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DeJoy's Postal Service cutback plan poses challenge to Biden

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy at a House hearing

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy at a House hearing on Feb. 24. Credit: Pool via Getty Images / TNS / Jim Watson

Angry letters to follow?

Presidents haven't had direct control over the Postal Service since it became an independent agency a half-century ago. That wouldn't necessarily spare President Joe Biden from political blowback if Postmaster General Louis DeJoy gets to launch DeJoy's 10-year plan that would mean slower and more expensive services in pursuit of fiscal stability.

"The need for the U.S. Postal Service to transform to meet the needs of our customers is long overdue," DeJoy said in a presentation of his plan online. Unless changes are made soon, he said, the Postal Service stands to lose $160 billion over the next decade.

His solutions include relaxing the first-class letter's delivery standard to one to five days, from the current one to three days. Pricier rates, even for first class. Relying less on air transport. Reducing some post office hours. All of which would put stress on the Postal Service's perennial popularity as the federal agency that the public likes the most. DeJoy said he would increase resources to support "enhanced package delivery services for business customers."

For the Biden administration, the question is what it will — or even can — do in the face of a dilemma. The USPS cannot fix its finances without addressing its service problems, and it cannot address its service problems without fixing its finances, writes The New York Times.

DeJoy rolled out his plan as Democrats have renewed calls for his ouster and the removal of the agency’s governing board, which backs him and the proposals, reports The Washington Post. The White House has already indicated its disfavor with DeJoy's leadership.

Biden has nominated three new members to vacant seats on the USPS Board of Governors, which would give the board a Democratic majority and the means, if it chooses, of firing DeJoy. Some Democrats have called for swifter action, urging Biden to replace the current board members — all appointed by former President Donald Trump.

American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein said DeJoy's plan "contains both positive attributes" — for employee retention and recruitment as well as maintaining six-days-a-week delivery — "as well as some proposals that should be of concern to postal workers and customers." Dimondstein said, "Any proposals that would either slow the mail, reduce access to post offices, or further pursue the failed strategy of plant consolidation will need to be addressed."

Janison: Return of the old normal

Life-and-death policy debates are returning to their usual party-line stasis as the coronavirus's grip on America begins to weaken, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

Monday's supermarket killings in Boulder, Colorado, and the March 16 spa slayings in the Atlanta area mark the sixth and seventh mass shootings so far this year after a pandemic-induced lull during 2020. So the laws surrounding gun purchases and possession generate public discord for what might as well be the trillionth time.

"This is not and should not be a partisan issue — it is an American issue," Biden said somberly Tuesday at the White House, where flags were lowered to half-staff for the 10 Colorado victims just hours after a similar order honoring the eight people killed in Georgia expired. "We have to act."

But positions on the gun-control issue are fixed, and quick federal legal changes are unlikely if Democrats need 60 Senate votes to pass important bills. So mass shootings by civilians with assault-style weapons can be expected to continue, whatever the attackers' motives.

Vaccine as right answer

The Biden administration is enlisting the help of organizations including the Christian Broadcasting Network and NASCAR to encourage more people to get COVID-19 vaccines, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The aim is to win over political conservatives, one of the demographic groups that polls show have significant reluctance to get vaccinated. A Penn Wharton Budget Model study estimates that universal vaccination would mean 8.3 million fewer COVID-19 cases this year and effectively end the coronavirus pandemic in the fall, according to Bloomberg News.

Determination to maintain public confidence led U.S. regulators to amplify concerns that AstraZeneca, seeking to have its vaccine candidate become the fourth to win U.S. approval, had cherry-picked clinical trial data in a company announcement Monday on efficacy.

"I was sort of stunned" about AstraZeneca's data, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser and the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the health news website STAT. "We just felt we could not remain silent. Because if we did remain silent, we could be understandably accused of covering something up. And we definitely didn’t want to be in that position."

A stern letter from NIAID's board to AstraZeneca said decisions like the company made on describing its data "are what erode public trust in the scientific process." On ABC's "Good Morning America," Fauci said, "This is really what you call an unforced error because the fact is this is very likely a very good vaccine."

Schumer seeks historic choices for U.S. attorneys

At the urging of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday, Biden is expected to nominate three Black lawyers as U.S. attorneys in New York State.

Damian Williams' approval as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York would make him the first Black prosecutor to oversee the powerful office based in Manhattan. Breon Peace is the choice for the Eastern District, which covers Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. Trini Ross would be the top federal prosecutor for the Western District, based in Buffalo and Rochester.

"All three of these superb and accomplished attorneys have dedicated their careers to equal justice under the law and will bring a passion for the rule of law, civil rights and justice to their respective posts, as well as profound integrity and expertise to their offices," Schumer said.

See Newsday's story by Robert E. Kessler.

A kraken and a crock

Pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, defending herself in a defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems, contends no one should have expected that she was telling the truth when she promoted false claims and wild conspiracy theories about the election being "stolen" from the defeated president.

"No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact," her lawyers argued in a court filing Monday while asking a federal judge to dismiss the $1.3 billion suit. Her lawyers said Powell's fables were merely constitutionally protected expressions of political opinion.

After Trump lost, Powell made an array of outlandish-sounding election theft claims, while promising that she would "release the kraken" and reveal proof, which never came. She briefly served on the campaign legal team alongside Rudy Giuliani. Powell's cases were tossed from courts, but large numbers of Trump supporters bought into the bogus "stop the steal" claims, including those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to try to stop the declaration of Biden's win.

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments on Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • The Biden administration is extending a special Obamacare enrollment season it reopened for the coronavirus pandemic for three more months, until Aug. 15.
  • Biden will join a video conference of EU leaders on Thursday as both sides try to repair ties after four difficult years with Trump, Reuters reported.
  • U.S. officials confirmed that North Korea launched multiple short-range ballistic missiles last weekend. The Washington Post said the test-firing was Kim Jong Un's first direct challenge to Biden.
  • The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general in a 57-43 vote. Murthy, who served in the same post during the Obama administration, said ending the pandemic is his top priority. He’s also raised concerns over a relapsing U.S. opioid overdose crisis.
  • Illinois' Sen. Tammy Duckworth on Tuesday night withdrew her earlier ultimatum that she won't vote to confirm anyone "other than diversity nominees" until Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders are named to more high-level positions in the Biden administration. Duckworth's reversal of the warning, issued after the Atlanta-area shootings raised national awareness of anti-Asian hate, came after press secretary Jen Psaki announced assurances that the White House "will add a senior level Asian American Pacific Islander liaison."
  • The Justice Department has launched an internal review of the former acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin, over comments he made on Sunday's "60 Minutes" about the ongoing Capitol riot investigation, The Washington Post reported. A federal judge warned Tuesday that Sherwin's remarks may threaten the fair-trial rights of some of the accused rioters.
  • Retired NYPD Officer Sara Carpenter, who served as a department spokeswoman in the 1990s, has been arrested for allegedly storming the Capitol on Jan. 6. Carpenter shook a tambourine as she appeared to cheer on the pro-Trump mob inside the rotunda, according to federal authorities.

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