Leading the News
Obama Administration Finalizes Wind Energy Rule, Permits Thousands Of Eagle Deaths.
The AP (12/14) reports a rule has been “finalized” by the Obama Administration “to let wind-energy companies operate high-speed turbines for up to 30 years — even if that means killing or injuring thousands of federally protected bald and golden eagles.” The rule announced yesterday permits allows “wind companies and other power providers” to “face no penalty if they kill or injure up to 4,200 bald eagles” almost “four times the current limit.”
The Washington Times (12/14, Ernst) reports that in a statement Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe “said officials were trying to find a happy medium between encouraging green energy and adequately protecting the beloved birds.” Ashe stated, “No animal says America like the bald eagle.” The American Bird Conservancy’s Michael Hutchins signaled that “he had ‘serious concerns’ of the regulations, but expressed pleasure that companies will be required to hire independent contractors to provide data on bird kills.”
Reuters (12/14, Zuckerman) reports the rule will “go into effect on Jan. 15” and “extends the current five-year term for permits that allow for the accidental deaths of bald and golden eagles.” According to the FWS, “the number of eagles killed each year at wind facilities is not precisely known” but “an estimated 545 golden eagles are thought to perish annually from collisions with obstacles ranging from turbines to vehicles.”
Analysis: Little Known About DeVos’ Higher Education Views.
MLive (MI) (12/14) reports that while Education Secretary-nominee Betsy DeVos has been vocal “about her ideas for improving K-12 school systems,” it is “less clear” what she thinks about higher education policy. The piece notes that she made no mention of higher education during her recent comments with President-elect Trump in Michigan, and “hasn’t publicly stated where she falls on key issues under the department’s purview, such as the rising costs of student loans, various federal education grants and anti-discrimination policies.”
CFPB: Banks’ Deals With Colleges Expose Students To Fees.
The Washington Post (12/14, Douglas-Gabriel) reports a CFPB analysis found that banks are still making marketing deals with colleges to peddle “accounts riddled with fees to” students. Of 500 marketing deals examined, many did not contain any “prohibition of monthly maintenance fees, out-of-network ATM fees or overdraft fees.” At issue is that many “schools let financial firms use their logo or place checking or prepaid account feature on student IDs,” which are then subject to the fees. The issue is “especially troubling” due to research suggesting that “small financial shocks can derail low-income students from completing a college degree.” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement, “Many schools are more focused on their bottom line than their students’ well-being when they agree to sponsor financial accounts.”
Research and Development
Florida Atlantic University Awarded Two Grants By Department Of Transportation.
The Palm Beach (FL) Post (12/14) reports Florida Atlantic University has received two federal grants from the Department of Transportation to “study how to improve the movement of people and freight” throughout the US.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel (12/14) reports FAU’s Freight Mobility Research Institute, which “will research and address issues in planning, designing and operating the nation’s freight transportation system,” will receive $1.4 million a year for five years, plus matching grants from the state and private partners that will bring the total up over $10 million. Additionally, FAU’s Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety will receive $1.5 million total over the next five years as it works to reduce the historic rise in traffic deaths seen last year.
IBM’s Watson Discovers Five Genes Linked To ALS.
Mashable (12/14, Hinchliffe) reports IBM announced Wednesday that Watson discovered five genes linked to ALS, while working with researchers at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. Mashable adds that this discovery “is Watson’s first in any type of neuroscience, and suggests that Watson could make discoveries in research of other neurological diseases.”
Jewell To Say Researchers Must Resist Efforts To Skew Science.
Reuters (12/14, Rucker) reports Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is due to say on Wednesday that scientists must confront climate change deniers a resist possible effort by Donald Trump to sideline climate research. Jewell will say that national historic sites such as the 17th century colonial outpost at Jamestown could eventually be swallowed by rising seas. Christine McEntee, head of the AGU, “said her members were concerned that the Trump administration might not value scientific discovery and rigor,” but climate researchers “were prepared to defend their methods and discoveries.” The Washington Post (12/14, Kaplan) reports similarly.
Apple Hires Berlin Mapping Company Engineers.
AppleInsider (12/14, Fingas) reports Apple has recruited at least six engineers from Berlin mapping company Here and might have a Maps team present in the city, according to a Business Insider report. Apple’s poached hires haven’t commented on their work and it isn’t known “if a Maps team or office exists in Berlin.” The city would be a logical location for a Maps division because of Berlin’s “tech industry and labor pool,” and the chance “to connect with German automakers” if Apple chooses “to partner with an existing company on a future electric car.”
Nokia To Grow Its 4.5G Network Infrastructure Portfolio.
Zacks Investment Research (12/14) reports Nokia Networks announced it signed contract agreements with 110 wireless carriers globally to install 4.5G wireless network infrastructure. Nokia’s 4.5G and 4.5G Pro label capabilities “map to the LTE-Advanced Pro standard that was included in the 3GPP’s Release 13 earlier this year.” Nokia’s network infrastructure is largely based on telecom operators and the acquisition of “Alcatel-Lucent has significantly strengthened Nokia’s foothold in North America.” While Alcatel-Lucent has large clients like Verizon, Nokia aims to capitalize on its “lucrative assets to support the enterprise segment” to gain traction “in the sector already dominated by large network infrastructure solution providers like Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO- Free Report) and Huawei Technologies Co.”
Report: Solar Industry Booming, Will Continue To Grow Through Decade.
An “optimistic” report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and market analysis firm GTM Research says the US solar industry “saw its biggest boom yet this year” and its growth is expected to continue “through the rest of the decade,” the Washington Post (12/14, Harvey) reports. The report “comes at a time of mounting uncertainty for the future of renewable energy and environmental policy in the United States” as President-elect Trump’s nominees “for the heads of the federal energy and environmental agencies” have prompted “major concern” among environmentalists. Nonetheless, the report “assum[es] no major changes in the pace of wind and solar expansion over the next few years as a result of the presidential transition.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Media Analyses: Trump Meeting With Tech Execs Cordial, Productive.
Media coverage of President-elect Trump’s meeting with Democratic-leaning Silicon Valley executives cast both sides as seeking to get past the acrimony of the recent campaign. The Washington Post (12/14, Dwoskin, Fung), for example, says that “after months of acrimony” the execs came “to make nice with…Trump. And make nice they did.” CNN Money (12/14, Fiegerman, Segall) referred to “a striking shift for both camps,” Politico (12/14, Nelson) to “a détente of sorts for Trump,” and the AP (12/14, Lemire, Liedtke) reports the President-elect “strove to assure the titans of tech…that his administration is ‘here to help you folks do well.’” ABC World News Tonight (12/14, story 4, 0:45, Muir) showed Trump saying, “We’re going to be there for you, and you’ll call my people, you’ll call me, it doesn’t make any difference.”
Some of the network coverage, however, was mainly unfavorable toward Trump: Other than its opening sentence, the CBS Evening News (12/14, story 3, 1:10, Garrett) report focused on Twitter’s absence from the gathering, and NBC Nightly News (12/14, story 6, 1:20, Alexander) devoted half of its main segment on the summit to showing footage of Trump calling for a boycott of Apple and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos jokingly offering to send Trump to outer space. Yet yesterday, added NBC, Bezos called the meeting “very productive.” TechCrunch (12/14, Conger) noted that a Cisco spokesman similarly stated after the meeting that it “was very informative and productive, and…Trump and his team were extremely engaged.”
The Washington Times (12/14, Miller) describes the meeting as “the latest maneuver by…Trump to heal wounds inflicted during the rough-and-tumble campaign,” following “a pattern of Mr. Trump turning antagonists into allies, including repairing relationships with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.” To the Los Angeles Times (12/14, Halper, Pierson), meanwhile, “it wasn’t so much a reckoning as a reboot,” adding that “if Trump holds grudges against Silicon Valley for the way that many of its denizens maligned and ridiculed him at every step of the presidential campaign, he worked hard not to let them show.”
Trump Taps Perry To Head Energy Department.
Reuters (12/14) reports that President-elect Trump has selected former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy, a choice that was “welcomed” by the US oil and gas industry, which “wasted no time making its first specific request of him: to support increased exports of America’s natural gas overseas.” Reuters says Trump’s choice of Perry “adds to a list of drilling proponents” selected for top jobs in his Administration. While this concerns environmental groups, it “fit[s] neatly with Trump’s promise to revive oil and gas drilling and coal mining as president by cutting back on federal regulation.”
The Hill (12/14, Balluck) reports in a statement announcing the nomination, Trump said, “As the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry created a business climate that produced millions of new jobs and lower energy prices in his state, and he will bring that same approach to our entire country as Secretary of Energy. … My administration is going to make sure we take advantage of our huge natural resource deposits to make America energy independent and create vast new wealth for our nation, and Rick Perry is going to do an amazing job as the leader of that process.”
USA Today (12/14, Jackson) reports that in a statement Perry said, “I know American energy is critical to our economy and our security. I look forward to engaging in a conversation about the development, stewardship and regulation of our energy resources, safeguarding our nuclear arsenal, and promoting an American energy policy that creates jobs and puts America first.”
Researchers Say Water Filters In Flint May Increase Bacteria Spread.
MLive (MI) (12/14) reports researchers from the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership say that water filters may have the unintended consequence of encouraging the spread of bacteria. The researchers “presented their findings from a study tracking Legionellosis cases and chlorine levels in Flint water and outside the county during a Wednesday, Dec. 14, panel open to the community at the Flint Public Library.” They recommend “[letting] water run through the filter for at least one minute to let the bacteria that has built up in the activated carbon filter disperse,” or disinfecting the filter with boiling water or UV light.
Railroad Industry Divided On Cost, Effectiveness Of PTC.
The Omaha (NE) World-Herald (12/15, Hubbard) reports that Positive Train Control (PTC) has “attracted controversy for a variety of reasons.” Railroads, such as Union Pacific and BNSF, “say it is expensive, unproven and subject to unrealistic compliance deadlines.” However, “labor unions have generally supported the safety aspects,” but they also “see conflicts with PTC.” Unions “wonder if the GPS-based automated safety system might be an excuse to move to one-person crews on the nation’s freight trains,” or if “it might be unfairly used as an evaluation tool, with engineers getting demerits for having the train controls overridden by PTC.” The article notes that BNSF “leads the pack” with “88 percent of locomotives equipped, 42 percent of route-miles in PTC operation and 74 percent of employees trained in its use.”
First US Offshore Wind Project Launches Off Rhode Island.
The New York Times (12/14, Schlossberg, Subscription Publication) reports, in continuing coverage, that on Monday the first offshore wind farm was brought online off the coast of Rhode Island. Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm features five turbines built by GE and “is the first successful offshore wind development in the United States, and it sets up the possibility for offshore wind projects elsewhere along the coast.”
California To Adopt Energy Efficiency Standards For Computers.
The Sacramento (CA) Bee (12/14, Koseff) reports the California Energy Commission “is set to adopt the nation’s first energy efficiency standards” for computers, which would go into effect in 2018. The commission said that “its proposal should cut the electricity used by idle computers and monitors enough annually to power all of the homes in San Francisco.” Reuters (12/14, Gorman) reports the CEC estimates total consumer savings of $373 million annually for the plan. It also estimates that computers use about 3 percent of residential power and 7 percent of commercial power. The commission says that the standards should add around $14 to the cost of a computer, but would save over $40 in over five years from reduced energy use. The San Diego Union-Tribune (12/14, Nikolewski) reports the CEC approved the new plan on Wednesday.
Virginia District Teaches Coding As Early As Kindergarten.
The Franklin (VA) Tidewater News (12/14, Faleski) reports that the school district in Isle of Wight County, Virginia has adopted a new curriculum “that teaches students basic computer coding as early as kindergarten.” District officials say the STEM curriculum “is being provided to students free of cost and will be divided into four courses that span grades K-12.”
Edison International Taking Applications For Edison Scholars Program Through February 1.
The Temple City (CA) Tribune (12/14) reports on Edison International’s “$1.2 million Edison Scholars Program” designed to help “high school seniors with a passion for science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) achieve their academic goals.” The Tribune adds that the program is taking applications through February 1. Tami Bui, SCE’s principal manager of Corporate Philanthropy, said, “Edison International funds educational programs and scholarships because one of our priorities is helping to nurture scholars of tomorrow.” Bui added, “The Edison Scholars Program provides financial support that lets students attend colleges and universities they thought were out of reach, and allows them to focus on their studies rather than worry about how they’re going to pay for school.” The Monrovia (CA) Weekly (12/14), and The Sierra Madre Weekly (CA) (12/14) also carry the story.
Astronaut Mae Jemison Promotes Bayer’s Science Literacy Program.
KGO-AM San Francisco (12/13, 11:35 a.m. PST) interviewed astronaut Mae Jemison on advances in space technology and the need to invest in long-term science solutions. In a continuing interview, Jemison emphasizes the need for investments in STEM education and describes her collaboration with Bayer on its “Making Science Make Sense” science literacy program. The program aims to expose children to science careers with hands-on projects. The science literacy aspect of the program focuses on critical thinking skills needed to read and understand major issues in science.
KCBS-AM San Francisco (12/13, 12:22 p.m. PST) also interviewed Jemison. The interview focused on the Bayer science literacy program.
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• ED: California Must Continue Implementing Older Science Tests.
• ED Decision Muddies Future For ACICS.
• University Of Michigan, Google Develop Flint Water Crisis App.
• Ahead Of Trump Meeting, IBM Announces Plans To Hire 25,000 In US.
• EPA Changes Course, Concludes Fracking Can Contaminate Drinking Water.
• Wonder Lab Helps Jenkins Elementary School To Bridge Technology Gap.
• NASA Engineers Troubleshoot Mars Curiosity Glitch.