Roundup #192

New Events

Coronavirus

Cases in China decline, allegedly – China Daily 
… data from outside of China gives me evidence to not discount this report

Johns Hopkins dashboard confirms slowdown in increase – Link 
… 2k deaths, but 16.8k recovered. The increase in cases is notably slowing.

To tame the coronavirus, Mao-style social control blankets China – NYT 
… “flooded cities and villages with battalions of neighborhood busybodies, uniformed volunteers and Communist Party representatives to carry out one of the biggest social control campaigns in history. The goal: to keep hundreds of millions of people away from everyone but their closest kin.” 
… 10% of the world’s population have their movements restricted because of the virus 
… 150 million people can’t leave their homes because of the virus

4th largest city in South Korea “deserted” after coronavirus church “super-spreader” – Reuters 
… 90 people who “worshipped at a church” showed symptoms of infection 
… More nuance: South Korean “cult” at center of local COVID outbreak – Time 
… Shincheonji sect, founded 1984 as the “one true version of Christianity”

As most everyone knows, the elderly are most at risk from the coronavirus – Statista

“We are not seeing effective community transmission outside of China” ~WHO – Reuters

Coronavirus won’t bring down the Chinese government – Atlantic 
… “For a cottage industry of Western experts, the fall of the Chinese Communist Party is always just one crisis away.”

North Africa / Warring States

Inside Hifter’s Libya: a Police State with an Islamist Twist – NYT 
… a chilling look at what life in Libya would be like if Hifter wins. No democracy, this.

EU will try to mountain a naval/air mission to stop flow of weapons into Libya – NYT 
… Libya’s factions dig in for a long conflict – Reuters 
… they don’t seem to think much of the effort to stop the war …

Niger: 3 million people (>50% children) are in need of humanitarian aid – UN 
… due to rising Sahel conflict.

Egypt / Sudan

Hunger threatens half of the population in South Sudan – ReliefWeb
… due to the impacts of devastating floods and low levels of food production … 
… mainly Jonglei, Upper Nile, Warrap, N Bar el-Ghazal …

South Sudan hit by locust plague migrating from Uganda – Al Jazeera 
… East Africa has been hit hard by this, and could ill afford it …

Western Africa / Lake Chad

Cameroon village attack kills 22 – New Humanitarian 
… mark of rising violence in English-speaking regions … 

Attack on Burkina Faso church kills 24 – Reuters 
… part of a pattern of attacks and assassinations of pastors …

Gold panning in Mali may benefit extremists – AP

Saudi / Israel / Lebanon / Syria / Gulf

Rapid deterioration in NW Syria, 900k displaced since December – UN 
… Clashes shift from Idlib to Aleppo – AL-Monitor 
… This is what 800,000 fleeing Syrians looks like: great presentation – NYT 
… Idlib’s long-simmering catastrophe: the battle is still not over – New Humanitarian 
… Aid efforts “overwhelmed” by humanitarian catastrophe – New Humanitarian

West Asia / Turkey

Despite a murder and visa denials, Christians persevere in Turkey ($) – CT

Iran/Iraq

A reporter’s diary of a trip to Iraq, on Iraqi displacement – New Humanitarian 
… and a visit to a desert camp home to 50,000 …

Iran’s elections set to be dominated by hardliners – CNN 
… many conservatives, few reformists/moderates (who have been banned) … 
… evidence of moving away from modernizing agenda, rallying around conservatives …

Afghanistan / Pakistan / Pashto

5 months later, Ghani declared victor in Afghani elections – Stratfor 
… (saw a piece where the other guy declared victory, too, so not completely settled yet.)

In “mini-Kabul” (Peshawar), refugees mark 40 years in Pakistan – Gulf Times 
… short little ethnography piece …

India

Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalism gives rise to vigilante attacks on Christians – <a href=”https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/02/16/narendra-modis-hindu-nationalism-gives-rise-vigilante-attacks/

“>Telegraph</a> 
… yet more data points in ongoing trend …

How Hindu supremacists are tearing India apart – Guardian 
… incisive long read on the history of the RSS, BJP and the rise of Hindu radicalism …

“There is no fish in the ocean” – Quartz 
… the future has arrived for this Indian fishing village [in southern Karnataka]

Bengali / Bangladesh

Conservative Islamic views gaining ground, curtailing freedom of expression – The Conversation

China

Lonely hearts: >50% of China’s singles live in its four major first-tier cities – Asia Times

A distorted sex ratio is playing havoc with marriage in China – Economist 
… rising bride prices, importing brides, localized unmarried male populations …

New Hong Kong chief a hardliner known for crusade against Christian churches – Guardian 
… notorious for the demolition of thousands of Christian crosses on churches …

Coronavirus is devastating Chinese tourism – Atlantic 
… countries close borders, airlines slash flights, hotels see drop-offs …

Koreas

South Korean population may have “already peaked” – Diplomat 
… some concern that it may have entered a downward “fertility trap” …

Southeast Asia

Brunei: Spoiled Subjects of the Sultan – Diplomat 
… Life in one of the world’s last absolute monarchies

Thailand strongly impacted bv Coronavirus-caused drop in China visitors – Diplomat

Myanmar: Spike in civilian casualties in NW after Internet shutdown – UN

The growing emergency on Myanmar’s newest battleground – New Humanitarian

New Data

The world as 100 Christians: new graph from WCE – CSGC

The 100 most spoken languages in the world – Link

Longer reads

Developing a “probabilistic” approach to managing uncertainty – HBR 
… stop trying to be “right” and instead try to be “less wrong” over time

Five years ago, ISIS executed 21 Christians on a beach in Libya – CT 
… Christianity Today podcast on how the Coptic Church responded to the episode …

See also my weekly “Things I Learned” newsletter.

Futuristics/Technology

McDs, Starbucks developing trackable, recoverable, reusable plastic coffee cups – Bloomberg

New system for power generation from humidity in air – Nature

USA 2019 Internet Crime report = $3.5 billion in losses – FBI

Signal is building out features that will help it go mainstream – Wired

AI can automatically rewrite text in outdated Wikipedia articles – Engadget

How Saudi Arabia infiltrated Twitter – Buzzfeed 
… although the leak was found, it does give one pause …

Roundup #190

New Events

I have been traveling, so this issue is condensed to the major new events. Also, I’m transitioning the Roundup to using Amazon’s Simple Email Service (just like Brigada did!). If you have a technical problem with the Roundup, please hit REPLY and tell me.

#Coronavirus

Coronavirus has, at the time I write, infected at least 28,000 people (maybe many more—there is some doubt about China’s transparency), and killed ~560 (~1,385+ have recovered). 

Nearly all of that is in China, and nearly all (97% of deaths, 67% of patients) were in Hubei. 

Particularly grim: “China sacrifices a province to save the country” – Link

Aerial drone footage of Wuhan shows a ‘quiet, desolate’ picture – NYT 
… practically no one is moving.

Something I find morbid but generally good in a long-term sense: Over 80% of the deaths were elderly aged 60+; 75% had an additional underlying disease. The virus isn’t killing the younger/healthier. 560 deaths/28000 infected makes for a global mortality rate of 2%. The mortality rate is higher in Hubei (about 3%). The mortality rate may be lower if the actual number of infected is higher. This particular virus has surpassed SARS for infections, and SARS killed ~400. 

Most everyone knows this is “floor” not “ceiling.” The number of people killed is undoubtedly higher than the confirmed deaths, but I doubt it’s much higher given the amount of global observation going on. (I give little credence to any conspiracy theory, as those who know me can attest.) I would not be shocked if this virus surpassed 1,000 dead (may already have done so), but I think global pandemic systems are good enough to stop it before it gets significantly higher. If total deaths were to significantly exceed 1k (especially if they broached 10k) it would be very bad, because that would indicate the systems could not stop it, and then upper limits are very much in doubt. 

Some examples of fallout: 
… 24 places not to resume work before 2/10, = 80% of China’s GDP, 90% of exports – CNBC 
… Australian universities to lose $2 billion in fees Chinese students deferring studies – Link 
… China oil demand has plunged 20% because of the virus lockdown, OPEC considering cuts – Bloomberg 
… Global tourism down – previous forecasts of tourism booms had counted on Chinese tourists – AP 
… Thailand, for example, expects to lose $9.7bln in tourist income 
… all of Macau’s casinos were closed – Quartz

That said, infections will almost certainly climb from here. People will react, and already are. I think we’ll see some pretty significant economic fallout – nations are closing borders, airlines are suspending flights (here’s a list) – but SARS only took about 20 months to contain, and Zika took just 6 months. 

This link has a real-time monitor: link.

Interesting analysis: six ways coronavirus will change our world – Link

“What changed between SARS and Coronavirus?” – Link

Churches across China are ‘adapting’ as church services are stopped but churches offer online worship and information. Link

Read additional curated links about the Coronavirus in China in the latest edition of ZGBriefs.

#Africa

Algeria’s long-lasting political crisis just keeps going, and going, and
… Link

Tunisia: North Africa’s overlooked migration hub. Link

So much for the cease fire and the arms embargo in Libya. The fight continues. Link

Turkey transfers thousands of extremists from Syria to Libya, allegedly. AP

Tens of thousands displaced (thousands into Chad) by new clashes in West Darfur State, Sudan. Link

“The Devil in Djibouti”: Migrants rough road to Arabia: about 10,000 Africans move through Djibouti every month, heading for the Arabian Peninsula. About 160,000, almost all Ethiopians, yearly, who put themselves into the hands of human smugglers to get into Saudi Arabia to find a low-paying job in the unregistered economy. Yeesh, this article is full of horrors. Asia Times

Children affected by violence in the Sahel. Link

Somalia declares emergency over locust storms – Link

Malawi in turmoil as judgment day looms – Link


… “worst political crisis since the return to democracy in 1994” …

#Asia

Financial meltdowns in Lebanon, Syria. Link

Yemen: ‘escalation in fighting must stop.’ Link

US sanctions on Iran are sending ‘tens of thousands’ into Turkey. Link

The impact of the Islamic State still lingers on the ground in Afghanistan – Diplomat

Where is the Afghan peace deal now? Top diplomats make comments that suggests a ceasefire is not close. Diplomat

Village of Widows: the Afghan drug trade’s lethal legacy (a short video) – RFE/RL

Trapped in Iran: a longread, an interesting story of a journalist’s detainment in Tehran. 1843

ICYMI, the 6.8 mag 2020 Elazig earthquake in Turkey killed 41, injured 1600+, resulted in significant damage – Summary

#Europe

Vladimir Putin, “Supreme Leader of Russia”? – The Times

New Data

Global Risks Report 2020 – Link

Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions report. Link

China surpasses Russia as world’s no. 2 arms dealer. Link

Generational replacement is what shifts public opinion. Link

Casualties of landmines per year, seeing a bit of a decline. Link

The global cancer burden is increasing – Link


… 1st or 2nd cause of premature death in 90 countries worldwide

Mapped: the world’s top 10 cities in 2035 – Link

GSS data from 1991-2018 shows some fascinating trends – Link


… % of USA “don’t believe, never have” from 2% -> 5.8% (4X)


… % who “used to believe, don’t now” from 3.9 -> 9.7% (~3X)


… % who “didn’t used to, but believe now” from 5.2 -> 11% (2X)


… “believe now, always have” from 88.9% to 73.6%


… “believe now” = 73.6 + 11 = 84%


… quality of belief is not in question in this chart. The main point of this is not “how good a Christian” they are; it’s that self-professed belief in God has not seen a significant decline, and in fact some who did not use to believe have changed their minds. It’s not a one-way road “out” of the church.

Amnesty International: Human Rights in Asia-Pacific, review of 2019 – PDF

Longer reads

Why hypotheses beat goals – (1) we don’t want failure, we want learning. (2) hypothesis generation leads to testing and learning. Link

If Clayton Christensen and the idea of disruption has impacted you, check out this curated list of “The Essential Clayton Christensen articles” – Link

On why predictions about the Internet are usually wrong: it’s easy to forget how unforeseeable the “unforeseeable” really is – Link

“Church leader: The gig economy matters, and this is why” – Link


… I’m not sure what I think about this. What about you?

Futuristics/Technology

A UK Muslim hackathon, where techies build community and tools to access Islamic learning – Link

How China half-builds a 1,000-bed coronavirus hospital in 4 days. Link

The race to build lifelike digital avatars powered by AI is heating up. Link

Ben Evan’s new 2020 tech trends presentation ’standing on the shoulder of giants.’ Link

Kenya’s new biometric IDs may exclude millions of minorities. Link

iHeartMedia: DJs vs AI-empowered executives. Link

The future of online data: AI-swiping and concierge bots. Link


… intriguing piece. And, no, I’m not the developer mentioned. 


… the role of AI-assisted “swiping and conversing” on dating apps


… important considering 39% of heterosexual couples meet online. Link

Tool unveiled to help spot doctored images – Link

I used to hear stories about how people used to sit on their porches at night, and low crime resulted. I have realized: porch-sitting is being/has been automated. Another piece about Ring surveillance – Link

Roundup #188

New Events

North-West Africa

Algeria: one general takes over from another – Economist

North Africa / Warring States

Turkey, flexing muscles, to send troops to Libya – NYT 
… pro-government, anti-Hifter (UAE/Saudi/Egypt/Russia).

Russia, Turkey in delicate dance in Eastern Med – Asia Times

Then they, together, present a call for a cease fire – NYT 
… ‘competition over who defines the international framework for peace’

Libya civil war creates opening for ISIS return as counterterrorism effort falters – WPost

Analysis on Turkish motivations – Stratfor 
… force a truce to protect oil, gas interests, burnish Erdogan’s reputation

Egypt / Sudan

Sudan celebrates Christmas publicly for the first time in 10 years – Middle East Eye 
… Sudan let Christians “March for Jesus” again – Christianity Today

40,000 displaced by intercommunal clashes in West Darfur – UN 
… violence in/around El Geneina

Western Africa / Lake Chad

Dozens of fishermen killed near Cameroon border – BBC

Senegal: Left behind by husbands, women break the rules, go to work – NYT

“Unprecedented terrorist violence” in West Africa, Sahel region – UN

Nigeria

Chad pulls troops out of Nigeria Boko Haram fight – VOA

Deadly bomb attack in crowded market near Cameroon border – DW

Ethiopia / Horn / East Africa

Rush hour bomb kills dozens in Somali capital – BBC 
… Al Shabaab remains resilient despite setbacks – NYT

Central Asia / Caucasus

The Islamist and the evangelical: one Georgian family’s story – Eurasianet 
… former ISIS commander’s cousin is an evangelical Christian missionary 
… (From April 2019, I missed this one earlier.)

Saudi / Israel / Lebanon / Syria / Gulf

Syria: Civilians face ‘daily nightmare’ in Idlib – UN

West Asia / Turkey

Turkey: ~100,000 unregistered Syrians removed from Istanbul – DW

Iran/Iraq

Iraq afraid of getting caught in the middle between US, Iran – Link

#Assassination

This was certainly the big event of the last week, and perhaps one of the big events of the decade. I’ve collected below the articles that contain the best analysis; I’ve tried to avoid articles that are more fleeting ‘what we know now’ pieces.

How the US-Iran confrontation escalated, mapped – NYT 
… great use of timeline+maps to highlight chronology

“Most consequential strike this century” – DefenseOne 
… ‘the most powerful general in the Middle East’ 
… Obit on Soleimani describes his life and impact – NYT 
… Portrait of a General: from secret spy cables – Intercept

Soleimani is no anti-imperialist hero – Al Jazeera 
… a good long-read analysis on motives, brands, and why WW3 is not imminent

What Iran lost: 
… mostly QS’s personal touch, influence & brand – Al-Monitor 
… huge blow to Iran’s plans for regional domination – Guardian 
… OpEd: the killing of QS changes nothing for Iran – NYT

Profile of new Quds Force commander – UAE National 
… New Quds Force commander brings continuity to post – WPost

Who grieves, who’s happy:

The day after war begins in Iran: the outpouring of grief – NYT 
… Iranians close ranks behind their leaders – NYT

QS haunted the Arab world: death greeted with jubilation – Atlantic

Constraints on Iranian response:

How to strike back without starting a war – Yahoo News

Conflict is inevitable; war isn’t – WSJ

What a US-Iran war would look like: scenarios – Vox

Cycle of Revenge: What’s next? AP News

Iran threatens to hit Israel if US hits back against Iranian retaliation – Asia Times

The Iranian-sponsored factions: 
… vow revenge – Al-Monitor 
… Where Iran’s allies+Proxies stand after QS death – WPost 
… US State Department recommended Americans leave Iraq – US Embassy

Iraq responded:

Parliament passes non-binding resolution: US troops to leave – DefenseOne

QS ultimate revenge: may cost the USA more than it gained by his death – Atlantic

US hopes troops stay in Iraq, and some probably will – Al-Monitor

Backlash poses risks to US-led ops against Islamic State – WSJ

Iran’s response:

Iran abandons nuclear agreement – NYT 
… Op/Ed: The Choice that’s coming: Iran with a bomb, or bombing Iran – NYT 
… How long until Iran could have a bomb? Analysis of the factors- DefenseOne 
… Another look at the same question – Fortune

Iranian missile strikes on bases ‘intended to avoid US deaths’: why – CNN 
… is this a face-saving response that keeps USA from responding?

Ukrainian plane may very well have been shot down – CNN 
… but probably on accident.

Interesting pieces with useful analysis:

“This is the moment to step back” – Carnegie

The breathtaking unravelling of the Middle East after QS death – New Yorker

Is there a risk of a wider war with Iran? NYT

Strike on QS casts a long shadow over the decade ahead – UAE National

Commercial airlines rerouting flights – AP

Afghanistan / Pakistan / Pashto

“Kabul is not safe” – Khaama Press

India

Massive Muslim protests challenge citizenship law – NYT 
… 100s of 1000s in various cities.

Muslims in fear as police crack down in India’s heartland – AP

Masked men attack JNU university – BBC 
… 40 students/staff hospitalized, students across India protest

India-Bangladesh on diplomatic tightrope – Asia Times 
… Bangladesh fears people pushed into it from India

China

Seven trends shaping China into 2020 – SCMP

Nanhu Lake, the cradle of Chinese communism, a spiritual retreat – NYT

China grapples with mystery pneumonia-like illness – NYT 
… health officials worried about upcoming CNY

In Xinjiang, China applies repressive lessons learned in Tibet – Economist 
… “Trainees have ‘graduated,’ but it’s unclear where they are.”

China’s push to turn Muslim minorities into an army of workers – NYT

Christmas Eve across China, in photos – ChinaSource

Outspoken pastor sentenced to 9 years in prison – Christianity Today

For China’s underground churches, this was no easy Christmas – LA Times

China announces new crackdown on religious freedom – Catholic Herald 
… “enforce new restrictions on religious groups… starting Feb 1”

Will China’s house churches survive the latest government crackdown? CT 
… a survey of the house church’s historic ability to survive

How Djibouti became a microcosm of China’s growing foothold in Africa – SCMP

Hong Kong: 
… “if you can afford it, leave.” NYT 
… “Hong Kongers will never stop” – Globe & Mail 
… “1 in 3 adults in HK have reported symptoms of PTSD” – QZ 
… Inside the hidden clinics making up HK’s resistance army – Telegraph 
… Investigation: How murder, kidnappings and miscalculation set off a revolt – Reuters 
… Long Read: Hong Kong’s looming 2047 question – Diplomat

Koreas

View from the bunker: Kim weighs provocations in 2020 – Asia Times 
… pay attention to me – but not too much attention

North Korea “no longer bound by nuclear test moratorium” – NYT

A stable North Korea welcomes economic growth – Asia Times 
… “despite sanctions… signs of virility… no social unrest, anti-regime activity”

Southeast Asia

Jakarta: Flash floods leave 100s of 1000s homeless – NYT

Flooding is the worst for over a decade – Economist 
… limited tap water, so 40% of Jakartans rely on wells 
… sucking liquid out of the ground = whole city sinks 
… 40% of city is already below sea level

Notable Europe / Americas

Russia: Putin exit strategy after 20 years in power – Asia Times 
… not likely to go gently into the night …

More than 60k people missing amid Mexico’s drug war – Guardian 
… higher than previously estimated as murders continue to rise …

New Data

Every country on this map has a smaller population than Tokyo. Link

Visualizing how the demographics of China and India are diverging – Link

Longer reads

Fears & worries crush us: we suffer more in imagination than reality. 
… these secularists remind me of Jesus’ exhortation not to worry about tomorrow. Planning and forethought is one thing, but giving in to the grip of fear and worry is another.

“3 harmful ideas that are weakening my generation” – NYT

A history of war in six drugs – NYT

Where US troops are in the Middle East, mapped – WPost

7 urgent humanitarian crises for the world to watch in 2020 – Lutheran World Relief

David Joannes / Mission Pulse interviews Todd Johnson / World Christian Encyclopedia – Link

USA Methodists agree to split the denomination over LGBTQ – Christianity Today

Globally, women are younger than their male partners. This means they are more likely to age alone after surviving the passing of the male. Older members of a church are more likely to be female widows. (Related trend: younger single members of a church are also more likely to be female. Males are more likely in the married demographic) – Pew

The new face of medical missions is African – Christianity Today

Futuristics/Technology

6 hours spent online per day: China’s mobile population in numbers – Inkstone

How the smartphone completely transformed China in a decade – Inkstone

China’s top tech trends of 2019 – Sixth Tone

The Warbot builders of the Middle East – Wired

Japan loves robots, but getting them to do human work isn’t easy. NYT

What will the world look like in 2030? NYT

10 tech trends that shaped the 2010s – Pew

2019: the beginning of the end of the open Internet era – CFR

Roundup #187

New Events

North-West Africa

Military’s preferred candidate won in Algeria. NYT 
… but protesters rejected the vote. 
… historically low turnout for the vote. France24 
… The new president will “struggle to win over his people” – Stratfor

North Africa / Warring States

“Can anything halt the flow of advanced weapons into Libya?” Defense One 
… in spite of the arms embargo, foreign actors have injected everything from APCs to drones and more into the battle space.

St Francis Catholic Church in Tripoli “offers something of a sanctuary for Christian migrants” in the run up to Christmas. Ahram Online 
… “The biggest Christian communities in Tripoli are from the Philippines, India and Pakistan…. Steady stream of Filipinos going home because of the deteriorating security situation…”

The Pope called for the closing of migrant detention camps in Libya, saying they were rife with torture and slavery. Middle East Monitor

Refugee girls in Chad embrace school as path to university opens up. Reuters

Egypt / Sudan

Sudan’s ousted leader sentenced to two years for corruption. NYT 
… accused of genocide in Darfur 
… charged with ‘possessing foreign currency’

Egypt is home to 250,000 registered refugees – Egypt Today 
… and “5 million others” who aren’t registered with the UNHCR

Western Africa / Lake Chad

West Africa “shaken by unprecedented violence.” UN

Burkina Faso to Ethiopia: 2019 a deadly year for places of worship. Africa News 
… Bishop: “The west is ignoring the plight of Christians in West Africa.” Vatican

Burkina Faso has become an epicenter for terrorism – Jamestown 
… near replacing Mali as a focal point of jihadist violence 
… spread of ethnically-fueled massacres, disappearances, widespread abuses 
… dissipated peaceful coexistence between ethnic and religious groups

“The roots of Burkina Faso’s crisis” – CFR

Confluence of armed groups leaves some guessing just who is attacking. Al Jazeera

Sahel struggles to contain deadly jihadist groups who infiltrated communities. Quartz 
… have become an integral part of local and illicit economies … 
… gathering materials for attacks through complex trade networks …
… deeply rooted in the population, good knowledge of environment …

Western reluctance to increase security commitments in the #Sahel is creating opportunities for Russia. Stratfor 
… Russia providing training & equipment in exchange for minerals 
… but still unlikely to supplant the more deeply rooted French-led efforts

Video on Burkina Faso: “Soldiers killed 7 members of my family.” BBC

Guineas protested en masse against the government. VOA 
… allegedly 1 million on the streets, but number unverified.

Nigeria

More alarm raised over controversial social media bill – Al Jazeera 
… 133 million Nigerians use the Internet, 30m on social media 
… bill would allow govt to cut off internet access, block specific apps
… to “curb the spread of false statements” 
… to “limit freedom of speech and right to criticize”

Yellow fever outbreak in #Sahel, Nigeria intensifies – CIDRAP 
… 4,000+ cases in Nigeria, more in Mali

Nigeria needs to wean itself off oil – Reuters 
… “as world inches onto a low-carbon path” 
… climate issues aside, oil demand has been falling steadily -J.

Four humanitarian workers kidnapped by militants executed – Bloomberg

Ethiopia / Horn / East Africa

Djibouti hosts 130,000 migrants, refugees, asylum seekers – Xinhuanet 
… how Minnesota firms ended up as leaders in Djibouti redevelopment – Star Tribune

South Sudan says a unity government will be formed. Reuters

Middle Africa / Lakes

Ongoing fighting in NE DR Congo, 20+ killed – Al Jazeera 
… over 80 in recent weeks, people angered – Al Jazeera

Air travel is important in Congo, but unsafe – BBC 
… 0.1% of all air traffic in the world, but 4% of total air accidents since 2010

Measles has spread to all DR Congo provinces, killed 5,000 in ‘19 – BBC

Southern Africa

Zimbabwe facing man-made starvation – UN

Central Asia / Caucasus

Kyrgyzstan scandal brings threats to media – Link 
… courts froze, then unfroze media accounts after allegations of corruption in govt

Amid Islamic surge, Central Asia keeps eye on militancy. Asia Times 
… A deep look at the rise of Islam especially in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan will hold its most democratic election ever. Economist 
… but, admittedly, that’s not saying much. It’s a low bar.

What recent protests in Uzbekistan tell us – Diplomat 
… there is some higher tolerance than in the past, but still not much.

Saudi / Israel / Lebanon / Syria / Gulf

Saudi Arabia will no longer require restaurants to have separate entrances segregated by gender (families/women vs single males). BBC

Life for civilians in Syria “worse than when the year began”. UN 
… in northwest, continued violence on lines between Turkey, Kurds, AQ-related groups 
… Up to 60,000 displaced around Idleb (still Al-Qaeda dominated) 
… Up to 11 million in need of regular humanitarian assistance in 2020

West Asia / Turkey

Turkey’s invasion into northern Syria caused a demographic shift many fear will become permanent: ethnic cleansing is a reality in the Syrian safe zone – Independent 
… “the brutal killings [of Kurds] were not hidden, nor were they meant to be…” 
… “now, stranded in camps across Syria & Iraq, they fear they may never be able to return home… and that, they believe, was precisely the point…”

Iran/Iraq

Amnesty Intl: Death toll in Iranian crackdown over 300 – Al Jazeera

A fairly detailed and useful summary of the current political/protest situation in Iraq. ISW

Afghanistan / Pakistan / Pashto

4.4 million Afghanis live outside country. Al Jazeera 
… 2.7m refugees, in 80 countries (90% in Iran/Pak)

UN says 9 children killed or crippled in Afghanistan daily. Yenisafak

Christian journalist held on blasphemy charges in Pakistan. GNA 
… allegations that he was framed

Life along Pakistan’s mountain highway where China is investing billions of dollars. NPR

Pakistan’s Khan says millions of Muslim refugees could flee India, “creating a refugee crisis that would dare other crises… our country will not be able to accommodate more refugees…” Reuters

Former military dictator Musharraf sentenced to death in absentia (he’s in Dubai, right now) on treason charges. Reuters

India

A broad quick explainer of the citizenship bill & its implications, from Axios

Citizenship law protests shut down India’s capital – Asia Times 
… “a lockdown unprecedented in history” as protests break out across country 
… prohibits more than 5 people from gathering in a public space 
… suspend mobile connections, including internet, voice 
… closed metro stations to prevent protesters from arriving at protests sites 
… police-led massive traffic jams, trapping people for hours on the road 
… also, shut down the Internet in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura (Kashmir still off) 
… thousands protested in Guwahati, Assam for the third day 
… Shock at crackdown “may unite Modi opponents”. The Guardian 
… at least 3 killed and 1,200 detained as protests raged. AP

As protests rage on citizenship bill, is India becoming a Hindu nation? NYT 
… long read with lots of photos, video 
… “they want a theocratic state…” 
… “this is how waves of communal violence start in the country…” 
… worst violence in recent years was in 2002 in Gujarat, when Modi was top in the state 
… “around 2 million of Assam’s 33 million are now stateless” See Also 
… “huge new prisons are being built to… house illegal immigrants…”

The foreign policy fallout from rage across India over new citizenship law. Asia Times

Join in prayer for Delhi. Prayercast

Nepal / Bhutan / Tibet

Bhutan tops Lonely Planet’s list of best places to visit in 2020 – Link 
… “tourist visits have grown exponentially in the last decade”

Bengali / Bangladesh

In pictures: Bangladesh on the frontline of the climate crisis – Al Jazeera 
… millions vulnerable to coastal and river flooding

“Remembering the war of 1971 in East Pakistan”: Bangladesh, India and Pakistan each have created a very distinct memory of what happened 48 years ago. Longread. Al Jazeera.

China

China is complicated. Joann Pittman

China’s Orwellian War on Religion. Nicholas Kristof

Protests to rock HK’s malls at Christmas, New Year – Asia Times

In Macau, China sees a model for a rebellious Hong Kong – NYT

Beijing backs Carrie Lam despite election setback in Hong Kong – NYT

Trying to prevent yet more news leaks out of Xinjiang, China is tightening up on information: deleting data, destroying documents, holding high-level meetings in response to leaks. AP

A surveillance net blankets China’s cities – NYT 
… “giving police vast powers: scan phones, track your face, find out when you leave home.” 
… “as if county sheriffs in the USA ran their own personal versions of the NSA.” 
… “if a face and a phone appeared at the same place and time, the system grew more confident they belonged to the same person…” 
… Here’s a twitter thread on this surveillance technology, too – Twitter 
… also: tightens grip on Internet, considers live-streaming ban – RFA

Fascinating: Chinese criminal gangs spread African swine fever to force farmers to sell pigs cheaply. Gangs then buy up cheap meat, smuggle it, sell it as healthy stock. Shortages from pig culling have caused pork prices to double, offering opportunities for profit. SCMP.

Japan

Japanese schools are struggling with foreign pupils. Economist 
… migrants who come to ease labor shortages often bring children …
… number who require remedial Japanese lessons is rising fast … 
… nearly 20% of immigrant children may not be attending school at all …

Southeast Asia

Tourist arrivals in Brunei rising, most Chinese – Link

Thailand: Large anti-government protest held, biggest since 2014 coup. Guardian 
… in Bangkok, after government moved to ban an opposition party

Understanding the Myanmar military’s genocidal mind: recent atrocities against the Rohingya were business-as-usual for Myanmar’s war-hardened army. Insightful long read exploring the issues since the 1940s. Asia Times

In Cambodia, “rule of law” means Hun Sen rules. FP

First time African swine flu in Indonesia: 27,000 pigs killed. Asia Times

A look back: 15 years ago, the Boxing Day quake/tsunami. Reuters 
… 128,000 killed, 570,000 displaced, 179,000 buildings destroyed.

Notable Europe / Americas

For Caribbean nations, climate change means shrinking populations: people who eventually gave up trying to rebuild and left. Grist 
… Puerto Rico population dropped 9% between 2000 and 2015

New Data

World Energy Outlook 2019 – IEA

Human Development Report 2019 – UNDP

World Drug Use Report, 2019 – UNODC 
… 35 million suffer from drug use disorders 
… opium and cocaine manufacturing remain at record levels.

Global slavery 2019 MAF report – GSI

2019 Hunger Map – WFP

2019 Global Report on Internal Displacement – Internal-Displacement.org

2019 Fragile States Index – FSI

Longer reads

Mekong River dying a slow but certain death as massive new hydropower dams parch the water levels to lowest in 60 years. Asia Times

What it’s like to bring a baby up in a war zone. 1843

1/3rd of poorer countries face both undernutrition and obesity. UN

Pew analyzed 20 million households in 130 countries in “religion and living arrangements around the world.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Muslims & Hindus are in largest households. But, report analyzes types of households. Most common Muslim household is 2-parent; Muslims have more polygamous households than any other religion by far, but only 5% of all Muslim homes. On the other side, the USA has the largest % of children living in single-parent homes, and there is no difference between children of Christians and ‘nones’ in this respect. Pew

Also: 10 facts about atheists. Pew

Venezuela has become the world’s largest refugee crisis – Statista 
… surpassed Syria, which peaked in 2018.

UNICEF estimates 25% of births (166 million) have never been officially recorded: ‘invisible’ in the eyes of governments, excluded from education, health care, etc. UN

[Six] Ways people trying to do good accidentally make things worse, and how to avoid them. 80,000 hours

Futuristics/Technology

It’s easy to track you. A NYT megaproject, “One Nation, Tracked”. This amazing project is very disturbing. NYT

AI is making it easier to kill you. Here’s how. NYT Video.

Google Maps has now photographed 10 million miles in Street View: mapped out parts of the world where 98% of people live. CNET

Note that Google’s Messages app on Android OS doesn’t support end-to-end encryption like Apple’s iMessage does. (This, to me, implies that if you see a ‘green’ bubble on iMessage on an iPhone, at some point it’s not an encrypted message.) CNBC

The world’s first 3D-printed neighborhood now has its first homes: a giant 3D printer is squeezing out new homes in rural Mexico, one per 24 hours. Fast Company

South Korea cracking down on “the dark web” after a major scandal tied to child pornography – Diplomat

From satellites to the moon and Mars, China is quickly becoming a space superpower. TIME

Roundup #186

New Events

Algeria: even more people want a complete overhaul – Link

“Russia’s backing [in Libya] is a game-changer, say Western diplomats.” Enabled Haftar to consolidate his gains. Thought to be 1,400 Russian mercenaries in Libya. “It’s like a world-class coach taking over a B team… Putin trying to build on his success in Syria, where he rescued the regime of Assad.” Turkey didn’t like that, won’t like this either. Link 
Turkey suggests it may send forces to Libya to counter Russia-backed militia forces. Link

The vast level of censorship in Egypt now extends to soap operas too – Link

#Sahel Violence: 100 militants attack an army camp in western Niger, kill at least 71 soldiers, deadliest attack in years – Link

Nigeria announced it will provide visas on arrival for all Africans traveling to it. Broadly, Africans need visas to travel to about half of other African countries. Link

Somali militants attack Mogadishu hotel; Al Shabaab still regularly attacks sites in Somalia and neighboring Kenya. (In this instance, it looks from the article as if only the militants were killed; but this illustrates the ongoing instability in the region.) Link

Turkmenistan has the highest level of child mortality of any Central Asian state – Link

Plastic surgery is booming in Kyrgyzstan thanks to Instagram – Link

The collapse of the money transfer system in Tajikistan is causing pain – In 2018, $2.5 billion was remitted from Tajik workers in Russia to Tajikistan (~1/3rd of Tajikistan’s GDP). Any disruption of the flow of remittances has significant repercussions. Link

China is looking to boost its influence, investment opportunities in post-war YemenLink

Most moderate estimates are that ~200 people were killed by Iranin the recent uprising. But Brian Hook, US envoy to Iran, says over 1,000 were killed, and called it “the worst political crisis the regime has faced in 40 years.” We will probably never know the exact number or even if the order of magnitude of the estimate is correct. Link

Thousands of Afghanis are leaving Iran as the sanctions bite and work runs out, returning to Afghanistan – Link

“629 Pakistani girls sold as brides to China” highlights the trafficking of women and the challenges to halting it. The Christian minority in Pakistan is being specifically targeted, because they are often impoverished and get paid to marry off their daughters. Link

This op/ed suggests the Indian economy is in a significant downturn, and likely to get worse. Link

No Muslims wanted: A bill establishing a religious litmus test for immigrants has passed India’s Parliament. It would in essence allow Hindus and people of other smaller faiths from surrounding

countries to become Indian citizens–but not Muslims. Link 
… Massive street protests in Assam against the bill. Link 
… Tens of thousands protest, quickly turn violent. Government imposes curfew, deploys army personnel across Assam, Tripura. Link 
… “Locals fear large numbers of Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, who they say are intruders, will swamp their homeland.” Link 
… The best and most logical explanation for the legislation (obviously), says the Economist, “is politics.” Link

India’s crackdown hits religious freedom [for Muslims] in disputed Kashmir. India “imposed a security lockdown in which it shuttered important mosques, harshly curbed civil rights, arrested thousands of people, blocked internet and phone service.” Link

Rise in extrajudicial justice: “The shooting of four gang-rape and murder suspects by Indian police has highlighted the scourge of extrajudicial killings in a nation grappling with high levels of sexual crimes and a notoriously slow judicial process.” – Link

Repression in Tibet served as a model in Xinjiang – Link

The protests in Hong Kong aren’t done yet. “The biggest march in months” was held last Sunday: the government estimated 200,000, but march organizers estimated 800,000. Link 
… The panel of foreign experts looking into police brutality in Hong Kong have all resigned, because the lacked the powers necessary to conduct the probe. Link 
… Over 10% of retailers in Hong Kong could shut down in the next 6 months, as the city faces it’s “worst ever” wave of store closures and layoffs due to the turmoil. Link

Vietnam’s Internet control: following in China’s footsteps? New cybersecurity law suggests that’s the trend. Link

The Philippines will lift martial law in Mindanao by year end – Link

How China persuaded Indonesia to keep silent on Xinjiang camps – Link, $

Public crusades, government speakers at church events in Cambodia signals growth of the church – Link

Postcards from the Protestant decline in America: the life-cycle effect (coming back after you marry and have kids) is less dominant—possibly because many young people are not getting married or having children. (I had not thought about the correlation of those two facts before.) Link 
… “Religion, retention, and why we stay or go.” Ryan Burge, in a very important analysis in CT, explores which traditions are “leaky boats” and which ones do “a good job of keeping people in the fold.” This is a really fascinating piece: most evangelicals stay evangelicals; and a lot of losses from other churches are TO evangelical churches. Link 
… 538 also has some analysis, focusing more on the “from-Christian-to-not” journey prominent amongst many Millennials. One notable thing: Millennials are now more likely (than previously) to marry non-Christian spouses. In the past, a somewhat nominal male would marry a likely-more-orthodox female, and “come back into the fold.” If this trend changes, it would reinforce a spiral “out” of the church. Link

Um: “As evangelicalism reconfigures the spiritual map in Brazil, Latin America’s largest country, attracting tens of millions of adherents, winning political power and threatening Catholicism’s long-held dominance, its most extreme adherents — often affiliated with gangs — are increasingly targeting Brazil’s non-Christian religious minorities… The mounting violence has horrified mainstream evangelicals.” Link

New Data

New 2019 Human Development Report from UNDP – Link

“Muhammad” breaks into the top 10 list of baby names in the USA – Link

The Economist notes “Arabs are losing faith in religious parties and leaders” – and there is a correlative drop in the number of people who are being faithful in their religious practices, too. Link

Hotter temperatures lead to more premature births. The data is for America, but I’m thinking about the increase in temps in Asia. Link

Longer reads

“Should missionaries focus on unreached people groups? Yes.” This article is in rebuttal to the earlier Carlson/Clark in TGC. Link

Steve Addison’s podcast #206 interviews Rodrick Gilbert about a 60,000-church movement in India. Link

Pope Francis tapped a Filipino Cardinal to head Propaganda Fide, possibly signaled his successor. Link

ChinaSource on developing a ministry of encouragement to Chinese Christians who have returned to China. Link

Dave Datema will present a MissioNexus webinar on January 9, “The people group paradigm in 2020: relevant for today, relic from the past or something in between?” Link

African countries are struggling to build robust identity systems. India (also poor, home to a billion people, with vast language complexities) wants to help them. (I’m actually surprised this help isn’t coming from China.) Link

In case you didn’t see it: Reinhard Bonnke died. Link

Futuristics/Technology

The trillion dollar smartphone economy – Link

“Deepfakes” (which are hard to recognize) vs “Shallowfakes” (that are obviously fakes): both more and more common, but the tech powering shallowfakes is also driving deepfakes – Link

New tech from Google allows AR to “hide” virtual characters behind real-world articles (e.g. Pokemon characters can hide behind trees, furniture, etc). This will lead to an order of magnitude improvement in AR applications, especially games – Link

Hackers are breaking into Ring cameras – “After a hacker broke into a Ring camera in Tennessee and spoke to a child…” Link

A Silicon Valley startup completed the first coast-to-coast commercial freight trip (3 days, 2,800 miles) by a self-driving truck carrying over 40,000 pounds of butter (a driver was onboard for monitoring and safety purposes) – Link

People in Japan are strapping on exoskeletons to keep working as they age – Link

Roundup #185

New Events

North-West Africa

Algeria’s government and protesters on track for collision – Link

Egypt / Sudan

Sudan repeals restrictive public order law – Link 
… controlled how women acted and dressed in public 
… “public order rules were kept ‘vague and open-ended leaving them open to exploitation as a social control tool by the authorities…’”

Western Africa / Lake Chad

14 killed in attack on church in Burkina Faso – Link 
… likely connected to Sahel violence

Continuing deterioration leaves Mali facing critical security level – Link 
… “unprecedented incidents of communal violence and increasingly more deadly terror attacks”

Ethiopia / Horn / East Africa

Ethiopia grants autonomy to Sidama, “the evangelical heartland of the nation” – Link 
… 87% of the population self-identify as Protestants

China’s demand for donkey skin is hitting African countries hard – Link

Central Asia / Caucasus

Silk Road: Between China and Europe, Central Asia is bustling – Link

West Asia / Turkey

World Watch Monitor on the stabbing death of a Korean Christian in Turkey – Link

Iran/Iraq

Widespread crackdown on protesters in Iran left 180+ dead – Link 
… “possibly hundreds more”…

Why Iranians “are revolting again” – Link 
… “trying to pay New York-level taxi fares and Parisian-level rents on Ethiopian-level salaries”

Iranians fear Internet blackouts are the new reality – Link

“Iraq’s new republic of fear: how youthful protests provoked an authoritarian turn” – Link

Afghanistan / Pakistan / Pashto

ISIS in Afghanistan “likely down to several hundred fighters” – Link 
… but still considered a threat …

Taliban confirms it has restarted talks with the US – Link

“Traffickers exploit Afghans trying to get to Iran” – Link 
… “four teenagers recounted the dangers of putting their lives in the hands of people smugglers” 
… yearly, 400k Afghans enter the labor market, not enough work to meet demand. 
… 20% of the population is between 15-24; youth unemployment is at 28% 
… 55% of Afghans live in poverty, 70% of the working-age population are illiterate.

Lahore’s annual smogfest: every winter, pollution spikes in Pakistan’s second largest city – Link

India

“India’s ominous future: too little water or far too much” – Link 
… “over the last 70 years, extreme rainfall events have increased 3x”
… “decades of greed and mismanagement are far more culpable” 
… fascinating longread, with lots of photos, from the NYT

India quarterly economic growth worst level in 6 years – Link

“India’s plan to identify ‘illegal immigrants’ could get some Muslims declared ‘foreign’” – Link 
… already happening, could spread more widely …

“India is entering a new dark age” – Link

“Blood and soil in Narendra Modi’s India: The PM’s Hindu-nationalist government has cast 200 million Muslims as internal enemies.” Link

Nepal / Bhutan / Tibet

Did you see the viral photograph of all the climbers heading up Everest? Here’s the story behind that photograph: a long read from GQ into some of the climbers active that day. (I haven’t read it fully in detail but it was interesting enough that I scanned into Evernote for reading later.) Link

Gadhiami: Nepal’s animal sacrifice festival goes ahead despite “ban” – Link

China

Government will require face scans to be collected with any new mobile phone purchase – Link

US law on Hong Kong elicits furious China threat – Link 
… could complicate or scuttle trade negotiations – Link

China considers banning US diplomats from Xinjiang – Link 
… other visa restrictions may not be far behind…

Protesters in Guangdong beaten up, tear gassed – Link

China’s religion chiefs to double down on bringing doctrine in line with socialist dogma – Link

Japan / Koreas / Mongolia

Shinto festival carries on centuries old tradition in Japan – Link 
… the Chichibu Night Festival, 1,000 years old…

A growing number of Japanese have become recluses – Link 
… government says there are more than 1 million hisikomori …

Southeast Asia

The lonely and dangerous life of the Filipino seafarer – Link

Myanmar’s ethnic armies are using Chinese-made mobile missiles – Link 
… “man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS, weapons that militarily and politically constitute potential game-changers”

Clean gloves, dirty practices: debt bondage in Malaysia’s rubber glove industry – Link

Notable Europe / Americas

“The crisis of American Christianity, viewed from Great Britain: the theologian N. T. Wright is unfazed by the faith’s politicization in the U.S.” Link

“Where do Americans find meaning in life”? Link 
… 69% in families. 34% in careers. 23% in money. 20% in spirituality and faith.

New Data

168 million will need help and protection in crises spanning more than 50 countries in 2020. Link

270 million migrants send home $689 billion per year – Link

1 in 3 women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime – Link 
… half of women killed worldwide are killed by their partners/family

Infographic: The cost of war: how violence is disrupting the global economy – Link

Longer reads

How to write better emails – Link

Futuristics/Technology

PC Market shrinks for the 7th consecutive year – Link

Google warns 12,000 people they were targeted by government hackers: what to do if you’re a target – Link

Video of Nixon delivering ‘Apollo 11 disaster speech’ – Link 
… illustrates realistic power of deepfakes to ‘rewrite history’ etc. 
… is this so very different from what was done in Forrest Gump?

China government spreads ‘Uyghur’ analytics across China – Link

Mapped: the 1.2 billion without electricity – Link

Amazon Ring has crafted plans to for “watch lists” – Link 
… facial recognition plus Ring surveillance cameras = AI-powered neighborhood “watch lists”

Also, interesting: How Amazon Ring went from ‘Shark Tank’ reject to America’s scariest surveillance company. This Vice article probes deep into why some neighborhoods trust Ring when they feel they can’t trust anyone else. “Fear sells.” Link

Mobile divides in emerging economies: long report from Pew – Link
… “Some still do not have mobile phones, and even phone owners struggle with connectivity, costs, security issues”

Singapore invokes “fake news” law against Facebook post – Link

Nigeria’s ‘fake news’ bill could jail people for lying on social media. Critics call it censorship – Link

TikTok reversed ban on teen who slammed China’s Uighur crackdown – Link

China’s efforts at “predictive policing” – Link 
… “reveal how the system is able to amass vast amounts of intimate personal data through warrantless manual searches, facial recognition cameras, and other means to identify candidates for detention, flagging for investigation hundreds of thousands merely for using certain popular mobile phone apps.”

Google & Samsung fix spying flaw; other Android makers may still be vulnerable – Link 
… “Camera and mic could be controlled by any app, no permission required.” 
… (This flaw does not apply to iPhone; it’s an Android bug.)

How Facebook’s AI looks for bad stuff (reducing need for human content moderators, who would otherwise face an extremely dispiriting job): claims 98% of bad videos are removed without anyone needing to see them – Link

Russia is writing an armed-robot playbook – Link 
… drawing on three years of operations in Syria …

Quotable

“The trouble is that the Church is far too good at hoping that everyone else will be asking for forgiveness for their trespasses.” ~N.T. Wright

Roundup #184

New Events

Egypt / Sudan

Owners of the Republic: an anatomy of Egypt’s military economy – Link 
… The Egyptian military’s takeover in 2013 transformed its role in the national economy, turning it into an autonomous actor that can reshape markets and influence government policy setting and investment strategies. Downloadable PDF.

Western Africa / Lake Chad

Islamic State says it massacred soldiers in Mali – Link

Three-country crisis across central Sahel puts whole generation at risk – Link

Ethiopia / Horn / East Africa

Why the Seychelles has the world’s worst heroin problem – Link 
… 10% of its 94,000 are addicted …

Central Asia / Caucasus

“In a Tajik village… children’s laughter echoes in fatherless homes” – Link 
… The breadwinners had been away for months and sometimes years in Russia, the country that … today still takes in Tajik workers en masse with the promise of wages that will help support families left behind in poor, remote places like Budiyon. 
… Almost one-third of Tajikistan’s GDP is dependent on remittances from Russia, and some Tajik men find new wives there and never return to the women and children to whom they bade farewell.

Kyrgyzstan: living off illegal “black gold” (coal mining) – Link

Teachers toil in cotton fields as Tajikistan tries to fix the trade imbalance – Link 
… “Farmers are forced to grow it. Teachers are forced to pick it. And though everyone loses, the government still thinks cotton will fix its lopsided balance of trade.”

Protests revived in Georgia following election reform failure – Link

Saudi / Israel / Lebanon / Syria / Gulf

8 years later, Syrians still feel welcomed in Jordan – Link 
… Jordan is the third-largest host of Syrian refugees today, behind Turkey and Lebanon. Over one million Syrian citizens live in Jordan, 654,000 of them being UNHCR-registered refugees.

Economic crisis looms as protests rage in Lebanon – Link 
… they’ve been burning for a month, sparked by an effort by the government to tax WhatsApp.

Iran/Iraq

#IranProtests

Reduction in fuel subsidies sparks protests – Link

50% increase in first 60 liters bought monthly, 3x for any additional purchases

Iran knew price hikes would cause protests but did so out of necessity – Link 
… By the same token it is likely Iran is willing to crack down harshly if protests continue

“Four days that shook Iran” – Link

Amnesty: over 100 protesters killed – Link 
… “security forces have been given a green light to crush the protests”

Iran blocks nearly all Internet access – Link 
… “Shutting down the Internet to get away with murder” – Link

Revolutionary Guards warn of decisive action if unrest continues – Link 
… at least 100 banks, dozens of cars, buildings torched 
… worst unrest since 2017

11/21 Iran says protests are over – Link 
… but evidence says otherwise

US sanctions are sending Iranians to Turkey in droves – economy migrants & asylum seekers – Link

#IraqProtests

Key bridges sealed as protest pick up pace, security forces work to stop gatherings – Link 
… “keep up until government is forced to resign”

Afghanistan / Pakistan / Pashto

As American ground forces in Afghanistan shrink, US and allied planes are dropping bombs, firing missiles at a record pace in the 18-year-long war – Link

One-third of Afghans need urgent humanitarian aid – Link

… “millions suffer from acute food insecurity”

Prolonged Patience: the results of the Afghanistan elections are still being debated – Link

India

Book review of “Nightmarch: among India’s revolutionary guerrillas” – Link 
… short review of what looks an interesting book about the Naxalite insurgency, which impacts numerous unreached areas in India.

Why Hindu nationalists are cheering moves to build a temple, challenging a secular tradition – Link

India to create a registry to “weed out those living illegally in the country” – Link 
… “The state said [alleged undocumented] would have an opportunity to prove their citizenship at tribunals set up by the government.”

India pushes to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from neighbors – Link 
… very specifically excluding Muslims, which is unsurprising; yet curious that they are granting citizenship to non-Hindus …

Maldives / Sri Lanka

Blessed by Buddhist monks, Sri Lanka’s new president prioritizes security – Link 
… marks the return of a powerful dynasty – Link

China

China’s gender imbalance and the marriage squeeze – Link 
… marriage market demand for females = females moving to more prosperous areas, leaving less-prosperous males with fewer prospects

China increases church surveillance and monitoring – Link 
… “facial recognition and fingerprint software installed; congregants scanned before each entry to building”

A Christian’s experience in detention – Link 
… excerpts from an article by Brother Xu reflecting on his experience in prison, compelling reading

How China influences media in Central and Eastern Europe – Link 
… “aims at identifying outlets that can carry messages on behalf of China whether through outright acquisition, co-ownership (whether the share is above or below controlling level), and/or forming partnerships through content-sharing.”

#HongKong Protests

“Riot weary Hong Kong residents clear roads” – Link 
… “residents removing road blocks, protesters yelling at them”

Over 1,000 detained at university, and a warning from Beijing – Link
… “Too scared to escape”: a handful remain inside – Link

PLA soldiers sent into streets for first time – Link 
… “to help clear roadblocks near garrison” 
… ostensibly just cleanup help, but does normalize their presence 
… PLA keeps watch on HK as turmoil rages – Link

HK index hits one month low – Link 
… Hong Kong sliding toward recession

Japan / Koreas / Mongolia

“South Korea’s success-obsessed culture is finally reckoning with its dark side” – Link 
… “many young Koreans feel that ‘failing once means your whole life is a failure’” 
… “Last year [the government] held the first ever Fail Expo in Seoul…” 
… “Suicide was the leading cause of death in 2018 among Koreans aged 10 to 39, with the government noting that reports of celebrity suicides helped fuel copycat incidents. “

No expectation of any negotiation breakthrough with N Korea soon – Link 
… “no interest in giving Trump further meetings to brag about unless it gets something substantial in return”

North Korea in photos – a collection shot by NK News – Link

Southeast Asia

Monks in Myanmar have a new target – folk religionist nat-worshippers – Link

Book Review: “The hidden history of Burma” – Link

Powerful earthquake shook northern Thailand – Link

Notable Europe / Americas

Anglican Church of Canada may disappear by 2040 – Link

Colombia to close its borders to contain mass protests – Link

Barna: US adults see evangelicals through a political lens – Link 
… “define evangelicals by their conservatism” …

Interesting piece exploring why Millennials “don’t want to leave their apartment anymore,” with implications for the social spread of the Gospel & disciple-making – Link

“Greece’s Moria refugee camp: a European failure” – Link

New Data

Europe’s unauthorized immigrant population peaked in 2016, then leveled off. Half live in Germany, half in the UK. Link

Where America’s international students come from (mostly Chinese) – Link 
… but Chinese are often apprehensive about studying abroad – Link 
… fear petty crime, shootings highlighted by China as the “scourge of Western societies.” 
… Isn’t this a great opportunity for believers to befriend Chinese and demonstrate the “peace that passes all understanding”?

Longer reads

Everyone should have seen the “Xinjiang Papers”, a massive leak of documents to the NYT exposing how China organized the mass detention of Muslims – Link

“Few Chinese officials are blushing at a damning leak about Xinjiang” – Link 
… “The West should be thankful for China’s police state” 
… Here are five takeaways from the files – Link

“How Jeff Bezos makes fast, smart decisions under pressure” – Link
… ok, he’s a billionaire, and everyone wants to be a billionaire. Making decisions this way won’t make you a billionaire. But there’s some key things in this system: (1) make decisions reversible, (2) make decisions when you have 70% of the info needed (waiting for all the info paralyzes you), (3) “disagree and commit,” (4) recognize misalignment issues early.

“How to be a career-changing mentor: 25 tips from the best mentors we know” – Link 
… lots of good advice on how to be a good mentor in here. Example, #5: most of mentorship is getting the mentee to focus on the right problems. #7 – Skip the instructions, share stories and resources instead.

The Economist, on “Why the arguments against immigration are so popular” – Link 
… part of a series of articles on the “magic of migration”

Futuristics/Technology

Huawei’s “Safe cities” products have fueled concerns that China is exporting authoritarianism – under this label, it sells facial & license plate recognition, social media monitoring, surveillance … with benefits that are “difficult to verify and grossly exaggerated.” … Link

Interpol plans to condemn encryption spread, citing predators – Link

OTOH: How laws against child abuse imagery can make it harder to detect – Link 
… shows some of the nuance and complexity to stopping the spread of such images. It’s a crime to view images or store them; but you need to view them (and store them) to moderate them and to train AI to detect them.

Quartz Obsession: African fintech – an interesting deep dive – Link

Roundup #183

New Events

Egypt / Sudan

New laws and penalties proposed for those not wearing “decent clothes” in public places, lots of pushback – Link

Ethiopia / Horn / East Africa

Stratfor: May 2020 elections in Ethiopia likely to see upsurge in violence; government may decide to scrap 2020 elections altogether, hurting its legitimacy – Link

The United Nations warned that a locust swarm in Ethiopia is becoming an ever-more serious danger. Despite efforts to contain them, locusts have devoured all the crops on some of the farms that they have attacked. As more of their eggs hatch, the UN warned that the swarms might soon reach Eritrea, Kenya and Sudan. Link

Saudi / Israel / Lebanon / Syria / Gulf

Saudis + Yemenis in indirect peace talks: don’t get excited yet – Link

Northern Syria divided into five highly combustible zones – Link

IDPs scramble for water in northeast Syria – Link 
… “The water will not last more than a month”

Iran/Iraq

“Ancient Kurdish festival offers taste of enduring love, mysticism” – Link

Iraq cracks down on protests as PM gains support – Link

Iran finds an oil field with 50 billion barrels – Link 
… could bolster its proven reserves by 30%

Afghanistan / Pakistan / Pashto

In Kabul, air pollution may be even deadlier than war – Link 
… Kabul has become one of the most polluted cities in the world

Afghan war takes a heavy toll on school children – Link

India

Couple stoned for marrying outside their caste – Link 
… “latest in a string of ‘honor killings’ rampant in rural parts of the country”

Op/Ed: The transformation of India [into a majoritarian nation] is nearly complete – Link

India’s sound track of hate, with a pop sheen – Link 
… “mixing dance tracks with calls for religious warfare… amplifies a wave of Hindu nationalism…”

Why Delhi’s air is always so toxic this time of year – Link

Bengali / Bangladesh

Cyclone displaces 2 million – Link

China

China “on course to become the world’s most Christian nation” – a bit of click-bait, this. Yes, in terms of absolute numbers, this is true. But not as a percentage of the population. It was always the case that a high-population country would have the “most Christians” in absolute terms but “most Christian” implies quite a bit more than just large numbers. Link

#HongKong

The protesters aren’t driven by hope – Link 
… “We might as well go down fighting.”

Schools closed amidst escalating protests – Link

“Peace more distant than ever” 
… battle grips universities – Link

“Colleges become besieged citadels” – Link

Violence will get worse: police brutality pushing protesters to extremes – Link

Reminder: “you have the backing of the People’s Liberation Army” – Link

“May be facing a prolonged stalemate” – Link

Chinese media alleges US NGOs funding protests – Link

Behind protesters, an army of volunteer pastors, doctors, artists – Link

Expert estimates China has over 1,000 Uighur internment camps – Link 
… another analysis estimates 3 million interned – Link

A quarter of German firms plan to leave China – Link 
… rising costs, inability to compete on a playing field that is not level

Japan / Koreas / Mongolia

North Korea facing poor harvest, food shortages – Link

Japan’s aging “Hidden Christians” fear they may be their religion’s last generation – Link

Southeast Asia

“Despite big bangs, Thai Muslim rebels are fading away” – Link 
… “Recent high-profile attacks distract from the reality of a less effective, less violent and less relevant separatist insurgency… a level of blood-letting that is actually remarkably low and likely can be inflicted and suffered indefinitely…”

Notable Europe / Americas

“Unaffiliated” % rising among American Hispanics, Catholic % dropping – Link 
… Protestant % remains stable

USA: Meet the immigrants who took on Amazon – Link 
… how a group of Somalis became leaders in the fight to change a tech behemoth

Here’s an interesting look at the issues faced by very small Jewish congregations in rural Pennsylvania – some of these issues are faced by small congregations of other faiths in other places – Link

New Data

ChinaSource/MissioNexus infographic on the complexity of religion in China – Link

More than half of subSaharan Africans lack access to electricity – Link

New 2019 World Energy Outlook: Global oil demand to “flatten” within a decade – Link

New 2019 Law and Order report from Gallup – Link

New 2019 Freedom on the Net Report from Freedom House – Link

Longer reads

Book review of Thomas Kidd’s “What is an evangelical?” – Link 
… an important conversation in the public square with implications in the mission world

Also: “Can we in find a new meaning in the word evangelical?” Link

Many non-US people I talk to say people outside the US still understand what an “evangelical” is and are not being impacted so much by the political nuance in the current climate.

Kenya: why counting people can be controversial – Link

Futuristics/Technology

What I’m saving my money for: AR glasses from Apple in 2022 (or 2023) – Link 
… Wife: “…for the man who says 1,000 times a day, where are my glasses?”

“China’s new cybersecurity law gives the Chinese government and its prized companies full and total access to all data and IP held by foreign companies.” This article is more about trade secrets, but consider what “full and total access to all data” means – Link 
… “Foreign companies typically put their private information in China on a private server in China so as to isolate that information from the Chinese government. China’s new laws make clear that foreign companies must turn over this information to the Chinese government and failing to do so can lead to prison time.”

Magnetic tool can remove diseases from human blood, set for human trials next year – Link 
… “can pull leukemia and malaria out of the blood”, looks amazing

Google checking accounts in 2020? Link

Why is Saudi Arabia spying on Twitter? Not chasing critical business secrets, but user data on a specific group of Twitter accounts. Link

The troubling age of algorithmic entertainment – Link 
… “Still, if there’s one thing we know about algorithms, it’s that they tend toward an odd mix of the flashy, the outrageous, and the comforting. And art that perhaps doesn’t fit, or won’t appeal to the way the algorithm works, may get pushed to the side.”

How the US military’s massive facial recognition system works – Link

The Quantum Computing threat to American security – Link 
… “Google claims supremacy, but the risk remains that U.S. complacency lets China crack all its codes.”

Welcome to China: you probably can’t buy anything, though – Link 
… “how the explosive growth of mobile payments is driving a wallet-free society.” 
… field workers tell me that, as with anything is China, this is true in some places and false in others. 
… India is actually the fastest adopter of mobile payments – Link

Digital currencies, however, just add to the surveillance mix. Here’s a piece on how China is developing a blockchain-enabled digital currency that will replace its main currency: can be surveilled, confiscated, blocked – Link

Modern genetics and “designer” children – Link

Quotable

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” —Albert Einstein

Roundup #181

New Events

More than 100,000 Algerians marched in protest to demand an end to military involvement in politics – Link

NYT’s “Don’t Sleep” columnist visits Tunis in Tunisia, a place that feels “uninhibited”. It’s an interesting “ground level” look at a city in an unevangelized region of the world. Link

Libya: Frontline clashes ebb & flow as war hits impasse – Link 
… “days of silence broken by bursts of artillery fire… the state of war is becoming normalized… which makes more wars likely…”

Egypt expands its crackdown, targeting foreigners, journalists, children – Link

Conflict in the Sahel 
… Boko Haram violence continues in Niger – Link 
… Catholic relief agencies: The security situation has “deteriorated significantly” – Link

Nigeria closed its borders to neighboring countries to tackle rice smuggling, but it’s affecting affecting trade across the region (because significant international trade comes in through Nigeria’s ports) – Link

Over 70 killed in a wave of violence in Ethiopia, as political protests spiraled into clashes fueled by ethnicity and religion. Attacks on churches and a mosque were reported. Link

In Somalia, 273,000 have been displaced by flooding in October alone, the vast majority in the Baladweeyne area due to the flooding of the Shabelle river. In 2019, over 575,000 have been displaced due to drought, floods and conflict. Link

Uzbekistan will fine people for holding too lavish parties – Link 
… trying to ease barely affordable peer pressure for celebrating life events

Kyrgyzstan’s police have embraced China’s facial recognition tech – Link

Lebanon’s PM resigns after protests turn violent – Link 
… uprising unites people across faiths – Link

Turkey/Syria conflict: 
… Syrian, Turkish forces clash, threatening the cease-fire – Link 
… possibly disastrous rainy season looming over IDP camps – Link 
… Opinion: what the death of al-Baghdadi means for ISIS in Syria – Link

Iran freed 7 political prisoners including one long-term Christian convert – Link 
… “34-year-old Ebrahim Firoozi, convicted of forming a Christian group to ‘disturb national security’ is free”

Iraq protests spread, looks like it will topple the government: 
… “Tens of thousands of Iraqis thronged central Baghdad on Friday demanding the root-and-branch downfall of the political elite in the biggest day of mass anti-government demonstrations since the fall of Saddam Hussein.” Link 
… “Victory or death”: Iraqi youth take to the streets – Link 
… “His mother wept for hours”: the stories behind deadly mass protests – Link 
… PM agrees to resign, president says, after weeks of protests – Link 
… Masked gunmen attack protesters in Karbala, 18 killed, 100s wounded – Link

Iran’s leaders see threats to their influence in Iraq, Lebanon protests – Link

Protests hit Pakistan this week: thousands take to the streets, seeking the downfall of teh government, which I judge is unlikely – Link

Afghanistan election results delayed until mid-November – Link

Also, a compelling longread: Women and children are the emerging face of drug addiction in Afghanistan – Link

India formally separates Jammu and Kashmir into 2 territories: time to update the province lists (JP could face quite a bit of work!) – Link

And, the Naga peace process hits Kashmir road block – Link 
… “hope of ending India’s oldest armed insurgency is fading fast”

Fascinating analysis: Tibet’s rivers will determine Asia’s future. Tibet is the source of 10 major Asian rivers flowing into the most densely populated countries in the world. China’s been building lots of dams and its Five Year Plans confirm its desire to push forward hydropower projects in Tibet, affecting these river flows. Link

Sri Lanka is recovering its tourist trade after the April terrorist attacks targeting churches and luxury hotels – Link

“Fake news on Facebook fuels communal violence in Bangladesh” highlights how the country is one of the fastest growing internet populations in Asia. Half of Bangladeshis use the Internet in some form; 50 million (1/3rd of Bangladesh) are on Facebook. Viral messages spread on the platform can stir up mobs; but it’s also a valid way of interacting with Bengalis. Link

Hong Kong: I doubt anything will change next week.

Protesters take to the streets again – Link

The protests have forced the city into recession – Link 
… Beijing likely betting economic pain will cause support for protests to wane

Carrie Lam: “This is anti-government violence. We will tackle the violence head-on” – Link 
… “For the government to resort to measures that will appease the violent rioters, I don’t think that is a solution.”

“No regrets”: Hong Kong’s protesters test China’s limits – Link 
… “Hard-line demonstrators and the embattled authorities are locked in an impasse.”

China threatens families of Radio Free Asia reporters who cover the Uighur issue – Link

For embattled Uighurs, a bank transfer abroad can become a terrorism ordeal – Link

Last week’s issue felt a little gloomy to me. So here’s something fun: Japan is apparently opening a life-sized Godzilla theme park. Link

A [petulant?] North Korea fires two missiles into the sea amid stalled talks – Link 
… “an apparent resumption of weapons tests aimed at ramping up pressure on Washington over a stalemate in nuclear negotiations”

In North Korea, even charity is challenging – Link 
… 11 million N Koreans (40% of population) lack nutritious food 
… 20% of N Korean children are stunted from malnutrition 
… yet N Korea refusing to accept food aid offered by the South

Diwali celebrations in Malaysia, in beautiful photos: contextualization of a festival – Link

Thailand creates “fake news monitoring hub” more likely used to target critics – Link

Laos hydropower project kicks off, but downstream areas are dried up and alarming – Link

Many people have told me about the UK having a very low church participation rate, and they’re not wrong. But the Church of England apparently isn’t going to give up. It’s planting new churches in urban areas in a bid to renew itself. The program is controversial, because it has begun to spend the church’s huge investment fund (not just the returns on investments) to plant new “evangelical” churches often in the heart of cities – Link

“The overstated collapse of American Christianity” – Link 
… three reasons the narrative of rapid secularization is incomplete … 
… this trend is important to track, but I do not believe the sky is falling, and this is a good counter-arguments piece to the latest Pew report.

Chile: One examination of why thousands are protesting – Link

Haiti: UN warns of potential humanitarian crisis – Link

New Data

US set to spend $8.8 billion on Halloween – Link 
… time to update those articles about mission spending vs dog costumes

Rising seas will erase more cities by 2050, new research shows – Link 
… obviously not everyone agrees with climate change data, but this trend is worth monitoring. Several of these are world A cities, including places like Ho Chi Minh, Bangkok, Shanghai, and Mumbai among others.

Implications of “a world without retirement” – Link

Longer reads

NYT on Iraq and mental health: how does the human soul survive atrocity? Link 
… “After the horror of ISIS captivity, tens of thousands of Iraqis — many of them children — are caught up in a mental-health crisis unlike any in the world.” Read, lament, pray.

Why some churches are trading pews for dinner tables – Link 
… “Dinner Churches”: “Every week they invite the neighborhood to a four-course meal. While dining together, a team leads the group through Christian liturgical elements, including worship music, live visual art, and a short message. In the midst of the homey ambiance of the meal, people learn about God and grow closer to each other.”

The Economist on the link between polygamy and war: plural marriage, bred of inequality, begets violence – Link

Futuristics/Technology

“The drone wars are already here” – Link 
… “The skies of Syria, Yemen, and Libya swarm with armed and dangerous unmanned aerial vehicles. And the technology is spreading farther and farther afield.”

New crosswalk signals, more AI-powered surveillance in Shanghai – Link

Facebook suspends Russian accounts meddling in African elections – Link

Google makes a big change to the way to serves search results, will make a significant impact on surfacing niche pages in response to specific questions – Link

“Maybe it’s not Youtube’s algorithm that radicalizes people” – Link 
… An examination of the role of online communities that gather around exposed content, and serve as amplifiers. “We believe that the novel and disturbing fact of people consuming white nationalist video media was not caused by the supply of this media ‘radicalizing’ an otherwise moderate audience… Rather, the audience already existed, but they were constrained” by limited supply.

Most US political tweets come from a minority of posters. Link 
… if your timeline feels overrun, try muting a few posters and see if the noise isn’t significantly reduced.

In Afghanistan’s war and peace, WhatsApp delivers the message: proliferated into the highest echelons of the Afghani government, while also used by the Taliban. Link

The cost of cybercrime worldwide – Link

Russia is testing its ability to wall itself off from the global Internet. The ability to function without connection to the outside requires its own DNS, which means traffic aimed at one website can be re-directed to another, and websites can be blocked at will. I expect other countries (e.g. China, India, etc.) will go this way too, and the ability to “silo” the Internet either in whole or in part will lead to complications to using Internet tools both for communications and proclamation – Link

Game changing tuberculosis vaccine “a step closer” – Link

Facial recognition in China is easing traffic congestion – Link 
… there are some positives to the technology.

Quotable

“Simple solutions to complex problems tend to generate new problems.” ~Benedict Evans

“Humility is about letting other people take a shot, even if we think we have the right answer.” ~Simon Senek

“Followers of Jesus, do not confuse Jesus with His followers. The most effective way to steer clear of cynicism in this current Christian climate is to stay Jesus-focused instead of Jesus-follower focused. No one is worthy of your undying loyalty but the one who overcame death.” ~Beth Moore

Roundup #179

New Events

North-West Africa

Algeria closes three more churches two of which are the country’s largest – Link 
… “The harassment hasn’t silenced Christians… There is a boldness in the N African church that is new…”

Tunisia polls suggest conservative professor wins election – Link

Egypt / Sudan

Anti-government demonstrations led to Internet censorship – Link

Western Africa / Lake Chad

“We looked to escape death”: violence uproots nearly 500,000 in Burkina Faso – Link 
… “Aid groups and the government of the West African nation have been at a loss to respond to a fast-moving emergency, set off by lawlessness and suspected terrorist attacks in a once-tranquil country.”

Nigeria

Nigeria: the Islamic State West African province gains steam – Link

Ethiopia / Horn / East Africa

Ethiopia’s evangelical PM wins Nobel Peace Prize – Link

Central Asia / Caucasus

Turkmenistan routinely blocks most websites – Link 
… so does Tajikistan – Link

Saudi / Israel / Lebanon / Syria / Gulf

#AndNowMoreFightingInSyria:

Read all these with a grain of salt. There’s a war going on, with long standing enmities, and a lot of points of view. I’m not familiar enough with the nuances of the ground situation to able to discern very well. I’m generally limiting myself to major mainstream pieces that give an overall sense of what’s happening and the impact on the people.

If you’re looking for a quick explainer, Politico has a pretty good one – Link

Latest, 10/17: a US-Turkey agreement leads to a cease-fire and a suspension to its march, gives Turkey the withdrawal of the SDF from its borders, and a America’s agreement to refrain from imposing sanctions – Link

Report: Turkish-backed forces freeing Islamic State prisoners, executing Kurdish prisoners, killing unarmed civilians – Link

Residential areas targeted, Christians among those killed – Link

The enemy of my enemy: Kurds throw in their lot with Russian-backed Syrian government – Link

Russian troops patrolling between Syria, Turkey, stepping in as a mediator? Link

But, odd: NYT shows proof that Russia has been bombing hospitals in Syria – Link

War leads to IDPs: More than 300,000 have fled the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army’s advance – Link 
… more than 100 international organizations left as a result of Turkish shelling 
… shortages of key supplies due to highway cutoffs

An infographic of where the Syrian IDP refugee camps are – Link 
… this graphic says 160,000 displaced since Turkey began operations.

70,000 children are among the displaced, says UNICEF – Link

To no one’s surprise: Why Syrian refugees don’t want to return home from Jordan – Link 
… factoids, though: there are between 0.6 million and 1.3 million refugees in Jordan

Turkey says it wants to build 400,000 houses in NE Syria to resettle 2 million Syrian refugees, but it’s unclear who will pay the bill – Link

Kurdish evangelicals: amidst the current war, here’s one angle the media isn’t getting – Link

And in Lebanon, thousands in anti-government protests in Beirut and several other cities – Link

Iran/Iraq

Iran backed militias deployed snipers in Iraq protests – Link

Afghanistan / Pakistan / Pashto>

The Council of Presidential Candidates accused both Ghani and Abdullah of involvement in large-scale election fraud – Link

More Afghans are migrating to Europe from Iran than Syrians – Link 
… and other sources tell me many of them are coming to faith …

“They were all killed in front of my eyes”: the brutal cost of war in Afghanistan. “In a country where decades of conflict have taken a profound toll on mental health, professional support is scarce.” I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a country where everyone has PTSD – Link

The Jogis: a tiny stateless minority in Afghanistan strives to survive without rights, services – Link

India

Prices continue to rise – Link 
… vegetables up 15%, meat and fish up 10%, onions soared

Cell service to be restored in Kashmir – Link

Nepal / Bhutan / Tibet

China, India competing over Nepal – Link 
… “China now the largest trading partner of Bangladesh, Maldives and Pakistan”

China

70 years of China’s economic growth on one high-resolution chart – Link 
… interesting look at the intersection of history and economics

Christian volunteers trying to stop clashes from happening in Hong Kong: “Beat us, don’t beat the kids” – Link

Japan / Koreas / Mongolia

Rescuers hunt for survivors after Japan typhoon – Link

Southeast Asia

Water Wars and Chinese dams on the Mekong: “China now has the power to completely stop the flow of water to downstream nations” – Link

“Nothing bad happened here. Believe us, they said.” How Myanmar covered up ethnic cleansing – Link

Notable Europe / Americas

USA steadily becoming less Christian…? Link 
… Pew: 65% Christian 2019, 77% in 2009 
… Nones: 26% in 2019, 17% 2009 
… I have three caveats. 
… One is timing: where will Millennials be when they are the age the Silents are now? This research only shows a snapshot of where generations are now and where they were 10 years ago. I’d be very interested in a look at where, for example, the Silents were when they were at a similar generational period as Millennials are now. It’s possible that many Millennials will come back later in life. 
… Second: what is meant by “Christian” vs. “None”? Other research shows Americans still broadly believe in God, etc. It’s possible what we’re seeing here isn’t a loss of faith but a disenchantment with the American religious structure. 
… Third: It is possible that this is a new “normal.” For much of America’s history, there has been a strong cultural pressure to identify as some form of Christian. Now, that cultural pressure has been significantly reduced. We may be seeing in Millennials what was truth all along. 
… I still believe there is a firm floor to the drop. Those who are declaring themselves “none” are likely those who were mostly cultural Christians all along.

Another data point: attendance is dropping, but total giving is increasing in the USA – Link

USA: 40% of Muslim students in California report being bullied due to religion – Link 
… last week I shared a poll that showed just 13% of Christians have seen other Christians bullied for their faith …

Longer reads

How cooking helps refugees and migrants blend in – Link 
… I think this is a fascinating piece, and one that points to some ministry options.

Christianity: the most diverse movement in history – Link 
… among other things, this tidbit: “Sengmei warned me not to give Western missionaries too much credit. Westerners saw only a handful of Naga converts, who then effectively evangelized their tribes.” That’s how it’s happened throughout history, and how it’s happening today.

Futuristics/Technology

Global Fintech Report 2019, from PWC – PDF – Link

The state of technology in global newsrooms, 2019 – PDF – Link 
… journalists in some parts of the world face many of the same restriction issues that mission agencies do. And, they also face significant funding challenges, and most newsrooms are very small organizations. So it’s interesting to see how they use tech to solve problems.

China’s new cybersecurity program: no place to hide. This piece from China Law Blog is chilling. Link 
… another view: China making it harder for companies to keep their information private – Link

Amazon has transformed the Hasidic economy – Link

The percentage of American workers who typically work at home is growing – Link 
… at least 5%, and by some measures vastly more than that. 
… and companies are working to increase the number of remote workers

Twitter will limit the reach of certain politicians who break its rules – Link 
… this is an interesting approach: when tweets “are of public interest” but you want to limit the viral spread. “Users won’t be able to like, reply share or retweet the tweets.” Generally, I think this is a good idea – but what can be applied in this situation can be applied in other situations, too. It’s a double-edged sword.

China’s big brother [Hikvision] is watching your every move – Link 
… high tech company is operating in 100 countries

China broadens data collection through propaganda app, translation service: “This app helps you learn about China, while China learns all about you.” Link 
… here’s an article from February describing the app – Link 
… allows data access to 100 million phones – Link

“AI has learned to create fake news stories” – Link 
… an article more about the potential for the technology than where it presently is.

To no one’s surprise, it’s more likely deepfake videos will be made of women than men. But, this QZ article recounts some things are really key in looking at this trend. (1) the number of deepfakes seems to be doubling every year, growing exponentially; (2) there are services offering very cheap production of deep fakes; (3) when men are targeted (<5% of videos), it’s for non-pornographic (I assume political or scam) purposes. While the pornographic issues are horrendous, they are unsurprising in our culture; I am watching primarily for when non-Western governments use deepfakes against Westerners and especially against missionaries and/or Christians. Link

Can AI learn to write for The New Yorker? This very long read explores the development of GPT-2 (an article-writing AI which is not publicly available) and the less-powerful but better-known Google Smart Compose. These have certain limitations but the trend is definitely there. Link

Quotable

“He who jumps into the void owes no explanation to those who stand and watch.” ~Jean-Luc Godard