December 4, 2014 5:54 AM EST

Egypt’s Arab Spring Reaches an End With Mubarak Cleared

Ever since massive protests in Cairo toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, Egyptians have debated when to mark the uprising’s end. Some thought the June 2012 elections that brought President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to power represented an end point. Others felt it died in July 2013, when the military deposed Morsi and launched a vast, bloody crackdown on his supporters. Each time an end point is declared, it is overtaken by another round of upheaval.

On Nov. 29, a Cairo court cleared Mubarak of all criminal charges against him, including the accusation that he approved the killing of demonstrators during the uprising. About 1,000 took to the streets–the largest protest in downtown Cairo in months, but far smaller than those of the 2011 uprising. Police quickly snuffed it out with water cannons, tear gas and gunfire. To many Egyptians, the sense of an ending was palpable. While the uprising successfully terminated Mubarak’s nearly 30-year dictatorship, it could not alter the state he left behind: the abusive police force, the politically powerful military and the court system badly in need of reform.

Under President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, in office since June, the Egyptian state faces a stagnant economy, crumbling infrastructure, an Islamist insurgency based in the Sinai, and a polarized public. Those craving stability believe the former military chief represents the best chance of defeating the insurgents and repairing Egypt’s economy. Others consider him an autocrat. What remains of the protest movement has also fractured. The students and others who protested the Mubarak verdict are reluctant to reunite with the Islamists who stage smaller, weekly protests in the city’s working-class districts.

Many Egyptians will hesitate to protest at all. Since 2013, security forces have killed over 1,000 demonstrators and detained an estimated 40,000 people. The government has outlawed unauthorized street gatherings and expanded the power of military courts to try civilians. In just the latest mass trial on Dec. 2, the Giza Criminal Court sentenced 188 people to death over a fatal attack on a police station. Egyptian rights groups say they’re struggling just to keep count of the numbers arrested, imprisoned and sentenced to death.

The revolution’s legacy exists in Egypt, for now, in pockets of political dynamism on university campuses and in factories and Cairo’s outer neighborhoods. But the next protests may well resemble the ones on Nov. 29: a shrinking crowd chanting for revolution while soldiers block the road into the square, staring from behind barbed wire.

HOW CORRUPT IS YOUR GOVERNMENT?

Transparency International rated 175 countries and territories based on experts’ perception of corruption in their public sectors. Below, how some countries ranked, from least to most corrupt:

DATA

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1 Denmark

17 U.S.

100 China

103 Mexico

174 Somalia

HONG KONG

‘Today we are willing to pay the price. We are willing to take the responsibility.’

JOSHUA WONG, Hong Kong pro-democracy movement leader, announcing on Dec. 1 that he would begin a hunger strike to pressure government officials to agree to talks, in a joint statement with two other prominent activists. Wong, 18, vowed to continue the strike even after three other protest leaders surrendered to police on Dec. 3, urging students to end protests that have turned increasingly violent.

EXPLAINER

The Risks of Playing Cricket

Australian batsman Phillip Hughes was fatally struck by a cricket ball on Nov. 25, and an umpire in Israel died four days later after being hit in the chest by a ball. The deaths have raised questions about safety in one of the world’s most popular sports.

FREAK INCIDENT

Fatalities are rare in cricket, which sees more fractured or disjointed fingers than serious head injuries; Reuters lists only four other batsmen killed by a ball since 1870. Hughes wore a helmet, but the ball hit an unprotected part of his neck.

RISKS REMAIN

The ball of cork and leather can be bowled at nearly 100 m.p.h. (160 km/h) and is sometimes targeted at the batsman’s body and head. Most people on the field, including the umpires, do not wear helmets, even when standing within feet of a batsman.

WHAT’S NEXT

Prominent cricketers have called for improved helmets and stricter safety guidelines ahead of next year’s Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Modern helmets have changed little since the 1980s, when they first became widely used.

ROUNDUP

Cheap Oil’s Biggest Losers

The price of oil sank to a five-year low of under $68 a barrel on Dec. 1, following a five-month slide. That’s good news for many consumers but not for countries dependent on oil revenue.

[The following text appears within a map. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual map.]

Venezuela

President Nicolás Maduro said on Nov. 28 that he would take a pay cut as plummeting oil prices deepen a recession that has seen annualized inflation rise to 60% and prompted violent protests.

Nigeria

The country’s currency slumped to a record low on Dec. 2, days after President Goodluck Jonathan slashed 2015 oil subsidies by half to reduce expenses.

Iran

The government, which needs oil at $136 a barrel to keep a balanced budget, raised the price of bread by 30% on Dec. 1.

Russia

The ruble has fallen roughly 30% against the dollar in the past three months, and the government warned on Dec. 2 that the economy will fall into recession next year, under pressure from both oil prices and Western sanctions.

INDIA

274

Number of tigers that have died in India over the past four years, out of a population of roughly 1,700, according to the country’s Environment Minister. At least 20% of the record number of deaths were due to poaching.

Trending In

COMEBACKS

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who swore off politics in 2012 after losing his re-election bid, was elected leader of his center-right party on Nov. 29, a step toward a potential presidential run in 2017.

GRAFT

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi dismissed 24 senior military officials on Dec. 1 after it emerged that in exchange for kickbacks the Iraqi army had employed 50,000 “ghost” soldiers who received pay without serving.

CYBERWAR

North Korea was named the prime suspect in a recent hacking attack on Sony Pictures, which will soon release a Seth Rogen comedy about a bid to assassinate Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. The cyber-attack resembled earlier hacks on South Korean banks.

This appears in the December 15, 2014 issue of TIME.

Write to Noah Rayman at noah.rayman@time.com.

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