Monday Roundup: A New Postal Service


Czhilispiel celebration.

The U.S. Postal Service could learn a thing or two about survival from Germany — and Sweden and Switzerland.

Over the past decade, European postal services have found new ways to survive. They saw mail volumes dropping (1 to 2 percent each year in some countries) and so they set out to “reinvent themselves over the past decade as multi-faceted delivery and information companies tailored to the virtual age,” the New York Times reports

For instance, the German postal service sold off all but 24 of 29,000 post office buildings. The German post office now “partners” with banks, grocery stores, even private homes. “In rural areas, a shopkeeper or even a centrally located homeowner is given a sign and deputized as a part-time postmaster,” Elizabeth Rosenthal reports. 

It’s a fascinating story. Catalogs and bills now first go to a digital mailbox run by the post office on people’s computers. They decide whether they want the mail printed. If so, the mail is delivered. 

There have been losses. In the former East Germany, older patrons miss the fun of going to a central post office each day.

• The Knoxville (TN) newspaper is publishing a series on drug abuse in the state. Yes, prescription drugs are the cause of most problems. 

• The federal mine safety office has “turned up the heat,” according to a story in the Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal. 

The agency has increased the use of mine-wide “impact inspections,” where a team of inspectors covers all parts of an underground coal operation at once. The increase in these “blitz” inspections comes after 48 miners died on the job in 2010.

• Young people just entering the workforce are having a tough time finding a job. Unemployment for those 16 to 24 years of age is over 17 percent, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

For children of immigrants, however, it’s tougher. Children of immigrants are more likely to drop out of school. But even education doesn’t help, since many of the new jobs being created don’t require many skills.

• The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to rule on a three-year-old law that requires the owners of slaughterhouses to remove and humanely euthanize “nonambulatory animals.” 

“Sometimes the pigs are stressed or fatigued from the trip, or they’re just stubborn. Usually, they recover, and if they’re fine, they go into the food supply,” said Minneapolis lawyer Steven Wells, who represents the National Meat Assn.

“We’re not concerned about a pig who is taking a nap,” said California Deputy Atty. Gen. Susan K. Smith in Los Angeles. “Our definition of a nonambulatory pig is one who is unable to stand and walk without assistance.”

Virginia Knauer, who helped reduce the fat in hot dogs, has died. She was 96 years old. 

Knauer was special assistant for consumer affairs for President Richard Nixon when she tangled with USDA Secretary Clifford Hardin and the meat industry over the fat content of hot dogs; at the time weenies could consist of more than 50 percent fat.

• Republicans say Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (a Democrat) is “at war” with the rural parts of his state. 

Environmental rules proposed by the governor have rankled farmers, drillers and fishermen. “We’re at war. Simply, at war,” Senate Minority Whip E. J. Pipkin (Queen Anne) told more than 50 rural — and mostly Republican — lawmakers who gathered last week in the back of an Annapolis restaurant to plot a counteroffensive, the Washington Post reports.