Today's news

May 19, 2006

Intimidation fears prompt firm to quit university
A major contractor has withdrawn from working for Oxford University because of fears of harassment and intimidation by animal rights extremists, it emerged yesterday. The steel company, named in court documents as LC Services, said it would stop working at the university because of last week’s targeting by animal rights activists of shareholders in the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and after the case of the desecration of the grave of an old woman whose family ran a guinea pig farm in Staffordshire. Documents submitted to the high court yesterday give details of the campaign by the Animal Liberation Front against firms working for the university, which the ALF claims has caused more than £6 million of damage.
The Guardian

University entrance reforms to reduce 'lucky dip' effect
A radical shake-up of university admissions to help bright students from poor backgrounds to get into elite institutions will be given the green light by ministers next week. The measures to be announced include making it easier for students to apply for university after they have received their A-level results. The shake-up, the biggest in university admissions for 50 years, aims to reduce the "lucky dip" effect of students being awarded provisional places based on predicted grades.
The Independent

Indian police beat students backing caste quota
Indian policemen used bamboo canes on Friday to beat supporters of a government move to reserve more college seats for lower castes, a move that has caused widespread protests in the nation. Television footage showed police chasing lower caste medical students, some wearing white coats, in the eastern city of Patna in Bihar state, hitting some who had fallen to the ground. A policemen could be seen ripping banners held up by the pro-quota activists. "Passions are quite high but we have the situation under control," Inspector General of Police Anil Sinha told Reuters from Patna.
The Scotsman

Pay dispute 'will water down' art degrees
Art students fear they will leave university with "watered down" degrees as a result of the ongoing lecturers' pay dispute. Officials at Glasgow School of Art have unveiled plans to bring in a team of assessors who are not members of the Association of University Teachers to mark final-year students' work. The institution says the move will ensure students graduate as normal despite the AUT's boycott of assessment and marking. But students claim the move could affect their final mark because their regular tutors will not be involved.
The Scotsman

Brain-tumour cluster strikes university
A Melbourne university has emptied the top floors of one of its buildings after a spate of brain-tumour cases were reported during the past month. Most affected staff worked on the top floor, raising fears that cell-phone masts on top of the building are responsible. But experts say it is far more likely to be an unfortunate coincidence. Since mid-April, five staff from the business school of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University have reported developing brain tumours. Two other cases have been reported since 1999. Of the seven, two are malignant and five benign.
Nature

Thousands more could be carrying vCJD, say scientists
The brain disease variant CJD, triggered by eating BSE-infected meat, may have infected thousands more people than previously thought, scientists say. Tests on tissue samples have shown that a wider group of the human population may be carrying the infection without showing symptoms and could transmit it via blood transfusions or contaminated surgical instruments. The warning comes from researchers at the National CJD Surveillance Unit at the University of Edinburgh who checked more than 12,000 samples of tissue from tonsils and appendices removed in operations between 1996 and 1999. All the samples came from patients aged 20 to 29.
The Independent, The Scotsman

Hobbit was one of us with a diseased brain, say scientists
The origins of the diminutive ancient human cousin nicknamed the “hobbit” are again in question after scientists in the United States challenged the claim that it constitutes a completely new species. The discovery on an Indonesian island of bones of an 18,000-year-old creature just over 3ft (1m) tall was hailed in 2004 as one of the most significant fossil finds for 150 years. Analysis of Homo floresiensis ’s skeleton, and a reconstruction of the brain, suggested that it represented a new branch of humanity’s family tree, a dwarf that had evolved from our ancestor Homo erectus .
The Times, New Scientist, The Independent

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