Overseas briefing

January 8, 2009

China

A most inventive nation

China is set to patent more inventions than any other nation by 2012 if current trends continue. In the 20 years after the country's Patent Law took effect in 1985, China became the third-largest patent office in the world by number of applications, trailing only the US and Japan. From 2003 to 2007, China's gross domestic product grew at an average annual rate of 9.7 per cent, while the number of Chinese patents for inventions grew at an average of 34.4 per cent a year. And according to projections, China is set to surpass Japan in 2011 and the US in 2012. Analysis of the figures was carried out by business information provider Thomson Reuters. If current trends continue, "China is set to dominate the patent information landscape in the not-too-distant future," said the authors of the report, Eve Zhou and Bob Stembridge.

Gaza Strip

Airstrikes hit Islamic University

Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip have destroyed two buildings at the Islamic University of Gaza. A spokeswoman for the Israeli Army was quoted by the US Chronicle of Higher Education as claiming that the buildings were used as "a research and development centre for Hamas weapons". The spokeswoman told the paper: "One of the structures struck housed explosives laboratories that were an inseparable part of Hamas' research and development programme, as well as places that served as storage facilities for the organisation. The development of these weapons took place under the auspices of senior lecturers who are activists in Hamas." Other newspapers reported witnesses to the airstrikes as saying that it was the science laboratory block and the Ladies' Building that were hit. University officials denied the army's allegations. There were no campus casualties because the university had been evacuated when the Israeli assault began on December.

New York

Institution lost $24m in fraud

New York University has said that it lost about $24 million (£16 million) in what is being billed as Wall Street's biggest fraud ever. The university is one of a number of investors taking legal action against hedge fund executive Ezra Merkin for entrusting his clients' investments to the confessed swindler Bernard Madoff. According to the news agency Reuters, a judge at New York State Supreme Court issued a temporary order last month barring Mr Merkin from liquidating Ariel Fund Ltd, which was named in the lawsuit by New York University. Mr Madoff, a former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market, was arrested on 11 December and charged with securities fraud.

China

Graduate jobs drive launched

China's Ministry of Education is to host a series of online job fairs, in co-operation with ten other ministries, in an attempt to boost graduate recruitment during the global financial crisis. The fairs are part of a wider drive to channel graduates into China's more remote and less developed western regions, according to Chinese news website chinaview.cn. The Education Ministry also has plans to recruit 30,000 college students as rural teachers during the year. It is also encouraging graduates to join the military, where they could be eligible for fast-track promotions.

United States

Smells like campus spirit

As if old school ties and college mascots were not enough for alumni, a company in the US is offering a new addition to the ever-expanding array of university merchandise - smells. According to its website, Masik Collegiate Fragrances "is the only company of its kind - creating distinctive fine fragrances that reflect each school's unique and distinguished character". The Florida-based newspaper St Petersburg Times reported that the company is currently developing a "signature scent" for the University of Florida. Masik Collegiate Fragrances has already created fragrances for Penn State University (which "smells like vanilla, lilac, rose and white patchouli") and for the University of North Carolina. In designing the scents, the company says it takes account of a college's colours, "campus trees and flowers", "mascot spirit", its "town character" and even the "themes in the alma mater and fight songs".

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