- Poets lead running for Nobel Literature prize
- Iraq's Maliki wins backing for U.S. trainers, but no immunity
- Cleared on appeal, Amanda Knox returns home to Seattle
Posted: 04 Oct 2011 10:03 PM PDT
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Two poets, one Swedish and the other Syrian, are leading the betting to win the 2011 Nobel Literature prize, a bookmaker said on Tuesday, though past prizes have often defied the predictions.
British betting firm Ladbrokes have the 81-year-old Syrian poet known as Adonis at odds of 4/1 and Swede Tomas Transtromer, 80, at 7/1 to win the 10 million crown ($1.5 million) prize, to be announced on Oct.6. Japan's Haruki Murakami was third at 8/1.
All three have been on the betting list of candidates before, but an award to Adonis, a champion of democracy and secular thought, would chime well with Arab Spring revolts in several Middle Eastern nations -- though he has not been without his critics who view his support for the uprisings as too muted.
Apart from his political engagement, Khaled Mattawa, who has translated many of Adonis' works into English, said the Syrian -- named Ali Hamid Saeed at birth -- deserved to be recognised for his artistry.
"When I think of Adonis as a poet ... I think of people like Picasso or Matisse, people who opened up a new way of envisioning experience," Mattawa, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, told Reuters.
Adonis was awarded Germany's prestigious Goethe Prize for literature in May.
"I hope with the greater attention being brought to him, people recognise Arab literature is not only compelling for its content or for the way it might help us to understand Arab societies ... but also (that Adonis's work can) give us a sense of the conceptual prowess we find in modern Arab literature," Mattawa said.
The last poet to win the Nobel Literature prize was Poland's Wislawa Szymborska in 1996.
Transtromer, whose subtle, multi-layered work often deals with the relation between man and nature or the conscious and unconscious, is a regular on the list of favourites to win the prize.
"Transtromer is the person who stands head and shoulders above anyone else," said Neil Astley, founding editor at Transtromer's publishers Bloodaxe Books in Britain.
Interest in Swedish writing has increased in recent years, even if that has mainly been in the crime fiction books of dead writer Stieg Larsson and his "Millennium" trilogy.
"It is not just the crime-writer boom. That has been a locomotive for other Swedish literature," said Helen Sigeland at the Swedish Arts Council, where she is responsible for promoting Swedish literature abroad.
The Nobel prize sometimes results in a surprise choice of an artists who is little known outside a small circle of connoisseurs.
This has included Herta Mueller of Germany in 2009 and Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio in 2008, though the 2010 winner, Mario Vargas Llosa, is widely read. Doris Lessing, Harold Pinter and Orhan Pamuk are also laureates.
One figure who would seem to be a very outside bet is Bob Dylan. Even so, his Ladbrokes odds have narrowed to 10/1 from 100/1 last week.
($1 = 6.775 Swedish Crowns)
(Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Matthew Jones)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
Posted: 04 Oct 2011 09:33 PM PDT
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday won more backing from the political blocs in his power-sharing government to negotiate on plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq as military trainers, but without granting them immunity if they commit crimes.
The decision by Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs allows Maliki to continue discussing keeping some U.S. soldiers in Iraq after the 2011 deadline for their withdrawal, more than eight years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Baghdad and Washington must still negotiate over how many troops will stay on, how long they will stay, and over the tricky issue of jurisdiction, which would afford American soldiers the kind of legal protections they have elsewhere.
"The leaders agreed on the need to train the Iraqi forces and to complete their arming as soon as possible and on the need to support the Iraqi government," Deputy Prime Minister Ross Nuri Shawis said, reading a statement.
"The people who attended the meeting agreed there is no need to grant immunity, in addition to that they suggested training should take place in Iraqi military bases only."
Only supporters of radical anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr rejected the accord. His Mehdi Army militia once battled U.S. troops but he is now a key ally of Maliki in parliament.
U.S. officials say they want troops to have similar legal protections to those they have under the current security agreement, which expires this year.
That would mean allowing Iraq some jurisdiction over U.S. troops for certain grave crimes committed outside duty, for example, but the United States would get prime jurisdiction for crimes committed during duty or on its bases.
Violence in Iraq has declined sharply since the bloody days of sectarian slaughter in 2006-2007 when Shi'ite and Sunni extremists killed thousands. But bombings, attacks and assassinations still occur daily.
Iraqi and U.S. officials agree that local armed forces are able to contain a stubborn but weakened insurgency, but they say Iraq needs trainers to help the military fill some of its capability gaps, especially in maritime and air defence.
(Reporting by Aseel Kami; writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Andrew Roche)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
Posted: 04 Oct 2011 09:33 PM PDT
SEATTLE/PERUGIA (Reuters) - Amanda Knox returned home to Seattle on Tuesday, one day after an Italian court cleared the 24-year-old college student of murder and freed her from prison.
A plane carrying Knox, who grew up in the close-knit West Seattle neighbourhood where both of her divorced parents still live, landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport shortly after 5 p.m. local time.
Knox wiped away tears as she spoke to a throng of reporters at the airport minutes after she stepped off the plane.
"They are reminding me to speak in English because I'm having trouble with that," Knox, 24, said in brief remarks. "I'm really overwhelmed right now. I was looking down from the airplane and it seemed like everything wasn't real."
A former University of Washington student, Knox thanked "everyone who has believed in me, who has defended me," during her ordeal. "I just want my family. That's the most important thing to me right now, and I just want to go be with them."
Anne Bremner, a Seattle defense attorney and spokeswoman for Friends of Amanda Knox, said that, according to her family, Knox was looking forward to having a backyard barbecue, being outside in the grass, playing soccer and seeing old friends.
"Just normal things that you would want to do after being in prison for four years for a crime you didn't do," she said.
Knox sobbed on hearing that the court had overturned her 2009 conviction for murdering her housemate, 21-year-old Meredith Kercher, in what prosecutors have said was a drug-fueled sexual assault.
Also cleared was her former boyfriend, Rafaele Sollecito, leaving Ivorian drifter Rudy Guede as the only person convicted in a killing which investigators believe was carried out by more than one person.
Kercher's half-naked body was found, with more than 40 wounds and a deep gash in her throat, in the apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia, where both were studying.
The trial gripped attention on both sides of the Atlantic. There was an outpouring of sympathy and outrage from many in the United States who regarded Knox as an innocent girl caught in the clutches of a medieval justice system.
PROSECUTOR TO APPEAL
The Italian prosecutor has announced he intends to appeal Knox's acquittal to Italy's highest appellate court, Corte Suprema di Cassazione, which can only review technical errors that occurred in the lower courts.
In Italy, an acquittal becomes final only after all judicial avenues have been pursued. In this case, that would mean the Corte Suprema would have to either affirm or decline to hear the appeal.
If the Corte Suprema overturns the acquittal, it could reinstate the original murder charges against Knox, which would allow prosecutors to seek her extradition from the United States under a treaty between the two countries.
Considering the controversy surrounding the case, legal experts say there likely would be a heated diplomatic dispute before the U.S. would agree to extradite Knox.
Kercher's family has refrained from criticizing Knox or Sollecito but has said repeatedly that Meredith has been forgotten in the media frenzy.
Kercher's sister Stephanie said after the trial "the biggest disappointment (is) not knowing still and knowing that there is someone or people out there who have done this."
Knox's supporters cheered, cried and hugged on Monday at the news that she had been released. Her home, framed by Puget Sound waters on three sides, is one of Seattle's oldest neighborhoods and is known for its strong sense of community.
Evan Hundley, head of the private Explorer Middle School, where Knox attended sixth, seventh and eighth grades, described West Seattle as "a city within a city.
"When something happens here, it's big news," Hundley said. "We're a strong neighborhood."
Hundley said students whooped with delight during the school's daily student assembly on Monday when the news of Knox's release was announced.
WELL-LIKED IN HER HOME TOWN
Knox won the school's first Manvel Schauffler Award, named after a founder of the school, which has about 100 students who pay an annual average tuition of about $15,000, said Debbie Ehri, the school's business manager, who knew Knox.
"It was our first award for our most outstanding student. Amanda was an academically strong student. She was genuinely a lovely, kind and talented student," Ehri told Reuters.
"Teachers absolutely adored her. She was just delightful to have in class," she said. "She was caring, not only with her studies, but she was a kind, lovely girl."
Knox also attended Seattle Preparatory School, a small Jesuit high school, graduating in 2005. The school organized letter-writing campaigns on her behalf and fund-raising efforts to help pay for her defence.
"She should be free, it's really sad that she was in prison for four years," 47-year-old Cora Ploetz said at the Westwood Village shopping center, a few miles from the home of Curt Knox, Amanda's father.
Her friend, Ken Iverson, said he felt relief for Knox.
"I was under the impression it was like the Inquisition," Iverson, 63, said of the court proceedings.
"She has earning power now that she is free," said Candace Dempsey, Seattle-based author of "Murder in Italy," one of around a dozen books that have ben written on the case.
"She can write a book and she can certainly help her family pay back the bills" they incurred in her defense, and on their prolonged visits to Italy.
(Additional reporting by Nicole Neroulias in Seattle, Noleen Walder in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Greg McCune and Todd Eastham)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
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