N.Y. Transit Strike Threatened

NEW YORK--A potential transit workers' strike that could begin Wednesday could strand 3.5 million commuters at the height of the holiday shopping season, and negotiations to avert a walkout continued yesterday.

The city's subways and buses were halted by strikes in 1966 and 1980 that left New York in turmoil.

The Transport Workers Union seeks a 9 percent pay increase each year for three years for its 33,000 members; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority offered a 9.25 percent wage increase over four years.

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) said he would hold the union responsible for any "illegal" strike and expressed outrage over an apparent attempt at subway sabotage.

On Friday, an illegally turned track switch would have diverted an 8th Avenue Line subway train from a local to an express track, but a fail-safe device shut down the power, averting a possible collision during evening rush hour, Giuliani said.

"The person that did that is a criminal," he said. "I will hold the union accountable for it."

There was no immediate response from the union on the incident.

* SACRAMENTO--Kevin R. Patterson, who is accused of plotting to blow up two massive propane tanks in a bid to overthrow the federal government, was ordered held without bail on firearms charges. Federal agents believe Patterson, 42, and co-defendant Charles D. Kiles, 49, plotted to blow up the propane storage tanks in suburban Elk Grove in an attempt to create civil unrest that would lead to the toppling of the government.

* PORTLAND, Ore.--Federal immigration officials have begun to investigate why a 15-year-old Chinese refugee who was granted political asylum more than six weeks ago remains locked in a juvenile jail. The girl was among 105 people, including 37 juveniles, detained off the coast of Guam in February.

* AUGUSTA, Ga.--A former high school Spanish teacher who admitted bilking students out of $80,000 for a trip that left them stranded in Europe was sentenced to 30 years in prison Friday. Vanessa Velez-Cruz, 48, also was ordered to pay restitution of $224,774.

* ATHENS, Ga.--Homeless Tyrone White, 40, took shelter in a garbage bin and was close to being compacted when trash truck driver Paul Hodge spotted White's hand reaching up through the refuse and stopped the blades just in time. "That guy was just lucky, really lucky," Hodge said.

* NAPA, Calif.--Silverio Espinoza, 49, burst into his estranged wife's house, fatally shot his 19-year-old daughter, Anjelina, and her boyfriend, Philip Lester, 21, before he was shot and killed by police, authorities said. Espinoza also beat and shot his wife and shot her 26-year-old daughter-in-law, 6-year-old granddaughter and a neighbor before ramming a police car, pinning an officer inside and opening fire. Police returned fire and killed him.