Saturday, the 6th of October
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The US midterms are fast approaching and are shaping up to be among the most influential plebiscites in years, and not just for America. What happens there will matter everywhere.

Which is why inkl has teamed with The Wall Street Journal to bring you special coverage of the vote. Just swipe left from Lead Stories in the inkl app!

Talking points

The death toll stands at 1,424. PHOTO: Mast Irham / EPA
  1. Rescue operations have ended on Sulawesi but aid has been slow to reach the shattered island
  2. The missing Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing emerged from custody and pledged to pay back $60m in taxes and a $70m fine
  3. Portugal and Juventus champion Christiano Ronaldo refuted a sexual abuse allegation from 2009
  4. Trump got his trade deal: a rebranded NAFTA that benefits US oil companies and big pharma
  5. The Koreas began removing the estimated two million mines along the DMZ
  6. A shockingly-low turnout cast doubt over the validity of Macedonia's name-change referendum
  7. Elon Musk mocked the SEC after he was forced to step down as chairman of Tesla and pay $20m
  8. Concerns rose for an exiled critic of Saudi Arabia who disappeared into the bowels of the kingdom's Istanbul consulate
  9. The race to mass produce electric vehicles tightened as Honda announced a $2.75b investment in the sector
  10. Details emerged of a concerted crackdown on Russian intelligence units in Europe after a cyber-warfare team was compromised
  11. The New York Times produced a mammoth investigation dispelling Trump's claims to be a self-made billionaire

Deep Dive

About time: Donna Strickland in her laboratory. PHOTO: The Conversation

Every year the Nobel Prizes are awarded to luminaries in the sciences and academia. Each recipient is someone who has helped make the world a better place (rather unlike Alfred Nobel himself). But this year something was missing: the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Gloria in absentia
The #MeToo movement has changed just about every institution you can think of, including the Nobel Prizes.

Earlier this year eighteen women accused a French-Swedish photographer named Jean-Claude Arnault of sexual assault. Arnault, as it happens, was married to Katarina Frostenson - one of the 18 Swedish Academy members who adjudge the Nobel Prize for Literature. Frostenson had already been under investigation for corruption when it emerged that some of Arnault's assaults had occurred on Academy property. A subsequent internal investigation of the matter was handled poorly and led to protest resignations by several Academy members (who are appointed for life and therefore can't be easily replaced). Unable to make quorum, the Academy eventually decided to postpone the 2018 Literature Prize to next year; two Prizes will now be handed out in 2019. Meanwhile, Arnault is serving a two-year sentence for rape. 

Transpacific breakthroughs
Immunotherapy marks a paradigm shift in cancer treatment. While traditional therapies attack tumours, these specialised drugs kickstart the patient's own immune system and get it to attack cancer cells. This week the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to the two researchers who made immunotherapy for cancer possible: Kyoto University's Dr. Tasuku Honjo and Dr. James P. Allison from the University of Texas MD. Their groundbreaking work has been instrumental in the development of two life-saving drugs.

Tweezers and lasers
The Nobel Prize in Physics was shared. One half went to Arthur Ashkin, a scientist from Bell Laboratories who developed 'optical tweezers'. These are nothing like the kind in your bathroom cabinet. 'Optical tweezers' are in fact a pair of lasers whose beams contain enough photons to physically move tiny objects around. When used in tandem they can hold a single cell of bacteria in place without destroying it. The other half of the Physics Prize went to Donna Strickland and Gérard Mourou for creating the shortest and most intense laser pulses known to science. The technique known as chirped pulse amplification uses bursts of energy rather than uninterrupted streams. It must be noted that Strickland is the first woman to become a Nobel Physics Laureate in 55 years.

In other news, the Nobel Physics Laureate Leon Lederman died this week aged 96. Sadly, the sub-atomic scientist who coined the term 'God Particle' had to sell his gold medal to pay for medical treatment in 2015.

Intelligently redesigning evolution
If those other accomplishments weren't enough to convince you that we are living in the future: this will. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Frances Arnold, George Smith and Sir Gregory Winter for - in the words of the committee - having "taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind". Arnold's work at Caltech was focused on forcing enzymes to evolve at a far quicker rate than they otherwise would have. Smith and Winter took that notion and applied it to bacteria. By seeding genes into colonies of bacteria they were able to produce a whole host of proteins; the laws of evolution guarantee that some will be superior forms. The technique shortcuts thousands of years worth of evolutionary development and produces results in a matter of weeks!

Peace in the Middle East (and DRC)
The Nobel Peace Prize is reputed to be the most controversial of the bunch (looking at you Peace Laureate Henry Kissinger). Not this year. In 2018 the Norwegian Nobel Committee has dignified two individuals on different continents with the award. The gynaecologist Denis Mukwege of the Democratic Republic of Congo was recognised for his work treating the victims of sexual violence at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. He shares the award with Nadia Murad, the Yazidi human rights campaigner who suffered grievously at the hands of ISIS. Both are exemplars of diligence and decency in the face of our species' worst behaviour. Bravo.


The renaissance of Brazil's religious right. PHOTO: Andre Coelho / Bloomberg
Bossa nova or junta nova?
On Sunday Brazilians go to the polls in the first round of the presidential election. These are their options.

Jair Bolsonaro (pictured above) is leading his nearest opponent by 10 points and is expected to steam through to the run-off. The former army captain rose from obscurity to fame on a platform of radical Evangelism, crude language, anti-corruption avowals and worship of Brazil's former military dictators. Bolsonaro has electrified the religious right with promises to deploy the military against drug gangs, and to clamp down on gay rights and abortion. 

Fernando Haddad hails from the left and is the man most likely to challenge Bolsonaro, but comes with significant baggage. The urbane ex-mayor of São Paulo says all the right things with his overtures to women, minorities and Brazil's indigenous peoples. Unfortunately he is running for the despised Worker's Party (PT). The once-mighty political institution has become a byword for the kind of flagrant graft and self-dealing that sank its last two elected presidents. Anti-fascist organisers are still desperately trying to build support for Haddad but the stench around PT is proving too great for many.

A distant pack of centrists and smaller parties trails behind. None will gather the necessary momentum to proceed to a run-off. Amongst them are the self-ascribed sensible centrists Marina Silva, Ciro Gomes and Geraldo Alckmin. The centre failed to organise behind a single candidate but their supporters may yet swing the election. In fact, unless Bolsonaro steals a majority in the first vote, it is likely that the run-off will be decided by swing voters later in the month.
Otis Rush in Chicago, 1988. PHOTO: Paul Natkin
A Bluesman and the French Sinatra
On Monday America lost one of its last great blues players and a founder of Chicago West Side Sound. Otis Rush passed away aged 84 in the Windy City, the place he had called home for seven decades. Reed's legacy is difficult to quantify, although one can easily point to international hits, a Grammy and a place in the Blues Hall of Fame. Rather he will be remembered for his influence; Led Zeppelin, Santana and Eric Clapton were all devoted acolytes. His take on the blues was imbued with jazz and swagger in equal measure, carried along by his mastery of the electric guitar. Listen for yourself

On the other side of the Atlantic another legendary musician died at the ripe old age of 94: Charles Aznavour. The crooner known as the 'French Sinatra' is not as well-known in the english-speaking world but he should be. Aznavour's output is simply ludicrous: he recorded 1,400 songs, sold 180 million records and performed into his 90s. If that's not enough, he sang in French, English, Spanish, Italian, German and even Armenian. Aznavour may have been sickly sweet to some but he was the perfect treat for millions. Go on, give this gem a whirl.

The Best Of Times...

The drug that eliminated cervical cancer. PHOTO: The Guardian
Healthy women's business
In 2007 Australian authorities undertook a bold (and at-times unpopular) national vaccination drive to rid the country of cervical cancer. Its success has silenced even the staunchest of critics: the deadly cancer is set to become a rare disease within two years. Within another two decades Australia will have effectively eliminated it. In another big win for women down under, the much-loathed 10% goods and services tax on sanitary items has also been scrapped. 

Amazon comes good
A concerted campaign by Amazon's lowest-paid factory workers has won them a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour. The constant threat of unionisation had gained a number of supporters in Washington including Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont. In a written statement this week Amazon announced the pay rise for 350,000 of its lowest-paid employees in the United States, and offered to lobby government for a national minimum wage rise. This could change the lives of tens of millions of America's working poor. 

The Worst Of Times...

Smog in the shadows of Beijing. PHOTO: South China Morning Post
Breathe in, breathe out, expire
Anyone from mainland China will be able to share some horrific pollution anecdotes. But a new study from the Chinese University of Hong Kong reveals the true extent of the horror: air pollutants in China kill one million people and cost the economy nearly $40b every year. The financial cost, which is nearly 1% of China's GDP, was calculated by combining the attendant health costs with reduced crop yields (20 million tonnes of produce are tainted each year). No wonder Beijing is throwing serious resources at this problem.

Let the chips fall
Late in the week news broke that the Chinese government may have snuck minuscule rogue computer chips into motherboards destined for America's largest companies and the US defence apparatus. Everything from your iPhone to Amazon Web Services to the CIA's drone program may have been compromised. If corroborated it would likely be the most pervasive hack in history, however both Apple and Amazon have issued vehement denials. Watch this space.

Weekend Reading

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Tom Wharton
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