Roundup 276

Top Events


Newly reported cases in South Africa doubled on Wednesday. WSJ $
Spreading around the world: already in many places before S Africa report. Economist $
— not enough genomic sequencing means many cases likely have gone undetected
Explainers on why new variants (might) spread more easily. Economist
— another short one with lots of infographics. Conversation
— another long and good explainer, plus lots of charts on global spread. NYT
Have to remember little known now. Likely to know more in 4 weeks. Reuters
— some early studies that Omicron is better at reinfecting even the recovered. MedRX
24+ countries have reported cases of the variant so far: most seem mild. Reuters
— was in the Netherlands a week before South Africa discovered it. Link
— 10 cases in 5 states in the USA. Reuters
— mild because vaccinations? mild because some mutation? unknown.
— countries are reporting community transmission, not incoming from southern Africa
Is already disrupting travel worldwide as countries ‘move fast’ to get ahead of curve:
— US moving to require all air travelers entering show a negative test. Reuters
— and extend mask mandate on domestic travel through March ’22. Forbes
— most ctrys ban travel just from southern Africa: Sudan
— a few ctrys ban all int’l arrivals: Israel, Morocco. Japan didn’t after all.
— new travel bans will “wallop” southern Africa’s tourism season. Economist $
— India defers resumption of international flights on 12/15. Hindustan Times
Protests on the return of unpopular restrictions in Europe and elsewhere. AP
— several countries specifically restricting unvaccinated: KenyaGermanyLebanon
The FDA narrowly backed Merck’s Molnuvirapir pill. Tech Review
— updated trial results show 30% effective in preventing hospitalization/death

New Events

North Africa + West Asia = NAME (570m)

The grip on hunger in Chad. Link
— some of the major causes analyzed. Over 85% of 15 million people hungry.

Divided Cyprus: island at frontline of migrant flow. Link

Demonstrators set up roadblocks to protest the plunging Lebanese pound. Al Jazeera
Leaving Lebanon: crisis has most people looking for an exit. Gallup
— 63% say they would leave if they could. Canada, Germany are most desired destinations.

Sudan coup:
— Neither the military nor pro-democracy forces are backing down. CFR
— 12 ministers resign as Hamdok agreement legitimizes coup regime. Al Jazeera
— 10s of 1000s march in protest, rejecting any partnership w/coup leaders. AllAfrica
— PM Hamdok orders release of detainees, non-interference with protests. Dabanga
— Fresh Darfur violence leaves over 40 dead, thousands displaced. NYT $
— Refugees of Darfur ‘desperate, destitute.’ Dabanga
— Ethiopia, Sudan clash, 20+ soldiers dead. Dabanga
Sudan general warns country could become source of refugee influx to Europe. Politico

Syria: the collapsing Turkish lira is making daily life harder than ever. DW
At least 100 newspapers may be closed in Turkey this year alone. Bianet
— due to financial difficulties
The lakes in Turkey are drying up: low rainfall, unsustainable irrigation. AP

East Africa (520m)

Ethiopia war:

PM Ahmed “headed to war’s front lines” to direct military efforts. Reuters
Govt claims recapturing numerous cities in the past week. Conflict Zone
Govt seeks to restrict media reporting on year long war. AP
PM: “Tigrayan youth are falling like leaves.” Africa Report
— “They should know they have been defeated and surrender starting today”
In all this, I have yet to see any confirmation. Statements from the TPLF run counter to government claims, and the government is blocking independent reporting.

Somalia’s drought is worsening: 2.3 million affected. ReliefWeb
Tanzania’s Dar-es-Salaam hit by water shortages as rivers dry up. Al Jazeera

West + Middle Africa (600m)

60% of Central African Republic is in need of humanitarian assistance, protection. Link

Nigeria: “My time with the bandit warlords.” New Lines
— “rare look inside the lives, minds of those responsible for killing, displacing 1000s”
Christians in Zamfara threatened, told to stop worship. ICC
— unnamed group warns churches to “close or risk ferocious attacks.”
“9 things to know about T. B. Joshua.” TGC
— a look back at the famous Nigerian megachurch pastor
— “some described his church as ‘Nigeria’s biggest tourist attraction.'”: 15,000 weekly

South + Central Asia (2b)

No place for Afghan refugees in Central Asia. Diplomat
— European countries are unwilling to take refugees but offer $ to Central Asia to do so
— but there are no takers.
Afghanistan’s opium production continues to rise, UN report says. RFE
Afghanistan says women are not property, must consent to marriage. Reuters
— but decree says nothing about education or work outside of home

India’s fertility rate falls to below replacement level, population stabilizing. Indian Express
— National Family Health Survey released shows fertility rate of 1.6 urban, 2.1 rural.
— Highest fertility rates: Bihar, Meghalaya, UP, Jharkhand, Manipur
— Lowest fertility rates: Punjab, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra
Population will start to shrink sooner than expected. Economist
Kerala has been witnessing a steady fall in birth numbers, 2020 & 2021 most of all. Link
— from 546k in 2010, to 480k in 2019, to 217k this year.
Reports that radical Hindu nationalists have stepped up attacks against Christians. UCAN
India is witnessing a spike in attacks on Christians, churches. Al Jazeera
— over 300 attacks on Christians, religious places in first 9 months of 2021
— lots of quotes of threats, violence

Pastor in Nepal sentenced to 2 years for violating anti-conversion law. ICC

Pakistan’s surging religious extremism. The Diplomat
— “growing extremism poses a serious challenge to Pakistan’s stability”

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

China’s birth rated drops to levels not seen since 1978. SupChina
— “People stubbornly seem to want fewer marriages and fewer babies…”
— 2020’s rate is 8.52 births per 1,000 people.
— Only 8.1 million marriage registrations in 2020.
‘Dire reality’ of crisis: Covid accelerating unwillingness to have children. SCMP
From 2020-2025, China’s working age population will lose 8.9 million. @StefanLegge
— and each 5 year period afterward forecasted to show loss of 20-60 million

Southeast Asia (700m)

Cambodia is trying to race into a post-pandemic future. The Diplomat
— but there are a lot of challenges, and post-pandemic not likely to be like pre-pandemic
Laos set to open $5.9 bln China-built railway linking Kunming and Vientiane. AP
— opens this week to cargo, but not passengers (due to Covid curbs)
— hopes the railway will energize isolated economy by linking it to China, Europe
Thailand: undocumented migrants filling labor shortages as economy rebounds. Al Jazeera
— “trying to reboot after a draining battle to control Covid-19”
— “to do so, urgently needs 100s of 1000s of cheap manual laborers from neighbors”
Vietnamese factories are also short of workers. Link
Reports coming out of Myanmar continue to show the junta’s effort to keep control:
— jailing US journalists as well as Myanmar lawmakers.
— trapping and killing anti-military protesters.
— but some signs of the army suffering a morale crisis.

The West

Half of US pastors say 2021 giving is on track. CT
— But those who delayed resuming in-person worship have seen severe declines in $
Pew: few Americans blame God or say faith shaken amid pandemic. Link

Poland-Belarus border crisis is a harbinger of the future. Foreign Policy
— the “weaponization” of refugees and migration politics.

Russia has massed 94,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, gearing up for offensive? Reuters
— Ukraine’s defense minister told its parliament conflict possible at end of January

$ indicates a potential paywall. Most of these news sources permit a set amount of free articles (usually about 6) per month, and after that, subscription.

New Data

Covid global case data

We estimated 300m cases by Jan. 28.

… 12/3: 264.2m (+4.15m/wk) cases, 5.23m deaths
… 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
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYT *

Other data

US State Department’s Religious Persecution List is out. Link
— Controversially, Nigeria removed from the list, while Russia has been added.
Infographic: over 1.2 billion people without access to electricity. Visual Capitalist

Longer Articles

Possibly two of the most amazing videos I’ve seen in a long time, raising awareness for what’s happening to Syria’s children: The Most Shocking Second a Day and Still the Most Shocking Second a Day. Consider the medium/format, but don’t lose sight of the message.

“A look at how Zoom-era deurbanization could make office inequalities worse.” Link
— an interview around a new book highlights the idea that new, usually younger, workers, often don’t “know the ropes”–and when they are not in-person, they often miss out on a lot of learning opportunities. They need mentoring. Some of this has application in DMM, too.

Contending with the pandemic, wealthy nations wage a global battle for migrants. NYT $
— “facing aging labor forces, worker shortages, racing to recruit, train, integrate foreigners”
— “by keeping so many people in place, pandemic has made humanity’s demographic imbalance more obvious–rapidly aging rich nations produce too few new workers, while countries with a surplus of young people often lack work at all.”

Book Notes

I recently finished:
The Affluent Society: an old book by John Kenneth Galbraith that was quite interesting.
— we make too much stuff, and the marginal utility of additional stuff is next to zero.
— but the job of making the stuff would be sorely missed, and fought hard to be kept.
— we have not come up with any solutions for this tension.
— also, an excellent chapter on conventional wisdom, paradigm shifts, and the like.
Remember: the science of memory & art of forgetting. Mostly, by paying attention to it.
— attention is required to encode. What you don’t pay attention to isn’t remembered.
What’s So Amazing About Grace: by Phillip Yancey. 
— hadn’t read this before. Great book with lots of stories about the power of grace.

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

Tech & Futures

Save your pennies: Apple’s glasses reportedly come at the end of 2022. Link
— powered by an M1 processor. If I can do “Find my glasses” = priceless.

Twitter bans posting pictures of “private individuals” against their wishes. Link
— mainly to prevent harassment. Individuals can request takedowns.
— exceptions for photos “in public interest” etc should cover journalism etc.

New ITU report: more than a third of the world’s population have never gone online. PDF
— 96% of ‘never-been-on’ live in the 46 developing countries.
— Total %s using the Internet: Africa, 29.5%; Arab States, 62.3%; Asia, 56.2%

Blackouts, social media bans, digital surveillance continuing rising in Africa. Rest of World

China, NASA deploying high-speed laser communication links in space. SCMP

Walmart close to delivering cough drops 50 miles away by drone. Fortune

China’s social media explosion. Foreign Policy
— all major US/Western social media platforms have left China
— but China is still the world’s largest social media market, with 927 million people
— a look at WeChat, Weibo, Douyin, and the encroaching censorship issues.

The struggle over Congo’s cobalt. NYT $
— used in electric cars, it nearly all comes from DR Congo.

“With enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” is the principle that runs a lot of scalable communities. Unfortunately, in some languages, there aren’t enough eyeballs:
— Facebook is bad at moderating in English; in Arabic, it’s a disaster. Rest of World
— Conspiracy theories found on foreign-language Wikipedia. BBC


“Things that never happened before happen all the time.” —Scott Sagan

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” —Anne Lamott

“A foreign accent is a sign of bravery.” —Amy Chua

“It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.” —Alfred North Whitehead

“The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck.” —Paul Virilio

“This present moment used to be the unimaginable future.” —Stewart Brand


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