Monthly Archives: July 2019

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Reprieved Fenerbahce to face Salzburg in qualifier

Former European champions PSV Eindhoven, last season’s Dutch league runners-up, were paired with Belgium’s Zulte Waregem and Olympique Lyonnais, the other high profile team in the draw, will face Switzerland’s Grasshoppers.

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Lyonnais, third in Ligue One last season, qualified for the Champions League group stage for 12 seasons in a row before missing out last season.

Ambitious Russian side Zenit St Petersburg will face Denmark’s Nordsjaelland, who made their group stage debut last season.

Fenerbahce and fellow Turkish club Besiktas, who have qualified for the Europa League, were handed European bans last month after a protracted UEFA inquiry following a domestic match-fixing scandal in 2011.

Fenerbahce were banned for two years and Besiktas one by European soccer’s governing body UEFA. Both appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) who on Thursday lifted the bans until the final decision is taken.

CAS said the final decision on Fenerbahce will be issued before August 28., one day before the draw for the Champions League group stage takes place in Monaco.

UEFA could be left with a headache if Fenerbahce beat Salzburg, win their following qualifying round tie and subsequently lose their appeal at CAS.

Salzburg, formerly known as Austria Salzburg, have not qualified for the Champions League group stage since the club was taken over by the Red Bull energy drinks company in 2005.

Former European champions Steaua Bucharest are set for a tie against Georgian champions Dinamo Tbilisi, former winners of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, if they complete their second round win over Vardar Skopje. The Romanians have a 3-0 first leg league while Tblisi have a 6-1 lead over Streymur of the Faroe Islands.

Celtic, the other former European champions in the hat, will almost certainly face Sweden’s Elfsborg, if they complete a second qualifying round win over Cliftonville following a 3-0 win in their first leg. Elfsborg are 7-1 up against Daugava Daugavpils.

(Reporting by Brian Homewood; editing by Justin Palmer)

Egypt army cracks down on Muslim Brotherhood

Morsi’s government unravelled late on Wednesday after the army gave him a 48-hour ultimatum in the wake of massive demonstrations since June 30 against his turbulent rule.

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The Brotherhood called for a peaceful protest on Friday over the “military coup” as the army turned the screws on the Islamist movement.

Its supreme leader Mohammed Badie was arrested “for inciting the killing of protesters”, a security official told AFP.

Anger gave way to gloom as thousands of the embattled Islamist movement’s supporters rallied at a Cairo mosque, surrounded by the army.

“It’s a soft military coup. The military was smart, using the cover of civilians,” said one, 26-year-old Ahmed al-Sayyed, in reference to the mass anti-Morsi protests.

Military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced Morsi’s overthrow on Wednesday night, citing his inability to end a deepening political crisis, as dozens of armoured personnel carriers streamed onto Cairo’s streets.

The crackdown came as chief justice Adly Mansour, 67, was sworn in as interim president at a ceremony broadcast live from the Supreme Constitutional Court.

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He will serve until elections at a yet-to-be determined date, said Sisi, as he laid out a roadmap for a political transition that includes a freeze on the Islamist-drafted constitution.

A judicial source said the prosecution would on Monday begin questioning Brotherhood members, including Morsi, for “insulting the judiciary”.

Other leaders of the movement would be questioned on the same charges, including the head of its political arm Saad al-Katatni, Mohammed al-Beltagui, Gamal Gibril and Taher Abdel Mohsen.

Morsi and 35 other Brotherhood leaders have also been slapped with a travel ban.

Analysts said Morsi and his Islamists hastened their own demise.

“Morsi and the Brotherhood made almost every conceivable mistake… they alienated potential allies, ignored rising discontent, (and) focused more on consolidating their rule than on using what tools they did have,” Nathan Brown wrote on the New Republican website.

A senior military officer said the army was “preventively” holding Morsi and that he might face formal charges linked to his prison escape during the revolt that overthrew dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Morsi had issued a defiant call for supporters to protect his elected “legitimacy”, in a recorded speech hours after the military announced his ouster.

“We had to confront it at some point, this threatening rhetoric,” the officer said. “He succeeded in creating enmity between Egyptians.”

Morsi’s rule was marked by a spiralling economic crisis, shortages of fuel and often deadly opposition protests.

Thousands of protesters dispersed after celebrating wildly through the night at the news of his downfall.

Egypt’s press almost unanimously hailed Morsi’s ouster as a “legitimate” revolution.

“And the people’s revolution was victorious,” read the front page of state-owned Al-Akhbar.

Morsi’s opponents had accused him of failing the 2011 revolution by concentrating power in Brotherhood hands.

His supporters say he inherited many problems from a corrupt regime, and that he should have been allowed to serve out his term until 2016.

US President Barack Obama said he was “deeply concerned” over Morsi’s ouster and urged the army to refrain from “arbitrary arrests”.

In May, Washington approved $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt. That was now under review, said Obama, as he called for a swift return to democratic rule.

Germany called the military’s move “a major setback for democracy in Egypt”, while UN chief Ban Ki-moon said civilian rule should resume as soon as possible.

Governments across the Middle East welcomed Morsi’s ouster with varying degrees, with war-hit Syria calling it a “great achievement”.

But pro-government media in Qatar, a key Brotherhood ally, carried words of warning for Egypt.

“Egypt has never before been in such a foggy situation… Every political and ideological group now thinks it has the right to rule,” said a commentary in Asharq newspaper.

At least 10 people were killed in clashes in Alexandria and in the southern province of Minya during the night, security officials said, after the week before Morsi’s downfall saw at least 50 dead.

Watch: The road ahead for Egypt

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Researchers alarmed by jail sentence for Italian scientists

By Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation

Researchers worldwide have condemned an Italian court’s judgement that six scientists and a government official are guilty of manslaughter for failing to predict an earthquake accurately.

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The case, in which seven members of the country’s Major Risks Committee were sentenced to six years jail for underestimating an earthquake that killed 309 people in the town of L’Aquila in 2009, has implications for all scientists, said University of Sydney astronomer Bryan Gaensler.

“This brings a lot of troubling precedents,” he said.

“It raises all sorts of questions about the nature of uncertainty, about the accuracy of models and the responsibilities of scientists.”

Scientists can’t give frank advice if they are to be held criminally liable for a shortcoming in any model which is a work in progress and which uses a lot of assumptions, he said.

“There are many aspects of our lives where we rely on predictions. No theory is fool proof, no prediction is 100 per cent sure and there are a range of day-to-day assumptions we make about vaccines, weather forecasts, the safety of getting in cars or aeroplanes. People have to understand that models have limitations.”

Professor of Seismology, Earth Physics at the Australian National University, Brian Kennett, said that even if the judgement is appealed, it “will have a major inhibitory effect on any group worldwide making pronouncements about future risk.”

“Earthquakes are intrinsically unpredictable and it’s possible the Italian group may have been too reassuring in the light of that fact,” he said.

“However, lives are at risk because building stock is inadequate. The quickest way of saving lives is to build better. People are reluctant to spend the extra five or 10 per cent to make a building earthquake proof.”

The finding will encourage more caution on the part of scientists in making predictions, which may not be helpful, said Prof Kennett.

“You will then be more likely to make no pronouncement rather than the wrong pronouncement,” he said.

Wayne Peck, senior seismologist in the Seismology Research Centre at Environmental Systems and Services told the Australian Science Media Centre that communicating earthquake hazard risk to the public was already complex.

“To err in one direction leaves them open to being charged with being “too reassuring” but to err in the other leaves them open to being accused of being alarmist. Either way, minor nuances in the language used can be interpreted differently by different audiences, leaving the experts in a no win situation.”

Prof David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge, said the “bizarre verdict will chill anyone who gives scientific advice, and I hope they are freed on appeal.”

“The lesson for me is that scientific advisers must try and retain control over how their work is communicated, and are properly trained to engage with the public,” he told the UK Science Media Centre.

Prof Bill McGuire, Professor of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at the University College London, said the verdict was extremely alarming.

“If this sets a precedent then national governments will find it impossible to persuade any scientist to sit on a natural hazard risk evaluation panel. In the longer term, then, this decision will cost lives, not save them.”

Armstrong stripped of Tour titles

USADA branded Armstrong a dope cheat a day after the 40-year-old Texan said he would not pursue a bid to clear himself of charges that he used performance enhancing drugs to win cycling’s most prestigious race from 1999 to 2005.

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The agency laid out five rule violations for which Armstrong has been sanctioned, saying the cancer survivor who became a hero to millions took part in a systematic doping conspiracy with his then US Postal Service team.

It said that, as Armstrong has dropped out of an arbitration process, he “has received a lifetime period of ineligibility and disqualification of all competitive results from August 1, 1998 through the present”.

Along with his celebrated haul of Tour titles, Armstrong stands to lose the Olympic bronze medal he won in 2000 along with other race titles, prize money and other awards.

The International Cycling Union, the sport’s governing body based in Aigle, Switzerland, had been fighting USADA for jurisdiction over Armstrong’s case and said Friday it wanted to see USADA’s full explanation for the sanctions before acting.

However, USADA’s statement made it clear they believe the UCI is bound by the World Anti-Doping Code to back up its findings.

“Because Mr. Armstrong could have had a hearing before neutral arbitrators to contest USADA’s evidence and sanction and he voluntarily chose not to do so, USADA’s sanction is final,” the agency’s statement said.

Armstrong had long denied accusations of doping but said Thursday he would no longer even address the issue.

“Today I turn the page,” he said. But hours after USADA’s announcement on Friday he made it clear that doesn’t mean he’ll disappear, tweeting his intention to compete in a local mountain bike race in the Aspen area in Colorado called the Power of Four.

“Excited to be racing the #poweroffour tomorrow here in @AspenCO,” Armstrong tweeted, apparently confident of a warm welcome from the local cycling community.

Certainly Armstrong had already received support from leaders of the anti-smoking and anti-cancer causes that he champions, and from sports apparel giant Nike.

“Lance has stated his innocence and has been unwavering on this position. Nike plans to continue to support Lance and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation that Lance created to serve cancer survivors,” the firm said.

Armstrong, who has branded the USADA probe a “witch hunt, had gone to court in a bid to block the agency’s proceedings.

But on Monday a federal judge in his hometown of Austin dismissed his lawsuit, leaving Armstrong until midnight on Thursday to tell USADA whether or not he would seek arbitration.

“I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999,” Armstrong said Thursday.

“The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today — finished with this nonsense.”

USADA maintains that Armstrong used banned substances — including the blood-booster EPO, steroids and blood transfusions — dating back to 1996, and said 10 of his former teammates were ready to testify against him.

If the UCI confirms the move, it faces a potential headache of choosing new winners for the seven disputed tours, as a number of cyclists who finished behind the American have also been implicated in doping scandals.

Indeed, Armstrong has argued that at least some of the witnesses who have implicated him cannot be trusted as they are themselves admitted dope cheats.

Former teammate Floyd Landis, who finally admitted doping years after he was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title, accused Armstrong of systematic doping, helping trigger a federal government probe of Armstrong and others.

That investigation ended in February with no criminal charges brought, but it apparently provided further impetus to USADA’s probe of the cyclist.

USADA said it also had blood tests taken from 2009-2010, when Armstrong briefly came out of retirement to compete internationally again, that were “fully consistent” with blood doping.

Armstrong, who retired from cycling last year, said he passed hundreds of drug tests during his career and adhered to the rules in place at the time of his Tour de France wins.

“I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair,” he said, alleging that from the start the probe had been “about punishing me at all costs.”

However, World Anti-Doping Agency chief John Fahey said Armstrong’s decision not to fight the charges could only be seen as an admission of guilt.

“There can be no other interpretation,” he said.

‘Breivik made a mistake when he spared me’

“Breivik made a mistake when he spared me, if you look at it from his perspective,” Adrian Pracon, 21, told the Oslo district court on the 25th day of the right-wing extremist’s trial.

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On July 22 last year, Breivik first bombed a government building in Oslo, killing eight people, before going to Utoeya island, northwest of the capital, where he opened fire on young people taking part in a summer camp hosted by the ruling Labour Party’s youth wing (AUF).

Sixty-nine people died on the island, most of them teenagers. The youngest victim had just celebrated her 14th birthday.

As the now 33-year-old confessed killer looked on, Pracon told the court Friday he had become far more politically active since the massacre, contrary to Breivik’s stated goal of strangling support for the Labour Party, which he blames for making Norway a multicultural society and laying the foundation for a “Muslim invasion”.

“The Labour Party is even dearer to me today,” Pracon said.

Eloquently, he told the court how on July 22 he had first tried in vain to swim to safety through the icy water surrounding Utoeya.

When he surfaced he had been almost face-to-face with the killer who was standing on the shore, shooting at the youths in the water screaming: “I will kill you all!”.

When Breivik turned towards him, Pracon, out of breath and still in the water begged him: “No, don’t shoot!”.

The killer, only five or six metres (16-20 feet) away, had raised his weapon and taken aim: “It looked like he was unsure whether to shoot me in the heart or the head.”

But then, after an eternal moment during which he was certain he would die, Pracon saw Breivik suddenly turn and walk away, before he heard other shots as the killer continued his massacre despite pleas from the frantic campers.

Later shot in the shoulder as he pretended to be dead at another spot on the island, the young survivor told the court he was still haunted by the question of why he had been spared.

“The question of why I was saved when others begged for their lives but were not, is a heavy strain,” he said.

At the beginning of his 10-week trial, which began on April 16, Breivik had told the court he had spared Pracon because he reminded him of himself as a boy and because, according to the killer, he looked like a conservative and not a “cultural Marxist” like the others on the island.

On Friday, Pracon said he did not believe this explanation, but could not provide another answer to the question that haunts him.