Today's news

July 19, 2004

Obesity wonder drug could be an apparition
When British scientist Stephen Bloom of Imperial College London announced two years ago that his team had developed a drug that could potentially cure obesity, it created excitement around the world. But the "breakthrough" may turn out to be an apparition. Bloom's research has been questioned by more than 40 scientists from 15 international research centres, who have taken the unusual step of writing to the journal Nature , which published the original claims, to express their disappointment.

Battle over Oxford lab turns violent
As activists try to stop construction of Oxford University's new animal research laboratory, scientists call for a crackdown on extremists.
Guardian (story first reported in The Times Higher , June 25, 2004: Back animal lab, top surgeon demands )

Heads of failed UKeU rewarded with a bonus
Senior directors of UKeU, the Government's failed internet university, received large performance-related pay bonuses before it was closed with losses of at least £50 million of taxpayers' money. The latest accounts show that four directors shared £101,770 in bonuses last year on top of their combined salaries of £385,308. More than a third of the staff received performance payments despite the fact that UKeU had launched only two courses and recruited 900 students against a target of 5,600. Three of the directors of the company have also secured a lucrative agreement to share in the profits of any subsequent flotation on the Stock Exchange.
Daily Telegraph (story first reported in The Times Higher , June 25, 2004: Newby on rack over 'scandalous' bonuses for online university staff )

Scientists shed light on Marathon mystery
A team of researchers from Texas State University has argued from evidence of the lunar cycle that the battle of Marathon took place a month earlier than the generally accepted date of September 12 490 BC. They suggest that this lends greater weight to the theory that the messenger, who ran the epic 26 miles from the battlefield to Athens, died of heat exhaustion.

Museums fight over £1.5m medieval manuscript
The Macclesfield Psalter, the most important medieval illuminated manuscript found in Britain in living memory, is at the centre of a battle between leading museums. The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge lost out to the John P. Getty Museum of Los Angeles when the 14th-century manuscript sold for £1.5 million at auction this summer. But the Fitzwilliam is pinning its hopes on the Government, which can put a temporary ban on export to give it a second chance to raise the money.

Microchips to combat history thieves
Ancient stone artefacts are being stolen from Britain's National Parks to feed the growing appetite for garden ornaments generated by home improvement programmes. Heritage officials across Britain say that there has been a significant increase in the thefts of granite crosses, troughs and other artefacts from areas open to the public. As a result, officials from the National Trust and Dartmoor National Park Authority have turned to new technology and have begun inserting microchip markers in valuable monuments.

Higher education items in the weekend press
- Nearly half of all universities are having to put on remedial classes in English and maths because of the deteriorating quality of undergraduates. Sunday Telegraph
- Education officials have begun an investigation into how 90 per cent of students on an architecture course failed their final exams. Sunday Mirror
- Feature on the Bodleian Library and online publishing. Times , July 17

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