Leading the News
Trump Moves To Vastly Expand Offshore Drilling Off US Coasts.
NBC Nightly News (1/4, story 7, 0:25, Holt) was the only broadcast network to cover Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s announcement that “the Trump Administration plans to massively expand offshore drilling at both coasts and in the Arctic. It would offer up to 90% of the US outer continental shelf, the largest drilling lease ever, and open up federal waters off California for first time in over three decades.” The AP (1/4, Daly) reports that Zinke said the five-year plan would include 47 new leases – 19 off Alaska, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, nine in the Atlantic, and seven in the Pacific. Zinke told reporters, “This is a draft program. Nothing is final yet, and our department is continuing to engage the American people to get to our final product.” In a brief front-page report, the Wall Street Journal (1/4, A1, Puko, Subscription Publication) reports that Zinke said, “We’re going to become the strongest energy superpower. We certainly have the assets to do that.”
The Houston Chronicle (1/4, Osborne) reports that Zinke said that this is the “largest number of lease sales ever proposed,” adding, “If you look at the last eight years the opportunity to generate revenue through responsible energy development took a backseat to, in many cases, special interest groups.” The Los Angeles Times (1/4, Schneider) reports Zinke said, “This is a start on looking at American energy dominance and looking at our offshore assets and beginning a dialog of when, how, where and how fast those offshore assets could be or should be developed. ... Nobody is better at producing clean, quality, responsible energy than the U.S.”
Bloomberg News (1/4, Dlouhy) reports that the plan would “open almost all U.S. coastal waters to oil drilling, including those off California and Florida where activists have fought for decades to spare delicate ecosystems from oil spills.” The New York Times (1/4, Friedman, Subscription Publication) reports that the proposal, which would lift a ban imposed by President Obama “in his final days in office,” deals “a serious blow to Mr. Obama’s environmental legacy and signals that the Trump administration is nowhere near done unraveling the environmental restrictions of its predecessor.” The Times reports that “oil industry leaders cheered the reversal.”
Coastal Governors Oppose Offshore Drilling Plan. The Washington Examiner (1/4, Siegel) reports governors from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts are opposing the Trump Administration’s plan to open offshore waters. Florida Gov. Rick Scott was joined by the governors from New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon, and Washington in opposing the plan. Maine Gov. Paul LePage is the only coastal governor who has expressed support for offshore drilling.
Some House Republicans also tweeted their concerns. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) tweeted , “Reckless, misguided and potentially catastrophic to Florida. Our economy, environment and way of life is at stake if oil drilling is expanded on Florida’s coastlines.” Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) tweeted , “Today’s announcement that DOI intends to open up drilling off Florida coast is extremely alarming & unacceptable.” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) tweeted , “Offshore drilling can only harm our beautiful state.” Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) tweeted , “Every single coastal municipality in South Carolina – and over 140 coastal municipalities on the East Coast – have formally opposed offshore drilling development. The Trump Administration’s proposal completely ignores local opposition.” Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) tweeted , “I have long opposed drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast and have expressed my opposition to Secretary Zinke.”
Trustee Calls For Settlement With Defrauded Students In ITT Bankruptcy.
MarketWatch (1/4) reports that the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of the “collapsed” ITT Educational Services “filed a motion Wednesday urging the judge in the case to accept a settlement with a class of former students.” If approved, “the court would recognize a $1.5 billion claim from students who attended the school between 2006 and 2016.” The article notes, however, that it is unlikely that this sum will be left over after the bankruptcy, but “the proposed settlement serves at least as a symbolic acknowledgment that the school owes students money for the harm it allegedly caused them.” Meanwhile, “the financial fate borrowers who say they were duped by their colleges remains in limbo” given ED’s recent announcement “that some students seeking to have their loans forgiven under a law that allows borrowers to cancel their loans if they were misled by their school would only get partial relief, instead of the full relief touted by the Obama administration.”
For-Profit Trade Group Calls On Congress To Give Schools More Time To Replace Defrocked Accreditor.
Inside Higher Ed (1/4) reports the for-profit trade group Career Education Colleges and Universities “this week called on the U.S. Congress to give colleges that are accredited by an agency the Obama administration terminated more time to find a new accreditor.” The piece explains that under Obama, ED “ended federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, a national accreditor for roughly 270 institutions, most of them for-profits. That move was due largely to the Obama administration’s view that ACICS failed to adequately oversee the failed Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute.”
University Of Illinois Plans Fourth Consecutive In-State Tuition Freeze.
The Chicago Tribune (1/3) reports that the University of Illinois “plans to freeze its base tuition for incoming, in-state freshmen for a fourth consecutive year” in an effort to retain local students. “University President Timothy Killeen will recommend extending the tuition freeze for Illinois residents who enroll this fall, he told the Tribune in an interview Thursday.” The move “comes as Illinois public universities face increasing competition from public universities in neighboring states.”
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Research and Development
Neural Networks For Driverless Cars Not Perfect, But Still Promising Given AI Accomplishments Of Past Five Years.
The New York Times (1/4, Metz, Subscription Publication) reports the rise of machine learning and neural networks as a way to “teach” computers how to drive a car by themselves “raises questions” about “how regulators and lawyers – not to mention the general public – will view these methods,” as the vast stores of data enabling AI decisions can sometimes cause them to “operate in ways that their human designers cannot necessarily anticipate or understand. There is no means of determining exactly why a machine reaches a particular decision.”
UCLA Researchers Help Use Innovative Imaging On Ancient Paintings.
Smithsonian (12/26) reports on work being done by researchers from UCLA and the National Gallery to answer questions about ancient Egyptian paintings “that could not be answered by simply observing the work with the naked eye.” The researchers are using a “pioneering” technique called macroscale multimodal chemical imaging which “combines three existing technologies – hyperspectral diffuse reflectance, luminescence and X-ray fluorescence – to create a highly detailed map of the portrait’s chemical features, which in turn reveals previously unknown information about how painting are made. “
Researchers Working To Decode Neural Signals To Improve Prosthetic Interfaces.
Scientific American (12/27) reports that neuroscientists working on brain-controlled prosthetics “have developed a variety of algorithms to decode movement-related thoughts with increasing accuracy and precision. Now researchers are expanding their tool chest by borrowing from the world of cryptography to decode neural signals into movements.” The article draws a parallel with the efforts of British cryptologists working to decode German Enigma codes during World War II, explaining that “many human movements, such as walking or reaching, follow predictable patterns. ... With this regularity in mind, Eva Dyer, a neuroscientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, decided to try a cryptography-inspired strategy for neural decoding. She and her colleagues published their results in a recent study in Nature Biomedical Engineering.”
Consumer-Ready Autonomous Vehicles Likely To Appear First As Shuttle Services Or Delivery Pods.
Bloomberg News (1/4, Naughton, Coppola) reports that with all “the major players” in mobility technology and autonomous systems gathering for CES 2018 next week “to showcase products meant to overhaul human mobility,” the world is moving towards a “tentative and tightly controlled” rollout of autonomous vehicles. According to the story, consumer-ready, road-legal autonomous vehicles will first appear in limited mobility or delivery services, and “the first robot rides will operate at low speeds, moving cautiously enough even in dense traffic that urban planners may add specifically defined pickup areas and slow lanes for automated vehicles.” Bloomberg examines “three scenarios that experts and insiders expect” will happen first in the world of autonomous mobility services.
Toyota Research Institute Previews Autonomous Test Vehicle That Can “See” 200 Meters In All Directions.
The Verge (1/4, Hawkins) reports the Toyota Research Institute in Silicon Valley “just unveiled the latest version of its autonomous test vehicle,” a Lexus LS 600hL with various sensors and cameras that will also go on display at CES 2018 next week. According to the story, “thanks to four long-range LIDAR sensors attached to its roof, manufactured by a Portola Valley, California-based startup called Luminar, the vehicle now has a 200-meter range around a 360-degree perimeter, which Toyota argues makes it ‘one of the most perceptive automated driving test cars on the road.’”
MU Researchers Use UAVs To Assist In Various Agricultural Tasks.
The Bolivar (MO) Herald-Free Press (1/4) reports that University of Missouri Extension researchers are using UAVs specially manufactured for agricultural use to scout fields, evaluate cover crop effectiveness and “capture plant infrared wavelength readings to find nitrogen deficiencies in crops.” MU Extension natural resources engineer Kent Shannon presented the UAV during the college’s annual Crop Management Conference on December 18 and 19.
Flaws In Processing Chips Used Worldwide Spark Hacking Concerns.
The CBS Evening News (1/4, story 12, 2:00, Glor) reported cybersecurity experts have discovered two “major security flaws” in the processing chips “that are at the heart of almost every computer since 1995.” CBS (Blackstone) added that the “fear is that sophisticated hackers could steal passwords, which would unlock private information on everything from personal computers and smartphones to the cloud servers that are used by almost every company that operates on the internet. So given that scale, how big is this problem now?” John Lewis, Center For Strategic & International Studies: “It is definitely a race between attacker and defender. And in those races, it’s usually the attack that has the advantage.” Blackstone said there is so far no evidence hackers have exploited the flaws, “but the patch could slow down computers by as much as 30 percent.”
The AP (1/4, O'Brien) reports, “The two hardware bugs discovered can be exploited to allow the memory content of a computer to be leaked. Such a leak could potentially expose stored passwords and other sensitive data, including personal photos, emails and instant messages.” The problem was found by Google Project Zero researchers and those with academic institutions, including Graz University of Technology in Austria.
The Guardian (UK) (1/4, Gibbs) says, “Meltdown is ‘probably one of the worst CPU bugs ever found’, said Daniel Gruss, one of the researchers at Graz University of Technology who discovered the flaw.”
The Wall Street Journal (1/4, Schechner, Woo, Subscription Publication) says computer chip and software developers scrambled to respond to the disclosure of the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, which render data stored in devices’ working memory vulnerable to attack. The vulnerabilities could affect most of the world’s modern computing devices. US-CERT is cited saying it is aware of the flaws, and encourages system administrators to contact software vendors for patches. US-CERT is unaware of any active exploitation of the flaws.
The Hill (1/4, Chalfant, Breland) reports, “The Department of Homeland Security issued guidance on the matter late Wednesday, noting that while operating system updates could help mitigate the issues, the only true solution would be to replace computer processing units’ hardware. This means that mitigating the flaws will likely cost federal, state and local governments a significant amount of time, money and effort.”
Engineering and Public Policy