What's in the News
Hochul nominated to be US Attorney in WNY
May 05 | 2009

With the backing of New York's senior senator, William Hochul has been nominated to serve as the United States Attorney for the Western District of New York.

Hochul was recommended by Sen. Charles Schumer, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that has jurisdiction over all United States Attorney confirmations. Schumer submitted Hochul's name to President Obama.

Hochul is currently an assistant United States Attorney and head of the Western District's National Security Division. He has prosecuted some of the region's highest profile cases, including the corruption trials concerning Laborers Local 91 and the Lackawanna Six.

The Western District United States Attorney position has been vacant since Terrance Flynn, the immediate past district United States Attorney, resigned his post and joined the Harris Beach LLC law firm. Flynn was named to the federal post by former President Bush in 2006.

The Western District is a sweeping region that includes Erie, Niagara, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties.

Hochul has served the Western District since 1991.

"Mr. Hochul has had a long and distinguished career in public service," Schumer said. "His exceptional, innovative legal mind, his commitment to justice, and his extensive experience will make him an outstanding U.S. Attorney for the Western District."

Hochul is the husband of Erie County Clerk Kathleen Hochul.

Before serving the Western District office, which is based out of downtown Buffalo, Hochul was an assistant United States Attorney in Washington. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1981 and his law degree from the University at Buffalo in 1984. Hochul is a past winner of the Attorney General's Award for Exceptional Service.


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EPA: ethanol crops displaces climate-friendly ones
May 05 | 2009

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency says that corn ethanol -- as made today -- wouldn't meet a congressional requirement that ethanol produce 20 percent less greenhouse gas than gasoline. But the agency said it is still more climate friendly than gasoline.

The EPA in its analysis said that even if worldwide land-use changes are taken into account, ethanol would still produce 16 percent less greenhouse gases than the gasoline it is replacing.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said Tuesday that future improvements in production technologies are expected to make ethanol and other biofuels more climate friendly so they can meet the legal requirement. The requirement for a 20 percent improvement in climate impact applies only to ethanol from future production plants and exempts fuel made at existing facilities.

(This version CORRECTS APNewsNow. corrects that ethanol fails to meet congressional mandate, but is still greener than gasoline.)


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Bernanke Sees Hopeful Signs but No Quick Recovery
May 05 | 2009

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben S. Bernanke, said on Tuesday that the economy appeared to be stabilizing on many fronts but cautioned that a recovery was still months away and that "further sizable job losses" will continue even after an upturn begins.

"We continue to expect economic activity to bottom out, then to turn up later this year," Mr. Bernanke told the congressional Joint Economic Committee, according to his prepared remarks.

"Even after a recovery gets under way, the rate of growth of real economic activity is likely to remain below its longer-run potential for a while," he predicted. "We expect that the recovery will only gradually gain momentum and that economic slack will diminish slowly."

Notwithstanding his caveats, the Fed chairman gave his most upbeat assessment since the United States fell into its most severe financial crisis since the Depression and its steepest recession since at least the early 1980s.

He noted that consumer spending, which sank sharply the second half of 2008, actually grew in the first quarter of this year. Sales of existing homes have been "fairly stable" since late last year, in part because plunging home prices have made houses more affordable and interest rates on some fixed-rate mortgages have fallen below 5 percent.

Mr. Bernanke said conditions in credit markets have revived slightly in recent weeks. Homeowners are refinancing mortgages at a rapid clip, and financial institutions have stepped up their sale of securities backed by of credit card loans, automobile debt and student loans.


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U.S. Defense Secretary Asks Saudis for Help in Pakistan
May 05 | 2009

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- As the Obama administration prepares for talks this week with senior leaders from Afghanistan and Pakistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates flew to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to seek help in pushing back Taliban advances in Pakistan that, he said, threaten the very existence of the government in Islamabad.

Mr. Gates said Saudi Arabia "clearly has a lot of influence throughout the region," and he cited its "long-standing and close relationship with Pakistan."

The defense secretary called on Pakistan's allies across the region to assist in countering insurgent successes that represent a growing danger to Pakistan, and Mr. Gates said a goal of this week's meetings with Afghan and Pakistani leaders in Washington would be to reach consensus on the nature of the threat.

In the past, the Pakistani government and its military have been far more focused on their traditional adversary, India, than on the domestic insurgency.

As Mr. Gates concluded talks in Egypt earlier Tuesday, the shadow of Iran's regional ambitions prompted the defense secretary to declare that efforts by the Obama administration to seek better ties with Tehran would not jeopardize its relations with allies in the region.

He stressed that historic American partners in the Middle East would be kept fully informed of Washington's diplomatic efforts toward Iran. The Obama administration was undertaking that effort to reach out to Iran "with its eyes wide open," he said.

"If we encounter a closed fist when we extend our open hand, then we will react accordingly," Mr. Gates said. "Concerns out here of some kind of a 'grand bargain' developed in secret are completely unrealistic and, I would say, are not going to happen."


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Russia rejects Georgia mutiny claim
May 05 | 2009

Russia has dismissed as "insane" claims that it was behind a mutiny at a military base in Georgia on the eve of Nato war games planned in the former Soviet state.
Moscow's response on Tuesday came hours after dozens of Georgian tanks and armoured vehicles surrounded the Mukhrovani base in the Gori region, bringing a mutiny among 500 soldiers to an end.

The commander of the tank base had been arrested and other soldiers were being questioned, Georgia's interior ministry said.

"It's over. Most of the people have surrendered. A few people have escaped," Shota Utiashvili, an interior ministry spokesman, said.

'Coup plot'

Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's president, had suggested Russia was behind the mutiny, saying those involved had "connections with special forces in a specific country known to us".

In depth

A thorny 'rose revolution'
Timeline: Georgia

"I am asking and demanding from our northern neighbour to refrain from provocations," he said.

Georgia's interior ministry earlier said it had uncovered a plot, ordered and financed by Russia, to overthrow the government.

But Grigory Karasin, Russia's deputy foreign ministry, said Saakashvili's government was "trying to shift their domestic problems onto Russia".

"Instead of dialogue inside the country, the Georgian leadership is trying to accuse Russia of totally insane things," he said.


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Pakistan must show commitment to fight militants-US
May 05 | 2009
WASHINGTON, May 5 (Reuters) - Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to defeating al Qaeda and other militants on its soil, a top U.S. official said on Tuesday, reflecting U.S. concern about Taliban influence in the nuclear-armed country.

"Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders," U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the U.S., special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in testimony prepared for delivery to a congressional committee.

"Security assistance for Pakistan has to show results," he added, suggesting that the United States may tie an increase in aid to Pakistan to benchmarks in a variety of areas.

"The administration intends to implement measures of performance in its economic, social and military assistance to Pakistan," he said, saying such conditions must not worsen "the 'trust deficit' that plagues" U.S.-Pakistani relations.

U.S. officials have become increasingly worried about the strength of Pakistan's Taliban militants, who have advanced beyond their Swat valley stronghold to Buner valley, which is just 60 miles (100 km) northwest of the capital, Islamabad.

Pakistani security forces launched an offensive to expel militants from Buner and another district on April 26. About 180 militants have been killed, according to the military, although there has been no independent confirmation.

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