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Robots will be delivering your lunch

Photo courtesy Starship Technologies

DoorDash and Postmates are both starting to deploy robotic delivery vehicles. The ground delivery robots will take food deliveries placed through both of the services in Washington DC and Silicon Valley.

Once a robot arrives at its destination, customers will receive a text with a custom link they have to tap to unlock a code to open the robot’s hatch. Otherwise, anyone on the street could steal a free meal.

The delivery robots developed Starship Technologies look like the love child of an icebox and R2-D2. The robots use cameras, GPS, software, and the company's proprietary maps to navigate the world around them, and according to the company, may someday help senior citizens and people with mobility issues get what they need. The robots have encountered more than a million pedestrians in testing to date, with few problems.

Texas family fun

When it comes to raising a family, Texas ranks right in the middle. WalletHub says the state is 29th best. The Lone Star State scored very high for family fun, but lower on health and safety and affordability. The states that ranked highest on this list were North Dakota, New Hampshire and Vermont.

You can travel cheap, but you have to travel light

Texas based American Airlines is banning carry-on bags and overhead storage with its new basic economy fare. Basic economy fares will go on sale in late February in ten markets with plans to expand into other routes throughout the year. Other airlines have rolled out these bare bones flights to compete with Spirit and others.

Oracle latest tech firm sued by Department of Labor

Oracle is being sued by the Labor Department for allegedly paying white men more than their counterparts and for favoring Asian workers when recruiting and hiring for technical roles. The Labor Department warned the lawsuit could cost Oracle hundreds of millions in federal contracts. An Oracle spokesperson says the complaint is politically motivated, based on false allegations and wholly without merit. More on this story...

Environmental study of the Dakota pipeline

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has taken the first step in the process of conducting a study of the environmental risks posed by a controversial Dakota pipeline. Comments are now being taken from the public about how wide the scope of the study should be. The $3.7 billion project has come under protest from local Native American tribes and environmentalists over threats the development poses to cultural sites and the water supply.

A federal judge said Wednesday he won't keep the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from launching the full environmental study of the pipeline's disputed crossing under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners' request to stop the Corps from proceeding until he rules on whether the company already has the necessary permission to lay pipe under Lake Oahe, the water source for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

The Army published a notice Wednesday of its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement on the Lake Oahe crossing. ETP won't be able to lay pipe under the reservoir while the study is ongoing; it is currently blocked from doing so anyway.

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/01/18/2017-00937/notice-of-intent-to-prepare-an-environmental-impact-statement-in-connection-with-dakota-access-llcs

A study could take up to two years, but the study notice can be withdrawn if Boasberg were to eventually rule that ETP has permission for the crossing, Army attorneys said. The notice says public comments will be accepted until Feb. 20 on "potential issues, concerns and reasonable alternatives" that should be considered in a study.

The stretch under Lake Oahe is the last big chunk of construction for the 1,200-mile pipeline. ETP has said in court documents there is already oil in a portion of the pipeline leading up to the lake in anticipation of finishing the project. But the Corps wants to look at alternate routes, the potential for a pipeline leak and tribal treaty rights in the wake of opposition by Standing Rock.

The Standing Rock Sioux and its supporters believe the four-state pipeline threatens drinking water and cultural sites. The tribe issued a statement Wednesday saying the study is "yet another small victory on the path to justice."

ETP disputes the tribe's arguments and says the pipeline will be safe.

ETP said the Corps gave it permission in July to proceed with the Lake Oahe stretch, but the Corps says all of the necessary steps have not yet been completed — including an easement to work on federal land and the notification of Congress.

An environmental assessment conducted last year determined the crossing would not have a significant impact on the environment. However, Assistant Army Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in December that a broader environmental impact statement was warranted.

The Standing Rock Sioux had urged people to lobby the Corps to start the study before President-elect Donald Trump takes office Friday. Trump, whose transition team said in a memo that he supports the pipeline's completion, could seek to reverse the Army's decision last month to not allow the river crossing.

North Dakota's U.S. senators, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican John Hoeven, said they think the federal government is changing the rules in the middle of the process and that the study shouldn't be approved.

Opponents have camped near the pipeline route in North Dakota since the summer. The number of arrests surpassed 600 this week, as 16 were arrested Monday and Tuesday in confrontations near the camp.

The North Dakota Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to allow lawyers who aren't licensed in North Dakota to handle protest cases on a temporary basis. The justices said there's no evidence that defendants have been denied counsel because they couldn't find a lawyer in North Dakota, but recognize the potential for "delay or inconvenience" due to the large number of arrests.

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