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NASA authorities step down under Donald Trump administration

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Washington, Jan 23, 2017: With Donald Trump promising to “unlock the mysteries of space” in his time as US President during his inaugural address, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot has taken over as its acting administrator.

Lightfoot takes over from Charles Bolden and Dava Newman who stepped down as Administrator and Deputy Administrator, respectively, at the end of Barack Obama’s term, Space.com reported on Monday.

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“To be entrusted with this incredible agency, no matter how long, is an honour, and I commit to serving this team to the best of my ability so we can accomplish our ambitious missions and make this nation proud,” Lightfoot said in an internal memo to employees.

The Trump administration is yet to announce a name for the NASA Administrator.

Lightfoot said that the administration has appointed Erik Noble to serve as White House senior advisor and Greg Autry to be White House liaison.

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“The two are the first members of the so-called ‘beachhead team’ of administration staffers assigned to NASA, at least on a short-term basis,” the report added.

“There will be other new and familiar faces arriving at Headquarters, and we will communicate with you as often as possible to keep you apprised of those developments,” Lightfoot wrote in the statement.

Earlier, during a rally just two weeks before the election, Trump reiterated he would look to focus on exploring deep space.

“I will free NASA from the restriction of serving primarily as a logistics agency for low-Earth orbit activity – big deal. Instead, we will refocus its mission on space exploration. Under a Trump Administration, Florida and America will lead the way into the stars,” he told a rally in Florida in October.

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In what could herald a new era for NASA, Trump is also set to cut the US space agency’s budget for climate change and let it focus on sending humans on deep space exploration missions like Mars, including another “giant leap” to the Moon.

“NASA has been reduced to a logistics agency concentrating on space station resupply and politically correct environmental monitoring. We would start by having a stretch goal of exploring the entire solar system by the end of the century,” Bob Walker, who has advised Trump on space policy, told the Telegraph in November.

NASA is already working to get humans to the surface of the Red Planet by the first half of the 2030s, as instructed by Obama. But things may change under Trump.

The US space agency is already developing a capsule called Orion and a huge rocket known as the Space Launch System (SLS) to get astronauts to distant destinations such as Mars. (IANS)

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Googling ‘idiot’ Bringing up Donald Trump Pictures Drags Google in Trouble

The House committee had also questioned YouTube, Twitter and Facebook executives at separate hearings on bias in big tech

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Sundar Pichai
Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies at a House Judiciary Committee hearing "examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices" on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

US Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, in an effort to understand how Google search algorithms work, asked its CEO Sundar Pichai why so many pictures of President Donald Trump appear when she does a Google search for “idiot”.

“Right now, if you Google the word ‘idiot’ under images, a picture of Donald Trump comes up. I just did that,” the California Democrat told Pichai during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday here.

“How would that happen? How does search work so that would occur?” Lofgren asked Pichai, according to the Washington Post.

The Google CEO — who was at the hearing to address allegations of political bias in his company’s widely used search engine — said the results were based on billions of keywords ranked according to over 200 factors such as relevance, popularity, how others were using the search term, to determine how to best match a query with results.

“So it’s not some little man sitting behind the curtain figuring out what we’re going to show the user?” Lofgren asked. “It’s basically a compilation of what users are generating.”

Republicans have long accused Google of political bias, which the company has strongly denied.

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Why googling ‘idiot’ brings up Trump photos, Congresswoman asks Pichai. VOA

In August, Trump said in a tweet that a Google search for “Trump News” showed only reports from “Fake News Media.” He concluded it was “rigged” against him so “almost all stories and news was bad.”

House Republicans said they wanted to hold the hearing — entitled “Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices” — to make sure the search giant was being impartial.

“Americans put their trust in big tech companies to honour freedom of speech and champion open dialogue,” Republican House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia said in a statement before the hearing.

The House committee had also questioned YouTube, Twitter and Facebook executives at separate hearings on bias in big tech.

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In response to Republicans who complained about Google searches, Democratic Representative Ted Lieu said: “If you want positive search results, do positive things. If you don’t want negative search results, don’t do negative things.”

“And to some of my colleagues across the aisle, if you’re getting bad press articles and bad search results, don’t blame Google or Facebook or Twitter, consider blaming yourself.” (IANS)