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AP Top News at 4:05 a.m. EDT

Little vetting of pilots for mental health, US experts say
WASHINGTON (AP) - Despite U.S. and international regulations requiring that airline pilots be screened for mental health problems, little effective, real-world checking takes place, pilots and safety experts say. The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 into an Alpine mountain, which killed all 150 people aboard, has raised questions about the mental state of the co-pilot. Authorities believe the 27-year-old German deliberately sought to destroy the Airbus A320 as it flew Tuesday from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.


Arabs inch closer to old dream of joint Arab force
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) - Arab leaders meeting this weekend in this Egyptian Red Sea resort are moving closer than ever to creating a joint Arab military force, a sign of a new determination among Saudi Arabia, Egypt and their allies to intervene aggressively in regional hotspots, whether against Islamic militants or spreading Iranian power. Creation of such a force has been a longtime goal that has eluded Arab nations in the 65 years since they signed a rarely used joint defense pact. And there remains reluctance among some countries, particularly allies of Iran like Syria and Iraq - a reflection of the divisions in the region.


Senate OKs Republican balanced-budget plan, following House
WASHINGTON (AP) - Republicans muscled a balanced-budget plan through the Senate early Friday, positioning Congress for months of battling President Barack Obama over the GOP's goals of slicing spending and dismantling his health care law. Working into Friday's pre-dawn hours, senators approved the blueprint by a near party-line 52-46 vote, endorsing a measure that closely follows one the House passed Wednesday. Both budgets embody a conservative vision of shrinking projected federal deficits by more than $5 trillion over the coming decade, mostly by cutting health care and other benefit programs and without raising taxes.


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Iraqi Sunni tribe wages costly battle against IS group
DULUIYAH, Iraq (AP) - The consequences of the al-Jabouri tribe's decision to ally with Iraq's Shiite-led government against their fellow Sunnis in the Islamic State group are etched on row after row of gravestones in this palm-shaded town by the Tigris River. As Khamis Daari paces the cemetery he points out the final resting place of his son Ali, killed in December alongside scores of others who battled the IS group. A few plots over lies Yazen al-Abeelah, a playful three-year-old killed when a rocket hit his home. Mahmoud Salama, 80, is said to have battled bravely alongside fighters half his age, only to die in an explosion.


Utility: Inspectors found faulty work before NYC blast
NEW YORK (AP) - An hour before an apparent gas explosion sent flames soaring and debris flying at a Manhattan apartment building, injuring 19 people, utility company inspectors decided the work being done there was faulty. The blast on Thursday in the East Village caused the building's collapse, and largely destroyed another structure. It left four people in critical condition, more than a dozen others injured and one family searching for a loved one.


Complex US-Iran ties at heart of complicated Mideast policy
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. and Iranian diplomats gather at a Baroque palace in Europe, a historic nuclear agreement within reach. Over Iraq's deserts, their militaries fight a common foe. Leaders in Washington and Tehran, capitals once a million miles from each other in ideological terms, wrestle for the first time in decades with the notion of a rapprochement. Yet the old adversaries are locked in proxy war across an ever more volatile region. In Syria, the United States arms insurgents seeking to oust the Iran-backed government. In Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and elsewhere, Iran supports militant groups determined to end Israel's existence. And now in Yemen, the U.S. is backing a military intervention by Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia against a Shiite rebellion aided by Iran.


Thai junta leader to fight forced labor in fish industry
BANGKOK (AP) - Thailand's junta leader has vowed to take legal action against companies using forced labor, after an Associated Press investigation revealed that fish caught by enslaved migrant workers was being exported from Thai ports to global markets. Speaking in an exclusive interview with the English-language Bangkok Post newspaper, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha acknowledged he had seen this week's AP article and said his government was stepping up efforts to combat the scourge and prosecute those responsible.


Fiancee of ex-NFL player Hernandez due to be called in trial
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) - The fiancee of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez is due to be called to testify by prosecutors in his murder trial, two people with knowledge of the matter told The Associated Press. Shayanna Jenkins, 25, was granted immunity by the court in February, which means she can be compelled to testify or face time behind bars. There had been a question about whether prosecutors would call Jenkins, who has been in a relationship with Hernandez, 25, since high school and is the mother of his 2-year-old daughter.


Critters found in Antarctic ice shows how tenacious life is
DECEPTION ISLAND, Antarctica (AP) - Deep below the ice, far from the playful penguins and other animals that bring tourists to Antarctica, is a cold and barren world that by all indications should be completely void of life. But recently, scientists researching melting ice watched a half-foot-long (15-centimeter) fish swim by. Not long after that, they saw shrimp-like creatures.


Bo knows when not to change a thing; can Irish slay Goliath?
Bo Ryan is no fan of change. He said so himself answering the question - "What's the most important change your team needs to make here?" - as he left the locker room to start the second half, down by two to North Carolina in Thursday's Sweet 16 matchup.