Holder finds new Alaska case errors

WASHINGTON - Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. asked a federal appeals court yesterday to release two imprisoned former Alaska lawmakers after the Justice Department found that prosecutors improperly handled evidence in their trials on corruption charges.

The move is the second embarrassing retreat for Justice prosecutors since the conviction of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R., Alaska) was tossed out of court in April.

Holder asked that the court send the cases of former Alaska House Speaker Peter Kott and former State Rep. Victor Kohring back to the trial judge. The department is not dropping the charges against the two Republicans, who were convicted in 2007.

Holder made the request after finding that prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence to the defense. Similar errors sank the case against Stevens, and yesterday's actions grew out of a review prompted by the problems with the Stevens prosecution. - AP

GOP gives Obama proposals on cuts

WASHINGTON - Responding to a challenge from President Obama, House GOP leaders sent to the White House yesterday a roster of more than $23 billion in specific spending cuts over five years.

Rather than proposing elimination of the Education Department, as they have in the past, Republicans suggested killing a program that pays for sidewalks, bike paths, and crossing guards as part of the Safe Routes to Schools program. That would save $183 million a year.

They also proposed limiting non-defense agency budgets to inflation-adjusted levels to save $317 billion, with the savings to be produced by trimming all programs.

Among other proposals is to save perhaps $267 milllion a year by eliminating retirement benefits for federal workers who retire before 62. - AP

Kerik accused of lying as nominee

WASHINGTON - Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges of lying to the White House, a case he described online as "unprecedented, selective, and overreaching."

Kerik is charged with two counts of making a false statement to aides of President George W. Bush in late 2004, after Bush had picked Kerik to run the Homeland Security Department. Kerik withdrew that December as the nominee.

He is accused of denying to Bush aides that he had financial dealings with contractors seeking to do business with the city. But prosecutors said contractors spent more than $255,000 renovating Kerik's apartment in 1999 and 2000 while he was New York's corrections commissioner. - AP

Elsewhere:

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said this week that he would devote considerable efforts to boosting citizen participation in disaster preparedness. Part of those efforts, he said, should include a concerted effort by the government to better promote preparedness as a basic American responsibility.

EPA head Lisa Jackson has named a Great Lakes czar to oversee the administration's initiative to restore the lakes' environment. Cameron Davis, president of the Chicago-based environmentalist group Alliance for the Great Lakes, will head the multibillion-dollar effort.