Judge Reopens Meat Plant

After USDA Shuts It Down A Texas meatpacking plant that supplies the national school lunch program failed a series of salmonella tests and was shut down by the government before a judge allowed it to reopen, a decision that prompted protests yesterday.

The Agriculture Department withdrew its inspectors from the Supreme Beef Processors Inc. plant in Dallas on Tuesday because the plant failed to pass new microbial tests for food-borne pathogens. Meat cannot be sold across state lines unless it is federally inspected, so yanking inspectors effectively shuts a plant.

But U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish in Dallas issued an order later that day requiring the inspectors to return to the plant pending a Dec. 10 hearing.

A&M Broke Safety Rule

COLLEGE STATION, Tex.--One of two crane operators working on the Texas A&M bonfire stack when it collapsed was an A&M student, an apparent violation of a rule that only professional operators may run the cranes.

No evidence has been made public to suggest that operation of the crane played a role in causing the Nov. 18 disaster, which killed 12 people and injured 27.

Already, the university has conceded that freshmen and sophomores were allowed to work on the upper levels of the tiered log tower, contrary to written rules.

In addition to that regulation, the hazard control measures listed in the "Bonfire Safety Handbook" call for "professional operation of crane." The stipulation is designed, the book says, to prevent logs swinging into or falling off the stack.

The fact that a student was operating a crane is worth looking into but does not necessarily signal a safety lapse, said Leo E. Linbeck Jr., the construction company executive who is leading the investigation into the accident.

A five-member investigative committee had its introductory meeting yesterday.

Guilty Plea in Torture Case

SANTA FE, N.M.--A man arrested earlier this year as part of an investigation of sexual torture allegations in New Mexico has pleaded guilty to murdering a woman and was sentenced to 20 years in jail, officials said yesterday.

Dennis Roy Yancy, 28, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Marie Parker, who disappeared from a bar in Elephant Butte in southern New Mexico in July 1997. Authorities did not find Parker's body.

Yancy was arrested as part of an investigation after the arrest in March of an acquaintance, 60-year-old David Parker Ray, who has been charged with kidnapping and sexually torturing three women near the New Mexico town of Truth or Consequences.