The device is said to resemble a bomb detector similar to this one pictured in Israel in 2009. Photo: Getty.
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Egyptian army to launch "miracle" anti-Aids zapper

On Monday the Egyptian government is set to introduce its new – and completely bogus – anti-Aids equipment. Let's hope it quietly ducks out of this promise.

On Monday, the Egyptian army is set to release a new high-tech tool to its arsenal. Except it’s not actually high-tech, and it won’t work. In February 2014, the army first released details on its new detector, which it says can not only detect Hepatitis C and Aids from 500m away, but can cure them.

Major General Ibrahim Atti explained how it works: “I take Aids from the patient, and feed the patient on Aids. I give it to him as a kofta skewer for him to eat. I take the disease, and I give it to him as food, and this is the pinnacle of scientific miracles.”

When this was met with ridicule, the army made a second attempt at a more scientific explanation, involving the use of electro-magnetic waves. Commentators have since noted that the device, described by the Guardian as “an antenna affixed to the handle of a blender”, closely resembles the bogus bomb detection devices sold by James McCormick to governments throughout the Middle East. Last May, McCormick was sentenced to ten years in jail for fraud – an astonishingly lenient sentence considering that he knowingly sold over £38m worth of the completely useless kit to Iraq alone, giving security forces the false assurance that they would be able to avert bomb attacks. Pictures have since emerged of the Egyptian security forces using a device indistinguishable from their anti-Aids zapper to detect car bombs. 

Unsurprisingly, prominent scientists have tried to expose the army’s new device as quack science, but this hasn’t stopped 40,000 Egyptians from requesting the treatment from the government when it's made available early next week. Egypt has one of the highest rates of Hepatitis C in the world, and many ordinary Egyptians struggle to access treatment. If the government finds a way to quietly back out of its commitment to roll out treatment on 30 June, this will shatter the hopes of the tens of thousands who believe the army’s propaganda. But if it does go ahead and introduce what it calls its “complete cure device” this will be much, much worse. 

The whole episode – as well as other recent mad government claims such as that Vodafone was transmitting coded bomb plot information in its adverts starring mobile-phone wielding puppets – reveals how little value the new, military-backed Egyptian government places on the truth. It is this same instinct that led to the tragic jailing of four Al Jazeera journalists earlier this week. And it is very worrying indeed. 

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

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US election 2016: Trump threatens to deny democracy

When asked if he would accept the result of the election, the reality TV star said that he would have to “keep you in suspense.”

During this insane bad-acid-trip of an election campaign I have overused the phrase “let that sink in.”

There have been at least two dozen moments in the last 18 months which I have felt warranted a moment of horrified contemplation, a moment to sit and internalise the insanity of what is happening. That time a candidate for president brought up his penis size in a primary election debate, for one.

But there was a debate last night, and one of the protagonists threatened to undermine democracy in the United States of America, which throws the rest of this bizarre campaign into stark relief.

It was the third and final clash between an experienced if arguably politically problematic former senator and secretary of state – Hillary Clinton –  and a reality TV star accused of a growing number of sexual assaults – Donald Trump – but the tone and content of the debate mattered less than what the latter said at one key, illuminating moment.

That statement was this: asked if he would accept the result of the election, Donald Trump said that he was going to “look at it at the time,” and that he would have to “keep you in suspense.”

If your jaw just hit the floor, you have responded correctly. The candidate for the party of Lincoln, the party of Reagan, the party of Teddy Roosevelt, declined to uphold the most fundamental keystone of American democracy, which is to say, the peaceful transition of power.

Let that sink in. Let it sit; let it brew like hot, stewed tea.

This election has been historic in a vast number of ways, most important of which is that it will be, if current polling is to be believed, the election which will bring America's first female president to the White House, almost a century after women's suffrage was enabled by the 19th amendment to the constitution in August 1920.

If the last near-century for women in America has been a journey inexorably towards this moment, slowly chipping away at glass ceiling after glass ceiling, like the progression of some hellish video game, then Donald Trump is as fitting a final boss as it could be possible to imagine.

For Trump, this third and final debate in Las Vegas was do-or-die. His challenge was near-insurmountable for even a person with a first-class intellect, which Trump does not appear to possess, to face. First, he needed to speak in such a way as to defend his indefensible outbursts about women, not to mention the increasing number of allegations of actual sexual assault, claims backstopped by his own on-tape boasting of theoretical sexual assault released last month.

This, he failed to do, alleging instead that the growing number of sexual assault allegations against him are being fabricated and orchestrated by Clinton's campaign, which he called “sleazy”, at one point to actual laughs from the debate audience.

But he also needed to reach out to moderates, voters outside his base, voters who are not electrified by dog-whistle racism and lumbering misogyny. He tried to do this, using the Wikileaks dump of emails between Democratic party operators as a weapon. But that weapon is fatally limited, because ultimately not much is in the Wikileaks email dumps, really, except some slightly bitchy snark of the kind anyone on earth's emails would have and one hell of a recipe for risotto.

In the debate, moderator Chris Wallace admirably held the candidates to a largely more substantive, policy-driven debate than the two previous offerings – a fact made all the more notable considering that he was the only moderator of the three debates to come from Fox News – and predictably Trump floundered in the area of policy, choosing instead to fall back on old favourites like his lean-into-the-mic trick, which he used at one point to mutter “nasty woman” at Clinton like she'd just cut him off in traffic.

Trump was more subdued than the bombastic lummox to which the American media-consuming public have become accustomed, as if his new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway had dropped a couple of Xanax into his glass of water before he went on stage. He even successfully managed to grasp at some actual Republican talking-points – abortion, most notably – like a puppy who has been semi-successfully trained not to make a mess on the carpet.

He also hit his own favourite campaign notes, especially his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) - but ultimately his intrinsic Donald Trumpiness couldn't stop itself from blazing through.

Remember the Republican primary debate when Trump refused to say that he would accept the party's nominee if it wasn't him? Well, he did it again: except this time, the pledge he refused to take wasn't an internal party matter; it was two centuries of American democratic tradition chucked out of the window like a spent cigarette. A pledge to potentially ignore the result of an election, given teeth by weeks of paranoiac ramblings about voter fraud and rigged election systems, setting America up for civil unrest and catastrophe, driving wedges into the cracks of a national discourse already strained with unprecedented polarisation and spite.

Let it, for what is hopefully just one final time, sink in.

Nicky Woolf is a writer for the Guardian based in the US. He tweets @NickyWoolf.