FAA lists 149 towers slated for closing
WASHINGTON, March 22 (UPI) -- The Federal Aviation Administration released a list Friday of 149 control towers at small airports across the United States that are to be closed to save money.
The FAA said all of the towers are staffed by contracting companies, The Wall Street Journal reported. All are at airports with fewer than 10,000 commercial arrivals and departures every year.
The agency is losing $637 million in the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester.
The FAA had originally planned to close 189 towers but cut the list by 40 after comment from airports.
Officials said 24 of the towers are at airports that are likely to get flights diverted from nearby major airports or are in areas with critical airspace, and 16 are funded under a separate congressional mandate.
The closings are expected to begin April 7 and last for a month.
Senate shoots down Ryan's budget
WASHINGTON, March 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate shot down U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's budget in a 59-40 vote, officials said.
Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., forced a vote on Ryan's budget Thursday night, The Hill reported.
The budget failed on a 59-40 vote, with five Republicans voting with Democrats against Ryan's plan, which passed the House Thursday morning 221-207 vote.
Ryan's budget featured tax code reform that included a reduces tax rate for those in the highest tax bracket.
"Enough is enough. Republicans received a vote on their extreme proposal; now that it has failed once more, it's time for Republicans to work with Democrats to enact a budget that reflects our values of fairness and opportunity for all," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said after the vote.
The Senate is to vote on a Democrat budget late Friday or early Saturday, The Hill said.
The budget now being considered was put forth by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., along with Murray and includes nearly $1 trillion in new taxes.
"We're going to finish the budget before we leave here for the Easter break," Reid said this week. "That is for sure. My caucus knows this."
Afghanistan: 43 militants killed
KABUL, Afghanistan, March 22 (UPI) -- Forty-three Taliban fighters died in a massive operation by Afghan forces overnight Friday in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, local authorities say.
Government forces took control of various checkpoints Taliban militants had controlled for the previous week, Khaama Press reported.
Fighting began about 8 p.m. Thursday and lasted until about 3 a.m. Friday, said Dawlat Mohammad Khawaar, the governor of Wardoj district where the clashes occurred.
There were no reports of casualties among Afghan forces or civilians. A Taliban spokesman claimed several Afghan police vehicles were destroyed.
A spokesman for the provincial governor said government soldiers seized weapons and explosives.
Wardoj district has seen numerous clashes between government and militant forces in recent months, causing nearly 300 families to flee the area.
Pope urges peace, fighting poverty
VATICAN CITY, March 22 (UPI) -- Pope Francis called on members of Roman Catholic Church's diplomatic service Friday to fight against poverty and work for peace.
The pope's comments came during his first audience with ambassadors of the Holy See, headquarters of the church, ANSA reported.
Francis asked the ambassadors to "work to build peace" and said "there can be no peace without truth."
The pope appealed to his audience to "protect those who suffer as a result of poverty."
Francis said there are "many poor people ... still in the world" and told the diplomatic corps to "guard those who suffer because of indigence."
Netanyahu apologizes for 2010 deaths
Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spent about half an hour on the telephone during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Israel, U.S. officials said. Obama joined the conversation at one point.
Erdogan accepted the apology, officials said, and Netanyahu's acknowledgement of "operational mistakes" during Israel's stopping of the flotilla in 2010.
Netanyahu made the call from a trailer at the airport shortly before Obama's departure, The Wall Street Journal reported.
"In light of the Israeli investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational errors, Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation," Netanyahu's office said in a statement said.
Turkey has long been one of Israel's few allies in the Middle East but the deaths in 2010 after Israeli forces boarded the boats strained the two countries' relationship.