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Nobel Prize Season Arrives Amid War    09/30 06:07


   (AP) -- 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 

   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 

   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 Glck 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.

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