Senator Tester Meets with PMG to find out how USPS is addressing problem of delayed mail

Posted on October 5, 2017 by postal
10/5/2017 – Senator Defends Rural Montanans, Holds Postmaster Accountable

(U.S. Senate)-Following reports that postal managers intentionally delayed mail in Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester met with Postmaster General Megan Brennan in his Washington office to ask her how she was addressing the situation.

“The leadership at the Postal Service needs to understand that going back to the frontier days, Montanans have used the postal service to maintain their business, health, and stay connected-it’s essential to our way of life,” Tester said. “I told the Postmaster that she needs a concrete action plan to ensure that rural Montanans are getting their mail on time. I will ensure she keeps her word.”

Moreover, according to a separate audit by the independent, non-partisan Inspector General, mail delays and late arriving mail are inaccurately recorded due to a lack of training by Postal Service managers.

Tester, a relentless advocate for timely mail delivery, sits on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which oversees the Postal Service.

Following the release of the Inspector General reports, Tester sent a letter to Postmaster General Brennan calling for the firing of managers and supervisors who were found to have intentionally delayed mail.

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Let’s Talk About Paul Ryan’s Scorching Duplicity on Gun Violence, Mental Health, and, Well, Everything

Congressman Joe Kennedy III calls out the speaker of the House for bending the truth following Las Vegas massacre.
By John NicholsTwitter
Yesterday 1:10 pm

Paul Ryan, the shameless political careerist who has surrendered the US House of Representatives to campaign donors and lobbyists, has a well-documented history of doing everything in his power to prevent meaningful debate about gun violence. But it’s getting harder for the the speaker of the House to game the system on behalf of his benefactors.

Ryan knows that his traditional “thoughts and prayers” response to mass shootings does not work any longer. People are on to the fact that his pious pronouncements in the aftermath of massacres are never followed up by action to prevent future massacres.

But Ryan, who as a top Republican fund-raiser is well aware that the National Rifle Association PAC now devotes roughly 99 percent of its campaign spending to the election of the sort of Republicans who keep the speaker in power, is still doing what he can to mangle discussions about the role that guns play in shooting sprees like the one that killed at least 59 people and left more than 500 others injured in Las Vegas.

Ryan will go only so far as the NRA allows, which, at this point, is toward a constrained discussion of regulating “bump stock” devices that modify rifles so that they can fire bullets as rapidly as machine guns. Beyond that tangential response, the speaker is determined to change the topic.

This week, he attempted to do so. “One of the things we have learned from these these shootings, he announced, “is that often underneath this is a diagnosis of mental illness.”

“It’s important that as we see the dust settle and we see what was behind some of these tragedies, that mental health reform is a critical ingredient to making sure that we can try and prevent some of these things from happening in the past,” declared Ryan, who may have meant “in the future.”

Paul Ryan’s response to another massacre is as convoluted as it is cruel.
No matter how he phrases it, Ryan is talking about “mental-health reform” in order to avoid talking about guns.

That’s problematic on a number of levels.

For one thing, as the Department of Health and Human Services reminds us, “Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3 percent–5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.”

But even if Ryan believes that mental-health care needs to be reformed, he refuses to take engage in serious discussions about it. After bringing up the topic at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, the speaker did his best to avoid questions about whether it was “a mistake to make it easier for mentally ill people to get a gun.” (CBS News reported that, after he was pressed to give an answer, “Ryan insisted that people’s rights were being ‘infringed’ and protecting their rights was ‘very important.’”)

The most unsettling thing about Ryan’s consistently dishonest responses to the issues that Congress should be addressing—from gun violence, to access to health care, to tax reform, to matters of war and peace—is that many in the media still treat the speaker as a credible commentator rather than a crudely manipulative politician.

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This is what makes the challenges to Ryan’s duplicity that have been posed by Congressman Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) so necessary.

Kennedy, the grandson of a presidential contender who was murdered by a gun-wielding assassin, the great-nephew of a president who was felled by a barrage of bullets from another assassin, understands more about gun violence than most members of Congress. As such, he grounds his concern in facts—and in a faith that it might still be possible to convince colleagues to put aside partisanship and ideology in the pursuit of public safety and human decency. His remarks in the aftermath of Sunday night’s Las Vegas massacre were among the most poignant and powerful statements in the outpouring of grief and frustration from congressional Democrats.

“Ending gun violence isn’t political. This is personal,” Kennedy explained on the floor of the House. “So we are not powerless. We are not helpless. We are not hostages to some political organization. We are not bystanders—as bullets tear through concerts and prayer circles and elementary school classrooms and nightclubs and military compounds and quiet neighborhoods. This is up to us—to every single American. This is our country and our home and our families. We can decide that one person’s right to bear arms does not come at the expense of a neighbor’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

That was a truth that needed to be spoken.

But the congressman from Massachusetts did not stop there. He recognized the need to hold the speaker of the House to account.

When Paul Ryan tried to present himself as an advocate for mental-health programs, Kennedy called him out. He posted the speaker’s remarks on Twitter, adding a simple admonition: “All due respect Mr. Speaker, you and your party celebrated taking mental health care from millions just months ago at the White House.”

This is not the first time Kennedy has challenged Ryan’s claims—and those of the Trump administration that Ryan so steadily serves—regarding Republican support for mental-health initiatives.

When Ryan stood with Trump at the White House to hail passage of the House version of the “repeal and replace” assault on the Affordable Care Act, Kennedy argued that advocates for mental-health and behavioral health-care programs had nothing to celebrate.

“With deeply misplaced pride, President Trump and a Republican Congress immediately responded to our nation’s ongoing mental health crisis and opioid epidemic by shamelessly celebrating the passage of the single largest attack on behavioral health care in recent history,” said Kennedy, who added: “The Administration’s budget follows in the footsteps of TrumpCare by attacking millions of Americans suffering from mental illness and addiction through draconian cuts to critical community mental health programs.”

Speaker Ryan, the most powerful Republican in Congress, needs to be held to account when he practices to deceive on issues so consequential as gun violence and health care.

Congressman Kennedy has made it his business to fact check the speaker, to expose the Wisconsin Republican’s intellectual dishonesty, and to challenge the dereliction of duty that is the distinguishing mark of Paul Ryan’s political career.

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Vegas shooting: APWU officers and members in Las Vegas for conferences and training

Posted on October 3, 2017 by postal
Engine trouble becomes blessing for postal clerk

After checking into their room at Bally’s Las Vegas, the Anderson couple was strolling up Las Vegas Boulevard toward Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, drawn by the strains of live country music.

“We were actually walking that way,” Jeremy Threet said via phone Monday to The Herald Bulletin. “We didn’t know there was a concert.”

They hadn’t gone far when an urgent warning came over a public address system. The warning was about shots fired and an active shooter situation. Everyone on the street was instructed to get indoors under cover, Threet said.

The couple doubled back to Bally’s, and headed for the restaurant for something to eat.

Minutes later people were running, screaming into and around the hotel. Some people believed a shooter was heading toward Bally’s.

“It was pretty chaotic, people were running, screaming and crying,” said Jeremy Threet, a U.S. Postal Service clerk at the main post office on Raible Avenue. He is attending a postal service conference in Las Vegas.

Jeremy Threet was in Las Vegas one of the APWU events

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Trump Administration Set to Roll Back Birth Control Mandate

By ROBERT PEAROCT. 5, 2017

The Obama-era policy on contraceptives generated dozens of lawsuits by employers, including religious schools and colleges. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Update: The Trump administration has rolled back the birth control coverage mandate. Find more coverage here.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is poised to roll back the federal requirement for employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans, vastly expanding exemptions for those that cite moral or religious objections.

The new rules, which could be issued as soon as Friday, fulfill a campaign promise by President Trump and are sure to touch off a round of lawsuits on the issue.

More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of the contraceptive coverage mandate, according to a study commissioned by the Obama administration. Under the new regulations, hundreds of thousands of women could lose birth control benefits they now receive at no cost under the Affordable Care Act.

One new rule offers an exemption to any employer or insurer that objects to covering contraceptive services “based on its sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Another regulation offers a new exemption to employers that have “moral convictions” against covering contraceptives.

Both rules would take effect as soon as they are on display at the office of the Federal Register.

There is no way to satisfy all of the religious objections to the contraceptive coverage mandate, so “it is necessary and appropriate to provide the expanded exemptions,” the Trump administration says in the new rules.

“Application of the mandate to entities with sincerely held religious objections to it does not serve a compelling governmental interest,” it says.

The Trump administration acknowledges that this is a reversal of President Barack Obama’s conclusion that the mandate was needed because the government had a compelling interest in protecting women’s health.

In the new rules, the Trump administration says the Affordable Care Act does not explicitly require coverage of contraceptives.

The administration lists health risks that it says may be associated with the use of certain contraceptives, and it says the mandate could promote “risky sexual behavior” among some teenagers and young adults.

By contrast, many doctors, including obstetricians and gynecologists, say contraceptives have generally been a boon to women’s health.

The mandate also, the administration says, imposes a “substantial burden” on the free exercise of religion by certain employers who object to it.

The Trump administration says the new rules are motivated by “our desire to bring to a close the more than five years of litigation” over the contraceptive coverage mandate.

The Obama-era policy generated dozens of lawsuits by employers, including religious schools, colleges, hospitals and charitable organizations, priests and nuns and even some owners of private for-profit companies who objected to some forms of birth control.

However, the rules are likely to generate more litigation, this time by advocates for women and public health groups.

In expanding the exemption for employers, the Trump administration says there are many other sources of birth control.

“The government,” it says, “already engages in dozens of programs that subsidize contraception for the low-income women” who are most at risk for unintended pregnancy.

Employers claiming an exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate “do not need to file notices or certifications” with the government, although they would need to inform employees of changes in coverage.

The exemption will be available to for-profit companies, whether they are owned by one family or thousands of shareholders.

The Trump administration said the new rules would take effect immediately because “it would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest to engage in full notice and comment rule-making.” Still, it said, it will accept comments from the public.

The new rules, drafted mainly by political appointees at the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, seek “to better balance the interests” of women with those of employers and insurers that have conscientious objections to contraceptive coverage.

Among those who have resisted the mandate are the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns who said that compliance with the mandate would make them “morally complicit in grave sin.”

As a candidate, Mr. Trump promised that he would “make absolutely certain religious orders like the Little Sisters of the Poor are not bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs.”

But Dr. Haywood L. Brown, the president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said the rules would turn back the clock on women’s health.

“Affordable contraception for women saves lives,” he said. “It prevents pregnancies. It improves maternal mortality. It prevents adolescent pregnancies.”

The National Women’s Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy group, has been preparing a lawsuit since last spring, when it learned that the Trump administration intended to rewrite the contraception coverage mandate.

The Trump administration has legal reasons for issuing two rules, one for religious objections and one for moral objections. Most lawsuits attacking the mandate assert that it violates a 1993 law protecting religious liberty. The administration acknowledges that the law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, “does not provide protection for nonreligious, moral conscientious objections.”

But, the administration says, “Congress has a consistent history of supporting conscience protections for moral convictions alongside protections for religious beliefs.”

In one of the new rules, the Trump administration says that exemptions should be available to “nonreligious nonprofit organizations” like March for Life, which holds an annual march opposing abortion.

A principal author of the rules, Matthew Bowman, a top lawyer at the Department of Health and Human Services, represented March for Life in 2014 when he was a lawyer at the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy group.

The new exemptions will be available to colleges and universities that provide health insurance to students as well as employees. A number of religiously affiliated schools have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate.

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