Briefs: House called back into session over post office crisis

Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Indian Country Today

Associated Press

Office work, California wildfires, Daytona's Chase Elliot

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday she is calling the House back into session over the crisis at the U.S. Postal Service, setting up a political showdown amid growing concerns that the Trump White House is trying to undermine the agency ahead of the election.

Pelosi is cutting short lawmakers' summer recess with a vote expected the Saturday after the Democratic National Convention on legislation that would prohibit changes at the agency as tensions mount. President Donald Trump's new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, has sparked nationwide outcry over delays, new prices and cutbacks just as millions of Americans will be trying to vote by mail to avoid polling places during the coronavirus outbreak.

"In a time of a pandemic, the Postal Service is Election Central," Pelosi wrote Sunday in a letter to colleagues, who had been expected to be out of session until September. "Lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy are under threat from the president."

The decision to recall the House, made after a weekend of high-level leadership discussions, carries a political punch. Voting in the House will highlight the issue after the weeklong convention nominating Joe Biden as the party's presidential pick and pressure the Republican-held Senate to respond. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent senators home for a summer recess.

Earlier Sunday, Democratic lawmakers demanded that leaders of the Postal Service testify at an emergency oversight hearing Aug. 24 on mail delays.

Taller cubicles, one-way aisles: Office workers must adjust

Bergmeyer, a design firm in Boston, has erected higher cubicles, told employees to wear masks when not at their desks and set up one-way aisles in the office that force people to walk the long way around to get to the kitchen or the bathroom.

"The one-way paths take me a little out of the way, but it was easy to get used to," said Stephanie Jones, an interior designer with the company. "It actually gives me the opportunity to see more people and say a quick hello when I might have just walked directly to my desk before."

Around the U.S., office workers sent home when the coronavirus took hold in March are returning to the world of cubicles and conference rooms and facing certain adjustments: masks, staggered shifts, spaced-apart desks, daily questions about their health, closed break rooms and sanitizer everywhere.

For some at least, there are also advantages, including the opportunity to share chitchat with colleagues again or the ability to get more work done.

Employers in some cases are requiring workers to come back to the office, but most, like Bergmeyer, are letting the employees decide what to do, at least for now. Some firms say the risks and precautions are worth it to boost productivity and move closer to normal.

Japan's economy shrinks at record rate, slammed by pandemic

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's economy shrank at annual rate of 27.8 percent in April-June, the worst contraction on record, as the coronavirus pandemic slammed consumption and trade, according to government data released Monday. 

The Cabinet Office reported that Japan's preliminary seasonally adjusted real gross domestic product, or GDP, the sum of a nation's goods and services, fell 7.8 percent quarter on quarter. 

The annual rate shows what the number would have been if continued for a year.

Japanese media reported the latest drop was the worst since World War II. But the Cabinet Office said comparable records began in 1980. The previous worst contraction was in 2009, during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. 

The world's third largest economy was already ailing when the virus outbreak struck late last year. The fallout has since gradually worsened both in COVID-19 cases and social distancing restrictions. 

Puerto Rico governor loses primary of pro-statehood party

LOÍZA, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rican Gov. Wanda Vázquez on Sunday acknowledged losing the primary of her pro-statehood party to Pedro Pierluisi, who briefly served as the U.S. territory's governor last year amid political turmoil.

With more than 78 percent of electoral colleges reporting late Sunday, Pierluisi received more than 57 percent of the vote compared with more than 42 percent for Vázquez.

"We have to abide by the decision of the majority," Vázquez said in a brief speech where she warned Pierluisi that he should "aspire" to have the support of those who voted for her. She will remain as governor until the winner of Puerto Rico's Nov. 3 general elections takes office. 

Pierluisi spoke shortly after Vázquez and said the governor can count on him: "We all have to be united to push Puerto Rico forward."

Meanwhile, Carlos Delgado, mayor of the northwest town of Isabela for 20 years, was poised to win by a landslide the nomination of the main opposition Popular Democratic Party. Conceding defeat was Puerto Rico Sen. Eduardo Bhatia and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, known for her public spats with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Lightning sparks new wildfires across California

LOS ANGELES — A rare summer thunderstorm brought lightning that sparked several small blazes in Northern California on Sunday and stoked a huge wildfire that has forced hundreds of people from their homes north of Los Angeles. 

More than 4,500 buildings remained threatened by the fire burning toward thick, dry brush in the Angeles National Forest. Firefighters already battling the blaze in steep, rugged terrain with scorching heat faced more hurdles when hundreds of lightning strikes and winds up to 15 mph (24 kph) pushed the flames uphill. 

"We set up a containment line at the top of the hills so the fire doesn't spill over to the other side and cause it to spread, but it was obviously difficult given the erratic wind and some other conditions," said fire spokesman Jake Miller.

The Lake Fire was just 12 percent contained Sunday and has burned nearly 28 square miles (72 square kilometers) of brush and trees. Fire officials said 33 buildings had been destroyed, including at least a dozen homes.

Temperatures reached more than 110 degrees and a pyrocumulus created erratic fire behavior, fire spokesman Tom Ewald said. 

Road king: Elliott wins at Daytona for 3rd straight roadie

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Chase Elliott was already NASCAR royalty. Now he's also the sport's road king.

Elliott won the Cup Series' first road course race at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, holding off hard-charging Denny Hamlin following a late restart and notching his third consecutive victory away from ovals.

"I had a phenomenal car. I don't think I did anything special today," Elliott said.

NASCAR's most popular driver, the son of Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, also won on road courses at Charlotte and at Watkins Glen last year. He got a tougher challenge than many expected down the stretch in his latest roadie.

The 24-year-old driver had a 10-second lead with 10 laps to go and was pulling away when Kyle Busch blew a tire and brought out a caution that gave his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr., a chance.

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