Amazon patent shows roving robots that could drop off items on sidewalks

Amazon is testing robots that can store packages and make multiple deliveries along their routes, according to a new patent filing.

According to the patent application published Tuesday, the tech giant’s proposed storage compartment vehicles (SCV) could also pick up items for return.

The Seattle-based company, which already deploys robots in many of its fulfillment centers worldwide, is looking for ways to address the troublesome “last mile” of delivery with this method, which would have customers come outside on the sidewalk, tap a security code on their phones and open the correct door to get their packages.

Alternate designs for Amazon’s storage compartment vehicle are adapted for aerial (left) or water-based (right) transportation. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

Alternate designs for Amazon’s storage compartment vehicle are adapted for aerial (left) or water-based (right) transportation. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO) (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

However, Amazon has often said its patent applications are meant to explore possibilities, but many inventions are not turned into products or services as described in patent applications.

In certain parts of Seattle, Amazon has already been testing Amazon Scout delivery robots.

According to GeekWire, the patent application points out that the SCVs could position themselves in predetermined areas and that they could be outfitted with cameras, microphones, GPS devices, biometric scanners and more — to make sure no one messes with the robots and that deliveries arrive on time.

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There’s also reportedly a water-based model that comes equipped with floats for marine delivery applications.

The House manager details why Trump backing patently false information from Russia endangers the United States

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Rep. Sylvia Garcia, one of the House impeachment managers, raised and then debunked the theory that President Trump says is at the heart of his efforts in Ukraine. 

On the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump asked Zelensky to do him a favor and look into, among other things, potential interference in the 2016 election and Vice President Joe Biden.

“As the theory goes,” said Garcia, “Vice President Biden tried to remove Ukraine’s prosecutor all to make sure the prosecutor wouldn’t investigate that specific company Burisma because, again, his son was on the board. Then senators, if that doesn’t sound far-fetched and complicated to you, it should.” 

In breaking down the theory, Garcia noted that when Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma in 2014, its owner was under investigation. The following year, Victor Shokin became Ukraine’s prosecutor general.

Later in 2015, Biden publicly called for Shokin’s removal. But as Garcia noted on Thursday, Biden was not alone in trying to get Shokin fired at the time.

“Let’s be very, very clear,” Garcia said. “Vice President Biden called for the removal of this prosecutor at the official direction of US policy because the prosecutor was widely perceived as corrupt and with the support of all of our international allies, his actions were therefore supported by the executive branch, Congress, and the international community.”

Furthermore, when Biden called for Shokin’s removal, the case against Burisma was no longer active, Garcia noted.

“Although Shokin vowed to keep investigating Burisma amid an international push to root out corruption in Ukraine, he allowed the Burisma investigation to go dormant,” Garcia said. “That is when he was removed. He was not actively investigating Burisma.”

Garcia’s assertions are supported by Shokin’s deputy prosecutor, Vitaliy Kaso, who resigned in February 2016, a month before Shokin himself was fired. Kasko told Bloomberg that the case against Burisma was dormant by the time Shokin was removed, saying “There was no pressure from anyone from the US to close cases against Zlochevsky. It was shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015.”

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Jurors start deliberations in Leslie Chance trial

Closing arguments wrapped up and the jury began deliberations Wednesday in the murder trial of former school principal Leslie Chance, with the defense questioning the integrity of the investigation and the prosecution acknowledging some detective work was “sloppy” but insisting the facts still pointed to the defendant’s guilt.

“While we can pick apart pieces of evidence, often their value (is) when you take them altogether,” prosecutor Andrea Kohler told the jury.

Wednesday capped a four-and-a-half-week trial in which the prosecution set out to prove Chance committed first-degree murder when she allegedly shot her husband on the morning of Aug. 25, 2013 after previously discovering a texting tryst he had with a former girlfriend. She planned the murder for weeks beforehand, the prosecution alleged, using information learned at a CSI exhibit in Las Vegas to cover her tracks and make it look like someone else killed Todd Chance.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Leslie Chance was seen with her husband in his car pulling out of their driveway in southeast Bakersfield that morning. After shooting her husband and leaving him in an orchard, they say Leslie Chance drove to another location and left his car unlocked with the murder weapon inside in front of a drug house. From there, the prosecution said, she tried to cover her tracks by disguising herself as she made her way home, changing her clothes along the way. Prosecutors presented surveillance footage from that day that showed the person they say was Leslie Chance at various points along the route to the Chance home.

Defense attorney Tony Lidgett used his closing arguments to question assumptions the prosecution made and also asked the jury to consider whether the investigation of the murder was fair. Leslie Chance testified that she couldn’t have committed the murder because she was home that morning, working on her computer, watching TV and waiting for a grocery delivery.

Lidgett raised questions about the work of one particular Kern County Sheriff’s detective on the case. That detective, Kavin Brewer, was shown during trial trial to have conducted interviews with several witnesses that were never entered into evidence before the case went to trial. Several of those witnesses said the person in the surveillance footage investigators had collected was not Leslie Chance.

“When thinking about whether or not (the prosecution) proved their case, take into consideration, was the investigation conducted in what would be a fair manner,” Lidgett said, addressing the jury.

He also said detective Brewer tried to influence witness statements, telling people brought in to view the surveillance footage that others had already said it was Leslie Chance.

“It’s time for (her) to go home,” Lidgett said at the end of his closing arguments. Leslie Chance has been jailed since her arrest in 2016.

Prosecutor Kohler admitted “a fail on the part of the sheriff’s department” regarding how some evidence was handled, including DNA samples that were collected but never submitted for processing.

“There was some pretty sloppy work. Reports weren’t written, interviews weren’t booked,” she said.

While that made the prosecutors “pretty angry,” it didn’t dramatically impact the case, she said.

The interviews not logged into evidence were not consequential, she said. Some people thought it was Chance and others didn’t but there was no positive identification. The evidence still showed, Kohler said, that Leslie Chance became enraged that her husband was having a romantic text exchange with a former girlfriend and plotted to kill him, knowing that divorcing him and paying alimony would interfere with the lifestyle she had created for the family as its primary breadwinner.

Her husband’s unfaithfulness “made her absolutely furious,” Kohler said. “Furious enough that she wanted him dead.”

Teenage boy killed in knife fight in Bakersfield

A 17-year-old youth was killed in a knife fight that authorities say started as a confrontation at a bus stop outside a high school as students were leaving school for the day.

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office responded about 2:40 p.m. Tuesday to a call about multiple people being stabbed in the area of Foothill Road and Morning Drive, near Foothill High School.

The 17-year-old student died at the scene. Authorities have not released his name, but a family member told the Bakersfield Californian he was Jose Flores.

His aunt, Alma Valenzuela, told the newspaper that Flores was “a great kid, an awesome kid.”

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“He would make everyone laugh every weekend at our family gatherings,” Valenzuela said. “[Our family is] devastated. We all are.”

Jason Cruz, 23, was also stabbed and has been booked into the Kern County jail on suspicion of homicide, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

A 14-year-old boy was also stabbed and has been booked into the juvenile hall for assault with a deadly weapon, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The incident remains under investigation.

Chris Wallace on Senate impeachment trial arguments: How many times can Democrats make the same point?

Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace said Democrats risk overstating their case against President Trump as they continue their opening argument in the Senate impeachment trial.

After House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., spoke for more than two hours at the start of proceedings Wednesday, Wallace noted during a break in the proceedings that Democrats had made the “same point” over and over again.

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Wallace said Schiff “went into great detail on the facts and the timeline of this action by the president starting in the spring of 2019 until September of 2019. He gave the emotional arguments, the large arguments as to what the real significance to the future of the country and our national security is.”

He added that Schiff opened his remarks by invoking the work of Alexander Hamilton and closed his part of the argument by invoking President George Washington.

“I thought he said it all,” Wallace remarked. “Then I realized we have [up to] 21 hours and 40 minutes left to go. … My Lord, three days and 24 hours [total].”

“You just wonder how many times you can keep making the same point.”

Wallace said the same lengthy repetition is likely to also be a hallmark of the Trump defense team, once they get their 24 total hours to rebut the House impeachment managers.

By Wednesday evening, Schiff, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, had spoken at length, with Nadler offering copies of tweets by Donald Trump Jr. and other documentation as he made his case.

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Before he departed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Wednesday morning, Trump slammed Nadler as a “sleazebag” that he has dealt with “for a long time.”

The president recalled fighting Nadler on numerous real estate endeavors, as the longtime Upper West Side congressman famously sought to quash attempts by Trump to develop along the Hudson River in the Manhattan part of his district.

The Democratic House manager gives opening arguments on why the Senate must hold Trump accountable

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Rep. Adam Schiff, the top House manager, rebuked President Trump today for claiming that he can’t even be investigated while in office. 

“The President says you can’t even investigate the President,” Schiff said. “The President is in court saying, you can’t only not indict the President, you can’t even investigate the President. Attorney General’s position is that you can’t even investigate the President.” 

Schiff is accurately describing Trump’s position, which has been argued in federal court by Trump’s lawyers and the Justice Department. One of Trump’s lawyers even said he couldn’t be investigated for murder if he shot someone on the streets of New York City. 

But several federal judges have ruled against these sweeping claims of immunity. A federal appeals court in New York said in November, “presidential immunity does not bar a state grand jury” from investigating “potential crimes committed by persons within its jurisdiction, even if that investigation may in some way implicate the president.” 

What happens next regarding Trump’s immunity: The Supreme Court will likely get the final word on the matter. They agreed to take up some of these cases involving Trump and immunity. But there’s no guarantee that the justices will hand down a decision that addresses all of Trump’s claims – they could rule narrowly.  

Schiff and other Democrats have criticized Trump for simultaneously claiming that he can’t be criminally investigated, while also blocking witnesses and documents from congressional impeachment investigations.

Street racers, law enforcement discuss solutions on illegal street racing at community forum

The Bakersfield Police Department and local street racers opened a dialogue toward finding a solution to illegal street racing at the first community forum regarding the issue on Tuesday evening at Independence High School.

Local officials, community members and street racers — many who represented the National and International Brotherhood of Street Racers — found a common ground concerning the issue of illegal street racing.

BPD Interim Chief of Police Greg Terry called the meeting “the first of many to come.”

“We know there are significant issues in our community. There are issues with violent crime, gang activity, property crime and other tremendous challenges that we face. We want to address as many of the public safety issues in our community as we can,” Terry said.

Steve Hughes, general manager of Kern County Raceway Park, offered to host street racing activities at his business in the future. Depending on promotional support and community interest, Hughes said the raceway could host weekly street racing events.

City Councilman Chris Parlier said he would commit $1,000 in financial support towards the Kern County Raceway Park or other possible legal solutions. This garnered an enthusiastic applause from members of the street racing community.

Many of the street racers in attendance shared concerns of being “profiled” when they are not committing any crimes, but driving cars commonly associated with the activity. One street racer brought up that he has been pulled over for his National and International Brotherhood of Street Racers sticker he has displayed on his rear window.

“The level of professionalism that we expect our officers to engage in is high and if a member of our community does not have that kind of an experience with a police officer, I want to know about,” Terry said. “The issue of profiling in any way, shape or form is illegal and wrong.”

BPD detective Ken Sporer outlined some components of “illegal street racing,” which included burnouts, drifting, blocking off streets for races, exhibition of speed and reckless driving. Another key point Sporer brought up was the variety of emissions violations and illegal modifications racers sometimes make to their vehicles.

Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer outlined the misdemeanors that are related to illegal street racing and their penalties. Zimmer addressed a question written anonymously by an audience member that was in favor of heightening street racing offenses to felonies.

“I think in the current climate of (California’s legislative system) — where you have a push to decriminalize things and lower punishments — it would probably be easier to have street racing misdemeanors lowered to infractions rather than raised to felonies,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer also warned of the implications that could occur when an individual is injured as a result of illegal street racing. She even noted that in instances where a death occurs, illegal street racing spectators can be charged with felonies.

The issue of street racing has taken a heightened sense of awareness recently, with things coming to a head in November after a street racer struck a minivan in southwest Bakersfield. The accident sent the minivan into the path of an oncoming crane truck and killed the minivan’s driver Maria Blaney Navarro, 58, of Bakersfield, and seriously injured her two grandchildren.

Parlier said the issue will next be addressed at the Feb. 13 meeting of the Bakersfield City Council’s Neighborhoods and Community Relations committee at 9 a.m.

Column: A county-owned homeless service center in the old St. Vincent hospital? It just might happen

Sometimes the wheels grind slowly in the halls of power, but L.A. County supervisors approved a plan Tuesday afternoon to waste no time preparing a bid to buy St. Vincent Medical Center and turn it into a homeless services center.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, citing the county’s growing crisis — on the same day the latest homeless count was set to begin — introduced a motion calling on the county to enter the bidding process once the hospital clears bankruptcy court proceedings. And the groundwork was already being laid by Sachi Hamai, the county’s chief executive officer.

“I want to move forward swiftly,” said Hamai, adding that she would favor a cash purchase rather than a lease or rental agreement.

The current owners have asked for bidders to move quickly, submitting proposals by Feb. 7. Solis asked staff to explore the best way for the county to fund a bid for the property and pull together a proposed purchase plan by next week, so the supervisors can keep things moving.

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I first wrote about St. Vincent a week ago, when reader Patricia McVerry contacted me to say she saw news that the hospital had been given permission by a bankruptcy judge to cease operation. With so many homeless encampments nearby, McVerry said, why not repurpose the hospital?

The day of that column I heard from L.A. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who said he had been thinking about that very idea, and he introduced a council resolution to explore all options two days later. And then I spoke to Solis, who sent me a draft of her county motion Friday evening.

To be honest, I’m more accustomed to hearing public officials call for blue ribbon panels and six-month feasibility studies, which are often ways to put off doing anything at all. So the momentum here is refreshing, even though we’re early in the process, with a lot of work to be done and no guarantee the county will get what it’s after.

But at this point, with roughly 60,000 homeless people in the county and a critical shortage of virtually every type of short- and long-term housing as well as medical care and addiction rehab, there’s no time to sit around talking about what to do.

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This is the time to move quickly, be creative, and take advantage of existing resources such as unused or under-utilized buildings around the county.

It’s been taking years and costing a small fortune to build new supportive housing, so taking full advantage of a 366-bed hospital that doesn’t require major renovation to produce immediate benefits is a no-brainer. Especially when the county is recording three homeless deaths every day. .

The county is intimately familiar with St. Vincent, having made an offer to buy the venerable facility at 3rd and Alvarado streets last year, only to lose out to a higher bidder.

“The county’s intent is not to operate SVMC as a hospital,” Solis said in her motion, but to partner with private or non-profit organizations and provide an array of homeless services.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said the services could include a behavioral health center, recuperative care beds and a sobering center. He said one goal might be for the services to be an alternative to incarceration, and “that would be much more cost effective” and have better outcomes than locking people up.

At the moment, several thousand people with mental illness are in county jails.

“This is one heck of an opportunity. Let’s take advantage of it,” Ridley-Thomas said Tuesday in endorsing the Solis motion, which won unanimous approval.

Of course, there’s still the money hurdle. It’s not yet clear what the hospital will cost, although county officials are hoping the bankruptcy status will lower the price. Hamai and others are exploring funding sources and may see if the state can help out. I say, hit the feds up, too. President Trump says he wants to help solve homelessness on the West Coast, and here’s a great opportunity to put some money behind the lip-flapping.

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The hospital, which dates back a century and a half and was run for decades by the Daughters of Charity, once had about 1,000 employees, many of whom have retired or found other jobs as the hospital gradually scaled back its operations. Solis said she wants the county to find ways to assist the remaining employees rather than just cutting them loose. And maybe some can be retrained and stay put.

St Vincent is owned by Verity Health System, which took the hospital into bankruptcy in 2018. As I wrote last week, the creditors include the hospital system’s former management company, Integrity Healthcare, which is controlled by entrepreneur-physician Patrick Soon-Shiong’s company NantWorks. Soon-Shiong also owns the L.A. Times.

St. Vincent’s long-standing challenge, local sources told me, was that it operated essentially as a charity hospital, with many low-income patients and public reimbursement rates that didn’t cover the cost of their care. It seems unlikely, those sources said, that another company would risk making a run at continuing to operate St. Vincent as a conventional hospital.

But if the county can get hold of the property, the potential to do something creative is immense. There’s room and equipment for medical care, spaces designed for residential care, and a large, separate office building that could be used for staff and administration.

With the right leadership and design, St. Vincent could become a model for multifaceted homeless care. And O’Farrell wants to explore permanent supportive housing on a vacant lot to the west of the hospital, near a current building of senior housing and not far from the St. Vincent Meals on Wheels headquarters.

The scuttlebutt on the homeless count, set to begin Tuesday night, is that the numbers are likely to go up rather than down. The tally won’t be known for many weeks.

But if, as expected, the count spikes — and even if it remains at roughly the same level — there’s going to be even greater public pressure for those in charge to come up with answers.

St. Vincent should be one of them.

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steve.lopez@latimes.com

Antonio Brown being investigated for ‘possible battery’ at his Florida home: report

Former NFL star Antonio Brown is reportedly being investigated for possible battery at his Florida home Tuesday.

There was still an “active scene” outside his Hollywood home and police are determining whether or not charges are going to be brought against him, ESPN reported. A source told ESPN that police believe it is “not a domestic situation.”

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According to TMZ Sports, officers swarmed the home of the free-agent wide receiver who last played for the New England Patriots earlier Tuesday. A neighbor told the gossip website that someone was in custody in the back of a police cruiser but it wasn’t clear who it was.

A police source told TMZ Sports that Brown wasn’t in custody “at this time.”

The latest apparent incident comes less than a week after the Hollywood Police Department cut ties with Brown following an incident outside his home involving the mother of his children.

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It was the third domestic incident involving Brown in the last three months, Hollywood police had said. According to CBS Miami, the latest incident — which included a profanity-laced tirade aimed at officers — was the last straw; police told Brown he was no longer welcome as a donor and volunteer for the Police Athletic League (PAL). Police returned the unemployed wide receiver’s donation.

“We made the decision to sever ties between Mr. Brown and the Hollywood Police Athletic League,” public information officer Christian Lata said in a statement. “We did not want our youth to be subject to this type of behavior nor emulate the actions of Mr. Brown.”

Lata said that Brown used profanity in front of his children. Police said Brown’s donation to the 7-on-7 league was returned Jan. 9.

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“These incidents have caused an irreparable rift between the Police Department and PAL and Mr. Brown,” Lata added.

Brown livestreamed a confrontation with his ex-girlfriend Chelsie Kyriss and Hollywood police outside his home. Brown’s children appeared to be present as the wide receiver yelled profanities at police and Kyriss, accusing her of trying to steal a Bentley that was parked in his driveway after coming to pick up her kids for school.

Brown appears to be focused on his rap career as he faces allegations of sexual assault and rape by two different women.

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Brown has not commented on the latest incident.

GOP shifts from 2 to 3 days of opening arguments for each side, and the House’s evidence now will be admitted unless voted down

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After remarks from Adam Schiff and Jay Sekulow, White House counsel Pat Cipollone again spoke on the Senate floor, where he railed against Schiff and the House impeachment proceedings and argued against witnesses in a Senate trial.

An impassioned Cipollone lamented that President Donald Trump was given a “minimum of due process” during House impeachment proceedings. 

“Information was selectively leaked out. Witnesses were threatened. Good public servants were told that they would be held in contempt. They were told that they were obstructing,” Cipollone said.

House Democrats, he said, held the articles of impeachment for 33 days, arguing that their case is not prepared if they need to hear from additional witnesses in the Senate.

“We hear all this talk about an overwhelming case. They’re not even prepared,” he said of Democrats.

House Democrats, he said, “concocted a process” that locked the President out, calling out Schiff, who has not provided documents regarding his staff’s work with the whistleblower.

Cipollone went on to call the idea that Democrats want to call witnesses in the Senate trial “ridiculous.”

“The idea that they would come here and lecture the Senate – by the way, I was surprised to hear that, did you realize, you’re on trial? … Everybody’s on trial except for them. It’s ridiculous, it’s ridiculous. They have overwhelming evidence and they’re afraid to make their case. Think about it, it’s common sense. Overwhelming evidence… and then they come here and they say, ‘You know what, we need some more evidence,’” he said.

Cipollone continued: “If I showed up in any court in this country and I said, ‘Judge, my case is overwhelming, but I’m not ready to go yet. I need more evidence’ … I would get thrown out in two seconds and that’s exactly what should happen here.”