National Briefs | U.S. religious identities shift

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WASHINGTON -- One-fifth of U.S. adults say they are not part of a traditional religious denomination, new data from the Pew Research Center show, evidence of an unprecedented reshuffling of Americans' spiritual identities that is shaking up fields from charity to politics.

Their numbers have increased dramatically over the past two decades, according to the study released Tuesday. About 19.6 percent of Americans say they are "nothing in particular," agnostic or aetheist, up from about 8 percent in 1990. One-third of adults under 30 say the same. Pew offered people a list of more than a dozen possible affiliations, including "Protestant," "Catholic," "something else" and "nothing in particular."

For the first time, Pew also reported that the number of Americans identifying themselves as Protestant dipped below half, at 48 percent. But the United States is still very traditional when it comes to religion, with 79 percent of Americans identifying with a traditional faith group.

Cleric pleads not guilty

NEW YORK -- A radical Muslim cleric whose sermons influenced shoe bomber Richard Reid in his attempt to blow up a U.S. jetliner pleaded not guilty to various terrorism charges during his first appearance in a New York courtroom Tuesday after being extradited from Britain.

Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, 54, a naturalized British citizen who is better known by the alias Abu Hamza Masri, appeared in federal court in Lower Manhattan and is charged with conspiring in a 1998 kidnapping of American and other tourists in Yemen and in trying to help set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon.

Charges in mortgage fraud

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. charged 530 people with targeting homeowners in mortgage schemes that cost the victims more than $1 billion, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday.

More than 73,000 homeowners around the country were affected, the Justice Department said in a statement. The cases, brought over the past year, included "foreclosure rescue schemes" that take advantage of those who have fallen behind on payments, according to the statement.

Wall Street pay still high

NEW YORK -- Even as the financial industry in New York has slashed jobs by the thousands, the average worker who remains is collecting a near-record paycheck.

In a report released Tuesday, the New York state Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, said that the average pay package of securities industry employees grew slightly last year and was up 16.6 percent over the past two years, to $362,950. Wall Street's total compensation rose 4 percent last year to more than $60 billion.

Skydiver cancels 2nd try

ROSWELL, N.M. -- Blame it on the wind. Again.

For the second straight day, extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner aborted his planned death-defying 23-mile free fall because of the weather, postponing his quest to become the world's first supersonic skydiver until at least Thursday.

CEO fined for tree-cutting

WASHINGTON --A few years after Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, was penalized for cutting down 130 trees to improve the view from his Potomac, Md., estate, one of his high-powered neighbors in the Merry-Go-Round Farm community, Lockheed Martin chief Robert Stevens, is coming under fire for clear-cutting nearly an acre of protected land.

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