Roundup #219

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Sudan ends 30 years of Islamic law by separating religion, state. Bloomberg 
… agreed to do it, but it doesn’t look like it’s done, yet …

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Violence continues: truck bomb kills 3, wounds 3. NYT 
Dozens dead in central Somalia as villagers battle al-Shabab. Al Jazeera

Ethiopia: Covid-19 reveals risky life on the buses for Ethiopia’s child conductors. AllAfrica 
… “Tarekegn, who left his village in southern Ethiopia when all schools shut in March, is one of countless migrant boys working as minibus assistants in cities across Ethiopia.” 
… “When there is no work, I starve”

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Burkina Faso: over 0.5m children under 5 ‘acutely’ malnourished. Link

groans as food prices rises. AllAfrica 
but Buhari said food crisis averted. AllAfrica

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Lebanon: “How a massive bomb came together in Beirut’s port.” NYT 
… 15 tons of fireworks, jugs of kerosene and acid, thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate, and a system of corruption and bribes that let the perfect bomb set for years … “The disaster-in-waiting was the result of years of neglect and bureaucratic buck-passing by a dysfunctional government that subjugated public safety to the more pressing business of bribery and graft.”

Damascus struggles to import food as Syrians go hungry. SyriaDirect 
… 9.3 million are currently food insecure, 2.2m more at risk

Israel/USA: Shofar lessons are a necessity in the age of Covid. RNS 
… Synagogues are shuttered. Jewish law requires Jews to hear the shofar in person, blown on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. So many Jews are scrambling to figure out how to blow their (mostly decorative) shofars.

South-central Asia (2.1B)

Deadly rumor has Turkmen citizens with Covid symptoms avoiding hospitals. RFE 
… “they will give me an injection now and kill me” 
… stories are rumors, unclear if they are true or not. 
… “The Turkmen people are sure the government is lying to them about many things, including about the absence of the coronavirus, and now they are also worried the authorities may kill them if they are unfortunate enough to actually be infected with the disease.”

Woman loses three husbands to war. RFE 
… remember the question the Sadducees asked Jesus about the woman with 7 husbands, all brothers? Not entirely theoretical. 
Afghan govt-Taliban peace talks begin this week. NYT 
Near record violence risks derailing peace talks. UN

Coronavirus crisis shatters India’s big dreams. NYT 
Maharashtra (#2 Top40) nears 1 million cases, rivals Russia, economy stifled. CNA 
Rich prosper during the pandemic while poor stand precariously at the edge. Diplomat 
Pandemic pushes biggest jobs programme to brink in rural India. CNA 
First nationwide serological survey suggests India has 6.8m cases in May. Straits Times 
India’s death rate: nuances, complexities, gaps, shouldn’t be relied on. CNN

Half detained in UP under national security law are suspects in cases of cow killings. CNA

A year after rendering millions of people stateless, India has yet to hear a single appeal. FP 
… Remember the big deal about the national registry published last year? See: 
India to create a registry to “weed out those living illegally in the country” – Link 
India pushes to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from neighbors – Link

#Pakistan’s sprawling Karachi “broken” by monsoon floods. Al Jazeera 
… “record rains inundated Pakistan’s largest city, paralysing city authorities as people were left to fend for themselves”

Another Christian sentenced to death under blasphemy charges. JPost

East Asia (1.6B)

new language policy sparked rare backlash in Inner Mongolia. CNN 
“national security” crackdown creates speech crimes in Hong Kong. RFA 
“purification of classrooms”: new law erases history, silences teachers, rewrites books. LATimes 
doubles down against foreign teachers spreading Christianity. SCMP 
freezes US journalists’ credentials, hinting at expulsions. NYT 
… “their fate depends on what the United States does to Chinese media employees.” 
Three camps in Xinjiang’s Uchturpan believed to hold 10% of Uighur population. RFA 
China and India agree to de-escalate. NBC 
From Asia to Africa, China promotes its vaccines to win friends. NYT 
“Sit, eat, wait for death”: life in the Shenzhen sticks. Sixth Tone 
… life of migrant workers in Sanhe 
China offers state-sponsored pre-marital counseling to slow divorce rate. HKFP 
… 4.15m divorces last year, up from 1.3m from 2003 …

Smugglers still ply trade on NKor-China border despite shoot-on-sight orders. RFA 
… “economic hardship driving North Koreans to break strict quarantine rules”…

Southeast Asia (700M)

Indonesia: when learning is really remote. NYT 
… students climb trees and travel miles for a cell signal.

Indonesia’s Islamic council advises Muslims to pray at home as infections rise. Straits Times

Laos set to cede majority control of its electric grid to a Chinese company in order to stave off a potential debt default, while critics accuse Beijing of “debt trap diplomacy” to gain strategic advantage. Link

relaxes entry ban on expats, professional visits from 23 countries. Straits Times 
… incl US, UK & European, Iran, Bgd, Pak, Phil, others. 
considers fully reopening border with Singapore. CNA 
… but also reports +182 cases, highest jump in 3 months. CNA 
… government allows restaurants to stay open to 2am for tourists. Straits Times

Malaysia says it won’t extradite Uighurs to China. Reuters 
… “and will allow safe passage to a third country should they feel their safety is at risk”

Myanmar Covid cases rising: 
… increases Covid-19 lockdown measures, airlines suspend services. CNA 
… schools closed, stay-at-home orders, domestic airlines suspend … 
… Thailand tightens border with Myanmar. CNA

Three years after Rohingya exodus: 
Myanmar soldiers confess to mass murder of Rohingya Muslims. CNN 
Myanmar erases names of Rohingya villages from maps. Daily Star

Europe/North America (1,125M)

France resurgence: 10k daily new cases. Link

Fire destroys most of Europe’s largest refugee camp, on Greek island of Lesbos. NYT

America’s “Zoom Towns”: people moving to better places and remote-working. Housing market is up 8% for most of USA. Mostly higher-wage workers who can transition to work-from-home. Will impact attendance of individual churches. NPR

USA: Low-wage workers hurt most by the pandemic. Link 
Also: Job losses have now hit 40% of low-income homes. Link 
… American workers “in the business of feeding, pampering, and caring for other Americans” were most hurt by social distancing restrictions. 20% of American workers are in food preparation/serving and transportation work. Job losses here will also impact church and mission finances. If a church’s demographic is toward more low-wage workers, the church likewise will be impacted.

A majority of young adults in the US live with their parents for the first time since the Great Depression. Pew

New Data


… 9/11: 28.1m cases, 909k deaths 
… 9/4: 26.0m cases, 862k deaths 
… 8/28: 24.2m cases, 826k deaths 
… 8/21: 22.4m cases, 788k deaths 
Trackers: Johns

Infograph: ~1.3 billion people “live in the dark” (no electricity). Link 
… some correlation, but not 1:1, to % evangelized/% Christian

Daily Chart: Personal freedom still limited in most of the Islamic world. Economist

Calculating the odds of catching Covid on a plane flight. Link

Anecdotally, Catholic missionary numbers declining due to Covid-19. Link

New Longreads

The other way Covid could kill: hunger. NYT 
…Worldwide, the population facing life-threatening levels of food insecurity is expected to double 
…This is an area where many churches and ministries are helping, and more could…

Covid-19 futures: a framework for exploring medium and long-term impacts. Four scenarios, 10 pages, pre-print. Lancet

Where will Africa’s students study abroad in post-Covid-19 times? Link 
… a quarter of a million African students go abroad for education 
… China is now the primary destination country for students …

Attention is your scarcest resources. Link

“The largest contemporary Muslim pilgrimage isn’t the hajj–it’s the Shiite pilgrimage to Karbala in Iraq.” Link

Futuristics & Technology

Pfizer may win the Covid vaccine race, but distribution could be another matters. ABC 
Just transporting the vaccine at scale could be an issue. National Post

Forget TikTok. China’s powerhouse app is WeChat, and its power is sweeping. NYT 
… vital connection for diaspora, global conduit for propaganda, surveillance and intimidation. The US has proposed banning it.

Anduril’s new drone offers to inject more AI into warfare. Wired 
… a swarm… controlled by a single person on the ground… can perform recon…

“No, Amazon won’t delivery you a burrito by drone any time soon” is a great article exploring the reality: a lot of technologies get hyped years before they become a reality. Link

… for more on that subject, consider the Gartner’s “Hype Cycle” for emerging technologies – Link

Not quite hyped yet: Apple’s AR glasses, new glimmers of hardware on the horizon. Wired

Weirdest thing I’ve seen: RoboRoach, which allows you to “briefly” control a roach via a cybernetic backpack. Comes with its own surgery kit to attach to a roach (insect sold separately). Link

See all past Roundups here.

Roundup #218

New Essay

There are 3,980 provinces in the world in my database.

Of these, I estimate 179 are less than 0.1% Christian (Stage 0), and 505 are less than 2% Christian (Stage 1). We can call these the “unreached” provinces in the world–they don’t precisely fit some definitions, but this is pretty close. These 684 provinces will be home to ~2.5 billion people in 2025. With so few Christians among them, this is the heart of the remaining “frontier mission” task.

A different situation is found in the middle tier of provinces. Stage 2 provinces are those between 2% and 8% Christian, and Stage 3 are those between 8% and 32% Christian. These contain 624 provinces, with about 2.8 billion people. This is roughly comparable to the World Christian Database’s “World B”–heavily evangelized, minority Christian. This is something of a grey zone – lots of Christians, and a fair amount of access, but many pockets of people who will never meet a Christian or hear the Gospel.

Finally, Stage 4 and Stage 5 are all the provinces over 32% Christian. These include 2,672 provinces, with about 2.8 billion people. These are the heavily engaged areas with significant Christian presence.

Most of my attention is focused on the Stage 0 and 1 provinces. Among these 684, there are 40 provinces each with populations in excess of 8 million people. Together they total 1.6 billion people–two-thirds of the least-reached 2.5 billion or 20% of the world’s 7.8 billion. Living in places that are less than 2% Christian, they have minimal access to the Gospel.

Changing this situation for any single one of these provinces would have dramatic global, political, economic and religious implications. But doing so is not easy.

One notable example: the per-province population is far larger in the less-reached areas. 2.5 billion people over 684 provinces is an average of about 3.6 million per province, whereas 2.8 billion people over 2,672 provinces is an average of about 1.1 million per. Each Stage 0/1 province would therefore likely need as many as 4x as many workers as the more heavily Christian ones do.

A further complication: many of the Stage 0 & 1 provinces are relatively poor in terms of economy, infrastructure, and resources. Tools which amplify the work of Christian workers in Stage 4 and 5 provinces are not available in these places. Worse, they are often deeply impacted by wars, diseases, poverty, and religious oppression. Fr example, the number two province on the Top 40 list, Maharashtra, is the most Covid-infected province in India.

Is the problem really workers and resources, however? These kinds of problems are solvable–if. There is a bigger problem to be grappled with.

All of the people in each of these provinces are equally in need of the Gospel. God loves all of them equally. However, they are not all equal in access. Reaching people in Stage 4 and 5 is largely a matter of marshaling Gospel resources already present in the province. While it is possible (and sometimes preferable) to send resources from other provinces (e.g. cross-cultural missionaries), it’s not essential.

Reaching people in Stage 0 and 1 provinces who have not yet heard the Gospel nearly always requires some sort of worker to come from a distance–either from a neighboring district within the province, or from a neighboring province, or from around the world. These provinces are often “the ends of the earth” moreso than “Jerusalem, Judea or Samaria.”

Doing this requires effort, intentionality and resources–and most of all focus on the part of people who already have ready Gospel access.

It seems to me the biggest barrier in achieving this focus is this: those of us in Stage 4 and 5 provinces often take for granted the blessing of Gospel access around us. We think people in Stage 0 and 1 provinces aren’t Christians because they choose not to be. This is not the case. Massive movements are happening in many of these places: people are open to the Gospel. The problem is, they haven’t heard. And how can they, when so few go? And so few go, because so few send. This is a problem that needs to be tackled.

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Possible peace deal between Sudan, 5 rebel groups – Link 
… “hopefully the signing means an end to one of the bloodiest and longest wars in recent African history”

Chad: complex security, environmental crises worsen conditions for over 360,000 – UN 
… Departments of Fouli, Kaya on Lake Chad declared ‘war zones’ 
… Security challenges, increased food insecurity, flash floods, etc

A look at the impact of Coronavirus in Algeria – BBC

Waves of Russian, Emirati flights fuel Libyan war – NYT 
… “egregious violations by leaders who flout the embargo have reached new levels” 
… Last week, rebels called for peace talks, but this is why I am cynical

East Africa/Horn (520M)

A virtual tour of Malawi – NYT 
… beautiful photos. Located in East Africa, ~80% Christian.

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Senegal port removed 3,050 tons of ammonium nitrate from its port – NYT 
… and trucked it to Mali, “for use by Malian mining companies.” AP

Mali: where the state is weak, militants broker talks between rival clans – Reuters 
… “turned to mediation in a bid to further entrench their local control” 
… “in the sparsely populated semi-arid lands northeast of Bamako…”

Nigeria’s internal conflict is “a Molotov cocktail of anger, frustration, religious extremism, toxic politics, corruption and deep rut,” according to a leading bishop in the country. Crux

Report: 6 million Nigerians have fled Boko Haram in 10 years – Guardian 
… and, factors behind conflict between farmers, herders in Nasarawa state – ReliefWeb

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

New research in Iran says 1.5% of Iranians profess to be Christians. Christianity Today … research by GAMAAN, secular Netherlands-based research group …

Over half could face food shortages – UN 
… Lebanon was already in economic collapse even before the Aug 4 blast 
Water shortages compound desperate situation in Beirut – UN 
Half of Beirut’s health care centers out of commission – WPost 
The church steps up in Beirut – MNN 
… “could not be prouder of the church… almost instantly hit the ground”

Horrific story: African migrants locked up in Saudi coronavirus centres – Al Jazeera 
… more, with photos – Telegraph 
… Ethiopia tried to silence people writing about it – Telegraph 
… “two centers, one in Al Shumaisi, the other in Jazan. Housing thousands of Ethiopians for months. 200,000 migrants slated for deportation, rounded up and left in squalid conditions in detention facilities.”

A country-by-country survey of Covid-19 situations in the Middle East – Link

Turkey’s economy contracted 9.9% during Q2 due to lockdown – Link

South-central Asia (2.1B)

#India: 3.8m Covid cases, +83k/day 
Daily record high of 83k new cases as restrictions eased – Straits Times 
Worst impact: Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi – Link 
Metro services to reopen nationwide – Jakarta Post 
New job portals, apps trying to help 10s of millions left jobless by Covid – Straits Times 
Others want laws to preserve jobs for locals (not migrants) – Straits Times 
… the Indian economy contracted 23.9% in April-June, unemployment to 8% 
… 19 million salaried, formal economy jobs lost during lockdown

Not just Covid: Afghanistan hit by new wave of polio cases amid pandemic – RFE

Cleaning up toxic uranium legacy: waste seeping into rivers, farmland. Link

Nepal: police used tear gas, water cannons to break up a Hindu religious rally of 2,000 residents who had defied government bans on public gatherings to stop Covid-19 spread. Link

East Asia (1.6B)


Scenes from China’s Guizhou province (Stage 3, 5% Christian) – Atlantic … Stage 3 province, about 5% Christian …

In China, the censorship of the Great Firewall is fostering young nationalists. Politico

Curbs on Mongolian language teaching prompt large protests – NYT 
… The Uighurs are the most notorious story, but seeing a lot of other “less notorious” stories about curbs on non-Han cultures in China. 
… Mongolian schools stay empty as a civil disobedience protest – RFA 
… The everyday ethnic politics of Han-Hui relations – Link

It’s not just China-USA: Cracks in China-Europe relations run deep – Diplomat 
… “tension driven by deeper structural factors… likely to stick…”

Wuhan reopens all schools – CNA 
International flights to Beijing resume as restrictions eased – Straits Times

Facial recognition and bathtime bookings: how universities are re-opening. CNA … “the world’s largest population of university students is heading back to campus in a migration defined by lockdowns, patriotic education and cutting-edge surveillance equipment.”

Scrambles to add hospital beds as resurgence strains system – Straits Times

Southeast Asia (700M)

Nikes for Chicken: online bartering soars in Covid-hit Philippines – Al Jazeeera

Indonesia has new daily high in new cases – Straits Times 
Malaysia to ban entry of people from countries with 150k+ cases – Straits Times 
… bars entry for long-term pass holders from India, Indonesia, Philippines CNA

Vietnam: resume some Asian flights as curbs on business travel ease – Link 
Cambodia: tourism establishments gradually reopen as situation eases – Straits Times 
… tourism down 64% over last year = loss of ~US$3 billion …

Government wants to reopen tourism – Link 
Interesting look at the patronage culture in Thailand – Link 
Continued growth in protests, arrests of protesters – Link

Europe/North America (1,125M)

Covid reappears in Italy, migrants become a target of politicians – NYT

Another data point in travel bubbles and barriers impacting national economies: Despite reopening of borders in the world’s second most popular tourist destination, Spain’s foreign tourist arrivals plummeted by 75%. Tourism is responsible for 12% of Spain’s GDP. It had hoped for more tourists, but after an explosion of new Covid-19 cases, many countries began issuing travel warnings re travel to Spain, and quarantine restrictions on people coming back. Jakarta Post

Russia cases surge past 1 million, now in 4th place – Moscow Times

New Data


… 9/4: 26.0m cases, 862k deaths 
… 8/28: 24.2m cases, 826k deaths 
… 8/21: 22.4m cases, 788k deaths 
… (out 8/14) 
… 8/7: 17.3m (+1.8) cases, 674k deaths 
… 7/24: 15.5m (+1.7) cases, 633k deaths 
Trackers: Johns

Worldwide, 7,000 health workers have died of Covid-19 since beginning – Al Jazeera 
… “health worker infections put recovery at risk” – Sydney Morning Herald 
… will especially impact poorer places where workers not easily replaced …

The looming hunger pandemic. Foreign Affairs 
… In last 30 years, rates of extreme poverty halved, hunger dropped by 25% 
… In last 4 years, number going to sleep hungry every night rose from 796 to 821 million 
… Acute hunger up 70%, from 80m to 135m people 
… War is the big factor. Climate change plays a role. Covid-19 compounding these

Nearly half of the world’s students cannot return to classrooms due to Covid-19. UN 
… almost 1 billion students face either school closures or class uncertainty

New Longreads

Netflix’s “Indian matchmaking” offers wisdom for churches. CT 
… introducing singles can help build the church 
… Justin: globally, 2/3 of new Christians are babies born to Christian families 
… Helping believers marry believers & raise believing children = key part of growth

The WEA MC has a long survey/analysis of Covid-19 impacts that is worth reading. WEA

Your ‘surge capacity’ is depleted–it’s why you feel awful. Link 
… “Our culture is very solution-oriented… it’s a destructive way of thinking when you’re faced with a problem that has no solution, at least for a while…”

Covid and culture shock feel the same to your brain–and here’s why. Link 
… “When someone moves to a completely new culture, many of the ‘autopilots’ your brain uses for thousands of small decisions every day become ineffective. In a similar way, your current environment has likely changed sufficiently enough that many of your own ‘autopilots’ are no longer working.”

Your unbelieving friends need more stories than syllogisms. CT 
… interesting link to the DMM principle of using Bible stories and personal testimonies that link to individual real life situations 
… “apologetics can become a monologue rather than a dialogue”

Fascinating longread on “The culture of dying” – Al Jazeera 
… looks at how the culture we’re raised in & the religion we choose help us navigate death 
… “the mourners gathered in her aunt’s home… wondering who some of these people were…” 
… “none of us were equipped on how to grieve” 
… “Islamic guidelines provided a practical framework” 
… “don’t talk about grief, sadness… seen as a lack of faith in God’s will” 
… “with medical advancements, our experience of death has become diluted” 
… “those who believed in God showed greater acceptance of death, greater growth in response to loss” 
… “made me wish we had more rituals,… lack can leave people feeling lost” 
… Covid & adapted funerals … 
… “in Islam, this last journey is most sacred…” 
… “absence of rituals meant unable to feel a sense of closure”

Related economic impacts of Covid-19:

… Child labor increasing – “instead of starting 7th grade, this 12-year-old is working in Mexico’s fields.” This is certainly happening elsewhere as well. Link

… “Coronavirus despair forces girls across Asia into child marriage” – Al Jazeera 
… “desperate families plunged into poverty because of the pandemic”

And new market opportunities: “Huge empty ‘ghost’ cruise ship tours” – “using his ferries to offer tours of these hulking vessels would get passengers as close as possible.” – Link

Unoccupied and uncleaned buildings are developing mold infections. Wired

Futuristics & Technology

Desperate for people to fly, Delta, United and American all announce permanently ditching change/cancel fees – Verge

Analysis of a lack of broadband internet around Covid-19 solutions demonstrates that while most have some access to the Internet, the quality of Internet access is not easily distributed. Phone calls, SMS messaging, limited browsing is available very broadly around the world–but high bandwidth inexpensive/nearly-free broadband (necessary for things from telemedicine to video church, etc) is not evenly distributed, and often unavailable in poorer areas. Link

Cambodia plans China-style Internet firewall. Asian Review 
… “national internet gateway” includes “censorship angle”

China complains about app bans in India – Straits Times

How WeChat censored the Coronavirus pandemic – Wired

Apple, Google launching Covid-19 “Exposure Notification” with new OS revisions. TechCrunch

The hot new amenity for churches: a professional video studio. Fast Company

Drug cartels loading bombs on drones to assassinate enemies. Link 
… “widespread on battlefields, now proliferating to organized crime…”

So maybe we’ll get flying jetpacks after all… ABC News

Self-surveillance? Amazon’s new health tracker will use AI to monitor your tone of voice – QZ 
… “Hey Alexa, how did I do in that conversation? Alexa: you need to relax more.”

AI/GPT-2 being used to update Stephen Hawking’s communicator – Forbes 
… one positive example of the usefulness of AI autocomplete of communications

See all past Roundups here.

Roundup #216

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Over 100,000 visit Egypt’s Red Sea since inbound tourism resumes. Daily News

Argument: Could Libya be partitioned? FP 
… Haftar has lost the initiative, “the only option left for his international backers” is to divide the country

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Ethiopia’s Oromia reeling from state violence. AllAfrica 
… security forces kill/injure a “staggering number of protesters”

Over a dozen killed in hours-long Mogadishu hotel siege. Al Jazeera 
… 16 dead, 43 wounded in al-Shabab attack on upscale beachfront hotel in capital

Somali pirates carry off first hijacking in three years. Reuters

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Mali coup: 
Rebellion amid protests that President stole recent parliamentary election. NYT 
Another explainer: What has caused Mali’s political unrest? Al Jazeera 
… briefly, current crisis started in March when opposition won election but tally overturned by courts 
President, PM arrested by soldiers after mutiny. Africa Report 
The (high ranking) soldiers who brought down the government. Africa Report 
… Rebels say they are committed to handing over to caretaker govt, fresh elections 
… Mali is the 8th largest African country, mineral rich, and 2/3 under age 25.

The looming influx of foreign fighters into sub-Saharan Africa. Link 
… armed conflicts escalating across sub-Saharan Africa …

1 million flee escalating violence in Burkina Faso. UN 
… 5% of total population displaced …

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Syria could have 2 mln cases of Covid by 8/31. Al-Monitor
… “no way near reimposing restrictions to curb the spread”

In response to the last Roundup’s side question, Patrick Johnstone noted Beirut was, in fact, not the largest non-nuclear explosion in history. It is #5 on the current list. The largest was in Halifax, Canada, in 1917. It is notable that ammonium nitrate figures in 4 of the top 11 events. It’s obviously some pretty explosive stuff. Wikipedia

South-central Asia (2.1B)

Covid-19 has delayed or stalled the process of 85k *Bangladeshi migrants traveling for work. Daily Star 
… about 85% expected to travel to Saudi Arabia 
… and, 70% of migrants returning to Bangladesh are struggling to find employment. Daily Star

Who tells the stories of India’s countryside? Diplomat 
… a survey of some websites devoted to following the life, woes, hopes of India’s rural population

India is entering a dangerous new phase. Guardian 
… rising infections in small towns and villages with limited access to health care 
… villagers flout rules as cases surge: “largely given up” on social distancing. Al Jazeera 
Millions likely infected in New Delhi, says new survey Al Jazeera

Migrants start to return to work in Delhi, even as Covid deaths soar. Al Jazeera

Indian Muslim artisan hopes Hindu idols can help his Covid-hit business. Straits Times 
… the pandemic clobbered his pottery business, so a Muslim artisan in Dharavi turns to a Hindu god…

Indian temple reports huge Covid-19 outbreak as cases surge. Reuters 
… Lord Venkateswara temple, one of the largest and most wealthy Hindu shrines 
… 743 temple employees infected by the virus … 
… many large religious centers of all faiths being impacted …

No human pyramids in Mumbai’s “Lord Krishna” festival due to Covid. Reuters 
… festival “normally attracts thousands onto the streets” 
… “no public festivities in Mumbai this year”

India will soon surpass China in # of world’s tallest religious statues. Link

Ganges River flows with history and prophecy for India. AP 
… gorgeously photographed look/longread about the Ganges 
… the Ganges is key to Hinduism

Heavy rains flooding new Delhi, suburbs – South Asia monsoon kills 1,300. Al Jazeera

Nepal bans transport, public/religious gatherings for a week in capital due to rise in Covid cases. Link

Remittances to Pakistan hit record high due to subdued hajj spending. Reuters 
… one’s loss is another’s gain …

#Central Asia:

Death and denial in Turkmenistan. Diplomat 
… inconsistent messaging about Covid-19 has “doomed the people to confusion and death” 
… “A Central Asian state rarely covered in depth by international media” 
Kazakhstan: exhortations to maintain social distance have little impact. Eurasianet

East Asia (1.6B)

China’s hidden crisis: a growing elder care gap. Sixth Tone 
… Shanghai, where 1/3 are over 60, can take months to secure even basic care for elderly relatives

Changes to China’s hukou system: Economist 
… the rich find it easy to move to big cities; the poor are pushed to small ones 
… controlling where people can move and live can also have barrier implications for Gospel spread

“Repression of religious institutions in China under Xi Jinping” RFI 
… “new era of religious oppression rapidly approaching the worst level since PRC founding…”

China’s influence reaches into American universities. WSJ 
… some classes will now carry a warning label: “may cover material politically sensitive in China” 
… “weighing measures to shield students and faculty from prosecution by Chinese authorities” 
… ministry to international students even in open countries is being observed, and is not without risk

Hong Kong purges sensitive content from school textbooks. CNA 
Four in 10 American firms could leave HK over national security law. Inkstone

“The death bell will ring for southern Mongolian identity.” Bitter Winter 
… CCP launching 3-year plan to progressively replace Mongolian with Chinese in schools in Inner Mongolia

China using access to Covid-19 vaccines for diplomacy. WSJ 
… promising “early access to countries of strategic interest”

Crowds smaller for Yogurt festival in Tibet, due to Covid. RFA 
… religious events everywhere being impacted by Covid

NKor: Kim Jong-un admits big economic plans failed. NYT 
… holds rare congress to chart new economic course … 
Kim Jong-un delegates some authority incl foreign policy to sister. Straits Times 
… not sure what to conclude from this …

Korea Protestant churches under siege in new Covid-19 storm. Korea Herald 
… “lax government controls allowed churches to become transmission hotbeds” 
… Sarang Jeil Church is worst (600 cases) but many smaller-scale breakouts also 
… “churches often play unique role as social hubs in their neighborhoods…” 
… “Police raid church” to get list of congregants. Korea Herald 
Worship services banned in Seoul, Ihceon, Gyeonggi provinces. Bloomberg

Southeast Asia (700M)

How Indonesia failed to control coronavirus. Reuters 
… unorthodox treatments, the world’s lowest testing, minimal contact tracing, lockdowns resisted … 
… fastest infection spread in East Asia … 25% positivity rate in testing in Jakarta … 
Government still evaluating when to reopen Bali to foreign tourists. Straits Times

… Virus forces rethink in Bangkok, world’s most visited city. JT 
… Expected 40 million tourists in 2020; will likely only see 8 million 
… Cases rise, plans for “travel bubble” shelved. JT 
… Covid-success turns economic failure: bankruptcies rise, unemployement swells. Asia Times

Protests in Thailand, where speaking out can be perilous. NYT 
… Some are even defying the taboo against criticizing the monarchy

Europe/North America (1,125M)

“Long-haulers are redefining Covid-19”: understanding the lingering illness some experience. Atlantic 
… if mission personnel contact Covid-19, some may face this too …

USA: Christian leaders debate how to do church amid pandemic. USA Today

France facing another wave of Covid-19. NYT 
… until a solution (eg a vaccine) is found, there will be recurring waves 
… while there are recurring waves, travel barriers/bubbles will be frequently seen

#TravelBubbles will be the rule as countries try to stop spreading infection: 
Croatia to go on UK’s “red list” after infection rate triples. Telegraph 
Hong Kong bans Air India after infections arrive. The Hindu 
India proposes air bubble pact with Bangladesh. Daily Star 
Malaysia’s Penang halts medical tourists after arrivals from indonesia. CNA

It snowed chocolate in a Swiss town. Link 
… feeling a calling to Olten, Switzerland? …

New Data


… 8/21: 22.4m cases, 788k deaths 
… (out 8/14) 
… 8/7: 17.3m (+1.8) cases, 674k deaths 
… 7/24: 15.5m (+1.7) cases, 633k deaths 
… 7/17: 13.8m (+1.6) cases, 590k deaths 
Trackers: Johns

Violence targeting humanitarian aid workers. ACLED 
… these places will be risks to church/mission workers, too …

New Longreads

“Giving up on God”: the global decline of religion Foreign Affairs 
… “the majority of the countries we studied”: 49 of them
… as demonstrated by a poll on “the importance of God”
… “biggest transformative issue is fertility”
… adherents, church attendance, and other religious demography not discussed

“Catering to the digital nomad”: Several countries with fragile tourist economies offer visas that allow foreign nationals to live and work for a period of at least 6 momnths: why work from home, when you can work from Barbados, Bermuda…? NYT

Witch hunts are still a global problem in the 21st century. DW 
… August 10th declared a World Day against Witch Hunts …

Futuristics & Technology

I am making Feedly the center of my newsgathering world. The pro version has recently released the ability to bring in both Twitter feeds and newsletters. It’s incredibly useful. Feedly

Yet another data point on “Chinese surveillance tech spreads around the world.” Statista

“In event of moon disaster”: an example of deepfake technology – Link 
… manufactured scenes have been with us for a long time
… earliest example I know of was Forrest Gump.
… deepfake technology is intended to deceive, hard on a casual viewing to detect …
… this is a demonstration of how advanced the tech has gotten …

Another form of deepfake: a college student makes a fake blog using the GPT-3 AI model, and one of his posts reaches the number one spot on Hacker News. Technology Review

China blocking all encrypted HTTP traffic using TLS 1.3/ESNI. ZDNet 
… ESNI (Encrypted Server Name Indication) had successfully hidden which sites were being visited 
… allowing older TLS technologies that included the site name being visited in cleartext 
… government can infer what is being accessed from the site being visited

Five things we know about flying right now. NYT
… #1: the middle seat saga continues, Delta looks best to me …

Why we think our phones are secretly listening to us. Medium

“This plane flies itself. We went for a ride.” Wired

Roundup #217

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Libyan rivals call for peace talks, but may be wishful thinking. NYT

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Egypt’s farmers fear Ethiopia dam will be their end. NWA Online

Kenya’s health workers, unprotected and falling ill, are walking off the job. NYT 
… 100s have tested positive, some have died, health facilities overwhelmed, government officials accused of stealing funds

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Nigeria: Lots of headlines generated out ICC estimate that between 50k and 70k Christians killed in Nigeria over the past decade, due to attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani. Link

A different perspective: “Allegations of Christian genocide in Nigeria is false, misleading” – “90% of the victims of the violence are Muslims” – I’m not familiar with this particular group, or how justified or political their statement is. Still, it’s probably true that there are complexities to this issue, and while many are martyred “in situations of witness” it may not always be “for their faith.” All Africa

International flights to Nigeria may be resuming on a limited basis. AllAfrica

But, Nigeria says it will bar entry to citizens of countries that block Nigerians. WHTC

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Turkey turns another historic church into a mosque – CT

Turkey’s “hedonist” singles become new target of AKP heavyweight – Al-Monitor 
… average age of marriage is 24.8/27.8, but younger people putting off into 30s 
… Compare to China piece from Sixth Tone cited below, plus changes in Korea demographics

Lebanese face threat of widespread hunger after Beirut explosion. WSJ 
… Kuwait to rebuild the destroyed wheat silos at Lebanese port Al Arabiya

Lebanon returns to lockdown after post-explosion surge in virus. Al-Monitor 
… ban on movement from 6pm to 6am, malls closed, social gatherings banned

Wage abuse is hurting Qatar’s migrant worker population. Al Jazeera 
… “says her employers have refused to support staff financially and have even confiscated passports and ATM cards…”

Iran’s quiet ban on Muslims visiting other places of worship. IranWire

Iran’s health officials: “Don’t travel. Don’t spread the virus.” IranWire 
… Muharram religious holidays from August 26-29 usually involve significant travel

Iraq: A Nigerian talks about what it’s like to live in Iraq. Interesting insights into what life is like on the ground. TechCabal

Israel: coronavirus cases top 100,000. Al-Monitor

South-central Asia (2.1B)

Flash flooding in Parwan kills 100, injures 300, destroys homes. RFE 
… also, waist-deep flooding brings Karachi to a halt. Al Jazeera 
With delay in peace talks, creeping sense of ‘siege’ around Kabul. NYT

Rural Afghan province still struggles with Internet access. RFE 
… yet another illustration of how the Internet isn’t a silver bullet for everything, incl. evangelism.

The making of a Hindu India: Al Jazeera 
… “If India is today a Hindu nation, it is also a tinderbox in which the self is defined by the perpetual hatred of others.”

In theory, Kyrgyzstan opens to tourists from 31 countries. Eurasianet 
… but tourists from Kazakhstan have been turned away at the border 
Azerbaijan facing a water shortage. EurasiaNet 
Kazakhstan negotiates deal to buy Russian vaccine. Diplomat 
… Russia claims safe, effective, but has not completed large-scale human trials 
Kyrgyz authorities allow Friday prayers, Kazakhstan lifts some restrictions. RFE

East Asia (1.6B)

Life on the Slow Train: views of a vanishing China. Sixth Tone 
… an amazing, fascinating look at the “green railways” and the “life of the underclass” from a photographer who has spent decades traveling them, collecting over 200,000 digital photographs since 2006.

A similar piece: Life on the edges of China’s livestreaming boom. Sixth Tone

Single and Proud: China’s Millennials embrace a solo lifestyle. Sixth Tone 
Yet another intriguing piece: “being single was once a source of shame. Now, it’s becoming a badge of freedom–and businesses are scrambling to cash in.” 
Number of singles in China has now surpassed 200 million

Is China actually rewriting the Bible? ChinaSource 
… Brent Fulton dives into the nuances of the story

China: “Vaccine front-runner already inoculating workers” BBC 
… half of the leading 6 candidate vaccines being tested are Chinese … 
… expect vaccine diplomacy … also, rumors/conspiracy theories/resistance to Chinese vaccines

Hong Kong is indeed applying its national security law to people outside Hong Kong. Latest example is American citizen Samuel Chu, on charges of “inciting secession” and “colluding with foreign powers.” This trend may chill travel to or through Hong Kong? Religion News

US sanctioning Chinese cotton grower XPCC due to its connections with Uighurs and Xinjiang – and the sanctions will have a complex effect on other companies. XPCC produces 7% of the world’s cotton. WPost

More US sanctions on Chinese firms and executives, this time on those active in contested South China Sea. I doubt many of these sanctions will go away in 2021, regardless of which administration is in charge. I theorize US-China tensions will continue for the foreseeable future. WSJ

And in a slightly darker turn of events, China fired missiles (one dubbed an “aircraft killer”) into the South China Sea, probably as a warning to the US. Al Jazeera

SKor’s total fertility rate hit a record low of 0.92 in 2019. Korea Herald 
… South Korea isn’t the only nation facing this reality. Many countries – including markedly Muslim nations like Turkey, Egypt, Iran – are seeing demographic crashes.

Governments and churches around the world have been facing off over religious freedom, and the nexus of Covid-19-related worship bans is intersecting those conflicts. Different people are going to have different opinions about whether this is really a religious freedom issue or not. Korea Herald 
… “How SKor’s evangelical churches found themselves at the heart of the Covid crisis” Guardian

NKor troops, police ordered to shoot on site anyone who comes within 1km of the NKor-China border, regardless of their reason for being there: “trying to prevent the transmission of coronavirus through contact with people from China.” RFA

The North Korea rumor mill is talking up possible comas again. This analysis suggests most of this is likely false. NK News

About 396k travellers are staying in SKor illegally. Straits Times 
… stranded and over the 90-day tourist visa limit. 
… “Immigration service making efforts to repatriate illegal aliens, 
… but an increasing number of nations were unwilling to accept their citizens back”

Japan to relax re-entry restrictions on foreign residents in September. Diplomat

Southeast Asia (700M)

Bali bans foreign tourists for rest of 2020. CNA

Myanmar expands Rakhine lockdown to cover 1 million. Jakarta Post

Thailand eyes more foreign patients as hospitals urge easier access. CNA 
… more of that medical tourism idea

Europe/North America (1,125M)

Somali-centered online news source Hiiraan Online carries a story, “Everybody is getting sick,” about thousands of refugees and immigrants “working for huge plants in the Panhandle [of Texas] repeatedly exposed to coronavirus after the plants were deemed essential and ordered to remain open.” The story is of course somewhat political in nature but does capture some insights about the lives, work, and numbers of immigrants and refugees in this area. Hiiraan

Russian evangelicals fined for ‘missionary activity’ during pandemic. Christianity Today 
… “in the first 6 months of 2020, more than 40 punished for violating anti-missionary law” 
… some fined for handing out tracts and literature 
… some fined, deported for private home meetings

Virus resurgence in France. ABC 
… 20% of France in “red zone”; masks imposed on Paris.

New Data


… 8/28: 24.2m cases, 826k deaths 
… 8/21: 22.4m cases, 788k deaths 
… (out 8/14) 
… 8/7: 17.3m (+1.8) cases, 674k deaths 
… 7/24: 15.5m (+1.7) cases, 633k deaths 
Trackers: Johns

2020 Report: the state of food security and nutrition in the world. PDF

Infographic: the world’s most valuable unicorns. CBInsights … 488 unicorns (billion-dollar startups) worldwide, worth $1.5T. … #1 is ByteDance, owner of TikTok.

New Longreads

“Our hands are tied”: local aid workers exposed in pandemic. Hiiraan Online

10 Pacific Islands kept out Covid-19, at cost to their tourist economy. Link

The seduction of pessimism (and why optimism is, in the long run, more accurate). Link

QAnon is a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Christianity Today … also: Evangelicals are looking for answers online, and finding QAnon instead. Technology Review

“Scenario planning: formulating strategy in the face of high uncertainty” reviews the nature of scenario planning and reviews “Covid-19 and the future of work,” four scenarios from a consulting firm on the post-pandemic world of work in 2023. Link 
… the original four scenarios report is here

Deloitte has developed “The world remade by Covid-19: planning scenarios for resilient leaders.” Deloitte

First documented Covid-19 reinfection reported in Hong Kong. NYT 
… there have been anecdotal stories, but this is the first documented case that I’m aware of. But the good news: although the prior exposure did not prevent reinfection, the man had no symptoms the second time – it was completely asymptomatic. (This suggests he could infect others though he did not have the bad symptoms.)

Interesting piece on the impact of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on the early Protestant Reformers and the Reformation. CT

Futuristics & Technology

I experimented with Feedly receiving e-mail newsletters, but rapidly discovered it has a maximum of 25. I reverted to all newsletters coming straight into my Gmail client, because I get rather more than 25. (Also, Feedly’s layout of newsletters left something to be desired.) Still, Feedly Pro has some incredibly useful skills, including an AI article recommender based on previously saved articles, and the ability to bring a Twitter list into Feedly.

With hacks and cameras, Beijing’s electronic dragnet closes on Hong Kong. NYT 
… American internet giants are struggling to respond.

“Big Tech embraces new cold war nationalism” is another example of globalized tech feeling the heat of rising nationalist barriers. Foreign Policy

Interesting ‘DiceKeys’ tech uses a special set of 25 dice and a photo scanner to generate a 192-bit key: a highly random, mathematically unguessable key that can be a master password for password managers, etc. Schneier

American Airlines may lay off 19,000 workers. CNN 
… “unless it gets more help from Congress.” The downturn in air travel is impacting the economics of airlines. There is surely there is some “horse trading” going on here, but the reality is that there will be fewer flights (especially international flights) in the near-term future, and those flights may be more expensive. Air travel is probably going to get more difficult than in the near-term past.

AI-based traffic management controlling traffic lights. ZDNet

Graze Growing has invented a full autonomous commercial lawn mower, in an interesting application of autodrive technology to disrupt $100 billion lawn mowing market. Link 
… Interesting to think about which jobs will be lost …

New Google Pixel Buds can translate spoken words from French, German, Italian and Spanish into English. Verge

Facebook blocks group critical of Thai monarchy amid government pressure. Straits Times 
… yet another example of how local governmental norms/rules impact global organizations

Buzzfeed uses censored portions of China’s Baidu mapping platform, compared to Google Maps, to identify prisons and internment camps in Xinjiang. Buzzfeed

See all past Roundups here.

Roundup #215

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Sudan: Stricter Covid-19 measures in Northern State. Link

Egypt denounces Turkey’s move on Hagia Sophia. Al-Monitor
… announces plans to restore monastery in South Sinai …

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Tanzania’s president says the country is virus free. NYT 
… experts outside are skeptical …

Ethiopian workers forced to return home, some with Covid. NYT 
… returning from the Persian Gulf, other parts of Africa … 
… “may be fueling a growing outbreak” …

Kenya decides to scrap the school year and start over. NYT

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Malawi: Forced labor, prostitution, child marriage. UN 
… “rescuing victims of human trafficking”

Nigeria’s Lagos to allow places of worship to reopen Aug. 7. Reuters 
… restaurants, social clubs, etc. reopen Aug. 14.

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Big event of the week was the massive explosion in Beirut. 
… NYT has a long read on how the ammonium nitrate got there. NYT 
… the story starts with a leaky, troubled Russian-leased cargo ship. 
… Initial investigation: negligence is cause of blast. Reuters 
… NYT also has a bit on what ammonium nitrate is. NYT 
… CT: an evangelical leader’s grief over divided, devastated country. Link 
… Ground Zero: a rip through the heart of an already dying city. Link 
… “Beirut will never be the same again.” CNN 
… (that may be headline hyperbole) 
… Collection of photos from AP. Link 
… Collection of photos from NYT. Link

Lebanon was already in crisis before that: 
… Statista: A country in economic crisis. Link 
Over 90k Syrian refugees struggling to find food. France24 
Inside Lebanon’s crippling economic crisis. Link 
… produces next to nothing for export, and has relied on remittances; running out of cash.

Iran’s Covid death toll 3x higher than admitted, says report. Link 
… Government actually estimates death toll at 42,000 
… 1 person dying from Covid-19 every 7 minutes in Iran, according to state TV

Syria: poverty deepens across the region. UN

Turkey: “Bad news” for marginalized Christians. Politico 
… decision to reconvert the Hagia Sophia “yet another blow to already marginalized community”

South-central Asia (2.1B)

Afghanistan facing humanitarian disaster amid pandemic, continuing violence. Link 
… at least 11 killed in roadside bombing. Link

Wakhan, Afghanistan usually receives 100s of foreign tourists. RFE 
… This year, zero, impacting the local economy.

Kazakhstan is confiscating a pair of church buildings. Link

Tajikistan suspends electricity deliveries to Uzbekistan. Link 
… insufficient snowfall hindered output at hydropower plant …

India: PM Modi will help lay the foundations for a “grand” new Hindu temple at a flashpoint holy site in Ayodhya that has been the spark for some of India’s worst sectarian violence. Link

India: Covid-19 spreading, but … Link 
… 82% of total cases are in 10 states. … 66% are in 50 districts … 
Bihar: “Rely on God”–medical network overwhelmed. Link 
… lacks good hospitals, woefully short on resources, “worst is yet to come”

India extends ban on international flights (departures and arrivals) through August 31. Link

Pakistan: Poor and desperate, Pakistani Hindus accept Islam to get by. NYT 
… drawn by jobs or land offered by Muslim groups …

Pakistan to lift remaining Covid-19 restrictions by August 10. RFE

East Asia (1.6B)

TikTok/WeChat Ban: Huge event, still trying to understand ramifications: US Presidential executive order banning US transactions with TikTok, WeChat, and their parent companies ByteDance and TenCent. I’m less familiar with Bytedance, but I know TenCent owns significant stakes in most of the very popular videogames in the USA, including Fortnite and Overwatch. 
… “China opposes U.S. orders” Reuters 
… “A true US ban on WeChat would be a personal disaster for anyone with family/friends/business in China” @niubi 
… “With WeChat sanctions, Trump strikes at heart [of Chinese social life, commerce, business]” WPost 
… WeChat has 1+ billion users. A ban will have a major impact on comms. Radii 
… “Video game companies owned by TenCent will not be affected; only transactions related to WeChat” @SamAugustDean

New USA CyberPolicy has serious bite on Chinese firms Diplomat 
… “Clean Network Program” lists 5 major areas where Chinese companies will not be allowed

Hong Kong issues arrest warrants for exiled democracy activitss. Link 
… includng at least one American citizen living in the United States. 
… and some exiles living in the UK. Link 
… France halts ratification of extradition treaty with HK. Link 
… Christians worry new law will hamper missions. CT 
… HK charges 24 for attending an annual vigil for Tiananmen. NYT

US “Administration is poised to impose [additional] sanctions on Chinese officials…” @JenniferJJacobs 
… including HK chief Carrie Lam Straits Times

“Sheep without a shepherd”: Hong Kong churches divided by politics. Japan Times

China Times: “China will retaliate if Chinese journalists in US are forced out.” Link 
… “including targeting US journalists in Hong Kong”

US travel to Tibet still blocked by China. Link

China says it will not recognize UK overseas passports. Guardian 
… “raises the prospect that 3 million HK citizens eligible for the passport will be banned from leaving HK”

South Korea see continued Covid infections linked to churches Korea Herald

Southeast Asia (700M)

Philippines: millions back on lockdown as Covid cases soar. Link 
… capital, 4 surrounding provinces, 27 million people (25% of Philippines)

Covid-19 pops Philippine remittance bubble. Link 
… plunged deep into recession – 16.5% fall in growth – 19.3% fall in remittances in May 
… 2019, remittances = 10% of GDP 
… old piece: many Filipino overseas workers likely to lose their jobs Link

Indonesia: ~4k passengers arrived in Bali on reopening day. Link

Thailand: Cases rise, plans for “travel bubble” shelved. JT

Europe/North America (1,125M)

Slight opening: Russia resumes visa-free entry for some foreigners. Link

USA: How families are finding God, grace and faith outside a house of worship. Link 
… “Parents say they miss the religious communities that were a big part of their lives, 
… but they are finding ways to practice their faith with their children.”

USA rescinds global level-4 travel warning, reverts to country-by-country warnings. SMH

USA: How two California megachurches kept worshipping. CT

A priest revives a nervous parish: “Can you bless our quarantine room?” LAT 
… Covid-19 is driving spiritual hunger out into the open 
… “Now, I don’t know when they will all be back. So I go to them.”

New Data


… now: 17.3m (+1.8) cases, 674k deaths 
… 7/24: 15.5m (+1.7) cases, 633k deaths 
… 7/17: 13.8m (+1.6) cases, 590k deaths 
… 7/10: 12.2m (+1.5) cases, 550k deaths 
… 7/3: over 10.7m (+1.0) cases, 517k deaths 
Trackers: Johns

WHO: Africa cases will soon surpass 1 million. Link

ACLED reports significant outbreaks of intercommunal violence in Africa. Link

New Longreads

“Where the Pandemic is only getting worse”: the crisis in the United States shouldn’t distract from the worsening situation elsewhere. Atlantic

How to make SMART requests for help. Forbes 
… a useful application of the acronym …

The people that Covid-19 has cut off from home. Guardian 
… Chinese students, Mongolian tourists, Palestinians …

The Pandemic Depression: The global economy will never be the same. Foreign Affairs 
… “massive economic contraction that will be followed by a financial crisis” 
… “nonperforming loans, bankruptcies, sovereign defaults…” 
… “World Bank: 60 million will be pushed into extreme poverty…”

“Inequity at the boiling point” NYT 
… looks at the people who are most affected now by rising temperatures.

A vaccine reality check: so much hope is riding on a breakthrough, but a vaccine is only the beginning of the end. Link

Futuristics & Technology

Twitter begins labeling state media accounts, focusing on China and Russia. Link

After Oct 1, airlines may start laying off staff and cutting pay (under the federal airline bailout guidelines). Several airlines will likely see severe cuts (United says it could cut 45% of its workforce). This also implies far fewer flights. “It could be risky to book a flight now for after that date.” WPost

India widens its ban on apps from Chinese companies. Link

Interesting piece: “small US company with ties to US defense/intelligence has embedded software in 500+ mobile apps allowing it to track the movements of hundreds of millions of mobile phones worldwide.” (How is this different from TikTok, WeChat, or even FB?) Link

Watch the test flight of the engine stage of SpaceX’s Starship. Link 
… it takes off
… and it lands. I never tire of watching this.

Zoom to shift to “partner-only” model in China, suspending direct sales. It looks like Zoom is trying to address some of its security and PR issues. Wonder if people are reassured. Link

Google employees will work from home until July 2021. Guardian

Former head of American Airlines says 1/3 to 1/2 of business travel will never come back. WSJ

The Panopticon is already here Atlantic 
… another piece on China’s use of AI to enhance total control, and how its exporting the tech.

Roundup #214

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Sudan: “We had to eat our seeds for planting” Link 
… 10m facing food shortages …

In Darfur, the killing goes on Link 
… violence has surged amid fresh accusations against security forces

For French-Algerian families, virus disrupts cherished summer ritual. Link 
… “Holidays in Algeria are a cornerstone of the cross-cultural identity”

East Africa/Horn (520M)

International flights to Kenya resume. Link

Kenya’s churches re-open cautiously. Link

A second generation of locusts is invading east, south Ethiopia. Link 
… 1 million people will likely need emergency food assistance 
… worst locust infestation in Ethiopia in 25 years

With Somalis, why a quiet hajj hurts Link

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Senegal’s biggest holiday sees shortage of sheep. Link 
… Eid al-Adha requires a sacrificial sheep. Covid restrictions have made them more expensive.

Children in Nigeria area continue to endure “horrendous violations.” Link 
… brutal abuse at hands of Boko Harm, affected by military ops

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Some Arab states resuming air traffic despite pandemic. Link 
… “particularly those heavily dependent on tourism”

Scorching, record-setting heat wave across Middle East. Link 
… Baghdad hits 125 deg F.

Iraq seethes on the edge of another social explosion. Link

Saudi: downsized hajj begins amid pandemic. Link 
… only 10,000 are participating in the ritual this year … 
… all inside Saudi. 2/3 foreigners already in Saudi Arabia. …

Turkey: passes law granting sweeping power over social media. Link
… social media platforms ordered to open offices in Turkey 
… offices to respond to demands to block/remove offensive content 
… slow bandwidth, limitations on platforms if they refuse

Yemen: 2020 could be worst year yet for hunger in Yemen. Link 
… half the country relying on food aid to survive 
… “perfect storm”: deadly combination of war, Covid-19, floods, locusts …

South-central Asia (2.1B)

Afghanistan: Taliban “on the verge of establishing pure Islamic government” Link

Afghanistan: 1,200+ civilians killed in in first half of 2020. Link

Bangladesh: a quarter submerged, millions lose everything. Link 
… torrential rains follow cyclone 2 months ago 
… country witnessing pattern of more severe, more frequent river flooding

“The poor in north Bangladesh” are the worst victims of Covid-19 fallout. Link 
… “severe food related distress because of inadequate income during pandemic”

In India, Muslim devotees of Lord Ram celebrate ‘bhoomi pujan’ in Adhoya. Link 
… “We have converted to Islam and embraced its prayer system, but that doesn’t change our ancestors. We believe that Lord Ram is our ancestor…”

India: slum study casts doubt on official Covid data. Link 
… Covid infections passed 1.5 million, deaths neared 35,000 … 
… but study suggests 57% in Mumbai’s slums have the virus … 
Experts warn crisis could get worse as cases mount. Link 
… “Tough few months ahead”, esp. Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu 
… worst hit cities: Mumbai, Chennai 
… floods, coronavius hobble Assam, Bihar. Link 
… West Bengal announces 9-day lockdown. Link

“In Kashmir, the hills are alive with the sound of schooling.” Link 
… 100s of students attending open-air classes …

India’s migrant workers fear return to the cities. Link 
… spurning free air tickets, accomodation, higher pay 
… form the backbone of India’s economy, grim implications for the economy

India-China border tensions simmer, India adds 35,000 troops Link

India bans 47 more Chinese mobile apps. Link

Many countries are using Covid-19 clampdown as an excuse to arrest journalists. Link

Kyrgyzstan: losing the fight against Covid-19? Link

East Asia (1.6B)

“With security law as a cudgel, Beijing cracks down on Hong Kong” Link 
Hong Kong: don’t write its obituary yet (op/ed) Link
… “the resilient people are bouncing back”

Continued rise in surveillance, control in China: home to 18 of the 20 most surveilled cities in the world. Link

Last week, we noted new rules for foreign teachers. 
Now: New “social credit system” for foreign teachers could be coming. Link

Yet more reports of workers being forced to leave China.

Hong Kong Covid response: bans social gatherings of over 2 people. Link 
For kitchen-less Hong Kongers, ban on restaurant dining is hard. Link 
After public anger, HK reversed itself on breakfast/lunch restaurant ban. Link 
HK postpones legislative election for a year. Because, “virus.” Link 
… I personally think it probably is the case – but doing so while cracking down on security certainly raises suspicion.

Arrest warrants issued for six HK democracy activists. Link 
… they have fled the territory … 
New Zealand suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong. Link 
EU to restrict exports to Hong Kong. Link 
Germany suspends HK extradition agreement. Link

China says worst of flooding still to come. Link 
… third wave of floods formed in upper reaches of the Yangtze River 
… 2 million evacuated, 142 dead since flooding began in June

Southeast Asia (700M)

Cambodia’s government using laws to restrict freedoms. Link

Indonesia finalizing ‘travel corridor’ with UAE. Link 
… would exempt certain travelers from 2-week quarantine measure … 
… to facilitate business trips, official & diplomatic visits … 
… 2-week quarantine defeats short-term trips, but money talks …

Bali to reopen to international tourists in September. Link 
… more than half of Bali’s economy depends on tourism. 
… With tourists gone, many Balinese returned to farms and fishing. Link

Philippines extends coronavirus lockdown in Manila. Link

Thailand: antigovernment protests mount as young Thais demand change. Link

Vietnam’s Danang enters lockdown amid surge in Covid cases. Link 
… suspend all flights, train/bus travel to coastal city 
… more than 80,000 (mostly tourists) fled/evacuated. Link

Europe/North America (1,125M)

A North American Muslim Community holds a mock drive-thru hajj. Link 
… “get in the festivities of the season… much like a drive to see Christmas lights…”

New Data


… now: 17.3m (+1.8) cases, 674k deaths 
… 7/24: 15.5m (+1.7) cases, 633k deaths 
… 7/17: 13.8m (+1.6) cases, 590k deaths 
… 7/10: 12.2m (+1.5) cases, 550k deaths 
… 7/3: over 10.7m (+1.0) cases, 517k deaths 
Trackers: Johns

WHO: Africa cases will soon surpass 1 million. Link

New Longreads

How I work: Productive Expert Charles Duhigg. Link 
… some interesting bits in here, especially about the power of story.

a16z on Hidden Networks: Network effects that don’t look like network effects. Link 
… “So why does this matter? Companies with network effects that don’t look like network effects are diamonds in the rough. Because their networks are hard to measure, they can often be under-appreciated in the short run and disproportionately strong in the long run.” How many DMMs may fall into this category?

Futuristics & Technology

With rising fear of flying, Europe’s sleeper trains reawaken. Link

“Our remote work future is going to suck.” Link 
… explores the negative impact of everyone-working-remotely on careers and communication

“I am a model and I know that artificial intelligence will eventually take my job.” Link 
… CGI models are being given backstories, personalities, causes to champion

Robot usage is soaring during the pandemic. Link 
… they probably won’t be fired when the pandemic ends.

Global app spending set to pass $100 billion in 2020. Link

Roundup #213


… now: 15.5m (+1.7) cases, 633k deaths 
… 7/17: 13.8m (+1.6) cases, 590k deaths 
… 7/10: 12.2m (+1.5) cases, 550k deaths 
… 7/3: over 10.7m (+1.0) cases, 517k deaths 
… 6/26: over 9.4 m(+1.1) cases, 483k deaths Trackers: Johns

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Study finds 1 in 3 Sudanese children malnourished. Link 
… half of all current adults suffered malnutrition in childhood.

Egypt looks to be seriously considering invading Libya, going up against Turkey. Link

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Kenya’s churches reopen cautiously as infections rise. Link

A second generation of locusts is invading east, south Ethiopia. Link 
… 1 million people will likely need emergency food assistance 
… worst locust infestation in Ethiopia in 25 years

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

“They cannot go up, and they cannot go back” Link 
… Pandemic leaves migrants stranded in the Sahara. 
… “When Cherif Balde set out from Senegal to cross the Sahara and make his way to Europe, he never dreamed that 13 years later he would still be stuck in the desert.”

Nigeria may resume international flights before October. Link

More aid workers killed by Boko Haram in Borno State, Nigeria. Link

Major protests in Mali: say they won’t stop until the president resigns. Link

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Greece is bracing for a rise in refugees if relations with Turkey worsen. Link

Baghdad airport reopens. Link

Iran’s death toll is over 15,000; currently at Link200 deaths per day. 
… 12 of 31 provinces are red “high risk” zones, under restrictions.

Inside Lebanon’s Linkcrippling economic crisis. 
… produces next to nothing for export, and has relied on remittances 
… running out of cash

“MBS expected to be Saudi king by year’s end.” LinkLink.

Turkey’s eastern province of Van has become a refugee graveyard. Link 
… first stop for refugees fleeing Iran, Afghanistan; many wait in Van for years until their asylum application is accepted.

South-central Asia (2.1B)

Emirates to resume flights to 62 destinations. Link

More violence: dozens killed in widespread insurgent attacks. Link

The unhappiest Eid for cattle farmers, traders. Link 
… 100s of 1000s of cattle remain unsold due to Covid-19 
… 1000s of cattle farmers will see massive losses

Antibody study says 1 in 4 in Delhi have Covid-19. Link 
… 1% of the population is a recorded/confirmed case. 
… “Glimmer of light”: fall in daily new infections in Delhi. Link 
Covid cases in India grew from 1 to 1 million in 6 months. Link 
“Area-specific lockdowns complicate economic recovery.” Link 
… cities and states moving in and out of lockdown 
All but one district of Kashmir is in a complete lockdown. Link 
… similar declaration in Manipur 
… also, West Bengal. Link 
Will have to deliver vaccine on a scale never seen before. Link 
“Offers escape” to Afghan Hindus, Sikhs facing attacks. Link 
… many fear those escaping will face poverty in India 
Another piece on the decline of demand for idols and the related loss of income. Link 
How Central Asian Covid-19 data was managed and manipulated. Link 
… lots of “pneumonia” cases; Christians, churches, others impacted

East Asia (1.6B)

China considers new rules, mandatory trainings for foreign teachers. Link 
… several rules foreign teachers should not violate including 
… “engaging in religious education or preaching illegally” 
… only around 1/3 of 400,000 foreign teachers in China employed legally 
… authorities cracking down on illegal foreign teachers 
China will require a negative Covid test for all inbound travelers. Link 
UK suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong. Link 
… says it will need to be changed

Interesting piece on ‘dark fishing fleets’ from China fishing in North Korean waters, pushing North Korean fishermen into less safe, distant waters; many NKor fishing boats apparently lost, washing up in Japan. LinkLink

US orders China to close Houston consulate, citing efforts to steal trade secrets. Might complicate things for Americans inside China, or wanting to go. LinkLink. 
… China responds, ordering US to Linkshut down Chengdu consulate.

“China is pressuring for a land swap deal to settle the China-Bhutan border, in hopes of gaining an advantage over India.” Link

North Koreans “desperately need the border with China to reopen”: hunger, homelessness, business closures all rising. Link

**Remittances: **piece on the many Filipino workers who normally go abroad to work, and send home remittances that account for 10% of the Philippines GDP–100s of 1000s likely to lose their jobs this year due to Covid-19. Link

Southeast Asia (700M)

Tourists are gone, Balinese return to farms and fishing. Link 
… “more than half of Bali’s economy depends on tourism…” 
… “last year, … 6m tourists from abroad, 10m Indonesian tourists…”

West Sumatra wants tourists to come for Idul Adha, despite pandemic. Link

“Indonesia set to have the world’s highest rate of child deaths from Covid-19.” The headline and the trendline are a little exaggerated, but there’s a disturbing data point: 300 children below the age of 6 died due to Covid-19 plus co-morbidities. “Late diagnosis and treatment” were driving factors in the deaths. Link

Where you see a pandemic, Thailand sees an opportunity. Phuket is set to launch a 3 billion baht plan for medical tourism, specifically focusing on elder care and, in phase 2, on the prevention of Covid-19 and other pandemics in the future. Link

Thailand’s emergency decree will be extended until August, but they are slowly allowing more people (especially business people, medical tourists, and some migrant laborers) to enter. Link

Europe/North America (1,125M)

Southern Europe opens its doors to tourists, but not many are coming. Tourism will likely be dragged down by lack of demand even when the doors are open. Link

Animated chart of who the average 26-year-old American lives with. Today, more likely to live with a parent than with a spouse, roommate, or cohabiting partner. Reflects the changing demographics of, and influencers on, potential candidates. Link

“Convent outside Detroit lost 13 nuns in one month.” Given the mortality rates amongst the elderly, and the fact that many religious (Catholics, Orthodox, and also among Buddhists?) in this age demographic, I would expect we would see more stories like this. And if it’s impacting Catholic monastics, it will likely impact mission agencies as well, especially those whose demographics skew older. The expansion of the Kingdom is not without risk. Link

South Africa is closing schools, grappling with virus surge. Link

In poor places (this article is about Latin America), “dubious virus remedies” (read: dangerous, poisonous, ineffective) are surging. “Hospitals don’t have tests, don’t have materials, don’t have protective equipment.” There is a place for churches to spread good information and help. Link

New Data

Infographic: how a family gathering infected 41 people. Link 
… this is Covid-related. But one can also think about other kinds of spread with this perspective.

Spent on video games, in the USA, in June: $1.2 billion (up 26% Y/Y). Link

New Longreads

Protestants around the world: a short excerpt from the World Christian Encyclopedia, by Todd Johnson. A survey of Protestants in 2020, including a map. Link

Futuristics & Technology

The beta api of OpenAI’s GTP-3 machine learning tool was released. It’s an interesting tool that’s amazing some people. I’m not on the waitlist to try it out (yet), but what I’ve seen is fascinating. It’s trained on a large data set so you can ask it a question like “when was the first fax sent” and it will generate a paragraph (or more) of plausible (or at least plausible-sounding) text. This could be “write text for you” as a service. Personally, I think this is less “killer AI” and more “replacement for low-level text writers.” Link

Interesting: ByteDance considering selling majority stake in TikTok. Link

China is launching an ambitious lander mission to Mars, as well. Link

People are mounting cameras on beetles. Link

VPNs are re-thinking hosting servers in Hong Kong. Link

Roundup #212

Observations on growth in Muslim regions

My work on documenting movements has led me to conclude at least 29 million believers are part of movements that are mostly or exclusively concentrating on Muslims. Not all of these believers come from a Muslim background, but most do. This sounds like a huge and hard to believe number, but it really shouldn’t surprise us.

First, there are some 1.9 billion Muslims in the world. 29 million is a very small percentage – just 1.5%. That kind of number could easily be missed, especially if they were going out of their way to keep their religious affiliation out of general view (as many are).

Second, there have been many threads & whispers of large scale movements in the Muslim world for some time. The common refrain has been “More Muslims have come to Christ in the last century than in the previous 20 combined.” While it’s true “the previous 20 combined” is a pretty low bar, it’s still true there is a lot of growth in the number of Christians in majority-Muslim countries.

Yes, some countries have seen declines in the numbers of Christians. Many of the highly Islamic countries (>90% Muslim) have seen significant declines, indeed. The most marked of these include Yemen, Libya, and Iraq–nations torn by warfare, where many of the Christians fled violence and persecution.

However, according to the latest edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia , strongly-majority Muslim nations like Afghanistan, Iran, Algeria, Senegal, Saudi Arabia, and Oman have each seen rapid Christian growth–at least 2%, and some significantly more. In some places, most of this growth is in the ebb and flows of diasporas, but in all of these places there has also been growth in the number of Christians among locals. And this fact, published in the WCE, shouldn’t really surprise us either: for years we have gotten plenty of signals about the rapid growth of Christianity in Iran, and the pieces of growth in Algeria are well known (especially amongst the Berbers). And I’ve heard from many people, from many organizations, who have had long experience in these countries, who have told me about wide-ranging efforts. Further, in less Islamic countries (>60%, <90%), there are very few reports of declines, and many reports of significant growth (Gambia, Mali, Guinea, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Sierra Leone).

Given all of this, it should not be surprising that more is happening “underneath” the surface than is commonly acknowledged or published. We should be encouraged by the gains. But we should also remember that while much progress has been seen, much remains to be made. And some of the gains made to date can be very fragile, so we need to continue to pray for and collaborate with our brothers and sisters in these places.

New Events

Covid-19 Dashboard

… now: 13.8m (+1.6) cases, 590k deaths 
… 7/10: 12.2m (+1.5) cases, 550k deaths 
… 7/3: over 10.7m (+1.0) cases, 517k deaths 
… 6/26: over 9.4 m(+1.1) cases, 483k deaths 
… 6/19: over 8.3m (+0.8) cases, 450k deaths 
Trackers: Johns

Several nations slow re-openings in midst of virus surge.

Back in lockdown: AlgeriaBangaloreBiharHong KongManilaBarcelona.

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

Covid-19 has put Algeria’s “peaceful revolution on hold” 
… the past year’s protests have stopped, the streets are empty …

Sudan drops penalty for apostasy, alcohol ban for Christians 
… worry that “this is a lot to take for the Sudanese.” 
… Concerns about backlash from conservative Muslims, counter-demonstrations, etc.

Sudan declares a state of emergency in Darfur after virus protests erupt.

Tunisia jails a woman for a Koranic joke on Facebook 
… reposting a Facebook joke about the coronavirus written as if it was a Koranic verse.

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Ethiopia: Video of damage from protests in Shashamene
… “similar scenes in many towns along the Rift Valley corridor.” 
… Economist: “A musician’s murder sparks mayhem in Ethiopia“ 
… Death toll from unrest following singer’s killing rises to 239
… Government announces arrests for the killing
… two men say they work for an armed splinter wing of the Oromo Liberation Front. 
… “Unresolved tensions, grievances partly fuel violence“ 
… the Internet has been largely shut down for 3 weeks now

Ethiopia began filling the Grand Renaissance dam on the Blue Nile
… Egypt gets 90% of its fresh water from the Nile, of which the Blue is a tributary 
… Egypt says the dam represents an “existential threat”, asks “for clarification” 
… I rather doubt this will lead to a war, but a strong potential for conflict remains.

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

The fake pharmaceutical industry thriving in West Africa… 
… particularly tragic in the midst of the Covid pandemic …

Jihadists in the Sahel threaten west Africa’s coastal states… 
… even west Africa’s most populous countries are vulnerable … 
… Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso …

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

China and Iran near a trade and military partnership
… ‘would vastly extend China’s influence in the Middle East’ 
… ‘throw Iran an economic lifeline’ 
… represents massive $ into Iran, oil flow out, military collaboration

Iraq will reopen airports, international flights this month.

Turkey’s Erdogan signs decree declaring Hagia Sophia a mosque.

More interesting: Turkey’s Generation Z turns against Erdogan
… ‘young people’s rejection of Erdogan’s brand of Islamic conservatism…’ 
… ‘parents worry heavy dose of religious instruction… prevents learning enough math, science, tech to successfully compete in university exams…’

In photos: Saudi Arabia through the lens of 5 photographers.

Remember Yemen: 5 years of conflict, 100,000 dead, 4 million displaced. Backgrounder.

South-Central Asia (2.1B)

Afghanistan violence continues with major attacks in Aybak
… ‘Deadly Taliban attack adds to despair over faltering peace process’

Kyrgyz chaos: shortage of medics, hospital beds as Covid cases skyrocket.

Kazakhstan’s second lockdown extended to the end of July.

Turkmenistan is going into lockdown
… not because of Covid. There’s no cases of Covid here. No, really.

South Asia being pummeled by monsoon rains, flooding.

One-third of Bangladesh is under water
… monsoon rains drench South Asia, 4 million impacted 
… “going to be the worst flood in a decade”


Could reach 1 million Covid cases soon.

Ladakh, caught between India and China
… a longer read on the buildup of China and the confrontation in the Himalayas. 
… I still think war here is unlikely, but Ladakh is in Jammu & Kashmir, one of the least reached provinces.

Punjab, India’s grain bowl, facing ‘de-peasantisation‘ 
… ‘peasants are seen giving up agriculture as a livelihood’ 
… ‘robust shift from farm to non-farm sector’

No Bangladeshi can leave B’desh w/o valid Covid-19 negative certificate
… selling fake Covid certificates has become big business.

Minorities under attack as PM pushes ‘tolerant’ Pakistan. 
… “A Christian was gunned down… in Peshawar…”

East Asia (1.6B)

China’s new security law is implemented: 
… “disappearing books, illegal words and arrests over blank white paper“ 
… when words became illegal, people began holding up blank sheets of paper. The symbolism is obvious, especially when done in a group. It’s rather like other symbols, like umbrellas. Beijing will not stand for it. 
… Further: laws “are designed to make the media self-censor

China’s troubling vision for the future of public health
… question: what does it mean for health and security to be intertwined? China’s answer to the question involves constant surveillance “in the name of both biological and political health.” Fangkong = “prevent and control.”

China’s Xinjiang Policy is “less about births, more about control“ 
… eradicating Uighur culture, genocide through childbirth prevention … 
… could a UPG virtually cease to exist in one or two generations?

ChinaSource sharing a study on how the church is growing in China
… how much the church is grown can’t be easily known, but “it’s a lot.” 
… given that “it’s a lot,” the question of “how the church is growing” is helpful.

US-China tensions continue to rise: 
… US thinking of a travel ban on all Chinese Communist Party members … 
… almost certainly, China would respond to that …

Stress between UK and China, too.

Southeast Asia (700M)

Travel bubbles and barriers impact long-term and short-term arrivals as well as transit. Singapore, for example, has mostly banned short-term visitors and only recently begun to partially reopen transit. Travelers entering Singapore from some countries are issued 14-day ‘stay at home’ notices can remain at the lodging of their choice; those from other countries (including the USA) will have to serve their time at a government-designated facility at a cost (est. SGD2,000). These restrictions are causing issues for visa renewal and medical access in the region. Check the Embassy page for details.

No one knows what Thailand is doing right, but so far, it’s working
… just 3,240 cases, 58 deaths, and no cases of local transmission in weeks …

Myanmar’s shattered hopes for peace
… ‘overshadowed by conflicts that have smoldered for decades…’ 
… and, illegal drugs have become deeply rooted in Burmese society

Europe/North America (1,125M)

US administration backs down, rescinds rule on foreign students.

Strained US-China relations “are playing out in American universities“ 
… “Chinese students fearful that their government is watching what they do, and if they attend your program, their degree might be meaningless in their country.”

USA: Small business owners closing their doors after new lockdown orders, realizing there may be no end in sight to the virus. “Nearly 66,000 businesses have folded since March 1.” In some nations (like Iran and India), people are broadly facing a choice of “death by starvation or virus.” The choice the US is facing is in the same vein, if not quite so stark. If businesses try to remain open “as they used to be” (e.g. bars, churches, gyms, restaurants, etc. open with full occupancy), there is an almost certain prospect of rampant virus spread. Yet many of these businesses cannot make ends meet with takeaway or 25% occupancy alone. If they close entirely, the economic hit will be devastating. Unfortunately, as inadequate resources are being invested in testing, tracing, and isolating the infected to break transmission chains, this stark choice is being faced by many business owners. The first wave of unemployment was the layoffs of employees; a scenario with a second wave featuring the failure and closure of many small to mid-sized businesses is still possible. Open question: what impact will this have on church finances and mission giving? Link 
… banks gearing up for loan losses, defaults, worst quarter since Great Recession

5% of US pastors say the return of worship services unlikely before 2021
… North Point (Andy Stanley) will suspend services for the rest of the year. 
… ‘It’s an outsider-focused question, instead of an insider-focused question’

Infographic: US passports used to access 183 countries. 
… Now, Americans are barred entry to all but 29
… CNN has a list of nations where Americans are welcome (9, including Turkey) 
… and a list where they are welcome with restrictions (23, incl Cambodia, Egypt, UAE).

New Data

New CHE manual for Covid-19 (PDF). H/T Brigada.

New Longreads

A new study suggests the accelerated decline of fertility rates could lead the global population to peak at 9.7 billion in 2064, fall to 8.8 billion by century’s end. The populations of 23 countries (including Japan and Thailand) could shrink by half by 2100. Subsaharan Africa would go the other direction, and grow to 3X its current population. “India, Nigeria, China and the US would be the dominant powers.” But is that scenario actually likely, or will countries “think their way out of the problem” in the next 80 years? Link

Futuristics & Technology

SCMP has a new China Internet Report for 2020
… there’s a limited free version, and a longer pay version.

Extensive malware stashed inside software mandated by China… 
… Example: lurking inside tax software that Beijing requires companies to install 
… ‘high-stealth spy campaign… bypasses Windows UAC… installs modules with System level privileges…’ 
… My source: ‘Anyone who started a company to stay in China should be aware of this’

Good early report on Moderna’s potential Covid-19 vaccine
… I remain cautiously skeptical about the potential availability or widespread distribution of a vaccine either this year or early 2021. But this is a very good sign that one will be developed in the short-term future.

Bring on the ‘bots, who don’t get sick: 
… Covid could accelerate automation, hurt low-wage workers

Hotspot for Jesus
… a wireless hotspot in his pocket advertises itself as an open wifi connection 
… it is also a full web server in the local language 
… including text of the Bible and copies of the Jesus Film.

Online gaming exceeds $150 billion
… probably nearly $200 billion by 2022.

Looks like big changes are coming to the Gmail web interface
… could be some serious competition for Slack … 
… how many mission orgs use Gmail? Will affect nearly all of you …

DDoS-for-Hire fueling a new wave of cyberattacks. 
… AWS fended off a 3-day attack that was likely ideologically motivated … 
… Have any mission or church websites suffered DDoS attacks? …

Covid-19 July Observations

I haven’t done a summary update related to Covid-19 in a while. I’m doing this one now, and will try to do a new summary observation post at least once a month.

The statistics surrounding total tests, infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are difficult to ascertain with both accuracy and precision. I am working on the following assumptions.

1. The total number of tests seems largely to be tracked in places where the statistics are most accurate (e.g. Western nations, as well as certain Asian countries like Korea). Very few countries seem to report the number of tests, but if they do, that number is probably both accurate and precise for the moment the snapshot was taken.

2. The total number of infections is almost certainly accurate in the sense that it is not exaggerated or deceptive as a floor. But there are problems with precision, some of which I outline below. And certainly, the case numbers are not an accurate ceiling.

  • In many places—especially the United States, where the most cases currently are found—there are not enough tests. Many infections are untabulated and often even undiscovered. It is impossible at this point to know exactly how many are being missed. Some studies are being done to try and ascertain this number, and these early studies seem to suggest infections are actually 10X known infections, at least in the United States.
  • In some places, such as Central and Western Asia, it seems very likely the total number of infections is being deliberately understated if not outright hidden. Observers have seen indications the number of cases and deaths far exceed the number being reported. So in these cases, the numbers are no less than what is reported, and very definitely more.
  • In some places, such as Southern Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), I have doubts about the quality of the number. I’m not sure there’s any conspiracy to hide case counts as there are demonstrably so in other places, but I also wonder, given the situation of these countries, if the numbers could possibly be so low.
  • In all places, we need to remember the numbers for infections or cases lag the actual infection point. One of the key elements to the spread of Covid-19 is the asymptomatic nature of the early stage of infection. Many people show no signs of infection–and yet are still infectious, able to spread Covid-19–for the first week or so of the disease. Once they have the disease, some will go to the hospital or to get a test, and some will not. (In some cases, if they have a mild case, some doctors will say “you are a presumed positive, go home, self-manage”–but they will never have a test, and so not enter the official statistics.) The time between symptoms showing up and going to the hospital/getting a test is another lag. And, there’s yet another lag in reporting (this especially shows up over the weekend). So today’s reported cases are really infections from at least a week, and maybe two, earlier; and today’s infections (as a result of transmission) won’t show up for another week or two.

3. The number of deaths is likewise challenging, though perhaps less so than counting infections. Deaths are obviously more visible than the first infections (especially due to the asymptomatic period). However, multiple factors nearly always contribute to any single death. A good article on how deaths are counted are “The Uncounted Dead.” Unfortunately, the total number of deaths has become a politicized factor, with some arguing that either deaths are exaggerated, because:

  • people who are older, or who have underlying symptoms, are more likely to be killed by Covid-19. For example, a 90-year-old with persistent asthma would be more at risk to Covid-19’s attack on the lungs and heart. Might they have died this year anyway? Did Covid-19 kill them, or did it aggravate the underlying symptoms that killed them?
  • some believe the numbers are being inflated because hospitals are “counting everything as Covid-19, to get more money.” I haven’t seen any instances of this, but I’ve seen lots of cases of hospitals being overwhelmed with cases.
  • Due to many infections not being reported, and indeed many Covid-19 related deaths not being counted as Covid-19 deaths, it seems to me far more probable that the death statistics undercount the actual situation. Studies in excess deaths are being undertaken to document this.

4. “Case fatality rates” and “Infection fatality rates” are calculated by dividing the total number of deaths by the total number of cases or infections. In the USA, 127,461 is 4.9% of 2.6 million cases. By comparison, influenza is estimated to have an infection fatality rate of 0.1%. Of course, if there are many more infections than we presently know about, the rate would be lower. Still, if infections were just 10X, the fatality rate would be 0.49%–some 4X worse than flu.

With this basic context, here are some things I’ve observed from June’s trends:

  1. Understanding that the global numbers are a floor, not a ceiling, the current global number of infections–10.4 million or so–represent just 0.13% of the world’s total population. In the United States, 2.6 million is 0.78% of the total population of 330 million. Even if the actual number of infections were 10X higher, this would still mean only 1.5 to 2% of the population has been infected. For all it has done so far, the virus can go a lot further.
  2. Even if we reached infections of 0.5 million per day, the virus could continue for another 15,600 days (42 years!) before it infected everyone in the world (and that doesn’t account for children born during that time period). (A million a day would cut that to 21 years.)
  3. How do we stop Covid-19? There are two possibilities: (1) a vaccine, or (2) existing infected people are isolated until the disease has run its course without them infecting anyone else. A vaccine may be created sometime in 2021, but making it widely available will be challenging, and could take months or even years (worldwide). Isolation has worked in some countries (e.g. Southeast Asia, New Zealand, etc); in others, it’s problematic for logistical and cultural reasons. And, isolation only works if new instances of the virus aren’t imported from other places.
  4. Until Covid-19 is stopped, it must be “lived with.” How we live with it is a subject for national debate in some places, and national control in others. But one factor is: if our national policy allows us to stop it, what do we do to keep it out?
  5. Because different countries will have different approaches to the virus, travel barriers have been and will continue to be established. In some places, “travel bubbles” are being defined (e.g. travel between Australia and New Zealand but no one else). In other places, countries and states are requiring quarantines for arrivals from certain places. In still others, they are barring travelers from some countries (the most notable recent case is the EU’s barring of Americans).
  6. I anticipate that these travel barriers will almost certainly have enormous effects on the missionary enterprise in the next months to years. I think travel bubbles, barriers and quarantines will be one of the most impactful factors on us. I think it very likely they will decimate the short-term trip side of things–in many places, it will be simply impossible to take an effective 2-week trip anywhere. (This will also have impacts on tourism.)

If your agency used to do significant numbers of short-term trips, and you aren’t this year, and you don’t anticipate doing so next year, I’d like to hear from you. I won’t use your name or shame anyone (there’s no shame in this!) but I’d like to confirm if my view of this trend is true.

  1. The travel barriers will also make certain passports more important than others in certain areas (for example, might European divisions of some multinational agencies be about the only ones able to get around in the EU?). These passports will likely not be the traditional Western ones.
  2. For existing workers, the question of visa renewal is also very stressful. Many workers who have to leave their existing countries are wondering if they’ll be able to get back in.
  3. In this context, rising xenophobia is being noticed. People who come from virus-laden countries are being treated differently. In the case of Americans, globally accessible images of people fighting over being required to wear masks is not playing well. People who live in Korea, for example, have noted “we freak out over 40 new cases, and you have 40,000 new cases per day and don’t want to wear masks.” The people in countries where the virus is under control do not feel positive about the people traveling/immigrating from places where the virus is perceived to be running rampant.

Note that in some countries – like China and India – pandemic xenophobia is merging with other trends. China, particularly, seems to be a “perfect storm” that is leading to very strong barriers of entry. If you’re finding that to be true, too, I’d like to hear from you also.

  1. Long-term service will also be complicated. A 2 week quarantine is completely doable if you plan to be in country for years. (It might also make 90-day “tourist visas” more problematic in some places.) However, many of the places worst affected by the virus are also highly unreached countries. Being able to work long-term in the context of disease and lockdown will also challenge missions in the near future. For all Americans have bemoaned the lockdown in the United States, these have not been nearly as severe as some other countries have endured.
  2. The travel barrier/bubble is a rapidly changing story. I am monitoring for news articles and government releases on this topic, and would welcome any pointers people have for specific countries.

Roundup #211

New Events

Covid-19 Dashboard

… now: 12.2m (+1.5) cases, 550k deaths 
… Largest places: North Africa 0.1m, Southern Africa 0.2m, South-central Asia 1.5m, Southeast Asia 0.1m, West Asia 0.8m, East Europe 0.9m, North Europe 0.4m, South Europe 0.6m, West Europe 0.6m, Central America 0.4m, South America 2.5m, North America 3.1m. All other regions, <0.1m. 
… 7/3: over 10.7 (+1.0) million cases, 517k deaths 
… 6/26: over 9.4 (+1.1) million cases, 483k deaths 
… 6/19: over 8.3 (+0.8) million cases, 450k deaths 
… 6/12: over 7.5 (+0.9m) million cases, 421k deaths

Trackers: Johns

N. Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266m)

North Africa is facing one of the worst droughts in years
… Morocco’s economy to contract because of Covid, drought expenses

E. Africa/Horn (520m)

Ethiopia: Death toll from unrest following singer’s killing rises to 239
… this is a significant issue – sparks in a powder box …

W. Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457m)

The fight to prove Covid-19 is real as cases rise in Africa 
… ‘In some countries, people don’t believe the pandemic is real’ 
… ‘The hospitals of Lagos tell a different story

But: Nigeria restarts domestic flights amid easing coronavirus restrictions.

W. Asia / Saudi-Iran (303m)

Thermometers in hand, Dubai opens for tourists.

South-central Asia (2.1b)

Afghanistan: ‘dramatic surge in security threats to control highways’ … 
… FP: ‘Resurgent Taliban bodes ill for Afghan peace

Italy bars entry to passengers from Bangladesh until October 5
… bode ill for expatriate Bangladeshis wanting to return to work …

After re-opening, several Central Asian nations seeing resurgence in Covid cases: 
… Kyrgyz hospitals swamped by Covid-19 cases
… a lot of circumstantial evidence that deaths in Kyrgyzstan are undercounted
… Uzbekistan has entered a second lockdown
… Indicators of upsurge in Turkmenistan, too.

Central Asian migrants worst hit by coronavirus job losses in Russia 
… 40% of CA migrant workers in Russia permanently laid off during quarantine is tracking cases to the state and district level
… India has 794k confirmed cases, of which 277k are presently active. 
… Covid cases in India are doubling every 28 days
… (which means they are roughly 2 months behind the United States). 
… There is a strict lockdown across nine districts in West Bengal.

Mumbai opens up four new field hospitals.

Loss of demand for idols, downturn in business for Idol makers in Rajasthan.

Last week: Pakistan’s capital to get its first Hindu temple complex 
… ‘part of government outreach to minority Hindu community’ …

Now: government’s plan has sparked a predictable but deplorable backlash
… over 8 million Hindus live in Pakistan, more than half the world’s countries 
… ‘demographic has failed to construct a place of worship for itself for 73 years’

Pakistan’s army tightens its grip.

East Asia (1.6b)

United, American Airlines stop flights to Hong Kong 
… after city ends Covid-19 testing exemption for crews 
… due to rise of infections in Hong Kong

China, Hong Kong, national security law 
… Changed overnight, navigates its new reality … 
… GWU professor does an extensive look at the law
… ‘It is asserting extraterritorial jurisdiction over every person on the planet’ 
… ‘If you’ve ever said anything that might offend the PRC, stay out of HK’ 
… New police powers to surveil lawyers a ‘major threat’ 
… The Great Firewall descends on HK internet users 
… HK’ers want to leave Hong Kong; Taiwan is first choice
… Exodus would damage office market already hit by unrest, virus 
… HK security law is causing fear to rise in Taiwan …

Australia to offer Tiananmen-style visas to Hongkongers currently in Australia
… halts extradition agreement, extends visas

US-China tensions continue to rise: 
… US sanctions Chinese officials over mass detention of Muslims 
… 2 carriers sent to South China Sea in show of force …

China has built a stranglehold over supplies of masks, gowns, test kits, and other medical equipment. Other factories around the world, set up during the time of Covid-19, will struggle to compete with China in the future. China’s control over this side of the industry could be a flashpoint in the future.

China’s schools in book cleansing drive… 
… removing books deemed politically incorrect …

As Dalai Lama turns 85, his lineage’s future is as uncertain as Tibet’s.

Possibly impacting some – Japan flooding deaths rise to 58 
… ‘tens of thousands of troops, police officers, rescue workers’ mobilized …

‘Virus free’ North Korea fires health officials for quarantine failures… 
… Covid-19 spreading in three areas of country including capital …

Southeast Asia (700m)

Thailand’s hotel industry is entering a recovery phase
… the government wants to encourage domestic tourism … 
… the nation is still tepid on foreign tourists … 
… the Tourism Authority expects an 80% plunge in foreign tourist arrivals
… all of this will deeply impact Thailand’s economy … 
… tourism accounts for 20% of GDP …

And, a long read on the struggle for political control in Thailand
… provisional reports suggest 25% of Thais have lost their jobs …

Vietnam entrepreneur installing ‘free rice ATMs’ across the country to help those affected by Covid.

Bali, Indonesia holds mass prayers for re-opening
… plans to gradually reopen to domestic tourists this month, 
… and to foreigners in September.

Europe/North America (1,125m)

USA colleges brace for steep drop in international students this fall
… new req: if intl’s are taking online-only (not in-person) classes, can’t stay. 
… this will impact ministries that work with international students. 
… Among others, would deport 369,000 Chinese students … 
… a lot of money involved, since int’l students often pay full price for tuition 
… so unsurprising that a variety of schools are vowing to protect students 
… and that some schools are suing the Trump administration over it

Travel restrictions on Americans erode a sense of passport privilege
… ‘Travelers from the United States are not welcome.’

650+ Covid cases linked to re-opened US religious facilities
… a very small part of the overall pandemic; the headline is hyperbole.

Two Covid-19 ravaged churches take different recovery paths
… but they shared a tragic fate: together losing 134 members …

The vulnerabilities of Somali communities with Covid-19 in Europe. 
… several high-profile Somali deaths in London … 
… ‘alarming number of Somalis either dead or in critical condition’ …

Melbourne, Australia returns 5 million people to 6-week lockdown after grappling with Covid resurgence.

New Data

In Syria, a grim trade-off between tackling pandemic and famine
… ‘global economic downturn has exacerbated food shortages worldwide’ 
… ‘2020 could be one of the worst years on record for food insecurity’ 
… WFP doubles number it predicted will face hunger to 265 million

Oxfam warns hunger could kill millions more than Covid 
… (but of course this is locked-down Covid. If Covid weren’t locked down, it could kill millions more than hunger. It’s a cruel trade-off without a significant anti-Covid effort.)

mSightly is a visualization tool with a Covid-19 hub. Very nice visualizations.

Great PDF from Financial Times helps identify which chart/visualization to use.

New Longreads

Adam Kucharski, ‘The Rules of Contagion: why things spread & why they stop.’ 
… Wired’s extended review.


Nearly everyone in the world connected via smartphones and mobile phones. 
… But not all connections are equal. 
… This infographic looks at the cost of 1GB of mobile data in every country
… A look at Pakistan and the lack of internet access in much of the country.

Several tech companies are suspending processing HK requests for data 
… after the new national security law, they’re trying to figure out their position 
… FB, Google, TwitterTelegramZoom 
… TikTok will pull out of HK because of security law 
… Techcrunch: Tech industry ‘comes to grip with HK’s national security law’ 
… FP: ‘Is this the beginning of the end for Western tech in China?’ 
… Wired: ‘Security law puts big tech at a crossroads

Hong Kong downloads of Signal surge.

Companies using deepfake technology to create synthetic training videos.

United may furlough 36,000 staff starting October 1
… bookings are just 16% of last year’s travel …

Drones light up Seoul night sky with coronavirus advice. 
… just included for the wow factor …

Can our ballots be both secret and secure
… an interesting longread on the math of encrypting votes yet allowing voters to ascertain their votes are counted. Unfortunately, since the mathematician in question works for Microsoft, I can just see the conspiracy theories now.