Russian Tipped for Nobel Prize

STOCKHOLM -- Human rights activists from Russia and China are considered front-runners to win the Nobel Peace Prize this week.

The Nobel announcements kick off Monday with the medicine prize. While the selections for the 10 million kronor ($1.3 million) awards in medicine, physics, chemistry and economics are usually met by approval from the scientific community, the peace and literature committees nearly always face accusations of political bias.

The top member of the Swedish Academy, which awards the literature prize, rejected the notion that politics had anything to do with its decisions. "One doesn't read literature with the same part of the brain as one votes for a political party," said Horace Engdahl, the academy's permanent secretary.

Peace prize speculation is focusing on human rights, partly because 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the signing of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights in New York in 1948.

Peace researcher Stein Toennesson, whose picks tend to shape world speculation, suggested lawyer and activist Lidia Yusupova of the human rights group Memorial as a way of drawing attention to human rights abuses in Russia and to remember Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in 2006.

Toennesson, director of the Peace Research Institute, Oslo, said the prize committee might pick a Chinese activist this year "in view of the fact that the Olympic Games did not bring the improvement many had hoped for, but instead led to a number of strict security measures."

"We always watch Stein Toennesson's predictions with interest," said Geir Lundestad, the prize committee's nonvoting secretary. Beyond that, he would only say there were 197 nominations and that the winner would be announced Friday.

Last year, the peace prize was shared by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the UN panel on climate change for their efforts to raise awareness about global warming.