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US election seen from Egypt: Only the tone will change

Hisham Kassem is an independent journalist, former chairman of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, and was the founding publisher of the Cairo Times and Al Masry Al Youm.

Alex Kliment: What are some ways the outcome of the election in the United States could affect Egypt?

HK: The Trump administration basically is very pragmatic about the relationship with Egypt. They're not interested in whether [Egyptian President] Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is abiding by values related to human rights or democracy, which at least previous administrations claimed they did.

This is making Abdel Fattah al-Sisi quite confident and is giving him internal leeway to continue with human rights abuses and to further concentrate power in his hands.

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What We're Watching: UK exam fiasco, Thai protests grow, GERD negotiations resume

The UK's exam fiasco: The UK Department of Education has landed Prime Minister Boris Johnson in hot water over a national scandal involving computer-generated "mock" test scores assigned to hundreds of thousands of high school students. A wave of "A-level" standardized exams (taken at the end of high school) were recently cancelled because of the coronavirus. But in order to assign students the scores that they would likely have gotten if they had taken the test, the UK's exam regulator, known as Ofqual, used an algorithm. (Algorithms in 2020, what could possibly go wrong?) The algorithm's reliance on two unsound key indicators — a school's past performance and students' results from primary school — placed high-achieving students at poorly-performing public schools at a massive disadvantage. Some 40 percent of students say the algorithm "downgraded" their results from teachers' assessments (teachers submitted their own assessed grades but they were not supposed to be taken into consideration). After hundreds of students took to the streets over the weekend, decrying Ofqual's mishandling, which they say messed up their university placements, authorities scrapped plans to use the algorithm and will now use a different system to determine final grades. Still, it's up to students to get in touch with universities to see if they still have a place. The situation is still extremely....messy.

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Dam it: Fighting over Nile water

Two weeks ago, Ethiopia started filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the upper Nile river, a $4.6 billion hydroelectric project that aims to bring electricity to tens of millions of energy-starved Ethiopians. Egypt and Sudan cried foul, warning that doing so too quickly will leave their farmers without enough water to irrigate crops. The main reservoir was filled in just a few days, a speed that Addis Ababa blamed on seasonal rains.

But this trilateral dispute is about more than just water — and even the US and China are getting involved. Why is the this dam such a big deal, and what happens next?

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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Argentina on the brink, Egypt's emergency law abuse, Hong-Kong's political fever

Argentina's economy on the brink: Mired in economic crisis, Argentina is on the verge of defaulting on its international loans for the ninth time in its history. Years of economic mismanagement had pushed Argentina into a recession even before the government imposed one of the tightest coronavirus lockdowns in Latin America in late March. The country's already weak currency, meanwhile, has taken a further hit because of the health crisis, pushing up the cost of $500 million in interest due over the next few weeks. The country's leftwing government says that, given soaring healthcare costs and emergency financial aid being doled out to help Argentines weather the COVID-19 storm, it can't make the payment and has appealed to international creditors, including the World Bank and IMF, to delay or renegotiate about $65 billion in debt. Buenos Aires has the support of hundreds of respected international economists who have called on bondholders to take a "constructive approach" to Argentina's restructuring proposal. In normal times, Argentina would get little sympathy from international lenders fed up with its unreliability and political gamesmanship, but the global economic downturn could finally give the desperate country some leverage with economic heavyweights in Brussels and Paris.

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