A River of Challenges for Egypt's Sisi

Forty-one years ago this month, Abdel Halim Hafez, the Egyptian heartthrob who defined Arab popular music of the 20th century, died in a London hospital of a parasitic disease called Bilharzia. Last week, the Egyptian pop singer Sherine Abdel Wahab was sentenced to 6-months in prison for spreading fake news. Her crime? Joking that she wouldn’t sing the song “Have you Drunk from the Nile” because the river is rife with Bilharzia.


She wasn’t wrong, but it’s the latest example of strongman president Abdel Fattah el- Sisi’s pitiless crackdown ahead of the presidential election later this month. The vote itself won’t be competitive — all serious opposition candidates have been cowed or imprisoned, and his only opponent is an obscure politician who openly supports him.

But after the vote is over, Sisi faces a daunting set of challenges. Economic reforms have stabilized the government’s finances, but ordinary Egyptians are still reeling from painful subsidy cuts and discontent is high.

At the same time, Sisi’s bargain with millions of middle-class Egyptians — security at the price of political repression — has been shaken by a spate of jihadist attacks and an intractable Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula.

And about that Nile again… the river’s political significance goes beyond the recent bacterial ballad: Ethiopia is building a massive new dam on its portion of the Nile that could sap vital water supplies from Egypt. Failure to reach a negotiated solution with Addis Ababa could stoke tensions between two governments that each have an interest in using nationalism to distract from domestic challenges

Scientists, engineers and technologists are turning to nature in search of solutions to climate change. Biomimicry is now being applied in the energy sector, medicine, architecture, communications, transport and agriculture in a bid to make human life on this planet more sustainable and limit the impacts of global warming. New inventions have been inspired by humpback whales, kingfishers and mosquitoes.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

The drumbeat for regulating artificial intelligence (AI) is growing louder. Earlier this week, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google's parent company, Alphabet, became the latest high-profile Silicon Valley figure to call for governments to put guardrails around technologies that use huge amounts of (sometimes personal) data to teach computers how to identify faces, make decisions about mortgage applications, and myriad other tasks that previously relied on human brainpower.

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January 27 marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi extermination camp. But even as some 40 heads of state gathered in Jerusalem this week to commemorate the six million Jews who were killed, a recent Pew survey revealed that many American adults don't know basic facts about the ethnic cleansing of Europe's Jews during the Second World War. Fewer than half of those polled knew how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and close to a third didn't know when it actually happened. Here's a look at some of the numbers.

1: The Greek parliament has elected a woman president for the first time since the country's independence some 200 years ago. A political outsider, Katerina Sakellaropoulou is a high court judge with no known party affiliation. "Our country enters the third decade of the 21st century with more optimism," Greece's prime minister said.

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A quarantine in China– Local authorities have locked down the city of Wuhan, the source of the outbreak of a new and potentially deadly respiratory virus that, as of Thursday morning, had infected more than 540 people in at least six countries. Other nearby cities were also hit by travel restrictions. Rail and air traffic out of Wuhan has been halted. Public transportation is shut, and local officials are urging everyone to stay put unless they have a special need to travel. Wuhan is a city of 11 million people, many of whom were about to travel for the Chinese New Year. We're watching to see whether these extraordinary measures help stem the outbreak, but also to see how the people affected respond to the clampdown.

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