Minggu, 04 Desember 2011

Postal Cuts to Slow Delivery of First-Class Mail

Facing bankruptcy, the U.S. Postal Service is pushing ahead with unprecedented cuts to first-class mail next spring that will slow delivery and, for the first time in 40 years, eliminate the chance for stamped letters to arrive the next day.
The estimated $3 billion in reductions, to be announced in broader detail on Monday, are part of a wide-ranging effort by the cash-strapped Postal Service to quickly trim costs, seeing no immediate help from Congress.
The changes would provide short-term relief, but ultimately could prove counterproductive, pushing more of America's business onto the Internet. They could slow everything from check payments to Netflix's DVDs-by-mail, add costs to mail-order prescription drugs, and threaten the existence of newspapers and time-sensitive magazines delivered by postal carrier to far-flung suburban and rural communities.
That birthday card mailed first-class to Mom also could arrive a day or two late, if people don't plan ahead.
"It's a potentially major change, but I don't think consumers are focused on it and it won't register until the service goes away," said Jim Corridore, analyst with S&P Capital IQ, who tracks the shipping industry. "Over time, to the extent the customer service experience gets worse, it will only increase the shift away from mail to alternatives. There's almost nothing you can't do online that you can do by mail."
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Cartons of mail ready to be sorted sit on a... View Full Size
PHOTO: Cartons of mail 
ready to be sorted sit on a shelf at the U.S. Post Office sort center on
 Aug. 12, 2011 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Cartons of mail ready to be sorted sit on a shelf at the U.S. Post Office sort center on Aug. 12, 2011 in San Francisco, California.
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The cuts, now being finalized, would close roughly 250 of the nearly 500 mail processing centers across the country as early as next March. Because the consolidations typically would lengthen the distance mail travels from post office to processing center, the agency also would lower delivery standards for first-class mail that have been in place since 1971.
Currently, first-class mail is supposed to be delivered to homes and businesses within the continental U.S. in one day to three days. That will lengthen to two days to three days, meaning mailers no longer could expect next-day delivery in surrounding communities. Periodicals could take between two days and nine days.
About 42 percent of first-class mail is now delivered the following day. An additional 27 percent arrives in two days, about 31 percent in three days and less than 1 percent in four days to five days. Following the change next spring, about 51 percent of all first-class mail is expected to arrive in two days, with most of the remainder delivered in three days.
The consolidation of mail processing centers is in addition to the planned closing of about 3,700 local post offices. In all, roughly 100,000 postal employees could be cut as a result of the various closures, resulting in savings of up to $6.5 billion a year.
Expressing urgency to reduce costs, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in an interview that the agency has to act while waiting for Congress to grant it authority to reduce delivery to five days a week, raise stamp prices and reduce health care and other labor costs.
The Postal Service, an independent agency of government, does not receive tax money, but is subject to congressional control on large aspects of its operations. The changes in first-class mail delivery can go into place without permission from Congress.

Iran Says It Shot Down Unmanned US Spy Plane


VIDEO: Oklahoma State 
football fans injured in on-field celebration.

Iran's armed forces have shot down an unmanned U.S. spy plane that violated Iranian airspace along the country's eastern border, the official IRNA news agency reported Sunday.
An unidentified military official quoted in the report warned of a strong and crushing response to any violations of the country's airspace by American drone aircraft.
"An advanced RQ-170 unmanned American spy plane was shot down by Iran's armed forces. It suffered minor damage and is now in possession of Iran's armed forces," IRNA quoted the official as saying.
No further details were published.
The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan said in a statement the aircraft may be an American drone that its operators lost contact with last week while it was flying a mission over neighboring western Afghanistan.
A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the incident, said the U.S. HAD "absolutely no indication" that the drone was shot down.
Iran is locked in a dispute with the U.S. and its allies over Tehran's disputed nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations, saying its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and that it seeks to generate electricity and produce isotopes to treat medical patients.
The type of aircraft Iran says it downed, an RQ-170 Sentinel, is made by Lockheed Martin and was reportedly used to keep watch on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan as the raid that killed him was taking place earlier this year.
The surveillance aircraft is equipped with stealth technology, but the U.S. Air Force has not made public any specifics about the drone.
Iran said in January that two pilotless spy planes it had shot down over its airspace were operated by the United States and offered to put them on public display. In July, Iranian military officials showed Russian experts several U.S. drones they said were shot down in recent years.
Also in July, Iranian lawmaker Ali Aghazadeh Dafsari said Iran's Revolutionary Guard shot down an unmanned U.S. spy plane that was trying to gather information on an underground uranium enrichment site.
Dafsari said the pilotless plane was flying over the Fordo facility near the holy city of Qom in central Iran but the Guard denied the report, saying its air defenses had only hit a test target.
Iran publicly confirmed for the first time in Feb. 2005 that the United States has been flying surveillance drones over its airspace to spy on its nuclear and military facilities.
The Islamic Republic holds frequent military drills, primarily to assert an ability to defend against a potential U.S. or Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities.
Tehran has focused part of its military strategy on producing drones for reconnaissance and attacking purposes.
Iran announced three years ago it had built an unmanned aircraft with a range of more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers), far enough to reach Israel.
Ahmadinejad unveiled Iran's first domestically built unmanned bomber aircraft in August 2010, calling it an "ambassador of death" to Iran's enemies.