Roundup #228

No Roundup next week. It’s Thanksgiving week in the United States, and I’ll be on vacation.

Music to improve your day: What Child is this + Child of the Poor.  Youtube

New Events

East Africa

Somalia: the need for greed.  SomTribune
… a fascinating article whose analysis I am insufficiently knowledgeable to affirm or deny. But it makes some logical sense. I’m not sure it’s either positive/negative for Kingdom efforts, but it should give some insights into the complexities and difficulties emerging Somalia faces.

More than 1,000 killed in the past six months in S Sudan.  Al Jazeera
… communal conflicts …

Sudan will decide the outcome? FP
… This is a well written explainer with graphics for the conflict … 
… TPLF, dominated Ethiopian politics for decades … 
… since displaced & sidelined as Abiy consolidated power, 
… and made peace with TPLF enemy Eritrea … 
… TPLF has not gone quietly … 
… quite a bit in here about farming, ethnic conflicts, and the Blue Nile …
Another explainer, this one a 5 minute video from the Guardian, very good. Guardian
Another perspective: Tigray’s war is about economic power. FP
Explosions rock major cities amid growing fears of wider civil war.  Independent
… Conflict widens as missiles are fired at airports.  NYT
… Rockets target Eritrea’s capital.  Al Arabiya
Red Cross: ‘Immense suffering, risks spiraling.’  ICRC
… Aid groups plead for access to refugees.  Boston Globe
… Hunger looms as conflict rages.  DailyNewsEgypt
4,000 fleeing Ethiopia fighting to refugee camps in Sudan, daily.  National News
… Refugee camps ‘lack basic necessities’.  Dabanga
Ethiopia cracks down on the Internet in Tigray.  WPost
… telecomm blackout … but lots of new Twitter accounts sharing data …
… Ethiopia shuts down telephone, Internet services in Tigray.

Northern Africa

Libya’s political talks stall.  AllAfrica

Tunisia, Libya to begin travel bubble 11/15.  MEMO

Sudan’s partially answered prayers.  CT
… an interview with Abp Ezekiel Kondo on religious freedom and more …

Russia to build a naval base in Sudan.  MiddleEastEye
… I guess they didn’t want to let the Chinese have all the fun …

Western Africa

Nigeria: Igbo synagogues burned, bulldozed amid civil unrest.  Fast Forward
… many Igbo believe themselves descended from a lost tribe of Israel … 
… have taken on certain Jewish practices …

Nigeria’s police brutality crisis: what’s happening now.  NYT

Eastern Asia

China urges new era of mass migration–back to countryside.  WSJ
… Antipoverty push: Xi wants to repopulate rural towns with entrepreneurs and consumers

N Korea orders tightening of anti-virus measures.  Reuters

Kim Jong Un faces a bleak N Korean economy.  Link

South-Central Asia

Afghanistan braces for worst as US troop withdrawal accelerates.  WSJ
… Taliban gloat, government loses grip amid wave of violence …

Second wave of Covid hits Afghanistan, public places shut.  Link

Iran will impose severe restrictions across the country.  Link
… in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus … 
… limiting inter-city travel, banning private vehicles at night, more…

300 killed, thousands injured during anti-government protests in Iran last month.  Independent
… reports Amnesty International …

Pakistan grants Gilgit-Baltistan provisional provincial status.  Diplomat
… residents will now become Pakistani citizens … 
… India rejects the move …

Coronavirus adds to reasons to leave Tajikistan.  Eurasianet
… the terminal state of the economy remains “paramount” …

South-eastern Asia

Indonesia’s tourism industry suffers S$9.5b losses due to Covid-19.  Straits Times

Myanmar military still using children for fighting.  Reliefweb

10,000 pro-democracy protesters march on Thai police HQ.  Guardian
… Thailand’s protests shatter taboos but produce little change.  Straits Times

Western Asia

Lebanon enters 2-week lockdown as virus cases surge.  Link
… curfews, business closures, hospitals run out of space …

Iraq, Saudi Arabia reopen land border after 30 years.  MiddleEastEye

Saudi Arabia ramps up surveillance at holiest sites.  CodaStory
… “new government app threatens Mecca’s undocumented residents” …

Northwestern Syria in photos: Life in the time of Covid.  SyriaDirect

Syria faces worsening bread crisis as regime rations supplies.  MEMO

Turkey introduces partial curfew, shuts schools.  Daily Sabah
… schools closed for remainder of semester … 
… nationwide weekend curfew from 8pm to 10am … 

UAE approves golden visa: 10-year residency for certain professions.  Link

North/Central America/Europe

US megachurches outgrowing their sanctuaries..  CT
… perforce, they are moving to multisite. 70% are multisite, another 10% considering it. 
… 90% consider small groups “central to… Christian nurture & spiritual formation”

Rising Covid cases, deaths among US clinicians.  JAMA
… in many places, including USA, losses amongst doctors will make it harder to treat Covid …
ed. note: wrong link in the emailed version. corrected here.

The US will re-open to refugees. Is the US church ready?  CT

USA: hospitals in half the states facing a massive staffing shortage.  Stat
… “People are going to die” … the bleak article makes the point that it’s not about beds – it’s about doctors & nurses to care for the people in the beds. Covid has a CFR of ~2% in optimal conditions. Even with hospitals overloaded, many cases will not be bad – but for those that are, without ICU beds & doctors who care for the sickest of the sick, the death rate will surge amongst those who need ICU care, and overall as a result. This same pattern can be found in other places, especially in the poorer parts of the unreached world.

USA: State by State guide to coronavirus restrictions. Forbes

Iota is the strongest hurricane to ever hit Nicaragua.  AP
… (at least on record) …


Covid case data
… 11/20: 57.0m cases, 1.3m deaths (2.2%)
… 11/13: 53.0m cases, 1.29m deaths (2.4% CFR)
… 11/6: 49.1m cases, 1.24m deaths (2% CFR)
… 10/29: 44.8m cases, 1.17m deaths
… 10/23: 41m cases, 1.1m deaths
Trackers: Johns

IEA cuts forecast on oil demand for 2021. CNBC

New UNHabitat World Cities Report 2020.  Link

Refugee resettlement numbers fall to lowest in two decades.  UN


What first-time founders learned the hard way.  FirstRound
An interesting read with lessons that could be applicable to mission teams and strategies. Lots of strategies with regard to finding candidates whose values match yours, the best use of advisors, leadership hiring, etc.

How I read.  Link
… interesting idea for reading clusters of 5 books around a particular topic.
… Difficult part is identifying the five books, of course. …
… would be interested in recommendations on 5 key books for: China, India, Indonesia, E Africa, Pakistan, Nigeria

Everything you need to know about the Coronavirus.  Wired
… a really helpful long-read survey of Wired coverage of the virus: background, symptoms, masks, testing & treatment, epidemiology & tracking, etc.

Sometimes we don’t even eat: conflict+covid pushing millions to the brink. ReliefWeb
UN dips into emergency fund as first famines of the pandemic loom.  NYT

Losing elders to Covid-19 endangers indigenous languages.  NatGeo


The end of the pandemic is now in sight.  Atlantic
… two vaccines look like they will work, and more should follow … 
… medium length read on the tech behind the vaccines …

Performance Art on how to evade China’s big brother.  Sixth Tone
… dodging Beijing’s surveillance cameras takes almost superhuman ingenuity and determination…

South Africa: cold requirements for storing Covid vaccines will be challenging.  Link

In Cashless China, Criminals are punished with payment app ban.  Sixth Tone
… rather than jail time or hefty fines, China’s justice system is employing massive inconvenience. I’m sure someone will think of Revelation, but this really has nothing to do with loyalty or worship. Yet.

Roundup #227

Don’t Miss

Beyond’s next online Disciplemaking Nugget Training, 11/18: will focus on how to multiply churches toward movements. Come join with us as one of our field leaders facilitates the conversation. Some have asked for recordings. We don’t provide recordings–first, because of security reasons; and second, unique to nuggets, nearly all of the conversation is in small breakout groups as people read Scripture and discuss how to apply it in their own lives. It’s less a presentation and more a community discovering Scriptural truth together. This is a truly unique series of events; I’m proud of the people who work hard on it, and I hope you’ll join. Link

New Events

Northern Africa

Egypt: Tourists disappear, Bedouins revive ancient farming roots.  CSM

Following peace deal, talks on Libya’s political future begin.  UN
… breakthrough peace agreement between 5 senior commanders in Geneva last month … 
… peace seems to be holding, for now …

Morocco launches military operation in Western Sahara.  AP
… to clear a key road blockaded by weeks by supporters of Polisario Front …

East Africa

Military seizes airport as fighting rages in Tigray.  Al Jazeera
Ethiopia bombs Tigray arms depots, thousands flee.  Yahoo News
Sudan braces for 200k fleeing Ethiopia fighting.  Hurriyet
… Over 11,000 flee to Sudan as Tigray Region conflict continues.  Dabanga
Experts React: understanding the conflict in Tigray.  AllAfrica
Ethiopian police seeking lists of ethnic Tigrayans.  Al Jazeera
… fears over ethnic undertones of the conflict … 
… police chief orders ID of ethnic Tigrayans from NGOs … 
… Amnesty reports a massacre in Tigray …
Ethiopia withdraws 1000s of troops from neighboring Somali.  Bloomberg
… redeployed to help offensive in Tigray Region … 
… raising concerns of a security vacuum in Somalia …

Civilians reel as violence spins out of control in Mozambique.  Al Jazeera
… in Cabo Delgado, NE coast, on border with Tanzania … 
… conflict with ISIL …
With village beheadings, Islamic state intensifies attacks.  NYT

Somalia: Locusts swarm into Mogadishu’s pastureland.  Independent

Violence continues in South Sudan despite peace deal.  AllAfrica
… mainly fueled by revenge attacks, cattle raids, land grabbing …

Western Asia

And that’s a wrap on the war: Armenia surrenders.  Eurasianet
… Russian peacekeepers on their way to the region …

Ceasefire greeted by anger, disbelief in Armenia.  Middle East Eye

Iraq, in Photos: intimate glimpse of Arbaeen religious holiday.  NYT

200 Iraqi Christian families return to Nineveh.  MEMO

Iraq shuts down last ‘safe haven’ camps for vulnerable families.  Yahoo News
… 1.3 million still displaced inside Iraq … 
… rapid camp closures could leave 100k in limbo …

The Widow’s Camp: Syrian women craft their safe space.  SyriaDirect

First COGIC Bishop to Israel meets opposition from counter-Missionaries.  CT
… interesting look at anti-missionary forces in Israel …

Eastern Asia

HK pro-democracy lawmakers resign.  BBC
… after Beijing forced removal of four of their colleagues … 
… leaves only pro-Beijing lawmakers …
HK resigning over Beijing resolution.  SCMP
… “Beijing has completely abandoned the Basic Law” …

Suicide spike in Japan shows mental health toll of Covid-19.  Bloomberg
… suicides up 15% in August, even more among women, school-aged children …

N Korea cracks down on local markets, overseas defectors.  Diplomat
… as Covid-19 continues to hamstring economy, NKoreans grow increasingly desperate 
… government moves to keep everything under tight control

South Asia

Food crisis deepens in Afghanistan: 42% facing acute hunger.  ReliefWeb

Overall civilian casualties in Afghanistan down, but ….  Link
… civ casualties caused by Taliban up …

String of attacks have Kabul residents pointing a finger at the government.  NYT

India’s Magh Mela: one of the world’s largest religious pilgrimages is moving ahead as planned.  NatGeo
… usually draws 10 million Hindus …

The cold requirements of Pfizer’s vaccine brings little cheer to India.  Link
… India’s crippling heat, erratic electricity and limited cold storage makes Pfizer vaccine a challenge 
… will apply in other countries in similar environments 

Iran struggles to cope with raging coronavirus pandemic.  RFE
… “caught second wind and returned with great ferocity” … 
… “death toll in recent weeks has skyrocketed” … 
… “40k officially dead, real number likely 2x as high” … 
… “called for 2-week nationwide shutdown, severe restrictions on intercity travel” … 
… “Tehran = half the deaths” …. 
… 700k cases = ~1% infected. 80k deaths = ~10% CFR rate.

South-eastern Asia

Indonesia to begin mass vaccination using Chinese vaccine late this year.  Straits Times

Typhoon Rolly impacted 250,000+ in Philippines.  UN

The monarchy is god: a Thai royalist in a divided kingdom.  Reuters
… looks at changing norms in Thailand with respect to the monarchy … 
… re deference: “The new generation and youth, they’re not into it”

Europe/LatinAm/N Am

Hurricane Eta thrashes Central American countries.  ReliefWeb
… 3.3m affected, 115k evacuated …

Barna American Worldview Inventory 2020.  PDF
… “American Christians redefining their faith: creating new worldview loosely tied to Biblical teaching”
Pair with this op/ed: US Evangelicals aren’t what they used to be.  NYT
… a historical survey of the interfacing between Evangelicals and politics … 
… loss of evangelistic focus …

USA: Biden pledges to raise refugee ceiling to 125,000. Link


Covid case data
… 11/13: 53.0m cases, 1.29m deaths (2.4% CFR)
… 11/6: 49.1m cases, 1.24m deaths (2% CFR)
… 10/29: 44.8m cases, 1.17m deaths
… 10/23: 41m cases, 1.1m deaths
… 10/16: 40m cases, 1m deaths
Trackers: Johns

Singapore-HK travel bubble to start 11/22.  Straits Times
China bans visitors from 8 more countries.  SCMP
… India, France, Russia, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Italy, Nigeria, Ukraine, Britain, Belgium, Philippines …

Pew, 2018 data: govt restrictions on religion reach highest level globally in a decade.  Pew


A recipe to build, measure, learn.  Medium
… great short little read that includes a recipe for building “user stories” …

The vulnerable can wait: vaccinate the super-spreaders first.  Wired
This is a fascinating long read into the role of super spreaders in a pandemic. There are numerous takeaways in this piece for DMMs. In movements, apostolic agents (either cross-cultural or indigenous) have the same role as super-spreaders: many people in a DMM are “asymptomatic” (e.g. they show few or no outward signs of being a believer) and are not infectious (they don’t spread the Gospel). But a few are infectious, public, and well-connected. These super spreaders move it from household to household, and regardless of other things, people who have something within a household tend to spread it to those they are around ~24/7/365. (This also shows how movements can be stopped: neutralize the 16% most highly connected.)

How to stop restaurants from driving Covid infections.  Nature
… another interesting piece: mobile data used to confirm physical locations (because people congregate there) can be hotspots. Pondering implications for DMM. Some practitioners look at “edge” places where people from different groups congregate/mix, and Gospel transfer can occur.


Google launches Google One VPN.  Link
… $9.99/mo encrypts all online activity for Androids … 
… Mac/Windows apps coming soon … 
… (probably wouldn’t work in China, though…) …

Google Photos is shutting down unlimited storage of photos.  Link

New tools for managing photo storage in WhatsApp.  Wired
… I dislike how WhatsApp used to save all incoming photos into my phone’s camera roll. This can turn that off.

Completed early trials.  NYT
… “no serious safety concerns so far” … 
… “seeking US emergency use authorization” … 
… “50 million doses this year (=25m people), 1.3b doses in 2021” …
NYT Explainer: 11 things you need to know.  NYT

China clamping down [further] on its Internet giants.  BBC
… “increase unease in Beijing with the growing influence of digital platforms” …

China’s Big Brother is everywhere? not quite yet….  SCMP
… spent billions building camera surveillance networks, but not an all-seeing system … 
… tech not linked nationwide – but may just be a matter of time …

Covid is accelerating change in McDonalds.  Wired
… measurement, big data, “McDonalds knows you and when you are within shouting distance of a restaurant.” The technology changes and adoptions at McDonalds will impact other restaurants and industries.


“I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes. Besides, it’s a lot more fun to give while you live than give while you’re dead.” ~billionaire Charles Feeney

“Busyness is an illness of spirit.” ~Eugene Petersen. 

Roundup #226

Slightly shorter Roundup this week, as nearly all my sources were overwhelmed with material about the US election.

Don’t Miss

The last Disciplemaking Nugget held by Beyond, on 11/5, had over 45 people participating in a discussion of how to multiple disciples toward movements. The next Nugget training, on 11/18, will focus on how to multiply churches toward the same goal. Come join with us as one of our field leaders facilitates the conversation. Some have asked for recordings. We don’t provide recordings–first, because of security reasons; and second, unique to nuggets, nearly all of the conversation is in small breakout groups as people read Scripture and discuss how to apply it in their own lives. It’s less a presentation and more a community discovering Scriptural truth together. This is a truly unique series of events; I’m proud of the people who work hard on it, and I hope you’ll join. Link

New Events

East Africa

Ethiopia is headed into a potential civil war.
Tigray province, in north, on border with Eritrea. Mostly Orthodox Christians.
“Ethiopia mobilises for war in northern region.”  Reuters
“major escalation of bitter feud with PM’s rivals in Tigray” Foreign Policy
… military action ordered in reprisal for alleged attack on federal army camp … 
… “for months, observers sensed a showdown brewing with Tigray’s rulers”
“State of emergency declared.” Hiiraan
Ethiopia shuts down phone, Internet service in Tigray.  AllAfrica
Air strikes, bombardments. NYT
Explainer: Why Ethiopia is suddenly on brink of civil war.  AP

Plus, intercommunal violence in Oromia.  UN

Northern Africa

Algeria: Requiem for a Revolution.  Link
… “aborted democratic dream offers lessons for the rest of the Arab world”

Libya’s warring parties reach agreement on cease fire.  UN
… “agreed [to] practical steps toward implementing a cease fire agreement”

Western Africa

Ivory Coast: 3,000 flee abroad amid electoral violence.  UN

Fear dominates the lives of Nigerians.  Conversation
… “near universal absence of even the most minimal form of … governance…”
Also: Has Nigeria missed the manufacturing bandwagon?  FT
… “In order to go into any form of production in Nigeria, you have to create a mini-state: your own security, water, electricity, roads…”

Eastern Asia

In Tibet, China preaches the material over the spiritual.  CNA
China wants to build a Tibet with more wealth, less Buddhism.  Bloomberg
… “Due to some outdated conventions and bad habits, particularly the negative influence of religion, people put more attention on the afterlife, and their desire to pursue better living in this life is relatively weaker… we’ll need to not only feed the stomach, but also fix the mind.” ~Tibet Governor Qi Zhala

China launches 5-year plan: become self-sufficient global tech superpower.  Fortune
… but it might be an uphill battle …

China’s Southeast Asian Vaccine Diplomacy.  Diplomat
… China will “not turn vaccines into any kind of weapon or diplomatic tool” 
… “but hard to see Beijing not using vaccines to foster goodwill, advance its interests…”

South Asia

Deadlocked Afghan peace negotiations at point of collapse.  RFE
… “the historic negotiations aimed at ending the bloody 19-year war are in danger of collapse”…
On Afghan highways, even the police fear the Taliban’s toll collectors.  NYT
… As US retreats, Taliban increasingly taken over highways …
Highway checkpoints: Taliban stop people, comb through their phones for data.  RFE
… Thousands stopped at checkpoints, smartphones taken, combed through for data 
… “They found some photos of Afghan Army soldiers, and then they beat me”…
Afghanistan after attack on university: “We live in constant fear”.  Guardian
Bombs and blackboards: schooling girls in rural regions.  RFE

India Allahabad Court: conversion for sake of marriage is unacceptable.  TOI

South-eastern Asia

Thailand’s religious pilgrimages by airplane flight.  CNN
… sightseeing “flights to nowhere” overflying Buddhist sacred sites 
… celebrity fortune teller/religion history expert lead in chanting mantras

Western Asia

Azerbaijani forces “within 5 km of Shushi”.  Eurasianet
… “who controls Shushi controls Karabakh” …

Local Iraqis want Syriac Christians to return to Mosul.  Reuters

Growth in population stressing economics of Iraq.  MEI
… Iraq population projected to grow 25% by 2030, reaching 50.2 million … 
… 5 million people will enter the labor market … 
… “simply no way the public sector can absorb those numbers” …

Syria is the deadliest place for aid workers.  Syria Direct
… “and there is little hope for change” …

Photos: foreign Muslims return to Mecca for pilgrimage.  BBC

Saudi removes key restrictions on migrant laborers.  AP
… some improvements, not total abolishing of kafala system … 
… but the “devil is in the details” …

Turkey Quake
A dozen buildings destroyed, 1,000 wounded, 100+ dead.
Rescuers race to find survivors after mag-6.6 quake in Izmir.  Hurriyet
Searching for survivors under rubble.  BBC
Drone footage shows major destruction after earthquake in Turkey. Twitter

North America

US evangelical churches pursuing multicultural, international worship music.  CT

US visas granted to students from China down 99% since April.  TechCrunch


… 11/6: 49.1m cases, 1.24m deaths (2% CFR)
… 10/29: 44.8m cases, 1.17m deaths
… 10/23: 41m cases, 1.1m deaths
… 10/16: 40m cases, 1m deaths
… 10/9: 36.5m cases, 1.0m+ deaths
Trackers: Johns

Infographic: less than half the world lives in a democracy.  VisualCapital
… saw a Tweet from a USSR-born guy: a blessing to live in a country where the result of an election isn’t known ahead of time …

Air travel: intl passenger demand still down.  Link
… plunged 88.8% in Sep 2020, compared to Sep 2019 …

Hotspots in 4 countries on brink of famine.  Al Jazeera
… parts of Yemen, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, South Sudan all at risk … 
… 16 other countries at high risk of acute hunger …

Covid confirmed fatality rate (deaths/infections) 
USA = (235k/9.6m) = 2% 
India = 1.5% – Link 
One Iranian dies of Covid every 4 minutes.  IranWire
… “Tehran has borne the worst of these fatalities” …
New restrictions in Iran as Covid deaths soar.  Al-Monitor
… daily deaths reach into the 400s …

Beijing bans UK, Belgium due to Covid waves.  Link


Most of the world’s food comes from only 15 crops..  Link
… Kew’s State of the World’s Plants & Fungi 2020 report …


Memories startup enables pre-recoded videos to be sent posthumously.  Wired
… might something like this become part of a missionary’s preparation? …

WhatsApp launches new disappearing messages option.  Verge
… new option to wipe chat messages after 7 days … 
… unclear from the article whether this is on the receiver or sender side …

2020 State of AI report is out.  Link

China: State of Surveillance.  ChinaFile
… “addressing the difficult problem of how to control people”… 
… the strategy involved in some of this is chilling. … 
… Xiqiao: “Portrait Perception Network” particularly so.

But: Hangzhou 1st city in China to push back against surveillance.  Radii

Walmart scraps plan to have robots scan shelves.  WSJ
… online orders up, employees walking aisles to fill orders, scanning shelves at same time, more efficient …

Roundup #225

New Events

East Africa

Eritrea: has never had an election. Conversation
… A look at Eritrea’s president & political process …

Ethiopia: Violence in Benishangul Gumuz.  AllAfrica

Negotiations on the Dam reopen. AllAfrica
… Cairo warns “not be able to fill … without consequences”
… Egypt relies on the Nile for 90% of its water;
… Blue Nile contributes 85% of the Nile’s volume.

Somaliland: Taiwan trade fair in Hargeisa. Link
… open Taiwan, East Africa to Somaliland …

Northern Africa

Proposed changes to Algeria’s constitution, reviewed. Middle East Eye
… Article 2, Islam as the religion of the state, would remain …

The Mediterranean Red Prawn War. FP
… Italian fishermen being kidnapped off the coast of Libya.

Hell in the desert: Bangladeshis detained in lawless Libya. Daily Star
… migrant workers detained, tortured, extorted in camps in Libya … 
… families back home go in debt to pay traffickers …

Sudan: Darfur still caught between war and peace. MEMO
… despite the latest peace agreement, journeys through the heart of the 17-year armed conflict area is an arduous task… with major concerns about safety and security. “Peace is just another word with no real meaning. Nothing has changed on the ground…”

Sudan: protests continue into day 4.  MEMO

Western Africa

Nigeria: crowds ransack food warehouses during unrest.  Yahoo
… food meant for distribution during Covid lockdowns … 
… “We are hungry… there is plenty of food… gov’t cheating us by parking away this food” 
… looting comes after days of violent rioting following shooting of unarmed protesters …

Eastern Asia

Forecast 2025: China adjusts course.  MacroPolo
… “China will be a near-majority middle class for the first time” … 
… increasingly technological parity with Silicon Valley … 
… all under the aegis of a stronger Xi Jinping …

Dreams of a Red Emperor: the relentless rise of Xi Jinping.  LAT
… Xi Jinping seems himself a savior, anointed to steer the CCP/China away from corruption, foreign influence … 
… Xi is “a disciplinarian, not a revolutionary… driven by a need for control… an ethnic nationalist…” 
… explores origin myths/legends/realities of Xi. 

China: lingering fear of 3-child families.  Sixth Tone
… ended the 1-child policy, allowing everyone to have two children–
… but couples that have a third child face heavy fines.
Other parents aren’t interested in having more than 1 child.  Sixth Tone

Hong Kong activists continue to flee, seeking refuge in the West.  NYT
… China calls them “violent criminals”; they are the latest catalyst of deteriorating relations …
China warns UK not to offer citizenship to Hong Kong residents.  BBC

South-central Asia

Kyrgyzstan schedules early presidential elections for Jan 10.  RFE
… after weeks of political upheaval, marred Oct. parliamentary elections …
… Foreign Policy: protests won’t keep corrupt criminals out of politics. Link

Analysis: Kyrgyzstan’s protracted political, economic crisis.  Chatham House
… making the Central Asian state’s future even less predictable than usual …

India: Millions queueing to vote in Bihar’s elections..  Straits Times
… booths packed, little mask-wearing or social distancing …

Iran’s Covid death toll may be 4x the government’s official tally.  NBC
… would put the death toll at 100k to 135k out of 80-ish million …

South-eastern Asia

Myanmar: next month’s elections could worsen ethnic tensions.  Diplomat
… unlikely to translate to sufficient representation for minority groups … 
… will likely amplify disaffection with electoral politics among minorities …
Worse, decides to cancel voting in many precincts.  RFA
… without consulting local political groups,
… disenfranchise more than a million ethnic minority voters …

Millions affected as monsoon strikes Viet Nam.  UN

Western Asia

Iraq: Sunnis languish in camps, years after recapture of Mosul.  Guardian
… “The militias are not allowing us back”
… 400,000 who fled Isis still interned in the north …

Thousands of Iraqis head back to the streets to protest.  Post
… “Everything’s desperate… can anything change around here?” …

Lebanon: Beirut is a shambles, only refugees are helping.  Foreign Policy
… “govt is AWOL, international donors are wary,
… most reviled residents are making the difference”…

Saudi plans to end ‘kafala’ labor system for foreign workers.  Daily Star
… much criticized system has been called a form of indentured servitude,
… unclear what will replace it.

Saudi Arabia sets a target of 100 million tourists a year by 2030..  MEMO
… top tourism destinations are right now unable to reach that figure … 
… Paris is #1, averaging 90 million visitors per year as of 2018 …

Syria: the permanently dispossessed of their homes.  SyriaDirect
… 12 million Syrians displaced …

Yemeni children suffer record rates of acute malnutrition.  UN
… an ‘entire generation’ is at risk …

Azerbaijan: a string of explosions, screams, blood.  NYT
… NYT has up an ongoing section, “The Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh” …
Third attempt at Karabakh cease-fire quickly collapses.  Hurriyet

Western Europe

Aftermath of more Charlie Hebdo cartoons…
Three people killed in French church knife attack.  WPost
… man shouting ‘Allahu akbar’, investigation opened … 
… probably meets the WCE technical definition of martyrdom …
French churches urged to heighten security.  CT
… all worship centers in Nice closed temporarily after attack …
Malaysia’s Dr Mahathir comments on France made waves….  Twitter
… but the entire thread is more than the one wave-making tweet …
Turkey’s Erdogan calls for a boycott of French products. Al-Monitor
… but, analysis: it’s more about distracting people from govt’s failings
After terror attacks, Muslims wonder about their place in France..  NYT

North America

USA, 2018: nones eclipse Catholics, Evangelicals.  @ryanburge
… Just ran across this chart in the NYT and tracked it back to Ryan’s original tweet with data from the GSS. Nones are not greater than Christians as a whole, but they are greater than any single chunk of Christianity.



… 10/29: 44.8m cases, 1.17m deaths
… 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 
Trackers: Johns Hopkins, NYT,

Infographic: how Covid-19 spreads through the air in various spaces.  Link

Impact of Covid-19 on remittances to Africa.  Brookings
… In Africa, 1 in 5 send or receive international remittances … 
… Since 2009, the flow has ~2X, now >5% of GDP in 15 countries … 
… 2019, $85 billion total in remittances … 
… Due to Covid-19, remittances projected to decline by 21% in 2020 …

The influence of the pandemic on baby booms/busts.  Economist
… Rich countries, fewer babies; poor countries, more.

Vaccine likely ‘in next few months’, ‘normal’ unlikely before end-2021. SMH
Russia reinstates mask mandate, restricts nightlife. Link
France, Germany lock down as second Covid wave grows. NYT
China: Scores of cases in new outbreak in Xinjiang. RFA
43 Iranian cities (incl Tehran) under severe restrictions. Al-Monitor
Laos to reopen border to travelers from China. RFA
Police break up lockdown protests in Italy. Guardian


Women, children at greater risk of being trafficked, enslaved as pandemic deepens.  ReliefWeb

Second and third generation of diaspora Arabs are integrating into Brazil, but at the expense of their language and culture.  MEMO
… First generation held on to their language and culture; second and third are mostly monolingual in Portuguese.

Why Karachi floods.  ReliefWeb
An interesting deep dive into the complexities of flooding in Karachi’s situation: increased rainfall can and is being caused by climate change, but how that water is handled (or not) is also a significant factor in flooding.

The science that spans #MeToo, Memes, and Covid-19.  Wired
… A brief introduction to ‘network science’, with some good links to key reads on the subject … 
… network science can inform thinking about movements …

What happens if my church won’t send me as a missionary?  Upstream
… a good piece on leaning in to a church’s critique of your readiness … 
… but I could wish for a piece for what to do when the church doesn’t want to send for reasons unrelated to you …

Great Overland Routes: the Pamir Highway.  Overland
… picturesque travelog of a journey in Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, …

Differing views of foreign threats in the USA.  Pew
… foreign policy experts vs the general public … 
… useful to remind us of the perceptions & fears of general public, donors, candidates, etc. While potential candidates may have come to grips with the nuanced realities of the places they will serve, their families & potential donors may not …

A consumeristic reset: having a “no-buy” year. Link


UK Muslims turn to apps to find love, marriage in lockdown.  Al Jazeera

How to turn on Zoom’s new end-to-end encryption.  Fortune
… but, why you may not want to. …

Pakistan’s PM asks Facebook to ban Islamophobic content.  BBC
Egypt says freedom of expression ‘stops’ when Muslims offended.  Reuters

How WeChat censors content for over a billion users.  Inkstone
… even pro-regime articles can get censored if they draw attention to an issue the Party does not want the public discussing …

Round the clock, three dimensional control: the ‘Xinjiang Mode’ of counterterrorism.  TheChinaStory
… “outside of the re-education centers, the region’s Turkic Muslim population is subjected to a dense network of hi-tech surveillance systems, checkpoints, and interpersonal monitoring…”

A different use for facial recognition.  NYT
… a Portland activist used it to identify police officers who taped over their names during protests …

Other small bits
Massive AI powered robots are 3D-printing rockets.  Wired
Flippy robots replacing burger flippers in fast food joints.  Engadget
Robotic couriers shifting into high gear in Chinese cities.  Straits Times


“As Christians, we can live on one of three levels. We can return evil for good, which is the satanic level. We can return good for good and evil for evil, which is the human level. Or, we can return good for evil, which is the divine level.” ~Warren Weirsbe

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” ~George Orwell

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

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 Hopkins, NYT,

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


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

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

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


… 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

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


… 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

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)

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

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.”

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

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)

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

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


… 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

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


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


… 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

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 …

See all past Roundups here.