Overseas briefing

January 22, 2009


Irrigation findings discredited

A university has had to backtrack from the findings of some of its most senior scientists after a study of irrigation in a parched area of Australia was discredited. The University of New South Wales admitted that the research - which accused Jake Berghofer, a farmer, of developing his property to take water illegally from the last free-flowing river in Queensland's Murray-Darling Basin - was funded by opponents of irrigation development, The Australian newspaper said. A state inquiry subsequently dismissed the findings. The farmer told the paper that it was "not right that a big university can get away with trying to destroy someone who hasn't done anything wrong".


Institutions target diaspora

The Government of India has unveiled plans for three new universities to attract the children of Indians who have emigrated and non-resident Indian nationals. Speaking in Chennai, G.K. Vasan, Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation, said the first of the universities will be located in Bangalore and is expected to open for business next year. Half the places will be reserved for non-resident Indians or "people of Indian origin". Mr Vasan also announced an increase in the number of scholarships to help students among the 5 million Indians living overseas who are not well off in their adopted lands, the Business Standard newspaper reported.


Confucius Institute opens in Iran

China has opened its first Confucius Institute in Iran at the University of Tehran. Set up to promote China and support the teaching of Chinese locally, Confucius Institutes already exist in 78 countries worldwide, including the US and the UK. However, the state-funded institutes have attracted some brickbats, with critics suggesting that their main aim is to win influence, and questioning their impact on university autonomy. The institute in Tehran was opened by Xie Xiaoyan, the Chinese Ambassador to Iran, who said the move would improve co-operation between universities in the two countries, news agency Xinhua reported.


Einstein IP case nets £44,000

A university has won thousands of pounds in compensation after taking a company to court for using a picture of Albert Einstein. The Hebrew University in Jerusalem is the heir and owner of all rights pertaining to Einstein's estate, including the use of his image. It accused the firm, Shegem Furniture Company, of violating its intellectual property rights by using the picture in an advert without permission. The university was awarded compensation equal to £44,000, which it will use to provide children's furniture for public shelters in Gaza, the website ynetnews.com reported.


IT crowd gets lessons in love

Unlucky-in-love computing students on a masters course at the University of Potsdam are being given lessons on "how to seduce and flirt". Some 440 students - an unusually high number - enrolled for the module at the German university, which will teach them skills such as how to write flirtatious text messages and emails, how to impress people at parties and how to cope with rejection. Philip von Senftleben, the course leader, said he aimed to teach the students how to "get someone else's heart beating fast while yours stays calm", the Calgary Herald reported.

United States

DEA snuffs out marijuana lab bid

A bid to set up America's second laboratory growing marijuana for medical research has "gone up in smoke", the Boston Globe reported. The proposal by a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst was rejected by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which ruled that the supply of the drug from the existing lab at the University of Mississippi was adequate. The federally approved laboratory was set up at Mississippi's School of Pharmacy in 1968 and has grown more than 100 varieties of marijuana plants since then. However, some researchers have complained that the lab is operating a monopoly and that access to its supply of marijuana is too restrictive.

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