USPS Posts $3.1 Billion Loss In Latest Quarter

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) — The U.S. Postal Service said it lost $3.1 billion in the third quarter and warned a default on federal payments was possible without congressional action.

The third-quarter financial statement reflected the “anemic state of the economy” of the past three months and the growth of electronic communication at the expense of first-class mail volume, the USPS said Friday in a release.

Net losses for the nine months ended June 30 amount to $5.7 billion in 2011, compared with $5.4 billion in 2010, USPS officials said. Total mail volume was 39.8 billion pieces for the quarter, compared with 40.9 billion pieces in the third quarter of fiscal year 2010.

Despite efforts to reduce costs and grow revenue, projections indicate the service would have a cash shortfall and reach its borrowing limit by the end of the fiscal year, officials said. If Congress doesn’t act, the USPS will be in default on payments to the federal government.

“We are experiencing a severe cash crisis and are unable to continue to maintain the aggressive prepayment schedule that was mandated in the [Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006],” said Joseph Corbett, USPS chief financial officer and executive vice president. “Without changes in the law, the Postal Service will be unable to make the $5.5 billion mandated prepayment due in September.”

In July, the postal service announced plans to identify and study nearly 3,700 underutilized post offices for possible closure and introduced the “Village Post Office” concept. Village Post Offices would be operated by local businesses and offer popular postal products and services such as stamps and flat-rate packaging.

“We continue to take aggressive actions to reduce costs and bring the size of our infrastructure into alignment with reduced customer demand,” Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Donahoe said.

Opponents Say Zambian President Can’t Run

LUSAKA, Zambia, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Zambian President Rupiah Banda is not eligible to serve because his father was born in an area now in Malawi, an opposition party says.

Banda and the ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy say his father was a Zambian citizen, born in Chipata, the BBC reported. According to the Zambian Constitution, only people with both parents born in the country can serve as president.

Chembe Nyangu, deputy national secretary of the MMD, said the Patriotic Front has tried to made Banda’s father an issue because the party knows it will be defeated in the Sept. 20 election. The PF says Banda’s father was born in the region then known as Nyasaland, a British protectorate that became the Republic of Malawi in 1964.

“In 2008, they could have blocked the president from standing but they did not. Why have they waited for three years? They know the MMD will win hands down,” Nyangu said.

The constitution was amended in 1996 to make the president’s parents an issue. At the time, the BBC said, President Frederick Chiluba was believed to be trying to keep former President Kenneth Kaunda from running against him.

Kaunda was declared stateless but the Supreme Court reversed that decision. Chiluba was also accused of having foreign-born parents.

Italy Calls For NATO Investigation

ROME, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Italian officials are asking why NATO allegedly refused to help rescue passengers on a boat stranded in Libyan waters with numerous dead people aboard.

Italy asked NATO to investigate itself over claims it ignored calls Thursday to help rescue the ship’s nearly 400 passengers. Dozens of the people on the overcrowded boat had died, reports said.

Among those rescued, 50 were immediately treated for dehydration and hypothermia; five others were hospitalized for more serious conditions.

The ship had been floating for six days after its engine broke down, ANSA, Italy’s news agency, said.

Italian officials said they asked a NATO ship less than 30 miles away for help but NATO reportedly refused. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called for NATO to investigate the allegations.

“NATO always responds and intervenes in emergency situations, in compliance with international law,” said NATO spokesman David Taylor. “NATO ship commanders are well aware of these laws and act in accordance with the norms of SOLAS [Safety Of Life At Sea], which regulate the procedures to follow for rescues at sea.”

ANSA said it is the second time in a week the Italian coast guard rescued boats fleeing Libya with dead bodies on board.

Italy’s coast guard found 25 dead bodies on a ship crammed with 271 refugees fleeing Libya Monday. They were rescued off the Italian island of Lampedusa.

In another incident, two NATO jets reportedly passed over a vessel stranded off the Libyan coast in March. Of the 72 refugees on board, 61 eventually died after more than two weeks at sea. It was unclear what assistance pilots of the jets provided.

HRW Welcomes Atrocities Initiative

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Directives from Washington aimed at preventing mass atrocities and human rights violations may be effective if implemented properly, Human Rights Watch said.

U.S. President Barack Obama called for an atrocities prevention board to respond quickly to early signs of grave human rights abuses. Human rights and war criminals would be hindered from getting visas into the United States under the initiative.

Human Rights Watch in response to the directive notes Obama’s directive creates a so-called dissent mechanism that gives officials a direct line to the president if they believe necessary action is being blocked.

Tom Malinowski, the Washington director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement the directive won’t necessarily resolve how and when Washington addresses crimes like genocide.

“But these directives should help to overcome the bureaucratic resistance and indifference that often delays steps that might prevent such catastrophes in the first place,” he said.

Obama in a proclamation said the prevention of atrocities and respect for human rights laws are fundamental U.S interests.

“The United States is deeply committed to ensuring that no individual, now or in the future, sees a path to power in division and death,” added Susan Rice, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, in a statement.

The proclamation comes amid worries about ethnic-cleansing campaigns in Sudan and a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters in Syria.

Babysitter Allegedly Had Sex With Boy, 14

SOUTHINGTON, Conn., Aug. 5 (UPI) — A young Connecticut woman had sex with a 14-year-old boy she was hired to baby sit, police said.

Loni Bouchard, 20, faces charges that include second-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a juvenile, the Hartford Courant reported.

Bouchard, who lives in Clinton, was arrested by police there July 12, the Courant said. Southington Police Sgt. Lowell DePalma said she surrendered there July 29.

The first arrest involved the boy she was hired to care for, police said. It is not clear if the arrest in Southington involves the same alleged victim.

Clinton is on I-95 about 20 miles east of New Haven, while Southington is 30 miles away between New Haven and Hartford.

Bouchard, who is free on bail, was arraigned Monday on the new charges. A court has sealed the arrest warrant.

Grisly Details Of South Kordofan Recounted

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Ethnic cleansing is emerging as part of the growing humanitarian emergency unfolding along the border between Sudan and South Sudan, a U.S. panel was told.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., presided over a hearing before a House subcommittee on human rights in Africa. Witnesses said there were worrying trends emerging in the border region separating the two Sudans.

Human Rights Watch in a July report called on the U.N. Security Council to take measures to ensure international monitors could get access to South Kordofan state to verify claims of ethnic cleansing.

U.N. officials had said there was evidence that at least 150 bodies, which bore the characteristic skin color of Nuban descent, were discovered in the region, suggesting the conflict was ethnically motivated.

Satellite imagery reportedly depicts what are believed to be mass graves related to ethnic violence in South Kordofan state along the border between the two Sudans. Officials in the Sudanese government denied civilians were targeted in any attacks.

Smith’s panel heard what it described as “grisly” details of the crisis unfolding in South Kordofan.

“Whatever the numbers involved, we can be sure that the suffering of the people in South Kordofan, especially the Nuba people, has been catastrophic,” he said in a statement.

South Sudan gained independence in July as part of a comprehensive peace deal signed in 2005 that ended one of the bloodiest civil wars in world history. Border issues and oil continue to haunt the peace deal, however.

Sudan was accused Friday of blocking oil shipments out of South Sudan.

Woman’s Cries Drowned Out By Headphones

READING, England, Aug. 5 (UPI) — A British cyclist who pulled a woman from a river said several joggers passed the woman without noticing because they were listening to headphones.

Matt Drury, 38, said he was cycling July 26 alongside the River Thames in Reading, England, when he heard the woman splashing and gasping for air, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

“She was lying on her back in the water but her head was under water and her legs were sticking up,” Drury said. “As usual there were joggers on the path. I saw a group of them run straight past her before I got there, but they had their headphones in and they couldn’t hear her. They should just keep their headphones in one ear so they can hear what’s happening around them.

“I screamed for help and threw my bike down. Another man jumped straight in and, with the help of a man who was on a riverboat, we pulled her out,” he said.

Drury said the woman was conscious but distressed and her lips were dark purple. She was taken to Royal Berkshire Hospital, where The Telegraph said she made a full recovery.

It was unclear how the woman, whose identity was not released, ended up in the river.

Cost Of Part D Drug Plans To Decrease

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Medicare beneficiaries will see the average price of Part D drug plans drop next year, even as U.S. health costs continue to increase, officials say.

The average Part D plan will cost seniors about $30 a month in 2012, down from $30.76 in 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a release Friday.

“The Affordable Care Act is delivering on its promise of better healthcare for people with Medicare,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.

Under the Part D program, seniors and others on Medicare can join a privately administered, government-subsidized health plan for their drug prescriptions.

The decrease in average costs predicted for 2012 would mark the second time average premiums have gone down since the program started in 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Competition among private plans and the growing use of less expensive generic drugs have combined to make the program much less costly than budget analysts originally expected.

White House Names New Technology Chief

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Former Microsoft executive Steven VanRoekel has been named U.S. technology chief, the White House announced.

VanRoekel, 41, becomes chief information officer, succeeding Vivek Kundra, 36, who was the first to take on the IT position when it was created in 2009, a White House release said Friday.

VanRoekel said he would work to introduce new technologies to improve government service as well as focus on cutting costs in an age of austerity.

“The productivity gap between where the private sector has gone over the last two decades and where government has gone is ever-widening,” he told

The Washington Post.

Government must increase its spending on new technology, which “can be done in a way that actually saves money, saves resources and everything else,” he said.

VanRoekel will oversee an annual spending budget of $80 billion for the U.S. government, the world’s largest customer for information technology services and products.

VanRoekel spent 15 years at Microsoft before becoming the managing director of the Federal Communications Commission in 2009.

Italian Police Seize $156M In Mob Assets

NAPLES, Italy, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Italian police say they seized 60 properties Friday from a mob boss in the Camorra’s Casalesi clan — among more than $156 million in assets seized.

The seizures from one of the clan’s bosses, Salvatore Belforte, included a more than 13,123-square-foot villa, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

“This is the heaviest assets blow ever inflicted on criminal organizations in Campania,” police said.

Casal di Principe, the home base of the Casalesi, is between Naples and Caserta in the Campania region.

Police also reported the fatal shooting of a member of the Camorra in Naples. He was struck by 12 bullets, ANSA said.

Writer Robert Saviano, who exposed the Casalesi clan in his 2006 book Gomorrah, which became a film, has been under round-the-clock police protection because of death threats from the Casalesi.