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Nobel cash reward shrinks 20 percent, to $1.1 million

Even those charged with identifying the world’s greatest geniuses sometimes make bad investment decisions.

On Monday the Nobel Foundation, which bestows the world’s most prestigious academic, literary and humanitarian prizes, said it was reducing the cash awarded with Nobel Prizes by about 20 percent. Each prize, awarded in Swedish kronor, will now be worth about $1.1 million, down from $1.4 million.

The reduction was the result of ugly returns on its invested capital, which was valued at $419 million as of Dec. 31, down 8 percent from the previous year. In the last decade, the costs of the prizes and related operating expenses have exceeded the endowment’s average annual return.

“The Nobel Foundation is responsible for ensuring that the prize sum can be maintained at a high level in the long term,” Lars Heikensten, the foundation’s executive director, said in a statement. “We have made the assessment that it is important to implement necessary measures in good time.”

—Catherine Rampell, The New York Times

Single women gaining limited acceptance in Iran

TEHRAN — When Shoukoufeh, an English literature student from a backwater town, set out to rent an apartment for herself here in the capital, she first stopped at a jewelry store and picked up a $5 wedding ring.

Accustomed to living with lies to navigate the etiquette of Iranian society, where women are traditionally expected to live with their parents or a husband, the 24-year-old would prominently flash her fake white-gold band to real estate agents and landlords who would otherwise be reluctant to lease an apartment to a single woman.

“To them and my neighbors, my roommate and I are two married women away from their husbands to pursue our studies,” she explained. “In reality, we are of course both single.”

There are no official statistics on the number of women living by themselves in big cities in Iran. But university professors, real estate agents, families and many young women all say that a phenomenon extremely rare just 10 years ago is becoming commonplace, propelled by a continuous wave of female students entering universities and a staggering rise in divorces.

—Thomas Erdbrink, The New York Times

World health agency declares diesel fumes cause lung cancer

Diesel fumes cause lung cancer, the World Health Organization declared Tuesday, and experts said they were more carcinogenic than secondhand cigarette smoke.

The WHO decision, the first to elevate diesel to the “known carcinogen” level, may eventually affect some U.S. workers who are heavily exposed to exhaust. It is particularly relevant to poor countries, where trucks, generators, and farm and factory machinery routinely belch clouds of sooty smoke and fill the air with sulfurous particulates.

The United States and other wealthy nations have less of a problem because they require modern diesel engines to burn much cleaner than they did even a decade ago. Most industries, such as mining, already have limits on the amount of diesel fumes to which workers may be exposed.

The medical director of the American Cancer Society praised the ruling by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, saying his group “has for a long time had concerns about diesel.”

The cancer society is likely come to the same conclusion the next time its scientific committee meets, said the director, Dr. Otis W. Brawley.

—Donald G. Mcneil Jr., The New York Times