December 2, 2002

The Post Office Wants Those Crates Back

Lindsay Cohen, Reporter, WNYT-TV passes along this story she spotted in the Albany Times Union. The story, which is cleverly written, is about those white postal delivery cartons that every newsroom in America has stacked in a corner.

“See those white plastic cartons, about the size of a milk crate? The ones with the words ‘property of the U.S. Postal Service’ printed in blue? The post office wants ’em back. This is a national crisis. Seriously.
The Postal Service bought 20 million containers during the last two years. Now it’s got fewer than 20,000 left. At a cost of approximately $3.25 each, that’s a loss of approximately $65 million. See? Serious.
Here’s what happens: The mail bins, used to transport magazines, catalogs and large envelopes — ‘flats,’ in Postal Service lingo — are delivered to office mailrooms. Companies say, ‘We’re going to bring the tub back.’ But they don’t — even though there’s a stern warning on the side that says, ‘Maximum penalty for theft or misuse of postal property: $1,000 fine and 3 years’ imprisonment.’

“‘I don’t want to name any businesses out there,’ says Mary K.Madonna, a Postal Service spokeswoman in Albany. But she sure would like those unnamed businesses to bring back her tubs.

“‘They’re very sturdy, very durable,’ she admits, and can be used for a variety of non-postal purposes. Like making a puppy bed, or storing recyclables, files, garbage and dirty laundry. At least that’s what we’ve heard. We never use them for anything but mail. Oh, and storing all the books that come to the newspaper. And … OK, we’ve got a bunch, too.

“‘Help us to avoid the cost to replace them,’ pleads Albany District Manager Timothy Healy.”

Kidnapping for Fun

My friend and Morning Meeting reader Lisa Farrell, News Director WLNS-TV, Lansing, Mich., sent an interesting story. She writes, “You can pay a gang of ‘thugs’ to kidnap you, all for a thrill. It’s a fad that’s catching on here in Michigan. You pay for a package, much like a vacation package and give these guys your schedule for the next week. They will swoop in and kidnap you.

“Issues: legal, psychological, criminal, medical. Is this making light of a horrifying crime? Most think so. What happens if a witness sees you getting ‘kidnapped?’ In Michigan, we have a CCW law. What would prevent someone from using their firearm to stop what they believe is a real kidnapping? What if a law enforcement officer sees this? He/She may use deadly force to prevent it. What kind of psychological scars does this leave? We interviewed doctors, cops, the friend of a real kidnapping victim and regular people. It generated A LOT of talk on our website. Here are the links to our stories.”

Note: you will notice in the stories that they do not have a real name for the guy who runs this “company” and we never hear from any real clients. His website comes back as registered to Adam Lamon. turned a story on this guy back in October.

According to a PR newswire, “As more local rappers discover the service, they are signing on as ‘celebrity guest kidnappers,’ so every kidnapping is sure to be unique. Before the adventure scenario unfolds, an interview is scheduled, waivers are signed, fees are paid, and a videotaped affidavit is recorded.”

Native Tribes and Cigarettes Taxes

I had an interesting conversation with Michael Dodson, Director of Public Information, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, about the cigarette tax story I posted yesterday on Al’s Morning Meeting. Michael, a former newspaper and radio journalist, says Oklahoma is trying to get a new deal with several Native American tribes to raise the cigarette taxes on Reservations. I wonder if other states are working on similar plans. Make no mistake about it, cigarette taxes on native sales are no small deal, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars for states. Here was one study of taxes on native sales.

Michael wrote for Native Times, “Gov. Frank Keating’s Native American legal counsel has told a tribal leaders meeting that notice of cancellation of twelve Indian nations’ tobacco tax compacts is simply a procedural matter, a preparation for renegotiation. The Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s tobacco tax compact is among that dozen.

“The twelve tribes have received Gov. Keating’s tobacco tax compact termination letters which state, ‘I am exercising the State’s right to give notice of intent to terminate simply as a way of allowing both sides to discuss the possibility of renegotiating the terms. It has, after all, been almost ten years since those issues have been visited.’

“The compacts contain a time window in which to terminate – the six months prior to the termination date. If the compact is not terminated and renegotiated, it automatically renews for 10 years.

“Under terms of these compacts, tribes remit 25 percent of their tobacco tax collections to the state. They agree to tax cigarettes at the current state rate of 23 cents per pack.

“The state government request to renegotiate comes at the same time that legislative leaders are considering a tobacco tax hike of as much as $1 per pack. That is being driven by a need to increase state revenue in the face of a projected 2002-03 fiscal year state government revenue shortfall that could reach a half-billion dollars.

“A $1 per pack tax increase would be expected to generate some $400 million a year in increased state tax revenue.

“Dr. Leslie Beitsch, Oklahoma Commissioner of Health, is pushing a large per-pack tax increase as a way to discourage smoking among Native Americans.”

Michael says, “The tribes that have received compact termination letters are: the Seminole Nation, Cherokee Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation, Quapaw Tribe, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Iowa Tribe, Apache Tribe, Absentee Shawnee Tribe, Osage Tribe, Wyandotte Nation, and Sac and Fox Nation.”

They were the first dozen tribes that negotiated compacts with the (OK) state government. Their ten-year compacts all expire by March 29, 2003.  

Resources for Native issues:
Native Times
Native American health issues site
Yahoo Native News Index
Indian Country Today

Cloned Baby due In January 2003?

I spotted this story on the United Nations newswires. Italian fertility doctor Severino Antinori told reporters in Rome yesterday a woman is due to give birth to a cloned baby in January and that the fetus is “absolutely healthy.” This doctor has been called into question about the claim in the past, but the story keeps moving forward.

School Libraries and Porn Sites

I asked Denver’s KUSA-TV I-Team Executive Producer Nicole Vap to help me find a story her station did on Internet porn and school computers. She sent it along for you. “In April and May 2001, 9 Wants to Know conducted a public information request of several Denver-area school districts asking for information stored on library computers in middle school and high schools. 9Wants to Know looked at history, cookie and cache files in the school computers and found hardcore pornography, some involving people and animals, bondage, urination and sex, live sex, homosexual sex, gambling and a site where you can buy guns. On another site there was graphic violence, depicting a student killing teachers and students.”

Do schools in your area have filtering programs on school computers?

We are always looking for your great ideas. Send Al a few sentences and hot links.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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