Leading the News
Much Of Puerto Rico Still Lacking Power.
ABC World News Tonight (12/24, story 7, 2:10, Llamas) reported that as Puerto Ricans prepare to celebrate Christmas, “[h]undreds of thousands are still struggling without power in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.” Almost 30 percent of the country’s electrical grid is still not generating power three months after the hurricane. ABC (Oquendo): “The suffering comes as Congress has delayed a possible vote on disaster relief until January.” NBC Nightly News’ (12/23, story 7, 2:15, Diaz-Balart) Tammy Leitner said more than 90 days since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, a third of the island’s residents remain without power and for many, “the only Christmas delivery this year” will be “basic supplies, a lifeline for many” families.
The AP (12/25, Coto) reports Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority “says its system is generating at 70 percent of normal but it has no way of knowing how widely electricity is being distributed because the system that measures that isn’t working.” A study by a group of local engineers on December 11 “estimated roughly 50 percent of the island’s 3.3 million people remained without power,” while the US Army Corps of Engineers “has said it likely won’t be until May that all of Puerto Rico is electrified.”
Lawmakers Argue Over Responsibility For Dropped Disaster Funding For Puerto Rico. Politico (12/23, Bresnahan, Caygle) reports on the “fierce partisan finger-pointing” that followed Congress’ failure to allocate some supplemental disaster aid to Puerto Rico. Republicans argue that Democrats’ refusal to work with their party on the issue cost Puerto Rico “at least $4.6 billion” in Medicaid funding, while “Democrats counter that Republicans should have just put the money in the bill in the first place without” seeking to encourage Democratic votes with it. Though Republicans have managed to pass a bill with the support of 69 Democrats, “final action on the bill will be delayed for weeks.”
WSJournal Lauds DeVos For Student Loan Reform.
The Wall Street Journal (12/26, Journal, Subscription Publication) editorializes that the Obama Administration had sought to reduce the government’s $1.3 trillion student loan portfolio by allowing borrowers to discharge their debt, but earlier this year, Education Secretary DeVos ended this practice, suspending claim approvals while the department’s Inspector General reviewed departmental procedures for discharged debt. According to the Journal, a new directive from DeVos scales student loan relief based on college employment data. Borrowers who enrolled in programs whose graduates earn less than the average of peer institutions will receive 100% debt relief, while those who attended programs with higher earnings will only be able to discharge some debt. The Journal praises the Administration for restoring due process and protecting taxpayers.
Chicago Sun-Times Criticizes DeVos For Rolling Back For-Profit College Regulations.
The Chicago Sun-Times (12/25) editorializes that ED “is sneaking Fraud 101 back into our nation’s for-profit college curriculum.” The piece says that if Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “has her way, students who fall victim to tuition scams from bogus ‘colleges’ and ‘universities’ once again will find themselves at a heartbreaking dead end — without the skills to get a better job — and mired in hopeless debt.” The piece says the federal government has worked in recent years “to weed out deceitful for-profit operations that persuade students to take out large federal loans only to abandon them,” but adds that “the administration of Donald Trump, who once ran a rip-off of his own called Trump University, is welcoming the scammers back.”
WPost Analysis Observes University Of Maryland’s Admissions Process.
The Washington Post (12/26, Anderson) reports on the admissions election process for the University of Maryland’s College Park campus in “an era of surging applications for College Park and other big state schools nationwide.” According to Federal data, “the 50 state flagships received 1.3 million applications in 2016, up 79 percent compared with 10 years earlier.”
Research and Development
Biomedical Engineering Professor Discusses Novel Research Into Tumor Imaging Technology.
Writing for Scientific American (12/22) about false positives in cancer screening, Washington University in St. Louis biomedical engineering professor Quing Zhu says “one solution – a clear image of a tumor and its features – is not yet available to doctors, but scientists are working diligently to develop the technology to produce a readable, inexpensive ‘snapshot.’” Zhu holds out hope that advanced imaging technologies will improve survival rates for all cancers, but particularly those affecting women, such as breast and ovarian cancer.
Scientists Use Graphene To Develop Bulletproof Material.
International Business Times (12/23, Radhakrishnan) reported scientists at Advanced Science Research Centre at the City University of New York have “created a bullet-proof suit material with graphene that becomes harder than diamond on impact from any fast moving or heavy object.” According to IBT, the material diamene is thinner than aluminum foil and it “switches immediately on impact, making it a foolproof way to stop even the fastest, most powerful bullets immediately.”
Newsweek (12/25, Delzo) provided similar coverage.
Research Team Develops UAV That Provides Emergency Medical Treatment.
The Daily Beast (12/24, Beebe) reported that a team led by Hinds Community College UAV program director Dennis Lott and Guy Paul Cooper Jr. has developed a UAV, known as HiRO (Health Integrated Rescue Operations), that “acts as a 911 link to a remote, on-call doctor, who uses an augmented reality interface to give bystanders instructions to provide simple, Good Samaritan medical care until emergency personnel arrive.” Dr. Italo Subbarao, a member of the team and a senior associate dean at the William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine, said that he’s looking to fly and test the UAV with federal agencies that work with emergency response in order to get the FAA’s approval for the device and show that it is capable of working in an emergency situation.
Musk Teases Details Of New Tesla Pickup In Tweets.
The New York Post (12/26, Vega) says that Musk “had initially taken to the social network on Tuesday to send a message of ‘deep gratitude’ to Tesla owners, thanking them for ‘taking a chance on a new company’ that experts and investors have repeatedly predicted would fail,” before asking how Tesla could improve. The Post adds that “when one user requested a pickup truck, Musk let the cat out of the bag.” Musk tweeted, “I promise that we will make a pickup truck right after Model Y. Have had the core design/engineering elements in my mind for almost 5 years. Am dying to build it.” CBS News (12/26) reports that in a follow up tweet about how the truck would compare to the Ford F150, Musk stated, “Similar total size. Maybe slightly bigger to account for a really gamechanging (I think) feature I’d like to add.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Trump Suggests Willingness To Work With Democrats On Infrastructure Bill.
The Washington Post (12/22, Wagner) reports that “still celebrating passage of a tax bill with only Republican votes, President Trump on Friday took to Twitter to” say he is willing to work with Democrats to develop legislation on infrastructure. He tweeted , “At some point, and for the good of the country, I predict we will start working with the Democrats in a Bipartisan fashion. Infrastructure would be a perfect place to start. After having foolishly spent $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is time to start rebuilding our country!” According to the Post, the President was “referring to an initiative the White House is preparing to unveil as early as mid-January that is designed to spur $1 trillion in new spending over the coming decade on the nation’s ailing roads, bridges, airports and waterways.”
Interior Department Limits Attendance Of USGS Scientists At American Geophysical Union Summit.
The Washington Post (12/22, Kaplan) reports “some 450 researchers” from the US Geological Survey typically attend the American Geophysical Union’s annual conference, “the largest gathering of Earth, space and climate scientists in the world,” but in advance of the summit, “the Interior Department – which oversees the USGS – issued a new cap on attendance: No more than 199 employees across the department could travel to the meeting, and expenditures could not exceed $399,000.” According to the Post, “as a result, just 178 USGS researchers were present at the AGU conference in New Orleans last week – a 60 percent drop from last year.” The Post adds a USGS spokeswoman said the agency “was not given a rationale for the policy shift,” although an Interior Department spokeswoman “said the decision to limit the number of employees saved hundreds of thousands of tax dollars.”
Energy Industry Celebrates Easing Of Rule Against Killing Birds.
The Washington Post (12/26, Eilperin) reported that on Friday, the Interior Department “quietly rolled back an Obama-era policy aimed at protecting migratory birds,” marking a victory for energy industry interests that said the rule was overreaching. Under the new policy, the Interior Department “will no longer prosecute oil and gas, wind and solar operators that accidentally kill birders.” The National Ocean Industries Association and American Petroleum Institute both “hailed the new interpretation as a reasonable approach to a vexing problem.”
The Huffington Post (12/22, D’Angelo) reports that in announcing the new policy, the Interior Department’s solicitor “asserts that intent matters – and accidental migratory bird deaths don’t violate the law.”
Analysis: Automakers May React Poorly To Roll Back Of Fuel Economy Standards.
As the Administration is expected to continue its “crusade to wipe out every vestige of Obama-era policies, including auto fuel economy standards” next year, a Detroit Free Press (12/25, Gardner) analysis said that environmental and consumer advocates will continue “pushing back hard,” but automakers remain a wild card. Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, forecast “the Trump administration and automakers will ask to ease the standards for model years 2022 through 2025,” but he warned that if Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao “were to propose eliminating any fuel economy standard, then automakers might just as well shift development of electric vehicles to China altogether.” Gloria Bergquist, vice president with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said, “It’s all a balancing act. … If the standards are too steep too soon, it can affect affordability. That’s why it’s so important to find the sweet spot.”
Fishermen Concerned About Offshore Wind.
The AP (12/26, Marcelo) reports fishermen on the East Coast “are turning a wary eye toward an emerging upstart: the offshore wind industry.” Fishermen in New Bedford, Massachusetts “dread the possibility of navigating a forest of turbines as they make their way to the fishing grounds that have made it the nation’s most lucrative fishing port for 17 years running. The state envisions hundreds of wind turbines spinning off the city’s shores in about a decade, enough to power more than 1 million homes.” Off the coast of Long Island, “an organization representing East Coast scallopers has sued the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to try to halt a proposal for a nearly 200-turbine wind farm.” In addition, “commercial fishermen in Maryland’s Ocean City and North Carolina’s Outer Banks have…sounded the alarm about losing access to fishing grounds.” Offshore wind supporters “say they have learned from Europe’s long experience with it…as evidence the actual impact to U.S. fishermen will be less than feared.”
New Mexico State Land Office Issues Lease For Wind Farm.
The AP (12/26) reports the News Mexico State Land Office “has issued a lease to a subsidiary of a California-based energy company to build a wind farm on trust land” in the state. Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has “announced the 50-year lease…saying Cowboy Mesa LLC has plans to construct and operate a plant capable of producing 20 megawatts, or enough to power several thousand homes.” The “project will cover” over “1,600 acres (648 hectares) of state trust land near Corona in Torrance County.”
Ohio Bill Would Expand Computer Science Curriculum.
ThisWeek Community Newspapers (OH) (12/26) reports Ohio state lawmakers approved a bill this month that would require the State Board of Education to develop a model computer science curriculum by 2019. Since it would also allow graduating students to replace Algebra II with an advanced computer science unit, the bill includes a “disclaimer provision” mandating parent notification “that although high school graduation requirements will change, universities’ admissions standards may not.” State Rep. Rick Carfagna, a co-sponsor, “cited data from nonprofit group Code.org to illustrate that need” and “said the shortage of American workers with computer-science-related skills leads employers to rely on the H-1B visa program to fill open slots.” He said superintendents in his district are “very receptive” to the bill, in part because it does not mandate computer science instruction. Delaware City School District superintendent Paul Graft “said he likes that the legislation expands the possible paths to graduation” and could “open up more opportunities” for students to pursue computer science studies.
Arizona Project Increases STEM Opportunities For Rural Students.
The Navajo-Hopi Observer (AZ) (12/26) reports that each year for the past five years, the Arizona Public Schools Foundation and the Arizona Science Center have partnered efforts improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) opportunities in rural areas of the state. The APS Foundation has awarded more than $1.4 million to ACS’s Rural Communities Expansion Project, including $180,000 this July to “to implement professional development for K-8 teachers throughout Arizona during the 2017-18 school year.” Holbrook Unified School District is participating in the program for the first time this year. On Dec. 1, ASC held a day-long STEM Extravaganza, offering rotational STEM activities for HUSD students.
Illinois High School Robotics Team Hosts FIRST Lego League.
The AP (12/26, Sharos) reports the Naperville North High School Robotics Team in Illinois sponsored a FIRST Lego League tournament as part of its FIRST Illinois Robotics initiative. More than 300 elementary and middle school students applied “their Lego skills and engineering know-how to build robots” at the event. Naperville North Learning Commons student adviser Carol Naughton said as part of the tournament, judges consider “core values and all of the ‘soft skills’ used in business, including communication, organization, time management and leadership as well as the STEM skills.” Naughton added that the theme of this year’s competition was hydrodynamics, and participating students designed, built, and programmed robots that may provide unique solutions to global water problems.
Ohio Students Compete In Regional FIRST LEGO Robotics Tournament.
The Warren (OH) Tribune Chronicle (12/26) reports the Northeast Ohio FIRST Robotics Alliance, a partnership of nine high school FIRST Robotics teams and Eastwood Mall’s Art Outreach Gallery, recently held its regional qualifying tournament. More than 225 students from northeastern Ohio school districts participated “at the regional events as 24 teams demonstrated their problem-solving skills, creativity, teamwork and professionalism.” Ohio FIRST LEGO Leagues director Brenda Ronnebaum “said the event has students build a robot, do a research project and solve a real-world problem of the human water cycle.” The top teams will advance to the district tournament at the University of Akron in January for a chance to qualify for the state tournament in February. According to Ronnebaum, 30 percent of the area’s 554 teams will advance to the next level.
Arkansas High School Club Offers Students Pathway To Aviation Careers.
The AP (12/25) reported Mountain Home High School in Arkansas launched the Aviation Club this year to grant students “an avenue to explore aviation topics” and learn about flying. Rowan Laidler, a Purdue University hopeful whose “biggest career goal is to work for Boeing and NASA,” is one of 11 student members. The 17-year-old believes the easiest way to achieve her career goal “is to pursue an electrical engineering degree and minor in aviation or aerospace,” and she joined the club in hopes of gaining experience. MHHS science teacher and Aviation Club sponsor Skipper Thurman said he hopes members will one day be able to secure their pilot’s licenses through the club. Thurman said one main goal at MHHS is career readiness, and with a shortage of pilots, aviation presents a “huge” field of career opportunities.
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Trump Halts Funding For Offshore Drilling Safety Study.
• Sutherland Institute Backs Higher Education Reform And Opportunity Act.
• Workshops Aim To Train Architects, Engineers On Solar Basics.
• Jansky VLA Captures Image Of “Mysterious” Galactic Filament.
• World’s Largest Spark Plug Manufacturer Prepares For Pivot To Electric Vehicle Batteries.
• FERC To Consider Gas Pipeline Approval Process Change.
• Massachusetts High School Students 3D Print Prosthetic Arm For Rhode Island Boy.