ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

EPA Says Fiat Chrysler Installed Emissions Cheating Software In Diesel Trucks.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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.

Higher Education

UNC Charlotte Considering Law School Given Charlotte School Of Law Problems.

The Charlotte (NC) Observer Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter 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.

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Research and Development

Wearable Sensors May One Day Help Detect Illnesses, Research Suggests.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/12, Rapaport) reports that research Share to FacebookShare to Twitter published online in PLOS Biology suggests “it may one day be possible to” detect “illness…with wearable sensors.”

TIME Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/12, Weintraub) and HealthDay Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (1/12, Dotinga).

Tech Firms Moving To Fund Broadband Satellite Constellations.

The Seattle Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter.

ASU, Honeywell Opening New 3D-Printing Facility.

3D Printing Industry Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Detroit To Host 2018 FIRST Robotics Global Championship.

WXYZ-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter 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 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (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

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