Leading the News
EPA Chief Will Not Appear At Congressional Hearing On Colorado Spill.
The Washington Times (9/4, Richardson) reports the House Science, Space and Technology Committee said Thursday it will hold the first congressional hearing into the Environmental Protection Agency’s Animas River spill, but Administrator McCarthy will not testify. The Times notes that Chairman Lamar Smith “had called” on McCarthy to testify, “but her name was not on the list” of those appearing. Mathy Stanislaus, the assistant administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, “will represent the agency.”
WSJournal: Mine Leak, Clean Water Rule Highlight Problems With EPA. A Wall Street Journal (9/4, Subscription Publication) editorial highlights the Colorado mine leak and a Federal judge’s criticism of the Clean Water Rule as evidence of problems in the way the EPA makes decisions. The Journal says that while the Administration wants broad powers to take action as it relates to the environment, the White House can not be trusted to possess that type of unchecked regulatory authority.
Engineering Deans Vow To Promote Diversity.
Diverse Education (9/4) reports that the recent White House Demo Day “provided a platform for leading technology companies, such as Pinterest, and investors to showcase their commitment to diversity.” Meanwhile, the engineering deans of 102 schools “made public a national pledge to increase diversity among engineering students by building a more representative student pipeline.” University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, the chair of the American Society for Engineering Education’s Engineering Deans Council diversity committee, “said the diversity pledge represents a leadership push on the part of engineering educators to reinvigorate their efforts at diversifying the engineering profession.”
Special Master: Over 3,000 Former Corinthian Students’ Loans Have Been Forgiven.
The Chronicle of Higher Education (9/4) reports that Joseph A. Smith, the special master overseeing the efforts to provide debt relief for former students of the defunct Corinthian Colleges Inc., released a report on Thursday indicating that over 3,000 of the students “have had their student loans forgiven by the U.S. Department of Education to date, at a cost of $40 million to taxpayers.” The report indicates that nearly 8,000 have applied for relief, and 4,140 “students at Corinthian Colleges Inc. and other colleges have filed ‘borrower defense’ claims seeking to have their debts discharged on the grounds that they had been defrauded by the institutions.” The article notes that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell “said equity concerns were ‘one of the key reasons’ the department had begun a rule-making process to clarify how borrowers who believe they were defrauded can have their debts forgiven.” Mitchell is quoted saying, “There is a fundamental inequity in basing this around state laws, and we’re going to be looking for ways to remedy this as we regulate.”
The AP (9/4) reports that this group of students is “the first wave of debt relief tied to the collapse of the for-profit higher education chain,” noting that the total taxpayer cost could reach $3.2 billion. The AP reports that nearly 12,000 Corinthian students have asked for ED to discharge their loans, and reports that Mitchell “said processing remaining claims will take some time.” Mitchell is quoted saying, “Borrowers and taxpayers are counting on us to get this right.”
The Washington Post (9/4, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that relief for many Corinthian students may still be a long way off, and that ED said that “it will take several months before the government forgives the federal student loans of borrowers who believe they were defrauded” by Corinthian. Some students are considering suing ED to seek “collective debt relief.” The Post quotes Mitchell saying, “Creating a new system to handle thousands of claims will take a little time … we know borrowers and taxpayers are counting on us.” The Post describes the “defense to repayment claim” process, noting that it is uncommon and “widely considered to be complicated and difficult to navigate.”
Research and Development
NSF Awards $6 Million Grant To Rhode Island Professor To Research Brain Function.
The Providence (RI) Business News (9/4) reports the National Science Foundation has awarded a $6 million grant to University of Rhode Island professor Walt Besio to “show how the nervous system functions in health and disease.” Besio will work with colleagues from Kentucky and Oklahoma to conduct the research by imaging and recording brain function to better understand and develop treatments for neurological diseases like epilepsy and Parkinson’s. The Providence (RI) Journal (9/3, Arditi) adds that Besio will be aided by University of Rhode Island assistant professors Stephen Kennedy and Kunal Mankodiya as well as doctoral and post-doctoral researchers. The research could lead to alternatives to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for diagnosis and treatment of neurological diseases.
Program Run By NIST, FBI Looking Into Potential Of Contactless Fingerprinting Devices.
FierceGovernmentIT (9/4, Walker) reports that the Biometric Center of Excellence, a “program jointly run by the FBI and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is researching the potential of contactless fingerprinting devices that would allow biometric reading simply by showing one’s hand rather than placing it directly on a scanner.” In short, NIST says the researchers are working with “contactless fingerprint devices from MorphoTrak and 3M Company, but it’s looking to further expand its Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA, partners.”
Nanosatellites Make Space Research Less Costly, More Accessible.
The Science Business (9/4, Kelly) reports that nanosatellites have opened up space research by reducing the launch cost, which typically served as the main impediment to space exploration. For example, with nanosatellites, students at Aalto University in Finland are now putting together the country’s first satellite. The article notes that the low cost of nanosatellites have led to the rise of small satellite developers and manufacturers all around Europe.
Effort Aims To Address Low Number Of Blacks In Tech Industry.
The New York Times (9/4, Brown, Subscription Publication) reports on the “multitude of grass-roots efforts that have sprung up recently to address” the “scarcity of African-Americans in the tech industry.” The Times notes that data released by “giant tech companies…showed how overwhelmingly tilted the population of tech workers is to white males,” and “the low number of African-American tech workers is particularly acute.”
Ex-Tesla Engineer Indicted In Leak Of Confidential Company Information.
The Los Angeles Times (9/4, Masunaga) reports on a Federal indictment against 28-year-old Canadian citizen Nima Kalbasi, a former Tesla Motors Inc. engineer who “posted confidential company information on a public website and released employee evaluations to other workers, information he obtained after gaining unauthorized access to his former manager’s email account,” according to the indictment. The US attorney’s computer hacking unit is said to be leading the prosecution.
Reuters (9/3, Sage, Levine) notes that Kalbasi is charged with two counts of felony computer intrusion and one count of misdemeanor computer intrusion, which come with maximum sentences of five years incarceration and one year incarceration, respectively. The FBI is quoted as stating on Thursday that Kalbasi “tried to harm Tesla’s reputation and credibility by making false and misleading comments.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Environmental, Health And Civil Rights Groups Unite In Support Of Ozone Proposal.
The Hill (9/4, Henry) reports that a coalition comprised of environmental and health organizations, as well as the NAACP, has come together in support of a rule to set new limits on surface level ozone, which is currently under review by the Obama Administration. According to the NAACP, the proposal to limit ozone is not only a health and environmental issue but a justice issue as well, as African Americans communities are often located in areas where smog pollution is worst.
Opinion: EPA’s Clean Power Plan Will Kill US Energy Renaissance.
Writing in the “Congress Blog” for The Hill (9/4, Mamula) Ned Marmula, an adjunct scholar at Cato Institute, argues that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan will severely undermine the current renaissance in the oil and natural gas sector. According to Marmula, renewable sources championed by the EPA are too expensive and unreliable at this stage to effectively meet US energy needs.
Wind Industry Hopes To Cut Bat Killings.
The Hill (9/4, Cama) reports the wind industry is “slowing down their turbines this fall in an effort to dramatically reduce the number of bats the blades kill.” The American Wind Energy Association is hoping that by “reducing the speed of turbines to between one and three revolutions per minute during bats’ top migrating season,” it will “eliminate 30 percent of the bat killings that would happen this year.” The strategy, if successful, “could take a big bite out of one of the top criticisms of wind power: that its fast-moving blades kill wildlife such as birds and bats.”
Sixth-Grade Science Teachers Spend Week With NASA Scientists.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (9/4, Joyner) reports that sixth-grade science teachers from DeKalb will spend a week participating in experiments with NASA scientists in California, as part of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy program, which gives educators a chance to observe and participate in high-level experiments.
Scientist Hopes To Awaken Youth Interest In Science.
NPR (9/3) reports at its “NprEd” blog that Ainissa Ramirez, an award-winning scientist and self-described “science evangelist,” has turned the focus of her lectures to STEM education and hopes to encourage an interest in science among youth. The piece notes that Ramirez says that as a young girl, she “knew she wanted to be a scientist, but she says there weren’t many, if any, African-American scientists for her to imagine herself as.”
California Testing Out New Science Standards With “Early Implementer” Districts.
EdSource (9/2, Levin) reports 10 California school districts are trying out the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) this school year under the California K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative introduces a new curriculum and way of teaching science to elementary and middle school students. Educators hope the “early implementer” districts can share lessons they learn about the new curriculum with other districts before the new standards are implemented statewide. NGSS, sometimes compared to Common Core standards, has only been adopted by 15 states.
Two Illinois Schools Selected To Pilot After-School STEM Program.
The La Grange (IL) News (9/3) reports the Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora, Illinois has developed an after-school program called Fusion that teaches students STEM skills. Dora Phillips, the director of statewide educator initiatives for the math and science academy, said students will learn how to tackle tough problems by building roller coasters or designing a car for a hamster and in the process learn more about STEM subjects. La Grange-Countryside Elementary District 105 and Western Springs Elementary District 101 were both selected to pilot the program.
Facebook Teams With Silicon Valley Charter Network On Individualized Learning Software.
The New York Times (9/3, Goel, Rich, Subscription Publication) reports Facebook announced a partnership with Summit Public Schools, a charter school network in Silicon Valley, to develop “software that schools can use to help children learn at their own pace.” Facebook executives and Summit leaders say their goal is to give children more control over their learning so that they can get the lessons and exercises that are best for their own needs.
Girls Who Code Founder Gives Keynote At Women’s Business Development Center Conference In Chicago.
The Chicago Tribune (9/3, Elahi) reports the founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani, gave the keynote address at the Women’s Business Development Center conference in Chicago this week. Saujani said, “There’s no question that technology spurs innovation. In the digital age it has transformed our workforce. To leave women out of this growth is really, really shameful.” Saujani said that only a small percentage of computer science jobs that will open up in the next few years will be filled by women and encouraged conference attendees to help change that by encouraging young girls to learn how to code.
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• As Obama Concludes Visit To Alaska, Environmentalists Slam Drilling Decision.