Guinea voters back controversial constitution changes

New constitution would limit presidential terms to two, but potentially enable Alpha Conde to govern for 12 more years.

Guinea has voted overwhelmingly for a change in the constitution, according to the provisional results of a referendum, an outcome that the opposition fears will allow President Alpha Conde to govern for 12 more years.

Almost 92 percent of voters supported changing the constitution in last Sunday’s referendum, the president of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Amadou Salifou Kebe, said on Friday, while eight percent were against it. 

More:

  • Guinea holds controversial referendum marred by violence, boycott

  • Guinea protests: Renewed calls for president’s resignation

  • Guinea President Conde hints at third term bid despite protests

Turnout was 61 percent, Kebe told reporters, saying these were provisional figures. The Constitutional Court has eight days to confirm the results.

The referendum, originally scheduled for March 1, was pushed back because international observers raised concerns about its fairness. It was boycotted by the opposition.

Conde, 82, has not denied that he might use the proposed changes to seek another term when his second and final term runs out this year under the current constitution.

The new constitution would limit presidential terms to two but extend the length of the term to six years, potentially enabling Conde to govern for another 12 years. 

It does not specify whether terms served under the previous constitution would count, but Conde has suggested they would not.  

Controversial changes

The proposal to change the constitution has proved hugely controversial in the West African state, spurring mass demonstrations in which at least 32 people have been killed since October, according to an AFP news agency tally.

The authorities went ahead with the referendum after scrubbing some 2.5 million unverifiable names from its electoral register, following advice from the Economic Community of West African States.

The day of the vote was marred by violence, however, with scores of polling stations ransacked across the country and, according to the opposition parties, dozens killed.

Authorities said only a few deaths occurred on the polling day, and that the voting took place in peace.

Conde is a former opposition figure who was jailed under previous hardline regimes.

In 2010, he made history as the first democratically-elected president in a country with a chronic history of military coups and turmoil.

Voters returned him to office in 2015 for his second and final five-year term under the current constitution, but critics say he has become increasingly authoritarian.

The government argues that the constitution needs to be updated to usher in badly-needed social changes, especially for women.

Reforms would include banning female genital mutilation and underage marriage and giving spouses equal rights in a divorce.

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Alberta Energy Regulator names senior Saskatchewan government official as CEO

Laurie Pushor, Saskatchewan’s deputy minister of energy and resources, is to take over the Alberta Energy Regulator’s top job April 15.

The agency is tasked with overseeing the development of the province’s oil, gas and coal resources in an environmentally responsible way.

Pushor takes over an agency in transition and an industry that is being crushed economically by the novel coronavirus and an oil price
war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Last week, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney began rolling out an aid package that includes the government paying the industry’s levies to
the energy regulator for six months at a cost of $113 million.

Prior to the downturn, the regulator had already been overhauling management and staff at the direction of Kenney’s government, which
has said project approvals were taking far too long.


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Coronavirus: Manitoba announces first death, public gatherings to be limited to 10

Manitoba has recorded its first death related to COVID-19.

Manitoba’s COVID-19 cases currently stand at 39, with three more cases overnight. The one person who was in hospital is the person who died. She was in her 60s.

Manitoba will also limit gatherings to 10 people starting on Monday, by orders of the chief public health officer, Brent Roussin.

“This is not the time for dismay. We are not helpless… thank you to everyone who stepped up,” said Roussin.

“If you can, stay home.”

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Restrictions, starting Monday, include:

  • This includes places of worship, gatherings and family events such as weddings and funerals.
  • This does not apply to a facility where health care or social services are provided including child-care centres and homeless shelters.
  • Retail businesses including grocery or food stores, shopping centres, pharmacies or gas stations must ensure separation of one to two metres between patrons assembling in the business.
  • Public transportation facilities must also ensure that people assembling at the facility are reasonably able to maintain a separation of one to two metres.

Public health investigations are underway to determine additional details and to confirm the possible exposure of these cases.

Cadham Provincial Laboratory performed 606 tests on Thursday, said the province. As of March 26, 6,203 tests have been performed.

A community testing site will open Monday, March 30 in Pine Falls at École Powerview School, 33 Vincent St., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. The community testing site in The Pas has relocated to the Royal Canadian Legion at 4 Veterans Way.

While updates on numbers of cases will continue to be updated at the press conference daily, details like age, gender and area will only be provided online when information is confirmed.

On Thursday, the premier said the previously announced PST cut to 6 per cent on July 1 would not be happening this year, and asked the federal government to implement a fund that would allow provinces to borrow money at a cheaper interest rate.

He also said the province’s rainy day fund would shortly be depleted, and the provincial government estimates it will need to borrow at least $5 billion to keep health care running during the pandemic.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers must self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Trump calls for US to ‘go back to work’ despite country having most cases worldwide

The US overtook Italy and China as the global hotspot for the highly contagious disease today.

Cases lept to 82,474 as of Thursday according to NBC’s live tracker.

The surge puts them clear ahead of all other countries.

The latest figures collated by Johns Hopkins University show the shocking surge.

China is currently slowing at 81,285 cases, where as Italy has 80,589.

The milestone comes after President Donald Trump predicted the nation would get back to work by Easter Sunday.

The nations workers have seen nearly 3.3 million layoffs since the pandemic hit.

READ MORE

  • Coronavirus could lead to social unrest, violence and unemployment

At a White House briefing on Thursday afternoon, President Trump said that workers need to return to work.

He said: “They have to go back to work, our country has to go back, our country is based on that and I think it’s going to happen pretty quickly.

“We may take sections of our country, we may take large sections of our country that aren’t so seriously affected and we may do it that way.

“A lot of people misinterpret when I say go back, they’re going to be practising as much as you can social distancing, and washing your hands and not shaking hands and all of the things we talked about.”

As news hit the White House of the figures, Trump expressed scepticism about their validity.

He doubts that China’s figures are totally honest, saying: “you don’t know what the numbers are in China.”

Trump said he would be speaking to president Xi Jinpimg by phone to confirm the news of China’s coronavirus plateau.

He also denied that the Chinese leader asked him to stop referring to it as the China virus.

DON’T MISS: Coronavirus latest: UK should expect SIX MONTHS of lockdown, warns health chief

READ MORE

  • Why is it called coronavirus? What does corona mean?

Dr Steve Kasspidis, based in New York told Sky News: “It’s hell, biblical. I kid you not,

“People come in, they get intubated, they die, the cycle repeats. The system is overwhelmed all over the place.

“My daughter is an intern in Brooklyn, first year resident. She starts the ICU today, I couldn’t sleep last night. It’s scary.”

“9/11 was nothing compared to this, We were open waiting for patients to come who never came, ok? Now they just keep coming.”

More than 1,100 people with Covid-19 have died in the US.

New York State is the epicentre of America’s pandemic.

The state has been afflicted with 37’258 confirmed cases over the past few weeks.

It’s current death toll is at 385 as of Thursday.

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Coronavirus ‘ghost towns’: Saskatchewan trucker has isolating view of pandemic

Regina trucker Chris Smyth hasn’t seen anything like this during in his 10-plus years on the road.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has brought forth personal protective measures and supply concerns while the trucking industry continues to transport goods.

One of the provincial measures brought into effect has restaurants reduced to food delivery and drive-thru only. According to Smyth, it’s had an impact in more than one way.

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“Restaurants and diners are closed, where we usually take our breaks. That cuts out the little bit of social life that we do have,” Smyth said.

“I ran into a fellow driver here last week, an older man, and he looked just down in the dumps… he’s said that he’s really struggling because he doesn’t have his usual coffee shops to stop into and just chat with the locals or have a little bit of a social life.”

According to Susan Ewart, executive director of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association, the Thank a Trucker campaign was put out a couple of weeks ago as a way to highlight the drivers’ efforts.

“Truck driving is considered to be an essential service. Those men and women that are out on the roads today, they really are putting themselves on the front line,” Ewart said.

“We just wanted to make sure that the public understood the critical role that trucking does play in our economy and that we should be thanking those people.”

The campaign on social media aims to generate kindness on highways amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is an odd time. We just need to spread a little more kindness. It is weird. This whole kindness issue is taking off… that sense of community is a little bit amazing,” Ewart said.

Smyth said the campaign is working.

“There’s a lot of places now that are offering a hot meal. You can phone and order it ahead and they’ll come right to the truck. It is making life a little bit easier out here.”

The provincial government said, on an average day, roughly 38,000 trucks are travelling along Saskatchewan highways.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Coronavirus: Health officials confirm case on Calgary to Kamloops WestJet flight

A WestJet flight from Calgary to Kamloops this past weekend had a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, the BC Centre of Disease Control (BC CDC) said on Thursday.

The BC CDC posted the information to social media in a public exposure alert, stating WestJet flight 3241 on Saturday, March 21 was affected.

The BC CDC did not list which rows or seats were affected, with Interior Health retweeting the information.

According to the BC CDC, this is the fourth domestic flight into the Interior Health region involving a confirmed case of COVID-19.

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The other flights were:

    • March 9: Air Canada 8420, Vancouver to Kelowna, rows 2-6
    • March 10: WestJet 3326, Vancouver to Kelowna, all seats
    • March 10: Air Canada Jazz 8416, Vancouver to Kelowna, rows 12-18

    “We’ve added more domestic and international flights with a confirmed case of #COVID19 on board,” tweeted BC CDC

    “If you have been flying, please check the list. People arriving in B.C. from outside of Canada need to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days.”

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Lorry dumps dozens of alligators into national park after 14,000 are released

A stunning video shows a lorry dumping critically endangered alligators back into a national park in China as 14,000 are released following four months of hibernation indoors.

In the clip, alligators big and small are tossed back into the waters of the nature reserve after having been transported back to the park and out the back of a lorry.

The carnivorous animals will remain there until the autumn when they will be moved back indoors once more for hibernation

Chinese alligators bred in captivity at the Chinese Alligator National Nature Reserve in the city of Xuancheng in East China’s Anhui Province are manually relocated each year to ensure the species’ survival.

The reptiles are native to the Yangtze – Asia’s longest river and the third-longest system in the world – and are therefore also known as the Yangtze alligator or "muddy dragon".

Together with the American alligator living in the Mississippi River in the United States, they are only one of two alligator species still alive in the world today.

Since March 20 this year, staff at the Chinese alligator reserve have been slowly moving some of its 14,000 inhabitants back into outdoor ponds and lakes after the animals spent four months in hibernation at the Anhui Chinese Alligator Research and Breeding Center.

Zhang Song, one of the directors at the research facility, said the move takes between seven and 10 days.

“At the end of March each year, as the weather warms, hibernating alligators slowly wake up," he explained.

“We then begin the annual task of relocating alligators from their indoor enclosures to outdoors.

“They only start eating in April, and then they enter mating season mid-May or towards the end of the month. They then begin laying eggs towards the end of June.”

According to Mr Zhang, the research facility is housing more than 400 alligator hatchlings that are still too young and fragile to be put in the park.

Chinese alligators are critically endangered, according to the IUCN Red List, with only 120 species remaining in the wild due to habitat loss.

The population of wild specimens has been artificially increased in recent years thanks to the reintroduction of mature males and females.

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G20 leaders to inject $5 trillion into global economy to fight coronavirus

RIYADH (Reuters) – Leaders of the Group of 20 major economies pledged on Thursday to inject $5 trillion in fiscal spending into the global economy to blunt the economic impact of the coronavirus and “do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic.”

Showing more unity than at any time since the 2008-2009 financial crisis that led to the G20’s creation, the leaders said they committed during a videoconference summit to implement and fund all necessary health measures needed to stop the virus’ spread.

In a statement containing the most conciliatory language on trade in years, the G20 leaders pledged to ensure the flow of vital medical supplies and other goods across borders and to resolve supply chain disruptions.

As many countries enact export bans on medical supplies, the G20 leaders said they would coordinate responses to avoid unnecessary interference.

“Emergency measures aimed at protecting health will be targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary,” they said.

The G20 leaders also expressed concern about the risks to fragile countries, notably in Africa, and populations like refugees, acknowledging the need to bolster global financial safety nets and national health systems.

“We are strongly committed to presenting a united front against this common threat,” the G20 leaders said in a joint statement following their 90-minute call.

Saudi Arabia, the current G20 chair, called the video summit amid earlier criticism of the group’s slow response to the disease. It has infected more than 470,000 people worldwide, killed more than 21,000, and is expected to trigger a global recession.

Saudi King Salman, in opening remarks, said the G20 should resume the normal flow of goods and services, including vital medical supplies, as soon as possible to help restore confidence in the global economy.

The group committed to national spending measures totaling $5 trillion — an amount equal to that pledged in 2009 — along with other large-scale liquidity, credit guarantee schemes and other economic measures.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was to address the G20 to seek support for ramping up funding and production of personal protection equipment for health workers amid a global shortage.

“We have a global responsibility as humanity and especially those countries like the G20,” Tedros told a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday. “They should be able to support countries all over the world.”

In his remarks to the group, U.S. President Donald Trump shared details of the $6 trillion in support the United States is making available through legislation and increased Federal Reserve liquidity, including $2 trillion in fiscal spending, and spoke in support of multilateral action and coordination.

“He talked about working together and sounded more supportive of multilateral coordination than ever before,” said one source who observed the meeting.

The meeting was not marred by acrimony, as was feared given the ongoing oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and a war of words between the United States and China over the origins and handling of the pandemic, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Tedros told G20 leaders that the pandemic is “accelerating at an exponential rate” and urged them to ramp up production of protective gear for health workers and remove export bans.

“Everyone realizes that it is essential to preserve jobs, and to maintain trade flows, not disrupt the supply chains,” said one Brazilian government official with knowledge of the videoconference discussions.

No country advocated “total confinement” mainly because most of the countries in G20 are not implementing such moves, the official added.

Several participants called upon the G20 to play the same role that it played in overcoming the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, when member countries pledged to inject massive fiscal stimulus and financial liquidity into the economy, the Brazilian official said.

IMF RESOURCES

The G20 leaders also asked the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group “to support countries in need using all instruments to the fullest extent.”

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva plans to ask the Fund’s steering committee on Friday to consider doubling the current $50 billion in emergency financing available to help developing countries deal with the virus, a source familiar with the plans told Reuters.

To boost global liquidity, Georgieva also asked G20 leaders to back a Fund plan to allow member countries to temporarily draw on part of its $1 trillion in overall resources to boost liquidity. The IMF made a similar move in 2009 with a $250 billion allocation of Special Drawing Rights, its internal unit of currency.

Georgieva gave no specific number in her statement, but observers to the G20 meeting said an SDR allocation of up to $500 billion could be needed.

HEALTH FUNDING

On the health response, the G20 leaders committed to close the financing gap in the WHO’s response plan and strengthen its mandate as well as expand manufacturing capacity of medical supplies, strengthen capacities to respond to infectious diseases, and share clinical data.

Despite calls for cooperation, the G20 risks entanglement in an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia and frictions between the United States and China over the origin of the coronavirus outbreak.

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U.S. indicts Venezuela's Maduro, a political foe, for 'narco-terrorism'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government on Thursday indicted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and more than a dozen other top Venezuelan officials on charges of “narco-terrorism,” the latest escalation of the Trump administration’s pressure campaign aimed at ousting the socialist leader.

The State Department offered a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Maduro, whose country has been convulsed by years of a deep economic crisis and political upheaval.

The indictment, a rare U.S. action against a sitting foreign head of state, marks a serious new phase against Maduro by Washington at a time when some U.S. officials have privately said President Donald Trump is increasingly frustrated with the results of his Venezuela policy.

Attorney General William Barr, announcing charges that include narco-terrorism conspiracy, corruption, and drug trafficking, accused Maduro and his associates of colluding with a dissident faction of demobilized Colombian guerrilla group, the FARC, “to flood the United States with cocaine.”

“While the Venezuelan people suffer, this cabal lines their pockets with drug money and the proceeds of their corruption,” Barr said of Maduro and the others who were indicted.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the charges and rewards being offered showed the Trump administration’s “desperation” as well as its “obsession” with the South American country aimed at benefiting Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

Trump’s pressure on Venezuela has gone over well among Cuban Americans in South Florida, a key voting bloc in a major presidential swing state.

The U.S. government has previously lodged criminal indictments against members of Maduro’s family and inner circle. He and his allies have dismissed such allegations as a smear campaign, and argue the United States is responsible for drug trafficking, given its role as a leading consumer.

Maduro is already under U.S. sanctions and has been the target of a U.S. effort aimed at pushing him from power. He took office in 2013 after the death of his mentor President Hugo Chavez, a staunch foe of the United States.

Other Venezuelan officials whose indictments were announced on Thursday include Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, senior socialist leader Diosdado Cabello, and the chief justice of the country’s supreme court, Maikel Jose Moreno Perez, who was charged with money laundering. The U.S. government is offering $10 million for information leading to Cabello’s arrest.

The United States and dozens of other countries have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president, regarding Maduro’s 2018 re-election as a sham. But Maduro has remained in power, backed by the country’s military and by Russia, China and Cuba.

U.S. officials have long accused Maduro and his associates or running a “narco-state,” saying they have used proceeds from drugs transshipped from neighboring Colombia to make up for lost revenue from a Venezuelan oil sector hit by heavy sanctions by the United States.

‘DEPLOYED COCAINE AS A WEAPON’

The indictments were unsealed in New York, Florida and Washington.

Barr dodged a reporter’s question on whether Trump, who has pressed his aides in recent months for a tougher approach on Venezuela, was briefed in advance, saying, “I don’t talk about internal deliberations.”

Maduro and his closest allies ran a “narco-terrorism partnership with the FARC for the past 20 years,” stated Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who said the Venezuelan president “very deliberately deployed cocaine as a weapon.”

“The scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking alleged was made possible only because Maduro and others corrupted the institutions of Venezuela and provided political and military protection for the rampant narco-terrorism crimes described in our charges,” he added.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Ariana Fajardo Orshan, said she sees signs of Venezuelan officials’ laundered money throughout her area every day, from fancy yachts to million-dollar condos.

“This party is coming to an end,” she said.

Asked whether the U.S. government was also considering designating Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism, which carries further sanctions, Barr said: “It’s really one step at time, so I really have nothing to say about that right now.”

CNN, citing sources familiar with the situation, reported earlier that Venezuela was expected to be named to the blacklist as soon as Thursday. But a U.S. official told Reuters such a move was not likely imminent.

Thursday’s charges altogether carry a maximum penalty of up to life in prison. Asked whether the U.S. government wants to capture Maduro dead or alive, Barr said: “We want him captured so he can face justice in U.S. court.”

Barr said the administration does “expect eventually to gain custody of these defendants.” But he offered no indication of how U.S. authorities might get their hands on Maduro, who has endured more than a year of heavy international pressure and on-again, off-again street protests as the OPEC member’s economy has continued to unravel.

Maduro’s international travel could be restricted, given Washington would be able to request that he be handed over if he visits a country that has an extradition treaty with the United States. U.S. authorities can also freeze any assets he has in the United States, though such holdings are considered unlikely.

The Justice Department said that since at least 1999, Maduro, along with Cabello and others, “acted as leaders and managers of the ‘Cartel of the Suns’.” The name, it said, refers to the sun insignias affixed to the uniforms of high-ranking Venezuelan military officials.

An indictment accused Padrino, who holds the rank of general, of using his control of the Venezuelan military to facilitate cocaine flights to the United States.

Venezuelan Vice President Tareck el-Aissami, who already faced U.S. sanctions for alleged drug trafficking, was charged with evading U.S. sanctions.

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Coronavirus prompts changes to Canada Post in the Okanagan

Canada Post is warning its Okanagan customers to double-check its retail outlets’ hours amid the coronavirus outbreak.

It said that many post offices will reduce hours of service, opening one hour later and closing one hour earlier to clean, restock and provide some relief to employees.

“As well, for the first hour of each day, we will offer priority service to those who are at a higher risk (the elderly or people with compromised immune systems),” the organization said in a news release.

Canada Post said franchise-operated post offices will follow the measures put in place by its operators.

“We are working to keep our post offices open, but some may close due to building closures beyond our control and some smaller locations may close due to personnel reasons,” a news release said. “In these cases, we will direct customers to the nearest operating post office.”

Canada Post is also reminding waiting customers to respect social distancing measures of two metres.

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The mail delivery service said it’s working on signage and floor decals for larger post offices, adding that it may limit the number of customers in smaller spaces.

“We are also working on clear barriers for the counter to increase safety,” Canada Post said.

The postal service is encouraging customers to pay by using the tap function on credit or debit cards, but said it will continue to accept cash.

Canada Post said it has suspended its normal 15-day hold period, and parcels left at the post office for pickup will not be returned to their sender until further notice.

The company is also asking customers who are feeling ill or self-isolating to not visit the post office.

The postal delivery service said that to eliminate customer interactions at the door, it has implemented a “knock, drop and go approach.”

Canada Post said the change eliminates the need for signatures at the door, and delivery employees will knock or ring, choose the safest location available to leave the item and then depart for the next address.

The company said the change greatly reduces the number of parcels sent to post offices for pick-up.

However, items that require proof of age, ID or customs payments will be sent directly from a depot to a retail post office for pick-up with no restrictions on when customers can pick up the item, according to a news release.

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