Saturday, June 30, 2012

Euro 2012 final: Can Italy stop Spain's bid for history?

And then there were two. Sunday's showpiece European Championship final in the Ukrainian capital Kiev pits holders Spain against Italy, between them the winners of the last two World Cups.
Spain are on the brink of creating soccer history; never before has a country won three major international football tournaments in a row and the Spanish, who won Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, now have the chance to earn a place in the record books.
Before the Euros, former Barcelona and England striker Gary Lineker said "La Furia Roja" were just one trophy away from greatness.
"If they won three tournaments in a row, something no other team has done, you would have to put them up there among the all-time greatest teams," said Lineker, who helped England reach the World Cup semifinals in 1990.
Spain reach Euro 2012 final after shootout victory
Vicente del Bosque's side enjoyed huge good fortune in Wednesday's semifinal against Iberian neighbors Portugal, winning 4-2 in a penalty shootout after a 0-0 draw, with Cesc Fabregas scuffing the decisive spot-kick as it hit the inside of the post and rolled along the goalline before creeping into Rui Patricio's net.
Fabregas' penalty can perhaps be seen as a symbol of Spain's unconvincing performances at Euro 2012 so far, which have left a large proportion of the watching public unsatisfied as they struggled to break down packed opposition defenses.
The end of a love affair?
For all their possession (Spain have enjoyed around 67% of the ball in their five matches), there has been frustration that they have neither moved the ball around quickly enough nor created enough goalscoring chances, instead wearing the other team down by making their players chase shadows before waiting for a mistake.
Whisper it quietly, but some have even labeled Spain's previously much-feted tiki-taka style of play "boring" and claimed it is currently a more defensive tactic than offensive -- an argument perhaps backed up by the fact that Spain have now not conceded a knockout-stage goal in any tournament since the 2006 World Cup, a run of nine matches and a remarkable 900 minutes of action.
Against Italy in the group stage and France in the last eight, Del Bosque even picked a starting XI without a single striker -- a tactic designed to help Spain keep the ball better and lure the opposing defense out so they could get in behind. It hasn't worked flawlessly, but they have churned out results regardless.
Beautiful football might be what people demand, but results are what Del Bosque deals in first; since taking over from previous coach Luis Aragones following Euro 2008, the 61-year-old has led the national team to an incredible 50 wins from 59 matches.
Midfielder Andres Iniesta, who scored the winner in the 2010 World Cup final, says Spain aren't bothered by the "boring" tag. The 27-year-old instead focuses on the positives of their possession-based game.
"When a team wants to attack and comes up against an opponent that sits back and tries to close the space and not try to create its own chances, that's not always the football you want to watch," said Iniesta. "It's easy to forget that only a few years ago this style is what changed the story of Spain."
A change in mentality
It is a story that began at Euro 2008 -- and really, truly began with Spain's quarterfinal penalty shootout victory over Italy in Vienna, a match that defender Gerard Pique looks back on as the turning point.
"I think it changed the mentality of the national team," said the Barcelona star. "Before, Spain played to avoid losing -- but afterwards they played to win."
Italy were the World Cup champions at the time and favorites to go through, but it is perhaps not as well remembered that they were missing the suspended Andrea Pirlo, who has been in such glorious form at this tournament.
Pirlo, let's not forget, was also injured at the 2010 World Cup and played only 34 minutes in their final group game game as Italy crashed out at the first hurdle following draws with Paraguay and New Zealand and a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Slovakia.
But the 33-year-old midfielder is enjoying a stunning renaissance in his career. A year ago he was discarded by AC Milan after 10 years of service, but signed for Juventus and led "The Old Lady" to the Italian league title before showcasing the full range of his majestic talents for the world to see in Poland and Ukraine.
If Italy were besieged by the storm of another match-fixing scandal in their domestic game brewing prior to Euro 2012, Pirlo provided the steady hand on the tiller to sail the ship into calmer waters. With hardly a hair out of place and rarely breaking into a sweat, the masterful Pirlo has dictated the knockout matches against England and Germany with breathtaking class, providing an exhibition in how to create space and pass the ball both of the long and short variety.
The master and the maverick
When looking long, Pirlo has often sought out Mario Balotelli, the maverick Manchester City striker who is as well-known for his controversial lifestyle away from football as his performances on the pitch -- something which may change after his monumental two-goal showing against the much-fancied Germans in the semifinal.
Balotelli double sends Italy through to Euro 2012 final
Balotelli went into Euro 2012 considered a talented liability, as capable of moments of madness as those of brilliance, but he powered home a header to give Italy the lead and then crashed a stunning second into the top corner from 18 yards. Even Germany keeper Manuel Neuer had to applaud the 21-year-old's chutzpah.
"Tonight was the most beautiful of my life -- but I hope that this Sunday is even better," said Balotelli in the aftermath. "Along with Spain, we are the two best teams in the tournament. We are the only side to have scored against Spain so far. We proved that we are equal to them, if not more, and we want to win."
Whoever wins on Sunday, it will provide a fairytale finish to a competition that has surpassed all expectations.
Scare stories
The buildup to the first major football tournament behind the old Iron Curtain in eastern Europe was dominated by scare stories: the transport infrastructure wasn't ready; there weren't enough (affordable) hotels for supporters to stay in; racism was a widespread problem in both host countries; foreign fans would not be welcomed in many of the host cities, and so on.
Yet most of the fears have been unfounded. Yes, there have been issues with supporters that European football's governing body UEFA has had to deal with, and member associations have been fined for specific incidents of failing to keep their fans under control.
Some of the magnificent stadia have not been full for every game, but that is probably down to the fact that Europe is going through difficult economic times right now and Poland and Ukraine are further away than most host nations have been, resulting in increased traveling costs.
But by and large, Euro 2012 has been an unqualified success. The group stage matches were full of attacking intent and fine goals and the knockout stages have produced two penalty shootouts of unbearable tension, not to mention Italy's awesome destruction of Germany. Referees have let games flow and kept the card count down, and the players have responded by concentrating more on their football and less on feigning injury and trying to artificially gain their team an advantage.
Everywhere you looked, there was a story: Andriy Shevchenko gave the Ukraine people a memory they will never forget with two goals to see off Sweden; Greece put their country's vast financial problems aside to qualify from Group A; the much-fancied Netherlands went back home with tails between legs; and then there was Spain and Italy, quietly working their way through the tournament.
Sensational scoring
With 30 of the 31 matches played we have seen only three red cards -- two of which came in the opening game as Poland drew with Greece -- and there have been 21 goals scored from headers, which at 29% of the total 72 stands way higher than at any previous Euros.
Wonderful goals have crashed in with regularity, from the acrobatics of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Balotelli to the gorgeous flick of Danny Welbeck, the emphatic volleys of Sami Khedira and Marco Reus to the unstoppable rocket shots of Jakub Blaszczykowski and, again, Balotelli.
And then there was Pirlo's "Panenka."
With England leading Italy 2-1 after the first two penalties in Sunday's quarterfinal shootout, Pirlo produced a moment of genius to change the momentum entirely in Italy's favor. He watched the England keeper buzz around on the line trying to put him off, before coolly chipping the ball -- a la Antonin Panenka in the 1976 European Championship final shootout -- delicately into the net after Joe Hart had dived early and erroneously to his right.
England missed their next two penalties and Italy triumphed. "Hart seemed to be very confident in himself. I needed to do something to beat him and it seemed to be a psychological blow," said the unflappable Pirlo. England boss Roy Hodgson added: "The cool, calculated way Pirlo chipped it, that is something you either have or you don't have as a player."
The watching football world swooned, and Pirlo produced his second successive man-of-the-match display to help Italy slay Germany in the semis and continue the Azzurri's amazing record of never having lost a competitive game to "Die Mannschaft."
On Sunday, Cesare Prandelli's team can keep another record intact: that of a country never winning three major international tournaments in a row. Spain are potentially 90 minutes away from sporting immortality.
A captivating conclusion to Euro 2012 lies in wait.

US storms knock popular sites offline

Severe thunderstorms in the eastern US have caused widespread power outages and affected a number of popular websites hosted by online seller Amazon.
The Washington Post’s website reported that the storms knocked out power for “more than 1.5 million homes and businesses” across Maryland and Virginia on Friday night.
Technology site VentureBeat reported that websites using Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud service in North Virginia like Netflix, Instagram, Pinterest, Heroku were all down at one point late Friday evening and early Saturday morning.
Checks by Al Jazeera at 07:00 GMT on Saturday showed that most of these sites, excluding Instagram, were working properly.
Instagram, the popular photo sharing site that Facebook recently bought for $1bn, posted a message on Twitter from its support account at 03:16 GMT, "We're currently experiencing technical difficulties and we're working to correct the issues. Thanks for your patience.”
At 03:50 GMT, NetFlix, a popular site for streaming movies and TV programmes, also posted a message on Twitter from its support account, “We're aware that some members are experiencing issues streaming movies and TV shows. We’re working to resolve the problem.”
At 03:40 GMT, Amazon posted an update on its Web Services site on its Elastic Compute Cloud server: "We can confirm that a large number of instances in a single Availability Zone have lost power due to electrical storms in the area. We are actively working to restore power.
The last message, posted at 05:36 GMT, said,"We continue to bring impacted instances and volumes back online. As a result of the power outage, some EBS volumes may have inconsistent data."
Sean Ludwig, from VentureBeat, wrote in a blog post, "The outage underscores the vulnerabilities of depending on the public cloud versus using your own data centers.”
The outages on Amazon’s cloud server come two weeks after a similar incident when a number of popular websites hosted by Amazon went down. A report into the incident by Amazon found that a configuration error was made during a routine upgrade.
"With the critical Amazon outage, which is the second this month, we wouldn’t be surprised if these popular services started looking at other options," Ludwig wrote.

World Bank cancels loan for Bangladesh bridge

The proposed bridge over the Padma is meant to connect capital Dhaka to the coastal districts [GALLO/GETTY]
The World Bank has cancelled a $1.2bn loan for Bangladesh's Padma bridge project, saying the government had not co-operated in investigating "high level" corruption in the project.
"The World Bank cannot, should not, and will not turn a blind eye to evidence of corruption," it said on Friday about the loan being cancelled immediately.
The proposed 6.2km bridge over the Padma river, the local name for the Ganges, is meant to connect the capital Dhaka to the country's coastal districts.
The $3bn bridge, planned to go into service in 2014, is designed to carry a highway and railway line and is aimed at transforming the country's impoverished south.
The loan was originally approved in February 2011, but allegations of corruption in the tender process led the bank to freeze the loan by October.
Evidence provided
The World Bank said it had provided evidence from two investigations into the bridge case to Bangladesh's prime minister, minister of finance and anti-corruption commission chairman in September 2011 and April 2012.
"We urged the authorities of Bangladesh to investigate this matter fully and, where justified, prosecute those responsible for corruption," the World Bank said.
"We only finance a project when we have adequate assurances that we can do so in a clean and transparent way," the bank said.
The corruption allegations also involve Canadian contractor SNC-Lavalin. Late last year, Ottawa launched charges against two former company executives after a year-long investigation using evidence supplied by the World Bank.
"Investigation and prosecution are ongoing but the court filings to date underscore the gravity of this case," the bank said of the Canadian case.
The World Bank said that it had nevertheless decided to proceed with developing the bridge project because of its importance for the country's and region's development -- "provided the government took serious actions against the high level corruption we had unearthed.
The bank said it had asked Dhaka to place on leave all public officials suspected of involvement in the corruption until the investigation is completed.
It also had asked for the government to name a special inquiry team within the corruption office to run an investigation, and to agree that they work closely with a panel of experts named by the World Bank who would provide guidance and ensure the fairness of the probe.
But the lack of follow-through by Dhaka led to Friday's cancellation of the financing.

Anti-government protests intensify in Sudan

Sudanese police have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters outside a mosque belonging to an opposition party in the capital Khartoum, a witness has said.
The witness said on Friday that demonstrators carried Sudanese flags and banners reading "The people want the regime to fall", a slogan used by protesters during the Arab Spring uprisings over the past year.
The protesters had gathered in the capital's Hijra Square beside the mosque of the opposition Umma party. After the tear gas and an unknown number of arrests, demonstrators burned tyres and threw stones at police before running for cover, the witness told the AFP news agency.
Follow our in-depth coverage of anti-government demonstrations
"Police have fired tear gas at protesters as they attempted to take to the streets following Friday prayers. There is a lot of defiance here, protesters have blocked the roads and they are burning tyres," said Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Khartoum.
"People have been chanting 'We want the downfall of the government', so people here belive that this is the start of their revolution," she added.
Waffa al-Amin, an activist, told Al Jazeera by phone from the protests that "about 2,000" protesters had gathered in the Ummdurman district of the capital.
"We are surrounded by 500 police and security forces. We have blocked the area so they can't get to us, however, they have been firing tear gas at us," al-Amin said.
Demonstrators planned major protests for Friday and Saturday, the 23rd anniversary of a coup by President Omar al-Bashir.
Some have dubbed this Friday the "Licking the elbow" protest, a phrase used Sudanese to mean attempting the impossible.

UN condemnation

The UN human rights chief has urged the Sudanese government to avoid "heavy-handed suppression".

"Tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and other heavy-handed  suppression will not resolve the frustrations and grievances of the people, said Navi Pillay, UN high commissioner for human rights, in a statement on Thursday.
Rights groups say scores of people have been arrested since protests against inflation began on June 16 in Khartoum.

 Zeina Khodr reports from the capital Khartoum
Human Rights Watch said the government was also using the protests "to silence dissenters".
After Bashir announced austerity measures, including tax hikes and an end to cheap fuel, the protests spread to include a cross-section of people in numerous locations throughout the capital and other parts of Sudan.
Bashir, suggesting that someone was behind the disturbances, has called them small-scale and not comparable to the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere. He maintains that he remains popular.
For more than a week, demonstrators in groups of 100 or 200 have burned tyres, thrown stones and blocked roads, while calling for a change in government.
"After 23 years of endurance, the Sudanese people have decided to say enough is enough," said an activist from the movement Sudan Change Now.

Beyond Khartoum

The protests, which started as mainly student-driven demonstrations on university campuses and remain small, also
spread beyond Khartoum.
One broke out in North Kordofan province in western Sudan where about 200 protesters chanted "No, no to high prices" and another in Wad Madani, capital of al-Jazira province near Khartoum, according to witnesses.
Police used teargas and batons to disperse the crowds in Wad Madani protesting against high prices. Kassala, a city in eastern Sudan, also saw a small protest.
It is not yet clear whether the protests pose a real threat to the ruling National Congress Party and Bashir, but the tough response by security forces shows how high the stakes are for Sudan's leaders who are struggling to contain multiple armed rebellions as well as the economic crisis.
Sudan has suffered soaring inflation since South Sudan seceded a year ago, taking with it about three quarters of the country's oil, and activists have been trying to use public frustration to build a movement to topple Bashir's government.
Large demonstrations have been relatively rare in Sudan, although Sudan saw popular revolts in 1964 and 1985, and
security forces move quickly to disperse protests.
Coverage of protests in local media has been restricted and scores have been arrested, activists and opposition groups say.
Bashir has dismissed the protesters as a handful of agitators whose aims most Sudanese reject.
Bashir is a former army officer who seized power in 1989.

Dozens killed by floods in northeast India

Torrential monsoon rains triggered floods which swamped villages in northeast India and forced at least 1.3 million people to leave their homes for higher ground, officials have said.
The death toll from flood-related accidents in worst-hit Assam rose to 31 with five more deaths reported overnight from the northeastern state, Nilamoni Sen Deka, regional agriculture minister, said on Friday.
An estimated 1.3 million people have been displaced from their homes due to the flooding, Deka said in Guwahati, Assam's largest city.
"We have opened makeshift relief camps for the displaced," he said as 21 of Assam's 27 districts faced floods which began last weekend when annual monsoon rains lashed the tea and oil-rich state bordering Bangladesh.
In the adjoining northeastern Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, pounding rains brought flash floods, local officials said.
"The situation is very critical as floods have destroyed property and crops," Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki told AFP from capital Itanagar.
In Manipur, state disaster management official A. Singh said major rivers were "flowing menacingly" above danger marks.
"We are taking all precautionary measures to ensure safety of the locals," Singh said.
Authorities were also keeping a close watch on swollen rivers in rain-lashed West Bengal state in eastern India.
"Heavy rains in northern districts of the state have raised concerns of flooding in many areas as most rivers are in spate," Gautam Dev, a regional minister, told AFP in state capital Kolkata.
In neighbouring Bihar state, people fled their homes in two districts as the Kosi river threatened to overflow its banks, officials said.
"Flood waters have already entered dozens of villages following incessant rains in catchment areas," one official said.
The annual monsoon, crucial to India's food production and economic growth, hit the tropical country earlier in the month.

World powers struggle on Syria plan

Foreign ministers of world powers are in Geneva to hold talks on developing a common strategy to tackle the bloodshed in Syria, but differences persist between Syrian ally Russia and other countries.
Shortly before the actual conference on Saturday, envoys were trying to overcome one of the main sticking points - Russia's insistence that President Bashar al-Assad be allowed to remain in power in some form, a condition that is a non-starter among Syrian opposition members.
"We haven't reached agreement in advance with Russia and China. That remains very difficult and whether it will be possible, I don't know if this will be possible," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on arriving for the talks hosted by international envoy Kofi Annan.
Kofi Annan has been hoping for consensus on a proposal involving the formation of a unity government comprising leaders from both the government and the opposition and the likely stepping down of Assad.
Moscow, a long-time ally of the Syrian government and an opponent in principle to what it terms foreign intervention in a domestic matter, has voiced objections to any solution that is imposed on Syria.
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, met Hillary Clinton, his US counterpart, in St Petersburg on Friday. He said there was "a very good chance [of finding] common ground at the conference in Geneva [on Saturday]".
His deputy, Gennady Gatilov, later tweeted Moscow's view of forcing Assad aside: "Our Western partners want to determine themselves the results of the political process in Syria," he said.
"However, this is a matter for the Syrians themselves."
Lavrov, however, said that he had seen some flexibility on Clinton's part during their talks.
"I felt a change in Hillary Clinton's position. There were not ultimatums," he said. "Not a word was said that the document we will discuss in Geneva cannot be touched," he said, a few hours after senior officials in Geneva failed to arrive at a compromise that could be presented to the foreign ministers for approval on Saturday.
A senior US state department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Reuters news agency that "areas of difficulty and difference" remain, but that an accord was still possible.
Annan 'optimistic'
The foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Russia, the United States, China, France and Britain - will attend Saturday's talks along with counterparts from regional powers Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq, as well as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Nabil Elaraby, the secretary-general of the Arab League.
Annan is seeking backing for a proposal that does not explicitly call for Assad to step down, but does outline the formation of a transition government involving leaders from both sides, and excluding any who would jeopardise stability.
Diplomats told Reuters that Russia had proposed changes to the plan on Thursday, despite initially supporting it, but that the US, Britain and France had rejected the amendments.
Annan said on Friday that he was "optimistic" that the Geneva talks would lead to an acceptable outcome.
Assad on Thursday dismissed the notion of any outside solution to the crisis which has imperilled his family's four decades in power: "We will not accept any non-Syrian, non-national model, whether it comes from big countries or friendly countries.
"No one knows how to solve Syria's problems as well as we do."
The United States and regional powers such as Turkey are under pressure not only from Russia but also members of the rebel movement against Assad.
The opposition Syrian National Council has expressed grave reservations about any transition process that reserves a role for the current president.
Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister, was to hold Paris talks with rebel council chief Abdel Basset Sayda in hopes of persuading him to take a more accommodating line.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some 4,700 of the more than 15,800 people killed since the uprising broke out since a UN-backed ceasefire brokered by Annan entered force.
Violence continues
On Friday, Syrian government forces used helicopter gunships and tanks to bombard opposition strongholds across the country, including towns in the northern province of Idlib and in the capital Damascus, the opposition said.
The attacks were reported after Mustafa al-Sheikh, a former brigadier general who defected from the Syrian army, said that about 2,500 Syrian troops and 170 tanks had assembled at an infantry school near the village of Musalmieh northeast of the city of Aleppo, just 30km from the Turkish border.
The mass military deployment came after Turkey amassed troops and deployed surface-to-air missile launchers along its southern border with Syria in response to the shooting down of a Turkish warplane by Syrian forces.
A spokesman for the Syrian foreign ministry did not deny that Syrian troops were amassing near the border, but stressed that there were "no hostile intentions from the Syrian side".

USADA Files Formal Charges Against Armstrong

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has filed formal charges against Lance Armstrong, accusing the seven-time Tour de France winner of using performance-enhancing drugs throughout the best years of his career.
The agency notified Armstrong, former team manager Johan Bruyneel and several other Armstrong team associates of the charges in a letter on Thursday.
The charges came after a USADA review panel examined evidence in the case, which now goes to an arbitration panel to decide. If found guilty, Armstrong could be stripped of the Tour de France titles he won from 1999-2005. This year's Tour de France begins Saturday.
Armstrong maintains his innocence. Armstrong attorney Robert Luskin called the charges "wrong and baseless."
Also charged are team doctors Pedro Celaya Lezama and Luis Garcia del Moral; team trainer Pepe Marti, and consulting doctor Michele Ferrari. Because they are so closely linked, USADA rolled all of the charges into a single case.
Armstrong and the others "(have) been part of a doping conspiracy involving team officials, employees, doctors and elite cyclists," said the USADA letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
The letter accuses Armstrong of using, possessing and trafficking banned substances including the blood-booster EPO, blood transfusions and steroids. The charges date back to 1998, after he had been declared cancer free but before his first Tour de France victory the following summer.
Bruyneel, who is currently the manager of the Radioshack-Nissan-Trek team recently announced he would skip this year's Tour because of the USADA investigation.
USADA says it has at least 10 former Armstrong teammates and associates who will testify against the cyclist, and blood samples from 2009 and 2010 that are "fully consistent" with blood doping.
Armstrong and the others charged have until July 9 to inform USADA if they plan to challenge the evidence before an arbitration panel.
The 40-year-old Armstrong retired from cycling last year, and in February a two-year federal investigation centering on alleged drug use by Armstrong and his teams closed with no charges being filed.
"It is the entirely predictable product of USADA's toxic obsession with Lance Armstrong and a process in which truth is not a priority," Luskin said. "There is not one shred of credible evidence to support USADA's charges and an unbroken record of more than 500 clean tests over more than a decade and a half to refute it."
The formal charges came after a unanimous recommendation from a three-person USADA review panel that looked at the evidence.
"All respondents will have the opportunity to exercise their right to a full public arbitration hearing, should they so choose, where all evidence would be presented, witness testimony would be given under oath," USADA said in a statement.
"USADA will continue to follow the established procedures that are compliant with federal law and were approved by athletes, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and all Olympic sports organizations."
The arbitration panel could meet by November, USADA said, but Luskin hinted Armstrong may file a federal lawsuit in an attempt to stop or delay the USADA investigation.
"Mr. Armstrong is exploring all his legal options," Luskin said.
Earlier in the day, Armstrong had gone on the attack against one of the review board members, Minneapolis attorney Clark Griffith, using his Twitter account to note that Griffith had earlier this year been charged in a misdemeanor case of indecent exposure.
"Wow. (at)usantidoping can pick em. Here's ... 1 of 3 Review Board members studying my case," Armstrong tweeted, linking to an online story about Griffith.
Lance Armstrong
Griffith entered an Alford plea on June 13. Under the plea, Griffith did not admit doing anything wrong but acknowledged prosecutors have enough evidence for a jury to convict him. A 24-year-old student reported Griffith unzipped his pants in front of her on a St. Paul street.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 26. Griffith told the AP he's innocent and entered the plea to avoid a trial that would embarrass his family.
Griffith said Armstrong's tweet was "an effort to get away from the issues that will be dealt with by an arbitration panel. OK? By smearing me, that does nothing. I'm innocent of that."
USADA has not publicly released most of its evidence against Armstrong. Griffith would not discuss Armstrong's case in detail but said, "He's really scrambling .... I can't wait to hear what the arbitration panel thinks of the evidence."

Egypt's Islamist President-Elect to Be Sworn In

Islamist Mohammed Morsi takes the oath of office Saturday before Egypt's highest court as the country's first freely elected president, succeeding Hosni Mubarak who was ousted 16 months ago.
When sworn in before the Supreme Constitutional Court, Morsi will also be the Arab world's first freely elected Islamist leader and Egypt's fifth president since the overthrow of the monarchy some 60 years ago.
The court, housed in a Nile-side structure built to resemble an ancient Egyptian temple, stands next door to a military hospital to which Mubarak, 84, was transferred about two weeks ago after suffering a health scare in a nearby prison hospital. He is serving a life sentence for failing to prevent the killing of protesters during last year's uprising.
Morsi took a symbolic oath on Friday in Cairo's Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising, before tens of thousands of mostly Islamist supporters.
A U.S.-trained engineer, the 60-year-old Morsi was scheduled to deliver his inauguration speech at Cairo University, established in 1908 as a bastion of secular education but which became a stronghold of Islamist student groups in the 1970s. Many of those student leaders have gone on to become senior members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, the nation's oldest and most powerful Islamist movement.
A handover ceremony hosted by the military generals who ruled Egypt since Mubarak's ouster follows.
Morsi's Friday speech in Tahrir Square was filled with dramatic populist gestures. The 60-year-old president-elect staked a claim to the legacy of the uprising and voiced his determination to win back the powers stripped from his office by the generals.
Addressing a crowd that repeatedly shouted, "We love you Morsi!" he began his speech by joining them in chanting, "Revolutionaries and free, we will continue the journey." Later he opened his jacket wide to show that he was not wearing a bullet-proof vest. "I fear no one but God and I work for you," he told the cheering supporters. As he was leaving the podium, he pushed aside two army soldiers from his security detail to wave goodbye to the crowd.
"Everybody is hearing me now. The government ... the military and the police. ... No power above this power," he told the crowd. "I reaffirm to you I will not give up any of the president's authorities. I can't afford to do this. I don't have that right."
Morsi's defiant tone, however, could not conceal that by agreeing to take the oath before the court, rather than before parliament as is customary, he was bowing to the military's will.
The generals dissolved the Islamist-packed legislature after the same court that will swear him in Saturday ruled that a third of its members were elected illegally.
The military has also declared itself the legislative power. It gave itself control over the drafting of a new constitution and sidelined Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which had sought to influence the process by packing it with Islamists.
The generals also created a National Security Council to formulate key domestic and foreign policies. Military officers outnumber civilians sitting on the council by about two-to-one, and decisions are made by a simple majority.
In his Friday speech, Morsi repeatedly returned to his main themes — the will of the people, the importance of unity and sticking to the goals of last year's revolution.
He promised to reject any efforts to take away the "power of the people," telling his supporters: "You are the source of legitimacy and whoever is protected by anyone else will lose."

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