Roundup 275

Top Events

The war in Ethiopia could continue for months, or end in weeks. A colleague who does threat analysis recently commented to me: looking at the topography, Addis should be able to defend its immediate environs; on the other hand, it should have been able to defend some of the terrain it’s already lost. There’s little analysis or news emerging from Ethiopia to tell us how close rebels are to the capital, but there are lots of warnings and pushes to end the war. In the meantime, lots of articles are emerging about civilian detentions and war crimes: all of these will make reconciliation far more difficult later.

Xi’s China is closing to the world–“turning progressively suspicious, critical, and outright hostile to the West.” It’s a supremely obvious conclusion, given the events of the last months and years. But with Xi likely to remain “leader for life,” I expect that trend line will largely continue, making for interesting access issues. At the same time, thankfully, we see some indications that nations are willing to step back from nation-state level hostilities. CNN (closing), AP (stepping back)

Broadly, Southeast Asia is once again openingto foreign travelers, especially those with vaccinations.Diplomat, more below.

The minichurch is the latest trend in American religion. Half of thechurchesin the USA have less than 65 people, and 2/3rds have less than 100 (a change from 20 years ago). But mostworshippersare in a congregation of about 400 people. The net result is that Americans are “being sorted into two kinds of churches”–megas and minis. “In small churches, I believe ministry belongs in the hands of regular people.” RNS

New Events

North Africa + West Asia = NAME (570m)

Sudan Internet blackout persists despite court orders. Dabanga
Activists call for escalation of protests after deadliest day since coup. Reuters
Darfur gunmen ‘see coup as a license to resume attacks.’ Dabanga
— More than 2,000 families fled to Zamzam camp.

Doctors leaving Lebanon. WHO
— Fuel shortages cause hospitals to operate at 50% capacity
— 40% of doctors, 30% of registered nurses have left the country

East Africa (520m)

Mass detentions of civilians fan ‘climate of fear’ in Ethiopia. NYT $
The violence in Ethiopia imperils an impressive growth record. Economist $
— “Tigray was one of Ethiopia’s most important industrial centers… now idled/destroyed”
US warns pilots of weapons fire as war nears Ethiopia capital. AP
African & US envoys back in Ethiopia to push for an end to the war. AFP
— “at the end… he will come out with a proposal. That proposal is not yet obvious.”

Epic floods in Jonglei leave South Sudanese to face snakes, disease, starvation. NatGeo
— “The area around Bor–a Dinka word meaning ‘floods’–is no stranger to water. But multi-year inundations like this haven’t happened in more than six decades…””
— 27 of 78 counties are impacted by the floods, affecting over 630k
Islamic State claims deadly bombings in Ugandan capital. WSJ $
— local affiliate received funding, technical assistance, began launching high-profile attacks
“We will all die”: in Kenya, prolonged drought takes heavy toll. Al Jazeera
— absence of rainfall pushes pastoralists, livestock to brink of disaster
— 2.4 million people predicted to struggle to find food.
— “more frequent and longer droughts are becoming the order of the day”

West + Middle Africa (600m)

“Extremist violence ravaging Burkina Faso: hundreds missing, thousands killed”.AP
— “displacing more than 1 million”
Sierra Leone: a single tragic explosion shows the stresses in the health system.NYT$

South + Central Asia (2b)

A surgeon who helps burned Afghan women is in hiding, afraid for her life. NPR
— treated women whose husbands set them on fire or threw acid on them
— threatened by Taliban commanders acting on wishes of ex-husband of a patient
Modi relents to protests as India moves to repeal farm laws. NYT $
— nearly a year of sustained demonstrations, surprise concession
India: Delhi schools close as smog-laden India capital considers lockdown. AP
— “closed schools, some coal power plants to reduce air pollution in Delhi, neighbor states”
Pakistan: ‘Find a solution’ says Lahore residents choking in smog. Al Jazeera
— “declared the most polluted city in the world”–air quality ranking of 348
India wants to send 50,000 tons of wheat to ease Afghan hunger crisis. NYT $
— Pakistan has yet to approve transit.
— WFP says only 5% of Afghan population has enough to eat.
70% of informal workers are SC, ST, OBCS, majority in farm sector. Indian Express
— “offer for the first time an indicator of the social profile of informal sector workers”
Bangladesh: minorities under attack. Link
— “violence sparked by false allegations online = symptom of deeper community problems:
— 1) majority Islamic culture, 2) Hindutva ideology in India vs Muslim identity in Bangladesh, 3) cover for attempts to steal land”
Sikhs arrive in Pakistan for annual religious festivities. AP
— pilgrimages and religious festivals can be great places to meet the spiritually hungry

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

China, US to ease restrictions on each other’s journalists. AP
— “amid a slight relaxation of tensions between the two sides”
Xi’s China is closing to the world. And it isn’t just about borders. CNN
— “while taking increasing pride in traditional culture, national strength…”
— “Chinese turning progressively suspicious, critical, outright hostile to the West”
China’s global network of vocational colleges to train the world. Diplomat $
— “serious about upskilling and employing more locals on overseas projects”
— “trained on Chinese tech, Chinese standards, full court press to globalize Chinese tech”
Japan: faced with acute labor shortage, Tokyo moving to open up to foreigners. W. Post $
— “change would potentially open up opportunities to live in Japan long term that are currently available only to a small cadre of foreigners in sought-after professions.”
Japan will increase daily border cap to 5,000, but leave ban on tourists in place. Kyodo

Southeast Asia (700m)

Cambodia’s history, view through Sihanoukville. Diplomat $
— sparsely populated village to seaside resort to enclave for Chinese casinos and resorts
Why I pray for Myanmar with hope. CT
Across SE Asia, countries re-opening borders in time for holidays. Diplomat $
— but cautiously, opening to people with proof of vaccination
— Cambodia ends quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to revive tourism. Reuters
— Vietnam receives first foreign tourists in nearly two years. France24

The West

Why the minichurch is the latest trend in American religion. RNS
… half of the churches in the USA have <65 people; 2/3rds have <100
… most worshippers in a congregation of about 400 people
… Americans “being sorted into 2 kinds of churches”: mega and mini
… “In small churches, I believe ministry belongs in the hands of regular people”

Brazil: as Protestants gain numbers, a sizable world of Christian music has emerged. Link

In Catholic Italy, ‘de-baptism’ is gaining popularity. RNS
— in the diocese of Brescia, 75 asked to be de-baptized in 2021, up from 27 in 2020.
— “in 2020, a large study… concluded that 30% of the Italian population is atheist”

New Data

Covid global case data

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

… 11/19: 255.9m (+4.1m/wk) cases, 5.12m deaths
… 11/11: 251.8m (+3.2m/wk) cases, 5.07m deaths
… 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
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYT *

Austria placed millions of unvaccinated on lockdown to deal with surge. Link

Three unknowns will define this pandemic winter. Atlantic
1) how much immunity do we have? Venn between recovered, vaccinated
— 5% of America = 16.5 million people X even moderate infection rate = hospital overruns
2) New variants – more contagious? more immune escape?
3) How will people spread the virus? will they self-limit?

Other data

Mapped: the median age of the population on every continent. Visual Capitalist
— what might be even more useful is breaking this down into the UN regions inside.
— “by 2100, close to half of the world’s Under-5s will live in Africa”

Longer Articles

Africa’s rising cities: How it will become the center of the world’s urban future. W Post $
— By 2100, 13 of the world’s 20 biggest urban areas will be in Africa.
— Lagos set to become the world’s most populous city by 2100, with 80 million
— Article looks at Lagos, Khartoum, Kinshasa, Mombasa, Abidjan

Interesting thread: Covid all over the world, but the quitting pastor symptom is exclusively American. “There are more factors outside their control, but here’s one that most American pastors are themselves unwilling to talk about: business metaphors vs farmer/shepherd/fishermen metaphors, and ‘business success’ vs ‘seasons and cycles.'” Not sure he’s entirely accurate about American exclusivity, but the differences between the metaphors is an interesting thought that deserves consideration. @bobbixby

The Liverpool bombing case reignites controversy over refugee conversions. CT
— refugee converts to Christianity, to all indications very sincerely,
—  but then ignites a bomb in a taxi, labeled a terrorist
— the whole situation remains unclear, but will probably ignite lots of commentary

More countries are taking Americans hostage. The US is losing its ability to stop it. Op/ed
— does your agency have policies, plans, procedures for this possibility?

Book Notes

Book Review: The Great Commission’s Greatest Hits. CT
— reviewing “Turning Points in the Expansion of Christianity” by Alice T. Ott

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

Tech & Futures

An evolving energy crisis is taking hold across Eurasia as winter approaches. RFE
— leading to fuel shortages, rationing, rising costs, blackouts

How Pakistan chose to structure its digital ID system: databases defining family. Wired
— “Riz would be unable to access basic services unless a query on his mother’s marital status returned ‘TRUE.'”

Facebook can’t keep up with the volume of hate speech in Ethiopia. Rest of World
— “It was literally a clear and urgent call to genocide.”

Chinese farm developing facial recognition tech for goats. SCMP
— differentiate their features, recognize symptoms of disease early

US contract lawyers vs surveillance software that monitors them at work. W. Post $

Interaction with businesses via chat tools, conversation bots = $41 billion in sales. TNW
… est. worth $300 billion by 2025.

60+ companies shaping the future of autonomous trucking & next-gen freight. CB Insights
— automated driving will impact global trucking, logistics far faster than passenger cars.
Walmart achieves fully driverless deliveries, 1st for autonomous trucking worldwide. Link
— “fully driverless on its delivery route for Walmart in Bentonville, AR…”
— “removal of the safety driver on daily operations is a historic milestone.”
And, video of one of the largest mining trucks in the world–driving autonomously. Link

Why drones are becoming Iran’s weapons of choice. Economist $
— cheap, simple, easily reproduced


“There is a common misperception that soldiers transitioning from peacetime to combat undergo a metamorphosis–laggards become lions and the risks of combat bring out the best in even the worst in uniform. Periodically this does happen, and certainly the danger of battle focuses the attention of most soldiers. But my experience was that while combat seasons and matures everyone involved, an individual’s relationship with risk remains largely constant. Those who are comfortable with assessing and responding to risks in peacetime are the same under fire. For those whom the uncertainty of amorphous negative possibilities breeds caution, and even timidity, combat reflects an uncomfortable extension of those tendencies.” General Stanley McChrystal, “Risk: A User’s Manual”

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