|Good morning || December 2, 2019|
Leading the News
FAA Tells Boeing It Will Review Hundreds Of Individual 737 MAX Planes
CNBC (11/27, Josephs) reported that last week, the FAA informed The Boeing Company that it will review each of the “new 737 MAX airplanes currently in storage” before allowing them to be delivered to customers due to the “number of challenges for airworthiness certification, production, and delivery, which significantly exceed any that the Boeing system has previously experienced.” In a letter to Boeing’s compliance chief, the FAA said that it “will retain such authority” over the certification process “for all 737 MAX airplanes. ... until the agency is confident that, at a minimum, Boeing has fully functional quality control and verification processes in place; delivery processes are similarly functional and stable; and Boeing’s 737 MAX compliance, design, and production processes meet all regulatory standards and conditions for delegation and ensure the safety of the public.”
U.S. News & World Report (11/27, Lardieri) reported that the “FAA will no longer authorize Boeing to inspect its own aircraft, perform pre-delivery safety checks and signoff on the Max planes, a process Boeing has long been in charge of.” The New York Times (11/27, Gelles, Kitroeff) reported that “it is increasingly likely that the grounding will continue into 2020, given the series of tests Boeing must complete before the regulator clears the plane to fly.”
NBC News (11/27) reported that “Boeing executives have repeatedly said they expect regulators to sign off on the planes this quarter and said Nov. 11 deliveries could resume as early as this month, a forecast that investors applauded.”
United Airlines CEO Comments On 737 MAX Grounding. The Houston Chronicle (11/28, Leinfelder) reported on an interview with United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz on the impact of the 737 MAX grounding, among other matters. Asked about the company’s stance on the 737 MAX, Munoz said, “The FAA is our regulatory body and they’ve obviously been doing their work for a period of time to ensure that aircraft is indeed safe to fly. Boeing is also saying it’s safe. Not every person that flies United is going to be comfortable with either one of those assurances.” Accordingly, United will try “to be incredibly transparent,” Munoz said.
Fewer Than 1% Of Applicants Qualify For Loan-Forgiveness Program
The New York Times (11/28, Green, Cowley) reports that in 2007, when Congress “created a student loan forgiveness program,” graduates were promised that after 10 years, if they “faithfully paid their debts and pursued their work, they would have the remainder of their student loans written off.” However, according to the Post, “Since then, tens of thousands of graduates [who] were led to believe...that they would qualify for relief” have been “shocked when their applications were rejected.” The Post reports that “fewer than 1 percent of those who have applied for relief under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program have been deemed eligible.” The Post says “the blame can be spread broadly,” including to the Education Department, “which has failed to step in and correct the problem.” Nevertheless, ED “pointed to a number of efforts underway to improve the problem,” the Post reports, saying Education Secretary DeVos recently “personally summoned executives from loan servicers for the first of quarterly meetings about performance standards.”
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Research and Development
Vanderbilt Researchers Test Virtual Interview Platform For People With Autism
WTVF-TV Nashville, TN (11/23, McDonald) reported that researchers at Vanderbilt’s Frist Center for Autism are testing a virtual job interview platform for people with autism. The software, called CIRVR, “incorporates computer avatars, cameras, microphones and sensors to prepare neurodiverse job candidates for their interviews.”
NASA Plans To Study Aerosol, Cloud, And Meteorology Interactions In 2020
Space Daily (11/27, Reiny) reported that among the five airborne campaigns being launched by NASA in 2020 is one called the Aerosol Cloud Meteorology Interactions Over the Western Atlantic Experiment, or ACTIVATE, which “will look at the critical role marine boundary layer clouds play in Earth’s energy balance and water cycle.” Armin Sorooshian, ACTIVATE principal investigator from the University of Arizona, is quoted saying, “Despite many prior field campaigns, we don’t have comprehensive measurements under a variety of conditions to draw definite conclusions about the effects of these interactions between aerosols, clouds and meteorology on climate. ... With this study, we intend to address that issue and provide data the international science community can use for years and decades to come.”
Miami University Researchers Find New Way To Manufacture Psilocybin
WVXU-FM Cincinnati (10/21, Thompson) reported that researchers from Miami University have developed an inexpensive way to make psilocybin, “a key ingredient in hallucinogenic magic mushrooms.” The drug is used to treat depression and addiction. According to WVXU, the researchers “take the DNA from the mushroom and trick the bacteria E. coli into turning it into proteins and enzymes. After a series of steps, E. coli produces psilocybin and then decides it has no use for it and excretes it.”
University Of Arizona Researchers Use Smartphone To Detect Norovirus
Kaumudi Online (IND) (11/29) reported that researchers at the University of Arizona have created “a simple, portable and inexpensive method for detecting extremely low levels of norovirus.” According to the article, “Devices to detect norovirus in small quantities do already exist, but they typically require a laboratory setting with an array of microscopes, lasers and spectrometers that can cost thousands of dollars. To detect norovirus in the field, such as on cruise ships or in municipal water wells, the team decided to use much simpler materials: paper, in the form of microfluidic chips, and a smartphone.”
Hyperloop Company Considering West Virginia For Testing Facility
KDKA-TV Pittsburgh (11/21, Delano) reported that West Virginia University is hoping to construct a hyperloop testing facility “where small wheel-less pods in a vacuum tube can move people and products up to six hundred miles an hour.” Virgin Hyperloop One officials spoke at an event attended by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on November 21. “The Los Angeles-based company says WVU’s Morgantown campus is one of twenty sites under consideration to help test hyperloop,” KDKA reported.
German, Swiss Researchers Develop Implantable Magnetic Resonance Detector
EurekAlert (11/27) reported that neuroscience researchers from Germany and Switzerland have developed the first implantable magnet resonance detector. “The group of researchers led by Klaus Scheffler from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics and the University of Tübingen as well as by Jens Anders from the University of Stuttgart identified a technical bypass that bridges the electrophysical limits of contemporary brain scan methods. Their development of a capillary monolithic nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) needle combines the versatility of brain imaging with the accuracy of a very localized and fast technique to analyze the specific neuronal activity of the brain,” says EurekAlert.
Iowa State Researchers Develop Better Firefighter Gloves
The Cedar Rapids Gazette (11/20, Russell) reports that researchers at Iowa State University’s Labs for Functional Textiles and Protective Clothing are developing gloves for firefighters that improve dexterity while maintaining protection from heat and sharp objects. ISU professor Guowen Song is quoted saying, “The current gloves are not really designed to meet the basic elements of protection, comfort and functionality. ... Firefighters lose more than 50 percent of their manual dexterity while wearing these gloves, and that can create a risk to their safety. With our research and the technology we are developing and have access to, we are focusing on these challenges to develop the next generation of personal protective equipment.”
Father Invents Mobility Device For Son With Spina Bifida
The Columbia Missourian (11/20, Hassler) reported that a father in Centralia has created a device called “The Frog” that allows their young son, who has spina bifida, to crawl and interact with his surroundings. “Both a cart and a wheelbarrow, The Frog puts Brody’s lower half on wheels and enables him to use his arms to pull himself around, as if he were crawling,” reports the Missourian.
Daimler Announces Cost-Cutting Plan Including Thousands Of Layoffs
The Wall Street Journal (11/29, Boston, Subscription Publication) reported on Friday Daimler announced plans to cut labor costs by $1.5 billion in the next three years, requiring thousands of workers to be laid off, as the automaker tightens its belt in order to make investments in future mobility initiatives amidst a potentially slowing economy. The story said every German automaker and supplier is slimming down in order to deal with falling auto demand in major markets and to transition to electric-vehicle production, which is expensive and does not require as large of a workforce.
Fuselage Of Boeing 777X Split In Stress Test
Reuters (11/27, Johnson) reports on the issues that The Boeing Company has faced in developing the 777X aircraft. During a test in early September, saying “the fuselage” of one of the planes “was split by a high-pressure rupture just as it approached its target stress level during a test in early September.” Boeing has “suspended load testing of the new widebody” since September, “when media reports said a cargo door failed a ground stress test.” Additionally, the company has faced “issues with General Electric Co’s new GE9X turbine engine that will power the jet.” In a statement, FAA spokesperson Lynn Lunsford said that the FAA is “continuing our conversations with Boeing about the situation.” Lunsford added that the agency “requires manufacturers to meet design and certification standards. How they choose to do that is up to them.”
The Seattle Times (11/27, Gates) reports that “Boeing has kept the details secret” from the failed September test, “but photos obtained by the Seattle Times show that the extent of the damage was greater than previously disclosed and earlier reports were wrong about crucial details.”
Reuters (11/27) reported that Boeing “would almost certainly not have to do a retest and regulators would likely allow Boeing to prove by analysis that it would be enough to reinforce the fuselage in the area where it failed, the Seattle Times said.”
International Regulators Say They Will Conduct Independent Tests Of 777X. The Wall Street Journal (11/27, Katz, Pasztor, Subscription Publication) reported that the European Union Aviation Safety Agency announced that it will perform its own independent certification of the 777X.
Four Products Said To Justify Space Manufacturing
IEEE Spectrum (11/26, Patel) identified fiber-optic cable, organs, metal alloys, and meat as products that could “make sense” to manufacture in space.
Engineering and Public Policy
Montana Town Taking On BP Subsidiary At Supreme Court
The Washington Post (11/30, McLaughlin) reports the Supreme Court will this week hear a case brought by the small town of Opportunity, Montana against Arco, “a subsidiary of the oil giant BP,” over the impact of waste from a long-shuttered copper smelter. The Post says “studies long ago shattered the company’s safety claims by linking high levels of arsenic and lead to serious health threats,” and the town wants the court “to uphold a Montana Supreme Court ruling that found federal Superfund law does not override this state’s constitutionally guaranteed right to a ‘clean and healthful environment.’ Arco, which appealed the decision, says it has already spent $470 million to reduce arsenic levels in the area.”
Local Natural Gas Bans Could Become A Trend
In an analysis, The Hill (11/27, Kelley) reported that bans on “gas and oil piping in future construction projects in hopes of reducing” localities’ carbon footprint could be “a new trend in local climate action,” as seen by such an ordinance enacted by the town of Brookline, Massachusetts. However, the Northeastern US’s “cold winters and hot, humid summers, will make its transition away from natural gas and fuel oil more challenging than the comparatively temperate climes of California,” partly because the “electric heating pumps that would replace existing utilities are also costly to install and operate, especially compared to natural gas which is cheap, plentiful and can be easily installed even in old buildings.”
Republicans Surprise Trump Administration With Opposition To Offshore Drilling Expansion
The Wall Street Journal (11/29, Puko, Duehren, Subscription Publication) reported widespread Republican opposition to offshore oil and gas exploration on the Atlantic Coast has caught the Trump administration and parts of the oil industry by surprise. Advocates of the Trump administration’s plan to boost domestic energy production – in part by allowing oil rigs along most of the US coastline – expected Republican support in the US Southeast to translate into support for the plan. Instead, the plan is one of the areas where Republican politicians have been willing to defy the White House. This defiance comes despite efforts by advocacy groups such as the American Petroleum Institute for expanded drilling.
Trump Administration Proposes Opening Texas National Forests To Oil And Gas Drilling
The Houston Chronicle (11/29, Chapa) reports that the Trump administration “is proposing to lease large areas of Sam Houston National Forest, Davy Crockett National Forest, Angelina National Forest, Sabine National Forest, Caddo National Grasslands and LBJ National Grasslands to oil and natural gas companies.” Environmentalists, however, are fighting the proposal, “which would include plans to drill thousands of feet under Lake Conroe – the principal drinking water source for thousands of people in suburban Montgomery County.” The Obama administration in 2016 “bowed to pressure from environmentalists and other opponents concerned about the effects of hydraulic fracturing” and imposed a drilling moratorium for the Haynesville and Barnett shale areas of Texas and Louisiana. The Trump administration’s proposal would overturn that moratorium.
Judge Rejects PG&E’s Challenge To California Law Holding It Liable For Fire Damages
The Wall Street Journal (11/27, Brickley, Subscription Publication) reported PG&E has lost its challenge to a California law holding it liable for property damage due to fires related to its equipment in what is considered a victory for wildfire victims seeking billions of dollars in compensation even as the company struggles with bankruptcy. On Wednesday, Judge Dennis Montali said the principle of inverse condemnation applies to the utility, as he rejected an argument that PG&E invoked to restrict how much it owes for businesses and homes destroyed in the fires.
The San Francisco Chronicle (11/27, Morris) reports Montali’s decision means “PG&E can be held strictly liable for damage caused by its power lines.” He wrote the utility and its parent company have not submitted any evidence showing they had “ever been denied cost recovery under this principle when they have been found prudent.” Montali also “predicted that the California Supreme Court would also not free PG&E from inverse condemnation.”
The AP (11/27, Liedtke) reports PG&E “expressed disappointment with Montali’s reasoning before sounding a conciliatory note.” The utility stated, “We understand and appreciate that there are diverse opinions on this subject. We look forward to being engaged in discussions on these important issues to all Californians.”
Bloomberg (11/27, Church, Chediak) also reports on the decision.
New Technology May Aid Utility Companies During Wildfires, High Winds
The AP (12/2, Melley) reports that a wildfire-prevention technology developed by Texas A&M professor B. Don Russell is a “one-of-a kind diagnostic tool” that is “now in use in Texas and being tested in California by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison.” The tool, named “Distribution Fault Anticipation” (DFA), is able to detect “variations in electrical currents caused by deteriorating conditions or equipment,” and can notify “utility operators so they can send a crew to fix the problems.” DFA “can anticipate many problems in their early stages – sometimes years before they cause an outage or present a greater hazard during high winds when utilities are now pre-emptively shutting off power to prevent sparking wildfires,” according to Russell.
Saturday's Lead Stories
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