National briefs: Shoe bomb alert issued

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WASHINGTON -- U.S. airlines have been warned by the Department of Homeland Security about credible threats that shoe bombs may be used to attack commercial passenger jets, an agency official said.

The department told airport screeners to check passengers' shoes for traces of explosives, said the official, who wasn't authorized to talk publicly about an ongoing investigation. There was no indication of a specific bomb plot, according to the official.

Homeland Security's alert followed the U.S. government's Feb. 6 ban on all liquids, gels and aerosols from carry-on luggage on flights between the U.S. and Russia ahead of the Olympics. The restrictions were triggered by warnings that terrorists might hide bomb-making materials in toothpaste tubes for assembly into an explosive device during or after flights.

Solitary confinement

NEW YORK -- New York state has agreed to sweeping changes that will curtail the widespread use of solitary confinement to punish prison infractions, according to court papers filed Wednesday.

Under the agreement, New York becomes the largest prison system in the United States to bar the use of solitary confinement for disciplining prisoners under 18, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represented the three prisoners whose lawsuit led to the agreement.

Indie bookstores boosted

NEW YORK -- Independent bookstores, with their paper-thin profit margins and competition from Amazon, have found themselves a Daddy Warbucks.

Best-selling author James Patterson has started a program to give away $1 million of his personal fortune to dozens of bookstores, allowing them to invest in improvements, dole out bonuses to employees and expand literacy outreach programs. More than 50 stores across the country will begin receiving cash grants this week.

Music-shooting verdict

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A juror in the Florida trial of a man who fatally shot a teenager in a dispute over loud music said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that three jurors believed the gunman had acted in self-defense, which negated any chance of a first-degree murder conviction.

The jury found Michael Dunn, 47, guilty of three counts of second-degree attempted murder last week for firing into a sport utility vehicle in Jacksonville in November 2012, even as it pulled away. But the jury has been criticized for failing to reach a verdict on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Jordan Davis, 17, one of the four teenagers in the vehicle.

Mr. Dunn, a software developer, was also convicted of one count of shooting into a vehicle after becoming involved in a dispute with the teenagers over the volume of rap music being played in their red Dodge Durango, which was parked next to his car outside a Jacksonville service station convenience store.

Also in the nation ...

Jose Pimental, who was accused of building homemade bombs to wage jihad in New York City against U.S. military personnel and others, pleaded guilty to a state terrorism charge, officials announced Wednesday. ... Police in Springfield, Mo., believe they have found a girl's body at the home of a school coach who is suspected of abducting 10-year-old Hailey Owens. ... The father of a disabled 12-year-old Tennessee girl who died from gangrene and infected bedsores due to neglect was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder.


-- Compiled from news services


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