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USPS advised to delay facility closures

A plan to close hundreds of postal facilities would not save as much as the U.S. Postal Service has projected, according to an analysis released Friday.

The Postal Regulatory Commission advised USPS to delay its Mail Processing and Network Rationalization initiative until it considers the report’s recommendations -- including alternatives that would avoid cutting back services such as overnight mail.

USPS has said the plan to close and consolidate 229 of 461 processing plants to match declining mail volumes would save approximately $1.6 billion. PRC estimated the plan’s savings could be as low as $46 million annually unless further measures were taken.

PRC said to achieve the $1.6 billion in savings, USPS would have to improve systemwide productivity by more than 20 percent: “The commission cautions that improvements of this magnitude are remarkably ambitious and involve some risk.”

The commission had difficulty replicating the Postal Service’s initial analysis of cost savings by adopting the initiative.

“In order to balance the risk of achieving projected savings with the risk of possible volume and revenue loss, the commission encourages the Postal Service to better measure potential volume losses associated with its multiple recent proposals for altering service ...

House clears Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act

With most members out on the campaign trail, the House on Friday approved final passage of the long-awaited Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S. 743), a set of 10 reforms intended to clarify the difference between policy disputes and whistleblowing.

By unanimous consent, the chamber approved an amended version of the bill that cleared the Senate in May , sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia.

It would expand the types of employee disclosures of violations of laws, rules or regulations that are protected and beef up employee rights. It also would broaden coverage to employees of the major intelligence agencies and the Transportation Security Administration, prohibiting the revocation of a security clearance in retaliation for a protected whistleblower disclosure. And it would expand the rights of the Office of Special Counsel to file friend-of-the-court briefs.

The bipartisan bill would strengthen authority for reviews by the Merit Systems Protection Board and provide whistleblowing employees with more access to their agency’s inspector general. It would establish whistleblower protection ombudsmen to educate agency personnel about whistleblower rights.

The bill now returns to ...

President signs STOCK Act delay for senior execs

This story has been updated.

President Obama on Friday signed into law legislation that further delays the online posting of senior executives’ personal finances.

The House passed the bill earlier Friday, approving it by unanimous consent during a brief pro forma session. S. 3625, which the Senate passed last Saturday, delays until Dec. 8 the online posting requirement for thousands of high-ranking career employees subject to the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act.

The delay does not affect the public financial disclosure requirement for the president, vice president, lawmakers, congressional candidates and political appointees. The deadline for those officials is Sept. 30. The Senior Executives Association praised Congress for approving the delay, but said it was not a long-term fix; the organization will work with Washington-area lawmakers, including Democratic Reps. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Jim Moran of Virginia, “to craft a permanent solution to the Internet posting requirement.”

The STOCK Act, designed to combat insider trading in government, requires lawmakers, congressional staffers and thousands of executive branch employees to submit their personal financial details to an online, searchable public database. Proponents of the law cite the importance of transparency to deter nefarious behavior, but many oppose including the ...

Federal judge approves $42.6 million settlement in FEMA trailer case

A federal judge has approved a $42.6 million settlement in a class action lawsuit against companies that provided trailers to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to house victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt ruled from the bench on an agreement that would resolve the claims on cases involving the formaldehyde fumes in trailers that FEMA offered people displaced by the storms.

AP said the 55,000 residents in the affected states, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, would be eligible for shares of $37.5 million from the manufacturers of the trailers. Additionally, the residents would be eligible for a separate, $5.1 million settlement with the contractors that installed and maintained the units.

According to a 2008 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the formaldehyde levels in many of the trailers were “higher than typical U.S. indoor levels.” Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and has been linked to numerous health problems, including breathing difficulties.

Some of the plaintiffs told AP they were glad the case was over, but others said the settlement seemed unfair given the human costs of the incident ...

What your favorite beer says about your politics

Drinking a lot of Sam Adams doesn't just make you inebriated and slightly bloated. According to Scarborough Research data, it also likely means you're a Republican.

You may think that drinking beer is one of the few truly bipartisan acts of enjoyment Americans have left, but Scarborough Research paints a different picture. The beer you buy, and presumably then drink, can say a lot about what political party you lean toward and how likely you are to vote.

Click here to see what your favorite beer says about your politics.

Play of the Day -- The school lunch outrage and unreliable polls

School lunches and the science of political polling were the talk of the comedy central duo, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and the rest of the late-night hosts chimed in with the randomness that only occurs with 40 days left until a presidential election.

Today's Must See Moment -- Fast forward to 2:27 to find out who is starving America's children.

Obama, Romney camps agree: The other guy is a great debater

Both the Obama and Romney campaigns are feverishly trying to lower expectations for their respective candidates before the first presidential debate in Denver on Wednesday.

In a memo to Romney surrogates that was obtained by CBS News and National Journal, senior adviser Beth Myers called President Obama a “universally acclaimed public speaker” with “natural gifts and extensive seasoning under the bright lights of the debate stage.” She predicted Obama will launch a “90-minute attack ad” at the Republican nominee in an effort to shift attention from his record.

“If President Obama is as negative as we expect,” Myers wrote in the memo, first reported by CNN, “he will have missed an opportunity to let the American people know his vision for the next four years and the policies he’d pursue.  That’s not an opportunity Mitt Romney will pass up. He will talk about the big choice in this election.”

Meanwhile, asked on Thursday to speculate on the worst-case scenario for the president at the Denver debate, Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, “He could fall off the stage.”   

Psaki implied that Romney would have an advantage because of the amount of time he’s spent preparing for the ...

It's now a 2-woman race for top Democrat on House spending panel

Our colleagues report for National Journal subscribers the latest on the race for top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee: Rep. Jim Moran is out, leaving Reps. Nita Lowey of New York and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio.

Katy O'Donnell on the state of the race:

Both women bill themselves as tough negotiators who can also reach across the aisle and work with Republicans. Lowey has support from party leadership, while Kaptur has more of a maverick voting record, but both women have put in serious time on the committee: Kaptur joined in 1989, and Lowey in 1993. And, crucially, both lawmakers support earmarks.

None of the offices involved would give a whip count, but Lowey, who has a better relationship with her leadership than Kaptur, is the favorite to win the post.


Subscribers can read more here.

Play of the Day -- Replacement refs and debate prep

With just over a month remaining before the presidential election, the candidates are releasing a flurry of new campaign ads to sway undecided voters in addition to preparing for the debates and addressing the NFL replacement referee debacle.

Today's Must See Moment -- Fast forward to 1:45 to see how Jon Stewart and the rest of the news media have been pained by the NFL's replacement referees.

Americans trust local governments, even as faith in Washington crumbles

Americans' faith in the feds is fading, but trust in state and local government is rising substantially.

According to survey results released Wednesday by the Gallup organization, roughly two-thirds of Americans express a fair or great deal of trust in state government and even more — almost three-quarters — trust local government.

Gallup notes: "Trust in state government has now essentially returned to levels seen before the financial crisis, after falling to as low as 51 percent in 2009."

Read the rest at The Atlantic Cities.