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In brief: U.S. sues Southwest Airlines over plane maintenance

From Wire Reports

DALLAS – The federal government is suing Southwest Airlines Co. after failing to reach a settlement with the carrier over allegations that repairs to dozens of planes didn’t meet safety standards.

The Justice Department sued Southwest on Monday in federal district court in Washington state. The lawsuit seeks to enforce $12 million in civil penalties that the Federal Aviation Administration announced in late July.

The government said that starting in 2006 Southwest hired a contractor to make extensive repairs on 44 planes to prevent the aluminum skin from cracking. The FAA says the contractor, Aviation Technical Services Inc. of Everett, failed to follow proper procedures.

The Southwest case is the second-largest penalty that the FAA has ever sought against an airline, behind only a $24.2 million case against American Airlines.

Homeland Security tightens screening

WASHINGTON – Concerned that Europeans who joined Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria might try to launch terrorist attacks in the West, Homeland Security officials boosted screening Monday of people traveling to the United States on Western passports.

Officials will seek “to learn more about travelers from countries from whom we do not require a visa,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement.

Intelligence officials say more than 3,000 Europeans have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside Islamic State and other militant groups since 2011.

U.S. officials are especially concerned because many of the fighters come from England, Belgium, France and Germany, and thus can travel easily.

Citizens of so-called visa-waiver countries do not need to apply overseas for a visa to enter the United States, a process that normally entails checking international terrorism databases. The travelers instead complete an online information form at least 72 hours before departing.

In addition to full name, passport number and travel plans, passengers are now required to list the names of their parents, city of birth, contact and employer information, national identification number, aliases and any other types of citizenship they hold.

Hit-and-run suspect had criminal record

SANTA ANA, Calif. – The driver arrested in the deaths of three 13-year-old girls as they were trick-or-treating on Halloween night had been convicted of hit-and-run and drunken driving just two months earlier and was behind the wheel even though his license had been suspended, court records show.

In both cases, police say, Jaquinn Bell, 31, was driving with his own children, ages 14 and 17, in the car.

Santa Ana police revealed new details Monday about the latest incident. They said Bell never hit the brakes after slamming into the young trick-or-treaters Friday around 6:45 p.m. He later abandoned his Honda SUV in a nearby retail parking lot, running off with his children.

He was arrested midday Sunday and police said they were trying to determine whether he was intoxicated at the time of the crash. Bell is being held on $500,000 bail and is expected to be formally charged with felony hit-and-run driving this week.

Bell’s criminal record dates to 2009 when he was placed on probation after pleading guilty in a domestic violence case. Since then, court records show he has violated probation seven times and that he has usually been punished with short jail sentences and orders to attend substance abuse and child endangerment treatment programs.

Twin sisters Lexia and Lexandra Perez and their friend, Andrea Gonzales, were out for a night of trick-or-treating when they were struck while crossing Fairhaven Avenue at Old Grand Street.

Delaware student shot, suspect at large

DOVER, Del. – A student was shot at a residence hall near Delaware State University on Monday, prompting police to lock down the campus for nearly three hours before determining the shooting was an isolated act of violence.

The victim, a male student, was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, said Kay Sass, Dover emergency management coordinator.

The shooter remained at large late Monday.

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