Today's news

June 14, 2002

Science in schools gets £1m boost
The first wave of schools that will specialise in science to help reverse the decline in the number of pupils taking physics and chemistry at A level has been announced. Fifteen comprehensives and grammar schools in the London area will get £1 million from GlaxoSmithKline to upgrade science facilities and boost teaching. Two research scientists from Imperial College, London, will be assigned to each school for half the week. ( The Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times )

US academics and artists criticise war on terror
A group of leading US writers, academics and actors and have signed a statement criticising their government's policies since September 11. In a statement called Not In Our Name, they say the government has "declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression". They also criticise the media for failing to challenge the government. Gloria Steinem, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said have signed, along with musicians such as Laurie Anderson, actors such as Ed Asner, the writers Alice Walker, Russell Banks, Barbara Kingsolver and Grace Paley, and the playwrights Eve Ensler and Tony Kushner. ( The Guardian )

Exam system a shambles, leaked report says
Thousands of pupils and teachers are suffering under a shambolic examination system, with papers delivered after the exam date, unsolvable questions and frequent marking errors, says a leaked report for a unit of the Cabinet Office. ( The Times )

Sex education has little impact
Sex education lessons do little to change teenagers' sexual behaviour, suggest studies published today. A series of explicit sex education programmes in Scottish secondary schools was found to have had no more impact on adolescents' sexual activity than conventional lessons. And a review of research in the US and Canada indicated that pregnancy-prevention programmes had not delayed sexual intercourse, improved birth control or reduced teenage pregnancies. The studies are reported in the British Medical Journal . ( The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Times )

Star find raises hopes for space life
Scientists have identified a star with a solar system resembling our sun's, raising the hope that it could hold an Earth-like world that supports life. The star, known as 55 Cancri in the constellation Cancer, is 41 light years from Earth. It is circled by a giant ball of gas larger than Jupiter, but at roughly the distance from the star that Jupiter is from the sun. The scientists were led by Geoffrey Marcy of the University of California at Berkeley and his colleague Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution in Pasadena. ( The Daily Mail, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Times )

Ice cap melting faster than thought
The Antarctic ice cap is melting faster than had been thought. A study, published in the journal Science , used satellite radar interferometry to explore the “underbellies” of the Antarctic ice shelves. It found that the rate of melting varied in different areas, from a thickness of 4m a year to 40m. ( The Financial Times )

Pets help keep kids healthy
Children who own pets have stronger immune systems and take fewer days off school, according to a study by researchers at Warwick University. The benefits of owning a cat or dog are strongest for children aged five to eight. ( The Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times )

Northern Ireland education pioneer dies
Sir Derek Birley, the educational visionary who pioneered the University of Ulster, has died, aged 75. He made immense contributions to higher education in Northern Ireland with his pioneering work in drawing together the Ulster Polytechnic and, later, the New University of Ulster into the University of Ulster, of which he was vice-chancellor from 1984 to 1991. ( The Guardian )

Islamic scholar dies
John Wansbrough, the historian who controversially challenged Islam’s own account of the origins of the Koran, has died, aged 74. He stimulated new approaches to the study of early Islam. ( The Daily Telegraph )   

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