The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 74.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

News Briefs

Scientists Say Severity of Dyslexia Depends on Language


By scanning the brains of people reading English, French, and Italian, researchers for the first time have demonstrated that dyslexia can be more severe depending on which written language people learn.

Indeed, the reading disorder is twice as prevalent in the United States, where it affects an estimated 10 million children, as in Italy, where the written word more consistently matches its spoken sound.

The new research shows that dyslexia -- the most common learning disability in the United States -- arises from a problem in the brain that cuts across language barriers, cultural borders, and writing systems, an international research team led by neuropsychologist Eraldo Paulesu at the University of Milan Biocca in Italy reported Friday.

But the very character of certain written languages, including English and French, makes the condition worse because their spelling is so dramatically at odds with how words sound, the multinational team discovered.

The findings could aid in identifying and treating dyslexia. Moreover, they help scientists understand how the brain processes written language -- and why that processing sometimes goes awry.

Chinese Premier Strikes Friendly Stance Toward U.S.


Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji struck a friendly note with the fledgling U.S. administration Thursday, acknowledging a lack of familiarity with the new players in Washington but expressing hope for good relations.

China’s No. 3 leader also announced that President Bush had been invited to Beijing in October for a state visit. In Washington, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said the president “is very pleased to have received the invitation to visit China. And we are considering how we can respond at this time.”

Zhu said China and the United States can work together whether Americans view his nation as a partner or competitor.

“Partnership and competition are not always at odds with each other,” Zhu said during his annual meeting with reporters, speaking in the no-nonsense, almost folksy style that has become his hallmark both at home and abroad.

The conciliatory remarks came just a few days before the highest-level Sino-U.S. meeting since Bush’s inauguration in January. China is dispatching its top foreign policy official, Vice Premier Qian Qichen, to the White House next week in a meeting that could set the tone for what many analysts say will be the most important global relationship in the coming years.

British Campaign Against Disease Hits Tourist Industry


The Lake District, a popular tourist destination, has been put under quarantine like the rest of rural Britain as part of the government’s increasingly aggressive fight against the agricultural blight of foot-and-mouth disease. The step has kept away hundreds of thousands of tourists normally drawn to the warm spring sun and attractions such as Lake District National Park.

Hotels, restaurants, and attractions are essentially empty in a season where they should be overflowing with visitors.

There is considerable debate whether the quarantine has helped stopped the spread of the disease. What is clear is that the official campaign to help the livestock industry is killing the tourism industry, a business that employs far more people and contributes much more to the rural economy than farming.

Foot-and-mouth is costing the region’s farmers an estimated $1.5 million per week, while tourism losses are $15 million weekly, with hundreds of employees being laid off, said Alan King of the Cumbria Tourist Board.

“Yes, we have to help the farmers,” said King, whose local government agency oversees the area’s $1.5 billion tourism industry. “But farming is about five percent of our economy. Tourism is 25 percent. You need a balance.”

Desperate farmers say they need the toughest protections they can get. “If I lose my herd, I lose my livelihood,” said Mark Jones, who runs cattle and sheep on a steep, rocky hillside in this region about 250 miles northwest of London.

Uganda Begins Withdrawal in Congo


On the day all sides in the Congo war were to begin pulling back from front lines, several hundred Ugandan soldiers assembled on the steamy airport tarmac here, singing and cheering. In two years, they’d penetrated as far into Congo as any invader, and now they were preparing to go home.

“When we withdraw this battalion, about 70 percent of our troops will be out of Congo,” said Brig. Edward Katumba, head of Ugandan forces in Congo.

The Ugandan withdrawal is technically independent of the formal peace plan aimed at ending the 2 1/2-year-old Congo conflict. But it reflects the widespread optimism all parties in the war say they’ve clung to since Congolese president Laurent Kabila -- the ruler both Uganda and Rwanda were trying to oust -- was killed two months ago. His son and successor, Joseph Kabila, has revived the so-called Lusaka peace accord signed in the capital of Zambia in summer 1999. The accord is as complex as the war, which involves six foreign armies, two rebel groups and numerous militias.

But it begins with a cease-fire which, with the exception of a fire fight on a river south of here earlier this month, has essentially held since Kabila’s assassination. The next step is for all armies to pull back nine miles from their front lines.

The United Nations has agreed to send observers to report on adherence to the cease-fire.