Washington Calling: Postal panic; pigs in peril

— Prepare yourself for postal panic.

That's the warning the postal workers' union is delivering, as it opens fire on the U.S. Postal Service's possible consolidation of 139 processing facilities nationwide.

In a just-begun barrage of radio and TV ads, the 300,000-strong American Postal Workers Union says such a move could delay first-class mail delivery by up to a week and mean homes wouldn't get their daily mail until evening. A public relations outfit helping to spread the alarm emphasizes that prescription drug deliveries could be dramatically slowed, as well. Oh, and postal jobs are at risk.

The Postal Service says it's simply trying to cut costs by moving labor-intensive sorting and preparation for delivery of individual letters from post office storefronts to larger postal production facilities in the area. It promises no consolidation will occur if it means slower delivery of first-class mail, and pledges no job losses, although some workers may be reassigned or have longer commutes.

• Here's the latest tax dodge by the wealthy: just ignoring the IRS when it says it has some questions about their tax returns. The IRS inspector general looked at 2004 returns by high-income taxpayers and found that more than two-thirds didn't bother to respond to IRS letters demanding explanations for discrepancies in their Schedule C (stocks and bonds profits/losses) filings. Some $1.4 billion in revenues is involved, and as a result of the widespread ignoring of the letters, $1.2 billion is still outstanding two years later, the inspector general said.

• Next time you go to the movies, you may see a short-subject film touting the glories of the Army National Guard. In 2,000 movie theaters nationwide, the two-minute "Citizen-Soldier" clip will showcase Army Guard units in training and real-life missions to boost civilian appreciation of the troops and, of course, to drum up recruits.

The short's run started last week and will continue until Sept. 7. Then it will move to assorted college campus theaters until Oct. 5.

The announcement of this publicity effort came the same week that the chief of the National Guard Bureau told reporters that more than two-thirds of guard units are not combat-ready, largely because of a shortage of equipment.

• Turns out scores of farm animals are finding the highways more deadly than the slaughterhouse.

The Farm Sanctuary, a farm-animal protection outfit, says 233 accidents involving hogs, cattle and other creatures being trucked to market have occurred in a recent six-year period. No death totals were provided, but the group said a "significant percentage" of the livestock on board were killed or severely injured in the wrecks. Kansas had the highest number of accidents (23) followed by Texas and Pennsylvania (with 14 each).

The group called on the government, and the livestock and trucking industries to begin tracking such accidents and their causes, and advocated the use of fewer rollover-prone trailers and the abolition of double-deckers, which are particularly unstable.

• On another animal front, now comes "Haley's Act," a measure that, if enacted, would forbid the public from ever touching big cats, such as lions, tigers and cougars, even when they are babies.

Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., introduced the House bill last month in honor of Haley Hilderbrand, a 17-year-old Kansas girl who was mauled to death by a Siberian tiger a year ago during a high school senior photo shoot at a Kansas animal refuge.

Fines for wildlife exhibitors would reach up to $10,000 if they allow anyone to feed, pet or play with big cats of any age. The Feline Conservation Federation — a nonprofit group of exhibitors, breeders and zoos — calls the bill a hysterical overreaction, noting that only 16 people have been mauled by big cats in the past 16 years, and most of those involved professional handlers or owners.

• Here's something else to fret about while counting sheep: The world may soon run out of Internet domain names for businesses, or at least those that make some kind of sense. That's the breathless warning from assorted Web developers, who say more than 70 million names have already been spoken for, and notes that most, if not all, one-word dot-com names — such as Scripps.com or mango.com — have already been taken. As a result, people are left cobbling together domain names that are hard to remember or have little to do with the Web site in question.

© 2006 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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