to 30.3% in Tigray, 2x the national average. In some parts of the provinces, basic food items are non-existent. Link

Stumbling closer to violence: tanks, artillery are being moved to the Ethiopia-Sudan border. Link

Western Africa / Sahel (457m)

In Mali, French and Malian troops have killed more than 100 jihadists this month during an offensive in the north of the country. Mali has been battling jihadists since 2012. Euronews

In central Mali, three ‘peace agreements’ have been signed by Fulani and Dogon communities. The agreements apply to Koro county in Burkina Faso, a “remote and dangerous” region where that has suffered some of the worst violence. Al Jazeera

Western Asia (303m)

Snipers, landmines, death: life on Yemen’s frontline. These stories from individual families illustrate the terrible predicament Yemen’s people are in. Link

Floods inundate refugee camps in Syria, 10s of 1000s affected. Link
A decade of war has deprived half of Syria’s children of an education. Link

Iran, piece of fragmentary information: apparently some sort of network of Christians in multiple provinces was arrested. Just another reminder that the spread of the gospel in dark places goes forward boldly, but not without risk. Link

South & Central Asia (2.0b)

In the Wakhan Corridor: Cold, hunger and disease wreak havoc in Afghanistan’s “Rooftop Community.” RFE

Delhi protests:
Farmers breach Red Fort in huge tractor rally. BBC
Delhi security stepped up after farmers protest turns violent. BBC
A day later: “an uneasy quiet as both sides assessed their positions.” NYT
Vox had a great video explainer of the motives for the protests posted in December. Vox

India distributes 1m vaccine doses in 6 days. Independent
But India has a problem: lots of people are vaccine hesitant.

Chinese and Indian troops again clashed on the border between the two countries, “brawling” in Sikkim. Last year the two sides frequently fought on the Indian side of Kashmir. Guardian

Vaccine nationalism in Bangladesh: will the Rohingya be left behind? (I expect this will be an ongoing issue in many countries.) Link

… also, Bangladesh is moving some more thousands of Rohingya to remote island. Link

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

A few articles quoting Open Doors sources suggesting Christians in China could reach 300 million by 2030. Right now, most “middle of the road” estimates I see are around the 120 million mark. A few people I’ve talked to think it could be as high as 200 million. Reaching 300 million would have political implications. I don’t know how realistic it is. Link

Young people in China are both “patriotic and progressive”: a mix that is changing the country. Economist

To avoid an outbreak, China is trying to get people to not go home for the Chinese New Year. NYT
… economic impact: China’s domestic air travel at its lowest in five years. Link
… train, travel, too is down 60% year-on-year. Link
… I can imagine the psychological impact for Chinese used to traveling home will be huge.

A year later: Wuhan, the first post-Covid-19 city. NYT

China said it would no longer recognize the BN(O) (British National Overseas) passport as a travel document. The UK had been developing a path to citizenship for Hong Kongers, and Beijing is apparently hitting back. I’m not sure what this means practically–that if you are a Hong Konger with a BNO passport, you won’t be allowed to use it to leave? But, clearly a data point in the ongoing development of control of Hong Kong. Link

North Korea almost certainly has Covid-19 cases. But no one knows how many (or probably ever will). It’s just another example of how closed the nation still is, and how difficult it is to gather reliable information. Link

Southeastern Asia (700m)

West Sulawesi, Indonesia: 6.2 magnitude earthquake damages 7,000+ homes, displaces 10,000. Link

Europe / North America / Latin America

USA says people who go abroad and test positive during their trip can expect the possibility of being stuck outside the US: “and that for them, assistance from the US government will be limited… The goal of the Dept of State is to help people avoid those dire straits to begin with.” Mission workers will have to count the cost, indeed. How will this affect trip insurance, too? NYT

… and, 8 things to know about negative tests and flying into the USA. Link


Covid case data

… 1/29: 101m cases, 2.19m deaths (2.1% CFR)
… 1/22: 97.3m cases, 2.08m deaths (2.1% CFR)
… 1/15: 92.6m cases, 1.98m deaths (2.1% CFR)
… 1/05: 88.2m cases, 1.9m deaths (2% CFR)
… 12/18: 73.9m cases, 1.6m deaths (2.1% CFR)
Trackers: Johns

Things won’t be “back to normal” soon:

Who is supplying vaccines to Africa? Deliveries under the Covax agreement are falling behind. China and Russia have stepped up, but there are concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccines being offered. Link

Economist graph suggests most poor countries won’t be fully vaccinated until 2023 at the earliest. Take a look at this map: nearly all the “10/40 Window” countries are in the “early 2023” widespread coverage category. Link

Vaccine programs: China, India will likely stretch to 2022 due to their population size. Link

Vaccine passports: the promise and perils. The number of vaccinations accomplished so far are “enough to invigorate a debate about whether people who have been vaccinated should be permitted to move around more freely. To allow this, those who have been vaccinated need to be able to prove it…. Governments seem unlikely to refuse entry completely to people without certificates of immunity, but they are likely to impose additional conditions…” Economist

“The world’s busiest international route” (Dubai-UK) as blocked by the UK yesterday, due to concerns over the spread of a more contagious and “potentially vaccine-resistant” Covid-19 strain. Link

Tajikistan’s government declares the nation to be Covid-free. If only it were that easy. Link

Netherlands imposes a curfew to curb the spread of Covid-19, people riot. Al Jazeera
Covid-19 curfew riots for 3 days in Lebanon. Link

Longer Reads

1. The Arab Spring, 10 years on: “The 2011 uprisings have had three main consequences: fear of state collapse, increased social polarization and the increasing importance of socio-economic demands.” – AllAfrica

2. “One in Eight Christians worldwide live in countries where they may face persecution.” Forbes


I’m working on a list of 100 “rereads” and 100 “new reads” in 2021. Here’s six books that just got added to my “new potentials” list. (Doesn’t mean they’ll get read, but they are on the list of possibilities.)

Eggs or Anarchy: the remarkable story of the man tasked with the impossible: to feed a nation at war.
Here are your Gods: faithful discipleship in idolatrous times
The Unseen Realm: recovering the supernatural worldview of the Bible
Supernatural: what the Bible teaches about the unseen world, and why it matters
Militants, criminals and warlords: the challenge of local governance in an age of disorder
First Platoon: a story of modern war in the age of identity dominance

Future & Technology

1. Google plans to open a new Google Cloud region in Saudi Arabia. Media monitoring groups are very concerned about surveillance. Link

2. Review of TunnelBear VPN, focusing on its ease of use. Link

3. “TraceTogether”: trusting surveillance in Singapore’s “Smart Nation.” The revelation that Covid-19 tracing & surveillance data could be used in criminal investigations has been explosive. Diplomat

4. Facial recognition and beyond: a journalist ventures inside China’s “surveillance state.” Link

5. If you’re leaving WhatsApp for security issues, here’s why not to turn to Telegram. Link

6. Iran blocks Signal. Link

7. The battle inside Signal: fast-growing messaging app is making itself increasingly vulnerable to abuse. This is an interesting long-read article that, in my view, really illustrates the “growing pains” any fast-scaling messaging app will have. Everyone says they’re not going to judge why you need privacy, but then people show up wanting privacy for reasons you don’t agree with. Link

8. Airbnb has a special team that uses social media to weed out hate groups and keep them from renting locations. People will have various ideas about the appropriateness of this. I think it’s important to remember that people (including ourselves) are being observed (#CorporateSurveillance), and companies doing business will have different rules (or be figuring out what rules to have) than governments will necessarily have. Some nations have rules about non-discrimination based on race or gender, but there are no rules about corporate interaction with specific ideologies. Link

9. Facebook launching new efforts to reduce political content in the News Feed, and “turn down the temperature.” If you or your org is posting material that is in some way political, you might see drops in engagement. I’m sure this will make a lot of news. Link

10. New report suggests 100s of airports are at risk of flooding by 2050 if temperatures increase by 2 deg C. This would significantly disrupt travel. Link

11. Fascinating short read on the Microsoft tech that lets a chatbot emulate a dead person. The patent was actually filed some years ago and has only now moved through the system. Microsoft’s “as of now” policies wouldn’t have filed the patent to begin with. But it makes for a great click-drawing headline. The implications really have more to do with tech that can successfully simulate a “virtual person.” We’ll see a lot of that in the near future. Link

12. Lots of various data points on the “bifurcation” of the West (especially USA) and China in the tech world. Link

… This piece, on iPad production ramping up in Vietnam, is another example of companies trying to end their reliance on China in this atmosphere. This split could make it more and more difficult for Westerners to operate inside China. Link


“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening. I never learned anything while I was talking.” ~Larry King

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