A customer picks up a package in Websterville, Vermont. Some post offices are increasing their rates for P.O. box rentals next week.

[imgcontainer] [img:AVUB_Postal_Problems_RGB.jpg] [source]Photo by the Associated Press[/source] A customer picks up a package in Websterville, Vermont. Some post offices are increasing their rates for P.O. box rentals next week. [/imgcontainer]

Thinking Inside the Box. Stamps aren’t the only post office item that will see a price increase on January 26. Starting Sunday, the fee for post office boxes in some post offices will also rise, writes Mark Jamison in savethepostoffice.com

Prices for P.O. box rental may rise from $16 to $625 for a six month period, depending on the size of the box and other factors, Jamison reports.

Postal rates will rise 6% across the board on January 26. The cost of a first-class stamp will go from 46 to 49 cents, for example.

CORRECTION: Earlier we reported that the price increase would occur only in so-called “competitive markets,” places where the Postal Service says customers have the choice of using a private P.O. box service. Prices  can also rise in markets where the Post Office dominates the P.O. box market, but the increases there may be different.

About Face. Georgia state Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, has done an abrupt about-face on her stance on rural hospitals. Earlier this week she said if the money wasn’t there, some rural hospitals just need to close. Now she calls that result an “unthinkable proposition,” reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, Cooper told the AJC that closing hospitals “would have serious consequences on the affected community, hurting it economically and limiting access to acute care for Georgians.”

On Monday she told WABE radio that under some circumstances, rural communities should close their hospitals and send patients to regional hospitals.

The AJC article doesn’t explain why Cooper changed her mind.

The specter of hospital closures was raised by a trade lobbying group, Hometown Health, which reported that 15 rural hospitals might close if the state did not accept expansion of the Medicaid system through Obamacare.

Historical Comparison. Alan Guebert on farm bill negotiations in this week’s Farm and Food File.

… Abraham Lincoln got himself elected president, raised an army, built a navy, turned the tide in the Civil War and passed the Emancipation Proclamation in less time than this Congress finally agreed on nothing more threatening than how to spend $100 billion a year for the next five years.

W.Va. Supreme Court Sides with City over Fees. The West Virginia Supreme Court has sided with the city of Bridgeport in a dispute over whether the city can charge a fee to rural residents for fire protection. The ruling is likely to open the door for more cities to charge fees to rural residents, reports Jim Ross in the West Virginia State Journal business newspaper. Rural residents take advantage of city services and amenities and should help pay for them, the argument goes.

Rural Drivers in UK May Get Break on Gas Prices. Rural drivers in Scotland and northern England could see their gasoline prices drop a bit because of the expansion of the “duty discount scheme.” The plan gives gas stations a rebate on sales, which they can pass on to customers. The lower price is necessary because rural residents are more dependent on their automobiles, reports the Shropshire Star.

The proposed discount of 5 pence per liter amounts to about 30 cents U.S. for a gallon of “petrol.” But how much would the average lory driver save in a fortnight?

Senators Oppose Drop in Renewable Fuel Standards. A bipartisan group of 30 U.S. senators has signed onto a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency asking the agency not to reduce the renewable fuel standards. The standards determine how much ethanol and other alternative fuels must be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply. Here’s an excerpt of the letter:

Congress passed the RFS [renewable fuel standards] to increase the amount of renewable fuel utilized in our nation’s fuel supply. The Administration’s proposal is a significant step backward – undermining the goal of increasing biofuels production as a domestic alternative to foreign oil consumption. … Further, the proposed waiver places at risk both the environmental benefits from ongoing development of advanced biofuels and rural America’s economic future.”

… If You Got ’Em. Some county jails are going into the electronic cigarette business as a way to generate revenue for things like pay raises for guards, the New York Times reports. The e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine without other chemicals and without second-hand smoke, are banned in federal prisons. But county jails in seven states are selling them to inmates. The item is in such high demand among inmates that “Chinese and American manufacturers now produce ‘jail-safe’ versions made of plastic instead of metal,” reports Timothy Williams.

The sheriff of Macon County, Tennessee, reports purchasing e-cigarettes (about the equivalent of three and a half packs of regular smokes) for $2.75 and selling them for $10. The sheriff says he hopes to use the $20,000 to $50,000 in revenue to increase prison-guard wages.

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