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New Blog Entry
Russia invited 12 nations for peace talks about Afghanistan – Link
… But they are talking mostly with people they aren’t fighting with: multiple attacks have demonstrated their ability to sustain war, and Kabul wasn’t invited to the talks. Washington declined. Russia mainly seems to want to prevent the spread of fighting – Link
The situation in Afghanistan is made even harder by the worst drought in decades, gripping 2/3rds of the country. 2 million may run out of food in the next 6 months. Crises tend to drive questions about loyalties – Link
Cambodia has all but transitioned to a one-party state via a sham election – Link.
… What this will mean for the future is uncertain, but freedom to criticize the government will certainly be a casualty.
In China, a proposal is floated for a ‘no child tax’ – Link
… for the childless under age 40 … Predictably, it sparked outrage on social media.
… “First forced abortions, now pressured into pregnancy: … they do not treat as women, they treat us as fertility resources.”
… why Chinese don’t have more kids: much to do with their own childhood – Link
More Chinese are going abroad as tourists, as travel becomes easier. (See also the bit under Turkey, below.)
Great game for the future of Tibetan Buddhism – Diplomat
In Ethiopia’s Oromia (26m, >48% Christian): 170+ arrested after ethnic clashes – Link
… Still, president is one of the most popular worldwide: a 90% approval rating – Link
… This May article surveys the country’s long political transition – Link
The worst floods in a century in Kerala, India (33m, ~18% Christian), displaced 800,000 (2%), killed several hundred, and caused billions in damages. Full recovery could take a decade. Here are photos of the floods. And stories of how poor fisherman saved their more affluent neighbors.
Lombok, Indonesia has been shaken and stirred: over 10 were killed and more damage done as new major earthquakes struck. Third earthquake in 10 days on Thursday morning. The death toll is now over 500.
Living conditions in Iran, bad for so long, continue to get worse (Al Jazeera video) under the sanctions. Unemployment is at 12% (3 million can’t find jobs). Still unlikely to lead to revolution.
… With a spike in airline prices, Iranians are ‘increasingly marooned’: collapsing currency, soaring food prices, out of stock medicine, unable to visit family and relatives abroad.
… Air France will end flights to Tehran ‘on weak demand.’ So will British Airways.
Iran continues to persecute Christians. Few stories make it out, but here’s one example.
Iraq’s Kurdistan hit with water woes as Iran diverts rivers, builds dams.
The US has issued a ‘do not travel’ warning for Iraq – Link
Could Agadez, Niger become a tourist magnate once again? Link
Pakistan’s new PM is ‘hemmed in by a deepening economic crisis and a military that continues to hold the levers of power… no PM can change course without the approval of the military… this is the old power script with a new PR manager… ’
An era of ‘possible freedom’ in Saudi Arabia has been marred by a campaign against women’s activists. 2 more have been arrested in the crackdown. Not giving up, Saudi feminists have launched an online radio program. (Just demonstrates how improbable the ‘possible freedom’ was.)
Over 40k Syrians are flocking home from Turkey for the Eid holiday despite the danger.
… But the vast majority of Syrians can’t go home any time soon. This 5-minute Economist video looks at life for people in the refugee camps in Zataari. “For the refugees to return, Syria must be rebuilt, at a cost of $250 billion. But Syria is broke…”
Four years after genocide, Yazidis languish in Turkey. Over 10,000 were killed by IS.
Keep Yemen’s war in view. In its 4th year, poor sanitation, food shortages and malnutrition is making the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis ever worse.
Terrorist violence declined in 2017, although it remains historically high – Link
A useful look at the Eid al-Adha holiday – Link
… lots of potential conversations about sacrifice, Abraham, Jesus around this time
… “In Pakistan alone, over 10 million animals slaughtered during the holiday”
… also: in Egypt, camels are a “bigger and better” sacrifice – Link
Pew: Fastest religious growth happening in countries w/highest levels of religious commitment – this long-form report (PDF download) is fascinating in that it looks at age differences (“do people get more religious as they get older, or is the world secularizing”) but also examines levels of religious commitment (using belief-and-practice survey methods rather than traditional association with evangelical faiths).
Drone imagery of India, South Africa offers a bird’s-eye view of the rich-poor divide. The photos are startling. How does the Gospel ‘cross the road’?
The hajj pilgrimage has begun:
… the massive size of the hajj, seen from the air – Quartz
… Infographic on the hajj pilgrimage: from 24k in 1941 to 2 million today – Link
… and there are stories of Jesus appearing in dreams to hajj pilgrims – Link
… few get to go; to get all Muslims on the hajj would take 581 years – Link
Our man in Tehran: the last Western journalist in Iran – PBS
… h/t Missions Catalyst. You may be able to watch it online; DVD out in October.
… “In this two-part series, he takes viewers on a rare journey into a private Iran often at odds with its conservative clerics and leaders. Iranians share their stories, hopes, and fears with him over the course of four years of filming.”
How to stick with good habits when willpower is gone – Link
… environment design + choice architecture > willpower, every time
“Everything I’ve learned about failure,” from the maker of JotForm – Link
… (nearly?) all of these can be directly applied to DMM teams and CP startups.
… also, from him: high-performers use scheduling, not to-do lists – Link
Gmail releases confidential mode to send self-destructing emails – Link
Mobile internet access is coming to Cuba – Link
Egypt ratified a law tightening control over websites – Link
How the Internet has changed dating – Link
… worth considering given the %s of single males (very low) and single females (higher than SMs, but still low) in mission.
… one of the big ways the church grows is through demographics: believers marry believers and raise believing children. Rodney Stark has noted that men come back to church in part because of getting married and raising families. But the Internet has overtaken church & friends as a way of meeting potential mates. What is the criterion for a potential spouse when it’s outside the setting of existing friends and worship? How will this impact trends on secularization, and on people being willing to go to the mission field?
Who needs democracy when you have data? How China stops troublemakers and government petitioners from ever reaching Beijing: an example of the power of ‘invisible regulation’ by controlling movement and speech.
… also, Inside China’s dystopian dreams: A.I., shame and lots of cameras. Older article, but note especially the use of shame in an Asian culture.
Skype has launched end-to-end encrypted chats (called ‘private conversations’), utilizing Open Whisper System’s open-source tech (OWS makes Signal, and the same tech is used in WhatsApp).
Why comm security is critical: Foreign Policy has a horrifying story of how botched communications between the CIA and its sources inside China enabled Beijing to roll up an espionage network, and resulted in dozens of suspected US agents being executed. Secure communications for an organization is fine, but are the comms used to communicate with in-country partners likewise secure?
China: 802 million people online – SCMP
… stresses ability of government to manage online community
… but 2 in 5 Chinese are still offline …
Fake News 2.0: the propaganda war gets sophisticated: a brief survey of terms and techniques like near-domains, cloaking, real account hijacking, deepfakes, malware, weaponizing encrypted messaging, dark texts, and more.
… Deepfakes are a particular problem. The tech originated to create fake porn, but it’s not just about that: “Reporting in a machine reality” demonstrates making a fake video of former President Obama.
… This is an important area to monitor. It’s only a matter of time before governments use ‘fake news,’ deepfakes, etc. to attempt the compromise of religious workers. What if someone used deepfake tech to make a video of religious workers committing blasphemy (Islam) or committing verbal crimes against the government of the country they work within? A blasphemy video wouldn’t be given much time to analyze before violent action could be inspired.
… It doesn’t take much to be accused of blasphemy: In Indonesia, this woman was accused and convicted of blasphemy simply for complaining about a noisy mosque.
Over $1 million is stolen through cybercrime every minute – Link
“Weak faith is true faith, and weak grace is true grace, and both are the gifts of him who never gives in vain.” ~J.C. Ryle
“Tell me how much you know of the sufferings of your fellow man and I will tell you how much you have loved them.” ~Helmut Thielicke
“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” ~Mark Twain
“By trying often, the monkey learns to jump from the tree.” ~Cameroonian Proverb