August Preview

August timeline

What to look out for this month:

10 August

Islamic New Year

LOW RISK
The day marks the beginning of the Islamic lunar calendar year called Hijri, and most Muslims observe the first day of the Islamic Year as the first day of the month of Mu- harram. All religious duties, such as prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage, are calculated according to the Islamic calendar.

10 August

National Day in Singapore

LOW RISK

12 August

General election in Zambia

LOW -
MEDIUM RISK
Localized fighting between rival party sup- porters and confrontations are expected in the run-up to and after election day. It will be a highly contested election for President Edgar Lungu amid Zambia’s deteriorating political and economic environment.

12 August

International Youth Day

NEGLIGIBLE RISK

14 August

Independence Day in Pakistan

LOW RISK

15 August

Independence Day in India

LOW RISK

15 August

Liberation Day South Korea

LOW RISK

17 August

Independence Day in Indonesia

LOW RISK

20 August

St Stephen's Day in Hungary

NEGLIGIBLE RISK

20 August

World Mosquito Day

NEGLIGIBLE RISK

22 August

Hungry Ghost Festival in parts of Asia

NEGLIGIBLE RISK
The festival is held in several East Asian countries on the 15th night of the seventh month based on the Chinese calendar, also known as the Chinese Ghost Month. It is believed that throughout the month, ghosts and spirits, including deceased an- cestors, return from the realm to visit their descendants who are living. The latter pay their respects to absolve any suffering that might be plaguing the deceased due to their actions in their lifetime. Activities include burning incense and joss paper as well as offering food.

29 August

International Day against Nuclear Tests

NEGLIGIBLE RISK
The day is observed to raise awareness about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions and the need for their cessation to achieve the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world. Activists from all over the world have gathered around the date in support of the effort to ban nuclear testing, as well as honoring victims of such tests.

30 August

Krishna Janmashtami Festival in India

LOW RISK

31 August

National Day in Malaysia

LOW RISK
Risk Level Categories
NEGLIGIBLE RISK
LOW RISK
MEDIUM RISK
HIGH RISK
CRITICAL RISK

Parts of Asia brace for the peak season of typhoons from August

Typhoon Haiphong, October 1881, and Typhoon Nina, August 1975 were two of the deadliest typhoons since records began. Thousands of lives and properties have been lost each year due to typhoons and as years go by, these events have also become deadlier.

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Unlike other tropical cyclones, such as hurricanes, typhoon season in the western Pacific runs all year round due to the warm water of the ocean during the entire year. Nonethe- less, the peak of typhoon season can be regarded as from August till October, with east Asia and parts of southeast Asia bearing the brunt of the severe weather conditions. It is also still possible for damaging typhoons to take shape as early as February or as late as November. For example, Typhoon Haiyan, dubbed as the biggest super typhoon ever recorded in human history, occurred in November 2013, instead of the usual period.
A typhoon is a catastrophic meteorological phenomenon and involves few stages of formation. The weakest forma- tion is called a tropical depression. However, once a de- pression intensifies with maximum sustained winds reach up to 63 km (39 miles) per hour, it evolves as a tropical storm and is given a name. Again, as soon as a tropical cyclone reaches maximum sustained winds of 119 km (74 miles) per hour or higher, it is then classified as a typhoon. Unlike hurricanes, which have five categories of strength. Typhoons only have two classifications. The first type is ‘ty- phoon,’ while the second classification is ‘super typhoon’ with wind speeds from 241 km (150 miles) per hour and greater. A strong hurricane in category 4 or 5 is equivalent to a super typhoon.
To illustrate further, each year, an average of 30 weather phenomena formed in the western Pacific, with nearly 20 to 25 intensified to be typhoons and super typhoons. Countries like the Philippines, Japan, China, Taiwan, Pa- lau, and Vietnam are the most affected by these weather disturbances. Further, due to its geographical location and physical environment, the Philippines is also probably the most affected country in the world due to its location on the so-called “Typhoon Belt.” An average of 20 typhoons passed by the country annually.
This year alone, the Philippines has already been battered not only by the first super typhoon of the year but also by the strongest Northern Hemisphere tropical cyclone to form before the month of May. It was name Typhoon Surigae, locally known as “Bising. The super typhoon that slammed the archipelago in April killed a dozen of people and left at least USD 5.7 million in damage to the territory. Unfortunately, it was not the first super typhoon to hit the country in recent memory. In November 2013, the country also took hit by one of the fiercest super typhoons ever recorded in human history, with a maximum sustained wind speed of 315 km (195 miles) per hour. The then Super Typhoon Haiyan left at least 6,300 deaths, with most of them being reported in the Eastern Visayas region.

Despite the advancement in technologies, including satel- lite imagery, it is still a challenge to measure the impact of a typhoon, especially during a landfall. Up until today, the impact of a typhoon is still devastating not only to human lives but also to properties as well as the environment. To make it worse, this weather system can create a damag- ing horizontal wind with speeds up to 300 km per hour, accompanied by torrential rains, tornadoes, and a vicious phenomenon known as storm surge. A storm surge is an elevation of the sea surface that can reach up to 6 meters (20 feet) above the normal levels, and its impact is similar to that of a tsunami. 

Such a combination of high winds and fast-flowing water makes typhoons a serious hazard for coastal areas in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. In addition, a typhoon can also cause indirect impacts to the affected areas, such as water-borne diseases, short- age of food and medical supplies, and a long-term effect on the local economy. In short, a typhoon is an undeniably terrifying weather phenomenon. Therefore, one of the ap- proaches to lessen the impacts of the typhoon are through scientific studies as well as enhancement of existing early- detection weather systems.
Map fo typhoon pacific 1945-2020

Figure 1: Map of typhoons in the western Pacific from 1945 to 2020. Impact areas are indicated by various shades. 

(Source(s): Britannica, Ocean Service, Borgen project, abc news, adrc.asia, bbc.co.uk)

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What should I do in the event of a typhoon approaching?

  • Check phones, tablets, and other communication devices and ensure that they are fully charged. 

  • Stay updated with local weather reports. Reliable weather forecasters in the region include JMA, HKO and PAGASA. 
 
  • Be aware of falling structures. Big advertisement boards such as those in Hong Kong or dangling electrical wires in the Philippines are hazards during a typhoon. 
 
  • Do not stand close to windows and glass doors as they are at risk of being shattered due to strong winds. 
 
  • Prepare to evacuate and checklist of evacuation centers if available. 
hacked

Frequent hacker attacks underscore needs to bolster cybersecurity awareness

A On 7 May 2021, the computer networks of Colonial Pipeline, a fuel pipeline operator in the United States (US), were hit by a cyber-attack launched by DarkSide, a hacker group based in Russia

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The company was forced to temporarily suspend opera- tions, causing a fuel shortage in several East Coast states. Another Russia-based hacker group, REvil, disrupted the US operations of the world’s biggest meat processor, JBS, on 30 May and forced its facilities in Canada and as far as Australia to suspend activities. REvil would follow up this attack on 2 July by compromising a software product made by Kaseya, a Miami-based software vendor company. The software is believed to have been downloaded by thou- sands of business clients around the world. Supermarkets in Sweden, IT companies in Germany and the Netherlands, as well as schools and kindergartens in New Zealand also experienced severe disruptions as a result. Ransomware, a type of malicious software (malware) that encrypts user data, was used to block victims from their networks.
Globally, it is estimated that thousands of cyber-attacks occur daily and are likely to rise in the short term as more interconnected systems of smart “internet of things (IOT)” devices become available. Furthermore, hackers are taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic and targeting remote workers operating from home, where security is usually more relaxed, in 2020, ransomware attacks spiked by 150 percent. Criminal groups are doubling down on ransomware because victims, including big companies, have paid lucrative amounts of money to hackers to release their files, despite being advised not to do so by experts.
Nation-state actors have also helped fuel the rise of cyber-attacks through the aggressive use of malware as a cyber-warfare tool. Instead of profit-seeking, hostile governments have utilized hackers to steal sensitive information over long periods of time and cause mass disruption when required. This was the case during the hack on SolarWinds, another IT management company. The hack corrupted the company’s network and data of its sensitive clients for months from September 2019. Russia has been accused of harboring the hacker group that committed the data breach and other groups responsible for major cyberattacks in recent history. However, such state actors are expected to continue conducting cyber-warfare operations against the critical infrastructure of other countries as the use of hackers remains highly cost-effective and allows a certain degree of plausible deniability to be maintained.
Cyber-security companies anticipate it will be more challenging to plug vulnerable gaps in computer networks as malware attacks are increasing in sophistication and frequency. However, hackers will continue to exploit lapses in cybersecurity awareness. Therefore, maintaining standard digital hygiene practices helps minimize the risk of a mal- ware infection. Measures could be as simple as not sharing passwords with anyone, having a trusted anti-virus pro- gram installed, and keeping operating systems updated. These measures are especially important amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, as everyone must be more responsible for their own actions even when in the virtual world.
cyber security
cyber security awareness

Disease watch: Covid-19

safeture analysis covid19

Asia and Africa struggle in Covid-19 fight as Delta variant fuels new surges

New surges of Covid-19 cases have continued to pile pressure on healthcare facilities in parts of Asia and Africa amid the aggressive spread of the Delta variant.

covid19
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Cases in several countries hit a record high throughout July, with South Africa, Indonesia as well as Russia among the worst affected. In Indonesia for instance, bodies piled up in morgues as cases rose exponentially following the Eid al-Fitr holidays. Elsewhere, the surges also meant a return to tightened restrictions for countries that have yet to achieve a high vaccination rate. Australia’s Sydney was plunged into a lockdown in late June, while Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur also resorted to movement control measures to limit the spread of the virus.
Similarly, South Africa was also placed in lockdown due to a spike of cases. Meanwhile, some countries in Europe have also started to reduce the pace of reopening as infections begin to rebound amid the summer break. Curbs that are mainly aimed at curtailing the nightlife aspects of the society were also introduced in Spain and Portugal, among others. Despite this, hopes remain that a lockdown can be avoided as the high vaccination rate in many countries in the region play a role in the low hospitalization and deaths rates, two key indicators in the fight against the pandemic. In India, optimism also grew as it emerged from the second wave after two months of lockdown in many states. Still, experts have warned that a third wave is highly likely in September and urged an acceleration of vaccination efforts to minimize its impacts.
Source(s): The Straits Times, Reuters, Euronews, Xinhua

Disease watch: Malaria

safeture analysis malaria

World Mosquito Day: Toward a malaria-free world despite climate change challenges

Efforts towards a malaria-free world continue proactively, with China recently defeated the disease, joining 40 countries that did so in recent years.

world mosquito day
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More countries should be on track to fully stamp out the disease within the next five years under the E-2025 initiative, despite the added burden of Covid-19. Research has shown, even though malaria is fatal, it is preventable and curable. The key has always been vector control, an effective way to prevent and limit transmission, with insecticide-treated mosquito nets and residual indoor spraying being two major forms of the measures. Although these forms of prevention are encouraged in most prevalent areas, data collected over recent years have also shown that the spread of malaria is heavily influenced by environmental change. An estimated 8.4 billion people could be at risk if emissions keep rising at current levels.
A warming climate in most tropical regions will gradually increase malaria cases, especially highland areas in the African region, the Eastern Mediterranean region, and the Americas. Temperature, humidity, and rainfall increment help mosquito populations increase at higher altitudes and emerge in new locations, including North America, central-northern Europe, and northern Asia. Ultimately, countries should follow ambitious undertakings like China that successfully combined technology, robust surveillance strategies, and malaria control program integration into the country’s health system. On top of that, significant actions must be taken to address climate change and incorporate climate-proofing strategies as a long-term goal to move toward eradicating malaria across the globe.
Source(s): World Health Organization (WHO), Science Daily

On the radar

safeture analysis south africa

South Africa counts cost of looting and unrest following the imprisonment of ex-president Zuma

South Africa was battered by a fresh round of violence in July following the imprisonment of the ex-president, Jacob Zuma for corruption charges. Looting and unrest immediately broke out as the news of his sentencing spread, with the most serious incidents being reported in his political heartland of KwaZulu-Natal and economic powerhouse, Gauteng. At least 200 malls were damaged while vehicles were torched by angry mobs who blocked major highways and roads. Security forces were deployed to maintain calm, but the ensuing clashes also left dozens of fatalities. Citing the lack of state apparatus to deal with the unfolding situation, the sense of insecurity was palpable in some neighborhoods as “defense squads” were formed by local citizens to protect themselves. While the arrest of Zuma became the catalyst of the violence, grievances against the government of President Cyril Ramaphosa have also been on the rise amid low-income levels and a high unemployment rate, particularly among youths. Against the backdrop of an economic decline, the Covid-19 outbreak in the country also worsened with a third wave that prompted the government to order yet another lockdown. In an attempt to quell the violence, Ramaphosa met with political and business leaders, including those from his African National Congress (ANC) though the simmering tension could require more than just reconciliation efforts among those in power.
safeture analysis lebanon

Looming crisis as tensions flare in Lebanon

Protests have spread across multiple major cities amid an economic, social, and political crisis in Lebanon. Rising prices of commodities, high levels of corruption, and a failing banking system have left the country at the brink of a collapse.The devastating explosion at the port of Beirut in August 2020, proved a death blow to an economy already in a state of crisis, and the country has still not fully recovered. Protests have periodically taken place since 2019 but have escalated to denounce the government for its failure to prevent the disaster. Many see the ruling political class as woefully corrupt and unable to tackle the country’s many difficulties. Prime Minister Hassan Diab has recently warned that the country is at the brink of a social collapse due in large part to the frequent and violent protests. Demonstrators have already tried to storm central bank offices in Sidon and Tripoli after the national currency plunged to a new record low. Protesters have also set up roadblocks at major intersections in the capital Beirut, which has prompted authorities to deploy the military to respond to the unrest. Crippling fuel, electricity, food, and medicine shortages have also led to violent confrontations at petrol stations, grocery stores, and pharmacies. Living conditions are not expected to get better anytime soon, and the shortages are likely to persist. Anger over the dire situation will continue to grow, and violent protests can be expected in Sidon, Tripoli, and Beirut in the short term.
safeture analysis eswatini

Growing anger against monarchy triggers rare protests in eSwatini

The small Kingdom of eSwatini (previously known as Swaziland) was plunged into crisis since late July after rare protests erupted against the monarch. Sentiments against the Kingdom are not uncommon, but recent escalation marked a significant turnaround of events for King Mswati III, whom many accused of being repressive, especially with regards to his human rights records. During police detention, the mysterious death of a youth was believed to have been the spark for the protests. Violence had rocked the capital and several cities since, resulting in some deaths and dozens of injuries. The whereabouts of Mswati were also unknown, with some claiming that he had fled to neighboring South Africa when protests erupted. Amid the uncertain situation, the opposition has also seen this as an opportunity for a change, calling for the dissolution of the parliament and the establishment of an interim government that is more representative. While tension persists, the government had also imposed several measures such as an overnight curfew, internet cut, border closure as well as flight suspension to maintain order.
safeture analysis rikard

Formation of a new militant group in Greece

In May 2021, a previously unknown entity made a declaration in the form of an anarchist militant group in Greece, branding itself as Direct Action Cells (DAC). As a part of the declaration, the group claimed responsibility for 20 attacks that have occurred in Greece since the start of 2021. Beyond the attacks claimed, there have also been others since that have been attributed to them. The issue of violent anarchist movements in Greece is not new, and their activities appear to be cyclical in nature. A previous wave occurred from early 2008 with the emergence of a group called Conspiracy Cells of Fire (CCF). The group started out with arson attacks targeting businesses, but during the following two years escalated to sending parcel bombs to government offices in Greece and abroad and culminated with the detonation of a motorcycle bomb causing heavy damage to a courthouse in Athens on 30 December 2010. A resurgence was recorded in 2017 with the sending of several parcel bombs. These groups appear to share a common ideological basis in anti-state and anti-capitalist insurrectionism, with foreign interests in the country being the main targets. With the publishing of the manifesto, DAC is seeking to increase recruiting and establish itself as an umbrella group for disparate anarchist cells in Greece. Therefore, it seems likely that DAC or affiliated sub-groups will aim to carry out further attacks and may escalate their actions further in the coming years.

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