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- Nobel Prize in Literature may be postponed or cancelled altogether this year as the committee overseeing it is rocked by sexual and financial misconduct scandals
- Britain, Canada strike deal on what to do with artifacts, ships from doomed Franklin expedition
- Donald Trump is scheduled to make his first trip to U.K. as president of the U.S. on Friday, July 13
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The Nobel Prize for chaos
The Swedish Academy, the organization that doles out the Nobel Prize in Literature, appears to be coming apart at the seams following allegations of sexual and financial misconduct.
The economic crime unit of the Swedish police today said it has launched an investigation into the body, for unspecified financial misdoings.
Last week, the academy confirmed media reports that some of its members had been leaking the names of winners — something people place bets on — in advance of the official prize announcement.
There is already a separate police probe into sexual assault and harassment allegations against the husband of a prominent academy member, the poet Katarina Frostenson. Eighteen women have come forward to accuse French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault of unwanted advances and predatory behaviour.
Arnault runs a Stockholm literary club with close ties to the academy, and several of the incidents are alleged to have occurred in apartments owned by the Nobel overseeing body.
The allegations have sparked #MeToo soul-searching in Sweden and angry demonstrations outside the organization’s Stockholm headquarters.
Five of the Swedish Academy’s members have resigned in protest over its response to the scandal. Frostenson has also stepped down amidst the furor.
The six vacancies — coupled with seven already retired or “inactive” members — means that the usual 18-member committee is down to just five people, well below the 12 required to vote in new members under its rules. As such, there are growing indications that the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature might be postponed or cancelled altogether.
A meeting in Stockholm yesterday failed to reach a consensus, but a decision will come soon.
“After our next Thursday meeting there will most probably be a statement on whether we will award a prize this year or reserve it for next year, in which case two prizes for literature will be announced in October 2019,” Per Wästberg, a poet and novelist who heads the selection panel, told the Guardian newspaper.
The prize was established in 1901, but there have been seven years — notably during the First and Second World Wars — in which it hasn’t been awarded. And the literature award has been postponed by a year on six other occasions as the committee grappled with its choices.
The academy’s out-of-the-box choice for 2016 — Bob Dylan — proved to be something of a disaster. It was weeks before he even acknowledged the honour, which also comes with eight million Swedish krona ($1.18 million Cdn) in prize money. The singer finally accepted his award at a private ceremony, instead of the usual public one, last April.
Owning our history
They are the relics of a monumental failure.
The remains of a boot, a button from a Royal Marine’s uniform, and a rusted belt buckle speak of the 129 lost men. A cannon, ship’s bell and dinner plate, their two doomed vessels.
It took more than 150 years to find the final resting places of HMS Erebus and Terror, the sailing ships that brought Sir John Franklin’s expedition to the High Arctic and then went no farther, trapped in ice and then abandoned.
Canadian teams found them — first the Erebus in September 2014, and then the Terror two years later.
But the ships were still technically the property of Britain’s Royal Navy.
Yesterday, the two governments announced a deal to transfer ownership of the wrecks to Canada and a local Inuit Heritage Trust. The quid pro quo being the 65 artifacts already recovered from the Erebus by Parks Canada divers, which will remain in British hands.
The National Maritime Museum in London already has dozens of Franklin objects in its permanent collection — sunglasses, soup tins, discarded gloves and a Bible. They were recovered from places like Beechey Island, where the remnants of the crew camped as they tried to trek south towards civilization.
An advisory committee has been struck to figure out what to do with what remains below the waters off King William Island.
There has been talk of a local museum. Last year, a cruise company was given permission to visit the Erebus wreck and let the passengers snorkel, but the weather didn’t co-operate. And this year’s cruisers won’t have the same opportunity.
There are plenty of items still to be recovered and displayed — if that is what the federal government and Inuit leaders ultimately chose to do.
Franklin set sail with three years worth of supplies in 1845. That included 8,000 tins of preserved meat, 16,700 kilograms of liquor, 2,900 books, and 4,200 kg of lemon juice (to stave off scurvy).
The overflowing holds meant space was tight. The ordinary seamen were limited to a small chest for their personal items, which doubled as a stool.
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The 13th of July is a fairly auspicious day in English history.
The forces of Henry II captured William the Lion, King of Scots, at Alnwick on that date in 1174, leading to the Treaty of Falaise that brought Scotland under English control for the next 15 years.
In 1643, Royalist troops defeated Sir William Waller and the Roundheads at the Battle of Roundway Down, the greatest cavalry victory of the English civil war.
It’s also the day that poet William Wordsworth visited the ruins of Tintern Abbey in 1798, and the day — 230 years earlier — that Alexander Nowell, dean of St. Paul’s London, perfected a way to bottle beer.
As it stands, July 13, 2018, might become a date to remember as well. Not simply because it’s an unlucky Friday, but because that’s the day the Donald Trump is scheduled to make his first trip to the United Kingdom as president of the United States.
Trump has been talking about visiting Britain for more than a year. A planned stop to open the new American Embassy in London last February was scrubbed amid fears of mass protests.
And a full state visit — complete with a golden carriage ride down the Royal Mall and a banquet at Buckingham Place — has either been indefinitely postponed or delayed, depending on who you ask, for the same reason.
Details about this new, one-day “working visit” are still sketchy. Trump will pop in on his way home from a NATO summit in Brussels, and there will be talks with Prime Minister Theresa May, and perhaps tea with the Queen.
Indications are that he may steer well clear of London.
Sources: British govt working on plans to possibly keep Trump’s big meetings OUTSIDE of London during his July visit, to minimize inevitable protests. Eg. Meeting with Queen at could be at Windsor; with May at Chequers.
But such a strategy is unlikely to dampen the enthusiasm of anti-Trump demonstrators.
Within hours of yesterday’s announcement, 100,000 people had already signed up on Facebook for a London “Stop Trump” event. And women’s groups, human rights activists and opposition politicians are promising that a “carnival of resistance” will greet the American president.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has enjoyed a long-running feud with Trump, appears to relish the idea of a boisterous welcome.
If he comes to London, President Trump will experience an open and diverse city that has always chosen unity over division and hope over fear. He will also no doubt see that Londoners hold their liberal values of freedom of speech very dear.
Not everyone will be upset with the visit. A coalition of six conservative groups has sent an open letter to Trump urging him to travel to the north, or Scotland, and speak directly to “ordinary British people” in order to discover the “true level of support that exists for you and the special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K.”
If the American president does decide to try his luck in London, July 13 offers some unique cultural opportunities for a visitor.
The Design Museum has an exhibit on the political power of graphics, Hope to Nope: 2008-18, which features an “All Seeing Trump Misfortune-Telling Machine.”
It’s a little early for Trump: The Musical, which resumes its run in September. But there’s a good chance that Building the Wall, a well-received dystopian thriller by Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, will still be going at the Park Theatre.
And maybe the current show by American artist Eric Fischl — at a gallery just around the corner from Buckingham Palace — will get held over. The president shows up in a painting of a father and his little girl in the form of a familiar-looking, red-nosed clown poster on a bedroom wall.
There’s also some classic American fare down by the Thames under the big top once known as the Millennium Dome. The Muppets Take London bills itself as the “most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, muppetational,” full-length live show ever.
It’s not easy being green. But surely, it’s much harder to be Donald Trump these days.
Quote of the moment
“When we met each other, we realized — we cannot be separated. We are one nation and that’s how I felt. We are living next door to each other, there’s no reason we should fight each other.”
– North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, following his historic summit meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The two sides signed a pledge to work towards the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula.
What The National is reading
- A look at all the DNA testing that ID’d a suspected serial killer (CBC)
- Knife attacker kills seven school children in China, wounds 12 (NDTV)
- Tom Brokaw denies sexual misconduct charges from former colleagues (LA Times)
- Canadian data firm AIQ may face legal action in U.K. (BBC)
- Facing a jail term, Cosby is likely to prolong legal fight (CBC)
- Families flee after movie theatre accidentally plays horror trailer at Peter Rabbit (Gizmodo)
- Abba announces first new song in 35 years, makes grandmas happy (Guardian)
Today in history
April 27, 1999: Montreal scientists clone goats
Clint, Arnold and Danny were only the start. Canada’s first cloned kids were part of a much bigger vision — farms full of genetically engineered goats producing spider-silk-like proteins in their milk. Nexia Biotechnologies, the company behind it all, envisioned all sorts of uses from the super-strong fibre they called “BioSteel.” They succeeded in making more “spider goats,” but not in finding a market for their product. The company went bankrupt in 2009.
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