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World Briefs II

Clinton Forms Panel to Probe Amtrak Labor Dispute

Los Angeles Times
Edgartown, Massachusetts

President Clinton, moving to head off a rail strike that could hamper 500,000 Amtrak commuters throughout the Northeast, created a special three-member emergency board Thursday to investigate the labor dispute and draft a proposal for a settlement.

The action was designed to buy more time for Amtrak and members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance-of-Way Employees union to work out their differences. Clinton acted under the authority of the Railway Labor Act, which empowers a president to prevent the disruption of interstate commerce.

The union, which represents workers who maintain tracks and overpasses, had rejected an offer for binding arbitration from the National Mediation Board and would have been free to call a strike on Sept. 5 - crippling rail service in cities such as New York, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia.

A strike of those proportions "would have an adverse effect on the traveling public and would severely hamper freight rail shipments," the White House said in a statement from Martha's Vineyard, where Clinton is vacationing. "Over 500,000 passengers would be affected."

Clinton's order Thursday creates a 60-day cooling-off period. That time frame gives the emergency panel 30 days to make recommendations for a settlement.

Prosecutor Wants No More Tests On Rifle in King Case

Special to Newsday
Memphis, Tennessee

The chief prosecutor in the James Earl Ray case is asking a court in Memphis, Tenn., to bar any further attempts to perform ballistics tests on the rifle identified as the murder weapon in the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.

Ray's lawyers are demanding more tests, even though all previous examinations have proved inconclusive. Ballistics experts have testified that further tests would be fruitless.

Prosecutor John Campbell filed a motion before Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown, asking for a ban on further tests on the rifle, which Ray admits owning. But action in the case has been temporarily halted because of a turf war between Brown and another Criminal Court judge, John Colton.

Although he has no apparent jurisdiction in the Ray case and cited no basis for interceding, Colton contends that he should handle all court matters in the King assassination except the ballistics tests. Brown was given jurisdiction over the tests in 1994.

Last month, Colton appointed a special court officer to investigate Brown's handling of the Ray case and ordered the officer to take new testimony from two people who "claim to have evidence of a conspiracy to kill Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," according court documents.

Town Tries to Cope In Wake of Shooting Rampage

Los Angeles Times
COLEBROOK, N.H.

Under a cold rain and clouds as bleak as the mood in this small town of 2,500, residents Thursday began trying to figure out how a community and its spirit survive the sudden loss of four leaders - two favorite policemen, a part-time judge and a newspaper editor.

It was as if their killer, a loner and longtime troublemaker named Carl Drega who went on a shooting rampage Tuesday afternoon, had blown a gaping hole through the town. And their job, many said as they struggled with their sadness and fury, was not to let him change their life or to make them afraid and suspicious of anybody eccentric or merely different.

For some, like newspaper owner John Harrigan, who spent the day trying to put out a weekly paper with what seemed like a lifetime's worth of terrible news, it was important to see Drega as an isolated weirdo.

"This was our asteroid. This was a piece of Skylab coming down on us," he said. "If we change, that's letting Drega drive the engine, and he doesn't deserve that kind of status in our community," Harrigan said.

And through it all, they were hugging each other and shaking their heads in disbelief, wondering how it could have been prevented.

"I don't know how you can do anything about this," said one man. "There's no law against carrying a gun. There's no law against being a little weird."

Singer Vows to Stay on Montserrat

Newsday
WOODLANDS, Montserrat

As residents began slowly trickling out of this volcano-devastated Caribbean island, Montserrat's most popular and influential singer returned home Wednesday from a brief U.S. tour.

"Montserrat won't fall," declared Alphonsus "Arrow" Cassell, best known for the hit song "Hot, Hot, Hot." "If I leave, others will leave. I have the ability to live anywhere in the world and I stayed."

Cassell, who recorded a song titled "Ah Just Can't Run Away" last year, lost an office building and a million-dollar home near Plymouth, the former capital of this British colony. But he's been one of the most forceful voices against evacuating an island ravaged by the Soufriere Hills volcano.

"Montserrat will rise again," Cassell said Wednesday.

Life here changed dramatically June 25, when the volcano spewed superheated gases, rock and ash on seven small villages to the northeast of Soufriere Hills, destroying or damaging 175 homes, coming within 200 feet of the airport and claiming its first victims. At least 19 people are believed to have died.

Wednesday, a 100-seat ferry began taking a trickle of the remaining 4,000 residents to Antigua, 25 miles to the northeast. But there were few takers - perhaps 30 - among Montserratians, who once numbered 12,000, as the locals were torn between offers of compensation and shelter by Britain and remaining home.