Meat-plant blast kills two in N.C.

GARNER, N.C. - A blast at a Slim Jim meat-products plant in North Carolina yesterday killed two workers whose bodies were found in the rubble of the building that is missing part of its roof.

The explosion critically burned four people, and one worker was still unaccounted for yesterday evening. More than 40 others were taken to hospitals, including three firefighters who needed medical attention after inhaling ammonia gases that left a distinct scent around the sprawling ConAgra Foods Inc. plant just south of Raleigh.

The explosion left gaping holes in the roof. An exterior wall collapsed, smashing cars parked next to the 500,000-square-foot building. Some of the more than 300 workers on duty described chaos after the explosion. Authorities could not say where in the plant the blast happened or what caused it.

ConAgra spokesman Dave Jackson said someone called the plant over the weekend and threatened to start a fire. He said company officials did not believe the threat was connected to the explosion.

- AP

Poker winnings frozen, group says

WASHINGTON - An advocacy group for online poker said yesterday that the federal government had frozen more than $30 million in the accounts of payment processors that handle the winnings of thousands of online poker players.

The Justice Department has long maintained that Internet gambling is illegal, a view that the Poker Players Alliance challenges. The alliance said the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York had told three banks to freeze the accounts.

Documents obtained by the AP show that a judge in the district issued a seizure warrant last week for an account at a Wells Fargo bank in San Francisco, and that a federal prosecutor told a bank in Arizona to freeze an account. A Southern District spokeswoman declined to comment. - AP

Army to shrink warrior care units

NASHVILLE - The Army plans to reduce the size of some of its 36 wounded-warrior units by July 1 and close three by October after tightening standards to stem a flood of patients, a spokesman said yesterday.

The warrior transition units were created in 2007 to address reports of substandard care for wounded, ill, and injured soldiers. The number of soldiers in the units fell from a high of more than 12,000 last June to about 9,500 now as the Army screened patients more closely.

The admissions process was restricted last year to allow into such units only those soldiers who needed help managing a complex medical case and needed more than six months of recovery. - AP

Elsewhere:

George H.W. Bush plans to celebrate his 85th birthday Friday by making a parachute jump in Maine. An aide said the former president would make a tandem jump with a member of the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team.

Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic national chairman, lost his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Virginia yesterday to State Sen. Creigh Deeds.