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Murdoch buys education tech provider, 3 million-student audience

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Wireless Generation, a US education technology company, will become a subsidiary of News Corporation for about $360 million in cash as Rupert Murdoch seeks to expand his company into academia.

The company provides technology solutions for an audience of over 3 million students nation-wide.

On Monday, News Corporation, the parent company of the Fox News Channel, announced it signed an agreement to buy 90 percent of Wireless Generation. The remaining shares will be retained by general manager Larry Berger, who will remain in his post.

“We see a $500 billion [education] sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching,” Murdoch said in a statement.

“Wireless Generation is at the forefront of individualized, technology-based learning that is poised to revolutionize public education for a new generation of students.”

The Brooklyn based company develops web-based software that allows teachers to track students academic progress and develop curriculum based on students’ individual needs.

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Wireless Generation was founded in 2000 and has 400 employees.

“We’re delighted to be joining a company that has a long history of growing entrepreneurial, innovative businesses,” Berger said.

“Rupert believes in the power of digital platforms to reach more people with better information, more swiftly than ever and he understands the transformative effect technology can bring to the process of learning.”

At the Media Institute Awards Dinner on October 6, Murdoch dubbed public schools “failure factories” and called for an overhaul of the US education system.

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“The failure rates of our public schools represent a tragic waste of human capital that is making America less competitive,” Murdoch said. “Upward mobility in America is in jeopardy unless we fix our public schools.”

On November 9, New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein was hired to be a senior adviser to Murdoch. Klein said his job was to “put them in the burgeoning and dynamic education marketplace.”

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Captive beluga whales make epic journey from China to Iceland sanctuary

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Two beluga whales from a Shanghai aquarium arrived in Iceland on Wednesday to live out their days in a unique marine sanctuary that conservationists hope will become a model for rehoming some 3,000 of the creatures currently in captivity.

Little White and Little Grey, two 12-year-old female belugas, left behind their previous lives entertaining visitors at the Changfeng Ocean World and were flown across the globe in specially tailored containers.

The whales, which each weigh about 900 kilogrammes (2,000 pounds) and measuring four metres (13 feet) will continue their epic journey by truck and ferry to the sanctuary at Klettsvik Bay at Heimaey, one of the Westman Islands off the south coast of Iceland.

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Iran says shot down US drone over its territory

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Iran's Revolutionary Guard said Thursday it had shot down a US "spy drone" which violated Iranian airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, in the latest incident to stoke tension in the strategic sea lane.

There was no immediate reaction from the United States.

The US-manufactured Global Hawk surveillance drone was hit with a missile "after violating Iranian air space" over the waters of Hormozgan province, the Guard said in a statement.

The Iranian military did not immediately publish images of the drone.

The incident comes at a time of growing antagonism between Iran and the United States following two waves of still unexplained attacks on Gulf shipping, which Washington has blamed on Tehran.

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Sailing among the stars: Here’s how photons could revolutionize space flight

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A few days from now, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will lift off from Florida, carrying a satellite the size of a loaf of bread with nothing to power it but a huge polyester "solar sail."

It's been the stuff of scientists' dreams for decades but has only very recently become a reality.

The idea might sounds crazy: propelling a craft through the vacuum of space with no engine, no fuel, and no solar panels, but instead harnessing the momentum of packets of light energy known as photons -- in this case from our Sun.

The spacecraft to be launched on Monday, called LightSail 2, was developed by the Planetary Society, a US organization that promotes space exploration which was co-founded by the legendary astronomer Carl Sagan in 1980.

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