Nobel Prizes Still Struggle with Wide Gender Disparity

Nobel Prizes are the most prestigious awards on the planet but the aura of this year’s announcements has been dulled by questions over why so few women have entered the pantheon, particularly in the sciences.

The march of Nobel announcements begins Monday with the physiology/medicine prize.

Since the first prizes were awarded in 1901, 892 individuals have received one, but just 48 of them have been women. Thirty of those women won either the literature or peace prize, highlighting the wide gender gap in the laureates for physics, chemistry and physiology/medicine. In addition, only one woman has won for the economics prize, which is not technically a Nobel but is associated with the prizes.

Some of the disparity likely can be attributed to underlying structural reasons, such as the low representation of women in high-level science. The American Institute of Physics, for example, says in 2014, only 10 percent of full physics professorships were held by women.

But critics suggest that gender bias pervades the process of nominations, which come largely from tenured professors.

“The problem is the whole nomination process, you have these tenured professors who feel like they are untouchable. They can get away with everything from sexual harassment to micro-aggressions like assuming the woman in the room will take the notes, or be leaving soon to have babies,” said Anne-Marie Imafidon, the head of Stemettes, a British group that encourages girls and young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It’s little wonder that these people aren’t putting women forward for nominations. We need to be better at telling the stories of the women in science who are doing good things and actually getting recognition,” she said.

Powerful men taking credit for the ideas and elbow grease of their female colleagues was turned on its head in 1903 when Pierre Curie made it clear he would not accept the physics prize unless his wife and fellow researcher Marie Curie was jointly honored. She was the first female winner of any Nobel prize, but only one other woman has won the physics prize since then.

More than 70 years later, Jocelyn Bell, a post-graduate student at Cambridge, was overlooked for the physics prize despite her crucial contribution to the discovery of pulsars. Her supervisor, Antony Hewish, took all of the Nobel credit.

Brian Keating, a physics professor at the University of California San Diego and author of the book “Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science’s Highest Honor,” says the Nobel Foundation should lift its restrictions on re-awarding for a breakthrough if an individual has been overlooked. He also says posthumous awards also should be considered and there should be no restriction on the number of individuals who can share a prize. Today the limit is three people for one prize.

“These measures would go a long way to addressing the injustice that so few of the brilliant women who have contributed so much to science through the years have been overlooked,” he said.

Keating fears that simply accepting the disparity as structural will seriously harm the prestige of all the Nobel prizes.

“I think with the Hollywood (hash)MeToo movement, it has already happened in the film prizes. It has happened with the literature prize. There is no fundamental law of nature that the Nobel science prizes will continue to be seen as the highest accolade,” he said.

This year’s absence of a Nobel Literature prize, which has been won by 14 women, puts an even sharper focus on the gender gap in science prizes.

The Swedish Academy, which awards the literature prize, said it would not pick a winner this year after sex abuse allegations and financial crimes scandals rocked the secretive panel, sharply dividing its 18 members, who are appointed for life. Seven members quit or distanced themselves from academy. Its permanent secretary, Anders Olsson, said the academy wanted “to commit time to recovering public confidence.”

The academy plans to award both the 2018 prize and the 2019 prize next year _ but even that is not guaranteed. The head of the Nobel Foundation, Lars Heikensten, was quoted Friday as warning that if the Swedish Academy does not resolve its tarnished image another group could be chosen to select the literature prize every year.

Stung by criticism about the diversity gap between former prize winners, the Nobel Foundation has asked that the science awarding panels for 2019 ask nominators to consider their own biases in the thousands of letters they send to solicit Nobel nominations.

“I am eager to see more nominations for women so they can be considered,” said Goran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and vice chairman of the Nobel Foundation. “We have written to nominators asking them to make sure they do not miss women or people of other ethnicities or nationalities in their nominations. We hope this will make a difference for 2019.”

It’s not the first time that Nobel officials have sought diversity. In his 1895 will, prize founder Alfred Nobel wrote: “It is my express wish that in the awarding of the prizes no consideration shall be given to national affiliations of any kind, so that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be Scandinavian or not.”

Even so, the prizes remained overwhelmingly white and male for most of their existence.

For the first 70 years, the peace prize skewed heavily toward Western white men, with just two of the 59 prizes awarded to individuals or institutions based outside Europe or North America. Only three of the winners in that period were female.

The 1973 peace prize shared by North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho and American Henry Kissinger widened the horizons _ since then more than half the Nobel Peace prizes have gone to African or Asian individuals or institutions.

Since 2000, six women have won the peace prize.

After the medicine prize on Monday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will announce the Nobel in physics on Tuesday and in chemistry on Wednesday, while the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded Friday by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. On Oct. 8, Sweden’s Central Bank announces the winner of the economics prize, given in honor of Alfred Nobel.

Macedonians Vote in Name-Change Referendum

Macedonians voted Sunday whether to change the name of their country – a move that could pave the way for it to join NATO and the European Union.

Following a deal with neighboring Greece after decades of dispute, Macedonians voted on whether to change the country’s name to North Macedonia.

Nationalists, including Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, urged a boycott of the vote Sunday, resulting in low voter turnout.  Macedonia’s electoral commission said two days ago the referendum results would be declared invalid if less than 50 percent of the eligible voting population went to the polls.

Even if the referendum vote passed and turnout exceeded 50 percent, Macedonia’s Parliament would have to pass the name change with a two thirds majority to amend the constitution. 

Athens has argued that the name “Macedonia”  belongs exclusively to its northern province of Macedonia and using the name implies Skopje’s intentions to claim the Greek province.

Greece has for years pressured Skopje into renouncing the country’s name, forcing it to use the more formal moniker Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the United Nations.   Greece has consistently blocked its smaller neighbor from gaining membership in NATO and the EU as long it retains its name.

President Ivanov said giving into Athens’ demand would be a “flagrant violation of sovereignty.”  

He steadfastly refused to back the deal reached between Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras that puts the name change to a vote.

“This referendum could lead us to become a subordinate state, dependent on another country,” Ivanov said.  “We will become a state in name only, not in substance.”

Low Turnout in Macedonia Name-Change Referendum

Few Macedonians turned out to vote in a referendum on whether to change the name of their country – a move that could pave the way for it to join NATO and the European Union.

According to election officials, only about a third of eligible voters cast ballots Sunday. But more than 90 percent of those voting cast a ballot in favor of changing the country’s name to North Macedonia.

Macedonia’s electoral commission said two days ago the referendum results would be declared invalid if less than 50 percent of the eligible voting population went to the polls.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who had said he would resign if a vast majority of eligible voters did not approve the referendum, described the vote as a clear success, despite the low turnout.

Zaev said he would not resign because a “vast majority” of those who turned out Sunday approved the measure.

He urged lawmakers to ratify the necessary changes to the constitution, which would finalize the deal.

In a statement Sunday, however, the Greek Foreign Ministry said the “contradictory” vote – overwhelming approval, yet low turnout – would require Macedonia to move carefully to “preserve the positive potential of the deal.”

The U.S. State Department on Sunday welcomed the results of the referendum. In a statement, the department said the U.S. “strongly supports the Agreement’s full implementation, which will allow Macedonia to take its rightful place in NATO and the EU, contributing to regional stability, security and prosperity.”

However, nationalists, including Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, had urged a boycott of the vote.

Macedonians are being asked to change the name of their country to end a decades-old dispute with neighboring Greece and pave the way for the country’s admission into NATO and the European Union.

Athens has argued that the name “Macedonia” belongs exclusively to its northern province of Macedonia and using the name implies Skopje’s intentions to claim the Greek province.

Greece has for years pressured Skopje into renouncing the country’s name, forcing it to use the more formal moniker Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the United Nations. Greece has consistently blocked its smaller neighbor from gaining membership in NATO and the EU as long it retains its name.

President Ivanov said giving in to Athens’ demand would be a “flagrant violation of sovereignty.”

He steadfastly refused to back the deal reached between Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his Greek counterpart, Alexis Tsipras, that put the name change to a vote.

“This referendum could lead us to become a subordinate state, dependent on another country,” Ivanov said. “We will become a state in name only, not in substance.”

Croatian Vintner Ages Wines in Amphoras on Adriatic Sea Floor

Traditional two-handled ceramic jars known as amphoras were used extensively in ancient Greece to store and transport a variety of products, especially wine. These days they are more likely to be found in shipwrecks than in stores. But wine-filled amphoras are once again being found on the sea floor, not from sunken ships, but deliberately placed there by a special Eastern European winery. Faith Lapidus explains.

British PM to Unveil New Tax on Foreign Homebuyers

Prime Minister Theresa May will unveil plans Sunday to levy an extra fee on foreign buyers of homes in Britain, saying she wanted to stop it being as easy for those who do not live in the country to buy homes “as hard working British residents.”

May, struggling to unite her governing Conservatives behind her Brexit strategy, hopes to use her party’s annual conference in the English city of Birmingham this week to reset her agenda to tackle growing inequality in Britain.

Aware that the opposition Labour Party staged a successful conference last week and set out new policies targeting many of those who voted to leave the European Union, May will try to take the upper hand by launching a new social agenda.

“At Conservative conference last year, I said I would dedicate my premiership to restoring the British Dream, that life should be better for each new generation, and that means fixing our broken housing market,” she will say. “It cannot be right that it is as easy for individuals who don’t live in the UK, as well as foreign based companies, to buy homes as hard working British residents.”

She will say that a new surcharge will be levied on top of all other stamp duty, a tax paid on property purchases, including higher levels of stamp duty introduced in April 2016, on second home and buy-to-let purchases.

The government did not say when the new rates would be introduced but said it would consult on the stamp duty increase, which would be levied on individuals and companies not paying tax in Britain.

Report: Canada, US Make Progress on NAFTA; No Deal Yet

Canada and the United States on Saturday narrowed their differences in last-ditch talks to save NAFTA but there is no guarantee an agreement will be forged, two Ottawa sources said, a notion echoed by a top adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump.

The two nations are trying to find a way to update the North American Free Trade Agreement and prevent it from collapsing.

The 1994 pact underpins $1.2 trillion in annual trade and its demise would be enormously damaging, economists say. 

Trump is threatening to impose auto tariffs on Canada unless it signs a text of an updated agreement by the end of Sunday. Washington has a deal with Mexico, the third member of NAFTA.

Address to UN delayed

In a sign of the mounting pressure, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland postponed her country’s annual address to the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday to return to Ottawa. Freeland, who has spent many days in Washington over the last month, has no plans to fly back immediately, officials say.

The two sides are talking continuously by phone, and a Canadian government source said the tone of the negotiations was positive and intense.

“The fact talks are still going on shows there are issues to be settled. A deal is not necessarily going to happen,” said the source, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.

‘Big issues solved’

Trump’s trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro, speaking Saturday to Fox News, struck an upbeat tone on the progress of talks.

“Most of the big issues are solved with Canada,” Navarro said, adding it would be “a great deal for all three countries.”

Trump blames NAFTA for causing U.S. manufacturing jobs to move to low-wage Mexico and is demanding major changes.

“We’ll see what happens with Canada, if they come along. They have to be fair,” Trump said Saturday during a rally in Wheeling, West Virginia, complaining about Canada’s dairy tariffs, which have been a particularly sore point for him.

“We’ve made the deal with Mexico, and it’s a great deal for both countries,” Trump said.

The office of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to comment Saturday’s talks. A spokesman for USTR did not respond to requests for comment on the talks.

Sticking point

A second Ottawa source said the two sides were still trying to resolve disagreements over a dispute resolution mechanism that Canada says is vital and the United States wants to scrap.

In exchange for a compromise on the mechanism, Ottawa is set to bow to a U.S. demand to offer significantly more access to Canada’s protected dairy market, said the source.

A third source familiar with the negotiations said the idea of a link between dispute resolution and dairy access was not currently being discussed.

Opening up the dairy market could cause problems for Trudeau, since the influential farming industry opposes the idea. The Dairy Farmers of Canada lobby group did not respond to a request for comment.

Sources familiar with the talks told Reuters Sept. 11 that Canada was ready to give the United States limited dairy access. Ottawa has offered farmers compensation to make up for conceding market share in two earlier trade agreements.

Automakers consulted

Automaker executives briefed on the plans said Saturday they expect a final deal similar to the one reached with Mexico that would effectively cap Canadian vehicle and auto parts exports at a level around 40 to 50 percent higher than existing imports.

The agreement would allow the United States to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on vehicles above the cap. The USTR’s office reached out to automakers over the weekend to seek input about how the cap will work and how the vehicle quota will be apportioned, an auto industry executive briefed on the matter said.

One big uncertain question for U.S. and foreign automakers is whether U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel will be lifted.

A NAFTA deal had looked unlikely Wednesday when, after a month of slow-moving discussions, Trump indicated he was fed up with Trudeau, who has insisted he will not sign a bad deal.

But late Thursday, U.S. officials reached out to Canada to ask for details of Ottawa’s negotiating demands and where it might be able to make compromises, Reuters reported.

Trump is under increasing pressure from U.S. business groups and some members of the U.S. Congress, who say excluding Canada from NAFTA would play havoc with the three member nations’ increasingly integrated economies.

Macedonians Vote on NATO, EU, Changing Country’s Name

Macedonians go to polls Sunday to vote on whether to change their country’s name to Republic of North Macedonia, urged by a pro-Western government to pave the way for NATO and EU membership by resolving a decades-old name dispute with Greece.

The referendum is one of the last hurdles for a deal reached between Macedonia and Greece in June to settle their quarrel, which has prevented Macedonia from joining major Western institutions since it broke away from then-Yugoslavia in 1991.

Greece, which has its own northern province called Macedonia, has always maintained that Macedonia’s name represented a claim on its territory. It vetoed Macedonia’s entrance into NATO and the EU, and forced it to enter the United Nations under a provisional name as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or FYROM.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev argues that accepting a new name is a price worth paying for admission into the EU and NATO. But nationalist opponents say it would undermine the ethnic identity of the country’s Slavic majority population.

President Gjorge Ivanov has said he will boycott the referendum.

Polls for some 1.8 million voters will open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. The question on the referendum ballot is: “Are you for NATO and EU membership with acceptance of the agreement with Greece.”

The referendum is advisory and not legally binding, but enough members of parliament have said they will abide by its outcome to make it decisive. The name change requires a two-thirds majority in parliament.

For the referendum to be valid, at least 50 percent of voters must turn out to vote and a majority of them must back the change.

Polls have indicated that a large majority of those who vote are likely to back the change, but achieving the required turnout may be difficult. While more than 80 percent of Macedonians support NATO and EU membership, many may boycott the referendum because of disagreement with the name change.

“The Macedonian people have never been so embarrassed than now with this agreement (with Greece),” said Violeta Petkoska, a 39-year-old nurse. “On the day of the referendum they want us to dig our own grave, so that from the next day the Macedonian people do not exist.”

Zaev says NATO membership will bring much needed investment in the country with unemployment rate of more than 20 percent.

“Macedonia should move forward to become a European state. We have no alternative,” said Asim Shainovski, 35, a public administration worker.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has accused Russia of attempting to influence the outcome of the referendum, which the Kremlin has denied.

Macedonia avoided the violence that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia, but was later rocked by an ethnic Albanian insurgency that almost tore the country apart in 2001.

Western governments see NATO and European Union membership as the best way of preserving the peace and stability in the Balkans after a decade of wars with the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

British PM to Party: Don’t Play Politics With My Brexit Plan

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party began gathering for its annual conference on Saturday with bitter divisions over her Brexit plans rising to the fore, raising doubts about her own future.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019, but the terms of the departure remain unclear. May, under fire from critics in Brussels, opponents at home and some lawmakers in her own party, has said talks on a divorce deal are at an impasse.

In an interview with the Sunday Times newspaper ahead of her party’s conference, May took aim at those who have scorned her “Chequers” Brexit proposals, accusing them of “playing politics” with Britain’s future and undermining the national interest.

However, in a demonstration of the challenge she faces, the newspaper ran an interview with former Foreign Minister Boris Johnson alongside on its front page, in which he openly questioned May’s commitment to Brexit and called her plans “deranged.”

“Unlike the prime minister I campaigned for Brexit,” said Johnson, the bookmakers’ favorite to succeed May. (On Friday, he declined to answer directly whether he would rule out a leadership challenge.)

“Unlike the prime minister, I fought for this, I believe in it, I think it’s the right thing for our country, and I think that what is happening now is, alas, not what people were promised in 2016,” he said.

May says her “Chequers” proposals are the only viable option, but EU leaders have said parts of them are unacceptable and many Conservative lawmakers have threatened to vote down a deal based on May’s blueprint.

The uncertainty has led to business concerns that there will be no deal, potentially leading to tariffs and border delays.

Japanese carmaker Toyota on Saturday warned that leaving without an agreement would hit its production and that jobs would ultimately be at risk.

“Of course we want a deal,” Business Secretary Greg Clark, one of those who supports May’s plans that seek free trade of goods with the EU, told BBC radio.

“We need to have a deal. The evidence from not just Toyota and other manufacturers is we need absolutely to be able to continue what has been a highly successful set of supply chains.”

A summit of EU leaders last week ended in a blunt dismissal of May’s proposals, which they said would fail to resolve arguments over the land border of Northern Ireland, in the U.K., with the Irish Republic, in the EU, one of the main sticking points to a deal.

Britain’s Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said the Irish issue was being used by some in the EU Commission “for political purposes,” but said he was open to suggestions from the bloc.

“We aren’t pretending there aren’t alternative proposals that we would look at,” he told the Sun newspaper. “But we need credible responses for the proposals we have set out or credible alternatives, and we haven’t seen them yet.”

Fears over no deal

As Conservative lawmakers and party members began arriving in Birmingham, central England, for what is expected to be a fractious party conference that starts Sunday, many have said the Chequers plans are dead and should be torn up.

While May and government ministers continue to express confidence that a final Brexit deal can be agreed, they have also insisted that no deal would be better than a bad deal.

However, Toyota became the latest high-profile business to warn that leaving the world’s biggest trading bloc without any trading agreement could add costs and cripple output at plants that rely on the just-in-time delivery of tens of thousands of components.

“If we crash out of the EU at the end of March, the supply chain will be impacted and we will see production stops in our factory,” said Marvin Cooke, managing director of Toyota’s Burnaston plant, which produced 144,000 vehicles last year.

Earlier this week, other carmakers in Britain, including BMW, McLaren and Honda, said they had triggered some contingency plans, such as certifying models in the EU, redrawing production schedules and stockpiling parts.

“The additional burden of import and export cost would add permanent costs to our business,” Toyota’s Cooke said. “It would reduce our competitiveness. Sadly, I think that would reduce the number of cars made in the U.K., and that would cost jobs.”

Mexico’s President-elect Vows Not to Use Military Against Civilians

Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador vowed Saturday that he would never use military force against civilians, as the country approaches the 50th anniversary of a bloody reprisal against students.

Lopez Obrador promised at Tlatelolco Plaza to “never ever use the military to repress the Mexican people.”

Troops fired on a peaceful demonstration at the plaza on Oct. 2, 1968, killing as many as 300 people, at a time when leftist student movements were taking root throughout Latin America.

Lopez Obrador has pledged to support young Mexicans by giving monthly subsidies to those who study and opening more free public universities.

He has said that unemployment and a lack of educational opportunities draw youth to criminal gangs.

Thousands Protest Leading Brazil Presidential Candidate

Thousands of Brazilians took to the streets Saturday in protest against the presidential front-runner, a far-right congressman whose campaign has exposed and deepened divisions in Latin America’s largest country.

At a festive demonstration in downtown Rio de Janeiro, protesters danced, sang and shouted, “Not him!” The phrase has been the rallying cry of groups who are trying to prevent Jair Bolsonaro from winning in the October elections.

Around 7,000 people also gathered in the capital, Brasilia, to denounce the candidate, according to police estimates. A handful of rallies in support of him were also planned for the weekend.

High negatives

Bolsonaro is currently leading polls with around 28 percent of support among voters polled, but he also has the highest rejection rate of any candidate. That could become especially important if no one wins the majority of votes on Oct. 7 and the election is decided in a second round. Polls then show him losing in most scenarios.

His support is particularly thin among women, who led the protests against him Saturday, although men and children were also in attendance. According to a recent Ibope poll, 36 percent of men surveyed said they would vote for Bolsonaro, while only 18 percent of women supported him, an unusual gap. The difference in support between men and woman for other candidates varies by only a few percentage points.

The poll was conducted Sept. 22-24 and has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

Brazil is experiencing a moment of intense and unusual polarization after a tumultuous few years. It has suffered a deep recession, a prolonged corruption investigation that ensnared the political class, and the impeachment of its first female president after highly contentious proceedings. 

As a result, this year’s elections are among the most unpredictable and heated in years.

The protests came the same day Bolsonaro was released from a hospital, having been stabbed on Sept. 6 during a campaign rally. He underwent surgeries to repair damage to his intestines and to stem severe internal bleeding. It’s not yet clear when or if he will get back on the campaign trail.

But his campaign has both benefited from and contributed to the political divide by focusing on culture-war issues and “traditional” family values.

Offensive remarks

Bolsonaro has long been known for offensive comments about gays, women and black people, and he hasn’t tempered his rhetoric during the campaign. He has also kept up his praise of Brazil’s two-decade military dictatorship and promised to give police permission to shoot first and ask questions later.

In response, many Brazilians have vowed to support whomever he faces in the second round.

At the same time, his ‘tell it like it is’ attitude has found traction among voters who are angry at the political establishment.

Despite his decades in Congress, some see the candidate as a no-nonsense outsider who can rid Brazil of corruption and high crime rates.