Nobel season opens without Literature Prize, sidelined by #MeToo scandal

A medal of Alfred Nobel is pictured before the announcement of the winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm on October 2, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2018
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Nobel season opens without Literature Prize, sidelined by #MeToo scandal

STOCKHOLM: The announcement on Monday of the Nobel Medicine Prize opens this year’s amputated awards season, with no Literature Prize for the first time in 70 years because of a #MeToo scandal.
Like every year, Nobel aficionados have speculated wildly about possible winners, given the number of worthy candidates in the fields of medicine, physics, chemistry, peace and economics.
The medicine prize committee at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute is the first to reveal its choice of laureates, on Monday at 11:30am.
But its announcement risks being at least partially eclipsed by a Stockholm court’s verdict around the same time against Frenchman Jean-Claude Arnault, charged with rape.
His close ties to the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Literature Prize, have caused a scandal and deep rift in the Academy, prompting it to postpone this year’s prize for a year.
It is the first time the prize has been postponed since William Faulkner’s 1949 honor was awarded in 1950.
Without the Literature Prize this year, the most highly-anticipated award will be that for peace, announced on Friday in Oslo.
But before that come the science prizes, traditionally dominated by men working at US institutions.
Swedish public radio SR tipped however the medicine prize could go to two women for the gene-editing technique known as the CRISPR-Cas9 DNA snipping tool, a type of genetic “scissors” used to cut out a mutated gene in a human embryo and replace it by a corrected version.
However, the discovery could be too early for a Nobel, with a recent study suggesting the technique may damage DNA more than previously thought. A legal dispute is also raging over who discovered the technique.
It has been claimed on the one hand by the French-American research duo of Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, and on the other by Chinese-born American Feng Zhang.
Other research mentioned as Nobel-worthy include the cochlear implant, which can help deaf people to hear again, and gene sequencing, already honored with a chemistry Nobel in 1980 but a field whose vast progress has revolutionized medical, biological and evolutionary research since then.
Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet meanwhile cited research on opiates and pain relief, new blood vessel growth, and the creation of a giant gene and genome database as other possible award-winning fields.
The physics prize will follow on Tuesday.
SR suggested the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences could give the nod to research on zero-dimensional quantum dots — very small semiconductor particles that play a key role in data communications, light diodes, solar cells and medical imaging.
Svenska Dagbladet meanwhile said the discovery of the so-called “spin Hall effect” in semiconductors could be honored, or pioneering methods to determine the age, size and distance between galaxies.
Work on the mechanisms behind supercapacitators, a type of battery that can store large amounts of electricity, was also seen as a possibility.
The chemistry prize, to be announced on Wednesday, could meanwhile go to recurring favorite John Goodenough, a 96-year old electrochemist whose work led to the invention of rechargeable lithium ion battery present in cell phones, computers and electric cars, SR said.
For the Peace Prize, the only Nobel announced in Oslo, there are 329 candidates this year but their names are kept secret.
US President Donald Trump has been mentioned as a possibility for his efforts to bring peace to the Korean peninsula.
But Dan Smith, head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said he believed it would be “inappropriate” to honor Trump after he withdrew the US from international agreements on the climate and Iran’s nuclear program.
In addition, the only known Trump nomination submitted to the Nobel committee turned out to be a fake.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has also been mentioned for his rapprochement efforts with North Korea.
But Smith said that would be “premature,” recalling the dashed hopes after Moon’s predecessor Kim Dae-jung won the prize in 2000.
Other names circulating include Congolese surgeon Denis Mukwege and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad, who both campaign against sexual violence, as well as the World Food Programme, the UN refugee agency UNHCR, organizations defending the media and Russian human rights champions.
The 2018 Nobel season wraps up on October 8 with the announcement of the economics prize.
This year, each Nobel comes with a nine-million kronor ($1.01 million) prize sum, to be shared if several laureates are honored in the same discipline.


US eases restrictions on China’s Huawei to keep networks, phones operating

Updated 21 May 2019
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US eases restrictions on China’s Huawei to keep networks, phones operating

  • The company is still prohibited from buying American parts and components to manufacture new products without license approvals
  • Out of $70 billion Huawei spent buying components in 2018, some $11 billion went to US firms
WASHINGTON: The US government on Monday temporarily eased some trade restrictions imposed last week on China’s Huawei, a move that sought to minimize disruption for the telecom company’s customers around the world.
The US Commerce Department will allow Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. to purchase American-made goods in order to maintain existing networks and provide software updates to existing Huawei handsets.
The company is still prohibited from buying American parts and components to manufacture new products without license approvals that likely will be denied.
The US government said it imposed the restrictions because of Huawei’s involvement in activities contrary to national security or foreign policy interests.
The new authorization is intended to give telecommunications operators that rely on Huawei equipment time to make other arrangements, US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
“In short, this license will allow operations to continue for existing Huawei mobile phone users and rural broadband networks,” Ross added.
The license, which is in effect until Aug. 19, suggests changes to Huawei’s supply chain may have immediate, far-reaching and unintended consequences for its customers.
“The goal seems to be to prevent Internet, computer and cell phone systems from crashing,” said Washington lawyer Kevin Wolf, a former Commerce Department official. “This is not a capitulation. This is housekeeping.”
Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, declined to comment.
The Commerce Department said it will evaluate whether to extend the exemptions beyond 90 days.
On Thursday, the US Commerce Department added Huawei and 68 entities to an export blacklist that makes it nearly impossible for the Chinese company to purchase goods made in the United States.
The government tied Huawei’s addition to the “entity list” to a pending case accusing the company of engaging in bank fraud to obtain embargoed US goods and services in Iran and move money out of the country via the international banking system. Huawei has pleaded not guilty.
Reuters reported Friday that the department was considering a temporary easing, citing a government spokeswoman.
The temporary license also allows disclosures of security vulnerabilities and for Huawei to engage in the development of standards for future 5G networks.
Reuters reported Sunday that Alphabet Inc’s Google suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing, citing a source familiar with the matter.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new authorization.
Out of $70 billion Huawei spent buying components in 2018, some $11 billion went to US firms including Qualcomm Inc. , Intel Corp. and Micron Technology Inc.
“I think this is a reality check,” said Washington trade lawyer Douglas Jacobson. “It shows how pervasive Huawei goods and technology are around the globe and if the US imposes restrictions, that has impacts.”
Jacobson said the effort to keep existing networks operating appeared aimed at telecom providers in Europe and other countries where Huawei equipment is pervasive.
The move also could assist mobile service providers in thinly populated areas of the United States, such as Wyoming and eastern Oregon, that purchased network equipment from Huawei in recent years.
John Neuffer, the president of the Semiconductor Industry Association, which represents US chipmakers and designers, said in a statement that the association wants the government would ease the restrictions further.
“We hope to work with the administration to broaden the scope of the license,” he said, so that it advances US security goals but does not undermine the industry’s ability to compete globally and remain technology leaders.
A report on Monday on the potential impact of stringent export controls on technologies found that US firms could lose up to $56.3 billion in export sales over five years.
The report, from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, said the missed opportunities threatened as many as 74,000 jobs.
Wolf, the former Commerce official, said the Huawei reprieve was similar to action taken by the department in July to prevent systems from crashing after the US banned China’s ZTE Corp, a smaller Huawei rival, from buying American-made components in April.
The US trade ban on ZTE wreaked havoc at wireless carriers in Europe and South Asia, sources told Reuters at the time.
The ban on ZTE was lifted July 13 after the company struck an agreement with the Commerce Department that included a $1 billion fine plus $400 million in escrow and replacement of its board of directors and senior management. ZTE, which had ceased major operations as a result of the ban, then resumed business.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York and David Shepardson in Washington; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Angela Moon; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Cynthia Osterman)