Today's news

September 2, 2003

'Ignorant' scientists threaten wildlife survival
The international effort to save wildlife from extinction is threatened by scientists' "extraordinarily limited knowledge" of biodiversity, the Royal Society warned yesterday. There is "no sound scientific basis" for assessing progress towards international conservation goals, said Georgina Mace, director of science at the Zoological Society of London, an author of the report. About a tenth of the world's bird species and a quarter of its mammals are listed as threatened with extinction. For less studied groups, such as fish, mussels and crustacea, the proportion under threat could be two-thirds.
(Financial Times)

MPs and unions join in top-up fee fight
The Association of University Teachers put down a motion for next week's TUC annual conference slating the government's £3,000-a-year tuition fees plan. Even though the prime minister has said lecturers stand to gain big salary rises if the fees are brought in, the teachers came out against the policy with all guns blazing. Last night, ministers were privately predicting that the charges would bite the dust in the first stage of a massive Labour backlash against Mr Blair's "presidential" leadership style.
(Daily Express)

Student nut on a roll to wipe debt
An artist trying to wipe out his student debt by pushing a monkey nut seven miles to Downing Street with his nose said the stunt got off to a slow start yesterday. He hopes to have finished by September 12. Mr Blair has said Mark McGowan's mission is "funny", but has refused to promise any cash.
(Daily Express)

Brain study shows how emotions affect immunity
Sad, fearful and angry thoughts can weaken the body's protective immune system and make it more vulnerable to disease, according to a brain scanner study published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by a team at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
(Daily Telegraph, Times, Independent)

Pied Piper clue to cancer spread
Researchers at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Toby Robins Research Centre in London report in the Journal of Cell Biology that breast cancer cells follow a protein called uPA that helps them to migrate around the body - much like the Pied Piper attracting the rats of Hamelin. When the action of this protein was blocked with antibodies, the cells stopped moving.

Ancient Greek survived brain surgery
Archaeologists on the eastern Aegean island of Chios have found evidence of successful trepanning dating back to 250BC. They unearthed a skeleton with a 2cm hole in the left rear of the skull that shows evidence of healing over time and very few signs of infection.

Dementia is a real conundrum
Playing mental games with people suffering from dementia is as effective as using drugs to treat the condition, research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry has shown. However, the team at University College London found that neither technique works especially well.

Three portions of fruit and veg enough to help heart
Just three portions of fruit and vegetables a day may be enough to protect against heart disease, researchers from Athens University said yesterday, throwing into doubt the established wisdom that five portions is the required amount.
(Daily Telegraph, Times)

Other UK higher education stories
Brunel University school to tackle falling standards (Evening Standard, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Daily Express). How Oxford Brookes University nabbed the Booker Prize archive (Guardian). Advice on taking an Open University degree (Independent). Report on a service that aims to cut academic disputes short (Guardian). Comment on the lack of diversity among postgrad students (Guardian).

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