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World Briefs II

Post Office May Delay Next Increase in Stamp Prices

The Washington Post

The U.S. Postal Service's plan to increase the price of a first-class letter to 33 cents has run into a problem: the agency is making too much money.

As a result, the independent postal rate commission has suggested that the 32-cent stamp should stick around a bit longer.

When the Postal Service's board of governors requested the one-cent increase on July 10, it was projecting the agency would lose $2.4 billion in the current fiscal year.

Thanks largely to the robust U.S. economy, the agency has continued to make money at a clip that has surprised some postal officials. It recorded a profit of nearly $1 billion in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, well ahead of its 1997 profits, and prompting revised projections that fiscal 1998 will be the agency's fourth year of $1 billion-plus in postal profits. The mailing industry has questioned the need for an increase, citing the profits.

Last week, members of the rate commission sent an unusual letter to the board of governors citing "a unique confluence of events" that called for "unprecedented action to maintain public confidence in the system for setting postal rates."

In short, the commission suggested the governors delay the current rate case by allowing the commission to base its decision on fiscal 1997 results instead of those from fiscal 1996, which had been the basis for the proposed increase. The commission must approve any rate changes before the board of governors can implement them.

Scientists Report Physiological Difference in Lesbians

The Washington Post

Scientists Monday reported the first strong physiological evidence that lesbian and bisexual women may be biologically different from heterosexual women.

The researchers at the University of Texas in Austin found that, compared with heterosexual women, the hearing of homosexual and bisexual women tends to be a bit more like that of men.

The findings suggest that homosexual and bisexual women develop in subtly different ways than heterosexual women. Therefore, their brains may also form differently, accounting for their sexuality, the researchers said.

"It's an indication that other brain sites have also been masculinized," said Dennis McFadden, a professor of experimental psychology who led the study in today's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Like much of the previous research, the new findings immediately sparked criticism. "All of this research perpetuates stereotypes - in this case that lesbians are more masculine than heterosexual women," said John De Cecco, a professor of psychology and human sexuality at San Francisco State University.

"The results support the theory that differences in the central nervous system exist between homosexual and heterosexual individuals and that the differences are possibly related to early factors in brain development," said Sandra Witelson of McMaster University.