This Nifty New Service Shows You Your Mail Before It’s Even Delivered

The U.S. Postal Service just expanded Informed Delivery, a service that lets customers preview their mail in email form. Users who sign up for the free service get a morning email with photos of the envelopes that will hit their mailbox that day.

Informed Delivery was piloted in some zip codes in 2014, and last month it expanded to the majority of the U.S. It?s especially helpful for people who travel often and want to keep track of their mail back home. 

It?s also useful for large households: Family members or roommates can check the email and know if any letters will arrive for them that day, even if they don?t usually check the mailbox.

And on a more serious note, Informed Delivery is also a great way to find out if someone is stealing your mail.

The program is also meant to keep snail mail relevant in our email era. 

“[Informed Delivery] makes postal mail more interesting to millennials, who are on their devices all day long,” Miro Copic, a marketing professor at San Diego State University, told NBC News. “And it just might change the equation of how millennials think about the post office longer term.”

USPS already photographs every piece of mail that runs through its automation system, so this isn?t a new level of surveillance. But there is one tiny thing to note: For now, only envelopes are included in Informed Delivery, though there?s a possibility that packages or magazines may be included in the future. 

You can sign up for Informed Delivery on the program?s website. 

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Trump To Duterte: ‘You’re Just Like Me’

Cross-posted with

In case you hadn?t noticed, as in the Middle East and Europe, we?re in a new Trumpian age in Asia. If you want to confirm that, check out the recently leaked transcript of an April 29th phone conversation between the American and Philippine presidents (published in full at the Intercept). Donald Trump launches the call with a bonding gesture, comparing his own sleepless habits to those of Rodrigo Duterte. (?You?re just like me. You are not a person who goes to bed at all. I know that, right??)

He then implicitly makes another comparison between the two of them, congratulating the Philippine president on his anti-drug program in which he has loosed police and paramilitaries to kill at will, resulting in more than 7,000 extrajudicial executions across his country. ?I just wanted to congratulate you,? says Trump, ?because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.? You can feel, I think, his yearning for the powers of an autocrat in that statement, as well as his long-term obsession with the war on drugs.  When Duterte responds by decrying drugs as the ?scourge of my nation,? Trump, in his typical fashion, takes a backhanded whack at his predecessor. (?I… fully understand that and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that…?)

Only then, in full tough-guy mode, does he move on to scourges of his own, bringing up the North Koreans and bragging ? while leaking what was undoubtedly classified information ? that the U.S. has two nuclear subs cruising somewhere off the Korean coast: ?We have a lot of firepower over there.  We have two submarines ? the best in the world ? we have two nuclear submarines ? not that we want to use them at all. I?ve never seen anything like they are, but we don?t have to use this, but [North Korean leader Kim Jong-un] could be crazy so we will see what happens.? In other words, the American president is boasting about being ready for nothing less than nuclear war in Asia, even as he tries to get Duterte to call Chinese President Xi Jinping to put further pressure on Kim.

All in all, it was quite a performance and yet consider it but a toe in the water when it comes to what used to be proudly labeled an ?American lake.?  (As a Tin Pan Alley song title of the World War II era put it, ?To Be Specific, It?s Our Pacific.?)  If you want to take the full plunge into the cold waters of that ocean and of our Asian future ? and believe me, it?s not what you imagine ? then, in his latest piece ?Goodbye Pacific Pivot, Hello Pacific Retreat,? follow John Feffer, author of the dystopian novel Splinterlands, into an era that may be anything but bright for the United States, China, or other Asian lands.

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The Raging Debate On The Difference Between Barbecue And Grilling

Since the very founding of our nation, there?s been a noticeable difference between life in the South and life in the North. And that difference becomes even clearer in the warmer months when folks start cooking meals outside. We?re talking about barbecue.

Barbecue, the coveted cooking method so many of us hold dear to our hearts, is in fact not the same in the mind of a Northerner and that of a Southerner. In the North, the two terms can often be used interchangeably. But in southern or south central states, you had better be talking about meat that?s been cooked low and slow if you use the word barbecue. Just because you?re cooking something on the grill, they say, does NOT mean you?re barbecuing. But don?t take our word for it. Matt Moore, food writer and Southern gentleman, says it best in his book The South?s Best Butts:

?For the Yankees, BBQ in the South is not to be used as a verb. Rather it is a noun. Throwing meat on a grill and slathering it with sauce is never referred to as barbecuing, or barbecue, by any true Southerner. In fact, if you invite me to a barbecue and you don?t serve me slowly smoked pig, I will refer to you properly and promptly as a Yankee. So, instead, when you grill your hamburgers, brats, pork chops, or steaks, invite us to a cookout or simply tell us you are grilling out. Got it? Good.?

So if you?re making burgers, you?re grilling. If you?re cooking a steak, you?re grilling. But if you?re spending hours slow cooking some pork butt, you?re making barbecue. There is another side to this opinion, though, and it might come as a relief to all of you guilty of ?barbecuing? your hamburgers.

According to Meathead Goldwyn, best selling author of Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, barbecue is too global for the South to reserve it to use for their own specialty. 

Meathead told HuffPost: ?The ?that is not barbecue? statement makes my blood boil. I spent 20 years in the wine world as the wine critic for The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and others, and I hate seeing barbecue getting snobby like wine. The divide is false and it is a myth.?

?The fact is that there are many forms of barbecue around the world and it is the presence of smoke that unifies them all,? he writes on his blog Amazing Ribs.

He also made a graphic to illustrate his point: 

Meathead elaborates, ?Barbecue around the world is far too complex and wonderful to be oversimplified like that. It was not invented in the U.S., and it is not exclusive to the U.S. Barbecue is a big word that encompasses grilling and many cooking methods as shown in the illustration above.?

Whichever side of the line you stand on when it comes to barbecue, we can all agree that anything that comes off the grill ? so long as Governor Scott Walker has nothing to do with it ? is worth celebrating. 

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