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James MacPherson / AP

In the world of low-stakes legal claims, robots could be the best lawyers. DoNotPay — a chatbot created by Stanford junior Joshua Browder — has gotten people out of 375,000 parking tickets since 2015, free of charge, Yahoo Finance reports. That's about $10 million in value.

Browder hopes to make free legal help even more accessible, and he's adding 1,000 new categories to DoNotPay's repertoire. The categories range from reporting discrimination to disputing a credit card charge, and the bulk of the help that DoNotPay provides customers is writing "strongly-worded lawyerly letters" to stake their claims.

Why it matters: This isn't the first we've seen of AI in the legal world, but the role of robots in law has largely been limited to doing the research work to support litigators, as paralegals do. DoNotPay is an example of a bot that can in fact do the litigating.

How it works: DoNotPay asks clients a series of questions and organizes their answers into a letter template. Through machine learning and as AI technology advances, the chatbot will likely sophisticate its approach beyond the simple plug-and-chug.

What's next:

One idea Browder has to monetize is to allow business to sponsor the bot for certain legal tasks. "[T]hink dealership sponsoring the parking ticket bot for a particular city,"

TechCrunch says.

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Merger Monday has been overrun by SPACs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Five companies this morning announced plans to go public via reverse mergers with SPACs, at an aggregate market value of more than $15 billion. And there might be even more by the time you read this.

The bottom line: SPAC merger activity hasn't peaked. If anything, it's just getting started.

Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

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Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.