Roundup 187

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North-West Africa

Military’s preferred candidate won in Algeria. NYT
… but protesters rejected the vote.
… historically low turnout for the vote. France24
… The new president will “struggle to win over his people” – Stratfor

North Africa / Warring States

“Can anything halt the flow of advanced weapons into Libya?” Defense One
… in spite of the arms embargo, foreign actors have injected everything from APCs to drones and more into the battle space.

St Francis Catholic Church in Tripoli “offers something of a sanctuary for Christian migrants” in the run up to Christmas. Ahram Online
… “The biggest Christian communities in Tripoli are from the Philippines, India and Pakistan…. Steady stream of Filipinos going home because of the deteriorating security situation…”

The Pope called for the closing of migrant detention camps in Libya, saying they were rife with torture and slavery. Middle East Monitor

Refugee girls in Chad embrace school as path to university opens up. Reuters

Egypt / Sudan

Sudan’s ousted leader sentenced to two years for corruption. NYT
… accused of genocide in Darfur
… charged with ‘possessing foreign currency’

Egypt is home to 250,000 registered refugees – Egypt Today
… and “5 million others” who aren’t registered with the UNHCR

Western Africa / Lake Chad

West Africa “shaken by unprecedented violence.” UN

Burkina Faso to Ethiopia: 2019 a deadly year for places of worship. Africa News
… Bishop: “The west is ignoring the plight of Christians in West Africa.” Vatican

Burkina Faso has become an epicenter for terrorism – Jamestown
… near replacing Mali as a focal point of jihadist violence
… spread of ethnically-fueled massacres, disappearances, widespread abuses
… dissipated peaceful coexistence between ethnic and religious groups

“The roots of Burkina Faso’s crisis” – CFR

Confluence of armed groups leaves some guessing just who is attacking. Al Jazeera

Sahel struggles to contain deadly jihadist groups who infiltrated communities. Quartz
… have become an integral part of local and illicit economies …
… gathering materials for attacks through complex trade networks …
… deeply rooted in the population, good knowledge of environment …

Western reluctance to increase security commitments in the #Sahel is creating opportunities for Russia. Stratfor
… Russia providing training & equipment in exchange for minerals
… but still unlikely to supplant the more deeply rooted French-led efforts

Video on Burkina Faso: “Soldiers killed 7 members of my family.” BBC

Guineas protested en masse against the government. VOA
… allegedly 1 million on the streets, but number unverified.


More alarm raised over controversial social media bill – Al Jazeera
… 133 million Nigerians use the Internet, 30m on social media
… bill would allow govt to cut off internet access, block specific apps
… to “curb the spread of false statements”
… to “limit freedom of speech and right to criticize”

Yellow fever outbreak in #Sahel, Nigeria intensifies – CIDRAP
… 4,000+ cases in Nigeria, more in Mali

Nigeria needs to wean itself off oil – Reuters
… “as world inches onto a low-carbon path”
… climate issues aside, oil demand has been falling steadily -J.

Four humanitarian workers kidnapped by militants executed – Bloomberg

Ethiopia / Horn / East Africa

Djibouti hosts 130,000 migrants, refugees, asylum seekers – Xinhuanet
… how Minnesota firms ended up as leaders in Djibouti redevelopment – Star Tribune

South Sudan says a unity government will be formed. Reuters

Middle Africa / Lakes

Ongoing fighting in NE DR Congo, 20+ killed – Al Jazeera
… over 80 in recent weeks, people angered – Al Jazeera

Air travel is important in Congo, but unsafe – BBC
… 0.1% of all air traffic in the world, but 4% of total air accidents since 2010

Measles has spread to all DR Congo provinces, killed 5,000 in ’19 – BBC

Southern Africa

Zimbabwe facing man-made starvation – UN

Central Asia / Caucasus

Kyrgyzstan scandal brings threats to media – Link
… courts froze, then unfroze media accounts after allegations of corruption in govt

Amid Islamic surge, Central Asia keeps eye on militancy. Asia Times
… A deep look at the rise of Islam especially in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan will hold its most democratic election ever. Economist
… but, admittedly, that’s not saying much. It’s a low bar.

What recent protests in Uzbekistan tell us – Diplomat
… there is some higher tolerance than in the past, but still not much.

Saudi / Israel / Lebanon / Syria / Gulf

Saudi Arabia will no longer require restaurants to have separate entrances segregated by gender (families/women vs single males). BBC

Life for civilians in Syria “worse than when the year began”. UN
… in northwest, continued violence on lines between Turkey, Kurds, AQ-related groups
… Up to 60,000 displaced around Idleb (still Al-Qaeda dominated)
… Up to 11 million in need of regular humanitarian assistance in 2020

West Asia / Turkey

Turkey’s invasion into northern Syria caused a demographic shift many fear will become permanent: ethnic cleansing is a reality in the Syrian safe zone – Independent
… “the brutal killings [of Kurds] were not hidden, nor were they meant to be…”
… “now, stranded in camps across Syria & Iraq, they fear they may never be able to return home… and that, they believe, was precisely the point…”


Amnesty Intl: Death toll in Iranian crackdown over 300 – Al Jazeera

A fairly detailed and useful summary of the current political/protest situation in Iraq. ISW

Afghanistan / Pakistan / Pashto

4.4 million Afghanis live outside country. Al Jazeera
… 2.7m refugees, in 80 countries (90% in Iran/Pak)

UN says 9 children killed or crippled in Afghanistan daily. Yenisafak

Christian journalist held on blasphemy charges in Pakistan. GNA
… allegations that he was framed

Life along Pakistan’s mountain highway where China is investing billions of dollars. NPR

Pakistan’s Khan says millions of Muslim refugees could flee India, “creating a refugee crisis that would dare other crises… our country will not be able to accommodate more refugees…” Reuters

Former military dictator Musharraf sentenced to death in absentia (he’s in Dubai, right now) on treason charges. Reuters


A broad quick explainer of the citizenship bill & its implications, from Axios

Citizenship law protests shut down India’s capital – Asia Times
… “a lockdown unprecedented in history” as protests break out across country
… prohibits more than 5 people from gathering in a public space
… suspend mobile connections, including internet, voice
… closed metro stations to prevent protesters from arriving at protests sites
… police-led massive traffic jams, trapping people for hours on the road
… also, shut down the Internet in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura (Kashmir still off)
… thousands protested in Guwahati, Assam for the third day
… Shock at crackdown “may unite Modi opponents”. The Guardian
… at least 3 killed and 1,200 detained as protests raged. AP

As protests rage on citizenship bill, is India becoming a Hindu nation? NYT
… long read with lots of photos, video
… “they want a theocratic state…”
… “this is how waves of communal violence start in the country…”
… worst violence in recent years was in 2002 in Gujarat, when Modi was top in the state
… “around 2 million of Assam’s 33 million are now stateless” See Also
… “huge new prisons are being built to… house illegal immigrants…”

The foreign policy fallout from rage across India over new citizenship law. Asia Times

Join in prayer for Delhi. Prayercast

Nepal / Bhutan / Tibet

Bhutan tops Lonely Planet’s list of best places to visit in 2020 – Link
… “tourist visits have grown exponentially in the last decade”

Bengali / Bangladesh

In pictures: Bangladesh on the frontline of the climate crisis – Al Jazeera
… millions vulnerable to coastal and river flooding

“Remembering the war of 1971 in East Pakistan”: Bangladesh, India and Pakistan each have created a very distinct memory of what happened 48 years ago. Longread. Al Jazeera.


China is complicated. Joann Pittman

China’s Orwellian War on Religion. Nicholas Kristof

Protests to rock HK’s malls at Christmas, New Year – Asia Times

In Macau, China sees a model for a rebellious Hong Kong – NYT

Beijing backs Carrie Lam despite election setback in Hong Kong – NYT

Trying to prevent yet more news leaks out of Xinjiang, China is tightening up on information: deleting data, destroying documents, holding high-level meetings in response to leaks. AP

A surveillance net blankets China’s cities – NYT
… “giving police vast powers: scan phones, track your face, find out when you leave home.”
… “as if county sheriffs in the USA ran their own personal versions of the NSA.”
… “if a face and a phone appeared at the same place and time, the system grew more confident they belonged to the same person…”
… Here’s a twitter thread on this surveillance technology, too – Twitter
… also: tightens grip on Internet, considers live-streaming ban – RFA

Fascinating: Chinese criminal gangs spread African swine fever to force farmers to sell pigs cheaply. Gangs then buy up cheap meat, smuggle it, sell it as healthy stock. Shortages from pig culling have caused pork prices to double, offering opportunities for profit. SCMP.


Japanese schools are struggling with foreign pupils. Economist
… migrants who come to ease labor shortages often bring children …
… number who require remedial Japanese lessons is rising fast …
… nearly 20% of immigrant children may not be attending school at all …

Southeast Asia

Tourist arrivals in Brunei rising, most Chinese – Link

Thailand: Large anti-government protest held, biggest since 2014 coup. Guardian
… in Bangkok, after government moved to ban an opposition party

Understanding the Myanmar military’s genocidal mind: recent atrocities against the Rohingya were business-as-usual for Myanmar’s war-hardened army. Insightful long read exploring the issues since the 1940s. Asia Times

In Cambodia, “rule of law” means Hun Sen rules. FP

First time African swine flu in Indonesia: 27,000 pigs killed. Asia Times

A look back: 15 years ago, the Boxing Day quake/tsunami. Reuters
… 128,000 killed, 570,000 displaced, 179,000 buildings destroyed.

Notable Europe / Americas

For Caribbean nations, climate change means shrinking populations: people who eventually gave up trying to rebuild and left. Grist
… Puerto Rico population dropped 9% between 2000 and 2015

New Data

World Energy Outlook 2019 – IEA

Human Development Report 2019 – UNDP

World Drug Use Report, 2019 – UNODC
… 35 million suffer from drug use disorders
… opium and cocaine manufacturing remain at record levels.

Global slavery 2019 MAF report – GSI

2019 Hunger Map – WFP

2019 Global Report on Internal Displacement –

2019 Fragile States Index – FSI

Longer reads

Mekong River dying a slow but certain death as massive new hydropower dams parch the water levels to lowest in 60 years. Asia Times

What it’s like to bring a baby up in a war zone. 1843

1/3rd of poorer countries face both undernutrition and obesity. UN

Pew analyzed 20 million households in 130 countries in “religion and living arrangements around the world.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Muslims & Hindus are in largest households. But, report analyzes types of households. Most common Muslim household is 2-parent; Muslims have more polygamous households than any other religion by far, but only 5% of all Muslim homes. On the other side, the USA has the largest % of children living in single-parent homes, and there is no difference between children of Christians and ‘nones’ in this respect. Pew

Also: 10 facts about atheists. Pew

Venezuela has become the world’s largest refugee crisis – Statista
… surpassed Syria, which peaked in 2018.

UNICEF estimates 25% of births (166 million) have never been officially recorded: ‘invisible’ in the eyes of governments, excluded from education, health care, etc. UN

[Six] Ways people trying to do good accidentally make things worse, and how to avoid them. 80,000 hours


It’s easy to track you. A NYT megaproject, “One Nation, Tracked”. This amazing project is very disturbing. NYT

AI is making it easier to kill you. Here’s how. NYT Video.

Google Maps has now photographed 10 million miles in Street View: mapped out parts of the world where 98% of people live. CNET

Note that Google’s Messages app on Android OS doesn’t support end-to-end encryption like Apple’s iMessage does. (This, to me, implies that if you see a ‘green’ bubble on iMessage on an iPhone, at some point it’s not an encrypted message.) CNBC

The world’s first 3D-printed neighborhood now has its first homes: a giant 3D printer is squeezing out new homes in rural Mexico, one per 24 hours. Fast Company

South Korea cracking down on “the dark web” after a major scandal tied to child pornography – Diplomat

From satellites to the moon and Mars, China is quickly becoming a space superpower. TIME

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