Today's news

September 3, 2003

No alternative to university top-up fees, says Clarke
Education secretary Charles Clarke began his campaign to persuade Labour MPs to support university top-up fees yesterday by declaring that there was "no alternative" to higher charges for students. He told the Association of Commonwealth Universities meeting in Belfast that the days when higher education could be funded entirely from the public purse were gone. He said plans to allow universities to charge up to £3,000 a year from 2006 were "actually rather conservative" by international standards.
(Times, Financial Times, Independent)

Long hours at work damaging family life
Well-intentioned government efforts to tackle poverty by persuading more parents to find work run counter to the wishes of many families, a report has found. Shirley Dex of London University's Institute of Education said that her analysis of 19 Rowntree-funded research projects found that the government should consider further workplace intervention, alongside its targets to eliminate child poverty.
Details: www.jrf.org.uk/knowledge/findings/foundations/923.asp
(Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent)

Enzyme aids heavy smokers
Writing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute yesterday, Israeli researchers said they had identified a naturally produced compound that may explain why only some smokers get lung cancer. Smokers with low levels of the enzyme OGG1, or 8-oxoguanine DNA glycosylase 1, were five to 10 times more likely to develop lung cancer than smokers with the highest levels, the team at Israel's Weizmann Institute found.
(Guardian, Times, Independent)

Odds on Armageddon shorten to 909,000-to-1
An asteroid large enough to wipe out a continent could collide with the Earth in 11 years, astronomers said yesterday. But there is no reason to prepare for Armageddon just yet. The chances of an impact are remote, at just one in 909,000. Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen's University Belfast, an adviser to the Near Earth Object Information Centre in Leicester, said there is no cause for concern at all.
(Times, Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent)

Ancient runes were cut by Barry the builder
Cryptic runic symbols discovered on a block of granite and thought to have a 2,000-year-old Norse look about them are actually eight-years-old. Even the chief curator for North Norfolk Museums declared it unlikely to be a fake, but an unemployed construction worker with an interest in druids has proved that he cut the design with a hammer and chisel in 1995 to coincide with May Day celebrations. (Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail)

Transatlantic call saves Cambridge student
A seriously ill student from Cambridge University was airlifted to safety from an American mountain after an emergency call to a British police station almost 4,800 miles away. The unnamed man was hiking with a party of 20 other students in the Cascade mountains in Washington State when he began vomiting blood. Expedition leader, PC William Tuffs of Luton Police, Bedfordshire, tried to contact local emergency services but failed to get through on a satellite phone, so he contacted his Bedfordshire control room instead.
(Times, Guardian)

Gifts put geography on the map
Up to a million Ordnance Survey maps are to be given to 11-year-old children in an attempt to interest them in geography. Britain’s mapping agency said yesterday that every child of that age was entitled to an Explorer map of their area, provided their school joined the scheme.
(Times, Guardian)

Penicillin prize for Britain's muckiest mug
The Royal Society of Chemistry wants to find the most spectacular growth of gunge in a forgotten coffee mug at work to mark the discovery of penicillin 75 years ago today. The prize is "an evening of culture".
Details: www.rsc.org/pdf/pressoffice/2003/penicillin.pdf
(Independent)

Scientists peer inside Carol Vorderman's head
Television star Carol Vorderman participated in an investigation at University College London's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience last week to help solve the riddle of whether mathematicians are born or made. Vorderman volunteered for a series of functional MRI scans of her brain at the institute's Functional Imaging Lab.
Details for prospective volunteers: www.fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk/volunteers.html
(Daily Telegraph)

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