Postal panel: Don't cut service

WASHINGTON - The Postal Service's oversight commission said the agency should retain mail delivery to all parts of the country, a service requirement that cost an estimated $4.4 billion in fiscal 2007, a report delivered to Congress and President Bush said yesterday.

The public is "generally satisfied" with the universal service the agency provides, the Postal Regulatory Commission said in a statement. The panel also said the agency's delivery "obligation" applies not only to letters but to so-called competitive products, such as Priority Mail, Express Mail and package services.

The Postal Service, which reported a $2.8 billion loss in its last fiscal year and expects a $7.7 billion loss for the current year ending in 2009, had said it wants Congress to exempt competitive products from universal service.

Officials have said it hinders their ability to compete with companies such as FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc.

- Bloomberg News

Franken is ahead in vote for now

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Democrat Al Franken edged ahead of Republican incumbent Norm Coleman yesterday for the first time in Minnesota's long-running U.S. Senate vote recount.

As the state Canvassing Board wrapped up work in the phase of the recount that resolves disputed ballots, Franken led by 262 votes.

The change was notable because Coleman led Franken in election night returns and also held a 188-vote lead before the board took up challenged ballots. But its significance was limited, with the possibility the lead could change again before the long recount ends.

The outcome of the recount also depends on an estimated 1,600 absentee ballots that were improperly rejected. The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that those ballots must be counted, and set a Dec. 31 deadline for counties to work with the candidates to identify and count them.

- AP

Court is urged to void Prop. 8

SAN FRANCISCO - The California attorney general has changed his position on the state's new same-sex marriage ban and is now urging the state Supreme Court to void Proposition 8.

Jerry Brown filed a brief Friday saying the measure that amended the California Constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman is unconstitutional. He says it deprives gay couples of a fundamental right.

After California voters passed Proposition 8 on Nov. 4, Brown said he would fight to uphold the initiative in his role as attorney general, even though he personally voted against it. He submitted his brief in one of the three legal challenges to Proposition 8 brought by same-sex marriage supporters.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Caroline Kennedy,

who wants to fill Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's seat, has not voted in a number of elections, including the 2005 mayoral primary and at least one race for the very job she is seeking, according to city Board of Elections records.