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Get Those Gifts in the Mail


Don't wait if you have unmailed overseas cards or packages, the U.S. Postal Service advises. As part of its annual guidelines for the holiday mail crunch between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Postal Service recommends that international mail be taken care of as soon as possible. But with the ongoing anthrax investigations and bioterrorism a continued threat, this year's deadlines are "nothing more than approximations due to the current state of national/international affairs," according to Postal Service officials.

In the U.S., parcel post packages should be mailed no later than the first week of December, and priority mail by the third week of December. Express mail should go out by Dec. 21.

The busiest mail day is expected to be Dec. 17, with an anticipated volume of more than 280 million cards and letters. Meanwhile, the Postal Service plans to hire 40,000 temporary workers for the season. During last year's crunch, workers processed 20 billion pieces of mail. Some local post offices will make Sunday deliveries.

Postal Service packaging tips include:

* Print addresses clearly.

* Address packages on one side only, including the words "To" and "From" to differentiate the sender's address from the recipient's; add no extra writing.

* Never guess a ZIP Code. No ZIP Code is better than a wrong one.

* Express Mail delivery is scheduled on Christmas Day in metropolitan areas, where some of the mail carriers will wear Santa suits.

* Use plain air-popped popcorn to cushion contents.

* Use tape that is designed for shipping such as pressure-sensitive tape, nylon-reinforced tape or paper tape.

* Do not use wrapping paper, string, masking tape or cellophane tape on the outside of a box.

* Place an index card inside the package that includes the sender and recipient's address, along with contents list. That helps postal workers who repack boxes that come apart.

* Take packages that weigh 1 or more pounds to a post office for mailing. Do not put them in a mailbox or expect a mail carrier to pick them up.

* Remove batteries from any toys.

For more information: or (800) ASK-USPS ([800] 275-8777).

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