Leading the News
Republicans Reach Tentative Agreement On Tax Plan.
Republican leaders have reportedly reached agreement on a cut plan tax plan on the same day President Trump delivered what aides described as a “closing argument” for it. While Trump said the plan would provide “massive tax relief for American families and for American companies,” many media reports cast the plan in a negative light, saying it will largely benefit corporations and the wealthy.
Reuters (12/13, Morgan, Becker) says the agreement “would repeal the corporate alternative minimum tax…and expand a proposed $10,000 cap for state and local property tax deductions to include income tax, lawmakers and sources familiar with the negotiations said.” In addition, it was “expected to limit the popular mortgage interest deduction to home loans of no more than $750,000 and provide the owners of pass-through businesses…with a 20 percent business income deduction.” It would also “gut part of the Obamacare health law” by repealing the individual mandate. Reuters says the final bill “could be formally unveiled on Friday,” with final votes expected next week. The New York Times (12/13, Tankersley, Kaplan, Rappeport, Subscription Publication) says the “overall cost of the revised legislation” is unclear, and adds that it “cannot exceed the $1.5 trillion bucket that lawmakers have allowed if they want to pass the bill without Democratic support.” Several Senate provisions added “to help pay for the overall bill were either reversed or scaled back in the consensus version, and some tax breaks eliminated by the House were added back in.” The Hill (12/13, Bolton, Wong) reports that while House conservatives “said they didn’t like the bump in the corporate rate,” with “a tax victory so close, they said the tweak would not be a deal breaker.” Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Walker said, “We don’t like it; it causes some consternation. I am concerned about the business rate. … But it’s not a deal breaker.”
Politico (12/13, Faler, Kim, Cook) says that with Senate expected to take up the bill Monday and hold a final vote on Tuesday, “attention turns to a handful of Republican senators who have held considerable leverage in the tax fight,” including Sen. Susan Collins, who “stressed on Wednesday that she doesn’t believe the top individual tax rate should be lowered,” and Sen. Marco Rubio, who “hinted Wednesday that his vote for the plan was not guaranteed. He has demanded that, if his colleagues back off their promises to cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, they must use at least some of the budget savings to expand the refundability of the child tax credit.” Sen. Bob Corker was also “non-committal.” Senate Majority Whip Cornyn told the Washington Examiner (12/13, Ferrechio) that Republicans are “in good shape” to pass the bill with at least 51 votes, and said he is hopeful that Corker, who was “the only holdout on the initial Senate plan, may also vote for it.”
The Los Angeles Times (12/13, Mascaro) calls the “tentative accord” a “significant step” in the GOP effort to get the bill to Trump by Christmas, but says Republicans “did not release details of the compromise or the text of a final bill as negotiations continued.” Critics meanwhile, “said the latest changes…only reaffirmed several independent analyses that show the bulk of the savings from the Republican plan would go to businesses and the wealthy.”
Sources offering additional coverage include the Washington Post (12/13, Paletta, Werner), the Associated Press (12/13, Ohlemacher, Taylor, Gordon), the New York Post (12/13, Fredericks), USA Today (12/13, Jackson, Shesgreen, Collins, Today), the New York Times (12/13, Stolberg, Subscription Publication), the CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 (12/13), The Hill (12/13, Jagoda), The Hill (12/13, Bolton, Wong, Jagoda), the New York Times (12/13, Solomon, Subscription Publication), the CBS Evening News (12/13, story 8, 0:20, Glor), the Salt Lake (UT) Tribune (12/13, Burr), the Wall Street Journal (12/13, Rubin, Hughes, Subscription Publication), the CNN’s Situation Room (12/13), the Fox News’ Hannity (12/13), the Washington Times (12/13, Sherfinski), the Fox News’ Special Report (12/13), USA Today (12/13, Jackson), Bloomberg News (12/13, Sink, Epstein), Politico (12/13, McCaskill), The Hill (12/13, Easley), the Washington Times (12/13, Dinan), the ABC World News Tonight (12/13, lead story, 3:45, Muir), the NBC Nightly News(12/13, lead story, 2:35, Holt), and the Wall Street Journal (12/13, Board, Subscription Publication).
US News & World Report Contributor: 529 Expansions Will Not Promote School Choice. Nat Malkus, research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writes in a U.S. News & World Report (12/13, Malkus) op-ed that Sen. Ted Cruz’s amendment to the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which would “expand 529 college-savings plans so families could use them for K-12 expenses like private-school tuition…will do little to boost” school choice. Because of how 529 savings work, the proposed amendment “neither expands choice nor helps poor families;” rather, it “undermines school choice for those who don’t already have it, … allows Republicans to claim they support school choice without any meaningful federal outlays, and…plays into the hands of critics who argue that school choice is a giveaway to relatively wealthy families.”
Study Suggests Trump’s Budget Will Cut Children’s Programs. Newsweek (12/13, Goodkind) reports that a study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute found that President Trump’s “proposed budget would reduce federal spending on education by 15 percent, children’s health care spending by 10 percent and spending on child-related nutrition by 9 percent.” Newsweek adds that the funding cuts to “children’s programs would help offset the estimated $1 trillion deficit the Trump tax plan would create.” The $140 billion in cuts are primarily comprised of Medicaid program cuts, specifically to health insurance coverage for children from low- to middle-income families, and the estimates “don’t include a potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act or a funding cut to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), meaning the monetary impact would likely be much higher.”
Grad Students Plead With Lawmakers Over Tax Overhaul. Reuters (12/13, MarksJarvis) reports graduate students are “worried that the U.S. tax overhaul working its way through Congress will force” them “to give up on their educations.” Thousands of graduate students are reportedly “sending letters and petitions calling on Congress to stop considering tax changes that would raise revenue by targeting tuition waivers that grad students receive.” According to Reuters, House lawmakers approved a provision to “require graduate students to pay taxes on the free tuition many universities provide” and, although such a provision was absent from the Senate version, “a final conference version is expected by year’s end” that could include the plan. The American Council on Education estimates the new tuition tax could affect about 145,000 graduate and about 25,000 undergraduate students.
According to the Daily Intelligencer (NY) (12/13, Levitz), the tentative final draft of the tax bill does not include the following disputed provisions: repeal of the deduction for medical expenses, repeal of the student-loan-interest deduction, repeal of private activity bonds, or the end of the tax-free status of graduate-school tuition waivers. The Daily Intelligencer explains that “Senate Republicans weren’t crazy about the House’s plans to radically increase the cost of a graduate education, exacerbate the affordable-housing crisis, raise taxes on people with lots of student-loan debt, and raise the bankruptcy rate for disabled people with expensive medical conditions.”
Research and Development
RIT Alum Donates $50M To College For Entrepreneurship, Cybersecurity Programs.
The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle (12/13, Murphy) reports Rochester Institute of Technology alum Austin McChord, whose online data protection company Datto is valued around $1 billion, has announced that he will donate $50 million to the college “for programs in entrepreneurship and cybersecurity.” $30 million of the donation, which marks “the largest single donation in RIT history,” will “go toward entrepreneurship, including $17.5 million to create a Maker Library and Innovation Learning Complex,” while the remaining “$20 million is for programs in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, including facilities and endowments.”
The AP (12/13) reports McChord said, “My goal with this gift is two-fold. First is to help make more resources available to students, alumni and the community at-large to create, build and innovate for the future. But it’s also to help recognize those who helped you along the way.”
OSU Engineering Students Adapt Toys For Children With Disabilities.
WBNS-TV Columbus, OH (12/13, Johnson) reports Ohio State University engineering students in the College of Engineering Toy Adaptation Program impersonate “elves” in Santa’s workshop by adapting toys so that they’re functional for children with disabilities. The university spends grant money on “electronic toys like trains or noise making dolls” that the students then work to modify the toy to allow “children with physical disabilities to enjoy the sights and sounds of a toy they may not otherwise be able to use.” Undergraduate intern Matthew Ritzenthaler explained. “A lot of these toys we change have electronics to them so sound, light, movement. We’ll pick a functionality within that toy that we want to adapt and make it useable for a child with a disability.”
WSYX-TV Columbus, OH (12/9, Nelson) reported online that Nationwide Children’s Hospital set up “a special toy workshop” for ill children, noting that the facility “recently [partnered] with the Ohio State College of Engineering to make this happen.”
Researchers In China, US Advance Light Filtering Technology.
Nanowerk (12/13) reports on research out of Nanjing University, Nankai University, and the University of Central Florida about a “new vector polarizer design” that constitutes “a major advance in polarization technology because it enables flexible filtering of a wide range of light sources and generation of new light states.” The author of the study, Hui-Tian Wang, says “An enormous challenge was how to solve the design and fabrication of vector polarizers to tailor the light beams and satisfy the requirements of various applications,”
Blue Origin Launches First Rocket In 14 Months.
CNBC (12/13, Sheetz) reports Blue Origin said it launched, landed, and “successfully deployed” the crew capsule of an updated New Shepard booster on Tuesday, the rocket company’s first launch in 14 months. The launch took place midday from Blue Origin’s facility in the West Texas desert. In a statement, CEO Bob Smith called the flight “a tremendous success.” The capsule, which included a test dummy, “touched down on the desert floor at 1 mile per hour.” The capsule also contained 12 other payloads, “which Blue Origin says were a mix of commercial, research and education.”
The Washington Post (12/12, Davenport) reports the booster and capsule, “which the company hopes to use to fly its first human tourists to space by as early as next year, hit a peak altitude of nearly 100 kilometers, or what’s considered the threshold of space, the company said in a statement.” Even though the rocket launch occurred about noon Tuesday, Blue Origin didn’t announce it until nearly 11 hour later. The Post says the “Federal Aviation Administration, which licensed the launch, declined to confirm that it had occurred for more than 24 hours after the rocket left Earth.”
Apple Investing $390M In Finisar.
Bloomberg News (12/13, Satariano) reports Apple will invest $390 million in Finisar Corp., “maker of laser technology that’s critical for new iPhone X features such as facial recognition.” The investment comes “from a $1 billion manufacturing fund” Apple “announced earlier this year with the aim of creating more American jobs.” The Wall Street Journal (12/13, Lombardo, Subscription Publication) reports the funding will allow Finisar to increase production and advance its R&D. USA Today (12/13, Molina) reports Apple “said the grant will help Finisar boost production of vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs), used on the iPhone’s X’s TrueDepth camera,” by allowing the company to remodel its 700,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Texas into what Apple called “the high-tech VCSEL capital” of the US. Apple also said the investment will create more than 500 “high-skill” jobs, such as engineers, technicians, and maintenance teams.
Reuters (12/13, Venogopal, Rai) reports that Apple “has committed to spend at least $1 billion through its Advanced Manufacturing Fund in US-based companies to support high-tech manufacturing.” Tweeting about the investment, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “Innovation in the heart of Texas! Proud to team up with @Finisar, the latest recipient from our Advanced Manufacturing Fund.” Finisar is expected to start shipping products from the plant in the second half of 2018. Apple “said it would buy 10 times more VCSELs than were previously made worldwide in the fourth quarter, compared with a year earlier.”
CNET News (12/13, Collins) reports Apple COO Jeff Williams said, “VCSELs power some of the most sophisticated technology we’ve ever developed and we’re thrilled to partner with Finisar over the next several years to push the boundaries of VCSEL technology and the applications they enable. We’re extremely proud that our involvement will help transform another American community into a manufacturing powerhouse.”
CNN Money (12/13, Yurieff) reports that glass manufacturer Corning was the first company to receive an investment from Apple’s US manufacturing fund. In May, Apple pledged $200 million to Corning, which “makes Gorilla Glass displays for smartphones and tablets, including for Apple products.”
According to The AP (12/13), the investment “is a huge lifeline for Finisar,” whose stock “tumbled nearly 40 percent this year after putting up disappointing numbers in its past two quarters.” At the opening bell on Wednesday, shares of Finisar jumped nearly 30 percent.
Also reporting are the Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette (12/13), the Sherman (TX) Herald Democrat (12/13), 9 to 5 Mac (12/13), iDrop News (12/13), the Channel News (AUS) (12/14), CdrInfo (UK) (12/13), Hot New Hip Hop (12/13), TechSpot (12/13), PocketNow (12/13), The Wrap (12/13), 24/7 Wall Street (12/13), PC Magazine (12/13), TelecomPaper (12/13), Apple World Today (12/13), Phone Scoop (12/13), Mac Daily News (12/13), Mac Daily News (12/13), Business Insider (12/13), Financial Buzz (12/13), Variety (12/13), Seeking Alpha (12/13), Business Insider (12/13), the IT World Canada (12/13), Fortune (12/13), Venture Beat (12/13), the Springfield (MO) Business Journal (12/13), the iLounge (12/13), Engadget (12/13), AppleInsider (12/13), the Mac Observer (12/13), Long Room (12/13), POST Online Media (HRV) (12/13), The Verge (12/13), and BGR (12/13).
Engineering and Public Policy
Many Researchers Would Consider Offers To Serve In Trump Administration, Survey Suggests.
Science Magazine (12/13, Mervis) reports many researchers would consider serving in the Trump Administration, according to “an informal survey by Science of 66 prominent scientists and engineers.” The article quotes many scientists sharing their opinions about the role of scientists during the Trump Administration.
NRC Engineers Expected To Urge Self-Assessment Regime For Reactor Operators.
RTO Insider (12/12, Kuser) reports, “A Nuclear Regulatory Commission official said Tuesday that a team of…reactor safety engineers would likely recommend that the commission continue working on replacing a portion of its inspections with a self-assessment regime for operators of commercial nuclear power plants.” RTO adds, “Tony Gody, NRC director of reactor safety in Region II (Southeast), said Dec. 12 that ‘the working group agrees that self-assessment, if implemented properly, can be very effective in finding latent conditions’ and probably will be recommending further exploration of how to get there via a pilot program.” Gody’s remarks came at the “end of the agency’s second public hearing in two months on the use of licensee self-assessments in the NRC engineering inspection program and other changes in the reactor oversight process.”
Sens. Gillibrand, Rubio Propose Stop Underrides Act Of 2017.
The Livingston County (NY) News (12/13, Krencik) reports, “Fatalities and serious head-and-neck injuries can be unavoidable when a sedan or sport utility vehicle crashes into the back or side of a tractor trailer.” On Tuesday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said the risks involved with commercial and personal vehicles are preventable or could be mitigated against with new technology. Gillibrand and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) have co-sponsored a bill called the Stop Underrides Act of 2017, which would require underride guards. The Livingston County News states, “The U.S. Secretary of Transportation would be given oversight to set new standards every five years as technology improves, with advisement from a new committee of families of those killed in such accidents, along with manufacturers, engineers, crash reconstructionists, traffic safety and public safety groups.”
Naperville, IL Students Test STEM Skills At Robotics Competition.
The Naperville (IL) Sun (12/13, Sharos) reports upwards of “300 fourth- through eighth-grade students” in Naperville, IL “spent Saturday using their Lego skills and engineering know-how to build robots at Naperville North High School’s FIRST Lego League tournament.” The event, which was “sponsored by the Naperville North Robotics Team as a FIRST Illinois Robotics initiative,” asked students to “create robots that could present a unique solution to a water problem.” Naperville North Learning Commons student advisor Carol Naughton opined, “This program is different from other science bowls in that it’s not just science or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) but the whole kid. Part of the competition is looking at core values and all of the ‘soft skills’ used in business, including communication, organization, time management and leadership as well as the STEM skills.”
WI School Receives $20,000 Donation For STEM, Manufacturing, Woodworking Programs.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (12/13, Johnson) reports the Mark G. Sellers Entrepreneurial Foundation recently gave Lake Country School a $20,000 grant to help it grow its STEM, manufacturing, and woodworking programs and “purchase needed tools and equipment.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Keaton Jones, Mother Speak Out About Viral Bullying Video.
• GVSU Awarded $1 Million Grant For STEM Scholarships.
• Local Kids Enjoy Holiday Story Night At McDaniel College In Maryland.
• Researchers Outline Processes To Boost Range Of Lithium Battery Cathodes.
• Full Employment In The US? Not For Many Women.
• Google To Open New AI Research Center in Beijing.
• Northrop Grumman Expects To Deploy MQ-8C Fire Scout In 2020.