Towson University Alum Gifts $5.3 million to School

A Towson University alum has gifted $5.3 million to the school, the largest single donation from an alum ever for the school and almost half of its total 2020 fiscal year donations, the Associated Press reported.

The gift is meant for athletics, the College of Health Professions, the College of Business & Economics and programming to advance equity, diversity and inclusion.

Fran Soistman Jr., founded Healthcare Management & Transformation Advisory Services and held multiple health care leadership roles. A fan of Towson men’s basketball, football and lacrosse, he is also using part of his donation for the construction of a new Athletic Academic Achievement Center for college athletes.

Towson has raised more than $10 million a year three years in a row.

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China to expand weather modification program to cover 5.5 million square kilometers

China this week revealed plans to drastically expand an experimental weather modification program to cover an area of over 5.5 million square kilometers (2.1 million square miles) — more than 1.5 times the total size of India.



a couple of people that are standing in the snow: A worker fires rockets for cloud seeding in an attempt to make rain in Huangpi, China on May 10, 2011.


© AFP/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
A worker fires rockets for cloud seeding in an attempt to make rain in Huangpi, China on May 10, 2011.

According to a statement from the State Council, China will have a “developed weather modification system” by 2025, thanks to breakthroughs in fundamental research and key technologies, as well as improvements in “comprehensive prevention against safety risks.”

In the next five years, the total area covered by artificial rain or snowfall will reach 5.5 million sq km, while over 580,000 sq km (224,000 sq miles) will be covered by hail suppression technologies. The statement added that the program will help with disaster relief, agricultural production, emergency responses to forest and grassland fires, and dealing with unusually high temperatures or droughts.

China has long sought to control the weather to protect farming areas and to ensure clear skies for key events — it seeded clouds ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics to reduce smog and avoid rain ahead of the competition. Key political meetings held in the Chinese capital are notorious for enjoying beautiful clear skies, thanks both to weather modification and the shutting down of nearby factories.

As a concept, cloud seeding has been around for decades. It works by injecting small amounts of silver iodide into clouds with a lot of moisture, which then condenses around the new particles, becoming heavier and eventually falling as precipitation.

A study funded by the US National Science Foundation, published earlier this year, found that “cloud seeding can boost snowfall across a wide area if the atmospheric conditions are favorable.” The study was one of the first to ascertain definitively that cloud seeding worked, as previously it had been difficult to distinguish precipitation created as a result of the practice from normal snowfall.

That uncertainty had not stopped China investing heavily in the technology: between 2012 and 2017, the country spent over $1.34 billion on various weather modification programs. Last year, according to state news agency Xinhua, weather modification helped reduce 70% of hail damage in China’s western region of Xinjiang, a key agricultural area.

And while other countries have also invested in cloud seeding, including the US, China’s enthusiasm for the technology has created some alarm, particularly in neighboring India, where agriculture is heavily dependent on the monsoon, which has already been disrupted and become less predictable as a result of climate change.

India and China recently faced off along their shared — and hotly disputed — border in the Himalayas, with the two sides engaging in their bloodiest clash in decades earlier this year. For years, some in India have speculated that weather modification could potentially give China the edge in a future conflict, given the importance of conditions to any troop movements in the inhospitable mountain region.

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Rider University receives $4 million gift to fund expansion of Science and Technology Center

The one-story addition will expand the size of the building to more than 79,000 sq. ft. and provide modern labs and classroom space for cybersecurity, anatomy and physiology, as well as an evolving program in software engineering. The $7.5 to $8 million project will support a new greenhouse, along with distinct areas meant to encourage collaboration and study.

“We’re particularly excited about this leadership gift for our Science and Technology Center expansion project,” says Rider President Gregory G. Dell‘Omo, Ph.D. “We’ve seen tremendous growth in our science majors and this construction project will provide us with an opportunity to introduce new, high demand majors.”

Hennessy met his wife, Patrice “Patti” Shelmet Hennessy ’82, at Rider when they were both students. Patti, who passed away in January after a long illness, graduated with a bachelor’s in office administration. Hennessy, who earned a bachelor’s in political science, is the founder and chairman of MJH Life Sciences. The couple have been longtime supporters of Rider, particularly its Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics.  

Once Hennessy learned about the expansion plans for the Science and Technology Center, he immediately saw the importance of such growth, as well as a way to commemorate Patti through this gift.  

University Advancement is currently fundraising in support of the project at rider.edu/sciencebuilding.  

About Rider University

Rider University is a comprehensive, private university centrally located between Philadelphia and New York City. More than 4,600 students are drawn to its programs in business, education, liberal arts, sciences, music, and fine and performing arts. The University’s Engaged Learning Program is the unifying thread that runs throughout a Rider education, providing a deeply personal and destiny-shaping experience for every student. Visit rider.edu to learn more. 

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How a soccer club won a $1.2 million grant from DeVos’s Education Department to open a charter school

Here’s a new, rather remarkable story about charter school grants recently awarded by the Education Department — including one for more than $1 million that went to a soccer club in Pennsylvania that had no experience running a school.



Betsy DeVos wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks Thursday at the Phoenix International Academy in Phoenix. (Matt York/AP)


© Matt York/AP
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks Thursday at the Phoenix International Academy in Phoenix. (Matt York/AP)

This is one of a number of pieces I have run in recent years about the Federal Charter School Program, which has invested close to $4 billion in these schools since it began giving grants in 1995.

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Charter schools, a key feature of the “school choice” movement, are financed by the public but privately operated. About 6 percent of U.S. schoolchildren attend charter schools, with California having the most charter schools and the most charter students.

Charters had bipartisan support for years, but a growing number of Democrats have pulled back from the movement, citing the fiscal impact on school districts and repeated scandals in the sector.

Charter supporters say the 30-year-old movement offers important alternatives to traditional public schools, which educate the vast majority of U.S. students, and that the movement is still learning. Opponents say there is little public accountability over many charters and that they drain resources from traditional districts.

Research shows student outcomes are, overall, largely the same in charter and traditional public schools, although there are failures and exemplars in both.

This piece, like a number of earlier ones on charters, was written by Carol Burris, a former New York high school principal who serves as executive director of the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit group that advocates for public education.

Burris, who opposes charter schools, was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013, the National Association of Secondary School Principals named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year.

I asked the Education Department to comment on the grant to the soccer club, about which Burris writes, but did not get an immediate response. I will add it if I do.

By Carol Burris

In late September 2020, amid the covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education awarded nearly $6 million to five organizations to open new charter schools. One of the five awardees was “The All Football Club, Lancaster Lions Corporation,” located in Lancaster, Pa. The club had no experience running either a private school or a charter school, yet nevertheless pitched the AFCLL Academy Charter School for a grant from the federal Charter School Program (CSP).

The CSP awarded the football club $1,260,750 to be spent within its first five years, even though their submitted application only received 70 of 115 possible points by reviewers — a failing grade of 61 percent. And the club did not have permission from the local school board to actually open the school.

That award of tax dollars to an unauthorized charter school shines a light on how the

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South Korea’s Covid cases rise but half a million students sit for CSAT, a college entrance exam

The tests are so significant that, in normal years, the country rolls out extreme measures to support students — office hours are changed to clear roads to avoid students getting stuck in traffic and flights are rescheduled to prevent the sound of plane engines disrupting the English listening test.

But this year, even greater planning has been required, as South Korea attempts to hold the exams while keeping teenagers safe from coronavirus. Students will have their temperature checked before entering the testing facilities and will need to wear masks throughout the exam.

Arrangements were even made for 3,775 students to take the tests from quarantine, and for the 35 students who tested positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday to sit the exam from a hospital bed.

The exams help decide whether students will make it into the most prestigious colleges and what career path they can take — some options, such as medicine, will be shut off to students who don’t get a high-enough score.

“Every citizen understands the exam to be a major national event,” Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae told CNN in an exclusive interview ahead of the test.

South Korea has been relatively successful at controlling its Covid-19 outbreak, with more than 35,000 reported cases and 529 deaths.

But as students prepared for the biggest test of their high-school career, the country has been hit by a third wave of cases, particularly in metropolitan Seoul, where half the country’s population lives. A week before the exam, Yoo ordered high schools across the country to shut and switch to online classes.

What it’s like doing an exam during coronavirus

That South Korea can hold its college placement tests at all is remarkable — and is down to careful planning by authorities.

Other countries have been forced to cancel or postpone exams due to coronavirus — the US College Board, for instance, canceled the SATs that were due to be held in May, citing student safety. The United Kingdom canceled A-levels, which determine university entrance, and students received the grades their teachers predicted for them.

But it’s hardly exam season as usual in South Korea.

Normally, nervous parents cheer their children on as they enter the testing centers, but this year, Seoul authorities told parents to refrain from cheering or waiting outside the school gate on the day of the exam. Anyone who showed sign of illness was ordered to sit the test in a separate room where invigilators wore full hazmat suits.

Parents wearing face masks pray during a service to wish for their children's success on the eve of the college entrance exam at the Jogyesa Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea, on December 2, 2020.

Students were separated by dividers as they sat their test, and the government established ventilation guidelines for exam rooms. Students were prevented from using cafeteria or waiting halls to minimize contact.

Public health clinics performed tests until 10 p.m. the day before the exam, to encourage students to get diagnosed if they had symptoms. Covid tests for students were prioritized. One high school teacher in Daejeon, a city south of Seoul, tested positive around 9.30 p.m. Wednesday. After one of his close contacts tested positive, dozens of

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‘Google Map’ of the universe has a million newly discovered galaxies

  • Astronomers have mapped about a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way.
  • To make the map, referred to as “the Google Map of the Universe,” the team used radio telescopes to scour the night sky.
  • The team surveyed 83% of the sky in just 10 days. 
  • You can take a tour of the 3-D map below. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Astronomers have mapped about a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way, in the most detailed survey of the southern sky ever carried out using radio waves.

The Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey (or RACS) has placed the CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder radio telescope (ASKAP) firmly on the international astronomy map.

While past surveys have taken years to complete, ASKAP’s RACS survey was conducted in less than two weeks — smashing previous records for speed. Data gathered have produced images five times more sensitive and twice as detailed as previous ones.

What is radio astronomy?

Modern astronomy is a multi-wavelength enterprise. What do we mean by this?

Well, most objects in the universe (including humans) emit radiation over a broad spectrum, called the electromagnetic spectrum. This includes both visible and invisible light such as X-rays, ultraviolet light, infrared light and radio waves.

To understand the universe, we need to observe the entire electromagnetic spectrum as each wavelength carries different information.

Radio waves have the longest wavelength of all forms of light. They allow us to study some of the most extreme environments in the universe, from cold clouds of gas to supermassive black holes.

Long wavelengths pass through clouds, dust and the atmosphere with ease, but need to be received with large antennas. Australia’s wide open (but relatively low-altitude) spaces are the perfect place to build large radio telescopes.

We have some of the most spectacular views of the centre of the Milky Way from our position in the Southern Hemisphere. Indigenous astronomers have appreciated this benefit for millennia.

A stellar breakthrough

Radio astronomy is a relatively new field of research, dating back to the 1930s.

The first detailed 30cm radio map of the southern sky — which includes everything a telescope can see from its location in the Southern Hemisphere — was Sydney University’s Molonglo Sky Survey. Completed in 2006, this survey took almost a decade to observe 25% of the entire sky and produce final data products.

Our team at CSIRO’s Astronomy and Space Science division has smashed this record by surveying 83% of the sky in just ten days.

With the RACS survey we produced 903 images, each requiring 15 minutes of exposure time. We then combined these into one map covering the entire area.

The resulting panorama of the radio sky will look surprisingly familiar to anyone who has looked up at the night sky themselves. In our photos, however, nearly all the bright points are entire galaxies, rather than individual stars.

Take our virtual tour below.

Astronomers working on the catalogue have identified about three million galaxies — considerably more than

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Houston Rodeo dedicates $21 million to young participants and youth education

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo officials approved an educational commitment of $21,691,500 to support Texas youth for next year. These funds will be distributed to over 800 scholarships.

The news comes after the rodeo announced its plans for next year. The event will refrain from having their adult oriented open show, and shift focus to the junior-level programming.

NEXT YEAR’S PLANS: Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo announces plans for 2021 Livestock Show

The rodeo is keeping its promise, as the educational commitment will distribute some of those dollars to scholarships, junior show exhibitors, educational program grants and graduate assistantships.


“Despite a heartbreaking early closure in 2020 and the difficult months that followed, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo remained committed to its mission of promoting agriculture and supporting Texas youth and education, and we hope today’s announcement is a bright spot in a challenging year,” said Chris Boleman, Rodeo president and CEO.

While funds for scholarships and junior show exhibitors will be gifted directly to participants, the educational program grants and graduate assistantships will be awarded differently.

The educational program grants will be awarded to 501(c)(3) charities and accredited institutions of higher education that are in direct alignment with the Rodeo’s mission. As for the graduate assistantships, they will be awarded to 11 Texas Universities, and each school will be able to have their own application and selection process, according to the release.

“Thanks to the unwavering support from our community, and the resiliency of our dedicated 35,000 volunteers who share a passion for our charitable mission, we are able to reaffirm our promise to the youth of Texas and also lend support to charitable organizations that serve our great community and state.”

The 2021 rodeo will be held March 2 to 21. You can find more information on its website.

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Japan is about to bring back samples of an asteroid 180 million miles away

Sample return missions are becoming increasingly in vogue, as evidenced by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission and China’s current Chang’e 5 drilling operation on the moon. But they aren’t easy. In February 2019, Hayabusa2 landed on the surface and fired two small bullets into the asteroid to stir up a cloud of particles from which the sample arm could collect debris. It fired a larger projectile in April that same year, diving down to the surface a couple months later to retrieve even more ejected material. 

Whereas the first Hayabusa mission was only able to bring back a millionth of a gram through this approach, there’s optimism Hayabusa2 will bring back much more. “I am proud of this success, even though I don’t know yet that the re-entry [of the sample capsule] will be successful,” says Eri Tatsumi, a planetary scientist at the University of La Laguna in Spain who has been working directly with Hayabusa2’s data so far.

Asteroids are like time capsules of ancient space history because their physical and chemical composition is much better preserved over time than, say, a planet’s (whose internal heating and potential magnetic field and atmosphere encourages ongoing activity). In this case, studying material from Ryugu can help us understand what the early solar system was like when massive amounts of gas and dust were coalescing into different asteroids, moons, and planets—including habitable worlds like Earth. 

“What we would like to know is what the processes are that shaped the solar system,” says Tatsumi. “I would like to know what kind of organics are in Ryugu—if it has the building blocks for life.” She believes studying Ryugu’s samples could allow scientists to “add another page to our knowledge about the materials in the early solar system,” and what kinds of elements and compounds might have been delivered to the early Earth via meteorite impacts. Ryugu itself seems to be too fragile to survive a present-day entry into Earth’s atmosphere, so it’s likely quite different from the meteorite remains on Earth we have been able to analyze so far.

In addition, there are some peculiar things about Ryugu’s history that require the type of context you can only get from laboratory analysis. Tomokatsu Morota, a planetary scientist from the University of Tokyo, led a team that studied Ryugu’s surface using images taken by Hayabusa2’s cameras. The team noticed alterations on the surface caused by solar heating. “This suggests a scenario where Ryugu underwent an orbital excursion near the sun,” he says. A closer look at the rock fragments could help confirm whether that happened or not.

Hayabusa2 will drop off the sample capsule of Ryugu material in just a few days. It must survive a fiery reentry before landing in Australia. The spacecraft itself, however, will head back out for an extended mission—first to asteroid 2001 CC21 for a flyby in July 2026, and then a formal rendezvous with asteroid 1998 KY26 in July 2031. In between those highlights the spacecraft will make a pair of

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Towson University gets $5.3 million gift from alumnus

TOWSON, Md. (AP) — A Towson University alum has given a $5.3 million donation to the school, the largest single donation from an alum in the institution’s 154 years, school officials said.

The gift is from Fran Soistman Jr., a 1979 graduate who went on to found Healthcare Management & Transformation Advisory Services and to serve in several other health care leadership roles, The Baltimore Sun reported.

The school said the gift is intended to be used for athletics, the College of Health Professions, the College of Business & Economics and programming to advance equity, diversity and inclusion.

The school also said the gift makes up nearly half of the university’s total donations in fiscal 2020, when it raised $12.4 million. It also marks the first time that Towson, a member of the University System of Maryland, raised more than $10 million annually for three consecutive years.

An avid supporter of Towson men’s basketball, football and lacrosse teams, Soistman also is putting part of his donation toward building a new Athletic Academic Achievement Center for college athletes in the field house at Johnny Unitas Stadium that will accommodate over 520 athletes and support onsite technology for projects, tutoring and academic advising, according to the university.

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Scientists just mapped 1 million new galaxies, in 300 hours

Astronomers in Australia have just mapped 83% of the observable universe, in just 300 hours.



a traffic light sitting on the beach: The ASKAP radio telescope array, located in the Australian outback, just mapped 3 million galaxies in less than a month.


© Provided by Live Science
The ASKAP radio telescope array, located in the Australian outback, just mapped 3 million galaxies in less than a month.

This new sky survey, which Australia’s national science agency (CSIRO) described in a statement as a “Google map of the universe” , marks the completion of a big test for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope –- a network of 36 antennas rooted in the remote Western Australia Outback. While astronomers have been using ASKAP to scour the sky for radio signatures (including mysterious fast radio bursts) since 2012, the telescope’s full array of antennas has never been used in a single sky survey –- until now.

By harnessing the telescope’s full potential, researchers mapped roughly 3 million galaxies in the southern sky, according to a paper published Nov. 30 in the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia. As many as 1 million of these distant galaxies may be previously unknown to astronomy, the researchers wrote, and that’s likely just the beginning. With the success of this first survey, CSIRO scientists are already planning even more in-depth observations in the coming years.

Related: Scientists unveil largest 3D map of the universe ever

“For the first time, ASKAP has flexed its full muscles, building a map of the universe in greater detail than ever before, and at record speed,” lead study author David McConnell, a CSIRO astronomer, said in a statement. “We expect to find tens of millions of new galaxies in future surveys.”

Many all-sky surveys can take months, even years, to complete. CSIRO’s new effort, which they’ve labeled the Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey, only took a few weeks of stargazing. While each of the telescope’s 36 receivers took vast, panoramic pictures of the sky, a dedicated network of supercomputers worked double-time to combine them. The resulting map, which covers 83% of the sky, is a combination of 903 individual images, each containing 70 billion pixels. (For comparison, the highest-definition cameras for sale snap a few hundred million pixels per image).

Each of these images will be made publicly available through CSIRO’s Data Access Portal, as scientists analyze the results and plan for their next sky-charting adventures.

Originally published on Live Science.

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