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America’s real ice bucket challenge

WASHINGTON — I’m just back from vacation in Europe, where, to judge from the political headlines coming out of the United States, this country had no greater care than which of its leaders would next be soaked in cold water.

Mortgaging the future

To govern is to choose. By that definition, the United States is not, at present, being governed. Or so one could reasonably conclude from the latest Congressional Budget Office assessment of the federal government’s fiscal condition, released recently. That document shows that the country remains on a path toward eventual fiscal crisis because Congress and the Obama administration have failed to agree on a long-term plan to match current spending plans, most of which take effect automatically, with projected revenues.

Prisoners’ privacy is threatened

To provide an effective defense, lawyers must know that their conversations with clients won’t be shared with the government. That’s why the attorney-client privilege is critical and why federal prisons typically disallow monitoring of prison visits, mail and secure telephone calls between inmates and their lawyers.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s way forward

WASHINGTON — To take the measure of this uncommonly interesting public man, begin with two related facts about him. Paul Ryan has at least 67 cousins in his Wisconsin hometown of Janesville, where there are six Ryan households within eight blocks of his home. And in his new book, “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea,” he says something few politicians say, which is why so many are neither trusted nor respected. Ryan says he was wrong.

Labor costs weighing down Postal Service

There is even more bad financial news for the U.S. Postal Service, according to a report released last week by the agency’s Office of Inspector General. In addition to sharply declining mail volume and significant required payments for retiree health care, the USPS is struggling with high workers’ compensation costs.