Connecticut might waive student loans for ‘green’ job workers

Paul Goulet hopes Connecticut will help him get from under nearly $8,000 he’s borrowed for college after losing his job in a paper manufacturing plant. Goulet, 55, is a student in environmental studies at Goodwin College, aiming to find work in wastewater treatment. State legislation that would waive thousands of dollars in loans would benefit him and other students who earn degrees or certificates in green technology and other jobs, reports the Associated Press. Loan forgiveness programs aren’t new—states use them to entice medical professionals to rural areas, steer teachers to certain subject areas, and attract farmers to local agriculture. But Connecticut’s proposal could break new ground. Trying to boost its work force in high-growth green technology, the state would annually forgive as much as $2,500 of federal and state education loans for up to four years, or 5 percent of loans, whichever is less. The legislation comes as the White House is emphasizing the importance of green works and job creation. President Barack Obama announced in January $2.3 billion in tax credits, to be paid for from last year’s $787 billion stimulus package, that he said would create 17,000 green jobs…

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Internet safety video could win young filmmakers $10,000

Computer security company Trend Micro has an offer for any teen or adult who cares about internet safety and security and wants to become an award-winning filmmaker, CNET blogger Larry Magid reports. The company has launched a contest called “What’s Your Story?” where the person who submits the best short video (no more than 2 minutes long) can win $10,000. There are also four $500 prizes. The deadline is April 30, and only residents of the U.S. and Canada who are 13 or older are eligible to win. Entries must be about one of these four topics: keeping a good reputation online, staying clear of unwanted contact, accessing legal content that is age-appropriate, or keeping the cyber-criminals out…

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Universities hope to top Google’s high-speed list

Google plans to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in communities across the United States.

Google plans to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in communities across the United States.

As cities and towns vie for the opportunity to be chosen for Google Inc.’s pilot of an experimental, ultra-fast internet network, some colleges and universities have thrown their support behind their local towns.

Google is planning to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in at least one and possibly several locations across the United States. The plan is to be able to deliver internet speeds of 1 gigabit per second through fiber-to-the-home connections—more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today. Google hopes to be able to offer the service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.

Schools such as the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia have announced their intention to team with their local communities and submit requests for information (RFIs) to Google.

The University of Michigan and Ann Arbor have called on the community to mobilize through various social media platforms and tell Google why the city should be chosen.

“Access to ultra high-speed broadband networks would be a significant spur to communication, cooperation, and innovation in our community and beyond,” said University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman in a press release.

Aside from having faster and better internet access for both residents and students, which would expand their access to educational opportunities, Google Fiber also could attract companies to the area, Ann Arbor officials said.

“We are excited by this opportunity to partner with other leaders in our community, and to hear from our residents, demonstrating why Google should elect Ann Arbor as the ideal location for making better and faster internet for everyone a reality,” said Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje.

“We’re interested in deploying our network efficiently and quickly and are hoping to identify interested community partners that will work with us to achieve this goal,” said a Google spokeswoman.

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iPad swapped if its battery fails, Apple says

If you’re one of the folks (or as others have said, “idiots“) who have already decided to hand over a few Benjamins for an iPad pre-order, chances are you haven’t given much thought to what happens if your battery goes bad. Rest assured that Apple is one step ahead of you, PCWorld reports. According to a recently-posted FAQ, Apple will replace your iPad if it “requires service due to the battery’s diminished ability to hold an electrical charge,” for $99 and a $6.95 shipping fee. Before you get too excited, this doesn’t mean that you could pull the old switcharoo if you’re tampering with your iPad or using it as a coaster. Apple added, “Your iPad is not eligible for Battery Replacement Service if the product has been damaged, for example, as result of an accident, liquid contact, disassembly, unauthorized service or unauthorized modifications, or if the product is not operating correctly as a result of a component failure.” A little more than $100 for a new, or as Engadget points out “possibly refurbished,” iPad may seem like a decent deal to some, considering Apple services iPhones when they start to lose their charge. But the swap comes with one big disadvantage.

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Telling friends where you are (or not)

As Jordan Viator roams the conference rooms, dimly lit bars and restaurants here at the South by Southwest Interactive conference, she often pulls out her cell phone and uses the Foursquare service to broadcast her location The New York Times reports. Such a service might sound creepy to the privacy-minded. But it came in handy for Ms. Viator when she arrived Friday at a party in a bar called Speakeasy and could not find anyone she knew. Her friends who also use Foursquare could see where she was, and some joined her a few minutes later. “I only share my location with people I am comfortable meeting up with, and when I want to be found,” said Ms. Viator, a 26-year-old communications manager at a nonprofit company. Mobile services like Loopt and Google’s Latitude have promoted the notion of constantly beaming your location to a map that is visible to a network of friends — an idea that is not for everybody. But now there is a different approach, one that is being popularized by Foursquare.

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Publishers question Apple’s rejection of nudity

About a year ago Sebastian Kempa, a freelance photographer who lives near Dortmund, Germany, embarked on a project to show how clothes “are our second layer of skin,” reports The New York Times. “They disguise, reveal, mirror our innermost being or help to hide it,” Mr. Kempa says on his Web site. Mr. Kempa has photographed dozens of people with and without their clothing, and is showing the “before” and “after” results on the site, www.naked-people.de. The site is not pornographic, at least not by the standards of Germany, where it is considered prudish to wear a towel to a unisex sauna. The models are all ordinary people; the pictures are anything but arousing. So Mr. Kempa was surprised that when he tried to create an iPhone application for the online exhibition, it was rejected by Apple.

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Ruckus attacks enterprise Wi-Fi with pricing

Ruckus Wireless aims to lower the cost of entry to enterprise IEEE 802.11n Wi-Fi gear with a stepped-down line of access points it is introducing on Monday, according to PCWorld. The ZoneFlex 7300 series has a smaller antenna array than the 7962, which Ruckus introduced last year, but is designed to compete on price against rival products from Cisco Systems and Aruba Networks. The single-band ZoneFlex 7343 starts at US$499, and the dual-band 7363 at $599. Ruckus claims the 7343 is the first enterprise-class 802.11n access point priced under $500. Wi-Fi equipment using the 802.11n standard, which was formally ratified only last year, still makes up a relatively small portion of sales, according to research company Dell’Oro Group. In the fourth quarter, 802.11n products represented $146 million of the approximately $450 million in revenue for enterprise WLAN (wireless LAN) gear, according to Dell’Oro analyst Loren Shalinsky. That was despite the fact that 802.11n products generally cost more than ones that use the earlier 802.11a/b/g technology.

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Groups make renewed push for student loan reform

Some Senate Democrats haven't committed support for SAFRA.

Some Senate Democrats haven't committed support for SAFRA.

Higher education and K-12 activist groups have stepped up their support in recent days for President Obama’s student lending reform legislation, which has stalled in the U.S. Senate while high-ranking Democrats consider passing the reform package with a simple majority vote.

Days after one of Obama’s signature proposals was said to be in trouble on Capitol Hill, reform advocates were energized March 12 by news that Democrats could pass the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) alongside health care legislation through a process known as reconciliation, which doesn’t require 60 votes to avoid a filibuster in the Senate.

The student lending overhaul—pushed in recent weeks by Education Secretary Arne Duncan—would allow the federal government to lend money directly to students, instead of having students go through commercial lenders. Duncan said SAFRA would save taxpayers $87 billion over 10 years by doing away with subsidies to private lending companies, who then tack on interest to student loan payments.

With the fate of SAFRA in the balance, supporters of Obama’s student lending plan are applying new pressure to legislators.

Campus Progress, part of the Center for American Progress, said in a March 12 open letter to Congress that private lenders’ last-minute lobbying efforts have turned some senators against the bill, which the group lauds as a “common-sense plan that would cut government waste, make college more affordable for hundreds of thousands of people, invest in our schools, and expand our economy.”

“Since there is already a shortfall in the Pell Grant program that SAFRA would help make up, the price of heeding [private lenders’] opposition to student loan reform is 500,000 low- and middle-income students losing their Pell Grants at the same time that state budget cuts make tuition costs soar,” Campus Progress said in its letter to members of Congress, referring to the automatic increase in Pell Grants included in the lending bill.

Democrats on the fence about the lending bill have said in recent weeks that SAFRA would increase the national deficit during an era of record-breaking debt. Campus Progress officials refuted these claims, echoing Duncan’s stance that federal projections show billions of dollars in savings over the next decade when compared with the current Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program.

“Switching from the FFEL student loan program to direct lending by itself will reduce, not increase, the deficit,” the group said. “Members of Congress who defend FFEL are acting to increase the deficit.”

K-12 groups have joined the student lending reform fray, too, including The First Five Years Fund, a Chicago-based early-childhood learning organization.

Cornelia Grumman, executive director of The First Five Years Fund, said elementary education would benefit from the savings provided by SAFRA if Congress passes the bill.

The student loan reform bill includes $10 billion for an Early Learning Challenge Fund designed to spur competition for early-education providers.

“Here’s the choice: Senators can align themselves with some of the nation’s richest and most powerful banks, whose lobbying machines have been in overdrive,” Grumman said in a March 11 statement. “Or they can decide to use these savings to ensure a more promising economic future through a better educated workforce. The return on these investments for children and communities [is] significant, lasting, and unquestionable. It’s that simple.”

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Deal gives new life to overhaul of student loans

The New York Times reports that Democratic Congressional leaders struck a tentative agreement March 11 that breathes new life into President Obama’s proposed overhaul of federal student loan programs. The deal would bundle the bill into an expedited budget package along with the Democratic health care legislation, which would allow for both measures to be passed by the Senate on a simple majority vote. Without the deal, the student loan bill would have been unlikely to pass because it lacked the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.  The bill would end government payments to private, commercial student lenders, leaving the government to lend directly to students. It would also redirect billions of dollars to expand the Pell grant program for low-income students, and to pay for other education initiatives…

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No .xxx yet: Internet agency delays porn decision

Porn Web sites can’t park themselves at a “.xxx” address quite yet. A global internet oversight agency has deferred a decision for at least 70 days on whether to create the “.xxx” domain name as an online red-light district, the Associated Press reports. The board of ICANN–the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers–has given its chief executive and chief lawyer two weeks to recommend options for the agency to handle the controversial issue. ICANN, which was meeting in Kenya, oversees the allocation of Internet addresses globally. The proposal to create the “.xxx” domain was first made in 2000. It has been rejected three times so far…

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