Roundup 269

Top Events

Hindustan Times has another short-but-interesting times on passport power. This is based on the ability of someone with a certain passport to get visa-free access to another country. “Japan, Singapore have the most powerful passports; Pakistan ranks below North Korea” (in a not-too-subtle dig?). They note, however, that “the index doesn’t take into account the temporary travel restrictions imposed by the countries due to Covid-19.” These restrictions are significant and widespread. But beyond this report (and the index it is based on), Patrick Johnstone recently noted that a number of countries are taking advantage of Covid to introduce new restrictions on long-term entry of foreigners: tourist visas are opening up somewhat in some cases, but long-term platforms remain closed. This is the greater issue for missionaries, although less noted by the travel and tourism industry. I have anecdotal reports of certain countries not offering long-term access “right now”; if a reader knows of an index or database of long-term visa access, I’d be interested. Hindustan Times, Henley Passport Index

A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck Harnai, in Balochistan, Pakistan, leaving at least 20 dead (with the possibility that the death toll would rise). Hollywood fears “The Big One”–a destructive quake in a place like California. A 5.9 isn’t a “Big One” (the 2004 tsunami quake was about 9.1); in California, a 5.9 would simply “rattle cities.” But a 5.9 can be felt a hundred miles away, and in places that are too poor to have earthquake-proof buildings, they can be very destructive. Thursday’s quake leveled dozens of homes and left hundreds injured and homeless. A 7.7-magnitude quake in 1935 in Quetta killed 60,000. Earthquakes from 5.0 to 7.0 are frequent in Asia–16 such quakes happened in the last 30 days, including 4 in Asia–and should figure in to our long-term strategic planning. Balochistan quake, Seismic Hazard Map, Latest Earthquakes.

The first malaria vaccine has been approved by the World Health Organization. Malaria kills 500,000 people yearly (50% children). The vaccine has proven about 50% effective against severe malaria (which is the biggest killer): while not a ‘silver bullet,’ it could prevent millions of cases and 23,000 deaths in under-5s. (And, when malaria doesn’t kill people, it leaves their immune systems weak and vulnerable to other diseases). NYT

Some significant saber-rattling around Taiwan in the press. Comments by Taiwanese government officials. Military weapons being deployed. Significant incursions. A small deployment of US troops highlighted. A war between the two would undoubtedly be catastrophic and world-changing. Some years ago I would have thought despite the threats this would never happen. Now, I’m just watching. (See links in East Asia below.)

New Events

North Africa + West Asia = NAME (570m)

From the Arab Spring to a refugee crisis: exploring Syria’s decade of civil war. Link
UN issues new Syria war death toll: ‘at least 350,209’ (2%, an ‘undercount’). Reuters
Christian families in Syria torn apart by Turkey’s attacks. Times
— “The Christians of Syria’s Khabur Valley thought their suffering had ended…”
Covid positivity rate of 55% in Northwest Syria, “situation dire.” ReliefWeb
Dry year leaves Syria wheat farmers facing crop failure. France24

Everyone has committed war crimes in Libya. Guardian
A ‘very modest start’ to withdrawal of foreign fighters from Libya. Al Jazeera

In Iraq, 3,000 Yazidis are still missing. Their families know where some of them are. NYT
— 7 years later, many still in Syria: “the $9,000 demanded for each of his six relatives”

Splits between factions are deepening in Sudan. Al Jazeera

Tunisia’s foremost fisherwoman and the political uses of feminism. Link
— both an interesting and colorful story of a woman’s life, and
— an examination of some of the complexities, nuances, twists, turns of Tunisian politics

Yemen’s battle for the badlands: a crucial battle for the Marib province. Post

East Africa (520m)

Ethiopia conflict sees hunger and atrocities spread from Tigray to Amhara. Link
Kenya endures worst drought in a decade: 2.1m are severely food insecure. Link

West + Middle Africa (600m)

600,000 at risk of food insecurity in West Africa’s Niger. Daily Sabah

Boko Haram moves into north-central Nigeria in apparent expansion. Reuters
— “a concerning spread … when the military says counter-insurgency efforts are working.”
Podcast: “Vestiges of Violence”–[Christian minority] surviving insurgency. Link
Displaced by ‘bandits’: the different shades of Katsina’s humanitarian tragedy. Link
— Katsina, in NW Nigeria, is home to 109,000 refugees, w/little support infrastructure

South + Central Asia (2b)


Signs of a return to hard-line Islamic rule. WSJ
Taliban-style security welcomed by some, feared by others. AP
Afghan women’s losing battle to remain visible under the Taliban. Al Jazeera
Taliban “set their sights on stamping out the scourge of narcotics addiction.” AP
— but complicated by the intertwining of poppy trade and the economic crisis
Afghan Hazaras fear the worst after forced Taliban evictions. RFE/RL
Kabul faces blackout as Taliban don’t pay electricity suppliers. WSJ
From rural drought to urban shortages: Afghanistan’s new hungry. NewHum
“We won’t eat tonight”: Hunger plagues Afghans in [Bamiyan] valley. Al Jazeera


Bangladesh’s hidden climate costs: ‘we are not able to build our houses again.’Link
— “more than 200k homes destroyed/damaged in Cyclone Amphan”
— then severe monsoon flooding, peaking in July/August with 25% of country submerged
— lots of photos, personal stories


Government in talks with factions of Pakistani Taliban.Link
— would forgive members who lay down their weapons? but details murky.

Central Asia

Tensions between Tajikistan & Taliban continue to heat.Link
— Russia & Pakistan have urged both sides to cool down, over concerns about conflict
Russia wants 10,000 construction workers from Uzbekistan.Link


India’s Christians living in fear as claims of “forced conversions” swirl. Link 
— Christians in Chhattisgarh say BJP revived claims to tarnish reputation rival Congress
India: Joy and pain in Bihar’s Gaya district. Link
— ‘scandal’ as 100s of Mahadalits left Hinduism and converted to Christianity
What’s behind Mizoram’s Covid numbers: aggressive testing & long, strict curbs. Link
— what happens when some states are better than others at testing & reporting.
Government says 50% of Uttar Pradesh is now Covid-free. Link
Government uses tax law to shut down 19,000 NGOs. Economist
India’s power plants running dangerously short of coal. CNN
— power demand surging as businesses recover from brutal Covid-19 wave

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

Lots of concern, threats, counter-threats over China v Taiwan:
Defense Minister: “China tensions worst in four decades.”Reuters
— “China wil be capable of mounting a ‘full scale’ invasion by 2025”
Record numbers of China plans enter Taiwan air defence zone.BBC
— almost 150 aircraft over four days, “a warning ahead of the island’s national day”
Taiwan president warns of catastrophic consequences if it falls to Beijing.Guardian
— “would disrupt trade and destablise the entire western Pacific”
Defense ministry confirms development of missile that could strike China.Link
— “medium range surface-to-surface missile said to have range of 1,500 km”
Chinese air bases near Taiwan expanding, according to satellite images.SCMP
US troops have been in Taiwan, secretly training local forces, for a year.WSJ
— “Beijing likely to try to use force within next six years; others: could be sooner”
— and, China reacted angrily to the report, threatening military action.USNews

UN expert calls for N Korea sanctions to be eased as risk of starvation looms.Reuters
WHO starts shipping Covid-19 medical supplies to North Korea.AP

Southeast Asia (700m)

Ready or not, Cambodia plots its ‘new normal.’ Diplomat
— lockdowns and red zones ended, travel restrictions lifted for annual Pchum Ben
— demands for “a return to normal” and opening of airports to foreign arrivals
— 66% fully inoculated, 80% at least one jab, but death rate remains high

Indonesia president backs amnesty for professor jailed for WhatsApp message. Reuters
— human rights group says new internet law risks curtailing free speech.

Malaysia’s vaccine roll out success lifts gloom. SCMP
— Covid-19 cases have fallen sharply since July, inoculations climbing
— “fueling hopes that the economy & borders can reopen by December”

Covid threat looms over Thailand’s plans to open up to tourists. BBC

Vietnam to fully reopen by June 2022. CNN
— “reopen key tourist destinations in December… full resumption targeted for June…”
Thousands of Vietnamese flee industrial areas after virus restrictions ease. Reuters

The West

US military base needs to make 13,000 Afghan evacuees feel at home. WSJ

New Data

Covid global case data

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

… 10/8: 236.5m (___/wk) cases, 4.82m deaths
… 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)
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYT *

Interesting visualization of vaccination rates at the district level across India. Link

India: set to reopen to tourist visas starting October 15
Canada: vaccine proof required to enter.
Australia: no international tourists until 2022.
New Zealand: ‘living with the virus,’ aiming for high vaccination rates.
Vietnam: reopen key tourist destinations in December, fully reopen June 2022.

Longer Articles

IllumiNations partnership aims to translate Bible for 95% of world population by 2033. CP

Also, I have a chapter in an upcoming book that is available now for pre-order, Motus Dei: The Movement of God to Disciple the Nations. It releases on October 19. There’s a virtual book launch on 10/20; you can register for that here.

Book Notes

Currently reading Wanting: the power of mimetic desire in every day life
— basic premise is that we pay attention to ‘models’, we like things other people like
3 great related, recent reads on stats and general behavior:
Art of Statistics: how to learn from data (I expected charts, but this is about practices)
Predictably Irrational: The hidden forces that shape our decisions, Dan Ariely
The Data Detective: 10 basic rules to become more ‘numerate’. Underground Economist.
MoreNonsense (ambiguity) – Scarcity (poverty, tunneling) – The Talent Code (coaching)

Tech & Futures

We all know about the Facebook/Whatsapp/Instagram outage. But before we humorously condone the FB outage as making the world a better place, it does show us how integrated this tech has become with some faith communities around the world (and demonstrates what happens when people are cut off from Facebook, WhatsApp, etc):
— during the outage many faith communities located on FB couldn’t talk. Link
— losing Facebook is bad, but losing WhatsApp is worse. TheVerge
— Much of the world relies on WhatsApp; its outage ground their virtual lives to a halt. Post
— Millions rely on Facebook to get online; the outage left them stranded. Link

Twitter testing new prompts
— warn you “conversations like this can be intense” before you jump into a thread. Link
— also, prompts to review tweets before you publish if they contain certain words. Link

Climate change is melting Russia’s permafrost and challenging its oil economy. WSJ
— Oil industry gear, anchored in the permafrost, corrodes, twists, bends with the change
— costing tens of millions of dollars in equipment refurbishing, as well as breaks and leaks

Syniverse, router of billions of text messages, quietly says it’s been hacked since 2016. Vice
— “unknown individual or organization compromised approximately 235 of its customers”
— the insecure nature of cleartext messaging is one reason is use iMessage & Signal

‘Dystopian world’: Singapore patrol robots stoke fears of surveillance state. Guardian
— trial to police ‘undesirable’ behavior such as smoking, breaching social distancing rules.
Iran dissidents warn of regime’s use of drones to destabilize region. FoxNews
— using materials imported from China
Amazon’s Astro robot is stupid. You’ll still fall in love with it. Technology Review
— it’s essentially a giant camera on wheels that watches everything you do.
— but we still fall in love with “robopets.”
Robots take over Italy’s vineyards as they struggle with Covid-19 worker shortages. WSJ


“Wisdom tends to grow in proportion to one’s awareness of one’s ignorance.” ~Anthony de Mello

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