Roundup 268

Top Events

Lots of stories about border openings (Tunisia with Libya, Jordan with Syria, Sudan and S Sudan, Southeast Asia). Many center on how these countries are choosing to ‘cope with the virus’ due to economic issues. The openings will no doubt be welcomed by Roundup readers. Set against these is the giant of China, which is trending the other direction. A strong “mostly-closed core” for the unreached world seems to run from the Central Asia -Stans, through Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, into northern India, and extending into the western borders of China. All of these are becoming harder to enter due to the virus and war.

Quite a lot of ink scribed about Afghanistan in the past week has demonstrated that, even if the Taliban have moderated some of their positions, they are not moderates. From new rules about the education of women to rules banning beard-trimming and ‘too much fun,’ the strict positions are being demonstrated. Some may be disappointed but I think none surprised. Ministry inside Afghanistan will be in the context of great risk (but also the potential for great gains); outside, the greatest focus will be on the tens of thousands of refugees now headed for places like Canada, the United States, Europe, and parts of Southeast Asia.

All the visible signals indicate Myanmar’s junta plans to stay in power for the foreseeable future–“at least until August 2023.” Neither side in that conflict seems capable of completely overrunning the other, so violence will likely continue at the same time. Link

A new Pew report on religious hostility says social hostilities (private individuals, groups, mobs) declined in 2019, but government restrictions remained at very high levels. It’s an interesting looking report that just came out this morning. The click-grabbing part is that religion-related terrorism had fallen slightly. The nuance is that the data is for 2019, pre-pandemic, pre-Myanmar, pre-Afghanistan, etc. Link

New Events

North Africa + West Asia = NAME (570m)

France slashes number of visas available for Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians. Link
— accuses the three nations of failing to cooperate over the return of their nationals

Eastern Sudan protests: Beja nazirs reopen oil pipelines amid negotiations. Link
— vow to continue the closures of the roads and other ports in Red Sea state.
— The Beja remain one of the least evangelized megapeoples.

1 in 13 soldiers in Iran are heavy drug users. IranWire
— just another data point in the long standing analysis of rampant drug addiction in Iran

Shadow contracts, corruption keep the lights out in Iraq. AP

Map of latest figures of refugee camps in NW Syria. @markcutts
— altogher 2.8m displaced people in area, incl 1.7m in 1,400 camps
Jordan reopens border crossing with Syria, seeks trade boost. Reuters
— “to boost the countries’ struggling economies and push Arabs states to reintegrate Syria”

Turkey is planning a drone-heavy ‘roadshow’ of future warfare, to sell its goods. Link
— Turkish drones altered the outcome of military conflicts in Azerbaijan, Libya, Syria, Iraq
Turkish health minister says schools will never close despite high infections. Euronews

As Tunisia’s president cements one-man rule, opposition grows. NYT
Appoints Prime Minister amid protests over power grab. NYT
— names first female PM, but may do little to dispel fears he is moving to 1-man rule.
Tunisia’s difficult decade of democracy and crisis. Reuters

East Africa (520m)

Ethiopia: war, optimism collide in attempt to form a new government. DW
— Tigray region remains excluded from the polls
Ethiopia plans to expel UN officials leading aid response. NYT
— 2 days after UN aid chief accuses Eth. of government blocking aid deliveries
“I’ll never go back”: Ugandan schools at risk. Guardian
— staff laid off during lockdown are not returning to the teaching profession
Sudan, South Sudan prepare to reopen their border. Africa Report
— after 11 years, yet cross-border trade faces immense challenges

West + Middle Africa (600m)

Christian leader dead following mob attack in Kano State. CSW
Attacks kill dozens in NW Nigeria, suspected jihadists raid base. AFP
Borno’s Christian IDPs: Battling Mental Illness amid Hunger. HumAngle
Thousands of Boko Haram members surrendered. They moved in next door. NYT

South + Central Asia (2b)


Life in a madrassa as Afghanistan enters new era. AP
Taliban government approaches India to resume flights. Indian Express
Taliban takes on ISKP, its most serious foe in Afghanistan. Al Jazeera
Taliban: bars women from Kabul University. NYT
— ban Helmand barbers from trimming beards. BBC
— hang bodies as warning in Herat. BBC
— admonish fighters in Kabul to stop having so much fun. WSJ
— “when not on duty, they sightsee, picnic, and visit amusement parks”
Afghans bury paintings, hide books out of fear of Taliab crackdown on arts, culture. Post
How Afghanistan’s security forces lost the war. Post
— “slow, painful breakdown that began months before the fall of Kabul”
Canada doubles its Afghan refugee resettlement target to 40,000. NYT
Will Afghan refugees stranded in Southeast Asia be resettled? FP
— those stuck in Malaysia & Indonesia for years hoping they will not be forgotten.


Stateless and helpless: the plight of ethnic Bengalis in Pakistan. Al Jazeera
— est. 2 million Bengalis in Pakistan, “are the most discriminated ethnic community.”

Central Asia

How Tajikistan became hub for Afghanistan’s resistance. FT
Russia urges calm between ally Tajikistan, Afghanistan. Reuters


Amid calls for a caste census, data show half of rural homes are ‘OBC’. Indian Express
The farm protests are back, a year after liberalization laws were introduced. Reuters
India aims to produce mRNA Covid-19 vaccine this year. WSJ

Sri Lanka

Skyrocketing food prices in Sri Lanka due to stockpiling. Diplomat

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

China’s “digital natives”: the post-’90s generation is transforming the country. Brookings

China seeks to quell power crunch fears, as coal prices soar and winter nears. Reuters
How bad is China’s energy crisis: implementing power rationing Guardian
What is behind the power crunch? strong demand, coal supply shortages. Yahoo Finance

Christianity and the State–dispelling a myth. Brent Fulton
— it’s not just the Communist state. China has never been friendly to Christianity.
— A change of government probably wouldn’t change that.

Plummeting births in Anhui underscore ‘extremely severe’ demographic problem. SCMP
— births in the province will drop by 17.8% this year compared to 2020
China to clamp down on abortions for “non-medical purposes.” Guardian
— “move seen as being in line with attempts to accelerate birth rates”
New study warns China’s population could halve within the next 45 years. SCMP

How the Huawei case raised fears of ‘hostage diplomacy’ by China. NYT
Argument: Western expats are no longer safe in China. FP

China won’t open up after lockdown any time soon. East Asia Forum
— “most of the world is living with the virus and its consequences”
— “Covid-19 is going to be globally endemic rather than eradicated”
— “return to normal will require C. to open its borders… exposing society to new infections”
— “no indication such a scenario is presently acceptable to the Chinese government.”
Built a 5,000 room quarantine center for overseas arrivals. CNN
— “could be the first of many.”

Japan fully came out of its Covid state of emergency for the first time in 6 months. Link

NKorea rattling the cages again: tests hypersonic missile, implies nuke capable. AP
Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister, promoted to nation’s top ruling body. CNN
Kim Jong-un orders hotline with the South to reopen. Guardian

h/t ZGBriefs, which pointed out several of these links this issue.

Southeast Asia (700m)

After a long wait, some of SE Asia’s most popular islands reopening to travelers. CNBC
— Thailand opening more provinces: 7 on 11/1, 20 on 12/1
— Vietnam’s Php Quoc touristy island
— Singapore has vaccinated travel lanes: quarantine if you pass 4 Covid-19 tests.
— Indonesia reopening Bali, Bintan, Batam “soon.”
— Malaysia: Langkawi reopened for vaccinated domestic tourists.
Thailand targets Indian tourists to make up for missing Chinese. Bloomberg
Thailand halves quarantine requirement for vaccinated visitors. Diplomat
Singapore strategy of living with Covid raises concern, hope. AP

Myanmar’s military junta appears to have long-term power plans. East Asia Forum
— “seems here to stay after extending its emerging rule at least until August 2023”
Myanmar currency drops 60% in weeks as economy tanks since February coup. Reuters

The West

New survey of French: 51% do not believe in God. Link
— OTOH, 68% think religion can help pass positive values to young people.

New Data

Covid global case data data

At current pace, 300m cases by Jan. 28.

… 10/1: 233.7m (+3.5m/wk) cases, 4.78m deaths
… 9/24: 230.2m (+3m/wk) cases, 4.72m deaths
… 9/17: 227.3m (+4m/wk) cases, 4.67m deaths
… 9/10: (vacation)
… 9/03: 219.3m (+4.5m) cases, 4.55m deaths
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYT *

What science knows now about the risk of Covid-19 transmission on planes. WSJ
— overall risks appear to remain relatively low, new variants may change the equation
Merck is out with an experimental pill for Covid-19. Post
— “reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by nearly half in a clinical trial”
— board of experts recommended the study be stopped early due to positive results

Other Data & Reports

Pew’s new study on religious hostilities. Link

Longer Articles

Found this fascinating four-part series about the incoming (freshman) class at Harvard. (I’d be interested in similar kinds of studies from other colleges, and this may be useful to people in college ministries.) While I doubt this is a representative sample of college folks in the United States, several bits were quite interesting. As noted in other studies, unsurprisingly, this class was 51% female, and largely affluent, white, and heterosexual. A quarter were not affiliated with any political party. A third were ‘not religious’ and another 21% ‘not very religious.’ The stat that led me to the study: 24% did not have an account on Facebook, while nearly all had accounts on other platforms (Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat, TikTok). Part 3 (with links to 1 and 2) is here.

Workers who keep global supply chains moving are warning of a “system collapse.” CNN
— “if governments do not restore freedom of movement to transport workers and give them priority to receive vaccines recognized by the World Health Organization.”
— another reported noted “cargo ships are being packed to the gills with containers, exacerbating delays at already strained ports”

Book Notes

I didn’t finish Mine! I ran out of interest toward the end of the book. Can’t recommend.
I did start The Data Detective (by Underground Economist guy), pretty much devoured it.
— Great insights into basic concepts around numeracy and statistics.
MoreNonsense (ambiguity) – Scarcity (poverty, tunneling) – The Talent Code (coaching)

Tech & Futures

Concern growing in Turkey over Erdogan’s push to restrict social media. NPR

Ironically, Istanbul is the Silicon Valley of the mobile gaming industry. Link
— In March 2021, 6 of the top 10 mobile games in the Apple App Store came from Turkey.

Rajasthan, India shuts off Internet to millions of residents for 12 hours. Post
— to prevent cheating in a hotly contested teacher recruitment exam

India launches health ID for every citizen. Indian Express
— not just a unique health ID, but a digital healthcare registry

The Nigerian fintech boom, by the numbers. Link
— 45% of adults have a bank account, $256bln transferred electronically in 2019

Top 10 robotics trends and predictions for 2022. Link
— smart factories, collaborative bots, rise of AI robots, more
An autonomous robot may have already killed people. Yahoo News
— “here’s how the weapons could be more destabilizing than nukes”
China plans to unveil drones, moon rocket at air show. AP
Scientists use a ‘sail drone’–a robotic surfboard–in the core of a Cat4 hurricane. Link

China’s Social Credit System “is actually quite boring.” Link
— “fragmented, localized, mostly targeted at businesses”

Youtube will ban content with vaccine misinformation. TechCrunch
— an expansion of its guidelines.

Google is redesigning Search using AI tech, new features. Link
— “Things to know” feature, upgrades to video recommendations


“Facta, facta, facta is the motto which ought to stand at the head of all statistical work.” -Florence Nightingale, statistician, mathematician, first female fellow of the Royal Statistical Society.

“A learned fool is more foolish than an ignorant one.” -Moliere

“So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables us to find or make a reason for anything we want to do.” -Ben Franklin

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