Leading the News
Trump Plans Infrastructure Push In January.
CNN (12/27, Merica, Liptak) reports on its website that according to aides, President Trump “plans a major push on infrastructure in January.” During the campaign, Trump promised “a $1 trillion infrastructure bill,” but “a White House official said on Tuesday the current proposal…would propose spending at least $200 billion on infrastructure projects over the next decade, with the hopes of spurring an additional $800 billion in state and local funding.” The $200 billion figure has been criticized by some Democrats and business groups as too low, but “the White House official characterized the figure as a floor, not a ceiling, and said Trump is willing to spend more federal dollars if it means getting a package through Congress.”
Trump To Host GOP Leaders At Camp David To Lay Out 2018 Agenda. The AP (12/27, Superville) reports that President Trump is “eager for more legislative achievements before Washington’s focus shifts to the midterm elections,” and will host House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell at Camp David during the weekend of Jan, 6-7 “to map out the 2018 legislative agenda, the White House said.” the AP says the GOP agenda for 2018 is “already lengthy.” Trump has predicted that the parties will “eventually come together” to craft a new healthcare plan and he is anticipating bipartisan agreement on infrastructure spending. Ryan “has talked about overhauling Medicaid and Medicare and other welfare programs,” and Congress will begin the new year needing to address issues left unfinished in 2017 including a spending bill, aid for hurricane victims, raising the debt ceiling, and extending protections for “Dreamers.”
The Washington Post (12/27, Scott) reports that Ryan would like Congress’ next move to be “cutting welfare programs that benefit low-income Americans – a move that is not particularly popular with the American public, including the congressman’s own party.” According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, “only 12 percent of American adults want to see President Trump and Congress decrease spending for Medicaid,” and “four in 10 preferred to increase Medicaid spending,” while “nearly half – 47 percent – want funding levels to remain the same.” Pew Research Center data show that “only 15 percent of Republicans support decreasing funding for Medicare,” and “only 10 percent of Republicans support decreased funding for Social Security.”
NSF Gives $5.7 Million To Four Universities For Cybersecurity Scholarships.
The Sierra (CA) Sun Times (12/27) reports that the National Science Foundation has added Purdue University Northwest, the University of Maryland-College Park, Louisiana Tech University, and Texas A&M University to its CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program. NSF has given the schools $5.7 million “to provide scholarships consisting of full tuition and a stipend up to $34,000 to individuals willing to work after graduation in a cybersecurity position for federal, state, local or tribal governments.” NSF’s Victor Piotrowski, the lead program director for CyberCorps SFS, said, “Each school provided evidence of a strong academic program in cybersecurity, including designation as a Center of Excellence by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. They also bring unique additions to the CyberCorps SFS portfolio of 70 schools.”
Center For American Progress Report: Black Student Borrowers Struggle To Repay Loans.
MarketWatch (12/27) reports that according to a new report from the “left-leaning” Center for American Progress, “black student loan borrowers are struggling more to pay down their debts than borrowers of other races.” The report says that “twelve years after entering school, the typical African-American student loan borrower owes more than they took out.” The report says that “black borrowers who began school during the 2003-2004 academic year owed 113% of what they originally borrowed 12 years later,” compared with “65% for white borrowers and 83% for Hispanic or Latino borrowers.”
Recession Led To Sharp Uptick In Arizona Student Loan Debt.
The Phoenix Business Journal (12/27, Subscription Publication) reports, “Arizonans came out of the recession with more than twice the student debt they carried 10 years ago, as economic forces that came with the recession created a ‘perfect storm’ for rising debt.” The piece reports that according to the New York Fed, “Arizonans carried $4,690 in student debt per capita in 2016, up from $1,930 in 2007.” Experts cited “state funding cuts to higher education budgets, increases in tuition and – in what may be counterintuitive for an economic recession – more people deciding to enroll in college.”
Research and Development
Navy To Award Development Contract To Hydronalix.
ExecutiveBiz (12/27) reports the Navy “plans to award Hydronalix a potential five-year blanket ordering agreement [to] develop a mobile gateway buoy that can support an unmanned underwater vehicle.” A FedBizOpps notice posted Thursday “says the company will build a pair of MGB prototypes to the Naval Air Systems Command under the third phase of the service branch’s Small Business Innovation Research program.” The SBIR Phase III project “seeks a deployable autonomous unmanned vehicle that can perform bathymetric localization and mapping functions simultaneously.”
US Air Force Awards Lockheed Martin $110 Million Gray Wolf Missile Development Contract.
UPI (12/27, Laporta) reports the US Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin a $110 million deal “for development and demonstration of a new low-cost cruise missile called Gray Wolf.” This is the second Gray Wolf development contract issued – Northrop Grumman received the first last week. In collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory, the development phase will continue through “late 2019.” Lockheed Martin Advanced Missiles Program director Hady Mourad said the company’s “concept for the Gray Wolf missile will be an affordable, counter-IAD missile that will operate efficiently in highly contested environments.” Mourad continued, adding “our system is being designed to maximize modularity, allowing our customer to incorporate advanced technologies such as more lethal warheads or more fuel-efficient engines, when those systems become available.”
Street Insider (12/27) also reports on the story.
Laser Sensor Team Publishes Findings.
Futurity (12/27, Moore) reports a team of researchers from “the University of Michigan, Leidos, fiber makers IRflex and CorActive, and Omni Sciences” working on laser technology published findings from their research in the journal Optics Letters. Their prototype chemical sensor can detect “single-fingerprint quantities” of chemicals and substances at distances of more than 100 feet. Researcher Mohammed Islam said, “We’ve shown we can make a $10,000 laser that can do everything a $60,000 laser can do.”
Researchers Use Acoustics To Locate Underwater Oil Leaks.
The Jackson (MS) Clarion Ledger (12/27) reports that a research team from the University of Mississippi “is working on technology that could quickly detect, locate and characterize…undersea hydrocarbon leakages in offshore deep-water oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.” According to the Energy Information Administration, five percent of the country’s dry natural gas and 17 percent of the country’s crude oil production is in the Gulf of Mexico. The team “is focused on utilizing acoustic technologies to develop a functional real-time monitoring system that can find leaks in deep-water oil and gas production in the Gulf over a large area while still being cost-effective.” The EIA “estimates that annual crude oil production in the Gulf could increase to an average of 1.9 million barrels per day in 2018.” According to the EIA, American crude oil production in the Gulf reached 1.6 million bpd in 2016, which eclipsed a record high set during 2009.
Baidu Will Showcase Autonomous Vehicle Platform Apollo At CES 2018.
The South China Morning Post (HKG) (12/27) reports that Baidu will show off its autonomous vehicle capabilities on Monday, January 8, at CES in Las Vegas, with the company’s vice chair, Lu Qi, to present the technology. Baidu’s Apollo platform is part of the wave of investment among Chinese firms in AI and IoT in order to keep up with the rest of the world in developing future mobility technologies and other connective infrastructure.
Indian Company Seeks To Sub-License Its Charcoal Filter Technology To PMI, BAT.
Telangana Today (IND) (12/27, Raj) reports New Delhi-based Lambda Group has developed ZIPAC (ZIP Activated Charcoal Filter) for cigarettes, which it claims reduces by “up to 90 per cent” a smoker’s exposure to the harmful p-benzosemiquinone (p-BSQ family) compounds in tobacco smoke. Kunjan Arora, executive director of Lambda Group, said, “We want to sub-licence the technology to cigarette makers with a ten-year agreement. We will initiate talks with British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris International, which together hold 40-45 per cent of the global cigarette market to start with.” The company hopes to raise “$2.5 million so that the technology can be promoted” to cigarette manufacturers globally. R&D for the product was conducted by the National Research Development Corporation of New Delhi in collaboration with Guha Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (GCGEB) of Kolkata.
Tesla’s Battery System “Far Exceeding Expectations” In South Australia.
The Washington Post (12/26, Fung) reports Tesla’s energy storage system in South Australia “appears to be far exceeding expectations” less than a month after its completion, smoothing out “at least two major energy outages” and “responding even more quickly than the coal-fired backups that were supposed to provide emergency power.” The article mentions that “other battery projects, including in the United States, have already helped manage spikes in demand.” Notably, the article mentions that, “A major 2015 gas leak near Los Angeles that kept some gas-fired plants from producing energy at peak times prompted Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric to announce energy storage projects that were completed earlier this year, according to Sam Wilkinson, an industry analyst at IHS.”
Albuquerque Tech Company Gathers $3 Million From Angel Investors, SBIR Grants.
Albuquerque (NM) Business First (12/27) reports that Albuquerque Business First “is kicking off the new year with a new ranking of the fastest-growing technology firms in the state, based on revenue.” The article profiles “3 New Mexicans to know who are leading fast tech companies,” including Alexander Ukhanov, Director of Actoprobe. Albuquerque-based Actoprobe “designs, manufactures and sells custom microscopes.” The company “has gathered close to $3 million from angel investors and several Small Business Innovation Research grants.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Admin. Law Judge Extends Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Review Deadlines.
KSJR-FM Collegeville, MN (12/27, Kraker) reports that last week, Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly ordered a new schedule on the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, which “calls for a period of five weeks for the parties involved in the process to file a series of briefs and reply briefs, after the Public Utilities Commission meets to determine the adequacy of the revised environmental study.” The PUC is expected to meet in March of 2018. In the ruling, O’Reilly said, “a new briefing schedule is warranted to allow all parties the opportunity to respond to the revised EIS once it is issued.” O’Reilly added, “by investing a few extra weeks now to ensure that the law is followed and a comprehensive review of the project is conducted before a final decision is rendered in this important case.”
TransCanada, North Dakota PSC Meet Over Keystone Pipeline Spill.
The Prairie Public News (ND) (12/27, Thompson) reports that North Dakota Public Service Commission and TransCanada representatives met to discuss the Keystone Pipeline oil spill that occurred in South Dakota. North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said the commissioners wanted to learn what happened to cause the leak and the update on cleaning-up the spill. Fedorchak said, “new lines like this shouldn’t be having those kinds of issues.” Fedorchak also said that TransCanada responded quickly and that the company’s spill response plan worked perfectly.
KELO-AM Sioux Falls, SD (12/27) also reports.
Court Denies Reconsideration Of Decision On Obama-Era Fracking Regulation.
The Hill (12/27, Cama) reports that on Wednesday, a federal appellate court “declined…to reconsider its September decision that undid a previous court ruling overturning the Obama administration’s fracking rule for federal land.” The order was not accompanied by an explanation, but did indicate that no judges were interested in having a second hearing on the matter. The Trump Administration’s Department of the Interior is currently attempting to repeal the subject fracking regulation, which would render the Wednesday order moot. The court wrote, “our proceeding to address whether the District Court erred in invalidating the BLM’s fracking regulation when the BLM has now commenced rescinding that same regulation appears to be a very wasteful use of limited judicial resources.”
The Washington Examiner (12/27, Siciliano) reports that the court said in September the matter is moot as the Administration is working to repeal the regulation. Some anticipated that activist groups will be suing “the agency after the rule is made final, adding to the list of Trump administration actions being challenged in court in the new year.”
Washington State VISTA Volunteer Implements Coding Activities.
The Anacortes (WA) American (12/27, Alzola) reports on the experience of students at Island View Elementary School using Kids Who Code, “a new program this year being implemented” by an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with the Anacortes School District in Washington state. The VISTA volunteer, Melissa Davis, said the goal of such coding programs “is to let kids know that anyone can learn to code, something that could make a major difference in their lives.” She also said, “Coding is becoming something that is needed in a variety of career paths.”
University Of Wyoming Team Promotes Science “Active Learning” Initiative.
The Cody (WY) Enterprise (12/27) reports on a University of Wyoming faculty member, Rachel Watson, and three UW students who “have been visiting K-12 classrooms across the state this fall in an effort to promote” UW’s “Science Roadshow,” along with “active-learning concepts in the classroom.” The article quotes Watson as saying, “From kindergarten to community college students, we want to create meaningful active-learning sessions. … We want to make students recognize there is something in college for everyone.” It also quotes the UW students on their experience of the initiative.
Connecticut Schools Become Part Of Nationwide Push To Teach Coding.
The Shelton (CT) Herald (12/27, Berkowitz) reports on students at Mohegan Elementary School of Shelton, CT, learning coding, “part of the nationwide push to increase the amount of coding taught in their curriculum until they graduate high school.” The school district of which Mohegan is part “has begun to reshape its curriculum to cater to the needs kindergartners that will graduate high school in the year 2030.”
New Analysis Finds Variation Among Schools Offering Chemistry.
Education Week (12/27, Sawchuk) says a new analysis from the Education Week Research Center finds that “fewer than half of the nation’s secondary schools offer a chemistry course.” The article says the analysis also finds “there is a lot of variation in which states tend to offer chemistry,” with the Great Plains states apparently offering “more overall than states in the West or Northeast.” The article adds that “more schools are offering chemistry now than before. … But there are persistent disparities in which students take chemistry.”
West Virginia Announces STEM Grants For 84 Schools And Organizations.
The Williamson (WV) Daily News (12/27) reports West Virginia Secretary Of Education Gayle Manchin announced Tuesday, on behalf of the Governor’s STEM Initiative, that “more than $200,000 in mini-grant funding is headed to 84 schools and organizations across West Virginia.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Much Of Puerto Rico Still Lacking Power.
• WSJournal Lauds DeVos For Student Loan Reform.
• Biomedical Engineering Professor Discusses Novel Research Into Tumor Imaging Technology.
• Musk Teases Details Of New Tesla Pickup In Tweets.
• Trump Suggests Willingness To Work With Democrats On Infrastructure Bill.
• Ohio Bill Would Expand Computer Science Curriculum.