News in brief

November 24, 2011

United States

Who left the dogs out?

A university in the US is facing a multi-million-dollar bill for cleaning up the remains of nuclear experiments carried out more than five decades ago. The University of California Davis has been forced to arrange a major clear-up, which could cost anywhere between $6 million and $100 million (£3.8 million and £63.3 million), after it emerged that old landfills at the experiment site still contained toxic and radioactive waste. California Davis scientists conducted experiments for the US government between the 1950s and the 1980s, The Sacramento Bee reported, to study the possible effects of radiation from nuclear fallout. During the tests, they fed, doused and injected hundreds of beagle dogs with radioactive isotopes and then froze their remains. When the experiments had finished, the clean-up responsibilities were divided between the university and the federal government. Although California Davis removed the remains of 800 irradiated beagles, toxic dog waste and contaminated gravel 20 years ago, more work is required. Sue Fields, from California Davis' environmental health and safety department, said officials expect to release a draft report detailing a range of options.


Private fees confusion

Three private universities in Cyprus have been told by the government to lower their tuition fees or risk severe sanctions. Frederick University, the University of Nicosia and the European University Cyprus were asked by the education minister George Demosthenous to reduce their fees after they introduced tuition-fee hikes ranging from 3 to 6 per cent for the 2011-12 academic year. According to the Cyprus Mail, the ministry used legal advice from the attorney general's office to claim that the fee increases were illegal. Under the 2005 law governing the operation of universities, fee increases at the three institutions were approved up to 2010-11. However, in an amended law in 2010, any revision of fees for the 2011-12 academic year was subject to submitting an application to the ministry. The three universities allegedly believed, erroneously, that their tuition fees had been approved back in 2005 to cover this period.


Hunger strike solidarity

An Egyptian academic who is carrying out a hunger strike in protest against military persecution of activists, has gained national attention. Laila Soueif, a mathematics professor at Cairo University, began her hunger strike last week protesting against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' detention of activists including her son Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a political blogger. Last week, she received more than 50 visitors at her house wishing to show solidarity, and six of these supporters have since joined her on hunger strike, including the noted political activist Islam Elsayed El-Eissawi, Mohamed Hashem, director of the Merit Publishing House, and Taqadom El-Khatib, a professor at Mansoura University. The Al Ahram newspaper reported that Professor Soueif is also calling on the SCAF to end the practice of trying civilians in military courts and to release all 12,000 individuals that have been tried and convicted in military courts for common crimes since the military council took power in February.

United States

Not balmy? You're barmy!

Scientists from more than 20 institutions in Iowa have urged Republican presidential candidates to accept the reality of climate change. Some 31 scientists from 22 universities and colleges issued a statement to candidates last week pressing them to "acknowledge the science of climate change", The Hill newspaper reported. The letter, drafted by four climate science researchers at Iowa State University cited rainfall patterns and other climate indicators as evidence that Iowa is already experiencing climate change effects, which could negatively affect farming - a cornerstone of the Iowan economy. They say lawmakers need to adopt an "appropriate policy response" to the threat. David Courard-Hauri, assistant professor of environmental science and policy at Drake University, said: "This is an issue that all candidates for elected office, from city council to president of the United States, should acknowledge and address through public policy."

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