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Amazon Prime Air

When Amazon began developing drone technology in 2013, critics doubted that it could replace delivery employees. Executives cited specific safety concerns: What if a package hit someone during the drop? What if a drone flew into a child or pet during delivery? For these reasons, Amazon might not trade humans for unsafe robot delivery crews.

  • But now it looks like your Amazon delivery job might not be safe from automation after all.
  • Why it matters: Amazon may become more efficient and profitable. But the company also pledged at the beginning of the year to hire 100,000 more employees by mid-2018. The jobs of the thousands of Amazon drivers may be at risk if drone technology continues to become more sophisticated.
  • The details: The most recently published patents, acquired by GeekWire, show a retractable cable that can safely lower packages to the ground while minimizing heavy swaying. Another update is a "virtual safety shroud" to protect young children from the drones hovering just above the ground. With the addition, propellers would have sensors to direct the drone to fly out of range, stop its propellers or signal a warning to avoid collision.

Go deeper

11 mins ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

19 mins ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.