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We're back and ready to roll! The Postal Service is the nation’s second largest civilian employer (after Walmart—another story), employing 633,108 personnel. It would rank 44th on the 2019 Fortune 500 list if it was considered a private company – which it decidedly is not: it is the only government agency mandated as a service — it's not the postal business, after all. As a government agency, it has a legal obligation to provide all the various aspects of universal service. It also has special privileges, including sovereign immunity, eminent domain powers, powers to negotiate postal treaties with foreign nations, and an exclusive legal right to deliver first class and third class mail. The Postal Inspection Service, USPIS, is one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in the nation. Founded by Benjamin Franklin during the Second Continental Congress in August 1775, its mission is to protect the Postal Service, its employees...

For the first time, a spacecraft has sent back pictures of the sky from so far away that some stars appear to be in different positions than we would see them from Earth. More than 4 billion miles from home and speeding toward interstellar space, NASA's New Horizons has traveled so far that it now has a unique view of the nearest stars, but it looks like an alien sky. The difference is due to parallax, the same effect you see if you hold up a finger and close one eye, then the other. It’s a shift in perspective, caused by New Horizons’ great distance from Earth. I love the concept of parallax. My latest novel is named for it. A shift in perspective changes . . . everything. But once you've dared experience it you might mourn the time you lost believing your previous perspective was the only one....

My country’s cities are burning again. Armed white men again in blue uniforms wouldn't again let an unarmed ununiformed again black man breathe again. Meanwhile, out in the Great Plains and Bread Basket other people are differently dying, the virus growing inside their lungs while meat packers sweaty with fever have to show up for work so their families won't starve, while farmers lie coughing and gasping for lack of equipment to keep them alive. Some of the people in small towns and on farms fell for the lie that all this was a hoax, the fault of dark people and people in cities; now they also can’t breathe. The blows come so fast and so heavy you can't stagger up from the last one before the new punch knocks you breathless again. Private enterprise launches itself into space, national economies collapse—hey, that’s the least of it. Heat waves melt South...

I don't often write or speak about “values,” because value and values both are abstractions arrived at subjectively and, these days, bandied about by far-right religionists as if they had coined those words. But I've been thinking about values lately, as the United States enters this ordeal some call "opening up." Remember the adage, “Crisis doesn't build character; it reveals it”? Values are in effect the character of a society, and ours is definitely being revealed. Trump and his followers claim that the “real folks”—white, working-class males—are eager to get back to work, and it's only elite liberal intellectuals on the coasts who want to go slow until it’s safer, with better precautions in place. (I know, hilarious: Trump posing the situation as a class struggle.) The truth is that 74 percent of the U.S. population is very leery of these precipitous openings, and has made it clear that they/we...

“The Joe Biden Thing” hit full force after my last week’s blog had posted—but waiting is not necessarily bad in such circumstances. It offered an opportunity to cool down from volcanic levels, try to think calmly, read and listen to different opinions, and do some research of my own. Here goes. —Women (and some smart men) are expressing frustration that accusations against Biden are being examined in greater detail and intensity than Donald Trump's far more numerous, even self-admitted sexual assaults; I heartily agree. Trump hasn't been asked about these (at least 25) attacks in many months, possibly years. How about the press returning to those stories, in detail? —Hopefully, others were as irritated as I was by the shock of pundits who gasped that Senators Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and former Georgia State Senator Stacey Abrams all vouched for Biden as being a...

Unintended consequences of an action or event are inherently shocking. They do sometimes offer hints, warnings, clues so subtle as to make sense only after the fact. But mostly they can’t be predicted–unless they were so obvious they could have been predicted, so naturally were ignored.

It's acknowledged by many now that the women who constitute only 7 percent of world leaders did a notably different and excellent job of preparing their countries for the coronavirus pandemic and of coping with it as the full force has hit.

Awestruck, people in the northern Indian state of Punjab stare at the sight of the grand Himalayan mountain range, now, after half a century, again visible for more than 100 miles. Why? The reduction in air pollution caused by the national lockdown to contain the coronavirus. Across the planet, in major cities and minor ones, the grind, screech, and roar of modernity are now barely detectable on seismograms. Why? Little or no traffic. Less large-scale machinery. A 30 percent drop in the cacophonous London morning rush, a 38 percent drop in midday Paris, a 50 percent drop in parts of Los Angeles, a staggering 60 percent drop noted at the Geophysical Institute in Quito, Ecuador–where suddenly they hear rumblings from the active volcano that sits beneath the city. As a result of this human quiescence, Earth’s continual quivering, shifting, and settling is being recorded with astonishing clarity. It sighs. It crackles...