Roundup #222

October 2, 2020

New Events

North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M)

“Riders on the Storm: Rebels, Soldiers, Paramilitaries in Sudan’s margins.” First in a 3-part analysis feature covering unrest in Sudan. ACLED Sudan relationship between religion and state “defined.” Link Nearly 500 villages were destroyed in Darfur during the war. Link

##East Africa/Horn (520M) Ethiopia ends closure, fully reopens to tourists. Link

##West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M) Should Christians join Burkina Faso’s militias against terrorism? CT has a long-read on the escalating violence in the country, and experiments with “a controversial lesson in self-defense.” Link Nigeria will reopen all schools from October 12. Link

##West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M) Turkey backs Azerbaijan in war with Armenia as Russia stands by. Link Armenia, Azerbaijan reject Russia-mediated talks as fighting rages. Link How the familiar drumbeat in Nagorno-Karabakh exploded. Link Eurasianet’s explainer: “a long time coming”. Link Foreign fighters headed to Nagorno-Karabakh. Link US says it will vacate the embassy in Baghdad. Link Over 3 million tourists visited historical locations in Turkey in the June-August period of the year as travel restrictions related to Covid eased. Link But, tens of thousands of holidays cancelled as Turkey added to Covid quarantine list by UK on Thursday night. Travel bubbles, barriers will continue to come and go. Link Lack of Internet has caused many Middle Eastern businesses to fail amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Link Saudi Arabia plans to resume tourist visas by early 2021. Link

##South-central Asia (2.1B) India: crimes against scheduled castes up 7%, against scheduled tribes up 26%. Link Amnesty Intl halts India operations, citing government reprisals. Link India’s Covid-19 cases pass the 6 million mark. Link “In inexorable climb, Kerala [and other states] cases rise by 7,000.” Link India allows states to reopen schools gradually despite rising cases. Link Super-spreaders to blame for explosive outbreak: group of about 8% of India’s cases led to almost 2/3 of its total infections. Link Poverty runs a thread through Indonesia as Covid-19 puts millions on the brink: “as the pandemic reverses decades of progress…” (Long read, photos, stories). Link Pandemic is a ‘crushing blow’ to Kashmir tourism. Link … Useful long read on the importance of tourism in the region. Covid-19 accelerates online adoption of Hindu ritual for the dead. Linkpind dåan ritual, conducted a year after death so soul attains salvation … held in sacred locations (Varanasi, Gaya, Siddhpur) … new firms offering ‘online’ pind daan – usually for Indians living abroad Covid-19 study in India delivers a few surprising results. Link … median hospital stay < 5 days, possibly because of limited quality care … deaths of over-65s drop off – probably because Indians 65+ are wealthy, have access to good health care. … children of all ages can become infected and spread it to others. Pakistan is the 5th most climate-vulnerable country in the world. Link … this op/ed looks at the recent impact of climate events on the country. Field reports in Central Asia of border re-openings and hospitals catching up with medical cases. Lots of thanksgiving for Covid recoveries, spiritual openness. Also grief over some losses.

##East Asia (1.6B) China: Xi Jinping defends ‘totally correct’ Xinjiang policies despite growing human rights concerns–“approach bringing stability & prosperity… must continue for ‘a very long time.'” (Don’t expect any changes in this trend line any time soon.) SCMP China is distributing a Covid-19 vaccine prior to its approval. There’s no information about its effectiveness, how long its protection might last, or any side effects. Long read on the subject: New Yorker. China’s “revenge tourism”–pent up demand for tourism. Link … 550m people will make trips during the 8-day Golden Week holiday … S Korea braced for its first major holiday during a pandemic: the 5-day Chuseok began last Wednesday. Link Zoom, drones, virtual offerings: South Korea’s ancestral rights go digital in Covid-19 times. Link

##Southeast Asia (700M) Indonesia: Jakarta running out of burial space. Link … races to prepare 2ha plot for Covid-19 graves as cases continue to rise Indonesia’s police dispersed 4+ million gatherings since March. Link … also, conducted 23m cyber patrols against hoaxes … Laos government takes steps to protect Christians. Link … “working in rural areas to step up protection from harassment” … but they continue to be harassed, anyway. Link Malaysia’s Mahathir says he will not contest the 2023 election. Link … the dude would be 98 years old. It says something about his vitality and influence that this would even be a question. Would that I be as energetic at that age. Johor Menteri Besar says border with Singapore should reopen: the Johor state government can’t find employment for 100,000 Malaysians who may lose their jobs due to the prolonged closure. Link Myanmar fights Covid-19 in its biggest city. Link … also, in war refugee camps … Philippines: lack of food has left 7.6 million families hungry. Link … 30.7% of Filipinos … up from 20.9% in July. Singapore will be the first country in the world to use facial verification in its national identity scheme. Link Thailand will extend its state of emergency through October while gearing up to reopen its borders to foreign visitors. “Also approved special tourist visas for foreign tourists starting next month.” Link Thailand’s special tourist visas are aimed at long-stay visitors. Link … will be able to stay in Thailand for 90 days, and extend visa twice. … requires a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, plus a Certificate of Entry. Several field reports from SE Asia of severe economic impacts (selling phones to eat), weekly Covid deaths, etc.

##Others/West (1,125M) South Africa ends foreign travel ban, but airports remain deserted. Link

#New Data

#Covid-19 … 10/1: 34.4m cases, 1.0m+ deaths … 9/25: 32.3m cases, 984k 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, 690 million continue to go hungry. 3 billion cannot afford a healthy diet. Link Pew: “Lukewarm faith shrinks as more say religion is ‘very important’ or ‘not at all.'” Link S Korea study: 9 in 10 recovered Covid-19 patients have side effects. Link

#New Longreads As Covid-19 closes schools, the world’s children go to work. Link … former students taking illegal, often dangerous jobs in India, other developing countries … Siberia was once a vast prison ground. Today, the banks of the Ket River are home to a range of solitary settlements. “They had exchanged their jobs and apartments for the liberty of a life in the wild.” (Remoteness can be another factor in reachedness, although in this case there’s quite a number of people who are Russian Orthodox.) NYT “Making your church manlier won’t make it bigger” is a long read from CT focusing on demographics in the church over time. The author argues “denominational growth has nothing to do with sex ratios in the pews.” A useful introductory survey of the topic. Link “Higher education and religious liberalization among young adults.” Just encountered this study, published in 2011, which concludes “college students are no more likely to develop liberal religious beliefs than non-students; in some cases, collegians actually appear more likely to retain their initial beliefs. Changes in religious beliefs appear instead to be more strongly associated with network effects.” Link … in other words, it’s not what school you go to, it’s your friends. This jives with Rodney Stark’s sociological analysis of the process of conversion, which is influenced heavily by your friendships. K: The overlooked variable is the key to the pandemic. Atlantic … interesting long read from Zeynep Tufekci on dispersion and the implications for Covid-19 transmission and contact tracing. While this is mostly about the virus, there are some implications to glean concerning exponential transmission of anything. Sabre data used by the FBI to surveillance/track suspect travelers. Link

#Futuristics & Technology Drones, fever goggles, arrests: millions in Asia face ‘extreme’ Covid surveillance: tracking measures handing “unchecked powers” to authoritarian regimes, experts warn. Link … similar piece from Straits-Times. “How to make video calls almost as good as face to face” is an excellent long-read with practical advice on tech and practices. Link “Game changing 15-minute Covid-19 test” cleared in Europe. Link … Similar report: “Now at the boarding gate.” NYT China has over 940 million Internet users. China Daily … Internet penetration rate in China has reached 67%. … 98% of poor villages could access the Internet through fiber-optic cables. Ransomware victims who pay up could incur steep fines from US government if the crooks responsible are under economic sanctions. Link Amsterdam and Helsinki have opened ‘AI registers’ to track how algorithms are being used in municipalities. Link Texas company to close all of its Illinois coal-fired power plants. Cheaper, cleaner natural gas and renewable energy is making it difficult to profit from burning coal. Link … Related, China to switch from coal heating to natural gas at 7 million households in the north by the end of October. Link Interesting use of AI: Google launches ‘AI secretary’ that waits on hold for phone users. “Hold for Me notifies users when call is picked up, leaving them free to put the phone down.” Link