Today's news

July 26, 2002

Puffer fish expands knowledge of human genes
The puffer fish has begun to answer questions about how humans are made and why they do what they do, according to a team of scientists from Britain, the US and Singapore. Researchers have decoded the entire DNA sequence of Fugu rubripes , and from that, they report in the journal Science today, they have already been able to predict the existence of more than 900 hitherto unknown human genes. (The Guardian, The Independent, The Times)

Defra adviser raises questions over GM crops
A leading government scientist last night raised fears over the safety of allowing genetically modified crops to be grown commercially in Britain. Howard Dalton, chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said not enough was known about the impact GM crops may have if they cross-breed with wild plants. Some could be toxic or dangerous, he said. (The Daily Mail)

The middle aged get most of alcohol’s benefits
Women who want to keep their chances of an early alcohol-related death to a minimum should drink no more than a glass of wine a day until they are 44, and men should have no more than a single pint of beer, according to research published in today’s British Medical Journal . The study, by statisticians from the Institute of Public Health in Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, makes it clear that there is no such thing as a safe alcoholic drink – at least until you are over 65. (The Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Independent, The Times)

Iron Age site poses sinister mystery
The most baffling settlement ever unearthed from Iron Age Britain was revealed by English Heritage archaeologists yesterday inside a prehistoric fort on former marshes by the Humber estuary. The rows of rectangular wooden buildings have yielded an almost complete lack of artefacts, remains or even litter, apart from one macabre find – fragments of crushed human skulls. (The Guardian)

Old view of woman’s worth
A 400-year-old tract that advocates that women are superior to men and should rule over them has been discovered in Lancashire. Is it the work of England’s first feminist or just a satire written by a man? (The Times)

Boys read better using old methods
A return to traditional methods of teaching primary school children to read has surprised academics by reversing the national trend of girls outperforming boys in the classroom. A Scottish pilot project by researchers at St Andrews University found that both sexes learn faster and develop better reading and writing skills using phonics, but that boys benefit the most. (The Independent, The Times)

Workplace smoking ban could save thousands
A blanket ban on smoking for all workers, except for those who worked outside or at home, would cut per capita consumption by 7.6 per cent in the British population according to a review of research on the effect of introducing smoke-free workplaces. The study, by academics at the University of California, San Francisco, is printed in the British Medical Journal . Anti-tobacco campaigners said such a ban could in the long run save about 4,800 lives a year in Britain. (The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent)

Delay in uterine cancer treatment ‘beneficial’
Women who experience delays in treatment for cancer of the uterus are more likely to survive the disease after operations despite assumptions that waiting could damage their chances, according to a study of Scottish women reported in the British Medical Journal . (The Guardian, The Times)

Fire threatens giant sequoia trees
Some of the world’s oldest and biggest trees are threatened by the wave of wildfires sweeping through the western states of the US. Fire has already destroyed 20,000 hectares of California’s Sequoia National Park, which is home to 2,000-year old sequoias. (The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian)

Cancer linked to hormone
People treated with growth hormone before 1985 may have a raised risk of contracting certain kinds of cancer, according to research by the Institute of Cancer Research in Surrey, which is published in The Lancet . (The Times)

Student questioned in search for ‘Italian Unabomber’
Italian police questioned a 35-year-old research student from Treviso yesterday in connection with a series of mysterious explosive devices found in supermarket groceries and on beaches in the Venice area. Police patrols have been stepped up as they warned people to be on guard in case the culprit, dubbed the “Italian Unabomber”, is still at large. (The Times)

The urbane guerrilla
For 16 years, Michalis Economou’s Greek island neighbours thought he was a maths professor. Now he has been accused of masterminding a 30-year terror campaign that included the murder of a British diplomat. (The Times)

Elizabeth I’s royal ring on show
The secret that Elizabeth I carried to her deathbed is finally to be revealed publicly after 400 years. The diamond, ruby, gold and mother-of-pearl ring taken from her body and unveiled yesterday at the National Maritime Museum will go on public display for the first time in a exhibition at the museum, built on the south London site of Greenwich Palace, where she was born. (The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent)

Campaigner against child poverty dies
Harriett Wilson, the sociologist and founder of the Child Poverty Action Group, has died aged 85.   

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