Today's news

March 12, 2004


Bashir beats dirty tricks to clinch Union presidency
An Oxford Union tribunal approved the election of Ruzwana Bashir as its president after viewing a secretly filmed video that showed that it was her closest electoral rival, and not she, who broke a rule against canvassing at the polls. The 20-year-old Muslim undergraduate, who had been accused of malpractice, was fully exonerated after a three-day hearing which heard that she had been the victim of a dirty-tricks campaign. She became the first British-born Asian woman to hold the post in the society’s 175-year history. Three of her opponents now face sanctions for their roles in a "malicious and frivolous" conspiracy against her. Bashir says that she bears no grudges and maintains that ethnicity had nothing to do with the tribunal.
( Times, Daily Telegraph )

Luton's vice-chancellor defends university
Les Ebdon, Luton University's vice-chancellor, has hit back at attacks by Sir Richard Sykes, rector of Imperial College London, who said yesterday that taxpayers' money was better spent at top universities. He said his institution was as necessary as Sir Richard's. "We aim to be an access university offering the highest quality teaching," he said. "Imperial College has a mission to be a world-class research university and they succeed in that. It's doing a different job and we need to understand that we have different universities doing different things."
( Financial Times, Daily Telegraph )

New Orleans med school sold bodies for landmine tests
The controversy over the unregulated use of human body parts in the US has escalated as a medical school admits that donated human body parts were sold to the US army who then blew them up in tests involving land mines. Tulane University in New Orleans said it had suspended a contract with the New York-based company it paid to distribute surplus body parts. The university receives up to 150 donated bodies a year but only uses up to 45 for its own classes: it thought the remainder were being passed on to other medical schools.
( Independent )

National Science Week kicks off today
Today marks the start of National Science Week, in which a range of science events will take place across the UK. Almost 1,000 events are planned including a study of the science behind David Beckham's footballing skills, a scale model of the universe, and lectures on subjects from astronomy to the colour of food. As part of the week, the Ig Nobels - international prizes handed out to scientists engaged in unlikely research - will be taken on a tour of the country. Previous British winners include a University College London researcher who studied scrotal asymmetry in ancient sculpture.
( Financial Times )
- Science Week details: www.the-ba.net/nsw
- Ig Nobel tour details: /story.asp?storycode=89979

Brain scanner to read minds
Evidence that it will one day be possible to use a brain scanner to read minds has come from a study of people viewing the classic Sergio Leone western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly . A team from the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, reports in Science magazine that it has been surprised to find that more than 40 per cent of our brains work in a very similar way. A fundamental question in neuroscience and psychology is to what extent the brains of individuals operate individually and whether they are "wired up" differently.
( Daily Telegraph )

Comment: Snobs, privilege and the Oxbridge Unions
Johann Hari says that he has never before or since met quite so strange and unpleasant people than at the Cambridge Union in his first term at university. "These people were so weird, so exaggerated, they make P. G. Wodehouse characters seem like portraits in brutal realism."
( Independent )

Obituary : Colin Eaborn, emeritus professor of chemistry at Sussex University, died on February 22, aged 80. ( Guardian )

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