World Encompassed

July 13, 2007

Texas A&M loses bacteria licences

The Center for Disease Control in the US has suspended a university's licence to work with two bacteria after the institution took more than a year to report two incidents of staff exposure to the substances. The government agency has suspended the licence pending an inspection later this month.

Texas A&M took 14 months to tell the CDC that one of its staff had fallen ill after being exposed to the bacterium Brucella. It also took a year to notify the agency that three staff members were exposed to the Q bacterium.

The university admitted it should have informed the CDC about the Brucella incident immediately but maintained it did not have to notify it about the Q bacterium incident because the employees did not become ill, and were not worried about their blood test results. Texas A&M said the communications failure that caused the Brucella result to be reported late had since been corrected. Brucella exposure rarely causes death. Q fever is rarely fatal in its acute form, but its uncommon chronic form kills 65 per cent of those affected.

Chocolate is healthy in small doses

It is the news every chocoholic has longed for: a small nibble of dark chocolate can reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers at the University Hospital of Cologne in Germany found that

eating 6.8 grammes of chocolate every day can help to lower blood pressure. It was previously thought that the fat and sugar in the chocolate could lead to weight gain that would negate any blood pressure reduction caused by the polyphenols in the chocolate.

Dirk Taubert, lead author of the report, said the risk of death from heart conditions in the population could be reduced by 5 per cent if everyone got the same blood pressure reduction through eating chocolate as the people in the study.

Institution censured for misinformation

Staff at Eastern Michigan University broke the law by telling the public that there had been no foul play in the death of a student who had been raped and killed in her dormitory, according to a Government report.

A US Department of Education review said officials at the university had violated a law that requires higher education institutions to disclose campus security information.

University officials told parents and the media that Laura Dickinson died of asphyxiation but there were no signs of foul play. Her family and other students found out that she had been raped and killed only when a suspect, a fellow student, was arrested later.

Academics 'recruiting for companies'

US business school professors are being paid by companies to headhunt students for jobs, according to a report in Business Week magazine.

The report says a small but growing number of professors are recommending promising students to companies in exchange for payment or a donation to their institution.

Others receive less direct methods of reward, such as landing research projects for themselves and their best students, which companies support in order to see the most talented students in action. And some academics recommend students to firms they work with but do not get any direct payment for it.

Catholics split over sex before marriage

A Catholic university and an archbishop in the US have parted ways in a dispute over premarital sex.

The row began when two academics from the Center for Family and Marriage at Creighton University said in an article in a US Catholic magazine that couples should be permitted to live together if they intended to marry later. They proposed that couples who are betrothed - a commitment to marry in future - could live together and have sex. This would bring Catholicism into line with today's norms, they said.

However, the archbishop of Omaha, Elden F. Curtiss, wrote to the magazine denouncing the article as contrary to Catholic doctrine and questioning the authors' credentials. "Because the position of the authors is contrary to church teaching about the intrinsic evil of fornication, I have disassociated the Omaha Archdiocese from the Centre for Marriage and Family at Creighton University," Rev Curtiss wrote.

Less invasive surgery hope for obese people

US researchers have come up with a range of ways to make fat people thinner without invasive surgery.

A team at the University of Rochester Medical Center and the University of California at San Francisco found that removing part of a nerve in the oesophagus resulted in significant weight loss and patients were able to go home from hospital on the day of surgery. The study found that 10 of 11 patients lost between 7per cent and 44 per cent of their excess body weight.

Meanwhile, scientists at Georgetown University found that injecting a particular neurotransmitter could make the body produce fat in a specific area of the body while blocking a neuroreceptor could prevent the weight gain. The researchers hope the injections will help to control metabolic syndrome, which leads to diabetes and heart conditions.

In Australia, Sydney University's Centre for Vision Research found vascular changes in obese children as young as six years. Widening of veins and narrowing of arteries, which can be linked to heart disease later in life, had previously been seen only in overweight teenagers and adults.

Friday lectures cut thursday drinking

Researchers in the US have found a way to cut student boozing. Scheduling more classes or tests on Friday mornings can reduce the amounts students drink on Thursday nights, a study has found.

The study by University of Missouri-Columbia found that students who did not have classes on Friday drank at least twice as much on Thursday as those who did have early classes the next day. The study looked at 3,341 undergraduates over four years.

Iraqi professor killed in front of daughter

A senior official at an Iraqi university has been shot dead in front of his daughter. Nihad Mohammed al-Rawi, the deputy in charge of administrative affairs and head of the chemical engineering department at Baghdad University, was killed after gunmen intercepted his car. His daughter and bodyguards were in the car but not harmed. More than 200 university professors have been killed since the US-led invasion in March 2003 and thousands have fled abroad, according to the Ministry of Higher Education.

Whistleblowers more help than regulators Employees and the media are more effective at exposing corporate fraud than the stock exchange regulator and auditors, a study by a US business school has found.

The paper by Chicago University's Graduate School of Business found that those with the least to gain from blowing the whistle, such as employees, were the most likely to do it. Those tasked with unearthing fraud - auditors and stock exchange regulators - were "costly and ineffective", the study found. It recommended a system that rewarded those who exposed fraud rather than creating organisations to bring it to light.


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