- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2008

Space robot gets power back

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Astronauts got power flowing to the International Space Station’s new robot last night, overcoming a problem that had threatened to disrupt shuttle Endeavour’s construction mission.

Working from inside, the astronauts used the space station’s mechanical arm to grab onto the robot named Dextre and energize the sleeping giant, which had been lying dormant outside the orbiting complex for nearly two days. Electricity quickly began streaming to the machine’s various joints and electronics, to everyone’s relief.

“Good news from the flight control room,” announced Mission Control. “Dextre has power.”

A cable design flaw had prevented power from reaching Dextre once the robot was hoisted onto the space station Thursday. Engineers on the ground put in the wrong circuitry before Endeavour’s flight; that was enough to create a roadblock in power and data to Dextre.

Michigan Democrats ask to redo primary

Several key Michigan Democrats agreed yesterday to push a do-over primary in early June to give their state a say in the close presidential race between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

Amid talks with the two campaigns, the four Michigan Democrats said in a statement they are “focusing on the possibility of a state-run primary in early June which would not use any state funding.” Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, one of the Democratic participants, said a likely date is June 3.

“This option would require the passage of legislation by the state legislature, and we look forward to working with the members of the legislature in the coming days to see if this option can be made a reality,” the Democrats said. Other Michigan Democrats working on the plan were Democratic National Committee member Debbie Dingell, Sen. Carl Levin and United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger.

The agreement now hinges on getting the Clinton and Obama campaigns and state party officials to approve legislation, still being written, that would set the primary for early June.

Bill would tie ANWR to oil price

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Hoping to capitalize on the concerns of ordinary consumers at the gas pump, Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens introduced legislation this week that would allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge if the price of oil reaches $125 a barrel.

The senators hope the high oil prices, hovering at $110 a barrel, will change the minds of fellow senators who, until now, have been opposed to opening the wildlife refuge to drilling. The two Republicans are hoping the next call for drilling in ANWR will come from consumers who see the price of a gallon of gas creeping closer to $4 a gallon.

“This has got to come from the ground up,” Mrs. Murkowski said. “From the constituents, from the American consumer saying, ‘Enough, Congress.’ This is the No. One issue domestically in the country right now, what is happening with the price of energy.”

Sexual misconduct in military declines

One-third of women in the military and 6 percent of men said they were sexually harassed, according to the latest Pentagon survey on the issue.

The figure for women was higher than the previous finding several years ago but lower than a similar survey taken in 1995, the Defense Department reported yesterday. The Defense Manpower Data Center said it compiled the data from a survey of 24,000 people in 2006.

A separate report on sexual assaults showed that fewer cases were reported among military personnel in 2007 after years of significant increases.

There were 2,688 sexual assaults reported last year by people in uniform, the figures showed — down about 9 percent from the 2,947 reported the previous year.

Reports of sexual assault jumped by about 24 percent in 2006 and nearly 40 percent in 2005. Officials attributed the increases partly to more aggressive efforts to encourage victims to come forward.

Doctors cleared in Ritter treatment

GLENDALE, Calif. — A jury cleared a cardiologist and a radiologist yesterday of negligence in the diagnosis and treatment of actor John Ritter, who died of a torn aorta in 2003.

Jurors found that the radiologist advised Ritter to follow up with treatment after a body scan two years before his death. Ritter didn’t follow the order. The lawsuit was brought by Ritter’s widow and children. The 9-3 verdict means there is no damage judgment against the doctors.

When he died on Sept. 11, 2003, Ritter was starring in the TV show “8 Simple Rules … for Dating My Teenage Daughter.” He was 54.

Lawyers for Ritter’s widow, Amy Yasbeck, and children claimed Ritter’s death resulted in a loss of as much as $67 million in future earnings. Eight other medical personnel and the hospital previously made settlements with the family totaling $14 million.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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