Saturday, the 7th of October
On Sunday evening Stephen Paddock rained death upon a crowd of country music fans in Las Vegas. The attack was as meticulously planned as the his weapons were overpowered. The scale of the violence, 59 dead and over 500 more injured, is horrific, but unsurprising.

So pervasive is the American cultural empire that around the world many people treat the USA as an extension of their own country. The idiosyncrasies of modern America, like the idolisation of firearms, are intimately known to all of us. So rather than comb over the details of yet another white man committing ultra-violence, we'll focus on something worth celebrating this week: The Nobel Prize.
Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner Richard Henderson.
This week the world's scientific, cultural and literary elite have filled halls in Stockholm and Oslo to celebrate academic endeavour. The Nobel Prize is synonymous with both human achievement and the desire to improve the world. They recognise the absolute peak discoveries in the fields of physiology/medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, economic sciences as well as the somewhat contentious peace prize. 

On Monday the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to a trio of American scientists for evidencing the genetic process that guides our body clock. The circadian rhythm - by no means unique to humans - determines our sleep patterns, fertility, health, attentiveness, digestion, mood and more. The actual mechanisms that power the body clock were a mystery until Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young undertook their research.

Studying fruit flies, they've learned that encoded within us is a feedback loop: genes signal the production of proteins, the proteins build up and switch the genes off, only for the proteins to degrade over time and trigger the genes again. It takes roughly 24 hours. Their research will form the basis for future investigation into how we can better harness the potential of our body clocks, and crucially, reduce the harm done to people (like nightshift workers) who disrupt their circadian rhythms.

Another trio of American scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their part in solving a century-old mystery. They represent the world-renowned Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), based at the California Institute of Technology, LIGO scientists have taken home an incredible 18 Nobel Prizes. That tradition has been carried on another year by Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne, who've successfully measured gravitational waves pulsing through the universe. 

None other than Albert Einstein first posited the existence of gravitation waves that move at the speed of light, ripples in space-time caused by massive galactic upheavals. Only the collision of black holes or the collapse of supergiant stars can generate such an extraordinary amount of power. For instance, when LIGO (in conjunction with a similar facility in Italy) first detected the gravitational waves in 2015, it was the result of an event over 1 billion light years away. For scale, the Moon is roughly eight light seconds away.

For many years the electron microscope has been tool with which we've explored the molecular world. The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to three biophysicists who have modified this fundamental tool to far extend its usefulness. Jacques Dubochet of Switzerland, Joachim Frank of America and Richard Henderson of Scotland collaborated to pioneer cryo-electron microscopy. This technique involves 'freezing' biomolecules under the microscope, giving the viewer an incredibly detailed snapshot of the very building blocks of life. It's a discovery that will have flow-on effects for thousands of other scientific endeavours.

Following the contentious decision to award the Nobel Prize in Literature to singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 2016, the judges returned to a more familiar format. British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro has taken the honour this year for creating an 'aesthetic universe all his own'. His distinctive writing style (as manifested in his 1989 masterpiece 'The Remains Of The Day') transcends the literary sensibilities of both Britain and his country of birth, Japan.

The Nobel Peace Prize is by far the most controversial award, one that seems imbued with the same internal tensions of the man it was named after. Alfred Nobel was a man of incredible talent in the sciences and business, best known for inventing dynamite. Yet he profited enormously from his company Bofors, which for decades created and shaped steel for cannons and guns. It was only towards the end of his life, faced with accusations of profiting from arms manufacturing, that he endowed his fortune to the Prize we celebrate today. It carries a chequered past; its most controversial recipient was Henry Kissinger, considered by many to be a war criminal for his actions during the Vietnam War and political upheavals in South America and Southeast Asia. The controversies are ongoing, right now there are calls to have Aung San Suu Kyi stripped of her award for her perceived failure of leadership over the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar.

The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the organisation which takes the lofty and devilishly difficult goal of total denuclearisation. The group known globally as ICAN was formed in 2007 and comprises several hundred member organisations from 100 countries around the world. Their political nous and the patience required to grind out treaty-based solutions to the threat of nuclear disaster is beyond laudable. In an international community taut with the fear of a shooting war between North Korea and America, it's a timely and welcome decision.

The award for economic sciences will be announced on Monday.
The suspect of the Marseille stabbing.
Wave of terror - France has been gripped by a string of attacks and near-misses during the week. Two women were stabbed to death outside Saint-Charles station in the southern city of Marseille earlier in the week by a man known to police. The assailant, who was shot dead at the scene, had been arrested for shoplifting and was released the day before the attack. Then on Wednesday a couple with no known ties to terror groups were arrested near the city when police found a rocket launcher and an assault rifle in their car during a routine traffic stop.

In the capital, police swooped on multiple locations to apprehend suspects after petrol tanks and detonators were found underneath vehicles at a cement works. It's unknown whether this is linked to other gas tanks and a detonator found outside a stadium the previous weekend. The crude bombing attempts reinforced an already jumpy mood after a scooter exploded outside the Jordanian embassy, an incident now believed to have been an accident.

This week the government voted to ensure that the emergency powers granted to police after the 2015 Paris attacks will remain in place indefinitely. 
Where now for Iraq's militias?
Hawija falls - Iraqi forces have swept through the last urban garrison claimed by ISIS in the country's north. Heavily supported by the Popular Mobilisation Units, a string of Iranian-backed Shia militias, the city fell under Baghdad's sway after a two-week campaign. All that remains of the one-time caliphate is a strip of desert on the Syrian border.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi lauded the victory, although his interests in Hawija go far beyond its liberation. Lying just 230km north of Baghdad, Hawija is an hour's drive from the contested city of Kirkuk. The multi-ethnic city is held by the Kurdish Peshmerga and, much to the dismay of al-Abadi, it was included in the recent independence vote. The situation is a complex one: Kirkuk's sizeable Kurdish population did vote for freedom, but a great deal of its minority groups want to remain under Baghdad's rule.

The stakes are high in Iraqi Kurdistan right now. Baghdad and Erbil are at an impasse. The government does not accept the referendum results at all, yet cannot wield military power to bring the Kurds back into line. French PM Emmanuel Macron has offered to mediate the situation, although its yet to be seen just how welcome he will be considering French colonial authorities denied the Kurds statehood in the first place.
Trump thundered about imagined Iranian infractions.
  1. Trump repeated his plan to end the Iran nuclear deal
  2. He also signalled ending Obama-era climate regulations
  3. Tillerson denied report he called Trump a "f***ing moron"
  4. Humiliating NSA theft by Russian hackers reported
  5. Trump didn't win many locals over on Puerto Rico trip
  6. He equivocated on gun control after Las Vegas shooting
  7. House passed restrictive abortion legislation
  8. The US stock market enjoyed a bumper week.
  9. Revelation Don Jr and Ivanka were investigated for fraud 
  10. John Kelly's phone believed to be hacked
Farewell to Zika.
Vaccine trials - One of the great fears of 2016, the Zika virus, may soon be a thing of the past. South Korean and American pharmaceutical researchers have enjoyed complete success in clinical trials with a new DNA-based synthetic vaccine. In other Zika news, Puerto Ricans are struggling to put the pieces back together after recent hurricanes, but one upside is that all the mosquitoes have been blown away.

The Babel Fish - In yet another case of life imitating (sci-fi) art, Google have just revealed a headset that can translate 40 different languages in real-time. Let that sink in for a moment. It's another extraordinary breakthrough that is revealing advanced AI can replace even highly-skilled professionals like interpreters.
You couldn't write this.
Tory conference shambles - Theresa May spoke to her party faithful this week in a bid to cement her leadership. It was a disaster. Part of the set collapsed mid-speech, she battled through a coughing fit and a prankster got on stage to hand her a legal form for her own resignation. Naturally, Boris Johnson managed to steal the limelight by insulting the recently-dead in Libya.

Heath's toxic legacy - Another one from Britain. In the same week that Irish ex-PM Liam Cosgrave died, much of the focus was on another deceased former leader, Sir Edward Heath. He died in 2005, but an inquiry into his alleged paedophilia has now, somewhat belatedly announced that it would have bought him in for questioning. 
Your weekend long read... This is an absolutely riveting piece from Foreign Policy on the history of the Nobel Peace Prize. We cannot recommend this more highly: The Nobel Peace Prize Isn't About Peace.

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