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Leading the News

Manned Spaceflight Programs, Planetary Science Mission Winners In Proposed Budget.

Florida Today  (12/10, King) continues coverage of the omnibus spending bill Congress could pass today, which gives NASA $500 million more than it requested. Most of that increase was for the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion capsule. Rep. Lamar Smith said, “The SLS and Orion are receiving the resources they need to ensure their success.” the bill also removed the requirement that Commercial Crew Program participants submit “certified cost and pricing data” as Sen. Richard Shelby wanted. While the Commercial Crew’s budget is still “short” when compared to what the Administration requested, Congress gave it $805 million, its highest budget so far.

The Pasadena (CA) Star-News  (12/10, Vuong) notes that under the bill, NASA would get “substantial funding” for a proposed mission to Europa with a budget increased from $16 million to $118 million. Rep. Adam Schiff said, “This is great news for JPL and great news for planetary science. We’ve got very strong funding for Mars 2020 and Europa. … We’ve got very strong support from Democrats and Republicans, and it will allow us to keep what will be the dream team of science together. That is the dream team of JPL that knows how to pull off the most extraordinary missions and make the miraculous appear routine.” Barry Goldstein, pre-project manager for the Europa Clipper mission concept at JPL, said the mission could be approved for development as soon as next year. Goldstein said, “Europa is quite probably the most exciting place to visit in the solar system relative to its potential to harboring life and the reason is the vast amount of water on it. … Scientists believe there is at least twice as much water on Europa as there is on Earth.”

Space News  (12/10, Foust, Subscription Publication), in listing how each of NASA’s directorates fared, reports that several parts of NASA’s budget had “only minimal changes” from the Administration’s request.

According to Science Magazine’s Science Insider  (12/10, Hand), NASA received “a boatload of money for its science programs,” with the “big winner” being the planetary science division.

The Los Angeles Times  (12/11, Khan), New Orleans Times-Picayune  (12/10, Alpert) and Parabolic Arc  (12/10, Messier) also cover the story.

Higher Education

Warren Seeks Forgiveness Of Corinthian Students’ Debt.

The Washington Post  (12/10, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Senate Democrats called on the Department of Education to “forgive the debt of thousands of students who attended the failing for-profit giant Corinthian Colleges, following the controversial sale of the school’s campuses to a student loan debt collector.” The Post says that lawmakers and others have “been critical of the $24 million deal last month allowing ECMC Group, which collects student debt for the government, to run more than half of Corinthian’s 107 campuses.”

The Huffington Post  (12/11, Nasiripour) reports that the Senators “urged the Obama administration to forgive debts incurred by thousands of current and former students at troubled for-profit schools owned by Corinthian Colleges Inc.” The piece notes that the Senators argued that students’ loans should be forgiven because “federal and state authorities have accused the company of duping students into taking out loans by advertising false job placement rates, and federal law enables borrowers to have their loans discharged if their schools misled them into taking out federal student loans.” However, this position is “at odds with the U.S. Department of Education, which has generally sought to limit the amount of debt it forgives for students at troubled colleges.” The Post notes that if Duncan agrees, “borrowers would have state attorneys general and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to thank.”

The Wall Street Journal  (12/11, Zibel), Inside Higher Ed  (12/11), and The Street  (12/11) also cover this story.

Johns Hopkins Professor Suggests Three Year Bachelor’s.

The Los Angeles Times  (12/11, Song) reports that Johns Hopkins University professor Paul Weinstein has suggested in the Progressive Policy Institute shortening bachelor’s degrees from four to three years, which would cut costs at public schools on average from $35,572 to $26,679 at 2013 tuition rates. The article notes that a few schools have implemented three year bachelor’s degrees, 22 private colleges in the last five years, but that they are rare. California Governor Jerry Brown has voiced support for the idea, and a University of California panel has suggested exploring the idea, though never attempted to implement it. Weinstein notes that colleges that do reduce their time-line to three years would potentially be seen as less prestigious. The article also states that according to a 2014 study, only 19 to 36 percent of public college students finish their BA within 4 years.

Rhode Island’s Governor-Elect To Simplify College Savings Program.

The Charlotte (NC) Observer  (12/10, McDermott) reports that Gina Raimondo, governor-elect of Rhode Island, plans to simplify the enrollment procedure for a 2010 program that gives $100 in college savings to children born in-state, noting that only some 400 have been enrolled since the program was enacted. Only Maine, Nevada, and Rhode Island have state-sponsored college savings programs. The article notes that there is no direct taxpayer burden, as investment management company AllianceBernstein is under contract to provide the funds. AllianceBernstein’s managing director noted that 97 percent of enrolled families subsequently invested more of their own money in the accounts.

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November Prism Online – Now Open to Public
The cover story, “Corporate Blinders,” presents an engineering ethics case study.

Research and Development

Code Generator Protecting Nukes Could Protect IT Equipment.

Government Computer News  (12/10, Rockwell) reports that the intrinsic use control (IUC), which controls access to America’s nuclear weapons by generating codes based on their radiation fields, may be usable to protect other technologies. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist and engineer Mark Hart says that this technology makes replicating the code significantly more difficult, and that “the random process of nuclear radioactive decay is the gold standard of random number generators.” Embedding such encryption keys in IT equipment during manufacturing, similar to the process used in protecting the nuclear weapons, could “better secure the supply chain” and even prevent counterfeiting or tampering.

ESA, SESAR JU Working To Increase Aircraft Tracking.

Avionics Today  (12/10, Van Wagenen, Henry) reported that the ESA and the EU’s Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) program “are teaming up” to take “steps to boost efficiency in worldwide aircraft tracking, capacity and management through satellite-based communications.” ESA’s Iris program aimed “to overlay the satellite-based system with the current Very High Frequency ground-based communications that may become overloaded in the future,” and “aspires to open up channels to data links and ATM operations not currently widely available, and unlock aircraft tracking in four dimensions (latitude, longitude, altitude and time), known as 4-D trajectory management, by 2018.”

NASA Developing Biodegradable UAV.

CNN  (12/10, Shadbolt) reports on the biodegradable UAV “that combines mushroom fibers and cloned paper wasp spit” being developed by NASA. NASA’s Lynn Rothschild, a member of the Earth Science group, said, “Periodically, UAVs get lost – for example on coral reefs or in other sensitive habitats. … As I started to hear about this, I thought, ‘Well, wouldn’t it be useful if the UAV was biodegradable, so if it crashed somewhere that was sensitive, it wouldn’t matter if it dissolved.” The article notes some of the challenges encountered so far, like making “sensors from modified E. coli bacteria” and ensuring that a crashed vehicle “does not infect the environment.” Rothschild added, “If you have living organisms acting as biosensors and the plane crashes, there certainly could be problems as the plane interacts with the environment. Hopefully people could think of this in advance, and design such that this never becomes a problem.”


Jury Rules In Favor Of Raytheon In Wrongful Termination Civil Lawsuit.

The Orange County (CA) Register  (12/10, Emery) “The Blotter” blog reports that an Orange County Superior Court jury ruled in favor of Raytheon Tuesday, deciding that former engineer Nagui Mankaruse was not discriminated against when the company let him go. Mankaruse had accused the company of terminating him for being “too old and sick,” also claiming co-workers harassed him over his accent and English language skills, but Raytheon denied the allegations. According to the article, it took the jury 40 minutes of deliberation to come to an unanimous decision.

Industry News

Leidos Engineering To Expand Presence In Hawaii.

The Pacific Business News  (12/10, Shimogawa, Subscription Publication) reports that Leidos Engineering is expanding its presence in the state of Hawaii. The company announced Wednesday that it is opening another office in Honolulu “to serve the state’s growing utility markets.” The office will support a number of utility and electric grid services and projects, “including transmission and distribution planning, engineering for utility substations, communication systems, transmission and distribution lines, power generation facilities, utility, renewables and energy storage consulting.”

IBM, Apple Release First Wave Of Mobile Apps For Business.

IBM and Apple unveiled their first jointly developed mobile applications aimed at business customers on Wednesday, generating a large amount of positive media coverage in print and online.

The AP  (12/10) reports that the two companies revealed ten “business-oriented programs for Apple’s popular iPhones and iPads.” The article goes on to say that the new apps include “specialized programs for airline pilots, bankers, insurance agents, sales clerks and government case workers.” The Wall Street Journal  (12/10, Clark, Subscription Publication) adds that the new apps also include specialized programs for law enforcement and retail.

Maribel Lopez, the principal of Lopez Research, touted the products during an interview with Bloomberg News  (12/10, Higgins, Barinka), saying, “People are looking for the magic. … The magic is there, but I’m not sure people will see it because it looks so simple and easy.” According to Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president of IBM global business services, both companies “are already working with 50 corporations to create applications for Apple mobile devices.” She said more apps are expected to be available early next year.

Mashable  (12/10, Ulanoff) reports that the companies released 10 apps that “work directly with IBM’s industry-centric analytics and cloud-based services.”

Wired  (12/10, Alba) reports that Citi, Air Canada, and Sprint will be among the first clients to use the apps.

USA Today  (12/10, Molina), the Wall Street Journal  (12/10, Norton) “CIO Journal” blog, the New York Times  (12/10, Lohr) “Bits” blog, Popular Mechanics  (12/10, Price), and PC World  (12/10, McGarry), among numerous other tech outlets, also cover this story.

Bloomberg TV  (12/10) has a nearly 30-minute video of “Jeff Lawson, chief executive officer and co-founder of Twilio, Rory O’Neill, marketing director of Samsung Mobile Europe, David Quantrell, a senior vice president at Box, and Jon Wrennall, chief technology officer for the U.K. and Ireland at Fujitsu,” discussing the mobile enterprise market at the Bloomberg Enterprise Technology Summit in London.

Engineering and Public Policy

EPA Likely To Miss Deadline On Climate Rule.

Politico  (12/11, Martinson) reports that the Administration is “on the verge of missing its January deadline for finishing a landmark regulation in the president’s climate agenda.” Supporters argue the delay “doesn’t imperil the effort,” but it “comes just as a hostile GOP is about to take control of the Senate.” The EPA is supposed to complete the regulation by January 8, “aimed at throttling carbon pollution from future power plants, but people closely following the rule think the agency could miss that date by months.”

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (12/11, Cramer, Subscription Publication), Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) writes that the opposition to the President’s Clean Power Plan has so far focused primarily on its costs. However, he says that a pair of recent studies suggest that it could also put the long-term reliability of the US electricity grid at risk.-ND

EPA May Miss January Deadline For Power Plant Rules.

Politico  (12/11, Martinson) reports the EPA “is on the verge of missing its January deadline for finishing a landmark regulation in the president’s climate agenda.” The agency “has a Jan. 8 legal deadline to finish the regulation, aimed at throttling carbon pollution from future power plants,” but those watching the rule closely “think the agency could miss that date by months.” The EPA hasn’t even yet “submitted the rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review, a process that normally takes 30 to 90 days.” In September, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was asked by the House Energy and Commerce Committee “to hand over a broad swath of documents and communications between his agency and EPA on implementation of the law.” Charlotte Baker, committee spokeswoman, “said this week that the committee has received initial documents from DOE and will review them before making them public.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Raytheon Grants Support STEM Curriculum Implementation, Professional Development.

CNN’s Money  (12/11) reports Raytheon is awarding 36 $2,500 Engineering is Elementary Scholarships to teachers in disadvantaged, rural, or inner city schools, to implement the EiE curriculum developed by Museum of Science, Boston’s National Center for Technological Literacy. The curriculum has won awards and already reached 71,000 teachers and 6.2 million students; Ratheon has awarded nearly 100 teacher scholarships through its $1 million EiE grant to the museum. The piece features a list of this year’s recipients.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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