Post office nears default on $5 billion payment
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Postal Service is bracing for a first-ever default on billions in payments due to the Treasury, adding to widening uncertainty about the mail agency’s solvency as first-class letters plummet and Congress deadlocks on ways to stem the red ink.
With cash running perilously low, two legally required payments for future postal retirees’ health benefits – $5.5 billion due Wednesday, and another $5.6 billion due in September – will be left unpaid, the mail agency said Monday. Postal officials said they also are studying whether they may need to delay other obligations. In the coming months, a $1.5 billion payment is due to the Labor Department for workers compensation, which for now it expects to make, as well as millions in interest payments to the Treasury.
The defaults won’t stir any kind of catastrophe in day-to-day mail service. Post offices will stay open, mail trucks will run, employees will get paid, current retirees will get health benefits.
But a growing chorus of analysts, labor unions and business customers are troubled by continuing losses that point to deeper, longer-term financial damage, as the mail agency finds it increasingly preoccupied with staving off immediate bankruptcy while Congress delays on a postal overhaul bill.
6 more Ugandans admitted with possible Ebola
KAMPALA, Uganda – Six more patients suspected to have Ebola have been admitted to the hospital days after investigators confirmed an outbreak of the highly infectious disease in a remote corner of western Uganda, a health official said on Monday.
Stephen Byaruhanga, health secretary of the affected Kibaale district, said possible cases of Ebola, at first concentrated in a single village, are now being reported in more villages.
In a national address Monday, Uganda’s president advised against unnecessary contact among people, saying suspected cases of Ebola should be reported immediately to health officials.
Officials from Uganda’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization announced on Saturday that the deadly Ebola virus killed 14 Ugandans this month, ending weeks of speculation about the cause of a strange illness that had some people fleeing their homes in the absence of reliable answers.
If the six new cases are confirmed as Ebola, it would bring to 26 the number of Ugandans infected with Ebola.
Syrian envoy to London defects amid Aleppo fight
LONDON – Syria’s top diplomat in London said he could no longer represent the regime and defected Monday, as civilians fled the commercial hub of Aleppo in droves amid 10 days of fierce battles between rebels and government forces.
Britain’s Foreign Office said that Khaled al-Ayoubi, the charge d’affaires, told officials that he wasn’t willing to represent the regime any longer, the latest high-profile defection of a diplomat from Syria over the bloody crackdown on the opposition since March 2011.
Fighting is heating up in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city with 3 million people. The U.N. said 200,000 Syrians have left during the last 10 days as the government trains its mortars, tank and helicopter gunships on the neighborhoods seized by the rebels.