Today's news

March 3, 2006

Lecturers' strike still on despite talks offer
University lecturers have insisted they will strike next week despite a last-ditch attempt by employers to have the action called off. The University and Colleges Employers' Association had offered to re-start negotiations with union officials in return for Tuesday's industrial action being cancelled. But the Association of University Teachers yesterday rejected the offer and said the one-day strike and the subsequent boycott of assessment and marking would continue as planned.
The Scotsman

Animal rights activists target Oxford reunion venues
Animal rights activists have said they will target several US restaurants and bars hosting Oxford University alumni reunion events next month, warning their businesses would be directly contributing to the institution's £20m animal research laboratory. In the latest move to stop the laboratory at Oxford, the protest group Speak is circulating a full list of the restaurants, bars, hotels and clubs in New York that are due to hold reunion events organised by the city's alumni chapter. British universities are increasingly turning to their alumni to boost coffers. Events such as those in New York have the potential to generate a significant amount of extra money for Oxford.
The Guardian

Scientists attack plans to close climate change research centres
A coalition of British scientists today warned that the country had little hope of controlling climate change if the National Environment Research Council (NERC) closed four internationally acclaimed research centres. A letter written by natural history broadcaster Sir David Attenborough and co-signed by four other fellows of the Royal Society and several scientists, said NERC's plans to close centres within the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and shed jobs was "scientifically flawed". Sir David's letter read: "They [the cuts] will undermine the Government's scientific base for policy decisions and the UK's capacity to deliver high-quality ecological research.”
The Guardian

Mandarin standards too high for students
Examination boards are deterring students from learning Mandarin Chinese by setting impossible standards at A level and GCSE, academics claim. The examinations are focused on testing native speakers and are more demanding than university degrees. China is in talks with the British Government over plans to promote the language, with the aim of it becoming one of the most used internationally. With the backing of the British Council and Chinese experts, Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College, called this week for an overhaul of the curriculum and urged schools to rethink language teaching to reflect today’s world.
The Times

Shrinking Antarctic ice proves scientists wrong
The Antarctic ice sheet, which holds 70 per cent of the world’s fresh water, has thinned significantly in the past four years, the first observations from a pair of satellites show. The frozen continent is shedding about 36 cubic miles (152 cu km) of ice every year - according to research suggesting that sea levels could rise more rapidly than predicted. Scientists had expected that over the coming century global warming would increase the size of the Antarctic ice sheet, as higher temperatures brought increased snowfall, but the new data suggest that it is losing mass. The findings, from the satellites of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) begun in 2002, are a concern because the ice sheet would increase sea levels by as much as 45m (150ft) were it all released.
The Times, The Independent, The Financial Times, Nature, The Daily Telegraph

Household bleach may help fight cancer
Scientists at University College London have discovered that immune cells react much more strongly to dead cancer cells killed with the active ingredient in household bleach. They hope to use this method to treat women with ovarian cancer. Each year 6,800 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the UK and there are around 4,650 deaths. The team found that immune cells taken from healthy volunteers were five times more likely to recognise dead ovarian cancer cells killed by bleach than those killed by heat or acid.
The Daily Mail, New Scientist

Secret tongue is really a shared speech disorder, says expert
Twins can develop what sounds like their own language because they are more likely to maintain immature speech habits, an expert said yesterday. Professor Dorothy Bishop of Oxford University has found that twins who speak a "secret language" often go on to have language problems. When a child falls behind in language development, parents and siblings usually provide a kind of benchmark for normal development. "They tend to normalise in these circumstances," said Prof Bishop. However, in the case of twins, when one mispronounces a word, uses the wrong word, or makes up a word, the other is likely to pick this up too, she said. "More often than not it is a child whose language is delayed who reinforces immature language in the other twin."
The Daily Telegraph

Chimpanzees reveal their human side as good Samaritans
The first evidence that being a good Samaritan is not a uniquely human trait, as most scientists thought, has been published. There are many examples in the animal kingdom of individuals, whether ants or monkeys, that help their relatives. However, only humans seem to help others to whom we are not related - "out of the goodness of our hearts". But today, in the journal Science, two chimpanzee studies shed light on the science of co-operation and suggest that our closest relatives lend a hand in human-like ways.
The Daily Telegraph

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