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Officers' story rebutted at trial

A neighbor of an African immigrant fatally shot by police testified Thursday she heard no voices before a sudden burst of gunfire on the morning Amadou Diallo died in a hail of 41 bullets.

Taking the witness stand in the murder trial of four police officers, Debbie Rivera said she heard nothing before the shooting began. The officers said they had ordered Diallo to stop.

The prosecution appeared to use Rivera's testimony to try to show the officers fired without warning and suggest they had an opportunity to realize Diallo was not a threat.

The trial was adjourned until Monday. Kenneth Boss, 28; Sean Carroll, 36; Edward McMellon, 27; and Richard Murphy, 27, have pleaded innocent to second-degree murder charges in the slaying of Diallo, 22, on Feb. 4, 1999. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Also . . .

ARMY RECRUITMENT: As many as 6,000 high school dropouts a year will get a chance to earn a diploma when they enlist in the Army under a test program to boost recruitment, the Army announced Thursday.

In another experiment, the Army will allow recruits to attend up to two years of college while receiving a $150-a-month stipend, even before they report for active duty. Then, the Army will help pay off tuition loans.

ALASKA AVALANCHES: The worst avalanches to hit Alaska in decades have closed the only highway linking the Kenai Peninsula with Anchorage and the rest of the state, leaving thousands of residents and travelers stranded for a fourth day.

Residents of the Kenai Peninsula were warned Thursday not to expect relief any time soon. Chris Kepler, a maintenance chief for the state, did not know when the highway would reopen.

DOCTOR LOSES LICENSE: New York has taken away the license of obstetrician Allan Zarkin, who carved his initials in a woman's abdomen immediately after he delivered her baby by Caesarian section, Health Commissioner Antonia Novello said Thursday.

The state also fined Beth Israel Medical Center $14,000 for several violations and required that it make changes in its reporting procedures.

Zarkin and the hospital are being sued by Liana Gedz and her husband for more than $5-million.