Overseas briefing

January 29, 2009

Australia

Frogs feel the kitchen heat

Frog populations may be about to croak as humans eat them to the brink of extinction, scientists in Australia have warned. The study at the University of Adelaide found that as many as 1 billion frogs are killed for the kitchen each year. Coupled with the destruction of their habitat, this has left the amphibians "in a bad way throughout most of the world", The Australian newspaper reported. Corey Bradshaw, from Adelaide's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said: "With habitat loss we're already dealing with a group that's being hammered and we eat up to 1 billion frogs a year, so we're not really helping them out much."

Canada

Mediator seeks end to strike

A top mediator is being drafted in to end an 11-week strike by staff at a Canadian university that has left 50,000 students high and dry. Teaching assistants plus graduate and contract faculty at Toronto's York University went on strike at the beginning of November. With no end in sight, Ontario's Premier Dalton McGuinty has appointed Reg Pearson, the state's chief mediator, to "bang some heads together". The dispute has prompted students to accuse staff of holding them "hostage", and applications to York have fallen 15 per cent as other universities see numbers soar. Mr McGinty told The Gazette newspaper: "This has gone on for so long, one could be forgiven for concluding that the two sides have lost sight of the interests of students."

Iraq

Dean escapes bomb attack

The dean of Iraq's Islamic University, which is based north of Baghdad, had a narrow escape when his car was bombed. The attack killed four people, but Ziyad al-Ani, a member of the Islamic Party that represents Sunni Arabs, was not seriously hurt, Reuters said. Although the number of attacks has decreased over the past year, academics remain key targets of militants, sometimes because of their affiliation with political parties. Last month, gunmen seriously wounded Muzahim al-Khayat, dean of Mosul University's College of Medicine, in a drive-by shooting in western Mosul.

United States

Scholars greet Obama backing

Scientists in the US have responded with "exuberance" to Barack Obama's pledge to "restore science to its rightful place". The importance that President Obama places on science was made clear in his inauguration speech, but The New York Times warned that the restrictions imposed by George W. Bush, such as controls on stem-cell research, would take time to roll back. However, Frank Press, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, said: "It's not just about getting money. It's (Mr Obama's) recognition of what science can do to bring this country back in an innovative way."

Hungary

Ambassador takes CEU presidency

An American human rights leader and former ambassador has been named as the next president and rector of the Central European University (CEU). John Shattuck, a former US Ambassador to the Czech Republic, will take up the post in Budapest in August. He said that CEU, a graduate-level international university, "had the capacity to be a new model for international education" and "a source of support ... for building open and democratic societies that respect human rights". He is currently heading the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and was previously Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour during the Clinton Administration.

India

PPP to boost rural access

Access to higher education in rural India is to be boosted by a new university co-founded by the Gujarat Government and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The IFC, which is part of the World Bank, has agreed to help the state develop a blueprint to attract private partners that can help to pay for the institution, designed to accommodate more than 10,000 students from tribal areas. It is hoped that it will be operating within five years. The IFC said it would draw on its experience of a similar public-private partnership in Botswana to get the project off the ground, The Times of India reported.

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