Today's news

October 14, 2003


Lecturers' pay deal reveals split
Failure by lecturers' leaders to agree on a national pay framework after two years of talks could lead to the break-up of national bargaining, the universities' chief negotiator warned last week. The long drawn-out talks covering 350,000 staff are due to climax this week with most of the seven trade unions involved expected to accept the two-year deal covering a pay increase and moving all staff in the sector on to a single pay spine. Only the Association of University Teachers seems set to reject it.
( Guardian )

Contamination fears to restrict GM crop trials
Stringent conditions are to be imposed on any future genetically modified crop trials in Britain as research shows that GM pollen can spread to crops 16 miles away, eight times further than previously thought. A government study also found that after growing GM oilseed rape, it could take a farmer up to 16 years to grow a conventional rape crop that would comply with the maximum 1 per cent GM contamination threshold. ( Times, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mail )

Doctor's baby cloning claim rejected as fantasy
Claims by the maverick doctor Panayiotis Zavos that he will clone a baby for less than £100,000 have been dismissed as fantasy by some of Europe's leading fertility experts. The American researcher yesterday said he is about to implant the first cloned embryo in the womb of a surrogate mother, and hopes to make the procedure an affordable alternative to IVF. But the statement prompted an angry reaction from mainstream scientists.
( Daily Telegraph )

Foetuses with three genetic parents created
The first trial of a fertility treatment that would effectively create babies with three genetic parents has ended in the miscarriage of twins. The controversial procedure, already outlawed in Britain, was originally developed at New York University and tested at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou on a 30-year-old Chinese woman. Despite the experiment's unfortunate outcome, scientists behind it hailed it as an important advance that eventually could help thousands of infertile couples to conceive their own genetic children. Details will be presented today at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine conference in San Antonio, Texas.
( Times, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail )

Bee venom may increase IVF success
Bee sting venom can improve infertile women's chances of having a test-tube baby, according to Egyptian scientists from Ain Shams University, Cairo. They believe that the poison stops a woman's immune system rejecting a newly transplanted embryo.
( Daily Telegraph )

How to make a man full of beans
Men who start the day with a shot of caffeine have more vigorous sperm than those who never drink coffee, research at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, has revealed. However, there is bad news for marijuana smokers. Research from the State University of New York in Buffalo found that the drug badly affects the fertility of both sexes.
( Times, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Guardian )

Monkeys' mind game
Researchers from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, have taught monkeys to play a computer game through the power of thought. Using electrodes planted in the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain, the two rhesus macaques learnt to control a cursor on a screen. The experiments are reported in the online journal PLoS Biology .
( Times, Independent, Daily Mail )

Bionic arm hope for stroke patients
The first experiments in creating bionic arms and hands for stroke patients are being planned by researchers from Southampton University and the Alfred Mann Foundation in California. They are seeking ethical and clinical permission from regulators to use the procedure on a patient in January. If the results are promising another five patients will receive implants.
(Guardian)

China counts down to join manned spaceflight club
The countdown has begun for China's first manned space mission. A single taikongaut is expected to go into an orbit about 125 miles above Earth for less than 24 hours before his vessel returns. The launch of the Shenzhou V from a site in Gansu, near the Gobi desert, is allegedly scheduled for Thursday or Friday.
( Independent, Financial Times )

Crystals explain the eyes of a peacock's tail
Scientists at Fudan University in Shanghai have found that solid crystals within the iridescent "eyes" of a peacock's tail feathers, rather than the pigments, are used to generate the unusual colours of the male plumage. The results are presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .
( Independent, Guardian )

Children thrive with a pet pal in the family
Research by June McNicholas, a health psychologist at Warwick University, has found that one child in five plays dressing up with the family pet while one in 10, especially young girls, push their pets around in prams. Nearly half the children studied went to their pet if they were bored or upset and a third sought out their pet if they felt scared, a third went to their pet if they felt poorly, 85 per cent used their pet as a playmate and 37 per cent had their pet beside them when they were reading or doing their homework.
( Daily Telegraph )

Leeds researchers calculate cost of easy credit
The amount of debt being chased by Britain's bailiffs has soared by 70 per cent over the past two years to a record £5 billion in fresh evidence of Britain's growing debt crisis. A report by Leeds University Business School published today blames the increase almost entirely on an alarming rise in the number of people falling behind on credit card and personal loan payments. The typical household falling into difficulty owes £25,000, spread across an average of 15 different lenders, compared with £10,000 three years ago.
(Guardian)

Forgotten corner of college cellar paints rare view of Canada
Papers that had been lying in a corner of the cellars of Balliol College in Oxford for at least a century have turned out to contain rare landscapes of 18th-century Canada. The paintings by Benjamin Fisher, a British army officer who was also a talented amateur artist, include scenes of Niagara Falls before it became one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world.
(Guardian)

Other higher education items
Susan Bassnett, Warwick pro-vice-chancellor, writes that the RAE has lost the respect of academics and 'consultation' is not going to help ( Guardian )  · A Council for Industry and Higher Education report concludes that the government is right about needing more graduates ( Guardian ) · Nobel prize-winner Peter Mansfield talks about his continuing research ( Guardian ) · Profile of Shaheen Ali, new professor of law at Warwick and former Pakistan health minister ( Guardian ) · Frank Furedi puts a curse on counselling ( Daily Mail ) · Comparison of Bill Clinton and General Wesley Clark, the US Democratic party presidential contender, who was also a Rhodes scholar and slogged his way to Oxford ( Daily Telegraph ) · 16-page student law special ( Times ) · A look at BT Group's Adastral Park, where UCL plans to found the first remote academic laboratory in the UK ( Financial Times )

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