Today's news

January 31, 2003

Graduate pay forecast hits £20K
Graduate starting salaries will hit an average of £20,000 this year, according to data published today that will bolster the government's plans to charge students top-up fees. The number of graduate vacancies is set to rise by nearly 8 per cent, according to data collected by the Association of Graduate Recruiters. But employers remain "cautious", and the pay increase represents just a 2.5 per cent rise.
(Financial Times)

College split over fellowship for Said
Academics at King's College, Cambridge, have split over a decision to turn down Edward Said, the distinguished Arab-American intellectual, for an honorary fellowship. One senior fellow at the college, a locus for leftwing radicalism, said they believed the award would have been "provocative", fuelling a belief of some dons that Professor Said had been rejected because of his outspoken criticism of Israel. Fellows on all sides have refused to speak on the record about the row after the provost ruled it should be kept private.

Clarke says sorry to the Commons
Charles Clarke, the education secretary, has been forced to apologise for revealing "more than he wanted" about his plans for student tuition fees in an interview that upset the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin. Mr Clarke's excuse for making the announcement to the media before parliament, was that he had been too frank on BBC TV's Breakfast with Frost because he had wanted to protect students from being "alarmed or misled" by speculation over the future of tuition fees.

Wellcome Trust names chief
The Wellcome Trust has appointed Mark Walport, head of medicine at Imperial College London, as its director. He will succeed Mike Dexter in what is arguably the most powerful biomedical research job in Britain.
(Financial Times)

Trouble at the seat of learning
A student at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, could be suspended this week after falsely publishing an accusation that a senior tutor is a promiscuous homosexual. Heads of Caius will decide whether he should be suspended or expelled. In his defence, the student says that the article, which referred to "cottaging", was clearly satirical and an ironic response to the lecturer's bona fide interest in old cottages. (Times)

Double helix celebrated
James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA 50 years ago in Cambridge. British scientists plan to mark the anniversary of this momentous event with an extensive nationwide programme of DNA-related events. The Medical Research Council, the Royal Society and Nature (the journal that published the double helix structure in April 1953) have joined forces to coordinate the celebrations. Details are on
(Financial Times)

Scientists discover the harbinger of drought
The four-year droughts that scorched harvests in Afghanistan, seared the Mediterranean scrub and baked cornfields in the American south-east may have had a common cause, according to US researchers. They may have been triggered by unusual behaviour in the Pacific. A touch of cooler water east of the international dateline, and a slight warming to the west and in the Indian Ocean, could have launched a cascade of climate disturbance that ended in blue skies and arid soils in the northern hemisphere from 1998 to 2002. The details are reported today in the journal Science .

Blood test that reveals your destiny
A simple blood test could predict how long you will live by measuring the "fuse" on the end of your body's DNA. Research by US scientists on 20-year-old blood samples has found a strong link between the length of a stretch of DNA called the telomere, found at the tips of all 26 chromosomes in a cell, and the likelihood of living for 15 or more years after 60.

Proof that broken hearts can kill
A study at a Denmark university has shown that dying of a broken heart can be more than just a figure of speech, with the death rate among mothers who have lost a child significantly higher than among those who have not. A team at the Danish Epidemiology Science Centre at the University of Aarhus followed the lives of 21,062 parents who had lost a child below the age of 18 to illness, accident, murder or suicide. They compared what happened to these parents with a larger group of almost 300,000 who had not had the misfortune to lose a child.

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