U.S. Postal Service Is Testing Self-Driving Trucks

A mail carrier for the United States Postal Service makes deliveries at a Florida apartment complex in June 2018. The USPS has partnered with TuSimple to launch a multi-state driverless semi-truck test program on Tuesday. It doesn’t involve home deliveries.

Brynn Anderson/AP

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Brynn Anderson/AP

The U.S. Postal Service is experimenting with self-driving trucks to move mail across state lines.

The USPS has partnered with San Diego-based TuSimple on a two-week pilot program, focusing solely on a 1,000-mile route between Dallas and Phoenix.

TuSimple’s Chief Product Officer Chuck Price told NPR the test runs, which began on Tuesday, will help the Postal Service “become future-ready.” The aim of the program, according to the Postal Service, is “to accommodate a diverse mail mix, enhance safety, improve service, reduce emissions, and produce operational savings.”

It will involve five round trips, traveling major interstates that cross Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Each truck will have a “safety engineer” and driver on board for the duration of the pilot to monitor vehicle performance and to ensure public safety.

The Postal Service usually contracts out such long-haul trips, which involve large freight trailers carrying thousands of pieces of mail, as opposed to the small trucks making door-to-door deliveries.

Having humans in the driver seat — actually doing the driving — on long-distance routes like the one being tested is challenging “because it’s 22 hours in one direction, requires teams of drivers and it’s very hard to recruit drivers into this kind of run,” Price said.

The pilot marks TuSimple’s debut run into Texas. The commercial freight moving company has been operating autonomous vehicles primarily in Arizona since 2018.

The Postal Service also has ideas for using self-driving vehicles for home delivery, perhaps using vehicles that follow behind a mail carrier who walks a route.

It is unclear how much the pilot program will cost, but the Postal Service stressed it does not receive tax dollars for operating expenses.

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New York Assembly Passes Bill Closing ‘Double Jeopardy’ Loophole As Rebuke To Trump

The New York Assembly passed a bill on Tuesday that closes the so-called “double jeopardy” loophole, permitting state authorities to prosecute someone who receives a pardon from the president. The vote was 90-52.

Top Democrats in the state framed the change as a way to stand up to President Trump by removing a shield that had protected defendants from being prosecuted twice for similar crimes, and could have benefited those receiving pardons.

“Right now the president’s threatened use of the pardon power is very troubling. It would be done to undermine an investigation to help out friends and family members,” state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor and the bill‘s sponsor, told NPR.

The New York Senate passed its version of the bill earlier this month. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised to sign it.

The legal concept against double jeopardy says prosecutors cannot charge and convict someone for the same criminal act twice. But it kicks in only after a jury is convened or when a defendant enters a plea.

Under the change, if someone is granted a presidential pardon for a federal crime, New York authorities will be allowed to bring a case related to the same behavior.

“Every day we wait gives the opportunity for the president to undermine the rule of law without New York having the recourse to take action,” Kaminsky said.

Andy Goodell, a Republican assemblyman, said the bill is tantamount to “a poke in the eye” to Trump.

On the Assembly floor, Goodell said with the double jeopardy loophole closed, what prevents federal prosecutors from charging defendants who received state-level pardons from Gov. Cuomo?

“Isn’t this opening Pandora’s Box?” Goodell said. “This is a two-way street.”

Important to Trump’s inner cycle is that the bill is not retroactive. The law would not apply to anyone who has been tried already or entered a plea – like former chairman of the Trump campaign Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney. They already have protection from further prosecution for the same behavior. Both are now serving federal prison sentences.

Trump has not pardoned any of his associates caught up in the Russia investigation, though he has dangled the possibility.

Other individuals, however, have received pardons from Trump, including Joe Arpaio, the diehard Trump supporter and former Arizona sheriff; Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative commentator; and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a onetime chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

While presidents have broad constitutional power to issue pardons for federal offenses, presidential pardons to not apply to state crimes, and New York Democrats say the bill is a bulwark against what they see as the possibility of an abuse of executive power, be it by Trump or any American president.

“We never thought we would have to worry about a state being involved in the review of presidential power,” said Democratic Assembly member Joseph Lentol. “It doesn’t have anything to do with this president. It has to do with presidential power, period.”

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Once A Homeless D.C. Teen, Now A Georgetown Graduate

Rashema Melson gets a hug and has her photo taken with her cousin Anthony Young after the 2019 Georgetown University graduation ceremony.

Robb Hill for The Washington Post/Getty Images

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Robb Hill for The Washington Post/Getty Images

Rashema Melson was among the more than 1,750 undergraduates who received diplomas from Georgetown University last weekend.

Before she attended college on a full scholarship, Melson graduated at the top of her class as the valedictorian of Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C.

She was also living with her mother and brothers at D.C. General, a family homeless shelter that shut down last year.

Now, five years after she started college, 23-year-old Melson has graduated with a degree in justice and peace studies. She plans to return to her community to work for a few years before attending law school.

“I don’t want to just be someone who makes a lot of money and donates,” she says. “I want to get in there and actually do something. I want to mentor. I want to change laws. I want to do something that’s really going to make an impact.”

Interview Highlights

On her first few years at Georgetown

I worked at the financial aid office for the first three years. For the first two years, I was very sheltered, and I didn’t go out a lot, at all actually. I even avoided the dining hall. … I felt that I’ve come to Georgetown to get a degree, and there was a lot of pressure on me from a lot of people to do great, and it kind of boxed me in, and I kind of mentally let it get to me.

On how she responded to the pressure to succeed

I did the cowardly thing, and I left Georgetown. I was getting married at the time. But in my head it was a way for me to escape all of the pressure and expectations. And while I was [at a military base where she lived with her husband], I realized that I had way more talent and ambition and so many other things to accomplish that I couldn’t settle for less. And so I decided to get up and come back.

On the decision to return to Georgetown

Coming back was amazing. Deciding to come back was amazing, because then I knew what I was really set out to do. I was ready to execute and conquer any challenge that stood in my way.

On how the rest of her family is doing

My mom is in an apartment. My brother just finished his first year at Syracuse University [on a football scholarship]. … I think that him seeing me being the first one in our nuclear family to actually graduate from college lets him know that he can do anything.

On what she hopes to accomplish in the future

While at Georgetown and while seeing the opportunity that I had that others don’t have from where I come from, I really want to make a difference. …

I want to pour love into our system. I want to let people know that they matter, and I don’t think that’s happening enough, which is why we tend to give up on ourselves. But soon, all the statistics about us will be changing for the better.

Natalie Brennan produced and Dave Blanchard edited this story for broadcast. Maureen Pao adapted it for the Web.

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