Suicidal man causes train to derail

A suicidal man parked his SUV on railroad tracks and set off a crash of two commuter trains yesterday that hurled passengers down the aisles and turned rail cars into smoking, twisted heaps of steel, authorities said. At least 10 people were killed and more than 180 injured.

The collision took place just before daybreak on the outskirts of Los Angeles, creating a scene of carnage: Employees at a Costco store rushed to the scene and pulled riders from the tipped-over double-deck cars before the flames reached them. Dazed passengers staggered from the wreckage, some limping. One elderly man on the train was covered in blood and soot, his legs and arms apparently broken.

“I heard a noise. It got louder and louder,” said passenger Diane Brady, 56. “And next thing I knew the train tilted, everyone was screaming and I held onto a pole for dear life. I held on for what seemed like a week and a half it seemed. It was a complete nightmare.”

Dozens of the injured were in critical condition, and more than 120 people were sent to hospitals.



Israel, Palestine peace talks progress

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators achieved significant progress yesterday toward ending violence and resuming peace talks, completing a plan for deploying Palestinian forces in the southern Gaza Strip and aiming for a summit within two weeks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

New violence, however, underscored the fragility of the new momentum for peace.

A Palestinian preschooler in southern Gaza was killed by Israeli gunfire after militants fired a rocket at Israel. Israeli troops shot a Palestinian militant to death and wounded two others in a West Bank arrest raid.

About 100 Jewish settlers disrupted a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian commanders in southern Gaza, throwing stones and slashing tires of participants’ vehicles.

None of this appeared to spoil a new flurry of peace moves offering the prospect of an end to four years of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed, following the Nov. 11 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.



House votes to restrict congressional medals

Only about 300 people have received the Congressional Gold Medal since George Washington got the first one — recent names include Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Nelson Mandela and Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz — but some lawmakers say too many are being handed out.

The House voted yesterday to slow the gold rush by restricting the medal, its highest award, to two a year.

Groups could no longer be honored — that would have excluded the Navajo code talkers of World War II, winners in 2000 — and posthumous medals could be presented only during a 20-year period beginning five years after a person’s death.



Hip-hop label head part of criminal enterprise

The hip-hop label behind music superstars Ashanti and Ja Rule was part of a murderous criminal enterprise that protected its interstate crack and heroin operation with calculated street assassinations, federal authorities charged yesterday.

Label head Irv “Gotti” Lorenzo and his brother Christopher surrendered to the FBI on money-laundering charges yesterday as federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment seeking to confiscate Irv Gotti’s real estate and business holdings.

Gotti’s childhood friend, Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, one of New York’s most notorious drug kingpins, was charged with murder, racketeering and other crimes that prosecutors said were intended to eliminate and intimidate potential witnesses.


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