Leading the News
UC San Diego Computer Engineering Professor Wins MacArthur Award.
The Los Angeles Times (10/10, Netburn) reports UC San Diego professor of computer science and engineering Stefan Savage has “just won a five-year, $625,000 ‘genius’ grant from the MacArthur Foundation.” Savage “and his students have hacked into cars and disabled brakes, used telescopes to make illicit copies of keys from 200 feet away, and joined criminal groups selling counterfeit drugs over the internet.” The Times adds that Savage “works on a wide range of projects designed to protect computer systems from attackers, whether it’s a crook trying to steal credit card information off a laptop or a foreign country gathering intelligence by hacking into a database maintained by Yahoo or Anthem Blue Cross.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune (10/10) reports that the “cybersecurity guru” has “revealed ways to thwart email spammers and showed how hackers could remotely steal cars.” The piece says Savage “has long been a bright light in UC San Diego’s department of computer science and engineering, largely for investigating the economics of cybercrime, creating better ways to defend against the spread of malicious software, and for illustrating that cars are vulnerable to hackers.”
VA Drops Plans To Suspend Law Barring Employees’ Ties With For-Profit Colleges.
The AP (10/11, Yen) reports that on Wednesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs halted plans “to suspend an ethics law barring employees from receiving benefits from for-profit colleges” after receiving “criticism from government watchdogs who warned of financial entanglements with private companies vying for millions in GI Bill tuition.”
Data Show Black Americans Twice As Likely As Whites To Default On Student Debt.
Bloomberg News (10/11, Nasiripour) reports new data from the Department of Education show “nearly half of black Americans who borrowed from the federal government to attend college defaulted on their student loans – more than double the rate among white student debtors.” The figures “are part of a comprehensive report out this month that examines students who first enrolled in college during the 2003-04 academic year and whether they defaulted on at least one federal loan over the next 12 years, or until June 2015.” Seton Hall University professor Robert Kelchen compiled the default rates, and the “differences are stark.” About 48.6 percent of black student debtors “defaulted on a federal loan, compared with 10.8 percent of Asians, 20.4 percent of whites, and 34.7 percent of Hispanics.” Among all races, some 27 percent of all borrowers defaulted.
Californians Want Increased College Aid For Low- And Middle-income For Public Colleges, Poll Finds.
EdSource (10/11, Gordon) reports that according to a Berkeley IGS/EdSource poll, “California voters strongly support increasing state-funded financial aid for both low-income and middle-income students at public colleges and universities.” The article says, “California already provides some of the most generous financial aid in the nation to cover tuition and, as a result, college students graduate with some of the lowest total education loan debt in the nation.” The article reports, “On a geographic basis, support for bolstered financial aid was strongest in Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay area and lowest in other parts of northern California.”
Southern Cal Community Colleges Need To Prepare More Workers For The Region, Report Says.
EdSource (10/11, Zinshteyn) says a report by The Center for a Competitive Workforce found that community colleges need to “educate more students to fill the tens of thousands of jobs that’ll be created in the next five years.” The report says that of the 67,450 projected job openings in the next five years that require a college certificate, “community colleges in the region are on pace to graduate students for just over half.” The article says, “Most of the coming middle-skill jobs will be in health care services – nearly 28,000 openings by 2021 – and in professional and technical services, estimated at 17,000 jobs.”
Research and Development
Panasonic Plans Debut Of Self-driving System By 2022.
ZDNet (10/12, Chadwick) says that as Panasonic “continues to turn its focus to advanced auto parts,” the company projects releasing its autonomous commercial vehicle driving system by 2022, for which it says it is leveraging its TV and camera expertise to enable low- and medium-speed driving and self-valet parking. Panasonic is reportedly the battery supplier for the Tesla Model 3 and moved 350 engineers from consumer electronics divisions to its automotive R&D division upon the unit’s creation in April this year. Shoichi Goto, director of vision and sensing technologies in the division, is cited saying, “We know we are behind our rivals right now, but we have developed key LSI 9 (large-scale integration) chips for advanced image processing and sonar sensing that would give us major advantages.”
Louisiana Cyber Innovation Center Receives DHS Grant.
KTBS-TV Shreveport, LA (10/11) reports, “The Cyber Innovation Center (CIC), headquartered in Bossier City, has received a $4 million continuation grant from the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS).” KTBS says, “The fiscal year 2017 DHS grant supports the CIC’s continued, nation-wide expansion of the its K-12 education and training program designed to provide educators with curricula, resources, and dynamic professional development in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), cyber, and computer science.”
Autonomous Vehicle Push Tests Limits Of Battery Technology.
Bloomberg News (10/11, Coppola, Dey) reports that the push to develop autonomous vehicles quickly is demonstrating that “autonomy and battery power could end up being at odds,” because “self-driving technology is a huge power drain.” The power needs for some prototypes of autonomous vehicles “consume two to four kilowatts of electricity – the equivalent of having 50 to 100 laptops continuously running in the trunk, according to BorgWarner Inc,” which expects the first generation of autonomous cars “will be too energy-hungry to run on battery power alone.” Bloomberg states that the regulatory push towards efficiency will continue to force innovation, “as major markets from California to China ratchet up pressure to curb pollution, automakers and their suppliers will have to find creative new ways to offset emissions produced by feeding the car’s increasingly intelligent brain.”
Northrop Grumman Subsidiary Unveils Experimental Aircraft.
The AP (10/11) reports that Northrop Grumman subsidiary specialty aerospace developer Scaled Composites unveiled a new experimental aircraft for the first time Wednesday. The Model 401, intended for an unspecified “proprietary customer,” is intended “to demonstrate advanced, low-cost manufacturing techniques, and to provide aircraft for research flight services to industry partners and the United States government.” The Model 401 “has a 38-foot wingspan, is 38 feet long and will fly at Mach 0.6, with a service ceiling of 30,000 feet. It is powered by a Pratt & Whitney JTD-15D-5D engine.” Scaled Composites is known for “revolutionary aerospace designs” such as the SpaceShipOne rocket, which won the Ansari X Prize in 2004.
Scientists Develop Low-Cost Battery From Waste Graphite.
Nanowerk (10/11) reports that two scientists in the Empa branch of a research group based at both ETH Zurich and in Empa’s Laboratory for Thin Films and Photovoltaics have “discovered promising approaches” for the production of inexpensive batteries made from scrap metal and “kish graphite” – which is waste material from steel production that acts as an ideal cathode material for the batteries. The article explains that natural graphite also works so long as it is in “coarse flakes,” allowing the new batteries’ thick anions to “slip into the structure more easily” at the open edges of the flakes. One of the scientists, Kostiantyn Kravchyk, is cited saying, “The aluminum chloride – graphite cathode battery could last decades in everyday household use. … similar demonstrations, but further increased battery voltages, without compromising capacities, and of even lighter elements are on the way and will offer further increase in energy densities.”
Alibaba Plans To Invest $15B In R&D Projects.
The Verge (10/11, Vincent) reports that, according to Quartz, Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba announced recently that it plans to invest $15 billion in research and development projects. The investment is part of the company’s Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, and Outlook (DAMO) Academy and “will include the opening of seven new labs: two in China, with others in Singapore, Moscow, near Seattle, and in Silicon Valley.” The Verge adds that the scope of research conducted at these facilities will include areas like artificial intelligence, data analysis, the Internet of Things, and quantum computing.
Engineering and Public Policy
Pro-Trump Energy Group Criticizes Perry Plan To Aid Coal, Nuclear.
The Hill (10/11, Cama) reports the Institute for Energy Research, “whose political arm endorsed President Trump, is panning the administration’s proposal to mandate higher payments to coal and nuclear power plants.” Director of Policy Kenny Stein wrote yesterday that the proposal by the Energy Department is “excessive and unnecessarily distortive.” The proposal asks the FERC “to require that electric grid operators pay power plants for their costs plus a fair return, as long as the plants have at least 90 days of fuel on-site, a quality only possible in coal and nuclear plants.” Secretary of Energy Rick Perry “said the policy is needed for grid resilience, since coal and nuclear plants are closing down due to the economy.”
The Washington Examiner (10/11, Siciliano) reports the group said, “Putting the government’s finger on the scale in this way will increase costs and stifle innovation in new means of generation and delivery. … What need is there to innovate and to offer more efficient or cheaper electricity if the government is guaranteeing returns for existing processes?”
IECA Wants Lawmakers To Confront Perry On Proposal. E&E Daily (10/11, Subscription Publication) reports “operators of the nation’s factories and industrial plants are trying to enlist Congress’ help to halt” Perry’s proposal. Ahead of his appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday, “the Industrial Energy Consumers of America called on Republican and Democratic leaders to ask Perry to withdraw his request for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rulemaking.” The group said the proposal by Perry is “anti-competitive.” E&E Publishing (10/11, Subscription Publication) reports DOE officials contend that the “power grid policy directive” was “necessary to speed up planning for grid restoration after a major disaster.”
Kemp: Trump Attempt To Save Coal, Likely In Vain. Columnist John Kemp writes for Reuters (10/11, Kemp) that “in striving to keep the existing coal units in service, the Trump administration is trying to buck market forces and sustain an increasingly outdated technology.” The Trump Administration “may be able to achieve a few small symbolic victories, but the history of energy shows market forces and technological change always win in the end.”
California Must Enact Reforms To Prepare For Future Earthquakes.
In a piece for Forbes (10/11, Choudhary), Zenith Engineers CEO Nikhil Choudhary proposes actions California cities can take to prepare for a major earthquake, drawing on his firm’s experience assisting “buildings in becoming seismically safer.” Choudhary says California’s legislators should increase funding for the ShakeAlert earthquake warning system to give residents more “time to find safer ground” in the event of an earthquake. Legislators also should “develop a rebate program for seismic retrofit in order to speed up compliance” and allow owners to pass more of the costs of seismic retrofitting on to tenants, a reform that would better incentivize such upgrades. Lastly, “non-compliance penalties” for failing to implement earthquake retrofits “must be immediate and strict in order to ensure timely completion and fairness to the building owners who have completed work within timeline.”
Scott Pruitt’s EPA Targeting Obama Administration-Era Environmental Rules.
PBS (10/11, Amico) reports that the Trump administration has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to delay or rollback more than two dozen environmental regulations. PBS examines how the EPA has targeted federal rules in six broad areas, including power plants, vehicle emissions, the social cost of carbon, oil and gas wells, municipal landfills, and refrigerants. For example, “industry groups…have petitioned the government to scrap” EPA limits on methane emissions; President Trump signed an executive order disbanding the task force working to develop an updated social cost of carbon; and automakers are currently lobbying for the administration to “ease the fuel efficiency for cars and light trucks.”
Bloomberg Gives $64M To Fight Coal.
The Hill (10/11, Cama) reports former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg “is making a new $64 million commitment to environmental groups’ efforts to shut down coal-fired power plants and replace them with cleaner forms of electricity generation.” The announcement was made yesterday by Bloomberg “at the Washington, D.C., office of the Sierra Club.” The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign will receive “$30 million of the money, with the rest going to the League of Conservation Voters and others.”
Bloomberg News (10/11, Dlouhy) reports Bloomberg’s announcement “came a day after the Trump administration began a formal effort to repeal Obama-era curbs on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.” Bloomberg said, “The war on coal has never been led by Washington. It has been led by market forces that are providing cleaner and cheaper sources of energy. … The war on coal is saving tens of thousands of lives, and we won’t stop fighting until we save every last one.” Reuters (10/11) reports Bloomberg also said, “These are the groups that are fighting the war on coal and it’s happening all across America and they are winning.” CBS News (10/11) reports he “slammed the Trump administration for providing ‘false hope’ to those looking to maintain a career in the coal industry, as the business continues to shrink, forcing many to lose their jobs.”
The AP (10/11) reports utilities in the US “have phased out nearly half of their coal plants since 2011, with many switching to cheaper, cleaner-burning natural gas.” The Washington Examiner (10/11) also provides coverage of this story.
DOD: Only 16 Percent Of Puerto Rico Has Power.
ABC News (10/11) reports “three weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall” just “16 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents have electricity, the Department of Defense said Wednesday.” But according to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority “the number is more like 10 percent after an outage at one nuclear plant.” The DOD said, “Power restoration crews continue to arrive on the island. Additional priorities remain hospitals and communication, with an increased focus on isolated regions. … The governor is implementing a plan to assign the PR National Guard, augmented by the territorial militia, to support local leaders in each of the 78 municipalities to ensure more commodities are pushed to those in need.”
Bloomberg News (10/11, Malik) reports that “while the vast majority of Puerto Rico remains without power, most of its casinos are back in business, according to the head of Puerto Rico Tourism Co.” Bloomberg adds “thirteen of the island’s 18 casinos are operating again.”
DOE Working With Utilities On Cyber Security.
The Washington Examiner (10/11, Siciliano, Seigel) reports Department of Energy officials “were busy” on Tuesday “working with utilities at private and public meetings on cybersecurity to discuss next month’s cyber war games called GridEx.” The Examiner adds “officials from the energy and homeland security departments told the companies that the threat of cyber attack was real and more industry-government collaboration is needed.” A DOE official “at the meeting said the agency was still analyzing the December 2015 attacks on Ukraine that brought down the grid.”
Montana District Raising Money To Expand STEM Instruction In Elementary Schools.
The Bozeman (MT) Daily Chronicle (10/11) reports that Bozeman, Montana Superintendent Rob Watson wants to expand STEM lessons to all 3,000 elementary school students in his district. Watson said that many students don’t sign up for high school level STEM courses in the city because “they’re not interested, think STEM classes will be too hard, or think they’re not relevant.” In an effort to give all students a grounding in STEM subjects, Watson is seeking some $350,000 from community and business leaders to train teachers and buy equipment.
Albuquerque School Board Votes To Oppose State Education Proposal For Using Term Climate “Fluctuations.”
The AP (10/11) reports that the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education voted on Tuesday to send a letter to the Public Education Department “opposing the state’s proposed changes to science teaching standards that substitute references to rising global temperatures and climate change with statements about climate ‘fluctuations.’” The article says, “Board member Peggy Muller-Aragon was the sole dissenter” and said, “I have looked and thought these look good to me because they kind of leave things a little bit open for the other side.” The article reports that references to evolution and the age of the Earth are also omitted from the state’s proposal.
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Administration Moves To Repeal Clean Power Plan.
• AFL-CIO Calls On SEC To Investigate Large Navient Stock Trades.
• Nvidia Unveils Computer Chips For Full, Level 5 Autonomous Vehicles.
• Women Around The World Report Gender Issues In Tech Firms.
• China To Open A New Quantum Research Supercenter.
• Honeywell To Retain Aerospace, Spin Off Two Business Units.
• Executives Say Energy Sector Resilient To Rising Challenges.