Today's news

March 10, 2004


'Dirty tricks and backstabbing' at the Oxford Union
The Oxford Union is being torn apart by allegations of racism and dirty tricks after the election of its first British-born Asian woman president. Ruzwana Bashir, 20, was elected president last term but was disqualified on a technicality. Last week she was elected again by a single vote, but that result was in the balance last night as a tribunal met to consider claims of malpractice laid against Ms Bashir. A Union member, who asked not to be identified, said: "They've knifed her in the back once and now they're trying to knife her again. They feel uncomfortable because she’s a Muslim, so she doesn’t drink alcohol and she’s not promiscuous. There have even been snide comments about her wearing the hijab at school and not knowing all the words of the National Anthem."
( Times )

French scientists begin wave of protests
More than 2,000 leading French scientists and researchers resigned from their administrative duties yesterday in protest at what they say are crippling funding shortages, dealing the government a huge PR blow less than two weeks before important regional elections. Alain Trautmann, one of the organisers of the Let's Save Research campaign, said 976 laboratory directors and more than 1,100 specialist team leaders had resigned from their management roles, threatening to paralyse such prestigious institutes as the Curie and Pasteur laboratories and the national medical research centre, Inserm.
( Guardian, Times, Financial Times )

Amendment set to reignite tuition fees row
The fight over university fees is set to re-erupt with an amendment to cut variable charges from the higher education bill being prepared by a leading labour MP who abstained from January’s knife-edge vote. Anne Campbell, who helped the government to clinch its five-vote majority on the second reading, said she had kept her powder dry to target the principle of variability. But, as there is also likely to be a rival opposition amendment to change the bill in other ways, it may mean that Ms Campbell's amendment will not be supported by the Conservative Party.
( Times )

Hain reclaims the party
Peter Hain, leader of the Commons and secretary of state for Wales, suggests today in a pamphlet on how the Labour Party can achieve a better framework for party policy-making, that some of the Labour MPs who voted against the government in January's vote on university tuition fees said they agreed with 90 per cent of what was being proposed. "We would have avoided many problems if these issues had been hammered out before the policy was adopted", he says.
( Guardian )

Smoking ban ends after university bar sales slump
Leeds University student's union is lifting its recent restrictions on smoking before 7pm in its buildings after losing more than £26,000 in bar takings 13 days into a one-month trial. Almost 100 complaints were received from smokers, but officials were finally persuaded to call off the ban by market forces.
( Daily Telegraph )

Museums call for increased funding
Museums made a joint appeal to the government yesterday for more money to help them build on their cultural and economic role.They are seeking an extra £115 million a year above the rate of inflation for five years. At present, national museums receive £0 million a year and regional museums £200 million.
( Financial Times, Daily Telegraph )

The body snatcher of Beverly Hills
Henry Reid, 54, the embalmer at the University of California, Los Angeles medical centre suspected of having illegally sold cadavers to private research firms, is alleged to have netted at least $700,000 (£385,000) since 1998. Over six years, it is thought that some 800 bodies from the centre's willed body programme were butchered - with unembalmed parts being sold to 100 research laboratories around the country. It is suspected that unnamed celebrities were among his victims.
( Times, Daily Telegraph )

Gay rams shed light on sexual leanings
Scientists in the United States have discovered that a part of the brain that influences sexual activity is significantly smaller in homosexual rams. The findings, from a team at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, add to the growing consensus among scientists that homosexuality among people has biological roots.
( Times )

Coffee may ward off diabetes
Drinking coffee can substantially reduce the risk of developing diabetes, scientists from Helsinki report today in the Journal of the American Medical Association .
(Times, Daily Telegraph)

Work up an Amish appetite
A recent study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise , reveals that despite eating large quantities of the wrong foods, the US Amish community has a very low obesity rate. Their secret is plenty of physical activity, and plenty of it.
( Times )

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