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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service lost $1.3 billion in the final three months of last year, despite a blizzard of campaign advertising for the fall political elections and a big holiday mail and shipping season.

The loss announced Friday was far less than the $3.3 billion in the comparable quarter the previous fiscal year, but still showed the effects of a continued decline in first-class mailing as customers continue to flock to the Internet for emailing, bill paying and the like.

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In releasing their financial report, postal officials pleaded anew with Congress to give them the flexibility to better manage the agency — including to free it from a mandate that they prepay for expected retiree health care costs.

Considering its operations alone, the agency actually made $100 million delivering the mail — earning $17.7 billion in revenue against $17.6 billion in operating expenses. But the health care funding and some other expenses pushed it to a net loss.

“We can’t continue to operate on a precipice,” the service’s Chief Financial Officer Joe Corbett said in a conference call for reporters.

Read more at Official Wire. By Pauline Jelinek.

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