Today's news

January 27, 2006

Boycotts self-defeating, Israel conference told
Academic boycotts against Israel were self-defeating and would only damage its existing relationship with the Palestinians, a conference was told this week. Sari Nusseibeh, the president of Al-Quds University, the only Arab university in Jerusalem, said the free flow of science and information was a more powerful weapon against war. "I stand committed to academic cooperation and against boycotts," said Dr Nusseibeh in a letter read out to participants at a two-day conference held at Bar-Ilan University entitled Academic Freedom and the Politics of Boycotts. "An international academic boycott of Israel, on pro-Palestinian grounds, is self-defeating: it would only succeed in weakening that strategically important bridge through which the state of war between Israelis and Palestinians could be ended and Palestinian rights could therefore be restored," he said.
The Guardian

Lecturer wins hourly wages battle
A university lecturer who worked longer hours than her colleagues for less money because she was not a permanent member of staff has won a £25,000 payout. Susan Birch-Maxton, 52, an English lecturer who was being paid up to £10,000 a year less than her co-workers, has become the first hourly paid teacher to win such a case in Britain. It is believed that the decision could lead to millions of part-time workers winning better pay and conditions. The settlement is also a breakthrough in efforts to win fair treatment for the 30,000 hourly paid lecturers in new universities. It concludes a three-year case against Leeds Metropolitan University by Natfhe, the lecturers’ union. The university agreed to the settlement just before the case went to a final hearing.
The Times

Dental training places announced to fill gap
One hundred extra places for dental students have been announced in an attempt to meet an acute nationwide shortage of dentists. As if to demonstrate the scarcity, a queue that eventually grew to 150 began to form at 6.30am in Milnrow, Rochdale, yesterday of people wanting to register with Shamiso Ketani, a dentist recently arrived in Britain from Zimbabwe. Sixty-two of the 100 student dentist places will go to the new Peninsula Medical School in the South West, 32 will be split between Liverpool, Lancaster and Central Lancashire universities, and St Martin’s College, Lancaster, and six will go to the Leeds University. The expansion will eventually add £13 million a year to the higher education budget.
The Times

Physics still imperilled despite funding boost, says panel
The UK has conducted world-class research in physics over the past six years but needs to do more to protect the future of the subject, according to a panel of international experts. In a report, International Perceptions of UK Research in Physics and Astronomy, published tomorrow, a 14-strong panel of scientists from around the world concludes that physics and astrophysics are benefiting from an increase in the UK science budget since 2000. The panel notes "a general improvement in the research environment and the positive outlook of those involved with the research effort at all levels" and says the UK is now "well placed to reap the benefit" of this extra investment.
New Scientist

Alzheimer's drug could make everyone brainier
A new generation of "smart pills" known as nootropics that could make people think sharper and remember things better could be available in chemists within a decade, education specialists at a Bristol University meeting heard this week. The drugs include prescription-only medications normally used to treat Alzheimer's disease and dementia in older people that some studies have suggested also improve memory and thinking processes in fit adults. A study published in the journal Psychopharmacology of the effect of the Alzheimer's drug Donepezil on 30 healthy male students conducted in Germany last year found that taking the drug for 30 days significantly improved short-term memory and some long-term memory faculties.
The Guardian

More fruit and veg cuts risk of stroke
Eating more than the recommended minimum five portions of fruit and vegetables a day could save your life. Most people find it demanding to meet the target. But those who can exceeed it cut their risk of stroke by 26 per cent according to research published today in The Lancet . Eating between three and five portions a day cuts the risk by 11 per cent. Feng He of St George’s University, London, and colleagues pooled data from eight studies comparing fruit and vegetable consumption and stroke incidence. They involved more than 257,000 participants in Europe, the US and Japan. “The average fruit and vegetable intake in most developed countries is about three servings per day and current recommendations encourage five or more servings per day,” said Dr He.
The Times, The Daily Telegraph

Smokers who stop 'on a whim' more likely to succeed
People who stop smoking "on a whim" are more likely to kick the habit in the longer term than those who plan to do it, researchers say today. Nearly two thirds of smokers who made unplanned attempts to stop were not smoking six months later compared with 42 per cent of smokers who planned attempts. Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London who analysed the results of the survey, says in the British Medical Journal that "catastrophe theory" might explain the findings. Catastrophe theory in mathematics proposes that when tensions develop in systems even small events can trigger a catastrophe.
The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman

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