Today's news

September 4, 2003

Cost of university fees is 'two pints of beer a week'
Graduates starting off on a salary of £18,000 a year in London would only have to give up two pints of beer a week to repay their top-up fees, according to the leader of the country's university vice-chancellors. The comments by Ivor Crewe, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of Essex University, were immediately seized on by student leaders as "trivialising" the issue.

Net threat to biotech firms
Investors in the biotech industry ought to be given better protection from animal rights activists including having their private addresses kept confidential, backbench MPs suggested yesterday. The Commons select committee on trade and industry called for a review of company law to see whether legislation passed to keep biotech directors’ homes secret, passed after the Huntington Life Sciences controversy, should be extended to shareholders.

Top bomb maker studied in UK
Azahari Husin, a British-trained engineer and university lecturer, is wanted by police in south-east Asia on suspicion of being the chief bomb-maker for the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist network. Husin, in his mid-40s, took a postgraduate course at Reading University in the 1980s.
(Daily Telegraph)

40% increase in black population since 1991
The black population in England grew by 40 per cent in the decade to 2001 while the white population hardly grew at all, researchers Phil Rees and Danny Dorling of Leeds University, told the Royal Geographical Society yesterday. The number of "white British" people is also decreasing, and without immigration from Europe, North America and Australasia, the overall population of white people in England would also be in decline. The first in-depth study of the 2001 census also identifies widening social class division.
(Independent, Guardian, Times)

New twist in the saga of the Early Americans
The accepted theory of how prehistoric humans first migrated to America has been challenged by a team of scientists from the University of Barcelona in Spain. Analysis of 33 skulls unearthed in Mexico shows they more closely resemble present-day natives of the southern Pacific Rim than north-east Asians. The research is published in today's issue of the journal Nature.

TV drama to portray Hawking's struggle
The story of Stephen Hawking's battle as a young scientist stricken by motor neurone disease is to be made into a television drama. Filming is about to start and the drama is due for broadcast next year on BBC 2.
(Daily Telegraph)

Warning over melting glaciers
Global warming is causing 90 per cent of the world's glaciers to melt, scientists warned yesterday at the Royal Geographical Society's annual conference in London. Glaciologists, including David Collins of the University of Salford and Stephan Harrison from Oxford University, said the demise of the glaciers could spell disaster for sea levels, drinking water supplies, irrigation and electricity output.
(Daily Telegraph, Times, Guardian)

Drug to fight obesity around the corner
A hormone that signals when the stomach is full has been found to cut the appetites of both fat and thin people by one third in an experiment that could signal an important advance in the treatment of obesity. Stephen Bloom, of Imperial College London and Hammersmith Hospital, who headed the team that made the discovery, said it was the first time in 20 years that they had identified a compound with such potential. The finding is published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
(Independent, Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Telegraph)

Man cut teeth on meat
Evidence from fossilised teeth has confirmed a theory that mankind's ancestors abandoned vegetarianism and began eating meat about 2.5 million years ago, a team scientists at the University of Arkansas  have discovered. Details of the research are reported today in New Scientist.
(Times, Daily Telegraph)

New species of elephant confirmed by DNA test
The "pygmy elephant", which is 30 per cent smaller than an Asian elephant, has been genetically determined for the first time to be a distinct sub-species. With a population of under 2,000, it lives only in a remote corner of Borneo, about a thousand miles away and on a separate island from the nearest other Asian elephants. The research was funded by the conservation group WWF and reported in the scientific journal Public Library of Science Biology.

Morning sickness could be in the mind
Research by scientists from Toronto University suggests that morning sickness is not nearly as bad as pregnant women think. While up to 80 per cent of pregnant women suffer from sickness, many are nowhere near as ill as they feel: the impact of the nausea depends largely on mental outlook, they say.
(Times, Daily Mail)

Bacteria alert in ambulances
Scientists in Wales have found that almost two-thirds of ambulances they tested were contaminated by bacteria, some of them harmful to patients carried. The results of the study are published in the Emergency Medicine Journal.

Why Mars is red
Mars may owe its distinctive red colour to a dusting of billions of tiny meteors and not the rusting effect of long extinct oceans, a Nasa scientist reports in today's New Scientist.
(Daily Telegraph)

Students die in Russian train blast
Five people were killed and at least 30 injured when two bombs went off under a Russian commuter train near the border with Chechnya yesterday. Many of the dead and injured were students.
(Daily Telegraph)

Smooth operator to put LSC on map
It is hoped that the appointment of media man Mark Haysom to the £180,000 chief executive post at the Learning and Skills Council will help to put it on the map.

A distinct lack of principals
Fewer college managers are applying to become top dogs, and more principals are retiring early. Assessment of the government's response to this further education sector dilemma.

Groundbreaking American philosopher dies
Donald Davidson, one of the greatest philosophers of the late 20th century, whose work on language helped us understand who we are, has died aged 86.

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