Postal Rate Panel

Approves 2-Cent Hike

The independent Postal Rate Commission yesterday approved a 2-cent increase in the price of a postage stamp.

Under the recommendation, which now goes to the Postal Service's Board of Governors for final action, the cost of a first-class stamp will go from 37 cents to 39 cents and the postcard rate will rise a penny to 24 cents. The Postal Service requested the increase in April. It is expected to go into effect in January.

The increase is needed so the post office can make a $3.1 billion escrow payment required by Congress. A bill that would eliminate that payment and make other changes in postal operations was approved by the House. It has not yet passed the Senate. Rates last increased in 2002.

U.S. Will Not Let U.N.

Meet Inmates in Cuba

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the United States will not allow U.N. experts to meet privately with detainees at the military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a condition that is likely to derail a proposed U.N. visit in December.

United Nations experts have been trying to secure a visit to Guantanamo Bay since the prison opened in early 2002, and have sought to investigate allegations of abuse and mistreatment of detainees. U.S. officials extended an invitation last week for a tour of the facility, but said it would not include meetings with any of the more than 500 detainees there.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has consistent access to detainees, but the organization's rules prevent it from publicly sharing findings. A U.N. delegation would issue a public report.

Rumsfeld said the decision to bar access to prisoners was a "government decision, a matter of policy" and not a Pentagon decision. The U.N. experts said this week that they appreciate the invitation but would not travel to Cuba unless they had assurances they would be able to interview detainees.

Ohio's Rep. Oxley

Plans Retirement

Republican Michael G. Oxley (Ohio), who wrote legislation to improve investor confidence after corporate scandals, said he will retire from Congress at the end of his term, after serving 25 years.

Term limits would have forced Oxley to give up his chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee at the end of 2006, and the lawmaker, 61, said that was a leading factor in his decision.

"I've always been an intuitive politician, and it just made sense after 25 years in Congress and nine years in the [Ohio] legislature," he said. "I've paid my dues."

Oxley became chairman of the Financial Services Committee when it was formed out of the House Banking Committee in 2000. It oversees banking, insurance and securities issues. He led a House probe into failed energy giant Enron Corp., and the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act put in place new accounting requirements.

Republicans currently outnumber Democrats by 231-202 in the House, with one independent, but Oxley's retirement does not promise much of an opportunity for Democrats. Only 34.4 percent of voters in his district voted for Democrat John F. Kerry for president last year.

-- From News Services

and Staff Reports