Nobel Prize season arrives amid war, nuclear fears, hunger

Nobel Prize season arrives amid war, nuclear fears, hunger
A bust of the Nobel Prize founder, Alfred Nobel on display at the Concert Hall during the Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm. (File/AP)
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Updated 30 September 2022

Nobel Prize season arrives amid war, nuclear fears, hunger

Nobel Prize season arrives amid war, nuclear fears, hunger

This year's Nobel Prize season approaches as Russia's invasion of Ukraine has shattered decades of almost uninterrupted peace in Europe and raised the risks of a nuclear disaster.
The secretive Nobel committees never hint who will win the prizes in medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, economics or peace. It's anyone's guess who might win the awards being announced starting Monday.
Yet there's no lack of urgent causes deserving the attention that comes with winning the world's most prestigious prize: Wars in Ukraine and Ethiopia, disruptions to supplies of energy and food, rising inequality, the climate crisis, the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The science prizes reward complex achievements beyond the understanding of most. But the recipients of the prizes in peace and literature are often known by a global audience and the choices — or perceived omissions — have sometimes stirred emotional reactions.
Members of the European Parliament have called for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine to be recognized this year by the Nobel Peace Prize committee for their resistance to the Russian invasion.
While that desire is understandable, that choice is unlikely because the Nobel committee has a history of honoring figures who end conflicts, not wartime leaders, said Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Smith believes more likely peace prize candidates would be groups or individuals fighting climate change or the International Atomic Energy Agency, a past recipient.
Honoring the IAEA again would recognize its efforts to prevent a radioactive catastrophe at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant at the heart of fighting in Ukraine, and its work in fighting nuclear proliferation, Smith said.
“This is really difficult period in world history and there is not a lot of peace being made,” he said.
Promoting peace isn't always rewarded with a Nobel. India's Mohandas Gandhi, a prominent symbol of non-violence in the 20th century, was never so honored.
But former President Barack Obama was in 2009, sparking criticism from those who said he had not been president long enough to have an impact worthy of the Nobel.
In some cases, the winners have not lived out the values enshrined in the peace prize.
Just this week the Vatican acknowledged imposing disciplinary sanctions on Nobel Peace Prize-winning Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo following allegations he sexually abused boys in East Timor in the 1990s.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won in 2019 for making peace with neighboring Eritrea. A year later a largely ethnic conflict erupted in the country's Tigray region. Some accuse Abiy of stoking the tensions, which have resulted in widespread atrocities. Critics have called for his Nobel to be revoked and the Nobel committee has issued a rare admonition to him.
The Myanmar activist Aung San Suu Kyi won the peace prize in 1991 while being under house arrest for her opposition to military rule. Decades later, she was seen as failing in a leadership role to stop atrocities committed by the military against the country's mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.
The Nobel committee has sometimes not awarded a peace prize at all. It paused them during World War I, except to honor the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1917. It didn't hand out any from 1939 to 1943 due to World War II. In 1948, the year Gandhi died, the Norwegian Nobel Committee made no award, citing a lack of a suitable living candidate.
The peace prize also does not always confer protection.
Last year journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia were awarded “for their courageous fight for freedom of expression” in the face of authoritarian governments.
Following the invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin has cracked down even harder on independent media, including Muratov's Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s most renowned independent newspaper. Muratov himself was attacked on a Russian train by an assailant who poured red paint over him, injuring his eyes.
The Philippines government this year ordered the shutdown of Ressa’s news organization, Rappler.
The literature prize, meanwhile, has been notoriously unpredictable.
Few had bet on last year’s winner, Zanzibar-born, U.K.-based writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose books explore the personal and societal impacts of colonialism and migration.
Gurnah was only the sixth Nobel literature laureate born in Africa, and the prize has long faced criticism that it is too focused on European and North American writers. It is also male-dominated, with just 16 women among its 118 laureates.
The list of possible winners includes literary giants from around the world: Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Japan’s Haruki Murakami, Norway’s Jon Fosse, Antigua-born Jamaica Kincaid and France’s Annie Ernaux.
A clear contender is Salman Rushdie, the India-born writer and free-speech advocate who spent years in hiding after Iran’s clerical rulers called for his death over his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses.” Rushdie, 75, was stabbed and seriously injured at a festival in New York state on Aug. 12.
The prizes to Gurnah in 2021 and U.S. poet Louise Glück in 2020 have helped the literature prize move on from years of controversy and scandal.
In 2018, the award was postponed after sex abuse allegations rocked the Swedish Academy, which names the Nobel literature committee, and sparked an exodus of members. The academy revamped itself but faced more criticism for giving the 2019 literature award to Austria’s Peter Handke, who has been called an apologist for Serbian war crimes.
Some scientists hope the award for physiology or medicine honors colleagues instrumental in the development of the mRNA technology that went into COVID-19 vaccines, which saved millions of lives across the world.
“When we think of Nobel prizes, we think of things that are paradigm shifting, and in a way I see mRNA vaccines and their success with COVID-19 as a turning point for us,” said Deborah Fuller, a microbiology professor at the University of Washington.
The Nobel Prize announcements this year kick off Monday with the prize in physiology or medicine, followed by physics on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday and literature Thursday. The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Oct. 7 and the economics award on Oct. 10.
The prizes carry a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor ($880,000) and will be handed out on Dec. 10.


Ukraine warns of emergency blackouts after more missile hits

A satellite image shows bomber aircrafts at Engels Air Base in Saratov, Russia, December 4, 2022. (REUTERS)
A satellite image shows bomber aircrafts at Engels Air Base in Saratov, Russia, December 4, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 December 2022

Ukraine warns of emergency blackouts after more missile hits

A satellite image shows bomber aircrafts at Engels Air Base in Saratov, Russia, December 4, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • The United States said it would convene a virtual meeting on Thursday with oil and gas executives to discuss how it can support Ukrainian energy infrastructure, according to a letter seen by Reuters
  • Ukraine’s air force said it downed over 60 of more than 70 missiles fired by Russia on Monday

KYIV: Ukraine warned there would be emergency blackouts once again in several regions as it repaired damage from missile attacks it said destroyed homes and knocked out power, while Moscow accused Kyiv of attacking deep inside Russia with drones.
A new Russian missile barrage had been anticipated in Ukraine for days and it took place just as emergency blackouts were due to end, with previous damage repaired.
The strikes, which plunged parts of Ukraine back into freezing darkness with temperatures below zero Celsius (32 Fahrenheit), were the latest in weeks of attacks hitting critical infrastructure and cutting off heat and water to many.
At least four people were killed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, adding that most of some 70 missiles were shot down.
“In many regions, there will have to be emergency blackouts,” he said in a late Monday video address. “We will be doing everything to restore stability.”
The United States said it would convene a virtual meeting on Thursday with oil and gas executives to discuss how it can support Ukrainian energy infrastructure, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
Moscow has been hitting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure roughly weekly since early October as it has been forced to retreat on some battlefronts.
ZAPORIZHZHIA REGION CASUALTIES
In the Zaporizhzhia region, at least two people were killed and several houses destroyed, the deputy head of the presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said.
Reuters video showed two bodies covered with blankets lying next to a damaged car in the village of Novosofiivka, some 25 km east of the southern city of Zaporizhzhia.
“Both of my neighbors were killed,” Olha Troshyna 62, said. “They were standing by the car. They were seeing off their son and daughter-in-law.”
Missiles also hit energy plants in the regions of Kyiv and Vinnytsia in central Ukraine, Odesa in the south and Sumy in the north, officials said. Kyiv was one of the regions to be suffering from the most blackouts, according to Zelensky.
Ukraine had only just returned to scheduled power outages from Monday rather than the emergency blackouts it has suffered since widespread Russian strikes on Nov. 23, the worst of the attacks on energy infrastructure.
But Ukraine’s largest private energy provider, DTEK, on Monday reported having to disconnect one of its facilities from the power grid, limiting power and heat supply, in what it said was the 17th Russian attack on one of its sites in the last two months.
Ukraine’s air force said it downed over 60 of more than 70 missiles fired by Russia on Monday.
Russia has said the barrages are designed to degrade Ukraine’s military. Ukraine says they are clearly aimed at civilians and thus constitute a war crime. Moscow denies that.
Russia says it is waging a “special military operation” in Ukraine to rid it of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of an unprovoked war to grab territory from its pro-Western neighbor.
DRONES
Russia’s defense ministry on Monday said Ukrainian drones attacked two air bases at Ryazan and Saratov in south-central Russia, killing three servicemen and wounding four, with two aircraft damaged by pieces of the drones when they were shot down.
Ukraine did not directly claim responsibility for the attacks. If it was behind them, they would be the deepest strikes inside the Russian heartland since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The New York Times, citing a senior Ukrainian official, reported unmanned drones struck two bases hundreds of miles inside Russia. The drones were launched from Ukrainian territory and at least two planes were destroyed at one of the bases and several more were damaged, the newspaper reported.
“The Kyiv regime, in order to disable Russian long-range aircraft, made attempts to strike with Soviet-made unmanned jet aerial vehicles at the military airfields Dyagilevo, in the Ryazan region, and Engels, in the Saratov region,” the Russian defense ministry said.
It said the drones, flying at low altitude, were intercepted by air defenses and shot down. The deaths were reported on the Ryazan base, 185 km (115 miles) southeast of Moscow.
Israeli satellite imaging company ImageSat International shared images it said showed burn marks and objects near a Tu-22M aircraft at the Dyagilevo air base.
The Russian defense ministry called the drone strikes a terrorist act aimed at disrupting its long-range aviation.
Despite that, it said, Russia responded with a “massive strike on the military control system and related objects of the defenses complex, communication centers, energy and military units of Ukraine with high-precision air- and sea-based weapons” in which it said all 17 designated targets were hit.
Kyiv’s forces have demonstrated an increasing ability to hit strategic Russian targets far beyond the 1,100 km-long frontline in southern and eastern Ukraine.
Saratov is at least 600 km from the nearest Ukrainian territory. Russian commentators said on social media that if Ukraine could strike that far inside Russia, it might also be capable of hitting Moscow.
Previous mysterious blasts damaged arms stores and fuel depots in regions near Ukraine and knocked out at least seven warplanes in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for any of the blasts, saying only that they were “karma” for Russia’s invasion.
“If something is launched into other countries’ air space, sooner or later unknown flying objects will return to (their) departure point,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted, tongue in cheek, on Monday.

 


Angry protests in Greek city after police shoot Roma boy

Angry protests in Greek city after police shoot Roma boy
Updated 06 December 2022

Angry protests in Greek city after police shoot Roma boy

Angry protests in Greek city after police shoot Roma boy
  • The Greek police department said the youth had tried to ram officers in pursuit on motorbikes in his attempt to evade arrest

THESSALONIKI, Greece: Violent scuffles broke out in Greece’s second largest city on Monday after a Roma teenager was shot by police and left in a critical condition.
The 16-year-old was shot in the head in the early hours of Monday morning after driving a truck away from a petrol station near the port city of Thessaloniki without paying, state TV ERT said.
The Greek police department said the youth had tried to ram officers in pursuit on motorbikes in his attempt to evade arrest.
Protesters burned roadblocks and threw Molotov cocktails at riot police on Monday evening, as well as smashing shop windows in the center of the city.
Police responded with tear gas and stun grenades.
Earlier in the day, protesters and members of the teenager’s family had thrown rocks at riot police outside the hospital where he is receiving treatment, before police responded by firing tear gas.
In a statement police said officers had fired two shots to try and stop him from attempting to hit police motorbikes.
After the shots were fired, the driver had lost control, hit a wall and was “transported to the hospital with serious injuries,” police said.
The officer who fired the shot was arrested and will appear before a prosecutor on Tuesday.
Another Roma youth was killed in 2021 near the port of Piraeus, also in a police pursuit.
The incident also comes a day ahead of youth protests in several cities to mark the 2008 death of a Greek teenager, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, who was also fatally shot by a police officer.
His death sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests in Greece.
 

 


UK home secretary reportedly plans blanket asylum ban on migrants from Albania

UK home secretary reportedly plans blanket asylum ban on migrants from Albania
Updated 06 December 2022

UK home secretary reportedly plans blanket asylum ban on migrants from Albania

UK home secretary reportedly plans blanket asylum ban on migrants from Albania
  • Suella Braverman is said to be drawing up legislation to make it easier to automatically reject and expel asylum seekers from countries the UK categorizes as “safe” to live
  • More than 12,000 Albanian migrants have arrived in the UK on small boats this year, representing about a quarter of all such Channel crossings, The Times reported

LONDON: A blanket ban on asylum seekers from countries designated by the UK as being “safe” places to live is proposed by British Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

Under plans to tackle what the UK government describes as a “migrant crisis,” she is said to be drawing up legislation that will make it easier to automatically reject and expel asylum seekers from such countries whether or not their claims are “unfounded.”

Experts said the move is designed primarily to target Albanian migrants. More than 12,000 have arrived in the UK on small boats this year, representing about a quarter of all such Channel crossings, The Times reported.

Under the new legislation, the report added, countries would be designated as “safe” based on the rules that already apply to an existing Home Office “white list.” This list needs to be updated given that it currently includes Ukraine, and Braverman would have the power to add or remove other countries, the newspaper said.

The “white list” is seen by observers as a mechanism to allow the British government to target Albanian migrants while avoiding falling foul of any laws by singling out a single nationality.

UK authorities are also expected to use a second “partial designation” list that declares certain countries to be “safe” for men but not for women and children, such as Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali and Sierra Leone.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has condemned the proposals, warning that they would breach the UK’s international obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

“Everybody has the right to seek asylum from persecution in another country and there is no such thing as an ‘illegal asylum seeker,’” said UNHCR’s representative to the UK, Vicky Tennant.

“The indefinite detention of those seeking asylum, based solely on their mode of arrival, would punish people in need of help and protection and constitute a clear breach of the United Kingdom’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention.”

A Home Office source told The Times: “This list dates back to 2002, when it was introduced by (a) Labour (government). Despite being on this list, the UK still continues to accept people claiming asylum from these countries based on their individual cases.”


Spanish twin chefs earn third Michelin star

Spanish twin chefs earn third Michelin star
Updated 05 December 2022

Spanish twin chefs earn third Michelin star

Spanish twin chefs earn third Michelin star

BARCELONA: When they were just eight years old, Spanish twins Sergio and Javier Torres set a goal — they wanted to become chefs who were among the top in their field.

To achieve this, they strategically split up to get training in different esteemed kitchens around the world, published books on cooking and presented a popular TV show.

The plan worked.

Over four decades after they surprised their family by saying they wanted to be chefs, Sergio and Javier’s Barcelona restaurant, Cocina Hermanos Torres, was awarded a third Michelin star last month.

“We developed a plan, that I think is a perfect plan,” a smiling Javier, 51, said at the restaurant, one of only 13 in Spain and Portugal with the top three-star ranking from the prestigious French guide.

“When we started to go out of Barcelona, we thought that Sergio would take one path, I would take another, and we would never coincide until we were ready,” he added. The journey took the twins — who grew up in a working-class Barcelona neighborhood — to different elite restaurants in Spain, Switzerland and France.

Before moving to Paris where he worked with top French chef Alain Ducasse, Sergio spent two years at the award-winning Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier which is also run by twins — Jacques and Laurent Pourcel.

“We were separated but every month we met up in a restaurant, ate well, we spent the little money we had and developed the next steps of our strategy,” said Sergio as he sat beside his brother.

Each brother specialized in different areas — one learned to cook meat and vegetables, the other fish and bread, he added.

Both siblings credit their grandmother for their passion for cooking.

She was part of a wave of people who moved from the southern region of Andalusia to the more industrialized Catalonia in the northeast in search of a better life following Spain’s devastating 1936-39 civil war.

“Our grandmother looked after us, and since she was in the kitchen all day we literally grew up in a kitchen,” said Sergio.

After earning two Michelin stars with their previous project “Dos Cielos” and becoming familiar faces thanks to their participation in a cooking show, they decided to open Cocina Hermanos Torres in 2018.

The twins visited some 200 possible locations before settling on an industrial building near Barcelona’s iconic Camp Nou football stadium.

They invested nearly 3 million euros to convert it into the restaurant, which seats a maximum of 50 people at tables with no wall separating them from the three workstations where staff prepare meals.

“We wanted to reflect what we experienced in our childhood, which was a kitchen and a table, and everyone around the table,” said Javier.


Bangladesh eyes energy, food security cooperation after new GCC deal

Bangladesh eyes energy, food security cooperation after new GCC deal
Updated 05 December 2022

Bangladesh eyes energy, food security cooperation after new GCC deal

Bangladesh eyes energy, food security cooperation after new GCC deal
  • Bangladesh, GCC signed memorandum establishing framework for cooperation
  • Energy security one of top priorities for Bangladesh amid recent power crisis

DHAKA: Bangladesh is planning to tap into cooperation possibilities with Gulf countries, focusing on energy and food security after a recent agreement on future partnerships with the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Dhaka and the GCC — an intergovernmental economic union of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — signed a memorandum establishing a framework for cooperation on Nov. 18.

The deal was reached on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue regional security conference in Bahrain by Bangladeshi Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen and GCC Secretary-General Dr. Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf.

“Energy cooperation is one of our topmost priority issues which will be discussed during joint consultation. Besides, boosting political cooperation will also be a priority area,” Iqbal Hussain Khan, director general of West Asia at the Bangladeshi Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Arab News over the weekend.

He added that as Gulf countries had lately been focused on ensuring food security, Bangladesh — a major seafood and vegetable exporter — would also try to identify potential areas of cooperation in that sector.

“We will sit with GCC authorities for detailing the cooperation areas and fixing the road map within the shortest possible time which is mutually convenient for both the parties,” Khan said.

“We have huge potential for boosting cooperation with Gulf countries since nowadays regional organizations are becoming stronger.”

More details and specific proposals are expected to be announced after upcoming talks between Bangladeshi and GCC authorities.

“Let the discussions begin first. Very soon we will contact the GCC to start the first round of discussions,” Khan added.

The cooperation was likely to help Bangladesh with energy security.

Bangladesh, which is dependent on imported liquefied natural gas, has been struggling with an energy crisis for the past couple of months. In early October, some 80 percent of its 168 million people were left without electricity after a grid failure, which occurred when more than one-third of the country’s gas-powered units were short of fuel.

“Energy security is another big area of cooperation for Bangladesh. Through a long-term arrangement, during bilateral trade talks for a preferential trade agreement or free trade agreement, we must include the oil supply issues to be ensured,” Zahid Hussain, former lead economist at the World Bank in Dhaka, told Arab News.

He added that the future cooperation would also benefit Bangladeshi migrant workers — 90 percent of whom live and work in GCC countries.

“In the case of migrant labor exports, cooperation from the GCC nations will be very important. We need to work to reduce the cost of migration as well as increasing workplace safety, job security, and ensuring earning security,” he said.

“In the long run, it will benefit the GCC countries also since they also need migrant workers from this region.”