Barletta Eyes Train Between Scranton, Hazleton

English: Official portrait of Congressman Lou ...

English: Official portrait of Congressman Lou Barletta. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Pardon me, Lou. Is that the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton choo-choo?

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, fresh off his announcement that he will seek a third term in Congress, Friday told The Times Leader Opinion Board he feels establishing passenger-rail service connecting the region’s three largest cities is a key to economic recovery and growth.

“The interstate roads are always crowded and often under repair,” said Barletta, 57. “Rail service — both freight and passenger — contributes to economic growth. Transportation in general, from waterways to highways to railways, are vital to the country and our region.”

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/news/1148657/Barletta-eyes-train-between-Scranton-Hazleton

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Unemployment Benefits End For 86,900 In Pennsylvania

The year is starting with a social safety net disappearing for 86,900 unemployed Pennsylvanians.

Congress allowed the legislation authorizing emergency unemployment compensation, the federal extension of unemployment benefits, to expire as of Monday.

That means that the unemployment compensation debit cards issued by the state department of Labor and Industry will not be reloaded for people who have exhausted their original six months of unemployment payments.

According to the National Employment Law Project in New York City, the cuts will affect 1.3 million Americans immediately, 86,900 of them from Pennsylvania, which has the fourth-highest total of unemployed workers collecting the emergency long-term benefits.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/state/2014/01/01/Unemployment-benefits-end-for-86-900-in-state/stories/201401010094#ixzz2pAS5blvw

Post Office Reports Loss Of $5 Billion For Year

USPS service delivery truck in a residential a...

USPS service delivery truck in a residential area of San Francisco, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. Postal Service said Friday it lost $5 billion over the past year, and postal officials again urged Congress to pass legislation to help the beleaguered agency solve its financial woes.

In a positive sign, the loss was a fraction of the record $15.9 billion the Postal Service reported losing last year. But it was still the agency’s seventh straight annual loss and came despite its first growth in revenue since 2008.

Operating revenue rose 1.2 percent to $66 billion, thanks to growth in the post office’s package delivery business and higher volume in standard mail. That was not enough to offset long-term losses in first class mail – the post office’s most profitable service – where revenues declined by 2.4 percent.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20131115_ap_bec035dfa75648f5a1f03a745ca1eb46.html#OcVHlq2UB7XQFb1U.99

Worldview: How Obama Got Syria So Wrong

English: General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, 18thC...

English: General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, 18thChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unless President Obama can show Congress that his planned Syria strike is linked to a larger – and coherent – strategy, legislators should just say no.

So far, his explanations, and those of his cabinet members at congressional hearings, have only added to the confusion. “What is it you’re seeking?”  Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) asked Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in trying to elicit the broader goals of military action.  The general replied candidly,  “I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking.”

That moment of testimony encapsulated the dilemma for the Congress and the country. If the military doesn’t grasp where the commander in chief is leading, and the president can’t (or won’t) clarify, we’re all in trouble.  You can’t get there if you don’t know where “there” is.

This is not the way to wage a war – oops, I mean a limited military strike.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/nation_world/20130908_Worldview__How_Obama_got_Syria_so_wrong.html#W26XeA2w3ER9tH7q.99

Postal Service Considers Eliminating Door-To-Door Delivery

USPS service delivery truck in a residential a...

USPS service delivery truck in a residential area of San Francisco, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve got mail … a block away.

That could be what’s ahead for millions of Americans who still get mail delivered directly to their front doors.

With the U.S. Postal Service losing billions of dollars each year, this tradition could be phased out in less than a decade under a proposal in Congress.

Taking its place would be cluster boxes, mailboxes for individual addresses grouped together at a central neighborhood location.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/883882_Postal-Service-considers-eliminating-door-to-door-delivery.html#ixzz2cMbro8gb

Allegations Surface Of Explicit Exchanges By Weiner After His Resignation

, member of the United States House of Represe...

, member of the United States House of Representatives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anthony D. Weiner, a leading candidate for mayor, on Tuesday confronted new allegations that he had engaged in raunchy online conversations with a woman after he had resigned from Congress over similar behavior.

Mr. Weiner seemed to acknowledge the behavior, saying, “Some things that have been posted today are true.”  He did not deny that the conversations took place after he said he would seek treatment to end his pattern of sending sexually explicit words and images to women who were fans of his politics.

“These things that I did were wrong and hurtful to my wife and caused us to go through challenges in our marriage that extended past my resignation from Congress,” he said in a statement issued Tuesday.  He added, “This behavior is behind me.”

The allegations were posted on a Web site called The Dirty, which describes itself as a gossip and satire site, and which warns that its “postings may contain erroneous or inaccurate information.”

Read more:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/24/nyregion/allegations-surface-of-explicit-exchanges-by-weiner-after-his-resignation.html?hpw&_r=0

Postal Service Backs Off From Cutting Saturday Mail

USPS service delivery truck in a residential a...

USPS service delivery truck in a residential area of San Francisco, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service backed down from its plan to eliminate Saturday mail delivery because Congress barred it, officials said today.

But its governing board said it’s not possible for the financially ailing agency to meet cost-cutting goals without altering its delivery schedule.  Delaying “responsible changes,” the board said, only makes it more likely that the Postal Service “may become a burden” to taxpayers.

The Postal Service said in February that it planned to switch to five-day-a-week deliveries beginning in August for everything except packages as a way to hold down losses.

But that announcement was a gamble.  The agency essentially was asking Congress to drop from spending legislation the longtime ban on five-day-only delivery.  Congress did not do that when it passed a spending measure last month.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=467741

Federal Budget Cuts Will Affect More Than Federal Programs, Officials In Scranton Say

English: Official photo of Senator Bob Casey (...

English: Official photo of Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration will hurt everything from the local barbershop to the largest manufacturers in Northeast Pennsylvania, said members of a panel at Sen. Bob Casey’s office Friday in downtown Scranton.

With no deal between Congress and the White House in sight and just hours before sequestration kicked in at midnight, the Democratic senator and a cross-section of local civic leaders struck a dire tone.

“We don’t have a full sense of what will happen,” Mr. Casey said.  “If this goes a day or week, it will have an impact.  If it goes six months, the effect will be devastating.”

As the furloughs and cuts begin, sequestration will have an immediate impact not just on the government employees, but on contractors, and the communities where they live and spend.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/federal-budget-cuts-will-affect-more-than-federal-programs-officials-in-scranton-say-1.1452684

Flurry Of Campaign Ads, Holiday Mail Helped Post Office Some, But It Still Lost $1.3 Billion

English: U.S. Post Office Lincoln Branch in Ma...

English: U.S. Post Office Lincoln Branch in Madison Township near Mansfield, Ohio. This United States Postal Service branch closed its doors at 4:30 p.m. on Friday February 11, 2011 due to the fiscal crisis that the United States Postal Service is in as of 2010-2011 and the drastic decline in mail volume. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service lost $1.3 billion in the final three months of last year, despite a blizzard of campaign advertising for the fall political elections and a big holiday mail and shipping season.

The loss announced Friday was far less than the $3.3 billion in the comparable quarter the previous fiscal year, but still showed the effects of a continued decline in first-class mailing as customers continue to flock to the Internet for emailing, bill paying and the like.

In releasing their financial report, postal officials pleaded anew with Congress to give them the flexibility to better manage the agency — including to free it from a mandate that they prepay for expected retiree health care costs.

Considering its operations alone, the agency actually made $100 million delivering the mail — earning $17.7 billion in revenue against $17.6 billion in operating expenses. But the health care funding and some other expenses pushed it to a net loss.

Read more:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/postal-service-lost-13-billion-package-deliveries-up-mail-continues-to-migrate-to-internet/2013/02/08/3b00ca50-720d-11e2-b3f3-b263d708ca37_story.html?hpid=z3

Milk Might Hit $8 A Gallon, Absent Federal Action

Picture 487Consumers soon could be defying the adage of not crying over spilled milk.

If Congress doesn’t pass a new farm bill or extend the one in place by Monday, the price of a gallon of milk in grocery stores could go as high as $8, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. said Friday during a media conference call.

Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said lack of action would mean milk prices would be based on permanent law enacted in 1949.

The department would be forced to provide substantial financial support to dairy farmers based on their production costs and start buying up surplus milk, he said.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=439496

Don’t Be Fooled By January Pay — Higher Taxes Loom

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Ser...

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Service. The design is the same as the Treasury seal with an IRS inscription. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Workers probably won’t feel the full brunt of next year’s tax increases in their January paychecks, but don’t be fooled by the temporary reprieve.

No matter what Congress does to address the year-end fiscal cliff, it’s already too late for employers to accurately withhold income taxes from January paychecks, unless all the current tax rates remain unchanged, which is an unlikely scenario.

Social Security payroll taxes are set to increase on Jan. 1, so workers should immediately feel the squeeze of a 2 percent cut in their take-home pay.  But as talks drag on over how to address other year-end tax increases, the Internal Revenue Service has delayed releasing income tax withholding tables for 2013.

As a result, employers are planning to withhold income taxes at the 2012 rates, at least for the first one or two paychecks of the year, said Michael O’Toole of the American Payroll Association.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20121222/NEWS04/121229781/don-t-be-fooled-by-january-pay–higher-taxes-loom#full_story

Postal Service Reports Record $15.9 Billion Annual Loss

USPS service delivery truck in a residential a...

USPS service delivery truck in a residential area of San Francisco, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON – The struggling U.S. Postal Service on Thursday reported an annual loss of a record $15.9 billion and forecast more red ink in 2013, capping a tumultuous year in which it was forced to default on billions in payments to avert bankruptcy.

The financial losses for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 were more than triple the $5.1 billion loss in the previous year.  Having reached its borrowing limit, the mail agency is operating with little cash on hand, putting it at risk in the event of an unexpectedly large downturn in the economy.

“It’s critical that Congress do its part and pass comprehensive legislation before they adjourn this year to move the Postal Service further down the path toward financial health,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, calling the situation “our own postal fiscal cliff.”

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=428549

BP Gets Record Fine In Gulf Oil Spill

English: Platform supply vessels battle the bl...

English: Platform supply vessels battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon. A Coast Guard MH-65C dolphin rescue helicopter and crew document the fire aboard the mobile offshore drilling unit Deepwater Horizon, while searching for survivors. Multiple Coast Guard helicopters, planes and cutters responded to rescue the Deepwater Horizon’s 126 person crew. Français : Les restes en feu de la plateforme Deepwater Horizon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!

NEW ORLEANS — Oil giant BP has agreed to pay the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history, totaling billions of dollars, for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a person familiar with the deal said today.

The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the deal, also said two BP employees face manslaughter charges over the death of 11 people in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the massive spill.

The person said BP will plead guilty to obstruction for lying to Congress about how much oil was pouring out of the ruptured well.  The person declined to say exactly how much the fine in the billions of dollars would be.

BP made a net profit of $5.5 billion in the third quarter, it reported last month.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=428304

This just in, according to Lancasteronline.com, the settlement is $4.5 billion!  Read full story:

http://lancasteronline.com/article/ap/778336_BP-agrees-to-pay–4-5B–3-employees-charged.html

Americans Will Feel Paycheck Pinch As Payroll Tax Break Ends In January

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama isn’t talking about it and neither is Mitt Romney. But come January, 163 million workers can expect to feel the pinch of a big tax increase regardless of who wins the election.

A temporary reduction in Social Security payroll taxes is due to expire at the end of the year and hardly anyone in Washington is pushing to extend it. Neither Obama nor Romney has proposed an extension, and it probably wouldn’t get through Congress anyway, with lawmakers in both parties down on the idea.

Even Republicans who have sworn off tax increases have little appetite to prevent one that will cost a typical worker about $1,000 a year, and two-earner family with six-figure incomes as much as $4,500.

Why are so many politicians sour on continuing the payroll tax break?

Read more: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/10/social_security_tax.html

Small Increase Likely In Social Security Benefits

Seal of the United States Social Security Admi...

Seal of the United States Social Security Administration. It appears on Social Security cards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON – Social Security recipients shouldn’t expect a big increase in monthly benefits come January.

Preliminary figures show the annual benefit boost will be between 1 percent and 2 percent, which would be among the lowest since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975. Monthly benefits for retired workers now average $1,237, meaning the typical retiree can expect a raise of between $12 and $24 a month.

The size of the increase will be made official Tuesday, when the government releases inflation figures for September. The announcement is unlikely to please a big group of voters – 56 million people get benefits – just three weeks before elections for president and Congress.

The cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is tied to a government measure of inflation adopted by Congress in the 1970s. It shows that consumer prices have gone up by less than 2 percent in the past year.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=421002

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Airport Director Says He Isn’t Worried About Federal Cuts

One day after the president of the United States signed a bill regarding sequestration, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport Director Barry Centini scoffed at the notion his airport would be one of the casualties of the potential across-the-board spending cuts.

On Wednesday, Barack Obama signed the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, which requires him to provide details within 30 days on how sequestration – severe budget cuts to most federal agencies – would be implemented if enacted on Jan. 2. The legislation also requires the directors of federal agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration, to develop a plan and submit it to Congress, detailing how they would deal with such cuts.

According to Todd Hauptli, the senior executive vice president of the American Association of Airport Executives, the FAA is still developing a plan for how it would cope with the projected $1.35 billion, or nine percent, cut from its annual budget. However, a study done by the American Center for Progress – a liberal think-tank – suggests the administration likely would have to close more than 100 U.S. airports, including the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, to decrease its expenditures and meet the budget reduction.

Despite all of that, Mr. Centini says he isn’t concerned about the airport’s future.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-wilkes-barre-airport-director-says-he-isn-t-worried-about-federal-cuts-1.1356523

Postal Service Bracing For Default

USPS service delivery truck in a residential a...

USPS service delivery truck in a residential area of San Francisco, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=404934

A Comeback For Anthony Weiner?

Official portrait of United States Congressman...

Official portrait of United States Congressman (D-NY). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Just when you thought it was safe!

One year after resigning from Congress following news he had emailed lewd photos of himself to women, married former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner desires a return to politics, according to New York news outlets.

“The disgraced former congressman—who’s sitting on a $4.5 million campaign war chest—is mulling a bid for citywide office next year and ‘seriously considering’ a mayoral run,” sources told the New York Post. The newspaper reported that Weiner has spoken with former staffers about returning to work for him.

Read more: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/comeback-anthony-weiner-142709357.html