October 24, 2020

#New Events

##North Africa/Egypt-Sudan (266M) BBC publishes investigation of Sudan’s Islamic schools. Link … “Systematic abuse documented over an 18 month period” … 30k schools across Sudan, typically run by sheikhs … Sudan protests: … Sudanese back on streets to march against dire living conditions. Link … Protests & strikes across Sudan. AllAfrica … Four killed in Port Sudan. AllAfrica

##East Africa/Horn (520M) Nature: “Understanding and managing new risks on the Nile with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.” Suggests the risk of water shortage in Egypt is relatively low. PDF “On the verge of another locust invasion, worst in 25 years.” Link But FAO says E Africa better prepared to fight latest wave. Link Christian couple arrested in Somaliland (h/t M Catalyst). Link … “whoever dares to spread Christianity in this region…”

##West Africa/Nigeria-Sahel (457M) Burkina Faso:  How one of the most stable nations in Africa descended into mayhem. Link … Over 2 million displaced. Link … “one step short of famine.” Link New report of a missionary martyr in Mali. CT Nigeria, protests vs SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) Police opened fire on pro-reform protesters in Lagos. NPR … “Nationwide protests push authorities to the edge.” FP … Lagos “shut down”. CBS Op/Ed: “Nigeria is murdering its citizens.” NYT … “there is a sense that the country could burn to the ground.” … SARS=“moneymaking terror squad with no accountability” Nigeria’s population of extremely poor reaches 102m. Vanguard

##West Asia/Saudi-Iran (303M) Armenia v Azerbaijan: Front lines of brutal war: “hints of a long, punishing fight.” NYT A new weapon complicates an old war: impact of drones. LAT N-K: Civilians and churches under fire. BBC Azer. advancing deep into Arm. territory. Eurasianet And, of course, war is amplifying spread of Covid-19. Independent Azer Evangelicals: “It’s not a religious war.” CT “Pain and loss drive war fever.” NYT … “Az is in full war mode as it engaged in the heaviest fighting” … “suffered a bitter defeat in 1990s, quietly rearming since” … “clashes broke out 3 weeks ago, Az plunged into all-out war” Iraq’s internal exiles: three years after victory over ISIS, over a million are still displaced and hundreds of thousands are in camps. Link Further: ‘Resilience has its limits’: the heavy toll of coronavirus on Iraq’s displaced. Link And, “How the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) will shape the region for decades to come.” Link Christian refugees from Iraq on their new lives in Jordan. NPR … “2/3rds of Iraq’s Christians have left since the US invasion in 2003.” … “waiting to leave for mainly Australia, after Canada and the States.” Beyond the headlines: Lebanon’s year of turmoil and disasters. Link Saudi Arabia: 4,000 workers, 100,000 facemasks to ensure safe Umrah. Link Yemen: Prisoner swap seeks to restart stalled peace talks. WSJ … “more than 1,000 prisoners, rare sign of progress” … Photo: children begin classes in the ruins of war. Twitter

##South-central Asia (2.1B) Afghanistan: “Living with the Taliban”: “first of three studies exploring how the Taliban rule, and the impact of that rule on residents.” Explores Ghazni in a very bleak picture. Link At Afghan peace talks, hoping to end their father’s war. Link India: Peak holiday season set to send Covid-19 cases surging. Link … “no need to congregate in large numbers to prove your faith or religion” … the coronavirus as a demon towering over Durga Purja festival. Link Pakistani Shias live in terror of blasphemy laws & sectarian violence. Link … Sunnis using blasphemy laws to target, murder ‘heretics’ “Some of the worst ever floods in Pakistan.” ReliefWeb … 4 million impacted by monsoon flooding … … 1.4m children at risk of homelessness, disease Kyrgyzstan: President steps down. Link … Sadyr Japarov now both PM and President. … states he intends to run for a full term in office if allowed to … Stratfor

##East Asia (1.6B) An article began making the rounds alleging the Chinese government, in the course of Sinicizing the Bible, had altered the story of Jesus & the adulterous woman. J. Pittman (ZGBriefs) dives into the truth behind it, and why it’s less a story than it would seem. Link … also, ChinaSource series on “How the Church grows in China” is well worth a read. Link China threatens to detain foreign citizens (e.g. American nationals) if their home governments do something Beijing doesn’t like (such as prosecute Chinese nationals). Link … and makes veiled threat at Hong Kong-based Canadians. Link China defends Tibetan “vocational training programme.” Link … urges Tibetans not to “overdo religion.” … program impacts 15% of 3.5m Tibetans. … context: China forcing 500,000 Tibetans into labor camps. Link Thousands held as crackdown on language protesters continues. Link … at least 8k Mongolians detained over resistance to plans to phase out use of Mongolian language in schools. Economist cover on the persecution of the Uighurs. Link As Belt & Road initiatives slow in Africa, thousands of Chinese workers leave. SCMP North Korea unveiled a big new ICBM: the “largest road-mobile liquid-fueled missile anywhere,” which analysts expected to “have the range to hit much of the US mainland.” Certainly got NKor some attention. Link

##Southeast Asia (700M) Thai protests Emergency decrees declared. NYT … gatherings of 5+ not permitted … news & online content “creating fear” banned Protesters defy new state of emergency. FP How pro-democracy movement gained momentum. BBC “Tens of thousands in mass defiance” BBC Protests enter day 7. @joyce_karam Lockdown tests faith in Covid-hit Philippines. Link

#New Data

##Covid-19 … 10/23: 41m cases, 1.1m deaths … 10/16: 40m cases, 1m deaths … 10/9: 36.5m cases, 1.0m+ deaths … 10/1: 34.4m cases, 1.0m+ deaths  … 9/25: 32.3m cases, 984k deaths Trackers: Johns Hopkins, NYT,

###Covid short bits 1m+ cases: US, India, Brazil, Russia, France, Argentina, Spain … getting close: Colombia, Peru, Mexico, UK.

##Other data Great infographic visualizing refugee flows from country of origin, to country of asylum, to country of resettlement. (Also, a great blog post on the process of review and iteration.) (And, h/t to reader and long-time friend Jon Hirst for surfacing this content.) Link Another: 50 cognitive biases in the modern world. Link Conflict trends in Africa, 1989-2019. 2019 saw a record high in state-based conflicts in Africa. PDF Also, ICRC: rising food prices, job losses, unabated conflict spark fears of rising hunger in communities across Africa. PDF

#Reading If you haven’t seen The Network Effects ( website, it’s an interesting and useful read. They just added the “15th Effect”–Tribalism. Link “Africa has just months to react to an invasive malaria mosquito” threatening mass outbreaks across Africa. Malaria is usually only found in rural areas, but this mosquito can thrive in urban areas… Link

#Futuristics & Technology Satellites map every tree in Sahel, Sahara using AI. Link … “will be possible to map location, size of every tree worldwide” … what other stationary things might be mapped using similar tech? Singapore’s “world-first face scan” plan sparks privacy fears. First country to use facial verification its national ID plan, “doing away with the need to remember a password or security dongle.” (Although obviously China uses facial recognition to track lots of people–the difference is not immediately obvious to me.) Link We’re only listening to help you: “Sales calls have gone virtual, and now AI is listening in.” Covid-19 has caused thousands of sales people to start using Zoom. Now companies are using AI systems to analyze their pitches and provide feedback. Link Well, that didn’t take long: entrepreneurs are building tools that create emails or marketing copy using AI/GPT-3: “Give these apps some notes and they’ll write for you.” Wired Stopping viral spread: A new system for preventing dengue fever: scientists inject mosquitoes with a natural bacterium (Wolbachia, which hinders the insect’s ability to transmit viruses), then release them into the wild. The infected mosquitoes mate with others, infecting them with the bacterium, who infect others… passing the bacteria to large majorities. Essentially, they’re enabling the mosquitoes to do what they always do–but preventing them from passing on dengue, and multiplying that same prevention through the mosquito community. (Could similar methodologies be used in other contexts to, for example, enable people to use social media platforms without passing on social ‘viruses’? or in other contexts…?) Link A better universal translator: Facebook has released the first AI model that translates between 100 languages without relying on English as an intermediate step (e.g. Chinese->English->French, instead Chinese->French). Link Apparently, keeping Covid vaccines safe from theft and counterfeiting is going to be a big deal. Link Cheap drones from China, Turkey, Israel are fueling conflicts: “giving smaller countries affordable ways to project force with greater lethality at lower risk.” Link

##Other smaller bits AI-powered robots now making pizza. Link The strange new world of being a deepfake actor. Link Wikimap is a map of all geotagged Wikipedia articles. Link A new app to help you with jetlag. When we start traveling again. Link Paypal lets users buy/hold/sell cryptocurrency. Link More on the CommonPass App, enabling air travel. Link