Small airports sue FAA to retain their towers

Some airports have begun mounting a legal challenge to federal regulators' decision to shut down 149 contractor-operated air-traffic-control towers, citing safety requirements.

The Tucson Airport Authority is still weighing its options in light of the pending closure of the contract tower at Ryan Airfield, spokeswoman Katy Smith said Friday.

The air-traffic-control tower at Ryan is scheduled to close April 7, as part of a plan to close some contractor-operated towers to meet automatic federal budget cuts. The airport will remain open, but pilots will have to coordinate operations via radio.

The Central Illinois Regional Airport, Spokane International Airport in Spokane, Wash., and three airports in Florida have filed suit against the FAA in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. The court has combined the suits into a single case.

The airports argue that the agency has violated a federal law meant to ensure that major changes at airports do not erode safety.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency can't comment on pending litigation.

UPS pays $40M to end online pharmacies probe

SAN FRANCISCO - Shipping company UPS has agreed to pay $40 million to end a federal criminal probe connected to its work for online pharmacies.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday that the Atlanta-based company would also "take steps" to block illicit online drug dealers from using its delivery service.

The DOJ said the fine amount is the money UPS collected from suspect online pharmacies.

Portfolio manager accused in insider-trading case

NEW YORK - A senior portfolio manager for one of the nation's largest hedge funds was arrested Friday, accused of joining an insider-trading conspiracy. The government said the powerhouse investment company founded by billionaire businessman Steven A. Cohen made more than $6 million illegally.

The arrest of Michael Steinberg, 41, broadens the government's inquiry into trading practices at SAC Capital Advisors, which manages $15 billion.

US consumer spending, income rose in February

WASHINGTON - U.S. consumers stepped up spending in February after their income jumped, aided by a stronger job market that offset some of the drag from higher taxes. The gains led economists to predict stronger economic growth at the start of the year.

Consumer spending rose 0.7 percent in February from January, the Commerce Department said Friday. It was the biggest gain in five months and followed a revised 0.4 percent rise in January, which was double the initial estimate.

Americans were able to spend more because their income rose 1.1 percent last month. That followed huge swings in the previous two months, which reflected a rush to pay bonuses and dividends in December before taxes increased.

Feb. unemployment falls in Arizona, 21 other states

WASHINGTON - Unemployment rates fell in 22 U.S. states in February from January, a sign that hiring gains are benefiting many parts of the country. Arizona's dipped by 0.1 percent to 7.9 percent.

The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates rose in 12 states and were unchanged in 16.

Nationally, the unemployment rate slid to a four-year low of 7.7 percent in February, down from 7.9 percent in January. Since November, employers across the country have added an average of 200,000 jobs a month, nearly double the average from last spring.

Staff and wire reports