Roundup 273

Top Events

Ethiopian government has declared a state of emergency. The TPLF and OLA forces have linked up and seized towns on the road to the capital. The OLA says it is within 15 miles of the capital and has cut roads to Addis from the south. The US Embassy urges citizens to leave the country. PM Ahmed claimed Ethiopia would overwhelm the rebels with “the blood and bones of her children.” Crackdown sweeping Addis, as the government goes house-to-house rounding up ethnic Tigrayans. CNN

Several countries are notably relaxing their Covid quarantines: Thailand, Cambodia, and Japan are examples this week. China and Europe are both seeing significant case loads, however, and China is continuing in a zero Covid policy.

Also on the horizon is the new antiviral drug Molnupiravir: if taken within five days of symptoms, an initial trial shows patients were 50% less likely to be hospitalized or die. The UK has approved it, secured 480,000 doses, and sales are brisk. Other countries are also ordering it from Merck. Economist

New Events

North Africa + West Asia = NAME (570m)

Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star closes. Link
… similar closures are happening in numerous countries, making news acquisition harder.

‘Catastrophe’ faces Jordan’s water sector as climate heats up. Al Jazeera
… Jordanians get 16 gallons per day; Americans use 92 gallons per day.
… households have to buy extra tanks of water; many cannot afford them.

Sudan reportedly close to a power-sharing deal that would reverse the coup. Al Jazeera
Death toll rises, 100s wounded in Sudan anti-coup demonstrations. Dabanga Sudan
Inside the frantic days leading to Sudan’s coup. NYT $

Both his children were dying. Yemen’s crisis forced him to choose only one to save. WPost
Informative long read: The crushing inevitability of Yemen’s war. New Humanitarian
— Marib province was once an island of stability, but now war has come for it.

Long read: Things are heating up in Western Sahara. Economist $
— “a desert dispute is aggravating the old rivalry between Algeria and Morocco”
— “over the past year, Morocco logged 1,000+ incidents of Polisario firing on its units”
— conflict in Western Sahara ‘contributed to’ Algeria cutting diplomatic ties with Morocco
— if Polisario controlled Western Sahara, Algeria would gain sea access

East Africa (520m)

A year on, Ethiopia decimated by civil war. Al Jazeera
Act now to avert a bloodbath in Ethiopia. Economist $
State of emergency announced Tuesday as Tigrayan forces gain ground. CNNWPost $
PM Abiy pledged to “bury his government’s enemies ‘with our blood and bones'” Reuters
Calls for ceasefire in Ethiopia grow amid deepening conflict. Reuters
— “the government brushed off the calls for talks… ‘we are fighting an existential war'”
UN report says Ethiopia war marked by ‘extreme brutality.’ AP
— Reconciliation and peacemaking will be challenging.

Somalia: 100,000 displaced by fighting in Galmudug region. VOA

West + Middle Africa (600m)

Ongoing violence in the Sahel: attack in southwestern Niger kills 69. Al Jazeera
— brings total of those killed to over 600 in 2021
New Report: What future for the Western Sahel? Atlantic Council, PDF
— the region’s demography and implications by 2045

South + Central Asia (2b)

Afghanistan: Taliban bans foreign currencies. BBC
— the IMF has warned the country’s economy could shrink by 30% this year
“If you don’t have money, you have sisters”: Af. men use Tal. rule to settle scores. WSJ $
How Taliban victory will reshape regional dynamics in Central Asia. East Asia Forum
— brief piece that looks at some of the motives of the various players
Afghan refugees hope Tajikistan is just a pit stop to the West. Eurasianet

Tajikistan faces crippling electricity shortages, but officials in denial. RFE
— “we get a few hours of electricity in morning and evenings, but none in business hours.”

Dengue cases are soaring in Delhi, stressing the health care system. Times of India
And fears that Diwali gatherings could cause another Covid spike. NYT $
— “people think the virus is gone — it is not”

Bangladesh’s religious minorities are under attack. Economist $
— Attacks on Hindus in majority-Muslim Bangladesh -> Attacks on Muslims in India.

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

China doubles down on zero Covid as it battles most widespread outbreak. CNN
— in 19 of 31 provinces, more than half the country. 500 cases reported nationwide.
— “numbers may seem small vs. other countries, but massive for zero-Covid approach”
— “approach aims to stamp out virus entirely, even handful of cases = dire threat”

China urges families to stock up on food as supply challenges threaten disruption. CNN
— Supermarkets inundated. Sixth Tone

China’s generation of only children want the same for their kids. Foreign Policy
— China’s fertility rate stands at 1.3, one of the lowest in the world

Choayang masses: the rise of Beijing’s neighborhood patrols. Guardian
— “predominantly used to help maintain social stability: neighborhood surveillance, etc.”
— 850,000 volunteers across Beijing alone

US Chairman of JCS says “unlikely China will move on Taiwan in next two years.” Fox
Different perspective: What will drive China to war? Atlantic
— “get ready for the ‘terrible 2020s,’ when China has strong incentives to grab lost land
China appears to be rapidly building missile silos that could launch nuclear weapons. CNN
— “unprecedented scope and speed of construction” – 3 fields X 100 silos each.
— “would take a few years to complete these fields”

Japan has virtually closed its borders since the start of the pandemic, now reducing the length of quarantine for vaccinated business travelers to 3 days. NYT $

Southeast Asia (700m)

Thailand drops quarantine requirements. CNN
— if you’ve been 21 days in one of 63 approved ‘low-risk’ countries (incl US, UK, India)
— only have to spend one night in a govt-approved hotel while awaiting Covid-19 test
Cambodia reopens to ‘new way of life’ after beating vaccine target. Reuters
— reopening three tourist locations w/quarantine reduced to 5 days
Millions of dollars of aid have gone missing in Myanmar. Diplomat $
Military coup kills higher education dreams in Myanmar. Al Jazeera
— new student visa apps to Canada rose from 92 to 210, approved visas from 46 to 61
Military cracking down on religious groups that refuse to accept military rule. VOA
Army attacks continue in Myanmar’s “most Christian state” [Chin]. CT
— more than 160 buildings, including at least two churches, have been destroyed

The West

I’m not entirely sure of the implications (if any) for church and mission, but this study from Pew on the continued rise in the share of US adults living without a spouse or partner is fascinating. Pew
— 38% of Americans aged 25 to 54 are neither married nor living with a partner
— decline in marriage among working-age adults; rise in cohabiting hasn’t offset

Some fears of state collapse, return to violence in Bosnia. Link
— “armed conflict unlikely, but sporadic violence possible”

Interesting: nearly half of all US churches in 2018 participated in some kind of food distribution program. MinistryWatch

Haiti controlled by gangs

— Haiti’s gangs demand PM resign before they will allow fuel out of the ports. Al Jazeera
— Gangs rule much of Haiti: for many it means no fuel, no power, no food. NYT $
— and those missionaries being held for $17 million ransom haven’t been released yet.

And, just one more thing: Inside the Irish ‘hell caves’ where Halloween was born, and the application to turn them into a UNESCO heritage site. NatGeo

New Data

Covid global case data

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

… 11/05: 248.6m (+2.9m/wk) cases, 5.02m deaths
… 10/28: 245.7m (+3.1m/wk) cases, 4.98m deaths
… 10/22: 242.6m (+2.9m/wk) cases, 4.93m deaths
… 10/15: 239.7m (+3.2m/wk) cases, 4.88m deaths
… 10/8: 236.5m (+2.8m/wk) cases, 4.82m deaths
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYT *

Other data

MissioNexus has published the 2021 Missions Data Summary Report. Link
— ministry income from mission sending agencies in the USA makes up $2 billion
— and over 31,000 workers on the field more than 4 years.

Longer Articles

Military coups in Africa at highest level since end of colonialism. WSJ

Many more Africans are migrating inside African than to Europe. Economist $
— looking at slightly more open African countries to minister to diaspora may be fruitful

Book Notes

More: The books I’ve read this year as part of my 100 Books project.

Tech & Futures

Great long read: Firefighting robots go autonomous. Scientific American

Websites enabling Hindu worshippers to purchase rituals and pujas to be performed in their names, since they can’t attend. Religion News

The future of AI is a conversation with a computer. The Verge
— an interesting exploration of the methods AI uses to develop text (e.g. Smart Reply)
— “to these systems, truth is simply a statistical feature of their training data”
— “push them on any given topic or stray from obvious fields, & they will lie thoughtlessly”

Why Yahoo is discontinuing its platform in China. CSM
— following the lead of Microsoft, Google and others…

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