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WASHINGTON – A Senate committee today voted along party lines to confirm Buffalo native Thomas E. Perez as labor secretary, likely prompting a confirmation battle on the Senate floor in the coming weeks.In a 12-10 vote, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved the nomination of Perez, a longtime government lawyer who currently serves as assista…

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Plans to eliminate dozens of school psychologists, social workers and other student support staff from next year’s Buffalo schools budget were scrapped Wednesday in response to concerns from parents and school leaders.The district also reversed course on controversial plans to end maintenance of the Johnnie B. Wiley stadium, which serves both student and community athlet…

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Nothing, not the threat of deportation, not the ensuing 10-year legal battle, not even six years in the Batavia detention center, made Carlos Garcia waver.Even while representing himself – he didn’t get a lawyer until a federal appeals court appointed one eight years into his case – he never gave up on his dream of becoming a U.S. citizen.Three weeks ago, federal imm…

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Accident. Fire. Terrorism.Sometime this summer, high-level, weapons-grade radioactive waste is expected to pass through New York State – maybe through the Buffalo Niagara region – on flatbed trucks traveling from Ontario to a South Carolina facility. Local environmental activists are concerned about the inherent risks in the transport and that the public is unaware tha…

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Buffalo rolled out the red carpet for its newest polar bear cub Wednesday.But Kali’s time at the Buffalo Zoo may be short-lived.“As far as we know today, the decision is just to keep Kali here through the summer. I don’t think they have decided where he will go next – that hasn’t been determined,” said Donna M. Fernandes, the zoo’s president, referring to the…

ALBANY – A group of state lawmakers Tuesday offered an olive branch to Canadian Peace Bridge officials, urging them to keep on track a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’’ to begin a historic pilot project that allows U.S. customs agents onto Canadian soil to inspect American-bound cargo trucks.The letter, signed by five area Democratic members of the Assembly and on…

A number of civic organizations are sponsoring a candidates forum at Niagara Falls Public Library tonight at 6. Here's the Niagara Falls Block Club Council's Facebook post about the event. For more info on the candidates, check out this rundown on our School Zone blog.

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Before Antoine J. Garner was sentenced to 18 years in prison Tuesday for three separate violent crimes, his attorney told the court that the sentencing would close the book in his client’s case.But Leslie L. Brill, the mother of Amanda L. Wienckowski, believes one more chapter still needs to be written – the mysterious death of her daughter in 2009.That chapter would i…

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Peter Odrobina’s achievements as a coach at John F. Kennedy High School in Cheektowaga, impressive as they were, took a back seat Monday as friends, colleagues and former players remembered Odrobina as they had come to know him.“Coach O” retired in 2005, after a lengthy career as a health and physical education teacher and coach of several sports, primarily in the Ch…

The Buffalo school district has rolled out a preliminary $797 million base budget for the next school year that would increase spending by $14 million despite a net loss of staff positions.“We’re cutting staff to cut costs to pay for structural deficits that are beyond our control,” said Chief Financial Officer Barbara J. Smith.The $797 million budget does not includ…

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department sued Niagara County on Monday, alleging that its Sheriff’s Office discriminated against a pregnant corrections officer in 2007 by requiring her to take an unwanted leave of absence rather than transferring her to a position with no contact with inmates.The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Buffalo, alleges that the county discrim…

Mayor Paul Dyster's administration is on tap to update city lawmakers today about another vacancy atop the city's engineering department. Jeffrey Skurka was fired from the post of city engineer, the Niagara Gazette reported April 30. **5:45 p.m. correction: There has been no update about the engineering vacancy. That was my mistake in reviewing the agenda. Dyster…