[Fox Business] UPenn donor withdraws $100M donation after president’s congressional testimony on antisemitism

A major donor to the University of Pennsylvania is withdrawing a donation worth roughly $100 million as a protest against the college’s handling of antisemitism on campus and the controversial testimony by UPenn’s president on the subject.

Ross Stevens, founder and CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management, donated to Penn in 2017, a gift that consisted of partnership units in the firm which are now valued at around $100 million to help the university establish a financial innovation center. Attorneys for Stevens sent the university a letter indicating the school violated Stone Ridge’s limited partnership agreement through its failure to adhere to anti-discrimination and anti-harassment rules. The news was first reported by Axios. 

The letter said that Stevens and Stone Ridge “are appalled by the University’s stance on antisemitism on campus.” 

It added that Penn’s “permissive approach to hate speech calling for violence against Jews and laissez faire attitude toward harassment and discrimination against Jewish students would violate any policies of rules that prohibit harassment and discrimination based on religion, including those of Stone Ridge.”

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It also took issue with President Liz Magill’s testimony before the House Education and Workforce Committee this week in which she said that whether antisemitic chants and calls for the genocide of Jewish people are prohibited speech on campus are “context-dependent” and would violate Penn’s rules against bullying and harassment if it was “directed,” “pervasive” and “severe.” 

The letter from Stevens and Stone Ridge noted that Magill’s testimony and her subsequent clarification posted on social media seemingly conceded that such antisemitic rhetoric would violate Penn’s rules as harassment and discrimination.

“President Magill’s December 6, 2023 post on X admitted as much, when she belatedly acknowledged – only after her Congressional testimony went viral and demands for her termination amplified – that calls for genocide of the Jewish people constitute harassment and discrimination,” the letter said.

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In response to the backlash, Magill posted a video on Wednesday in which she said that her testimony during the hearing was focused on university policies and the constitutional protections of free speech, but that she wanted to be clear that “a call for genocide of Jewish people is threatening, deeply so.” 

She added, “In my view, it would be harassment or intimidation,” and that Penn’s campus policies should be “clarified and evaluated” and that as president she’s “committed to a safe, secure, and supportive environment so all members of our community can thrive. We can, and we will, get this right.”

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Stevens’ letter to Penn indicated that he and Stone Ridge would be willing to reconsider the withdrawal of his donation only after the university has replaced Magill in the role of president.

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[Fox Business] Islanders using MetLife Stadium game as ‘inspiration’ to open outdoor rinks at arena

The New York Islanders are getting a rare chance to play in front of 80,000 people this February when they take on the rival Rangers at MetLife Stadium. 

The Islanders are using the occasion to provide fans more memories each time they come to their home on Long Island.

The team announced Thursday it will open The Park at UBS Arena, a social gathering spot on the grounds of the team’s venue in Belmont Park that will feature two pond hockey rinks fans can enjoy before, during and after Isles games.

One rink will hold 4-on-4 tournaments, while another will hold open skating for the public and hockey clinics for youth. In the surrounding areas of the ice, fans will be able to watch both home and away Islanders games in a spot with a beer garden, heated igloos, food trucks and carnival games.

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“We’re pumped,” Islanders Executive Vice President Nick Pizzutello told Fox Business. “This opens up for the community to have an opportunity to skate, get on the ice and grow the game … and turn it into an opportunity for all our fans to come out to UBS Arena.”

Pizzuello said the Feb. 18 matchup against the Rangers in East Rutherford, N.J. was “the inspiration” for the ponds. It’s the Islanders’ second outdoor game ever. They played the Rangers at Yankee Stadium during the Stadium Series in 2014.

“It’s been a team effort. We’ve got scores of people on the Islanders, UBS Arena side, and working with some real experts from groups that put together Super Bowl halftime shows and Super Bowl pregames that are the best in their fields to make this a possibility,” Pizzutello added.

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The Islanders have done a total makeover of their home. After spending decades at Nassau Coliseum, moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn and going back and forth between the two arenas, UBS Arena opened in 2021 to be the primary home of the team. 

It’s the newest home for a professional sports franchise in North America, and it might just be the nicest. But the Isles continue to upgrade it.

“I used to go out to Nassau Coliseum with my dad, and then I started with the organization about two weeks before our first game at Barclays Center, so I’ve seen the whole evolution,” Pizzutello said. “Where we are today at UBS Arena, it’s the nicest arena that I’ve ever been to. This is just another exciting opportunity for our fans to engage with the Islanders, and we can’t wait to bring it to life.”

It’s a full-circle moment for the lifelong Isles fan, but he admits, “It’s even cooler for my pops.”

The ponds will open Dec. 27 before the Islanders host the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine will be in attendance.

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[Fox Business] Alphabet soars as Wall Street cheers arrival of AI model Gemini

Alphabet shares ended 5.3% higher on Thursday as Wall Street cheered the launch of Gemini, saying the new artificial intelligence model could help narrow the gap in a race with Microsoft-backed OpenAI.

Long considered a leader in AI research, Alphabet lost the spotlight when OpenAI’s ChatGPT swept the tech landscape upon its launch in November last year and allowed Microsoft to aggressively roll out AI-powered software to businesses.

Now, Gemini looks poised to boost Alphabet’s AI heft again.

The Google parent said the much-awaited AI system was faster than OpenAI’s latest model and can process different forms of media such as video, audio and text. It comes in three versions, each designed to use a different amount of processing power.

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“Google is beginning to address investor concerns around generative AI innovation and the high cost of running GenAI models through the combination of Gemini’s different model sizes,” J.P. Morgan analysts said.

The company added over $80 billion to its market value. The warm reception contrasted with the nearly $100 billion selloff in Alphabet in February after its Bard chatbot shared inaccurate information in a promotional video and a company event failed to impress.

“Gemini’s release comes at an interesting point in time when OpenAI/ChatGPT users have been complaining about how updates to the GPT model family have potentially impacted the quality of its output,” Macquarie analysts wrote in a note.

“If Google is shipping a GPT-4-beating model, this could help gather user and developer momentum behind Google.”

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The company has added some of the Gemini technology to its Bard chatbot, and plans to roll out its most advanced version of Gemini through Bard early next year.

A six-minute video on the model’s abilities showed it could recognize sleight-of-hand magic tricks and help people create art by offering ideas based on materials and their color.

Alphabet has so far trailed Microsoft in the race for AI-driven cloud revenue. In the September quarter, growth at Google Cloud slowed to a near three-year low, paling before the rebound seen at Microsoft Azure.

To drive sales of its AI-based offerings, Microsoft has targeted big businesses that already use its software services, while Google has turned to startups, which analysts say have curtailed spending in an uncertain economy.

Shares in both the companies have rallied around 50% this year, part of a broader AI-fueled rally in big technology stocks that has driven much of the Nasdaq’s gains.

Microsoft currently trades at 30.68 times its 12-month forward earnings estimates, compared with the Google parent’s 19.59.

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“Some criticism might be that Google is late to the AI party. (But) they want to get it right and they also obviously see the huge opportunity,” said Ken Mahoney, CEO of Mahoney Asset Management in New Jersey.

“There’s different ways to grow your company but one of the best ways is with the same customer base by giving them more solutions or more offerings and that’s what I believe this (Gemini) does for Google.”

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[Fox Business] Major grid operator warns legal agreement to shutter coal plant will devastate electric reliability

A major power grid operator that oversees electricity supplies across the mid-Atlantic repeated its warning that the looming shutdown of a coal-fired power plant in Baltimore will threaten the region’s grid reliability and may have devastating impacts on consumers.

In a follow-up letter obtained by FOX Business this week, PJM Interconnection warned the shutdown of the Brandon Shores coal power plant is slated to occur before replacement power sources can come online, resulting in “degraded grid reliability” for more than 1 million state consumers, including the entire city of Baltimore.

PJM Interconnection coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia, serving 65 million consumers.

The plant’s operator, Texas-based Talen Energy, recently confirmed to FOX Business that it still intends to deactivate the Brandon Shores plant in June 2025 as part of an agreement with the Sierra Club. 

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But PJM has repeatedly warned the region is not prepared for the terms of that settlement and addressed its letter this week to Sierra Club leadership, imploring it to take action.

“As you are aware, Talen is currently prevented from continuing to run without conversion beyond its stated deactivation date under [a Reliability Must Run] framework due to a private agreement it entered into with you. Neither PJM, the federally designated regional grid operator charged with maintaining grid reliability, nor the state of Maryland is a party to this agreement,” PJM President and CEO Manu Asthana wrote to the Sierra Club Tuesday.

“This situation requires immediate attention,” Asthana continued. “Failure to come to resolution on this issue could result in degraded grid reliability for over 1,000,000 Maryland consumers during peak hours, including the entirety of the city of Baltimore, for the years between the stated deactivation of Brandon Shores and the date whereby needed transmission can be constructed.”

He noted in the letter that the agreement between Talen Energy and the Sierra Club would only allow for Brandon Shores’ units to restart if the Department of Energy were to declare a state of emergency, a rare action that only allows for the units to continue in operation for 90 days at a time. He said if an emergency were to be declared, “it may be too late to ensure that Maryland consumers can continue to have reliable electric service.”

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The letter further called on both the Sierra Club and Talen Energy to amend the agreement to allow the coal plant to continue providing power for consumers until the necessary transmission projects are completed. According to PJM, prematurely closing Brandon Shores sparks the need for new infrastructure to transport electricity from other sources, but such transmission upgrades aren’t expected to be finished in Maryland until 2028, three years after the planned Brandon Shores closure.

In November, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) intervened in the situation and approved PJM’s nearly $800 million emergency plan for transmission upgrades to blunt the Brandon Shores closure.

FERC Commissioner Mark Christie said Nov. 8 that, without proper upgrades, the shutdown could cause “severe voltage collapse in Baltimore and the surrounding zones, including Northern Virginia, the District of Columbia, Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania,” adding such a scenario would be “potentially catastrophic.”

“There has been a strong push for quite some time to get coal power out of Maryland,” Christopher Summers, the founder and president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, told Fox News Digital in an interview last month. “In this accelerated timeline of exiting from coal-fired power plants in the coming 12 to 24 months, I think it’s going to create a major reliability concern for the state.

“The loss of power poses a real danger to the well-being and livelihoods of Maryland families and businesses,” Summers said. “Until these current risks to our grid are fully dealt with, it’s a mistake to close reliable, baseload power plants too soon. That should be a concern to consumers in Maryland and businesses in Maryland that rely on dependable power.”

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In 2020, Talen Energy announced it had reached an agreement with the Sierra Club to shutter Brandon Shores and two other major coal power plants in the region. The decision was made in exchange for an agreement from the Sierra Club that aims to avoid future litigation or permit disputes related to coal at Talen Energy’s “transitioning sites.”

Ralph Alexander, CEO of Talen Energy at the time, said his company’s move was part of its transition to green energy and its broader environmental, social and governance (ESG)-focused future. According to the company’s current ESG commitments, it plans to entirely eliminate the use of coal in its wholly-owned generation plants like Brandon Shores, which generate more than 5,000 megawatts of power nationwide.

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In addition, while Talen Energy previously said it would convert Brandon Shores to rely on another, less emitting fuel source, it ultimately abandoned that plan and opted to completely close the plant, potentially increasing future reliability concerns. PJM said in its letter to the Sierra Club this week the unexpected change would increase risks.

The Sierra Club didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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