Reporter 427, 16 November 1998

In the news

Wall to wall coverage and French failures

Gareth Morgan, reader in haemotology, was sought out by the Independent to give his opinion on a bizarre cancer cluster which has struck three music professors and a fourth member of staff at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.

Two professors and the restaurant manager have died at the music school, set up by Mozart’s widow in 1841. Experts have found high levels of carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the school’s carpets and wallpaper, but Professor Morgan seemed sceptical that these might be the cause: “These kind of clusters are very difficult to interpret,” he said. “If they are different sorts of leukaemia in elderly professors they could have occurred by chance.”

Sociology research fellow Tom Shakespeare wrote a closely-argued piece for the Guardian in which he suggested that plans to screen pregnancies for Down’s syndrome moves NHS policy a degree closer to eugenics – “the science of population improvement” associated with Nazi Germany.

He cites research by Jo Green, a psychologist at the University, in which she found that 30 per-cent of obstetricians would not give a test for Down’s unless the woman agreed to have a termination after a positive diagnosis.

A recent international boules contest held in Leeds received widespread coverage. The Times Higher Educational Supplement showed students Simon Eadie and Ev Hughes in action representing the French department. The paper reported that “the students suffered a crushing defeat, but did so in true French style.”

The Daily Telegraph reported on experiments by Professor Roger Gosden of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology to use mice to incubate human eggs, to investigate whether animals might be used to help women sterilised by cancer treatment to bear children. Professor Gosden is also interested in using such methods to help preserve a species by recovering eggs when an endangered animal dies.

The Yorkshire Evening Post featured second year English student Mari Piper who has been recruited to a Government task force to improve the treatment of children in care.

Miss Piper was taken into care at 12, and over the next five years was moved 30 times between different foster homes and children’s homes. Health Secretary Frank Dobson was quoted as saying: “She provided salutary reminders of the real world in which some children are expected to grow up.”

Dean of Strategic Development Dr Jonathan Adams spoke to the Yorkshire Post about the Government’s new Institutes for Enterprise, with the paper suggesting that the University of Leeds would be among the frontrunners for a slice of the £25m fund.

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