Washington Extra – Post script

February 15, 2012

You’ve heard about the income divide and the digital divide. Now, get ready for the postal divide.

Nearly 80 percent of the 3,830 U.S. post offices slated for closure later this year are in sparsely populated areas where poverty rates are higher than the national average, according to our findings in the special report “Towns go dark with post office closings.”

One-third of them fall in areas with limited or no wired broadband Internet, leaving 1.7 million people in the lurch. One of them is Carlos Sandoval, a rancher in Trinchera, Colorado, who relies on his post office for everything except groceries.

The closures will strike at the economic heart of many of these communities, but they will also hit the reputation of a Postal Service expected to serve all. And although there is not much noise about the impending closures in Washington, those who know about the toll they will take are not mincing words.

“The postmaster general doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on in rural America, and it shows,” said U.S. Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Obama greets China’s Xi with friendly words, firm stance

President Obama told Chinese leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping that Beijing must play fair in international trade and vowed to keep pressing China to clean up its human rights record. In White House talks, Obama sought to reassure Xi that Washington welcomed China’s “peaceful rise” but also signaled that frictions will remain in a growing economic and military rivalry between the two countries, despite Beijing’s political transition.

For more of this story by Matt Spetalnick and Chris Buckley, read here.

US lawmakers near deal on payroll tax cut, jobless benefits

U.S. lawmakers were nearing a deal on legislation that would boost the economy in the short term by extending a payroll tax cut for 160 million workers and long-term jobless benefits for a full year, congressional aides said. As negotiators worked on the final details of a broad agreement, President Obama upped the pressure, telling lawmakers not to derail the economic recovery by allowing the measures to expire at the end of the month.

For more of this story by Thomas Ferraro and Donna Smith, read here.

Towns go dark with post office closings

Postal officials were blunt in December when they stood before 120 residents in Dedham, Iowa, to tell them why their town’s post office has to close. The Internet, officials said, was killing the Postal Service. “Well, I have no Internet,” resident Judy Ankenbauer said at the meeting. Some of America’s poorest communities stand to suffer most if the struggling agency moves ahead with plans to shutter thousands of post offices later this year, a Reuters analysis found. About one-third of the offices slated for closure fall in areas with limited or no wired broadband Internet, Reuters found.

For more of this special report by Emily Stephenson and Cezary Podkul, read here.

Republican Santorum catches Romney in U.S. polls

Former Senator Rick Santorum has surged into a virtual tie in opinion polls with Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney, setting up a tough fight in the party’s primary in Michigan on Feb 28. Picking up support from voters aligned with the Tea Party and white Christian evangelicals, Santorum rose rapidly to edge 2 percentage points ahead of Romney in a national poll released by the Pew Research Center.

For more of this story by Lily Kuo, read here.

Romney shines unwanted light on fund tax breaks

As the Republican primary fight splatters mud all over Mitt Romney and Bain Capital, other private capital funds are rushing to distance themselves from the firm co-founded by the presidential contender. Not only do private equity funds not want to be tarred by accusations that Bain and Romney have been destroyers of companies and jobs, they also don’t like the attention that the attacks on Bain are bringing to carried interest.

For more of this story by Kim Dixon, read here.

For Gingrich, “Super Tuesday” looms as turning point

His campaign is running low on money, he’s falling behind in voter surveys and he has begun to aim his biting criticism at the leadership of his own political party. In Newt Gingrich’s roller-coaster presidential campaign, is this a big dip – or the beginning of the end? Gingrich essentially has embarked on a high-risk strategy to try to save his campaign: Forego campaigning in several states to try to raise millions of dollars, then direct that money toward the “Super Tuesday” contests, when 10 states hold primaries or caucuses.

For more of this story by Sam Youngman, read here.

Obama plan will end dozens of business tax breaks- Geithner

The Obama administration’s corporate tax reform plan will end “dozens and dozens” of tax breaks, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said as he defended the White House’s election-year call for higher taxes on the wealthy. Within days, the administration will unveil a blueprint for revamping the system aimed at leveling the playing field for all companies, which pay wildly differing levels of taxes, while lowering the top corporate tax rate.

For more of this story by Kim Dixon and Rachelle Younglai, read here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Rick Wilking (a U.S.  post office in Blacksburg, Virginia)


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