Leading the News
Native Americans Protesting In North Dakota In Hopes Of Halting Major Oil Pipeline.
The Los Angeles Times (8/27, Yardley) reports Native Americans across the US have been arriving “at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers” in order “to protest what they say is one indignity too many in a history that has included extermination and exploitation.” The efforts center around the 1,100-mile, $3.7 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline that would “could carry more than 400,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the Bakken region of western North Dakota” to existing pipelines, a project that the lawyers for the Standing Rock Sioux “say” would “damage ancestral sites of the Standing Rock Sioux and put the tribe’s water supply at risk.” The Times states that Judge James A. Boasberg of United States District Court is currently deciding on whether “to stop construction” of the Energy Transfer Partners’ pipeline project “and reconsider permits the project has received.”
AP Profiles Native Americans Protesting The Dakota Access Pipeline. The AP (8/27, Macpherson) profiles some of the “Native Americans from reservations hundreds of miles away from North Dakota” that have traveled to the North Dakota and “joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s growing protest against” the Dakota Access pipeline that is set to stretch across Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota. The actions of the protesters, who say the project “could disturb sacred sites and impact drinking water for 8,000 tribal members and millions further downstream,” has led to about 30 arrests and a temporary stop in construction.
Study Suggests Biofuels Could Hurt Environment More Than Gasoline. The Christian Science Monitor (8/27, Lindsay) examines whether biofuels are more environmentally friendly than gasoline following a study by the University of Michigan Energy Institute (UMEI) has found that “corn ethanol and biodiesel biofuels may be more environmentally damaging than petroleum gasoline.” While the study found that the quick growth of corn and soybean crop used in biofuels means they are unable to offset the “emissions that occur when the biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel are burned,” indicating the process is not carbon neutral. However, Harvard geology professor Daniel Schrag “argues” that this information is based on a “flawed premise” because “biofuels don’t have to be carbon neutral to be an environmentally preferable alternative to petroleum gasoline.”
NYTimes Considers Fight Over Dakota Access Pipeline. In a nearly 900-word analysis, the New York Times (8/26, Healy, Subscription Publication) examines “how the battle over” the 1,170-mile Dakota Access pipeline “has become an environmental and cultural flash point, stirring passion across the Plains and drawing hundreds of protesters to camp out in rural North Dakota.” Earlier this week, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe “asked a [Federal] judge to halt construction” of the pipeline, arguing that “a leak or spill could be ruinous” to their tribe. The Times states that the federal and state agencies “have approved the pipeline,” and some local residents are welcoming moneys that come via use of their lands. However, despite pipeline companies’ assertions that pipelines are “far safer to move oil and natural gas in an underground pipe than in rail cars or trucks,” “pipeline spills and ruptures occur regularly, sometimes in small leaks and sometimes in catastrophic gushers.”
ED’s Moves Against ITT Pave Way For Students To Seek Loan Forgiveness.
The Indianapolis Star (8/26, Briggs) reports that ED’s “aggressive actions against the for-profit” ITT Technical Institute could greatly benefit former students because the moves “have laid a foundation for past students to take advantage of a little-known rule, called defense to repayment, that can wipe out their loans.” The piece explains that ED has “broad discretion to forgive student loans for borrowers who claim they were defrauded or that their college violated state laws.”
The Columbus (OH) Dispatch (8/26) reports that the “triple whammy of penalties from the federal government could put ITT Technical Institute schools out of business, meaning hundreds of central Ohioans would have to find new schools and make sure they’re not stuck with useless student loans.” The article describes how state officials are working to help students “transfer to other schools if necessary.” The piece explains that ED “announced Thursday that, because of long-unresolved allegations of financial wrongdoing and other problems, it no longer would allow ITT schools to enroll new students with federal Title IV loans.”
Veterans Group Says Loophole Could Keep Student Veterans From Being Reimbursed. Stars And Stripes (8/26) reports that the advocacy group Student Veterans of America says a “loophole” will prevent “12,500 student veterans from seeking lost benefits” if ITT collapses. The piece explains that according to the group “a loophole in how GI Bill benefits are counted as federal aid means student veterans will not be able to recoup benefits even if civilian students see their debts forgiven.”
California Bars ITT From Enrolling New Students. The Los Angeles Times (8/26) reports that the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education has banned ITT “from accepting new students at its 15 California locations under an emergency decision.” The order came a day after ED’s decision to block Federal aid to the school’s students. The piece quotes Education Secretary John King saying, “It simply would not be responsible or in the best interest of students to allow ITT to continue enrolling new students who rely on federal financial aid.”
ITT Shares Plummet After ED Sanctions. The Indianapolis Business Journal (8/26) reports that the firm’s shares “went into a freefall Friday,” falling 64% on the news that ED “banned the Carmel-based for-profit educator from enrolling new students who receive federal aid.” The piece notes that ITT’s stock “has lost 85 percent of its value since the beginning of the year.”
Bloomberg News (8/26, Blue) reports the firm “is reeling Friday from what could be a final blow,” noting that the “stock fell into penny-stock territory after the Department of Education said it can no longer enroll students with federal loans.”
Pell Grant Program Removes Dual Enrollment Barriers.
The AP (8/26) reports that along with 42 other universities and colleges, Jackson State University and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College are taking part in a new federal program that allows 10,000 high school students across the country to use Pell Grants for dual enrollment courses.
Regulators Put Pressure On Student Loan Servicers To Treat Borrowers Better.
The New York Times (8/26, Carrns, Subscription Publication) reports Federal regulators this summer “have stepped up pressure” on student loan servicers to start treating “borrowers better.” The Times says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now looking into servicers that handle both private and Federal loans, with the bureau’s ombudsman for student loans, Seth Frotman, saying that a midyear report shows “borrowers often complained that federal loan servicers make it difficult for them to enroll in special programs that can lower their monthly payments on federal loans based on how much money they earn.” Consumers Union lawyer Suzanne Martindale criticized that servicers are “dropping the ball.”
Crackdown On For-Profit Colleges May Leave Taxpayers Liable For Student Loan Discharges.
The New York Times (8/28, Cohen, Subscription Publication) reports in an analysis that the Administration’s decision last week to bar ITT Educational Services – one of the nation’s largest operators of for-profit college – from using federal financial aid to enroll new students is an important step in the “crackdown on for-profit schools that have vacuumed up billions of dollars in government grants and loans but failed to deliver on promised training and jobs.” But the decision creates new problems by making taxpayers liable for “relieving current and former students saddled with onerous debt.” Current ITT students have been left with few options. If ITT is forced to close, current students can apply to the Department of Education for a loan discharge.
More Students Choosing Coding Boot Camps Over College.
CNBC (8/27) reports that “for many prospective students looking for a quick route to a six-figure salary at a big tech firm, coding camps have become attractive alternatives to colleges and grad schools.” Programs run by schools such as Hack Reactor, are providing students with these alternatives. The program, which costs $20,000, “boasts a 98 percent job placement rate among its graduates, who land jobs at prestigious tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft” with an average beginning pay of $105,000 a year. In response to criticism that the program is not a replacement for a four-your college education, Hack Reactor co-founder Shawn Drost said, “I think people underestimate how much you can learn in a short time frame. …You can really compare and contrast the difference between different modes of learning. If you’ve ever taken a language class in high school and college versus actually going to that country and immersing yourself, it’s incredible.”
Research and Development
Energy Department To Provide $40 Million Funding For Wave Energy Research.
Salon (8/27, Stopyra) reports that the Department of Energy is providing funding of up to $40 million “to develop of the nation’s first open-water wave-energy-testing facility in a location to be determined.” However, critics believe that wave energy will not surpass solar or wind.
USD Receives NSF Grant To Replace Supercomputer.
The Sioux City (IA) Journal (8/28, Nelson) reports that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $504,911 major research instrumentation grant to the University of South Dakota to replace the current campus supercomputer. According to the Journal, the NSF “identified supercomputing systems as necessary research instruments, alongside equipment like DNA sequencers and electron microscopes.”
NASA Mars Simulation Experiment Participants Exit Dome After One Year.
BBC News (UK) (8/29) reports a team of six individuals completed a Mars simulation in Hawaii, where they lived inside a dome “without fresh air, fresh food, or privacy” for one year. The team consisted of French astro-biologist, a German physicist and “four Americans – a pilot, an architect, a journalist and a soil scientist.”
UPI (8/28, Cone) reports the experiment was part of the NASA-funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analogue and Simulation (HI-SEAS) program, implemented in coordination with the University of Hawaii. German physicist and engineer Christiane Heinicke said in an interview, “Right now I am super excited. It’s the first time [I] get to be outside without a space suit. Everything is different.”
Analysts Address Possible Autonomous Car Security Issues.
In a Bloomberg News (8/27) online video, Rapid7 transportation security director Craig Smith told correspondent Emily Chang that security threats to autonomous cars will likely be data-driven risks. Smith explained that while autonomous vehicles do face some security risks, those risks are no more dangerous than existing risks associated with older vehicles subject to human error. Smith added that the ability to update security flaws over “airwaves” will also prevent the need for “big, costly recalls.”
Bugcrowd senior systems engineer Kevin Tighe told The Guardian (UK) (8/28) that as car manufacturers migrate to the self-driving vehicle market, they “are finally realizing that what they sell is just a big computer you sit in.” Tighe said the realization is reassuring because major automobile manufacturers are understanding their responsibilities to consumers and treating vehicle security seriously. For industry experts, hacking conferences like Defcon and Black Hat facilitate autonomous vehicle hacking to expose existing flaws so manufacturers can address issues before malicious hackers exploit those flaws in real-world situations.
Semiconductor Industry’s Focus May Pivot To Self-Driving Car Market.
Venture Beat (8/28, Takahashi) reports tech companies, auto manufacturers, and ride-sharing services entering the self-driving car market could lead the $330 billion semiconductor chip industry “in a new technical direction.” Tirias Research analyst Kevin Krewell claimed deep-learning car navigation technology is “the leading driver” for semiconductor chips because it incorporates “a new work load that is not the same as other high-performance computing workloads.” Venture Beat adds that self-driving cars will introduce artificial intelligence and computer vision breakthroughs that critically rely on “an awful lot of processing power.” Google hardware engineer Daniel Rosenband revealed that Google’s next-generation prototype, for example, may need chips capable of delivering 50 teraops of performance.
NYTimes A1: Italy’s Anti-Seismic Codes Challenge Reconstruction Of Ancient Architecture.
On its front page, the New York Times (8/26, Pianigiani, Povoledo, Subscription Publication) says seismologists from Italy’s Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology arrived at the earthquake zone on Friday to analyze the destruction and determine what buildings may be too expensive to repair under Italy’s anti-seismic codes. Engineer and historic building preservation expert Donatella Guzzoni said because about 60 percent of Italy’s buildings are believed to be over 100 years old, ancient structures cannot be expected to “adhere to norms designed for modern structures, but you can try to improve them, that’s the path to take with the objective to save human lives.” Guzzoni added, “Italy has the best technologies to do this,” but the decision to restore “does come down to money.”
NYTimes A1: GM Airbag Supplier First Informed Auto Industry Of Safety Risks In Takata Airbags Two Decades Ago.
Revelations on the front page of the New York Times point to an automotive industry that was aware of extreme safety flaws in cheaper airbags made by Takata Corp. as early as the late 1990s. The story raises doubt over the enforceability of product specifications largely agreed by on by the industry itself, with little regulatory oversight, citing sources connected to General Motors’ decision to switch airbag suppliers and former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook. The airbags at the center of the Takata recalls have killed and injured over 100 people and led to the largest auto safety recall in US history.
The New York Times (8/26, A1, Tabuchi, Subscription Publication) reports that “in the late 1990s” GM first asked its then airbag supplier, Autoliv, “to match the cheaper design” of airbags made by Takata “or risk losing the automaker’s business.” Autoliv tests, however, overwhelmingly concluded that the lifesaving devices transformed into shrapnel bombs in certain climate conditions. Moreover, the United States Council on Automotive Research, an industry consortium that sets design and performance specifications, updated its airbag guidance reflecting the accepted dangers of using ammonium nitrate inflaters in high-humidity environments. “The problem,” the Times reports, “is that no one enforced the specifications,” a fact that “points to the self-regulatory nature of automotive manufacturing.” Another story for the New York Times (8/26, Subscription Publication) reports on what car owners can do if their vehicle is affected by the Takata recall.
Volkswagen Expected To Pay $1.2 Billion To US Dealerships Over Emissions Scandal.
The Wall Street Journal (8/26, Randazzo, Bach, Subscription Publication) reports the approximately 650 Volkswagen franchise dealerships in the US appear to have reached an agreement with the automaker over its emission scandal that would have the company pay a total of $1.2 billion to the dealers, according to a source familiar with the matter. The deal, though not finalized, would also include buy backs of used, unfixable diesel vehicles that remain at dealership lots.
NYTimes Analysis: GE Moving To Become Top Software Company.
A more than 2,500-word New York Times (8/27, Lohr, Subscription Publication) reports on a software center opened by GE in 2011 in San Ramon, California, which today is seeking to build an industrial-scale computer operating system, which the Times refers to as “a Microsoft Windows or Google Android for factories and industrial equipment.” According to the Times, CEO Jeffrey Immelt has say the project will make GE a “top 10 software company” by the year 2020, yet it also notes that some are skeptical in Silicon Valley. Technology entrepreneur Thomas M. Siebel said, “GE is trying to do this the way a big company does, by throwing thousands of people and billions of dollars at it…But they’re not software people.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Biden Announces $2.45 Billion Loan For Amtrak Upgrades In Northeast Corridor.
The AP (8/26, Chase) reports Vice President Biden joined Amtrak officials and Deputy Transportation Secretary Victor Mendez on Friday in announcing a $2.45 billion Federal loan to Amtrak “to buy new trains, upgrade tracks and make platform improvements along the busy Northeast corridor, the largest such loan ever by the Department of Transportation.” Speaking at the Wilmington, Delaware, station named after him, Biden said, “You can’t make this country work without rail. … This is a really, really sound investment.” Amtrak board chairman Anthony Coscia added, “We’re making the most significant investment in passenger rail that’s ever been made in this country.”
The New York Times (8/26, Shear, Subscription Publication) reports the loan will allow “for the purchase of state-of-the-art trains to replace the aging Acela trains that use the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston.” According to the Times, “while the new trains will not approach the speeds of some Asian and European trains, officials said they hoped that the new Acela would travel at 160 miles per hour in some places, up from 135 m.p.h. now.” The Times quotes Vice President Biden asserting, “We need these kinds of investments to keep this region – and our whole country – moving, and to create new jobs.”
Amtrak Threatens To Cut From Boston Rail Service To New York, DC. The Boston Globe (8/26, Dungca) reports Amtrak “is threatening to cut rail service from Boston to New York and Washington, D.C., because of an ongoing legal dispute with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority over who should pay for maintenance on a part of the Northeast Corridor, according to a court filing this week.” The Globe describes the threat as “the latest salvo in an increasingly contentious lawsuit filed by the MBTA in January.”
Proposed Rulemaking Would Limit Top Speeds For Commercial Vehicles Over 26,000 Pounds.
There is extensive pickup of wire stories on the joint proposal from NHTSA and FMCSA to require speed-limiting devices in all trucks, buses, and large vehicles in order to reduce traffic accidents and fuel consumption. A number of other print dailies and industry publications also had coverage, which focuses on the divided response from the industry, with the American Trucking Association taking the side of regulators that speed limits for large vehicles are necessary and the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association deriding the rules as unnecessary and potentially unsafe. Reuters and the Charlotte Observer highlighted Transportation Secretary Foxx’s assertion that the safety benefits from the regulation would be “significant.”
The AP (8/26, Krisher) reports that the proposal announced Friday would affect “newly made U.S. vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds,” with regulators “considering a cap of 60, 65, or 68 mph, that that could change.” According to the AP, regulators are also “considering” forcing even older vehicles to install electronic speed limiters, with the support of nonprofits like Roadsafe America, although “NHTSA said retrofitting vehicles made after 1990 with the speed-limiting technology could be too costly … anywhere from $100 to $2,000 per vehicle.” Although the American Trucking Association also backs the proposal for all new vehicles, OOIDA says its 157,000 members are safer when their trucks are able to travel at the speed of traffic.
Reuters (8/26) reports that Foxx said “There are significant safety benefits to this proposed rulemaking,” in addition to “fuel and emissions savings.” ATA endorses a speed limit of 65 mph for trucks, the story says, but “the maximum allowable speed would be decided after the agency receives public input” over the 60-day comment period. A briefer report by Reuters (8/26) has similar coverage.
The Hill (8/26, Zanona) reports that NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind stated, “Even small increases in speed have large effects on the force of impact,” so a speed limit for “heavy vehicles makes sense for safety and the environment.” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said his organization is “pleased NHTSA and FMCSA have, almost 10 years after we first petitioned them, released this proposal to mandate the electronic limiting of commercial vehicle speeds.”
In a story headlined “Anthony Foxx Backs Proposal to Put Speed Limiting Devices on New US Trucks and Buses,” the Charlotte (NC) Observer (8/26, Marusak) reports on Foxx’s support for the proposal, which the Transportation Secretary called “a win for safety, energy conservation and our environment.” Pointing out that Charlotte, North Carolina is a logistics hub, the story takes comment from a truck driver but frames the debate around OOIDA’s argument.
Japanese Government Pledges $2 Million For Baltimore-Washington Maglev Feasibility Study.
The Wall Street Journal (8/27, Calvert, Subscription Publication) reports that the government of Japan pledged $2 million to Maryland for a feasibility study to research a maglev high-speed rail line between Baltimore and Washington, DC, adding to a $28 million grant from the Transportation Department for similar studies. Northeast Maglev, which is promoting the 40-mile, $10 billion high-speed rail line, points out that the Japanese government would also cover part of the actual project costs. Many officials and observers of the attempt to study a high-speed rail connection between the two cities say faster transportation options would encourage bilateral investment, commuting, and travel given the region’s traffic congestion and opportunities to entice more Washington residents to move to Baltimore for lower living costs.
Deepwater Wind Completes First US Offshore Wind Farm, But Critics Remain.
In a 1,345-word article, the Washington Post (8/27, Dennis) reports “the nation’s first offshore wind farm” has been completed off the cost of Block Island, Rhode Island. According to the Post, the “deliberately small size” of the five-turbine, 30-megawatt project by Providence-based Deepwater Wind is one of the reasons it “has successfully navigated the legal, regulatory and political hurdles that have tripped up others.” While some see the project’s completion as a cause for celebration, the Post says the wind farm “has not been universally embraced by the island’s roughly 1,000 year-round residents,” some of whom view the project’s agreement with regional utility National Grid as a “financial giveaway” to Deepwater Wind investors because it does not represent a cost saving over the diesel generators it is replacing on the island with some of the nation’s highest electrical rates.
NYTimes: First US Offshore Wind Farm Shows Promise For Wind Energy. The New York Times (8/27, Subscription Publication) editorializes that while the “first offshore wind farm in American waters” may not “make much of a dent” in the country’s use of fossil fuels, it “shows the promise this renewable energy source could have.” Pointing to the “22 other offshore wind projects in…development across the country,” the Times says offshore farms “should become commonplace” in the next 10 years.
WSJournal A1: Texas Embraces Development Of Wind, Solar Power.
The Wall Street Journal (8/28, A1, Spindle, Smith, Subscription Publication) reports on its front page that in a 1,411-word analysis that Texas has become a US leader in renewable energy. The state still embraces its oil and gas, and continues to develop new crude oil wells, but approximately 16 percent of the state’s electricity now comes from wind turbines. Solar power is expected to play a growing role in Texas as well. Republican lawmakers in the state have touted renewable energy development as a way to create jobs and improve consumer choice.
WPost: New FAA Drone Rules Are Still “Quite Restrictive.”
A Washington Post (8/28) editorial says that while FAA rules are phasing in Monday, which will “allow companies to fly small drones…without a special waiver from the agency” avoid “several crucial mistakes that could have grounded a young industry,” they are still “quite restrictive, particularly the requirement that operators keep drones within their line of sight.” The Post argues that “officials used to decades of regulating big airliners need to do a more nimble job adapting to the revolution in unmanned and, some day soon, automated flight.”
Marvel Comics Covers To Promote STEAM Disciplines.
The NPR (8/28) “The Two-Way” blog reports Marvel Comics has announced that five of its titles in coming issues will use cover art “featuring disciplines that guide school curricula nationwide — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math, also known as STEAM” as part of an effort to “encourage young readers to double-down on their studies and explore fields said to lead to better jobs.” The November issues of several titles “coincide with the debut of Marvel’s new Iron Man, Riri Williams, a 15-year-old engineering prodigy, who is also featured.”
Chickasha High School Juniors Taking STEM Education Classes At Local Tech Center Campus.
The Oklahoman (8/27, Kramer) reports Canadian Valley Technology Center will host juniors from Chickasha High School enrolled in its pre-engineering program at its Chickasha campus this year. The program was launched “last year as an embedded program for sophomores at Chickasha High School,” and this year’s enrolled sophomores will continue to “remain off-site.” Student Services Director Ronnie Bogle “said the program worked well the first year” and that “he is excited to have students on campus for the program that represents an evolutionary shift in curriculum for a technology center.”
USS Turner Joy Adopts New Approach To STEM Education.
The Central Kitsap (WA) Reporter (8/28, Beahm) reports that according to the Bremerton Historical Ships Association president John Hanson, “the newest version of STEM” is “hands-on so kids can learn faster and less traditional than a whiteboard or a classroom.” STEM classes on board the USS Turner Joy, made possible in part by NHF funding, “include practical demonstrations of Newtonian physics, thermodynamics, electric erosion and more.”
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Researchers Discover iPhone Vulnerability Prompting Swift iOS 9.3.5 Patch From Apple.
• North Carolina’s Campbell University Opens Engineering, Nursing Schools.
• Nvidia Details Powerful New Processor For Self-Driving Cars.
• German Chancellor Merkel Visits NATO Cyber Center In Estonia.
• Monroe: August Could Have Been More Transparent Regarding Smart Lock Vulnerability.
• Environmental Groups Push Obama To Block Dakota Access Pipeline.
• Hands-On Science In Elementary Schools Engaging Youths.