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30/09/2018
by MediaExpert
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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 #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, has warned that if the Swedish Academy does not resolve its tarnished image another group could be chosen to select the literature prize each 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.

 

30/09/2018
by MediaExpert
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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.

30/09/2018
by MediaExpert
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Some US Catholic Churches Close as Attendance Flags

The Catholic Church is closing parishes across the American Midwest and Northeast in response to years of flagging attendance. Changing demographics and an overall trend of secularism is partly to blame, but repeated cases of sexual abuse in the church have not helped. Reporter Teresa Krug reports from the Midwestern state of Iowa, where some church members are questioning why they should stay.

30/09/2018
by MediaExpert
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Using Art to Unite a Divided Neighborhood

Sedgwick Street in Chicago is a thoroughfare divided by race and socio-economics. The area was settled by German, Irish and Sicilian immigrants. But in the 1950s and ’60s, when the original settlers began moving out, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans and so-called hippies started moving in. Today, Sedgwick Street remains a social and economic demarcation line between the haves and the have-nots. But as VOA’s Mariama Diallo reports, one art studio owner hopes to use art to unite the neighborhood.

28/09/2018
by MediaExpert
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McCartney Pens Book for His Grandchildren

Paul McCartney has written a children’s book called Hey Grandude!, a name the 76-year-old former member of The Beatles says came from one of his grandchildren.

“I’ve got eight grandchildren and they’re all beautiful and one day one of them said to me ‘Hey Grandude!’ I said ‘What?’ and I thought, I kind of like that,” McCartney said in a video he posted Thursday on Twitter.

“From then on, I was kind of known as Grandude.”

The picture book tells the story of a grandfather with four grandchildren and is illustrated by Toronto-based artist Kathryn Durst.

“He calls them ‘Chillers.’ They love him and they go on adventures with him and he’s kind of magical,” McCartney said.

McCartney is currently on his “Freshen Up” world tour featuring songs from his latest album, “Egypt Station.”

The book will be published by Penguin Random House UK and is available for pre-order before it goes on sale in Sept. 2019.

28/09/2018
by MediaExpert
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Barbra Streisand to Trump in New Song: Don’t Lie To Me

When Barbra Streisand started writing lyrics for her new political song, “Don’t Lie to Me,” she initially aimed for “very subtle” references to President Donald Trump. But she couldn’t help herself.

“I just went ballistic,” she said.

“Don’t Lie to Me,” released Thursday, finds a passionate Streisand questioning the nation’s leader and pleading for change. Lyrics include, “How do you sleep when the world keeps turning?/All that we built has come undone/How do you sleep when the world is burning?/Everyone answers to someone.”

“I just can’t stand what’s going on,” the Oscar, Grammy and Emmy winner said in a phone interview Wednesday night with The Associated Press. “His assault on our democracy, our institutions, our founders — I think we’re in a fight. … We’re in a war for the soul of America.”

“Don’t Lie to Me” appears on her new album, “Walls,” her first project of mainly original tracks since 2005. It will be released Nov. 2.

Streisand, a proud and outspoken Democrat who has campaigned for politicians over the years, said she felt moved to write original music because of what’s happening in the world. Of “The Rain Will Fall” — another new song she co-wrote — she says, “You can spell rain several ways.”

“But it’s my prophecy,” she said, laughing. “I hope it comes true.”

“Don’t Lie to Me” came to life during a road trip. Streisand said listening to the news in the car “was making me sick, listening to lies, listening to things that are such craziness.” So she turned on music and felt motivated to write a new song.

“I wanted to talk about the things that were making me feel so sad, heartbroken,” she said. “I’m a kind of fierce American. I don’t know who we are anymore as a country. Are we embracing people who flee oppression? Or are we separating children from parents, putting them in cages? I don’t know if people care about the planet, the survival of the planet. Do they care about clean air? Clean water? Clean food? If they do, how could they vote for somebody like Trump, who believes it’s a hoax?”

Streisand adds, “I’m frightened for this country. And yet, I have hope.”

On her 11-track “Walls” album, she also reworked classics like “Imagine,” “What a Wonderful World” and “What the World Needs Now.”

Streisand, 76, said she “kind of dedicates this album to the young people who are speaking out.”

“It’s important that people vote. It’s important that people believe in the power of their own voice and how much that changes things. It’s like the kids speaking out, the Parkland kids,” she said.

“It’s easy to feel powerless now but we’re not if each of us speak up and get out and vote,” she added.

28/09/2018
by MediaExpert
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DC Fashion Week Features International Hybrid Designs

Fashion designer Ellen London uses textiles from all over the world in her designs, sometimes mixing them — combining a Thai fabric, for example — with one from the U.S. Appalachian region.

“I believe that textiles and fashion have an idea to teach people about understanding and connection of different cultures through fabric,” London told VOA during a recent showing during (Washington) DC Fashion Week.

As a former Peace Corps volunteer, London discovered what she calls her “gypsy” spirit. It has taken her all over the world in search of native textiles that she converts into “wearable” art with the help of her Thai design partner and a group of female tailors.

According to her website, her collection includes “East and West African wax and printed fabrics, washed silks and cotton wovens from Thailand, and designer-created Japanese Shibori and Nigerian Adire batik techniques on some of our new designs. Indigo and batik have found their place on virtually every continent.”

Color and texture aside, London said her work is about “respect and including people, rather than excluding them.”

London is a natural for DC Fashion Week because she fits the vision of event founder Ean Williams, who sees Washington, D.C., “as the center of international fashion.”

DC? Fashion?

Ride the subway in Washington, and it will quickly become apparent that the nation’s capital is not a couture town. Residents dress conservatively, if not in clothes that are often stodgy.

To Williams, this is a waste of considerable opportunity.

“D.C., of course, is known for politics,” he mused. “But there are so many things to do in Washington, from opera to museums to concerts to theater to great poolside parties to mainstream society events to after-parties. There are so many great opportunities for people to dress to impress.”

Williams combines politics with Hollywood glamour to label his vision of Washington “Pollywood.”

For the past 14 years, he has staged fashion week twice a year. DC Fashion Week started with local designers showcasing their collections and has evolved into an international event, attracting designers from all over the world.

The DC Fashion Week organization is a nonprofit, so most of the costs are donated by vendors and sponsors. As a result, designers can show their collections at minimal cost, making the event affordable to young designers and international ones.

“Trying to participate in other shows can become very expensive for a designer. So, participating in DC is just a great opportunity,” said swimsuit designer Camile Case, who is from Jamaica.

As always, the 29th fashion week took place in a variety of venues — this fall at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and the French embassy. Each sold-out event featured a different category of designer, including emerging talent and international couturiers.

“The hope and goal of fashion week … is that every country send their best designer and talent to showcase, like the Olympics,” said Williams, who is a self-taught designer himself. “We want to show what the fashion community of the world has to offer to the consumer.”

Models & guests

DC Fashion Week, unlike fashion weeks in other cities, provides an opportunity for models with many backgrounds and different shapes.

From Nigeria, Bukola Aeosun was participating in her second fashion week. “I like the diversity in races and colors and textures and sizes. I think that is very empowering and it’s exciting.”

“Fashion is for everyone,” Williams said. “We started with inclusivity. We started with having diverse models, models of different sizes, models of different ages.”

The audience is diverse, too. From Pakistan, Maliha Cheema attended fashion week for the first time.

“I really enjoyed the show,” she said. “I love how inclusive it was. There are models of every size, and there is a hijabi and everything.”

28/09/2018
by MediaExpert
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DC Fashion Week Showcases International Hybrid Designs

Washington, D.C., is not a fashion town. Residents are known for dressing conservatively, if not for wearing clothes that are downright stodgy. But a computer engineer-turned fashion designer believes the nation’s capital is one of the best locations for fashion. VOA’s June Soh met DC Fashion Week founder Ean Williams to learn what the event is all about. Her report is narrated by Faith Lapidus.

28/09/2018
by MediaExpert
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In One Virginia City, Beer is the Answer

An Bui and his siblings emigrated to the United States from Vietnam in the late 1980s. Several years later, his parents followed them to Richmond, Virginia. VOA’s Hung Lai visited the family’s restaurant, which helped make their adopted city one of the nation’s ultimate destinations for beer lovers.

27/09/2018
by MediaExpert
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Art for Everyone

Earlier this year, two artists in Leesburg, Virginia, founded an art space where they could work and teach other art lovers as well. Part retail business, part studio, Clay and Metal Loft helps aspiring local artists gain the skills and confidence needed to start their own business. But, as Faiza Elmasry tells us, the founders have a bigger dream, they want their space to energize the community. Faith Lapidus narrates.

27/09/2018
by MediaExpert
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Indonesia’s National Gallery Hosts Art of Refugees, Highlighting Migrant Plight

The National Gallery of Indonesia is usually associated with such artists as Raden Saleh, Affandi and other icons of the nation’s artistic history. This month it plays host to the works of asylum seekers and refugees in an exhibition entitled Berdiam/Bertandang, which means Stay/Visit.

With about 13,800 people identified as “persons of concern” by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) residing in Indonesia, the exhibit aims to raise awareness of their plight while they wait in an uncertain and increasingly prolonged “transit.”

The exhibition is partly the culmination of a program called Art for Refuge, established by 16-year-old Indonesian high school student Katrina Wardhana, to teach art to children and young people at the Jakarta-based Roshan Learning Center for refugees. 

“I felt art was like a really powerful tool where refugees in Indonesia can share their stories,” she told VOA.

Many from Afghanistan

About half of the refugees in Indonesia are from Afghanistan. Mumtaz Khan Chopan, a professional artist who arrived in Indonesia in 2013 and whose paintings were part of Berdiam/Bertandang, said being an artist in Afghanistan holds extreme risks. There are few art institutions, he said, restricting opportunities to “go and practice and talk to likeminded people, artists.” 

“Most of the people in Afghanistan believe that art is not a valuable thing,” he added. “Not only valuable, it’s not even allowed … but this does not mean that Afghanistan doesn’t have art.”

Binam, a 17-year-old from Afghanistan whose name has been changed to protect his identity, came to Indonesia three years ago as an unaccompanied minor and lives in a shelter provided by the UNHCR. He learned photography as part of Art for Refuge and his work appeared in Berdiam/Bertandang. 

“It’s my first work, exhibition and it’s a big exhibition,” he said. “I feel proud.”

​Stuck in Indonesia

Indonesia has historically been a transit country for refugees seeking asylum in third countries, particularly Australia. While Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, it also does not deport asylum seekers and refugees back to potential danger. Jakarta’s historical approach to refugees has been described by anthropologist Antje Missbach as a form of “benign neglect.”

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in January 2017 signed a presidential decree that for the first time acknowledged the presence of a refugee community in Indonesia as distinct from “illegal immigrants” and gave directives to various government institutions regarding their respective responsibilities in managing humanitarian aid. They continue to be denied the right to work, however, and opportunities for formal education are limited.

Moreover, resettlement in third countries such as Australia, the United States and Canada are increasingly unavailable to refugees residing in Indonesia. As of late 2017, the UNHCR reportedly began telling the refugee community there that resettlement elsewhere was highly unlikely for at least 10 to 15 years, if ever. 

“We have to live in shelter[s] because in here we can’t work,” Binam said. “And now there is no resettlement for the refugee from other countries.”

According to UNHCR data, 269 out of almost 4,000 refugee children in Indonesia are enrolled in accredited national schools. The work of the Roshan Learning Center and other community-led education initiatives are therefore vital. Mitra Salima Suryono, a spokesperson for UNHCR Jakarta, told VOA that “by doing such activities, it’s good because it keeps their hopes alive. What’s more important is that friendship between Indonesians and the refugees are getting tighter with initiatives like this.”

Building relationships

The main goal of Art for Refuge is boosting understanding about refugees in the broader community, said Wardhana, its founder.

“Having just found out about refugees only quite recently after my involvement at Roshan, I realized how unaware and un-talked-about the issue is here in Indonesia,” she said.

Chris Bunjuman, a photographer who taught teenagers through the program, encouraged his students to attend a public festival in Jakarta and take photos of 40 people with mustaches as an assignment. 

“Most of the time they always stay in the same community … they don’t really interact with people around them because of the language barrier,” he said. “Those assignments really pushed them, with their thinking … eventually they got out of their comfort zone.”

Alia Swastika, the curator of Berdiam/Bertandang, said that “the problem in Indonesia is that when we discuss about refugees they always think, ‘Oh, we have many other different problems that need to be solved and these are more related to Indonesian people themselves.’”

“People in Indonesia they are educated, of course they are very nice, but there is one thing they don’t know much about refugee[s] … what they are doing here,” said Chopan, the Afghan artist, who says he has found empowerment through the creative scene in Indonesia. “If I introduce myself to a person that I am a refugee, I get different reaction to if I say I am an artist.”