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Marines halt search for 8 missing troops, all presumed dead

SAN DIEGO — Eight troops missing after their landing craft sank off the Southern California coast during a training exercise are presumed dead, the Marine Corps announced Sunday.

The Marines said they had called off the search that started late Thursday afternoon when the amphibious assault vehicle sank with 15 Marines and one Navy sailor aboard. Eight Marines were rescued, but one later died and two are in critical condition.

The 26-ton, tank-like craft took on water and quickly sank in hundreds of feet of water — too deep for divers — making it difficult to reach.

“It is with as heavy heart that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort,” said Col. Christopher Bronzi, commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

All of the Marines aboard were attached to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at nearby Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego. They ranged in age from 19 to early 30s and all were wearing combat gear, including body armour and flotation vests, according to Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

The craft was one of 13 amphibious assault vehicles that had just completed an exercise. It was heading back to a Navy ship when it began taking on water about a half-mile from the Navy-owned island off San Diego.

Troops on board two other amphibious assault vehicles responded quickly but couldn’t stop the sinking, Osterman said at a Friday news conference.

Over the course of the search, dozens of helicopters and ships searched more than 1,000 square nautical miles (2,590 square kilometres) of sea.

Efforts will now turn to finding and recovering the service members and investigating the circumstances surrounding the sinking, officials said.

The names of the victims will be released 24 hours after their families are notified.

The vehicle, nicknamed an “amtrac” — short for “amphibious tractor” — was designed to be buoyant and had three water-tight hatches and two large troop hatches. The Marines use the vehicles to transport troops and their equipment from Navy ships to land.

The vehicles have been used since 1972, and continually refurbished.

The Marine Corps commandant, Gen. David Berger, suspended waterborne operations of all of its more than 800 amphibious assault vehicles across the branch until the cause of the accident is determined. He said the move was out of “an abundance of caution.”

It was the deadliest of several accidents involving amtracs that have occurred during Camp Pendleton exercises in recent years.

In 2017, 14 Marines and one Navy sailor were hospitalized after their vehicle hit a natural gas line at the camp, igniting a fire that engulfed the landing craft.

And in 2011, a Marine died when an amphibious assault vehicle in a training exercise sank offshore of the camp.

The Associated Press

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General News

Cohen’s book foreword: Trump ‘wouldn’t mind if I was dead’

NEW YORK — Michael Cohen’s memoir about President Donald Trump will be released Sept. 8 by Skyhorse Publishing, which confirmed the news Thursday to The Associated Press. The book is called “Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump.”

“‘Disloyal’ is the most devastating business and political horror story of the century,” according to a Skyhorse statement shared with the AP. “It is a story that you haven’t read in newspapers, or on social media, or watched on television. These are accounts that only someone who worked for Trump around the clock for a decade — not a few months or even a couple of years — could know.”

Earlier in the day, Cohen had released the book’s foreword, writing of his estranged former boss, “He wouldn’t mind if I was dead.” He did not list a publisher for the book and, as of midday Thursday, it was not listed on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com.

Cohen is completing the last two years of a three-year prison sentence at home after pleading guilty to campaign finance charges and lying to Congress. He was released from prison in May amid coronavirus fears, only to be returned in July after making it known that he planned to publish “Disloyal.” The U.S. government dropped its effort to silence Cohen late last month after an agreement was reached between government lawyers and Cohen attorney Danya Perry that lifted a ban on Cohen speaking publicly.

Cohen’s charges stemmed from his efforts to arrange payouts during the 2016 presidential race to keep the porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal from speaking out about their alleged extramarital affairs with Trump, who has denied the affairs. He has said that Trump directed him to make the payments.

Skyhorse has a history of taking on books by controversial public figures, including a memoir this spring by Woody Allen that had been dropped by Hachette Book Group.

Hillel Italie, The Associated Press

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General News

Prosecutors dispute Jeffrey Epstein’s ex-girlfriend’s claims

NEW YORK — Prosecutors on Thursday disputed claims by lawyers for a British socialite that they are too slowly releasing evidence and improperly withholding the names of women who were abused by financier Jeffrey Epstein while they were children.

In court papers, Manhattan prosecutors defended their handling of charges brought last month against Epstein’s ex-girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, while saying they are “deeply concerned” by the actions of Maxwell’s lawyers.

“To date, the defendant has yet to ask the Government a single substantive question” about evidence, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan. “The Government is also prepared to engage in good faith discussions with the defence about an appropriate schedule for disclosure.”

Maxwell, 58, has pleaded not guilty to charges that she recruited three girls, including one who was 14, and joined Epstein in the abuse in the 1990s.

Her lawyers said earlier this week in a letter to the judge that they can’t properly investigate the charges against Maxwell because prosecutors won’t tell them the identities of the three accusers.

They also said Maxwell is being treated unfairly at a federal jail in Brooklyn, where “uniquely onerous conditions” are preventing her from adequately preparing for a trial scheduled for next July.

Prosecutors say they are protecting the identities of sexual assault victims and are under no legal obligation to immediately identify them.

The government said it has already given defence lawyers over 165,000 pages of evidence, including search warrant applications and subpoena returns, even though the deadline to turn over the material was still a week away.

And they suggested defence lawyers could figure out the identities of the three accusers since the indictment lists relevant time periods and events and references Maxwell’s conversations and interactions with victims, along with identifying where they occurred.

They also expressed doubts about the ability of the defence lawyers to adhere to rules about secrecy of evidence prior to trial, saying they were “deeply concerned” by recent actions by Maxwell’s lawyers.

They said the defence had “publicly claimed in a civil filing that they purportedly had received ‘critical new information’ from the criminal case that it could not disclose” because of its secrecy agreement regarding evidence in the criminal case.

Yet, prosecutors noted, Maxwell’s lawyers also said publicly that they want to modify their secrecy agreement to use materials from the criminal case in the civil case.

Prosecutors said the secrecy deal “expressly precludes” that.

Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press

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Canada

Pandemic motivating more parents to get their kids the flu shot, UBC study finds

VANCOUVER — A new study from the University of British Columbia suggests the COVID-19 pandemic may be motivating more parents to get their children a seasonal flu vaccine.

Published in the Journal of Pediatrics last week, the study surveyed 3,000 families from Canada, the United States, Japan, Israel, Spain and Switzerland.

The researchers found that 54 per cent of parents planned to vaccinate their children — up 16 percentage points from the previous year.

The study determined parents were more likely to get their child the flu shot if they thought there was potential for the child to catch COVID-19, and if their child was already up-to-date on other vaccinations.

Dr. Ran Goldman, the study’s lead author, notes that public health officials around the world are concerned about the potentially harmful combination of COVID-19 and flu season.

In a phone interview with The Canadian Press, Goldman says immunizing children will be “critical” in protecting the population from both infections.

He said his team was “very encouraged” by the results of the study, but still would like to see a slightly higher proportion of parents willing to give their children the flu shot.

Goldman said the magic threshold for a vaccine to be highly effective is about 70 per cent.

Although he believes that goal can be reached, Goldman said the media and the scientific community must work harder to help dispel myths and disinformation about vaccine use.

“Vaccination is the world’s greatest public health achievement,” Goldman said, stressing the impact vaccines have had on global mortality rates over the last century.

“If we reach 70 to 80 per cent of the population — not even 100 per cent — I’d be really thrilled.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published August 13, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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