Roundup 277

Top Events

Omicron!

‘Appears’ to cause less severe illness. WPost
Pfizer, BioNTech vaccine neutralizes Omicron with three shots. Reuters
A study suggests Omicron is better at evading immunity from past infection. Science

Elsewhere

China’s cultural crackdowns: a guide. SupChina
Iran: house churches are not illegal, says supreme court justice. But will people listen? CT
Indian court says religious conversion does not change a person’s caste. Link

New Events

North Africa + West Asia = NAME (570m)

Iran: house churches are not illegal, says supreme court justice. CT $
— but unclear whether saying it will make any difference
As nuclear talks resume, Iran is rattled by protests over water. Economist $
Book review: a requiem for the disappearing Christians of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Gaza. CT $
Turkey: cost of living doubles in Istanbul over the past year. Ahval
Turkey’s economic turmoil sends desperation and inflation soaring. WSJ
— 2-decade boom unraveling in a currency crisis, people lining up for subsidized bread
Lebanon witnessing one of the biggest emigration waves in its history. Al-Monitor
— heading for Turkey, Armenia, Georgia.
— “I am dead here”: Lebanese join Mideast migrants to Europe. AP
On Syria’s ruins, a drug empire flourishes and a new narcostate is rising. NYT $
— powerful associates of Assad are making & selling amphetamines.

East Africa (520m)

Sudan: Darfur violence claims 48. Dabanga
Ethiopia says it has recaptured Dessie and Kombolcha. NYT $
— the fortunes of the war seem to have swung back toward the government
— this is the 14th month, with 2 million displaced and 0.4m in famine conditions
— PM Abiy to return to Addis Ababa. Al Jazeera

West + Middle Africa (600m)

Nigerian journalist arrested after reporting attacks against Christians. Link
— and, perhaps more importantly, for critically assessing the government’s response
“If you run, you will die”: Fear stalks Niger state as jihadists gain foothold. Guardian
— have moved into communities just a few hundred miles from Abuja, the capital
Gunmen torch bus, kill 30 passengers in Nigeria’s Sokoto state. Reuters $
Explosions, attacks in Mali on UN camp, in Niger on military base: 100+ killed. DW
Burkina Faso govt resigned as protests mount over inability to stop of jihadist attacks. Link
35.8 million face lean season food crisis in West Africa, Sahel, in March-Aug 2022. UN

South + Central Asia (2b)

Afghanistan’s looming catastrophe: Foreign Affairs
— ‘most rapid economic collapse in modern history.’
— the challenge is providing relief on the necessary scale for the Afghan people
— while at the same time denying the T govt legitimacy or funding until it meets demands
Afghans complain of beatings, harassment as Taliban inspects smartphones. RFE
‘No reason to stay’: Taliban repression, economic collapse accelerate. RFE
An Afghan village shrivels in worst drought in decades. AP

Indian court says religious conversion does not change a person’s caste. Link
Karnataka witnessing rise in attacks on Christians since anti-conversion law proposal. Link
India’s farmers call off their yearlong protest, once the laws were repealed. NYT $
New Delhi’s schools have remained closed for days due to the air quality crisis. H Times

Nepal pastor given 2 year jail sentence for praying against Covid in a Youtube video. CBN

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

China’s cultural crackdowns: a guide. SupChina
Even on US campuses, China cracks down on students who speak out. ProPublica
Henan province using facial surveillance to track journalists, ‘people of concern’. BBC
US House passes bill blocking imports of products produced by Xinjiang forced labor. CNN
China condemns US diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics. Reuters $
— But no suggestion that athletes should also stay away. Reuters $
China tells multinationals to cut ties w/Lithuania or be shut out of Chinese market. Reuters $
— row over Lithuania allowing the opening of a representative office by Taiwan
China says 85% of its citizens will use Mandarin by 2025. ABC
— launching aggressive campaign to promote Mandarin
— increased pressure on regional minority languages
Article demanding CCP members have three children goes viral. SCMP
— opinion piece since scrubbed from the internet, but provoked outrage
China discouraging its citizens from travel abroad. NYT $
— international flights to be kept at 2% of pre-Covid levels
— almost entirely stopped issuing new passports
— 14 day quarantine for all new arrivals
— returning to China also requires “mountains of paper” and multiple tests
— deep impact on $260 billion Chinese tourism industry

Southeast Asia (700m)

A “guilty” verdict for Aung San Suu Kyi will fuel Myanmar’s civil war. Economist $
Myanmar troops burn 11 alive in retaliation attacks. Indian Express
— horrific story, but what is worse is
— “fairly common exercise in building fear, this one happened to be caught on camera”

The West

3 kidnapped missionaries freed by Haiti gang. CT $
Experts divided: Moscow is posturing v Ukraine, or planning an imminent incursion? AJ
— Ukraine’s generals: we can’t hope to repel Russia w/o major help from the West. NYT $

$ 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.

… 12/10: 268.5m (+4.3m/wk) cases, 5.28m deaths
… 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
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYT

Omicron’s capacity for reinfection looks unprecedented, but milder symptoms. Economist
Fauci cautions more research is needed, but ‘appears’ to cause less severe illness. WPost
— less severe may be influenced by the fact that many infected/in hospital are young
Pfizer, BioNTech vaccine neutralizes Omicron with three shots. Reuters
— will deliver an upgraded vaccine targeted at Omicron in March 2022 if needed.
Omicron better at dodging vaccine, South African study finds. SCMP
Study suggests Omicron is better at evading immunity from past infection. Science

Other data

USA: New ECFA 2021 State of Giving Report. ECFA
— $2.14 billion given by 262 members to missions (incl. short-term): 5th largest segment
— international mission giving up 0.5% Y/Y, up 0.2% over 10 years
— note pg10: only churches w/8k+ members, $20 mln annual income saw giving increases

World Inequality Report 2022. Link

Longer Articles

As America retreats, regional rogues are on the rise. Economist

Industrially-produced urea is in short supply, bringing global food prices higher. NYT $

My boss is a Jewish construction worker [not a carpenter]. CT
— highlights for me the importance of good translations
— and also, don’t build entire theologies around a single word in a verse.

Women lead religious groups in many ways–not just the ordained. Link
— attention given to ordination because highly public, visible nature; but more complex
— book defines eight types of religious leadership roles for women

Book Notes

Now reading:
Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: the difference and why it matters.
More: The books I’ve read (corrected link) this year as part of my 100 Books project.

Tech & Futures

China’s 2021 data security law: grand data strategy with looming implementation challenges. Link

In militants’ hands, drones emerge as a deadly new wild card in the Middle East. WPost
— attack on Iraqi PM opposed by Iran, was work of private militias now armed with drones

39% of US business travelers say “they will never go on another work trip.” Forbes
— instead, companies will rely on video conferences and shorter close-to-home day trips
— what does this mindset imply for cross-cultural mission?
— one possibility is upsurge in desire to focus on internet evangelism etc.

Quotable

“It’s not that I’m so smart. I just stay with the question longer.” Albert Einstein

“Rebelling against God & wrestling with God are two very different things. It’s hard to wrestle with someone without being in close contact.” Beth Moore

“You can create a stronger movement with 12 disciples than with 1200 consumers.” Alan Hirsch

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