Roundup 221

September 25, 2020

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

“The Ethiopian-Egyptian Water War has begun” in cyberspace. FP … cyberattacks and TikTok influence videos …

Flood-hit Sudan facing “unprecedented challenges”. UN … over 830,000 affected, thousands of homes/crops destroyed …

“Libya is a victim of migration, not its reason…” Link

East Africa/Horn (520M)

Ethiopia: shift in Afar culture emblematic of modernizing mood. Link … interesting if too-short look at the changes in the once remote Afar, a long-standing UPG…

Ethiopia’s Christian “Meskel” (“Cross”) festival. Link … celebrated for 1,600 years, a religio-cultural event around the “discovery of the true cross”

Nearly 60,000 Somalis displaced in Somalia due to floods, conflict, drought. Link

West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M)

Over 350,000 people impacted by floods across the Sahel region. Link … Burkina Faso: 1 in 5 people displaced by violence … Chad: 236,000 affected by floods

“Only international action can restore security in the Lake Chad basin, says Niger president.” Link

Nigeria: Lagos approves full reopening of churches and mosques. Guardian

Nigeria: bandits target farmers, threaten food security. Yahoo

West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M)

Jordan will imprison, fine people who hold large gatherings. Link … fighting a new Covid-19 outbreak …

Lebanon: “We have nothing here”: collapse sparks an exodus of despair. FP … selling homes, jewelry for a chance to get to Europe. None plan to return.

Saudi Arabia allows outbound flights to India. Link … but not from India to Saudi. … also, resuming flights to Dhaka on 9/23. Link

Syria: “Coronavirus is out of control, no matter what the government says.” WPost

“Despot of deprivation: Victory for Bashar has meant more suffering for his people.” Economist … “the price of food has risen so high that women boil weeds to eat” … “in Damascus, men clamber over each other [for] what little subsidized bread is available” … “queues for petrol snake for miles…”

Saudi Arabia to reopen religious tourism in bid to revive economy. WSJ … set to reopen the main mosques in Mecca and Medina …

Covid rise dashes Turkish dream of big weddings. Guardian … yet another factor causing weddings to be postponed or cancelled; many Turks already having trouble getting married …

South-central Asia (2.1B)

Afghanistan: Violence persists as government, Taliban seek path to peace. Link … “until there is peace, there is no peace.”

India expected to surpass the US in reported Covid cases soon. Link … Covid cases surge to 5.82 million. Link

Kyrgyz health workers bearing brunt of the pandemic. Link

Pakistan might make Gilgit-Baltistan a full province soon. Link … currently “part of Kashmir, administered by Pak. as an autonomous territory” … response to India’s revocation of autonomous status of Jammu & Kashmir.

Bangladesh: “A third of my country was just under water. The world must act on climate.” Guardian … it’s an op/ed, but it does contain a lot of useful information on current situation …

East Asia (1.6B)

China census under way: prepares to count 1.3 billion people on 11/1. Link … lots of mission statistics rely on censuses like this one …

China to allow foreigners to enter from 9/28. Reuters … “with valid residence permits”

China asks citizens to avoid unnecessary travel during Golden Holiday. SCMP … domestic tourism could offer a boost to economy … China wants to keep people from traveling int’l to Covid hotspots

China has destroyed 65% of the mosques in Xinjiang. Link

Southeast Asia (700M)

Indonesia gives free Bali staycations to test readiness for tourism. Link … gov’t will use 3-star hotels, rooms at converted athlete’s village …

Meanwhile, Jakarta main hospitals at full capacity during Covid surge. Link

Myanmar’s Rakhine conflict creates food shortages in Chin state. Link … and its “maximum containment” Covid strategy is on the brink of collapse. Link

Thai church holds record-breaking baptism despite Covid. CT

Thailand: an unprecedented wave of protests is sweeping the nation… Guardian … with calls for major democratic reforms … led by young people, some breaking long standing taboos on speaking about monarchy More: “Protests shake Bangkok, challenging old guard’s grip” NYT

Europe/North America (1,125M)

Russia resumes flights with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea. Link

Spanish army to enforce lockdown in parts of Madrid. Link … some allegations of discrimination as poorer parts locked down … Madrid pleads for more doctors, police as cases surge. Reuters … restricting movement of 850,000 people …

What (US) pastors see as the ‘new normal’ for preaching after the pandemic. Link … interesting how much this is about the trials and tribulations of preserving the ‘old normal’ …

New Data


… 9/25: 32.3m cases, 984k deaths … 9/18: 29.9m cases, 942k deaths … 9/11: 28.1m cases, 909k deaths … 9/4: 26.0m cases, 862k deaths … 8/28: 24.2m cases, 826k deaths Trackers: Johns Hopkins, NYT,

New Longreads

Sign language Bible complete after 39 years. CT

As Asia’s “travel bubbles” fail to materialize, travelers face prospect of long winter at home. CNN … New Zealand says quarantine-free travel to Australia unlikely in next 6 months. SMH … Japan will ease Covid barriers, but not for tourists. Straits Times

“A crisis of humanity” as migrants take on treacherous journey from France to Britain. NBC

Futuristics & Technology

Hydrogen-powered passenger plane completes its maiden flight. Link

Airports trying speedy Covid tests, sniffer dogs to spur travel. Bloomberg … enable people to skip the self-quarantine?

Baidu launches “XiaoduPods” - wireless earpods featuring simultaneous Chinese/English translation. But some observers note the translation is done both locally and in the cloud - so Baidu is “listening.” Which means Beijing is (almost certainly) listening too. Link

Microsoft became the exclusive licensor of GPT-3. … another auto-text generator: Otherside AI, generating emails - Link … sign up to get on their waitlist: Link

It’s not a huge risk, but two new studies suggest it’s possible for Covid-19 to be transmitted on long-haul flights. Link

Largest Chinese-language Christian video website blocked in China. Link … although its WeChat presence was unaffected …

The privacy cost of a “free” website. Link … explores some of the issues of ad trackers piggybacking on free versions … “more than 12,000 websites load scripts that record all user interactions on a page”

Related: the best Chrome extensions to prevent creepy web tracking. Wired

“These weird, unsettling images show AI is getting smarter” is all about AI generation of text and images, and how AI is being trained to infer patterns and meanings. MIT

Google has removed the street view of the sacred aboriginal site Uluru in Australia, in line with the wishes of the Anangu people. Interesting example of closing off access to a religious site. Link

Last ever Airbus A380 has been assembled. Link

Last Five