Today's news

May 21, 2004

University a distant dream for poorest
University is as distant as Pluto for many youngsters on Merseyside's poorest estates, Alan Johnson, the minister for further and higher education, said yesterday. He said top-up fees would encourage poorer children to go to university because it would put less financial pressure on their families. But the head of widening participation at Liverpool University said that many of the young people in Liverpool, Halton and Knowsley do not have the choice of getting into higher education because there is no family or community expectation that it is normal to go to university.
( Guardian )

Animal rights extremists are 'threat to research investment'
Pharmaceutical companies will not make any new investments in research in the UK unless violent attacks by animal rights extremists are brought under control, the industry body said yesterday. The warning comes as City institutions plan a collective fightback against "terrorists of investment". One idea is to offer rewards for information that puts the ringleaders behind bars.
( Financial Times )

Research centre 'will end unnecessary experiments'
The government today launched its plans for a centre to research alternatives to animal research. The science minister, Lord Sainsbury, claimed that the centre would help eliminate any unnecessary experiments on animals and the move was immediately welcomed by the science community. However, animal rights campaigners immediately condemned the move as a "fig leaf" to hide the real issue that experimentation involving animals was harmful and of little benefit.
( Guardian )

Thousands carrying hidden CJD timebomb
Research suggests that Britain is facing a variant-CJD timebomb with thousands of people across the country unknowingly carrying the killer disease. In the largest study into potential effects of vCJD, published today in the Journal of Pathology , scientists predict that up to 4,000 people may be infected by the agent responsible for the degenerative brain disease, which is the human form of mad cow disease.
( Times, Independent, Financial Times, Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph )

Man's best friend surprises geneticists
The first detailed genetic comparison of dog breeds, published today by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, springs some surprises about the relationship between modern pure-bred animals and their ancestor, the grey wolf. It turns out that the dogs most closely related to the wolf are a cluster of Asian breeds such as the wrinkly-faced Chinese shar-pei - not the breeds that look most wolf-like.
( Financial Times, Independent, Times, Daily Telegraph )

Mass extinction's double whammy
The causes of mass extinctions are a matter of intense debate, as proponents of the two leading theories slug it out in the pages of scientific journals. But geologists at Leicester University this week urged the two camps to join forces, saying that both an impact from an asteroid or comet and gigantic volcanic eruptions are necessary at the same time to wipe out most living species. Neither catastrophe on its own would cause enough disruption to the earth and its climate, they say in a study to be published soon in the journal Lithos .
( Financial Times )

Vitamins myth exposed
Eating food containing vitamins or popping vitamin pills will not prevent heart disease or cancer, according to a study by Bristol and London universities published in The Lancet . The myth grew up, they say, because healthy people have high vitamin levels in their blood.
( Times )

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