TEL AVIV, Israel, March 20 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama touched down at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv Wednesday to begin his first visit as president to the U.S. ally in the Middle East.
U.S. officials said the three-day visit would help set the tone of U.S.-Israeli relationship for the next four years.
The president's plane landed a few minutes early under hazy skies.
The state visit includes trips to Yad Vashem, Mount Herzl and the Israel Museum, as well as bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
In Jerusalem, Obama will attend a reception at the President's Residence, followed by a meeting with Netanyahu at his residence.
The visit, announced last month, includes discussions on critical topics such as Syria, Iran's nuclear ambitions and the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, aides to the two leaders said.
8th Marine dies from Nevada blast injuries
RENO, Nev., March 20 (UPI) -- The Pentagon said Tuesday it is temporarily halting the use of 60 mm mortars like the one that exploded during a training exercise, killing eight Marines.
The explosion late Monday in western Nevada killed seven Marines immediately. An eighth man died Tuesday of his injuries, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
The Marines were based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina but were on a training exercise at Hawthorne Army Depot in the high desert in western Nevada. The Marines were withholding the names of the dead pending notification of their families, CNN said.
"Let me say to the families of our Marines and sailors that our hearts go out to you," Brig. Gen. James Lukeman, commander of the 2nd Marine Division, said in a statement. "We appreciate your sacrifice, and we'll do all that we can to continue to support you."
Mark Earnest, a spokesman for Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, said four of the survivors were in serious condition, two in fair condition and one had been released from the hospital. One of the injured was a sailor.
Worker freed from waist-deep mud
NEW YORK, March 20 (UPI) -- A construction worker on a New York subway project was freed Wednesday after being trapped in a 75-foot deep tunnel in waist-deep mud, officials said.
Authorities said it wasn't immediately known how the unidentified worker became stuck or what his medical condition was when he was rescued at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, The New York Times reported. The worker was conscious and was taken to a hospital.
The rescue involved 130 emergency personnel and lasted four hours before the man was lifted from the hole in a basket suspended from a crane on the surface.
The episode at the construction site began when the worker's foot somehow became lodged in a frame being used in the project and sank into the mud, Ron Spadafora, an assistant fire chief, told the Times
Fire Department spokesman said the worker had been secured with a rope and responders were working to clear debris to free him. Consolidated Edison brought in a truck equipped with an industrial vacuum to help suck out the mud and debris in hopes of helping to free the worker.
S. Korean bank, broadcaster computers hit
SEOUL, March 20 (UPI) -- Several South Korean banks and TV stations were hit by massive computer outages Wednesday as the country faced rising tensions with North Korea, officials said.
The Seoul government blamed a malicious code from unknown hackers for the outages but no other determination had yet been made, Yonhap News reported. It was not immediately clear whether North Korea was involved.
The South Korean defense ministry's computer networks reportedly were operating normally as of late afternoon.
The National Computing and Information Agency, which oversees computer networks at government organizations, also said their systems were working normally.
The South Korean National Police Agency said three broadcasters -- KBS, MBC and YTN -- three banks -- Shinhan, Nonghyup and Jeju -- and two insurance firms had reported their computer systems suddenly stopped around 2 p.m., Yonhap reported.
Woman fired for selling Girl Scout cookies
WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) -- A Washington woman said she was fired from her food services job at American University for selling her daughter's Girl Scout cookies while on the job.
Tracy Lewis said she had been selling the cookies for the past three years of the 28 years she worked on the campus, most recently at the Eagle's Nest convenience store.
"I had the cookies on a cart, and I would never ask anyone to buy them, " Lewis said."But, If they wanted to buy some, I would sell them."
In a letter from the Bon Appetit Management Company, her manager accused her of "gross misconduct by soliciting," and "operating a cash business selling Girl Scout cookies over the counter, which violates company policy," WTTG-TV, Washington, reported Friday.