World Encompassed

June 22, 2007

FBI advises academics on how to spot spies

FBI agents are giving pointers to American academics on how to spot spies who might be out to steal their research.
The agency told staff at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts and other universities how to recognise and protect against foreign spies and potential terrorists. Academics were told to protect the security of laptops, especially abroad, and be wary of unexplained contact from people interested in their work. More visits around the country are planned. 

Egyptian court rejects veiled threat theory

An Egyptian court has rejected a US university’s attempt to ban women from wearing the face-covering niqab on campus.

The court said that the American University of Cairo, which introduced the policy for security reasons, could not continue with the ban. How­ever, the university may be able to have female security guards check the identities of veiled women. The case was bought by a student who was refused entry to the library unless she removed her niqab.

UCL seeks release of alumnus held in iran

A London university is pressing for the release of one of its alumni who is imprisoned in Iran. Kian Tajbakhsh, who completed an MSc in urban planning at University College London, has been incarcerated without access to a legal representative.

UCL provost Malcolm Grant said: “Dr Tajbakhsh is an internationally respected social scientist and urban planner. He earned a high reputation as an international expert in local government reform, urban planning, public health and social policy.”

Insead joins Chinese university in MBA

An elite French business school has set up a joint MBA with a Chinese university.

Insead and Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management will run the Executive MBA from the French institution’s Singapore campus and Tsinghua’s Beijing site, with one module on Insead’s campus outside Paris.

US student loans firms in discrimination probe

US legislators are investigating discrimination by student loan companies.

The New York State Attorney’s office has written to 20 lenders to find out whether they give poorer loan terms to students from ethnic minorities, low-income families or those attending colleges with high dropout rates. The letter asks the firms how much weight they give to the gender, race, college location and graduation rate, credit history and parental income of students applying to them for loans. The investigation comes in the wake of a bribery scandal in which staff at several universities were accused of accepting gifts in return for putting loan firms on their preferred provider lists for students.

Thailand's ousted PM to lecture in Japan

Thailand’s former prime minister, who was ousted in a coup last September, has become a lecturer at a Japanese University. Thaksin Shinawatra will become a guest lecturer at Tokyo’s Takushoku University as well as doing charity work. At a news conference he said that he hoped his work would eventually lead to the establishment of a research institute of Asian economies based in Japan. His first lecture will be on July 5.

McDonnell brothers’ $30m gift to princeton

Two brothers have given $30 million (£15 million) to their alma mater to set up a new neuroscience centre.
The McDonnell Center for Systems Neuroscience will be founded at Princeton University with the gift made by two alumni, James S. McDonnell III and John F. McDonnell, and the JSM Charitable Trust. The centre will focus on systems neuroscience, which looks at how networks of nerve cells are organised and operate to produce behaviour. The brothers have previously funded a physics building and six professorships in honour of their late father, who was also a graduate of Princeton.

Staff mistreated after hurricane katrina

A US academics’ body has censured four New Orleans universities over their handling of staff in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The American Association of University Professors added Loyola University New Orleans, Tulane University, the Uni­ver­sity of New Orleans and Southern University at New Orleans to its censured list at its annual meeting. Decisions on a fifth university, the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, will be made at the 2008 meeting.

The sanctions came after a report from the AAUP found that there had been a “nearly universal departure from (or in some cases complete abandonment of) personnel and other policies” by the five institutions in the aftermath of the hurricane. The universities were accused of terminating the contracts of excessive numbers of staff and making alternative placements that fell below AAUP standards. 
 
White van proves to be saftest on the road 

White-van man may be derided for the quality of his driving, but the colour of his vehicle is the best for avoiding crashes. New research from Monash University in Melbourne found that white vehicles were the least likely to be involved in accidents. Colours that were harder to see, such as black, blue, grey, green, red and silver were most likely to be in collisions, though driving behaviour was still the greatest factor in accident risk. The study was based on data from two Australian states covering almost 900,000 drivers.

Gates finally makes his mark at harvard

Microsoft boss Bill Gates graduated from Harvard University last week — 30 years late. Mr Gates left the university to found his company without graduating, as he was set to do in 1977.

The university also awarded an honorary degree to former president Lawrence Summers, who was forced out of office after suggesting that there could be fewer women than men in the top tier of science and maths because of innate differences in academic ability between the sexes. 

Cockroaches’ drool hints at brain power

Lecturers might sometimes doubt the learning ability of their students, but they should have no hesitation when it comes to cockroaches, new research from a Japanese university has found.
Scientists at Tohoku University’s Graduate School of Life Sciences found that the insects can learn. The cockroaches were exposed to a smell while being fed a sugar solution. The scientists found that the cockroaches still drooled when exposed to the smell alone.
The scientists said that
the response showed that cockroaches had a memory and could learn.

Stress increases risk of alzheimer’s

People who are stressed or depressed are at a higher risk of developing memory problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease, a new study has found. The study by Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago found that anxious or depressed people were 40 times more likely to get mild cognitive impairment, which is the transitional stage between normal ageing and dementia.
About 10 to 15 per cent of people with mild cognitive impairment go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

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