Roundup 215

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Sudan: Stricter Covid-19 measures in Northern State. Link

Egypt denounces Turkey’s move on Hagia Sophia. Al-Monitor.
… announces plans to restore monastery in South Sinai …

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Tanzania’s president says the country is virus free. NYT
… experts outside are skeptical …

Ethiopian workers forced to return home, some with Covid. NYT
… returning from the Persian Gulf, other parts of Africa …
… “may be fueling a growing outbreak” …

Kenya decides to scrap the school year and start over. NYT

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Malawi: Forced labor, prostitution, child marriage. UN
… “rescuing victims of human trafficking”

Nigeria’s Lagos to allow places of worship to reopen Aug. 7. Reuters
… restaurants, social clubs, etc. reopen Aug. 14.

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Big event of the week was the massive explosion in Beirut.
… NYT has a long read on how the ammonium nitrate got there. NYT
… the story starts with a leaky, troubled Russian-leased cargo ship.
… Initial investigation: negligence is cause of blast. Reuters
… NYT also has a bit on what ammonium nitrate is. NYT
… CT: an evangelical leader’s grief over divided, devastated country. Link
… Ground Zero: a rip through the heart of an already dying city. Link
… “Beirut will never be the same again.” CNN
… (that may be headline hyperbole)
… Collection of photos from AP. Link
… Collection of photos from NYT. Link

Lebanon was already in crisis before that:
… Statista: A country in economic crisis. Link
Over 90k Syrian refugees struggling to find food. France24
Inside Lebanon’s crippling economic crisis. Link
… produces next to nothing for export, and has relied on remittances; running out of cash.

Iran’s Covid death toll 3x higher than admitted, says report. Link
… Government actually estimates death toll at 42,000
… 1 person dying from Covid-19 every 7 minutes in Iran, according to state TV

Syria: poverty deepens across the region. UN

Turkey: “Bad news” for marginalized Christians. Politico
… decision to reconvert the Hagia Sophia “yet another blow to already marginalized community”

South-central Asia (2.1B)

Afghanistan facing humanitarian disaster amid pandemic, continuing violence. Link
… at least 11 killed in roadside bombing. Link

Wakhan, Afghanistan usually receives 100s of foreign tourists. RFE
… This year, zero, impacting the local economy.

Kazakhstan is confiscating a pair of church buildings. Link

Tajikistan suspends electricity deliveries to Uzbekistan. Link
… insufficient snowfall hindered output at hydropower plant …

India: PM Modi will help lay the foundations for a “grand” new Hindu temple at a flashpoint holy site in Ayodhya that has been the spark for some of India’s worst sectarian violence. Link

India: Covid-19 spreading, but … Link
… 82% of total cases are in 10 states. … 66% are in 50 districts …
Bihar: “Rely on God”–medical network overwhelmed. Link
… lacks good hospitals, woefully short on resources, “worst is yet to come”

India extends ban on international flights (departures and arrivals) through August 31. Link

Pakistan: Poor and desperate, Pakistani Hindus accept Islam to get by. NYT
… drawn by jobs or land offered by Muslim groups …

Pakistan to lift remaining Covid-19 restrictions by August 10. RFE

East Asia (1.6B)

TikTok/WeChat Ban: Huge event, still trying to understand ramifications: US Presidential executive order banning US transactions with TikTok, WeChat, and their parent companies ByteDance and TenCent. I’m less familiar with Bytedance, but I know TenCent owns significant stakes in most of the very popular videogames in the USA, including Fortnite and Overwatch.
… “China opposes U.S. orders” Reuters
… “A true US ban on WeChat would be a personal disaster for anyone with family/friends/business in China” @niubi
… “With WeChat sanctions, Trump strikes at heart [of Chinese social life, commerce, business]” WPost
… WeChat has 1+ billion users. A ban will have a major impact on comms. Radii
… “Video game companies owned by TenCent will not be affected; only transactions related to WeChat” @SamAugustDean

New USA CyberPolicy has serious bite on Chinese firms Diplomat
… “Clean Network Program” lists 5 major areas where Chinese companies will not be allowed

Hong Kong issues arrest warrants for exiled democracy activitss. Link
… including at least one American citizen living in the United States.
… and some exiles living in the UK. Link
… France halts ratification of extradition treaty with HK. Link
… Christians worry new law will hamper missions. CT
… HK charges 24 for attending an annual vigil for Tiananmen. NYT

US “Administration is poised to impose [additional] sanctions on Chinese officials…” @JenniferJJacobs
… including HK chief Carrie Lam Straits Times

“Sheep without a shepherd”: Hong Kong churches divided by politics. Japan Times

China Times: “China will retaliate if Chinese journalists in US are forced out.” Link
… “including targeting US journalists in Hong Kong”

US travel to Tibet still blocked by China. Link

China says it will not recognize UK overseas passports. Guardian
… “raises the prospect that 3 million HK citizens eligible for the passport will be banned from leaving HK”

South Korea see continued Covid infections linked to churches Korea Herald

Southeast Asia (700M)

Philippines: millions back on lockdown as Covid cases soar. Link
… capital, 4 surrounding provinces, 27 million people (25% of Philippines)

Covid-19 pops Philippine remittance bubble. Link
… plunged deep into recession – 16.5% fall in growth – 19.3% fall in remittances in May
… 2019, remittances = 10% of GDP
… old piece: many Filipino overseas workers likely to lose their jobs Link

Indonesia: ~4k passengers arrived in Bali on reopening day. Link

Thailand: Cases rise, plans for “travel bubble” shelved. JT

Europe/North America (1,125M)

Slight opening: Russia resumes visa-free entry for some foreigners. Link

USA: How families are finding God, grace and faith outside a house of worship. Link
… “Parents say they miss the religious communities that were a big part of their lives,
… but they are finding ways to practice their faith with their children.”

USA rescinds global level-4 travel warning, reverts to country-by-country warnings. SMH

USA: How two California megachurches kept worshipping. CT

A priest revives a nervous parish: “Can you bless our quarantine room?” LAT
… Covid-19 is driving spiritual hunger out into the open
… “Now, I don’t know when they will all be back. So I go to them.”

New Data


… now: 17.3m (+1.8) cases, 674k deaths
… 7/24: 15.5m (+1.7) cases, 633k deaths
… 7/17: 13.8m (+1.6) cases, 590k deaths
… 7/10: 12.2m (+1.5) cases, 550k deaths
… 7/3: over 10.7m (+1.0) cases, 517k deaths
Trackers: Johns

WHO: Africa cases will soon surpass 1 million. Link

ACLED reports significant outbreaks of intercommunal violence in Africa. Link

New Longreads

“Where the Pandemic is only getting worse”: the crisis in the United States shouldn’t distract from the worsening situation elsewhere. Atlantic

How to make SMART requests for help. Forbes
… a useful application of the acronym …

The people that Covid-19 has cut off from home. Guardian
… Chinese students, Mongolian tourists, Palestinians …

The Pandemic Depression: The global economy will never be the same. Foreign Affairs
… “massive economic contraction that will be followed by a financial crisis”
… “nonperforming loans, bankruptcies, sovereign defaults…”
… “World Bank: 60 million will be pushed into extreme poverty…”

“Inequity at the boiling point” NYT
… looks at the people who are most affected now by rising temperatures.

A vaccine reality check: so much hope is riding on a breakthrough, but a vaccine is only the beginning of the end. Link

Futuristics & Technology

Twitter begins labeling state media accounts, focusing on China and Russia. Link

After Oct 1, airlines may start laying off staff and cutting pay (under the federal airline bailout guidelines). Several airlines will likely see severe cuts (United says it could cut 45% of its workforce). This also implies far fewer flights. “It could be risky to book a flight now for after that date.” WPost

India widens its ban on apps from Chinese companies. Link

Interesting piece: “small US company with ties to US defense/intelligence has embedded software in 500+ mobile apps allowing it to track the movements of hundreds of millions of mobile phones worldwide.” (How is this different from TikTok, WeChat, or even FB?) Link

Watch the test flight of the engine stage of SpaceX’s Starship. Link
… it takes off
… and it lands. I never tire of watching this.

Zoom to shift to “partner-only” model in China, suspending direct sales. It looks like Zoom is trying to address some of its security and PR issues. Wonder if people are reassured. Link

Google employees will work from home until July 2021. Guardian

Former head of American Airlines says 1/3 to 1/2 of business travel will never come back. WSJ

The Panopticon is already here Atlantic
… another piece on China’s use of AI to enhance total control, and how its exporting the tech.

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