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

Leading the News

Trump Announces US Withdrawing From Paris Accord.

President Trump’s announcement of his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord unleashed furious condemnation from media analysts, Democrats, climate activists and foreign dignitaries. The story led all three major network newscasts and replaced the Russia investigation as the main topic of discussion on cable. Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Volcovici) reports that “with Trump’s action, the United States will walk away from nearly every nation in the world on one of the pressing global issues of the 21st century,” aligning itself only with “Syria and Nicaragua.” The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, A1, Shear, Subscription Publication), meanwhile, refers to “a remarkable rebuke to fellow heads-of-state, climate activists, corporate executives and members of the president’s own staff,” and the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, A1, Rucker, Mooney) to a decision that “risks rupturing global alliances.” NBC Nightly News (6/1, story 2, 2:10, Guthrie) warned viewers that the effects of climate change will “worsen…now that the US…plans to pull out of the…agreement.”

Typical of the tenor of much of the commentary was Fareed Zakaria, who said on CNN’s Situation Room (6/1) that “the United States…has been the leader of the world,” but with Trump’s move it “almost resigned” from that role. Brian Williams, on MSNBC (6/1), called Trump’s speech “dark,” and on Twitter Share to FacebookShare to Twitter, Nicholas Kristof wrote, “If somebody drives drunk, we arrest him. If he drives national policy recklessly, threatening our planet, we just call him ‘Mr. President.’” Politico editor-in-chief Blake Hounshell somberly tweeted Share to FacebookShare to Twitter, “Paris is going to be America’s Brexit.”

With most of the reporting focused on criticism of Trump, nearly all news accounts on Trump’s White House remarks highlighted his statement, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” Jim Acosta said on CNN’s The Lead (6/1) that Trump’s remarks “seemed to come out of the Steve Bannon playbook,” and “when you hear the President use words like ‘I represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,’ you have an announcement that is steeped in campaign rhetoric.” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto took to Twitter Share to FacebookShare to Twitter shortly afterwords, however, and wrote, “Fact: Hillary Clinton received 80% of the vote in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh stands with the world & will follow Paris Agreement.”

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Korte) says “Trump did not deny the scientific consensus that rising global temperatures” pose “a threat to the planet,” though “he has previously called that science ‘B.S.’ and ‘an expensive hoax’ perpetrated by the Chinese.” Rather, the President “complained that other countries had attached too many conditions to their voluntary agreements,” and said, “In short, the agreement doesn’t eliminate coal jobs, it just transfers those jobs out of America and the United States, and ships them to foreign countries.” In its lead story, the CBS Evening News (6/1, lead story, 3:20, Mason) similarly reported that “this time,” Trump “did not call climate change a hoax, but said he is reasserting American sovereignty, and suggested he’s willing to negotiate what he sees as a better deal.” Likewise, the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Landler, Plumer, Qiu, Subscription Publication) indicates that “one thing Mr. Trump did not do in the Rose Garden on Thursday afternoon was question the underlying science behind climate change.” Instead, he “suggested the 194-nation accord did not go far enough in stemming the rise in global temperatures because of greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Halper, Zavis) refers to “a statement of unabashed nationalism as he turned away from a global leadership role in the fight against climate change.” The New York Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Fredericks) describes Trump as “fulfilling a campaign promise” but “alarming other world leaders and even going against the wishes of fossil fuel giants like Exxon and BP.”

Musk, Disney’s Iger Resign From Trump Councils. The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Mitchell) reports “Elon Musk said he was resigning from two White House advisory councils after…Trump announced Thursday that he is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord.” Tweeted Musk, “Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.” USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Cava) reports Musk also tweeted that “climate change is real.”

The New York Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Perez) reports “Disney CEO Bob Iger has also chosen to cut ties with the White House Advisory Council – making him the second chief executive to bail on President Trump after he decided to back out of the Paris climate agreement.” Said Iger, “As a matter of principle, I’ve resigned from the President’s Council over the #ParisAgreement withdrawal.”

Democratic Governors, 61 Mayors Vow To Adopt, Uphold Paris Accord. McClatchy Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Leavenworth) reports “leaders of California, Washington and other states said Thursday they will work to fill the international leadership vacuum created by…Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement.” According to Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Polson), “the governors of New York, California and Washington state formed a coalition to fight global warming in response to…Trump’s decision.” Their “United States Climate Alliance will push to cut greenhouse gases and lead a state-level initiative to support the global agreement that the president has derided as harmful to US interests, governors Andrew Cuomo, Jerry Brown and Jay Inslee, all Democrats, said in a statement Thursday.”

Higher Education

US Colleges Increasingly Offering Cybersecurity Degrees, Certificates.

Education Dive Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (5/31, Donachie) reports that as high-profile ransomware attacks and other computer security breaches demonstrate a rising “demand for qualified cybersecurity employees in government and private industry,” US colleges and universities “are responding by offering degrees, certificates and tutorials in the burgeoning field.” For example, Texas A&M University at College Station “recently instituted a minor degree program, while other institutions continue to find increased support and interest in cybersecurity degrees.” The piece profiles Nasir Memon, a professor at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and the founder of the school’s Center for Cybersecurity, who “started organizing and offering some undergraduate classes in cybersecurity at the school in 1999. In 2003, he founded Cybersecurity Awareness Week, which offered collaborative and competitive exercises for interested students.”

Carnegie Mellon President “Abruptly” Steps Down.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1) reports that Subra Suresh has “abruptly stepped down” from his post as President of Carnegie Mellon University, and that an interim successor will be named in the coming weeks. Board Chairman James E. Rohr thanked Suresh for his time serving as the University’s ninth president, and said, “With his guidance and articulation, the university’s strategic plan provides a clear road map for how CMU can move forward. We wish Subra the very best in his next chapter.” Suresh “said he valued being part of CMU for its distinct and important role in higher education and thanked his talented and dedicated colleagues for all that we have been able to accomplish.”

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1) reports that Suresh said he will resign from his post on June 30, and wrote in an open letter to the campus community that he and his wife had “reflected on the long-term commitment” needed for CMU and concluded that the University needs a president who is “ready to make that extended commitment.”

Community Colleges In US Face Declining Enrollment And Tightening Budgets.

TIME Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Sanburn) reports that community colleges are being seen by a growing number of politicians, CEOs and academics as having the potential to serve as much needed engines of economic and social mobility. One community college highlighted in the article is the Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) in Watertown, SD, which has 99 percent of its students enter the work force last year or entering a four-year college. However, LATI’s success “is an outlier,” as US community colleges are facing declining enrollment and tightened budgets. Less than 40 percent of community college students graduate in the US, and many drop out their first year.

ASEE Statement on 2018 White House Budget Request
The ASEE Board of Directors encourages members of the 115th Congress to follow the praiseworthy precedent set with the FY 2017 Omnibus legislation and sustain adequate funding for our nation’s engineering and scientific research efforts. Read the full statement.

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Research and Development

Gravity Waves From Black Hole Collision Detected.

The Tri-City Herald (WA) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Cary) reports the LIGO observatory “has detected gravitational waves, or ripples through space and time, for a third time.” Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s David Shoemaker said, “We are really moving from novelty to a new observational science, a new astronomy of gravitational waves.” Each of the “times the gravitational waves were generated by the collision of black holes to form a larger black hole.” The Herald adds “the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory at Hanford and its twin observatory in Louisiana made scientific history by detecting gravitational waves for the first time on Sept. 14, 2015, confirming Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.” CBS News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Harwood) and Scientific American Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Billings) also provide coverage.

Scientists Warn Of Harmful Effects Of Trump Budget’s Research Cuts.

The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Wood) reports that the already-competitive world of conducting research with National Science Foundation grants is likely to “get even more competitive, as the White House’s 2018 budget proposes historic cuts to America’s research and development efforts.” Scientists worry that if Congress passes the budget plan, “the austerity measures could deepen what some already consider an ongoing research crisis with lasting effects on the nation’s well-being.” The piece explains that the budget plan “would reduce total research funding by almost 17 percent in 2018, the most severe proposal in more than 40 years. Among the cuts, an 11 percent reduction to the NSF and a 21 percent reduction to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget below omnibus funding levels stand out for those agencies’ wide-reaching and irreplaceable roles in basic research and medicine.”

Tanvas Technology Working To Develop Real Sensations For Touch-Screens.

Inc. Magazine Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Sherman) reports Tanvas is developing a new technology that creates the sensation of a real touch-screen for smartphones. In other words, “as your finger glides over the screen, you could have the sensation of a raised area like a switch.” Ed Colgate, a professor of mechanical engineering at Northwestern University, a researcher behind the technology Tanvas uses, and the company’s chief haptics officer explained that the “technology works with variable friction controlled through tiny electrostatic charges.” Colgate says, “As you slide your finger, we modulate the amount of friction between your finger and the glass,” According to Colgate, “We can do it very fast and control it for different levels of friction. The brain interprets that as, ‘Why did my finger slow and then speed up? It must be because it went over a bump.’”

Matheny: AI, Machine Learning Needed To Assist Human Intelligence.

MeriTalk Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1) reports IARPA Director Matheny said at the IBM Government Analytics Forum on Thursday said that machine learning and artificial intelligence are necessary to “break down” the complexity of the world, because that complexity is growing at a rate that outpaces “the number of human brains to deal with” it. Matheny used the example of an image of tanks, stating: “There’s a lot that can be done to leverage existing tools and automate some aspects of national intelligence, and then an analyst is spending less time on tasks like finding or counting tanks, and more time thinking about why the tank is there at all.” Matheny said almost half of IARPA-funded projects are related to machine learning, adding that one fundamental problem IARPA is working on is reverse engineering how the brain computes.

Microsoft Research Team Developing Curved Camera Sensors.

Digital Trends Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Grigonis) reports a group of Microsoft researchers are developing curved camera sensors, which are “poised to offer better low-light performance and enhanced image quality — but manufacturing challenges have prevented the new tech from actually coming to market.” The Microsoft team created a “silicon sensor with flexible die edges, allowing the sensor to curve more without the pixel stretch.” DT explains that, “by placing the sensor on custom molds and slowly stretching the sensor, the group’s attempts resulted in a larger curve without breaking the sensor during the bending process.” DT says the curved sensor technology is most likely to be first installed “inside cameras with fixed lenses first, such as in smartphone cameras.”

DOE Releases More Cash For ARPA-E Grants.

E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Subscription Publication) reports the Energy Department “is releasing $20 million in research funds” after legislators “warned the agency might be breaking the law for holding up the money.” The funds would cover Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy grants, “which were in limbo after agency officials selected winners but did not finalize contracts. ARPA-E supports high-risk research considered out of the reach of the private sector.” Last month, lawmakers from both the House and Senate sent letters to Energy Secretary Rick Perry “saying the agency could be violating the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974.”


Tesla Fires Female Engineer Who Sued Firm Over Sexual Harassment.

Fortune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1) reports that automaker Tesla has fired AJ Vandermeyden, a female engineer who in February “spoke out and accused the company of ignoring her claims of ‘unwelcome and pervasive harassment,’ unequal pay, and discrimination.” According to a spokesperson for Tesla, “Vandermeyden was terminated because her allegations were thoroughly investigated by the company itself along with the help of ‘a neutral, third-party expert’ and ultimately deemed illegitimate. Her lawyers are saying her termination was retaliatory, while Tesla claims it was justified.”

The Guardian (UK) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Levin) reports that Vandermeyden’s attorney says the move was “an act of retaliation” and that her client was “devastated” by the firing. The piece reports Vandermeyden “had claimed she was taunted and catcalled by male employees and that Tesla failed to address her complaints about the harassment, unequal pay and discrimination.” The Silicon Valley (CA) Business Journal Share to FacebookShare
to Twitter (6/1, Subscription Publication) also covers this story.

Engineering and Public Policy

DOE Approves First Floating LNG Terminal In Gulf.

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Malik) reports the Delfin natural gas project, “the first floating terminal proposed to export natural gas out of the Gulf of Mexico,” has been “cleared by U.S. regulators to send cargoes overseas.” On Thursday, the Fairwood Peninsula Energy Corp. project has received approval from the Energy Department “to send 1.8 billion cubic feet of LNG a day to countries that don’t have free-trade agreements with the U.S.” In a statement Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the approval of the project will “continue to strengthen the United States as a dominant energy force. … Investing in American natural gas not only helps our economy and our jobs, but also helps our allies maintain their energy security.”

E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Subscription Publication) reports the announcement of the authorization “comes as Perry leaves for a trip to Asia, where he said he ‘plans to strengthen the U.S.-China LNG export partnership’ after visiting the Fukushima nuclear site in Japan, according to DOE.”

Environmentalists Celebrate Closure Of Three Coal Plants.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Demick) reports that “on the same day that…Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, environmentalists took consolation in the closure of three large coal-fired power plants – often blamed as big contributors to climate change.” The Times adds that “the three plants, two in New Jersey and another in Massachusetts, are the latest in a national trend toward phasing out coal-fired power plants in the face of tighter regulations and competition from cheap natural gas.” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, “which was celebrating the closures,” said, “The timing is kind of ironic. They are closing these plants the same day that Trump is pulling out of Paris. It shows that no matter what the president does, the country is moving towards cleaner sources of energy. … This is the future.”

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, King), meanwhile, says “the nation’s steady, years-long reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming won’t suddenly stop,” and that “utility companies have announced plans to fully or partially close more than a half dozen coal-fired power plants since Trump took office fewer than five months ago, taking some of the nation’s largest greenhouse gas emitters off-line.”

Clean Energy Expected To Grow Despite Trump’s Paris Decision.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Biesecker) reports President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris climate agreement “seems unlikely to stall the push to adopt cleaner forms of energy.” Across the globe, “coal-fired power plants are being shuttered as governments and private companies invest billions in wind turbines and solar farms.” Even in parts of the United States, “where coal is plentiful, electric utilities are increasingly shifting to cheaper, cleaner-burning natural gas.”

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1, Chediak) reports that even without US participation in the Paris agreement, “economics will continue to squeeze carbon out of the country’s power mix.” Cheap natural gas is “increasingly being favored over” coal for producing power. William Nelson, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said, “It’s fuel economics that have driven most of the decarbonization to date. And the coal-to-gas fuel switch is extremely potent. It’s the relative cost of coal and gas that will have the greatest impact on U.S. carbon emissions.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

“The Super Soaker” Inventor Lonnie Johnson Now Funding High School Robotics Teams In Georgia.

NBC News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/1) reports that “The Super Soaker” inventor Lonnie Johnson, whose creation ended up topping $1 billion in sales, is turning his attention and resources towards giving back to a new generation of engineers. Johnson’s nonprofit helps fund high school robotics teams, and one of those teams is the DISCbots and is made up of refugees from nine countries. Johnson said, “If I can have a positive impact, clearly it’s something I want to do.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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