Today's news

May 27, 2003

LSC fury at AoC underspending accusations
The Learning and Skills Council, Britain's biggest quango, is responding with fury to an accusation that it has been sitting on £150 million that the government had earmarked for further education. Brian Sanderson, chair of the LSC, rebutted claims that it had significantly underspent the money it was charged to distribute to post-16 education in 2001-02, its first year of operation.  He accused the Association of Colleges, which is making the accusations, of gross irresponsibility and mischief-making at a time when probity with public cash is a particularly sensitive issue.

Students build up appetite for success
Sales of fish, vegetables and other foods that people hope will boost their brainpower have been soaring as millions prepare for exams. With students revising for their GCSEs, A-levels and university finals, supermarket chain Tesco has found that sales of broccoli, cod and other "brain foods" have jumped as people try to improve their performance. Sales of fish, particularly salmon, trout and cod, have jumped by 35 per cent, with the highest demand in the university cities of Cambridge, Oxford, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Durham. Bananas, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, peanut butter and melons were also selling strongly. The popularity of "brain foods" at exam time has been noted in university towns for the past two years, but Tesco believes that it has now spread to schools.
(Daily Telegraph)

Arsenic linked to madness of King George
The madness of King George III could have been caused by arsenic poisoning, according to evidence discovered in the King's hair nearly two centuries after his death. Tests on five strands of the hair kept at the Science Museum in London have revealed extraordinary levels of heavy metal contamination. Many medical experts believe that the root of George III's madness was porphyria, a disease that can interfere with the nervous system. Porphyria sufferers have a shortage of enzymes necessary for producing "haem", a molecule that transports oxygen around the body. The discovery of arsenic is significant because it is one of a handful of metals that interferes with haem production. For George III, the combination of porphyria and arsenic poisoning would have led to a build-up of toxic chemicals in the body, causing fever and psychiatric changes.

Berlin's students protest at threat of fees
Thousands of students and staff from Berlin's three universities and numerous art colleges protested last week against threatened €200 million (£143 million) educational budget cuts over the next four years. The crisis is so bad that the Humboldt University has decided not to admit any new students in the next academic year; the two others are limiting their intake to the very top percentage of applicants. Berlin's 120,000 students currently pay no fees, just a €150 administration fee per semester that gives them free travel on all city transport. Until now, the government's Social Democrat/Green coalition has resisted calls to put a price on education. But speculation about fees is on the increase.

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