Stamp prices go up as postal labor talks reach impasse

Posted Jan. 22, 2012, at 9:21 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Postage rates jumped Sunday for the first time in 2 1/2 years as the U.S. Postal Service moved to generate more revenue amid historic losses.

First-class stamps now cost 45 cents each, an increase that officials estimate will generate an additional $888 million in annual revenue. “Forever” stamps, as the name indicates, remain valid as prices increase.

The price hike came as negotiations between the Postal Service and two of its labor unions reached an impasse that may require a ruling by an arbitrator.

Postal and union officials announced late Friday that separate talks had collapsed between the USPS and the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union. Contracts with both unions, which represent a combined 242,000 postal workers, expired in late November. Negotiations were extended twice before failing Friday.

Freezing rain, snow cover parts of Upper Midwest

MINNEAPOLIS — Freezing drizzle and rain made roads slick Sunday as a winter weather system moved across portions of the Upper Midwest, and the precipitation was expected to begin changing over into snow that could continue into Monday.

The National Weather Service issued warnings about freezing drizzle and rain for parts of Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota and Wisconsin on Sunday, and a fog advisory was out in south-central Wisconsin.

The advisories could be expanded later Sunday, the weather service said. The precipitation was coming from a low pressure system expected to track east across Nebraska and Iowa and deepen as it moved northeast across Wisconsin, it said.

Snow was expected Sunday in Nebraska and the Dakotas with a few inches falling in parts before midnight, the weather service said.

Wrecked ship may have had unregistered passengers

GIGLIO, Italy — Unregistered passengers might have been aboard the stricken cruise liner that capsized off this Tuscan island, a top rescue official said Sunday, raising the possibility that the number of missing might be higher than previously announced.

Divers, meanwhile, pulled out a woman’s body from the capsized Costa Concordia on Sunday, raising to 13 the number of people dead in the Jan. 13 accident.

Civil protection official Francesca Maffini told reporters the victim was wearing a life vest and was found in the rear of a submerged portion of a ship by a team of fire department divers.

Earlier, Italian authorities raised the possibility that the real number of the missing was unknown because some unregistered passengers might have been aboard. As of Sunday, 19 people are listed as missing, but that number could be higher.

Yemen’s president heads to U.S. for medical treatment

SANAA, Yemen — Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh left his battered nation Sunday for medical treatment in the United States, asked his countrymen to forgive him for years of turmoil and vowed to return to the Arabian Peninsula state he has ruled for decades.

It was not immediately evident what effect Saleh’s absence from Sanaa would have on a government weakened by protests, resurgent al-Qaida militants, secessionist rumblings in the south and a rebellion in the north. The president’s departure was characteristic of his brash, often unpredictable nature that has long kept his friends and enemies off balance.

The State Department confirmed that Saleh’s request to travel to the United States had been approved.

Saleh, who was severely wounded in a bomb attack on his compound in June, flew to Oman on his way to the U.S. The day before, Parliament granted him immunity from prosecution. The president left behind a family he has shrewdly kept at the center of power, including his son, Ahmed, and nephews and a brother who oversee military and intelligence agencies.

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