Today's news

January 16, 2003

Landslide vote for Clinton in Oxford
Bill Clinton has emerged as the overwhelming favourite among Oxford undergraduates to succeed the late Roy Jenkins as chancellor of the university. Despite his troubled past, the former US president attracted almost half - 48 per cent - of the vote in a poll to be published tomorrow in Cherwell , the university's undergraduate newspaper. Mr Clinton attracted almost three times the support of his nearest rival, SDP co-founder Shirley Williams, who polled 16 per cent. Chris Patten, former governor of Hong Kong, headed the rest of the field on 11 per cent, with Michael Heseltine, the former deputy prime minister, on 6 per cent. But Cherwell' s survey, sent to 1,000 undergraduates via email, is not quite the green light for a Clinton candidacy that it might first appear. As Mr Clinton will know, undergraduates are not eligible to vote.
(Daily Telegraph)

Business leaders oppose graduate tax
Company finance directors overwhelmingly oppose the idea of a graduate tax for students because it will put many off going to university, according to a survey published today. A poll of more than 300 UK finance directors, carried out by Reed Accountancy Personnel with the magazine Accountancy Age, reveals ministers will have their work cut out selling the plan to business leaders as three out of four oppose it.
(Independent)

US colleges may have to drop affirmative action
The Bush administration is poised to wade in today to one of the most divisive issues facing American society, backing opponents of affirmative action in a landmark supreme court case that could force US universities to stop using race as a factor in deciding who to admit. The president was expected to give White House lawyers the go-ahead late yesterday to file papers with the supreme court, urging the judges to rule that the University of Michigan acted unconstitutionally in denying places to three white students who have sparked the fiercest debate on affirmative action in a decade. The Michigan case challenges the university's policy of awarding extra points to black, Hispanic and native American candidates in its scoring system for entry.
(Guardian)

Rare birth defect linked to IVF
Babies born after IVF treatment appear four times more prone to a rare childhood illness, geneticists said last night. Assisted reproduction might predispose children to birth defects and some cancers, according to researchers in Birmingham, Cambridge and Cardiff.   The warning that a genetic "imprinting disorder" might be responsible for an increased risk of Beckwith-Weidemann syndrome could have repercussions for the way IVF and related techniques are performed, and reinforce ethical, safety, and legal arguments against cloning. The human fertilisation and embryo authority is studying the findings, published in the Journal of Medical Genetics .
(Guardian)

Is this the end of the banana?
The head of the Montpellier-based International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain, has told New Scientist magazine that the banana business could be defunct within a decade. Two fungal diseases, Panama disease and black Sigatoka, are cutting a swath through banana plantations, just as blight once devastated potato crops. But unlike the potato, and other crops where disease-resistant strains can be bred by conventional means, making a fungus-free variety of the banana is extraordinarily difficult.
(Guardian, Daily Telegraph)

Nanowires that act as lasers
A group of scientists at Harvard University have demonstrated that a single cadmium sulphide nanowire, many times thinner than a human hair, can act as an electrically driven laser. They report on their work in today's edition of Nature . They believe their discoveries could be adapted to create nanowires of different chemical compositions, potentially spanning the whole spectrum from ultraviolet light to near-infrared.
(Financial Times)

A first in fashion at Cambridge
Students at Cambridge University are staging the first fashion show there next month. The show was organised by a second year history student who had the idea after going to a couple of similar fashion shows at other universities. A special supplement was published by Varsity , the university newspaper, showing 60 passport-sized photographs of the entrants, who were then voted for by other students to get on the shortlist.
(Daily Telegraph)

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