- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 1, 2010

ASTRO-NEUTER

First, “Star Wars”; now, gender wars. Consider that NASA has unveiled the amazing R2 — short for Robonaut 2 — a new astronaut “helper” robot that has been under development by the federal space agency and General Motors since 1997. Now, R2 is destined to dramatically rocket off to the International Space Station on Nov. 1, never to return. The 330-pound, gold helmeted, “humanoid” prototype has 32-inch-long arms with decidedly he-man biceps; the dexterous R2 is meant to give NASA “a deeper understanding of human-robotic interaction,” the agency says.

But jaunty robot and canny NASA handlers are way ahead. R2 is already Tweeting, taking questions from the public and reassuring people, “We’re not taking over — I’m here to help!” But wait. R2 also advised one female inquisitor, “Robots are non-gender by design. I’m an ‘it.’ “

Poor R2 - already dutifully and politically correct, neither Robert nor Roberta, Sam nor Samantha. Face it, well-meaning and hypersensitive NASA engineers: This is a boy robot. It’s OK. Really. Go ahead. The robo-curious should check out twitter.com/astroRobonaut; he — oh, sorry, we mean “it” — will take more questions at 11 a.m. Wednesday before “it” departs Johnson Space Center in Houston, bound for Kennedy Space Center in Florida for final testing and the big ride on Space Shuttle Discovery.

MUSICAL CHAIRS

All right, everybody can relax now. Effective Monday, the Associated Press has been given Helen Thomas‘ much-coveted, front-row center chair in the White House briefing room, says the White House Correspondents’ Association. Fox News gets AP’s old chair. U.S. News & World Report lost its position, Politico and American Urban Radio Networks moved up to the third row, which now harbors a new spot for foreign news pool reporters. The Washington Times was moved from the third to the fourth row.

“It was a very difficult decision. The board received requests from Bloomberg and NPR in addition to Fox for relocation to the front row and felt all three made compelling cases. But the board ultimately was persuaded by Fox’s length of service and commitment to the White House television pool,” the committee said.

“These deliberations mark the third time in four years the board has tackled this issue, and we urge members to view seating room changes as an ongoing process that will be revisited again as our industry evolves.”

YOU BETCHA

And speaking of gender issues, or the lack therein, Sarah Palin has no problem, well, spelling things out about a certain Arizona governor.

Jan Brewer has the cojones that our president does not have to look out for all Americans, not just Arizonans, but all Americans, in this desire of ours to secure our borders and allow legal immigration to help build this country, as was the purpose of immigration laws,” Mrs. Palin told “Fox News Sunday.”

“If our own president will not enforce a federal law, more power to Jan Brewer and 44 other states who are in line to help support Jan Brewer in state laws, state efforts, to do what our president won’t do,” she added.

ANOTHER LAWSUIT

“Have you seen this? Have you seen how much [expletive] this is? Do you think I should call [the British libel law firm] Carter-Ruck?” a vexed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, on reports that he had “blood” on his hands for publishing classified military files about the U.S. war in Afghanistan, to the Observer newspaper.

“In our four-year publishing history, no one has ever come to physical harm that we are aware of or that anyone has alleged.”

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