Leading the News
CFPB Lawsuit Claims Navient “Cheated” Student Loan Borrowers.
The Wall Street Journal (1/18, Hayashi, Subscription Publication) reports the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced on Wednesday a suit against Navient Corp., charging it with having given borrowers false information and failing to process payments, while also failing to respond to complaints. The CFPB is seeking “significant relief” for borrowers. In reply, Navient said the suit was politically motivated and false. Also on Wednesday, the state attorneys general of Illinois and Washington announced separate suits against Navient. Reuters (1/18, Lynch) reports the CFPB charged Navient with “systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment.”
Bloomberg News (1/18, Hamilton, Nasiripour, Lorin) reports the CFPB alleges that Navient “failed to properly service private and federal loans, provided incorrect information to borrowers, improperly processed payments and didn’t respond to complaints.” CFPB Director Richard Cordray in announcing the suit said, “We believe that Navient repeatedly creates obstacles to repayment by misallocating or misapplying payments,” and “fails to correct its errors unless a consumer stays vigilant, discovers the problem, and contacts the company to insist that it be fixed.” The Los Angeles Times (1/18, Khouri) reports the CFPB said that Navient “cheated borrowers, resulting in higher payments.”
USA Today (1/18, McCoy) reports Cordray said, “Navient chose to shortcut and deceive consumers to save on operating costs.” But Navient, according to The Hill (1/18, Schroeder), “slammed” the action, accusing the CFPB of having issued “an ultimatum: settle before Inauguration Day or be sued.” The company says the suit is “unfounded” and timed for “political” reasons. CNN Money (1/18, Lobosco) reports all three suits “named both Navient and Sallie Mae,” as Navient “spun off from Sallie Mae in 2014.” The company services “about one in four student loan borrowers.”
Additional coverage is provided by a front page New York (NY) Times (1/18, A1, Cowley, Silver-Greenberg, Subscription Publication) story, the AP (1/18, Gordon), the Washington (DC) Post (1/18, Douglas-Gabriel) “Grade Point” newsletter, another Reuters (1/18, Lynch, Heavey) article, MarketWatch (1/18, Berman), the Chicago (IL) Tribune (1/18, Hamilton), American Banker (1/18, Berry, Subscription Publication), the Los Angeles (CA) Times (1/18, Khouri), CBS Money Watch (1/18, Picchi) online, BuzzFeed (1/18, Hensley-Clancy), and The Week (1/18).
Charlotte School Of Law Rejects Agreement With ED Over Student Loans.
The Charlotte (NC) Observer (1/18, Gordon) reports the ED’s negotiations with Charlotte School of Law “over the return of millions of dollars in student loans” have broken down. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said Wednesday that his agency and the school “reached an agreement in principle that would have freed up some of the federal loan money in time for the planned start of classes Monday,” but Mitchell later said the school “has since rejected what it had previously accepted and has informed the Department that it will not be accepting the conditions set” under the prior agreement. Mitchell said that any new loans must be handled in a way “that does not create risk to taxpayers,” and “with an agreement now off the table, Mitchell said, the Charlotte students also don’t qualify for the full and partial tuition refunds available to those who attend a closed school.”
ED Says Technical Programming Error Inflated Data On Student Loan Repayment.
The Wall Street Journal (1/18, Fuller, Subscription Publication) reports that on Friday, the Education Department said that a technical programming error caused under-reporting of the number of students who have defaulted on their student loans, or who have failed to pay down their debt within seven years. The Journal’s analysis using the new numbers found that at least half of students at more than 1,000 US colleges and trade schools fell into one of those two categories. The Journal speculates on policy implications for student loan forgiveness in light of the new data.
UNC President Says Job Candidates Have Rejected NC Over Bathroom Bill.
The AP (1/18, Dalesio) features an interview with University of North Carolina President Margaret Spellings, who said that state’s “law limiting the legal protections of LGBT people has hampered the public universities that drive the state’s economic growth.” Spellings is paraphrased as asserting “recruited candidates have ruled out moving to North Carolina because of” House Bill 2, and “she’s unaware of any academic talent embracing a North Carolina move because of the law.” Spellings said, “We’re in a competitive world and our competitors have used this issue against us to some extent.” She added, “I know people have withdrawn their candidacy. But how many? To what effect? Were they not coming anyway? We’ll never know.” The AP notes, “A special legislative session last month to repeal HB2 fell apart and the law remains in place.”
Analysis: Momentum Builds For Colleges To Offer Money-Back Guarantees.
An analysis by U.S. News & World Report (1/18, Marcus) contributor “The Hechinger Report” asserts there is mounting pressure for colleges to offer money-back guarantees. Proposals being floated in the US Congress “would variously require or encourage institutions to assume part of the losses from loans on which their students default, warrant that their students will graduate within a given period of time, and pledge that their graduates will land jobs with salaries worth what they pay for their educations.” For example, one “bipartisan bill in Congress called for colleges to lose eligibility for their students to get federal loans altogether and cover some of the debt their students fail to repay if the proportion who default exceeds a certain level.”
WSJ Ranks Top 10 Small-Town And Rural Northeast Colleges.
The Wall Street Journal (1/18, Subscription Publication) features a list of its picks for the top 10 small-town and rural colleges in the northeast, which is led by Dartmouth, Williams, Middlebury, and Bowdoin.
Peco Energy Gives College Grant For Solar Equipment.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (1/18) reports Peco Energy on Thursday “will award Community College of Philadelphia a $10,000 grant for equipment to improve the study of solar energy analysis and energy‐saving strategies.” CCP said the grant will serve 150 students targeting STEM careers each semester.
Rising Prices For Meal Plans Help Drive Cost Of College.
The Hechinger Report (1/18, Mathewson) reports that meal plans at college are “helping drive the rising cost of higher education” with most colleges “charging students far more for each meal than the typical American spends to eat at home.” While the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated it costs a single person an average of $3,989 for food per year, colleges typically charge about $4,500 for eight months. Schools often look to meal plans as a way to bring in extra revenue when there is more pressure on restraining tuition increases. Many schools also require freshmen to live on campus and to buy an expensive meal plan, while older students may have some choice of plan.
Research and Development
Otherlab Details Its DARPA-Funded ICARUS Disposable UAV.
Digital Trends (1/18, Dormehl) reports that in an interview, Otherlab engineer Star Simpson discussed the company’s DARPA-funded disposable cardboard Inbound Controlled Air-Releasable Unrecoverable Systems (ICARUS) UAVs. The devices – which do not have engines – are designed to be released by a larger aircraft, glide to their destination with the aid of a mini computer’s guidance, and then biodegrade after delivering supplies. Simpson said, “We enable distributed delivery with precise landings, solving the ‘last leg’ problem for battlefield or low-infrastructure locations, and also reduce supply chain vulnerability in those cases.”
Engineering Company To Test Self-Driving Cars In India.
Next Web (1/18, Ghousal) reports Indian engineering company Tata Elxsi announced it will start testing its self-driving technology in Bangalore, India. Although the company doesn’t construct its own cars, Tata Elxsi said “it’s already started trials with two sedans at a facility on the edge of town with its custom kit consisting of LIDAR and radar, as well as cameras and sensors that feed data to a centralized processing stack.” Tata Elxsi would be the first to test autonomous technology in India and “hopes to eventually be able to offer manufacturers a platform that’s ready” for integration in the near future. Indian roads present unique challenges that companies like Google and Tesla have not yet faced, even in other developing countries. According to Next Web, “in India, lane discipline and pedestrian movement are wildly erratic,” which would probably overload autonomous vehicles’ sensors with data. Many Indian officials hope autonomous driving in the country could help reduce its exponential number of road fatalities.
US Army Seeks Proposals For Missile-Launched Weaponized UAVs.
New Scientist (1/18, Hambling) reports that the DOD in a new solicitation for design proposals details plans for “a missile that could shoot a swarm of weaponised drones over a target area.” Called “Cluster UAS Smart Munition for Missile Deployment,” the system would equip existing missiles with a set of “smart quadcopters” that “would unfold, decelerate and fly off under their own power to attack different locations,” enabling one missile to destroy multiple targets. The Pentagon recently demonstrated a “swarm” of Perdix UAVs released from F/A-18 fighter jets, and the missile-launch concept “takes the idea further.”
Women Studying Civil Engineering Up Nearly Seven Percent Since 2007, UCAS Data Show.
New Civil Engineer (UK) (1/18, McIntyre) reports UCAS data show the percent “of women starting civil engineering degrees has jumped” from 13.5 percent in 2007 to 20.3 percent in 2016. However, “the number of female students still remains below the 1,000 mark at 875 – the highest for any year in the reporting period.” Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) education and skills lead Stephanie Fernandes said, “It is welcome news to see more female students starting civil engineering degree programmes but much more needs to be done to ensure that students take up the hugely diverse and creative range of engineering jobs when they finish their studies.” Fernandes added, “Overall, the engineering profession needs to work together to get the message out that it is a great time to be an engineer: Demand far outstrips supply, salaries are rising and there are many exciting and cutting-edge career prospects for tomorrow’s engineers.”
Manpower CEO Optimistic Tech Can Help Women “Correct Workplace Gender Imbalances.”
CNBC (1/18, Gilchrist, Roth) reports online that ManpowerGroup CEO Jonas Prising told CNBC in a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, “Developments in technology can give women a chance to ‘leapfrog’ their male counterparts and correct workplace gender imbalances.” Prising pointed to “the ability of technology to improve efficiencies, facilitate learning and increase flexibility in the way we work,” which he said could “allow women to develop new skills and build on their typically higher education levels.”
SpaceX Internet Satellite Project Could Be Lucrative.
TIME (1/18, Kelleher) reports SpaceX is forging ahead with plans to launch new satellites, not allowing former rocket launch setbacks to interfere with longtime telecom goals to initiate Internet broadband by satellite. After investigating a September 2016 rocket explosion, SpaceX “launched a Falcon 9 on Jan. 14, deployed 10 satellites, and successfully re-docked the rocket booster at sea.” The new satellites are a part “of the 70 such units that SpaceX is putting into orbit for Iridium, which is upgrading its satellite network offering phone and Internet broadband service.” The commonly held goal is a costly, risky project, but some companies’ efforts are showing promise. HughesNet and Exede have launched semi-successful ventures, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hopes to “dwarf them all.” SpaceX filed an application in November with the FCC “to launch 4,425 satellites into orbits between 690 and 825 miles above the Earth.” Musk said the Internet project will take over five years and 10 billion dollars to achieve, but it could be highly profitable.
Australia’s AGL To Build $340 Million Wind Farm.
Reuters (1/19, Kaye) reports that AGL Energy Ltd, Australia’s No. 2 energy retailer, will build a $338 million “wind farm in the first construction project for a new renewable energy-focused fund, backed by the government.” Reuters explains that AGL “set up the $1 billion Powering Australian Renewables Fund (PARF) last year, with 80 percent of the equity provided by Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Future Fund, and Queensland state’s QIC.” Reuters says “the Australian arm of GE said it will supply 58 massive wind turbines for the project, and will work with engineering firm CATCON to build the wind farm.” AGL said that “once complete in 2018, the Silverton wind farm will generate about a fifth of the fund’s target of 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy, or 4 percent of the energy needed to meet the Australian government’s renewables target for 2020.”
Chinese CEOs Conclude Cooperation With US Companies Is The Best Way Forward.
Bloomberg News (1/18) reports that after meeting with senior executives of IBM, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., General Electric Co., and Cisco Systems Inc., in Davos, Switzerland, some of the 13 chief executive officers of Chinese state-owned enterprises concluded that “cooperation between Chinese and U.S. companies is the only way forward amid rising economic uncertainty and geopolitical risks.” Bloomberg adds that the “meeting came one day after Chinese President Xi Jinping urged global business and political elites to reject trade wars and protectionism, in his first public rebuttal of the policies advocated by incoming U.S. leader Donald Trump.”
Continued Coverage: South Korean Court Denies Prosecutors’ Application To Arrest Samsung’s Lee.
Bloomberg News (1/18, Lee, Kong) reports the Seoul Central District Court judge Cho Eui-yeon has denied prosecutors’ application to arrest Samsung’s Jay Y. Lee on alleged bribery, perjury, and embezzlement charges, saying that it is “difficult to acknowledge the necessity and justification for an arrest at this stage.” The Wall Street Journal (1/18, Jeong, Subscription Publication) reports prosecutors are disappointed with the court’s decision – indicating an arrest was consistent with the prosecutors’ assessment of the charges against Lee – but that they intend to continue the investigation without interruption.
The New York Times (1/18, Reuters, Subscription Publication) reports Lee had been detained overnight following his Wednesday meeting with special prosecutors to discuss his alleged involvement in the ongoing corruption scandal, and he was released following the court’s decision to deny the application for his arrest. According to Reuters (1/18), Samsung Group said in an emailed statement, “We appreciate the fact that the merits of this case can now be determined without the need for detention.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Trump Considers “Anti-intellectual” David Gelernter As Science Adviser.
The Washington Post (1/18, Kaplan) “Speaking of Science” blog reports President-elect Donald Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer indicated “computer scientist David Gelernter, a Yale University professor who has decried the influence of liberal intellectuals on college campuses, is being considered for the role of the Donald Trump’s science adviser,” reporting Gelernter “met with the president-elect at Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday.” The Post says “the leaders of some two dozen scientific societies sent a letter to the president-elect urging him to quickly appoint a science adviser and offering to meet with him to discuss science in the new administration,” but American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) CEO Rush Holt said that “letter was ‘noted’ by Trump’s transition team, but the group never received any other response.” The article highlights the peculiarity of Trump’s consideration of Gelernter, citing his lack of membership in scientific communities.
Army Allowed To Begin Environmental Study Of Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Hill (1/18, Henry) reports that US District Judge James Boasberg is allowing the US Army Corps of Engineers to begin a potentially lengthy environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline over objections from the developer Energy Transfer Partners. ETP had asked the judge to block an Environmental Impact Statement Review while its lawsuit over the project moves forward. The Army said on Wednesday that it began the process of assessing the pipeline’s impact on North Dakota’s environment.
The AP (1/18) reports the Energy Department said the study could take two years to complete. ETP asked Boasberg to rule on whether the company already has the necessary federal permissions to finish the last stretch of pipeline under Lake Oahe. The Army says that all necessary steps have not yet been completed, including an easement to work on federal land and the notification of Congress. The Army’s Federal Register notice said it is accepting public comments until February 20 on “potential issues, concerns and reasonable alternatives” for the project.
The AP (1/18) also reports that the arrests related to the protests over construction has surpassed 600. The Morton County Sheriff’s Office arrested 16 people on Monday and Tuesday in confrontations with police near the main encampment. Since August, 603 people have been arrested.
Chao Could Spur IT Spending At DOT.
Bloomberg Government (1/18, Criste) reports Transportation Secretary nominee Elaine Chao bolstered IT spending during her time as Labor Secretary during the George W. Bush Administration, and Bloomberg suggests a similar trend could happen when she takes over DOT. Chao spoke of the importance of working with the tech industry during her January 11 confirmation hearing in which she “she emphasized new technologies, including autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and drones, as well as the department’s responsibility to address the safety of citizens without dampening innovation.” However, Bloomberg does point out that DOT’s IT contract obligations are “more than twice the overall government’s share,” while Labor’s contract obligations were noticeably below the government average prior to Chao taking her post in 2001.
High School In Texas Offers Aerospace Engineering Program.
The AP (1/18) reports that at the Academy of Technology, Engineering, Math & Science (ATEMS) – which is part of the Abilene Independent School District in Abilene, Texas – “aerospace engineering, a subspecialty within the engineering track at the specialized high school…was launched this year.” The Challenger Learning Center, hosted by the TSTC campus in Waco, will also “host students from the Brownwood Independent School District in February.” The AP also notes “the school’s participation in the Texas High School Aerospace Scholars program.”
Participants In Florida Cyber Contest Represent Eight-Fold Boost In Participation History.
The Pensacola (FL) News Journal (1/18) reports, “When this year’s edition of CyberThon launches Friday at the National Naval Aviation Museum and National Flight Academy at Pensacola Naval Air Station, participants of the three-day cybersecurity event will represent a more than eightfold boost in the contest’s brief history.” Global Business Solutions CEO Randy Ramos “said the event’s growth signifies the rising prominence of cyber defense in Northwest Florida. He expects multiple economic players to continue collaborating in efforts such as CyberThon to nurture the region’s talent pipeline.” The News Journal adds, “In 2015, the event’s first year, 18 students participated, but Ramos expects about 146 students this weekend.”
DeVos-Founded Charter School Teaches Aviation Across The Curriculum.
The Detroit Free Press (1/18, Jesse) carries a story originally published June 29, 2014, on the West Michigan Aviation charter high school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which combines “aviation with a more traditional high school curriculum.” It makes use of “aviation across all content areas” to support its overall focus on STEM subjects. School CEO Patrick Cwayna said, “We can do so much for students because they are coming for a purpose.” It was founded by Dick DeVos, at the urging of his wife Betsy. The school is 22% female and 33% minority, and “DeVos is proud of the diversity at the school,” the article says.
Education Groups Promote Digital Tools To Aid Shift To Online Assessments.
Education Week (1/18) “Digital Education” blogger Leo Doran says, “Despite evidence that some students perform better on paper and pencil versions, and technical difficulties in some states online testing continues to grow in K-12. In response…education groups have released resources to help schools make the transition.” Doran notes that earlier this month, “CoSN, a consortium of ed tech school officials, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, and NSBA…jointly issued a report this month touting what they argue are the ‘direct benefits’ of online assessments.” The report’s release “coincided with the launch of online tools aimed at helping shepherd schools toward planning and executing a shift to online assessments.” The blog mentions that the NEA supports these online tools.
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Clemson University Receives $1.4 DOT Award For Research Into Traffic Elimination Technology.
• Nicolet College Selected For US Education Department Financial Aid Study.
• Rochester Institute Of Technology Professor Receives Grant To Increase Physics Graduate Program Diversity.
• Abu Dhabi Institute Signs MOU With Thales For UAV-Satellite Hybrid.
• Volvo Trucks Makes First Canadian Delivery Of 2017 Engines.
• Commentary Calls On Universities To Keep Federal Legislators Informed.
• Buffalo Elementary Propels Students To Future With VR Science Curriculum.
|Search Alert: 217 new results|
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|First 25 of 217 results|
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Velkovska, J., Xu, Q., Arenton, M.W., Barria, P., Cox, B., Goodell, J., Hirosky, R., Ledovskoy, A., Li, H., Neu, C., Sinthuprasith, T., Sun, X., Wang, Y., Wolfe, E., Xia, F., Clarke, C., Harr, R., Karchin, P.E., Lamichhane, P., Sturdy, J., Belknap, D.A., Dasu, S., Dodd, L., Duric, S., Gomber, B., Grothe, M., Herndon, M., Hervé, A., Klabbers, P., Lanaro, A., Levine, A., Long, K., Loveless, R., Ojalvo, I., Perry, T., Polese, G., Ruggles, T., Savin, A., Smith, N., Smith, W.H., Taylor, D., Woods, N.||2017||Physics Letters, Section B: Nuclear, Elementary Particle and High-Energy Physics ,
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Leading the News
Clemson University Receives $1.4 DOT Award For Research Into Traffic Elimination Technology.
WSPA-TV Greenville, SC (1/17, Hampton) reports that the Department of Transportation has awarded Clemson University $1.4 million which, in addition to a partnership with the DOT, will help the university “create accessible wireless technology for all cars and traffic signals.” Researchers at the university have developed a formula which teaches “a traffic signal hub to reason like a human.” Dr. Mashrur Chowdhury, professor of Civil Engineering, is quoted as saying, “Connected cars will lead to driverless cars. In order to make driverless cars affordable, we need to have this connectivity. … This can solve significant problems we are having in transportation. So, the primary purpose of these connected vehicles actually is to save lives.”
The Upstate Business Journal (SC) (1/17, Anderson) reports the university’s research “could ease traffic woes across South Carolina and beyond” using wireless technology which “enables vehicles to communicate with each other, pedestrians and infrastructure.” The university has said the $1.4 million from the DOT “will be used to establish the new Center for Connected Multimodal Mobility.” Dr. Chowhurdy will lead the center, which will also house “researchers from Benedict College, The Citadel, South Carolina State University and the University of South Carolina.”
Nicolet College Selected For US Education Department Financial Aid Study.
The Lakeland (WI) Times (1/17, Leighty) reports the US Department of Election selected Nicolet College to “participate in a national experiment which focuses on reducing student loan debt.” The goal of the study, according to Nicolet College Director of Financial Aid Jill Price, is to have students remain aware of their increasing debt as they progress through college. The control group in the study will receive financial aid like how students currently receive it: by going through “an entrance or exit counseling session with no additional interviews required while in school.” The experimental group “will be required to receive some form of additional counseling regarding their loans while in school,” which can include “face-to-face sessions with the school’s financial aid department or online tools through the school or US Department of Education.”
CFPB: Older Americans Owe Nearly $67 Billion In Student Loans.
Correspondent Jo Ling Kent of NBC Nightly News (1/17, story 9, 2:00, Holt) reported Americans over the age of 60 owe nearly $67 billion in student loans and 40 percent of people over 65 are in default on those loans, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Furthermore, two-thirds of the student loan debt that Americans over 60 owe are for the benefit of their children’s or grandchildren’s educations. Kent said experts recommended contributing money over time into a 529 plan for grandchildren’s education and understand that by co-signing a student loan, “you’re responsible for paying it” and “the government may garnish your social security check.”
Hawaii Offers College-Course Pathway For High Schoolers Interested In Engineering.
THE Journal (1/17, Schaffhauser) reports the Hawaii Department of Education signed an agreement with the University of Hawaii at Manoa to create a “course pathway for high schoolers interested in engineering.” By passing two high school engineering technology classes developed to “track along with the course objectives covered by the university’s entry-level engineering courses,” students that are admitted to the university will be granted immediate entry into the engineering major. The article mentions other areas that make up Hawaii’s CTE program “cover arts and communication, business, health, natural resources and public and human services.”
Presidents Of New York Private Colleges Argue For Expanding Tuition Assistance Program.
Anthony G. Collins, president of Clarkson University, Cathy S. Dove, president of Paul Smith’s College, and William L. Fox, president of St. Lawrence University, advocate for expanding New York’s existing Tuition Assistance Program in the Watertown (NY) Daily Times (1/17, Collins, Dove, Fox) because it would “more effectively leverage taxpayer investments to ensure affordable access to education for New York’s college-bound students from a range of incomes.” The authors say Gov. Cuomo’s recently introduced Excelsior Scholarship proposal provides welcome “national attention on New York’s higher education assets,” but government policy “that artificially shifts enrollment growth to public colleges and universities doesn’t make the ongoing investment to taxpayers more affordable.” Expanding TAP “makes good fiscal sense for New Yorkers since private colleges and universities deliver a highly cost-efficient education.”
Research and Development
Rochester Institute Of Technology Professor Receives Grant To Increase Physics Graduate Program Diversity.
On its website, WXXI-AM Rochester, NY (1/17, Gorbman) reports the National Science Foundation granted Rochester Institute of Technology associate professor Casey Miller $428,000 to increase diversity and completion rates in the physics Ph. D. program. Casey will use the grant to increase participation and retention rates of traditionally underrepresented groups, such as women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, in the institution’s physics graduate program.
Researchers Develop Strong, Flexible Hybrid Spider Silk.
LiveScience (1/17, Ghose) reports the journal Nature Chemical Biology published a paper on Jan. 9 in which researchers described a synthetic spider silk with properties similar to real spider silk and capable of production on a mass scale. To overcome shortcomings in previous attempts, including one funded by the National Science Foundation in 2010, the researchers replicated conditions found in a spider’s silk glands and discovered different species created silk proteins of various pH levels that determine whether the silk dissolves. The researchers developed a hybrid spider silk gene dubbed NT2RepCT, “a completely new protein that combined” solubility and a high sensitivity to pH, the two “best properties” of different spider species.
NYU School Of Engineering Hosts Kid Inventors’ Day.
WPIX-TV New York (1/17, Mateo) reports on its website that MakerSpace of New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering recently hosted Kid Inventors’ Day. At the event, students from across the nation showcased the designs they created with Autodesk’s Tinkercad software. Midwood High School students involved in Tandon’s K12 STEM Education Center introduced “ICM,” a mechanism to help students increase their self esteem.
Research Finds Venus “Gravity Wave” Could Be Largest In Solar System.
Business Insider (1/17) reports that in a study published in the journal Natural Geoscience on Monday, Japanese researchers detailed Venus’ “stationary gravity wave” phenomena after studying images taken by JAXA’s Akatsuki spacecraft, which photographed the anomaly “for the first time in infrared light” in 2015. The researchers’ work “implies that it’s far bigger than similar waves seen on Earth and Mars, making it ‘perhaps the greatest ever observed in the solar system.’” While some have disputed whether the gravity wave goes as high into the atmosphere as the findings suggest, “most scientists Business Insider spoke to say the gravity does appear to reach that high – and that current models of the climate on Venus can’t account for the anomaly.”
Abu Dhabi Institute Signs MOU With Thales For UAV-Satellite Hybrid.
Arabian Aerospace (1/17) reports that Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute of Science and Technology “has signed a memorandum of understanding with Thales/Thales Alenia Space and French engineering university MINES ParisTech to develop applications for the Stratobus drone-satellite hybrid airship.” Under the agreement, “Masdar Institute work to develop Stratobus environmental applications for the UAE.” Jean-Philippe Chessel, Stratobus business line product manager, said he believes the partnership “will result in the development of many useful applications.”
Volvo Trucks Makes First Canadian Delivery Of 2017 Engines.
Fleet Owner (1/17) reports that Volvo Trucks North America “recently delivered 19 D13-powered Volvo VNL 300 models to Ontario-based Purolator, marking the first Canadian delivery of trucks equipped with Volvo’s new 2017 engines.” Jeff Lester, senior vice president of sales at Volvo Trucks North America, is quoted saying: “Our 2017 engines offer several engineering enhancements to deliver significant fuel savings. … And we were able to do it without sacrificing power or performance, a win-win for our customers.”
Op-ed: Self-driving Vehicles Will Benefit Field Service Organizations.
Gill Devine, VP Western Europe at cloud-based aftermarket service software provider, Syncron, writes at Automotive Logistics (1/17) that “autonomous vehicles will do much for road safety but their benefits will extend far beyond this, with particular gains for businesses managing fleets of mobile service engineers.” She points out that “self-driving vehicles may limit liability for field service organisations – something that is always a significant concern and cost for them.” She also says they could “help boost vehicle and service engineer performance.” Meanwhile, “when it comes to field service applications, driverless vehicles would mean technicians could multitask – something they clearly cannot do safely behind the wheel today.” She concedes that there are some hurdles. For example, “companies using driverless vehicles will have to deal with regular updates…as the technology becomes more advanced.” However, she says it’s clear “that self-driving vehicles offer exciting benefits for the future of field service.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Commentary Calls On Universities To Keep Federal Legislators Informed.
In commentary for Wired (1/11), Justin Talbot-Zorn, a Truman National Security Fellow and public policy consultant, and Sridhar Kota, the Herrick professor of engineering at the University of Michigan, write that as a part of federal lawmakers’ budget-cutting initiatives, a number of expert advisers and programs have been let go or disbanded. The “so-called Congressional lobotomy has increasingly serious consequences,” but the nation’s “unrivaled” and top-ranked universities can provide lawmakers’ with much-needed advising services so that federal legislators are kept informed. Wired suggested a variety of ways that universities can assist not only federal lawmakers, but also legislators at the state and local level, and usher in “a new model of intellectual partnership with policymakers.”
Group Aims To Get More Scientists Involved In Politics.
The Washington Post (1/17, Kaplan) reports “STEM the Divide” seeks to get more scientists involved in politics. The initiative, “which officially launches Tuesday, was set up by the political action committee 314 Action.” The group “says its goal is to connect people with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math to the expertise and funds needed to run a successful campaign.” Founder Shaughnessy Naughton says the project is partially motivated by worry over the election of Donald Trump, “noting that the president-elect and some of his Cabinet picks dispute the scientific consensus on climate change, vaccines and other issues.”
ETP Tries To Block Environmental Study Of Dakota Access Pipeline.
The AP (1/17, Nicholson) reports Energy Transfer Partners is asking U.S. District Judge James Boasberg to block the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from launching a full environmental study of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. ETP wants the study put on hold until the government rules whether ETP already has the necessary permission to lay pipe under Lake Oahe. ETP wants the decision on permitting to be “free from the risk that its ruling will be frustrated or thwarted by new governmental actions.” An environmental assessment conducted by the Corps last year found that the Oahe crossing would not have significant environmental effects, but Assistant Army Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said that a broader environmental impact statement was warranted.
Poll Finds Americans Want EPA To Remain Strong Regulator Under Trump.
Reuters (1/17, Kahn) reports that more than 60 percent of Americans would like for the “powers” of the EPA to be “preserved or strengthened under incoming President Donald Trump, and the drilling of oil on public lands to hold steady or drop, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.” The findings of the poll “could foretell stronger-than-expected public opposition to Trump’s plans to boost energy development by slashing environmental regulations.”
California Lags In Climate Change Fight Amid Nuclear Plant Closures.
The New York Times (1/17, Porter, Subscription Publication) reports even California, a state at the “forefront” of the fight against climate change, “is far from providing the leadership needed in the battle against climate change” as it has become “distracted by the competing objective of shuttering nuclear plants that still produce over a fifth of its zero-carbon power.” The article reports that if California had not shuttered the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and the Rancho Seco nuclear generation station, combined with “the never-built Sundesert nuclear plant in the Mojave Desert and three planned-but-not-built units at Diablo Canyon,” it “would add a total of 77,000 gigawatt-hours of zero-carbon power to California’s supply.” In that case, “only 27 percent of the power produced in California would come from fossil sources…as opposed to 66 percent today.” The article expresses concern that, amid nuclear plant closures across the U.S., it appears “that the battle against climate change has, once again, been relegated to the back seat.”
DOE Moving Forward With New Pool Pump Efficiency Rules.
The Hill (1/17, Devaney) reports the Energy Department is going ahead “with new efficiency rules for dedicated-purpose pool pumps.” The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE announced yesterday “new energy conservation standards for these pool pumps that would cost industry more than $35 million to comply.” The new standards “would reduce energy consumption by more than 60 percent for pool pumps, which the agency estimates could help consumers save as much as $24 billion on their energy bills over the next three decades.” The new rule will go “into effect in 120 days.”
LIPA Plans Vote On Offshore Wind Project.
The AP (1/17) reports LIPA is set to vote this month on a plan to construct a 90-megawatt, 15-turbine offshore wind farm that “would be the largest offshore wind project built to date” in the US. The AP notes that “plans are also underway for a wind farm that would feature as many as 194 turbines in a 127-square-mile section south of Jones Beach,” but the proposal “still faces legal challenges.”
University To Install New Biomass Boiler.
The AP (1/17) reports the University of Illinois Energy Farm will install a biomass boiler from Germany that will “release fewer carbon-dioxide emissions and use perennial grasses grown on the university’s energy farm to produce heat.” The project is “a test system that could possibly power other parts of campus or east-central Illinois farms in the future” and forms part of the university’s Climate Action Plan
New York Town Considering Solar Guidance.
The Buffalo (NY) News (1/17) report Grand Island officials are considering rules to boost local solar projects. Grand Island Supervisor Nathan McMurray said developers seeking to invest in area projects have sought a local law to set the guidelines. “The law specifically applies to free-standing, ground-mounted or pole-mounted solar energy collectors.”
Buffalo Elementary Propels Students To Future With VR Science Curriculum.
The Quad-City (IA) Times (1/17, Baker) reports the introduction of virtual reality (VR) technology into classrooms at Buffalo Elementary School, the first in the country to incorporate the technology into the Next Generation Standards Science Curriculum for grades 5-8. Davenport Community Schools Superintendent Art Tate is eager to prepare students for the future through innovation: “We can’t sit still and let these students get behind.” Victory VR owner Steve Grubbs, whose business will produce the 23 VR units for the Davenport curriculum, explained three benefits of the technology: reduced distraction, realistic transportation of students to area of study, and improved instructor explanation to captivate student interest.
New Houston Aviation High School Gains Own Hangar.
According to the AP (1/17, Webb), Houston’s Sterling Aviation High School is the only American secondary school to have its own private airplane hangar, which measures 7,100 square feet and is to house two single-engine planes, flight simulators, and 17 engines. According to Houston independent School District (HISD) leaders, the on-site hangar was necessary to prevent the school, open January 4, from being beholden to aviation companies. Said Sterling principal Justin Fuentes, “We wanted something sustainable. When we’ve partnered with businesses in the past, some have ended up failing and we’d get cut off.” Commenting on the HISD funding source Fuente commented, “I think it’s important, the neighborhood needs something great. Former bonds have come and gone, and not much has changed around here. We’re the farthest-south school in HISD, and you get the assumption that it’s forgotten. But this proves HISD and the city care. Now, this is a showpiece in the neighborhood that elevates the whole area.”
Also in the News
Cuomo Pushes For Consolidated Pre-K Programs.
POLITICO New York (1/17) reports New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed merging the state’s pre-Kindergarten programs under plans announced in his State of the State book of legislative priorities released last week. State Education Department data show there are “seven programs (one is federal) and seats for nearly 120,000 full-day or half-day students.” Cuomo has also called for another $5 million “to expand pre-K programs across the state, with preference given to high-need districts with no current program.” New York State Association of School Business Officials executive director Michael Borges called Cuomo’s proposal “a positive step in the right direction” and said the consolidation “eventually will provide a more streamlined, efficient way to deliver pre-K that’s easier to manage and monitor.”
Schaumburg Community Consolidated School District 54 Receives Meritorious Budget Award.
The Chicago Tribune (1/17) reports in its “Schaumburg” section that School District 54 received a Meritorious Budget Award from the Association of School Business Officials International for its 2016-17 annual budget. The award is “conferred only to school systems that have met or exceeded the Meritorious Budget Award Program criteria.” This is the school district’s 20th consecutive year receiving the award.
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• EPA Finalizes Vehicle Fuel Standards Ahead Of Obama’s Last Week In Office.
• Education Department Approves $655 Million In Debt Relief For Defrauded Students.
• University Of Nebraska Researchers Studying Making Military Gates More Secure.
• Nissan Will Begin Self-Driving Tests In London Next Month.
• Supreme Court To Hear Case On Venue For Challenging Obama’s Clean Water Rule.
• Skateboarding Duo Introduces Students To Physics, Safety.
|IOP Publishing begins double-blind peer-review trial on two of its materials and biophysics/engineering journals|
IOP Publishing, the publishing company of the Institute of Physics, will start offering authors the choice of single or double-blind peer review on two of its materials and biophysics/engineering journals. As part of a commitment to engage closely with research communities and meet researchers’ future needs, IOP Publishing is experimenting with different peer review models.
|American College of Cardiology and HighWire Press expand partnership|
Scholarly publishing company HighWire Press and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) have announced the re-launch of ACC’s journal program on a tailor-built version of HighWire’s industry leading platform solution, JCore. The new ACC publishing platform allows readers around the world and ACC’s 52,000 member physicians, surgeons, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists and practice managers to find the content they need quickly, read it comfortably on nearly any device, and share content of interest with their colleagues.
|FIZ Karlsruhe partners with Scipat Benelux to translate Asian patent documents into English|
FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz Institute for Information Infrastructure has announced a partnership with Scipat Benelux B.V., a translation service specialised in patent and business translations, in order to provide FIZ AutoDoc customers with high-quality translations of patent documents. FIZ AutoDoc is FIZ Karlsruhe’s document delivery service.
|Cambridge University Press’ new project to improve discoverability of library resources|
Academic publisher Cambridge University Press has reportedly embarked on a huge project to improve the discoverability of resources and ensure that the MARC (MAchine-readable cataloging) records across all eBooks are impeccable. A MARC record is the bibliographic record a library needs for their online catalogues – the online description of a resource, coded according to a specific format. Once a MARC record is uploaded in a library catalogue users are able to find it and have access to the resource described within.
|Endocrine Society unveils first OA journal – Journal of the Endocrine Society|
The Endocrine Society has unveiled the first issue of its Open Access scholarly publication the Journal of the Endocrine Society (JES), marking the first time the Society has introduced a new journal under its ownership in nearly 30 years. Endocrine Society Past-President Dr. J. Larry Jameson, will serve as the journal’s first Editor-in-Chief.
|eLife announces new collaborations to simplify submission for authors|
eLife, the non-profit initiative inspired by research funders and led by scientists, is integrating new authoring tools into its submission system to give authors more choice about how they submit their work. eLife is now working with Overleaf, Manuscripts.app, PubRef and, most recently, Authorea, to allow authors to write and submit research to the journal as quickly and easily as possible.
Leading the News
EPA Finalizes Vehicle Fuel Standards Ahead Of Obama’s Last Week In Office.
On Friday, the EPA finalized its fuel-economy rules for the auto industry through 2025, solidifying one of the Administration’s central programs to reduce greenhouse emissions but also sparking outcry from the industry, which wanted more time for the rules to be implemented.
The New York Times (1/13, Vlasic, Subscription Publication) reported the EPA decision “was not unexpected,” but automakers say “it will most likely make it more difficult for a Trump administration to dial it back.” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, however, has pointed out that the industry can improve fuel economy without dramatically raising prices for consumers.
The Wall Street Journal (1/13, Harder, Spector, Subscription Publication) reported the final decision calls for car companies to sell light vehicles with an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, which translates to around 40 miles per gallon in real-world conditions. The auto industry will likely lobby for a reprieve. Environmental advocates, on the other hand, celebrated the step toward better fuel efficiency.
The Washington Post (1/13, Mufson) reported “the standards would result in a fleetwide average fuel economy sticker values of 36 miles a gallon by the model year 2025, 10 miles a gallon higher than the current fleet average.” NHTSA still has to put out its own “five-year plan by 2018 or 2019” for the rule, which could pose a couple regulatory speed bumps for the rule, “but NHTSA has agreed with EPA assessments over the past few months and altering its conclusion could be difficult.”
USA Today (1/13, Snavely, Woodyard) reported NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind “said earlier this week that his agency, which oversees fuel economy regulations, will not complete its review of regulations before president-elect Donald Trump takes office.”
The AP (1/13, Krisher, Biesecker) reported EPA “completed a required midterm review of Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards” back in November “and decided they should not be relaxed as requested by the auto industry.”
The Detroit Free Press (1/13, Snavely) reported industry group the Auto Alliance stated “The EPA decision is disappointing. Our fundamental priority remains striking the right balance to continue fuel economy gains and carbon reduction without compromising consumer affordability and vital auto-sector jobs.”
Education Department Approves $655 Million In Debt Relief For Defrauded Students.
The Wall Street Journal (1/13, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports the Department of Education on Friday announced that it approved erasure of more than $655 million in student loan debts from those claiming to have been defrauded by Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes. The Journal says 28,000 claims have been resolved with $558 million in relief offered to former Corinthian Colleges students, while 6,300 claims amounting to $97 million in relief have been offered so far to former ITT Technical Institutes students.
The Washington Post (1/13, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that on Friday ED “announced the automatic cancellation of $30 million in federal student loans held by 4,500 people who attended American Career Institute,” a shuttered career college that had campuses in Maryland and Massachusetts. The piece explains that the school admitted to having made “false and misleading representations to students, misstated job placement rates and employed instructors who were unauthorized to teach.” The piece reports Sen. Elizabeth Warren hailed the move, noting that she “has urged Education Secretary John B. King Jr. to automatically cancel the federal debt of students facing some form of debt collection as a result of borrowing to attend Corinthian Colleges.”
Inside Higher Ed (1/16) reports that the loan discharges are “part of a major push to provide loan relief to students that began with the closure of Corinthian Colleges two years ago.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (1/13) characterizes the move as “a shift from how the department has so far granted relief to defrauded borrowers, requiring them to apply for it.” This piece quotes Under Secretary Ted Mitchell saying, “This is real progress. And more work remains to ensure that relief continues for borrowers who are deceived by institutions that engage in fraud.”
University Of Louisville Faces Possible Loss Of Accreditation.
The Washington Post (1/13, Douglas-Gabriel, Higdon) reports Belle Wheelan, the head of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, sent a letter to University of Louisville acting president Neville G. Pinto this week in which she clarified that the agency sanctioned the institution because Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has “considerable external control and influence” that “places in jeopardy board capacity to be ultimately responsible for providing a sound education program.” The Post notes that in June, Bevin issued a controversial executive order reorganizing the university’s governing board. Bevin appointed a new 13-member panel and indicated that he will fill 10 of the seats to “give a fresh start” to the school. The state’s attorney general, Andy Beshear, filed a lawsuit against the unilateral decision; however, recently-approved legislation could render the lawsuit moot. Meanwhile, the University of Louisville risks losing its accreditation along with federal student aid program participation and NCAA membership.
CFPB: Number Of Older Americans With Student Debt Rising Sharply.
The Washington Post (1/16, Bhattarai) reports that according to new data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “the number of older Americans taking on student debt on behalf of their children and grandchildren has quadrupled in the past decade.” Student loan consumers over 60 years of age now hold some $66.7 billion in student debt.
Research and Development
University Of Nebraska Researchers Studying Making Military Gates More Secure.
The Omaha (NE) World-Herald (1/15) reports that University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineering professors are studying how to make the gates of military bases more secure. The piece reports that the DOD’s “Transportation Command in Illinois has awarded a series of research contracts totaling $4.3 million to the Omaha-based National Strategic Research Institute to study safety and security at military entrance gates.” The professors are conducting the research at the Nebraska Transportation Center in Lincoln, where they are studying “traffic devices such as signs, barriers, speed bumps and humps, and pop-up barricades, and how drivers react to them.”
Army Developing Concept Designs For Next-Generation Tanks.
National Interest (1/13) reported that the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) is developing “design concepts for various super high-tech tank platforms” envisioned for the 2030s and beyond. Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, detailed the plans in an exclusive interview. While the upgraded v4 Abrams tank has made many improvements over the first iteration of the system, “there are limits to how much the existing Abrams platform can be upgraded.” Basset said the next-generation tank will be lighter weight, more high-tech, able to me integrated with unmanned platforms, and sport an “open-architecture such that it can quickly accommodate new technologies as they emerge.” Indeed, developers with General Dynamics Land Systems said the coordination with remote platforms “was already being worked on for current and future tanks. “
Renault Trucks Develops 3D Metal Printing Process For Size, Weight Benefits.
UK Haulier News (1/16) reports on a metal 3D printing process being developed by Renault Trucks. “The Renault Trucks Lyon Powertrain Engineering department has focused on using metal additive manufacturing as a future engine manufacturing process. As a result a prototype DTI 5 4- cylinder Euro-6 step C engine has been designed exclusively using 3D printing,” UK Haulier reports. Damien Lemasson, project manager at Renault Trucks, is quoted saying: “The aim of this project is to demonstrate the positive impact of metal additive manufacturing on the size and weight of an engine. This process has enabled us to reduce the weight of a 4-cylinder engine by 120 kg or 25 percent. … The tests we have carried out prove the durability of engine components made using 3D printing. It’s not just cosmetic.” Behind the Wheel (AUS) (1/16, Richards) also reports on the Renault Trucks project.
German Researchers Test Future Mars Rover System.
Quartz (1/15, Olsen) reported that German researchers are testing a next-generation Mars rover system in Utah, choosing the state for its landscape that is similar to the red planet’s. In an area near Hanksville last November, the Robotics Innovation Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) – with operators controlling the system from Germany – worked out “kinks on a novel system that combines a hybrid walking-and-driving rover called SherpaTT with an adorable micro-rover called Coyote III.”
Nissan Will Begin Self-Driving Tests In London Next Month.
Reuters (1/13) reported Nissan will begin testing self-driving cars in London, with the company preparing a modified version of its compact electric LEAF car to operate in the city next month. Nissan’s Europe Chairman Paul Willcox said of its plans for the UK “With future models secured and cutting-edge innovation being developed right here in the UK, we’re looking forward to a strong future of designing, engineering and manufacturing in the country for customers right across the world.” Reuters also notes the UK has been encouraging “the development and testing of autonomous driving technology,” to gain influence in an industry expected to “be worth around 900 billion pounds ($1.1 trillion) by 2025.”
TechCrunch (1/13, Etherington) reported the London trials will be Nissan’s “first European trials on public roads,” with the company expecting to bring “a fully autonomous driving system in production vehicles by 2020.” The company’s current Piloted Drive technology will have “a single-lane, highway-only version that will be included on vehicles including a Qashqai SUV set for release next year in Europe,” with a “multi-lane highway autonomous mode” expected for 2018.
Engineering and Public Policy
Supreme Court To Hear Case On Venue For Challenging Obama’s Clean Water Rule.
The Hill (1/13, Cama) reports the Supreme Court will hear a case about “the fight over the proper federal court venue for challenging” President Obama’s Clean Water Rule. Industry groups argue that “lower district courts should first hear the challenges.” The piece notes that the ruling “may soon become moot, since President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office in a week, has pledged to repeal the regulation at issue.”
Six Volkswagen Executives Indicted, More Charges Possible.
The New York Times (1/13, Ewing, Subscription Publication) reports that more criminal charges could be pending in the Volkswagen emissions scandal, which saw the indictments of six executives on Wednesday. According to the Times, court documents identify a “‘Supervisor B,’ who overruled nervous subordinates and told them to develop the illegal software” and an ‘“Attorney A,’ who, as regulators closed in, urged co-workers to destroy any emails that mentioned the ‘acoustic function,’” neither of whom were included in the six indictments this week. According to the article, Volkswagen’s $20 billion settlement payment “is unlikely to be the end of the story.”
Meanwhile, Reuters (1/13, Poltz, Cremer) reports that the company’s senior managers “have been warned not to travel to the United States, legal and company sources told Reuters,” following the six indictments. According to Reuters, “German citizens can be extradited only to other European Union countries or to an international court,” but traveling outside of Germany can expose them to the risk of extradition to the US from a third country.
EPA Will Not Pay Economic Damages From Colorado Mine Spill.
The AP (1/13, Elliott) reports the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday announced it would not repay $1.2 billion in claims for economic damages related to a “mine waste spill the agency accidentally triggered in Colorado.” Attorneys for the EPA and the Justice Department have concluded that “the EPA is barred from paying the claims because of sovereign immunity, which prohibits most lawsuits against the government.” The EPA, however, noted the claims could be refiled and payments could be authorized by Congress.
PHMSA Passes New Pipeline Safety Rule.
Reuters (1/13, Kumar) reports the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration “passed a rule to boost safety requirements on the country’s oil and refined products pipelines” on Friday. The rule requires “operators to have a system for detecting leaks and to establish a timeline for inspecting affected pipelines following an extreme weather event or natural disaster.” The AP (1/13, Brown) reports the new rule is a “scaled back” version, noting that “an earlier proposal for companies to immediately repair cracks and other problems in their lines was dropped.”
California To Deploy Battery Storage Facilities After 2015 Aliso Canyon Gas Leak.
The New York Times (1/14, Cardwell, Krauss, Subscription Publication) reports that in response to the Aliso Canyon gas leak, California utilities turned to batteries as a replacement technology for energy storage. Engineers in the state “have brought three energy-storage sites close to completion to begin serving the Southern California electric grid within the next month.” One of the facilities, the “largest of its kind in the world,…represents the most crucial test yet of an energy-storage technology that many experts see as fundamental to a clean-energy future.” If successful, the project “could provide the proof-of-concept” for a larger expansion of the technology.
Southern California Gas Company Looks To Reopen Aliso Canyon Store Facility After 2015 Leak. The New York Times (1/14, Cardwell, Subscription Publication) reports that the Southern California Gas Company wants to reopen the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility after a 2015 leak that caused an “environmental crisis in Southern California with far-reaching repercussions.” Residents, “environmentalists and some officials, are fighting to keep it shut.” The piece goes on to profile some residents, noting that “effects of the fumes on residents varied widely.”
WSJournal Urges Incoming Administration To Halt Funding Of California Bullet Train.
In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal (1/16, Subscription Publication) calls on Transportation Secretary-designate Elaine Chao to terminate federal cash advances to California’s proposed 500-mile bullet train on grounds that the Federal Railroad Administration expects the 118-mile Central Valley segment to cost 50 percent over budget and the California High-Speed Rail Authority to miss several deadlines. Furthermore, the Central Valley segment’s construction was expected to be simpler compared to construction in urban areas and straightforward compared to construction through the Tehachapi mountains.
Engineering Company’s Report Suggests Higher Costs For Getting Flint Water Plant Operational.
MLive (MI) (1/16, Fonger) says a draft report from engineering and construction company CDM Smith appears to be the source of the recent rumors that the expected cost of getting Flint, Michigan’s water treatment plant operational plan will be higher than previous estimates and that the timeframe for completion is longer than expected. According to MLive, “The estimates raise new questions about who would pay for $105 million in recommended upgrades contained in the report and for the millions more that would be needed to continue purchases of pre-treated water for as long as three more years,” when previous estimates placed a completion date somewhere in the second quarter of 2017.
Natural Gas Surpassed Coal As Primary Energy Source Last Year.
Fuel Fix (TX) (1/16) reports that according to an Energy Department analysis, the use of natural gas has “surpassed coal as a main source of electricity in the U.S. in 2016, the first time that a fuel other than coal has supplied the bulk of the nation’s power.” DOE “has long predicted that natural gas would surpass coal as natural gas prices” dropped “to their lowest since 1999.” Natural gas generated just over one-third “of the country’s electricity, while coal generated 30 percent.” However, “that balance is expected to shift in 2017 as natural gas prices recover.” In 2017, natural gas and coal “are each expected to generate about 32 percent of the nation’s electricity.” The Houston Chronicle (1/16) also carries this story.
Houston Coal Plant Makes Use Of Carbon-Capture Tech.
In a contribution to USA Today (1/15, Loveless), energy reporter Bill Loveless discussed the completion of NRG Energy’s Petra Nova carbon-capture facility in Texas. He also points out that Mississippi Power’s clean-coal project is expected to come online soon, and said “the two projects appear to offer a glimmer of hope to advocates of U.S. coal, including President-elect Donald Trump.”
Skateboarding Duo Introduces Students To Physics, Safety.
The AP (1/16) reports skateboarding scientists and Wondergy presenters Tom Veech and Even Breder visit schools across the nation in an effort to introduce students to physics as well as skateboarding safety. “You’ve got to make sure good habits like wearing a helmet at all times are developed early on,” Veech explained. For older students, Veech and Breder explain how various concepts of physics can help them become better skaters.
Iowa School District Addresses Computer Science Gender Gap With Middle School Programs.
The AP (1/15) reports on Iowa’s Council Bluffs School District and its efforts to encourage female students to pursue a STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, curriculum and careers in the male-dominated computer science field. The district’s secondary education director, Jason Plourde, told the AP that because of middle school-level “exploratories” courses in computer science, “more girls are opting into classes that were traditionally only offered at the high school and thus, male-dominated.” Computer science teacher Denise Hoag commented, “If we change the misconception that computer science is boring then maybe more girls would be interested in taking it.”
New York School District Launches STEM-Centered Curriculum.
The Utica (NY) Observer Dispatch (1/16, Sorrell-White) reports the Herkimer Center School District in New York renovated the elementary school’s library and remodeled its junior high/senior high school media center in the summer as part of its broader capital project. The renovations prepared schools for the launch of a district-wide STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program. Herkimer Elementary School media center teacher Leah Peyton confirmed, “STEM is definitely going to play a huge role in education here on out.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• EPA Says Fiat Chrysler Installed Emissions Cheating Software In Diesel Trucks.
• UNC Charlotte Considering Law School Given Charlotte School Of Law Problems.
• Wearable Sensors May One Day Help Detect Illnesses, Research Suggests.
• Trump Team Considers Overhaul Of H1B Visas.
• Giuliani To Advise Trump Administration On Cybersecurity.
• Detroit To Host 2018 FIRST Robotics Global Championship.
Leading the News
EPA Says Fiat Chrysler Installed Emissions Cheating Software In Diesel Trucks.
The Washington Post (1/12, Overly, Dennis) reports that the EPA on Thursday accused Fiat Chrysler of installing software that enables the 2014 to 2016 model year Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokees with 3.0-liter diesel engines “to emit far more pollutants than emissions laws allow.” According to agency officials “the allegations affect roughly 104,000 vehicles.” Kris Van Cleave reported in the lead story for the CBS Evening News (1/12, lead story, 2:15, Pelley) that the allegations “are similar to those leveled at Volkswagen,” which agreed Wednesday “to plead guilty to three felony counts for its use of software that circumvented US emission standards.” The case “has cost VW at least $20 billion and prompted additional EPA scrutiny of diesel vehicles, leading to today’s action against Fiat-Chrysler.” While NBC Nightly News (1/12, story 10, 0:25, Holt) said Fiat Chrysler “rejects comparisons to Volkswagen,” the Wall Street Journal (1/12, Dawson, Spector, Subscription Publication) reports that EPA said the violations could cost Fiat Chrysler $4.63 billion, based on a penalty of $44,539 for each vehicle.
According to the EPA, USA Today (1/12, Bomey) reports, the company “installed eight different undisclosed software programs on the vehicles that collectively caused them to spew harmful nitrous oxide emissions, which can exacerbate breathing conditions.” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said, “This is a clear and serious violation of the Clean Air Act.” The New York Times (1/12, Tabuchi, Subscription Publication) says that while Giles “stopped short of calling the software ‘defeat devices,’ which Volkswagen used to cheat on diesel emissions tests,” she “said there was no doubt that Fiat Chrysler’s software ‘is contributing to illegal pollution.’” Reuters (1/12, Shepardson) quotes California Air Resource Board chair Mary Nichols as saying, “Once again, a major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules and got caught.”
The Los Angeles Times (1/12) says Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne denied the allegations, arguing that the agency “was blowing the issue out of proportion.” Speaking in a conference call Thursday, Marchionne said, “We have done, in our view, nothing that is illegal. … We will defend our behavior in the right environment.” While Marchionne “said company lawyers told him the Justice Department is investigating the company in concert with the EPA, raising the likelihood of an ongoing criminal investigation,” the company “said it intends to present its case to the incoming Trump administration.” ABC World News Tonight (1/12, story 8, 0:25, Muir) briefly reported on the EPA’s allegations Thursday evening.
UNC Charlotte Considering Law School Given Charlotte School Of Law Problems.
The Charlotte (NC) Observer (1/12) reports that UNC Charlotte Chancellor Phil Dubois said this week that the ongoing problems that are threatening to shutter the Charlotte School of Law mean UNC Charlotte may be in a position to launch its own law school. He said he will “reopen discussions of a UNCC law program next month during the school’s board of trustees meeting.” The piece notes that ED recently cut off Charlotte School of Law from Federal student aid over “systemic problems with admissions, curriculum, bar examination test scores and job placement.”
Mitchell Delivers Farewell Remarks.
Politico Morning Education (1/12) reports Under Secretary Ted Mitchell delivered his farewell address yesterday, focusing on “how higher education can help address the nation’s economic challenges, and he’ll also call for it to be made ‘easier, cheaper, and quicker, while ensuring quality.’” The piece quotes Mitchell saying in his prepared remarks, “The crucial challenge we share is to keep extending the quality of higher education – for all Americans — in a world in which all really needs to mean all. The fates of our students, our economy and our democracy depend on this vital work.”
Texas Higher Education Officials Largely Mum On Transgender Bathroom Bill.
Inside Higher Ed (1/12) reports that college officials in Texas “have been mostly silent” on a “controversial” bill to “restrict bathroom use by transgender individuals on public campuses, even as the law could override existing policies and conflict with federal guidance.” The bill “is similar to North Carolina’s widely protested ‘bathroom bill,’” the piece reports, noting that it “would require state agencies, including higher education agencies, to put policies in place restricting transgender people’s use of multiple-occupancy bathrooms and changing facilities except as consistent with their biological gender assigned at birth.”
Accreditor Says Governor’s Replacement Of Board Led To University Of Louisville Probation.
WFPL-FM Louisville, KY (1/11) reports that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges said this week that it placed the University of Louisville on probation because “actions by Gov. Matt Bevin to dissolve U of L’s previous board of trustees and replace it with new members of his choosing violated its standards of independence.” The statement from the agency “does not address whether a new law approved by the General Assembly in support of Bevin’s changes would solve the problems,” nor whether academics played a role in the decision.
Research and Development
Wearable Sensors May One Day Help Detect Illnesses, Research Suggests.
TIME (1/12, Sifferlin) reports, “By equipping 60 people with several activity monitors,” investigators “collected close to 2 billion measurements, including heart rate, sleep, fitness, weight, skin temperature and blood oxygen levels.” With this data, “they showed it is possible to identify abnormal changes in a person’s typical vital signs, which could signal a change in their health.”
The AP (1/12, Neergaard) reports, for instance, the researchers “detected variations in heart rate patterns that could tell the difference between study participants with…insulin resistance” and healthy individuals. The AP points out that “interest in wearable sensors is growing along with efforts to personalize medicine.” Also covering the story are Scientific American (1/12, Weintraub) and HealthDay (1/12, Dotinga).
Tech Firms Moving To Fund Broadband Satellite Constellations.
The Seattle Times (1/12) reports that over a decade ago, a push to “provide global telecommunications service through massive satellite constellations” fell through, “doomed by runaway costs.” Now, a similar plan is being pushed by “deep-pocketed investors” and such firms as SpaceX, OneWeb, Boeing, and Facebook, who “plan to blanket the Earth in the next few years with perhaps thousands of miniature satellites beaming cheap, ubiquitous broadband service.” The piece explains that costs have plummeted because “launching one of these smaller satellites can cost a fraction of the price for a larger, school-bus-sized satellite.” Moreover, demand for internet access in remote areas has increased. If successful, the push “could pose a challenge to a $224.6 billion industry dominated by telecom and cable companies with their miles of fiber-optic and copper wires.”
Facebook Job Postings Hint At Brain Interface R&D.
Mashable (1/12) reports that a number of Facebook job postings suggest that the firm is working on research projects that “sound something like mind reading.” The postings include “brain-computer interface engineer,” “haptics engineer,” and “neural imaging engineer.” The piece reports that such employees “will work in partnerships with universities, so Facebook won’t be developing mind reading technology entirely on its own.”
Smartphone Use May Not Significantly Increase Electromagnetic Interference In Patients With Pacemakers, ICDS.
Healio (1/12, Reist) reports that research indicated “smartphone use did not significantly increase electromagnetic interference in” individuals “with pacemakers or implantable cardioverter defibrillators.” The findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. To view the full JACC article, click here .
ASU, Honeywell Opening New 3D-Printing Facility.
3D Printing Industry (1/11, Clarke) reported Arizona State University is opening a 15,000 square foot facility that “will use 3D printing machines for a wide range of research and prototyping purposes.” The article says the facility will be the largest of its kind in the Southwest. The University has partnered with Concept Laser, Honeywell Aerospace, and Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies “in order to establish the facility,” which will be “officially opened later this month” and “features over $2 million worth of 3D printers, with Concept Laser providing M2 cusing and Mlab cusing machines.”
NASA To Purchase Earth Science Data From Smallsat Companies.
Space News (1/11, Subscription Publication) reported that on Tuesday, NASA Earth System Science Pathfinder Program Office Deputy Program Director Christina Moats-Xavier said the agency “is ready to move ahead with plans to purchase Earth science data from commercial smallsat companies” following a request for information (RFI) to companies in July. “The data they are collecting is relevant to our Earth science research goals,” she said during a meeting of Earth science subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council’s science committee
Trump Team Considers Overhaul Of H1B Visas.
Reuters (1/12, Rosenberg, Nellis, Stephenson) reports that “President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has been actively considering ways to revamp a temporary visa program used to bring foreign workers to the United States to fill high-skilled jobs.” Reuters explains that “possibilities for reforming the distribution of H-1B visas, which are used largely by the tech industry, were discussed at a meeting last month with chief executives of tech companies at Trump Tower.” Trump senior policy adviser Stephen Miller reportedly “proposed scrapping the existing lottery system used to award the visas” with a replacement system favoring “visa petitions for jobs that pay the highest salaries.” Reuters says “H-1B visas are intended for foreign nationals in ‘specialty’ occupations that generally require higher education, which according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) includes, but is not limited to, scientists, engineers or computer programmers.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Giuliani To Advise Trump Administration On Cybersecurity.
The Boston Globe (1/12, Hernandez) reports in a brief item that Rudy Giuliani “will indeed have a place in the incoming administration,” with the Trump transition team announcing on Thursday that Giuliani “will share ‘his expertise and insight as a trusted friend concerning private sector cyber security problems and emerging solutions.’” It was not clear “whether Giuliani was receiving a permanent position.”
The New York Times (1/12, Shear, Subscription Publication) writes under the headline “Rudy Giuliani’s Cybersecurity Role Reflects Diminished Place In Trump World” that it once appeared that Giuliani might be nominate for secretary of state or attorney general, and the announcement of the cybersecurity role “reflected how far Mr. Giuliani had fallen in the Trump universe.”
USA Today (1/12, Jackson) reports Giuliani “‘was asked to initiate this process because of his long and very successful government career in law enforcement and his now sixteen years of work providing security solutions in the private sector,’ the Trump transition team said.”
CNN (1/12, De Vries, Scott) reports, “Giuliani said he would be responsible for finding corporate leaders and setting up meetings with Trump, likening such a meeting to a doctor bringing together cancer researchers in a single room.” Giuliani is quoted saying, “There’s an awful lot of research going on. It’s going to be my job to bring these people to the President so they can share their problems and solutions.”
CIO Magazine (1/12, Greene) reports, “Giuliani, who announced his own appointment as Trump’s cyber adviser, did not say who would be invited to the meetings or when the first would be held.” NPR (1/12, Naylor) reports, “It’s not clear exactly what Giuliani’s title will be, and whether he will be paid for his advice.”
The Washington Times (1/12, Sherfinski) reports, “Mr. Giuliani said he’s retaining his roles as head of cybersecurity at the firm Greenberg Traurig and as head of his Giuliani Partners security consulting company.” Another Politico (1/12, Dawsey, Arnsdorf) article says Giuliani’s new role “could provide a financial windfall for the former New York City mayor’s consulting firm and legal practice, creating a potential conflict of interest that won’t be subject to federal ethics laws.” Giuliani “said he will not resign from those roles, even as he becomes a special adviser to the president-elect on these issues.”
Judge Orders EPA TO Hasten Assessment Of Coal Job Impacts.
The AP (1/12, Raby) reports that a federal judge has ordered the EPA “to quickly evaluate how many power plant and coal mining jobs are lost because of air pollution regulations.” McCarthy had responded to the judge’s previous order in a lawsuit brought by Murray Energy “that the EPA must start doing an analysis that it hadn’t done in decades.” According to Wednesday’s order, McCarthy asserted it would take the EPA up to two years to devise a methodology to comply with the earlier ruling, a response US District Judge John Preston Bailey called “wholly insufficient, unacceptable, and unnecessary.”
Atlantic Coast Pipeline Files Revised Applications To Cross Virginia Conservation Easements.
The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch (1/12, Martz) reports the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has filed revised applications “to cross 10 properties protected by state conservation easements in western Virginia, setting up a potentially precedent-setting decision by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation early next month.” The article reports “the revised applications would reduce the direct impact on lands under conservation easement by 13 acres under a waiver provision” and “allows the foundation to accept easements on land of greater value in exchange for allowing encroachments on existing easements granted by landowners to protect properties with high scenic and ecological value.” Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby said the Atlantic Coast Pipeline considers the revised applications “an appropriate and fair offer to offset the limited impact of the crossings.” Ruby added, “We believe it’s an even more generous offer.”
USDA Report Says Ethanol Better For Environment Than Expected.
Reuters (1/12, Prentice) reports the US Department of Agriculture said on Thursday that ethanol made from corn is better for the environment than expected. The report says that the biofuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent relative to gasoline, significantly more than the previous EPA estimate of 21 percent. USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the “report provides evidence that corn ethanol can be a GHG-friendly alternative to fossil fuels, while boosting farm economies.”
Detroit To Host 2018 FIRST Robotics Global Championship.
WXYZ-TV Detroit (1/12) reports Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder celebrated “the arrival of the FIRST Robotics Global Championship to Detroit in 2018.” FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) “alumni are twice as likely to major in science or engineering, and more than 75% are in a STEM job or education program,” even as “STEM occupations are growing 1.7 times faster than non-STEM careers.”
Texas Elementary School Joins STEAM Town USA Initiative.
The Houston Chronicle (1/12, Bradley) reports the STEAM Town USA initiative of the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce seeks “to inspire young girls to learn and pursue education in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.” Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District’s Moore Elementary School is joining the program.
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• FDA Partners With IBM Watson Health To Study How Health Providers Might Use Blockchain Technology.
• Ashland University Receives National Science Foundation Scholarship Grant.
• NSF Considers Reducing Funding For Arecibo Observatory.
• Taiwan’s NARLabs Displays Typhoon-Monitoring UAS.
• Participants At AIAA Panel Discuss Aerospace Industry Role In Geoengineering.
• Interior Report Indicates Changes To Coal Program.
• Camacho: Teaching Our Kids About Technology Will Secure Our Economic Future.
|George Mason University partners with Wiley for online graduate programs|
Publisher John Wiley and Sons, Inc. and George Mason University have entered into a 10-year agreement that will expand the scope of George Mason’s online graduate programs and strengthen the university’s commitment to providing transformative educational opportunities for working adults and non-traditional students. Mason’s partnership with Wiley is critical to the university’s efforts to answer a growing demand for online educational options.
|CMAJ editors announce new vision protecting editorial independence|
The editors of Canada’s major medical journal, CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), recently announced a new vision they hope will chart a new beginning for the century-old publication. In an editorial published in the journal, the editors say that a new mission, vision and robust governance structure, and strong support from its association will allow the journal to grow and develop.
|Future Science Group unveils Journal of 3D Printing in Medicine|
Publisher Future Science Group (FSG) has announced the launch of the Journal of 3D Printing in Medicine, a new peer-reviewed online and print publication dedicated to addressing all aspects of medical 3D printing. The journal is the latest addition to the internationally recognized Future Medicine portfolio and is supported by a multidisciplinary, international editorial board comprising leading researchers and opinion leaders from academia and industry.
|JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions names Dr. David J. Moliterno as new Editor-in-Chief|
The American College of Cardiology has named Dr. David J. Moliterno as the new editor-in-chief of JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions. JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions covers the entire field of interventional cardiovascular medicine and is ranked among the top ten cardiovascular journals for its scientific impact. He succeeds Dr. Spencer B. King III who has served as editor-in-chief of the journal since its launch in 2008.
|PatientPoint and the American Heart Association collaborate to improve heart health education at the point of care|
PatientPoint® has announced a collaboration with the American Heart Association, the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organisation dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke, to help educate patients and physicians on heart health and stroke prevention at the point of care. PatientPoint will utilise its network of more than 290,000 healthcare providers to share American Heart Association public service announcements and educational content.
|Reprints Desk appoints Raj Vaghela as Product Lead for next generation SaaS platform|
Research Solutions, Inc., a pioneer in providing cloud-based solutions for scientific research, has appointed Raj Vaghela to Director of Product Management for its wholly-owned subsidiary Reprints Desk. The company simplifies how organisations procure, access, manage, use, and legally share scholarly journal articles and other content in scientific, technical, and medical (STM) research.