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Feb. 6, 2013 at 11:59 AM   |   Comments

Postal Service dropping Saturdays

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- The U.S. Postal Service, which lost $16 billion last year, announced Wednesday it will end Saturday delivery beginning Aug. 5.

Package delivery, which has been growing, would continue Monday through Saturday, said Patrick R. Donahoe, postmaster general and chief executive officer.

The move is expected to save $2 billion.

"The American public understands the financial challenges of the Postal Service and supports these steps as a responsible and reasonable approach to improving our financial situation," Donahoe said. "The Postal Service has a responsibility to take the steps necessary to return to long-term financial stability and ensure the continued affordability of the U.S. Mail."


Boy Scouts delay action on gay ban policy

IRVING, Texas, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Boy Scouts of America Wednesday delayed a decision on revoking a policy that bans gays and lesbians from membership, the organization said.

Daron Smith, a spokesman at the BSA headquarters in Irving, Texas, said in a statement the national board will not make a decision during Wednesday's meeting.

"In the past two weeks, scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public. It reinforces how deeply people care about scouting and how passionate they are about the organization," the statement said.

"After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy."

A decision on the policy will then made by the organization's 1,400 voting members during the annual meeting in May, the statement added.


5 held for waving shoes at Ahmadinejad

CAIRO, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Five people were arrested in Cairo for waving footwear at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who apparently was hit by a thrown shoe, state media reported.

Egypt's state-run media said the incident occurred late Tuesday as Ahmadinejad left a mosque in Cairo. Four Egyptians and a Syrian waved their shoes -- considered a sign of disrespect in eastern culture -- to protest Iran's support for the Syrian President Bashar Assad, the reports said.

Video released by a Turkish news outlet indicated a shoe struck the Iranian president's head.

The Gulf News said the five arrested chanted anti-Ahmadinejad slogans as they were taken to a nearby police station for questioning.

Ahmadinejad is the first Iranian head of state to visit Egypt in more than three decades after Tehran cut diplomatic ties with Cairo in 1980 to protest Egypt's peace treaty with Israel. The situation between the two regional powers has improved since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was ousted nearly two years ago.


Suicide blasts kill 35 in Homs province

DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Two suicide car bombings near a military facility in Homs province in central Syria killed at least 35 people Wednesday, a pro-government website said.

Suicide bombers detonated their explosives-laden vehicles near the facility in the countryside near Palmyra, the pro-government Ajel News website reported.

At least 30 people were injured, officials said.

In Damascus, meanwhile, activists reported fighting in Jobar, a suburb south of the Syrian capital, between the army and armed rebels, China's state-run news agency Xinhua said.

Activists said shells could be heard across the capital since early Wednesday amid reports the government forces were boosting their presence near Jobar to try to storm it.


Russia probes claims of soldiers starving

KHABAROVSK, Russia, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- A spokesman said the Russian military is investigating media reports soldiers based in the Kuril Islands were given rotten food and left to starve.

RIA Novosti said recent media reports alleged soldiers and officers in a unit on the Far East islands were given food that contained worms and then were forced to go hungry.

Eastern Military District spokesman Col. Alexander Gordeyev denied the claims Tuesday.

But Wednesday, the main military prosecutor's office confirmed an investigation was under way, including assessment of drinking water and sanitary requirements, RIA Novosti said.

Russia keeps forces on the islands, which Japan also claims, RIA Novosti said.

Scandals concerning the army's living conditions and poor food have been frequent in the last 20 years, RIA Novosti reported.


FBI: Hostage-taker had bombs in bunker

MIDLAND CITY, Ala., Feb. 6 (UPI) -- The Alabama man who held a 5-year-old boy hostage inside an underground bunker for nearly a week had homemade bombs in and near the bunker, the FBI said.

The FBI said one explosive device was found inside the bunker and another was in the PVC pipe negotiators used to communicate with hostage-taker Jimmy Lee Dykes, ABC News reported.

Both devices were "disrupted," the FBI said, adding that the search for more hazards would go on through Wednesday on the property near Midland City.

The FBI said preliminary investigation reports indicate Dykes engaged in a firefight with SWAT agents before they stormed the bunker, killing the 65-year-old Vietnam veteran and rescuing the boy, identified as Ethan.

Agents used two explosions to gain entry to the bunker, which was reinforced to thwart an attempted entry by law enforcement, the FBI said.

ABC News said it learned Dykes fired first on the agents during the bunker raid. The agents returned fire, killing Dykes. Ethan was rescued.


Meow-zah! Cat to be Monopoly game token.

PAWTUCKET, R.I., Feb. 6 (UPI) -- The board game Monopoly could be the cat's meow after fans gave the flatiron game token the boot and replaced it with a cat, the game's U.S. manufacturer said.

The cat clawed its way past a robot, guitar, helicopter and diamond ring in Monopoly's "Save Your Token" campaign on Facebook, receiving 31 percent of the fan vote, Hasbro Inc., based in Pawtucket, R.I., said Wednesday in a release.

In the vote to decide which classic tokens would be saved, the Scottish terrier was top dog, securing 29 percent of the vote. The flatiron fell flat, picking up only 8 percent.

Hasbro officials said the cat token will replace the iron on Monopoly production lines immediately and should be on store shelves in mid-to-late 2013.

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