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   SAN DIEGO (AP) — The job is one of the most dangerous in the Marine Corps.

   The four Marines killed Wednesday while clearing unexploded ordnance at California's Camp Pendleton were bomb removal technicians. It is one of the few positions in which the Marine Corps allows team members to quit at any time. That's because their mental focus could mean the difference between life or death, either for themselves or their fellow troops.

   Few quit, despite the inherent risks that come with finding and getting rid of unexploded munitions — whether on the battlefield or on a U.S. base, according to former bomb technicians.

   The four were killed around 11 a.m. during a routine sweep to make a range safer for future training exercises at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, said a Marine official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. There was no live firing on the range at the time.

   Base officials said they would not release details until an investigation into the cause of the accident is concluded. They released the names of the dead Thursday night.

   They were Staff Sgt. Mathew R. Marsh, 28, of Long Beach, Calif., Sgt. Miguel Ortiz, 27, of Vista, Calif., Gunnery Sgt. J. Mullins, 31, of Bayou L'Ourse, La., and Staff Sgt. Eric W. Summers, 32, of Poplar Bluff, Mo.

   One Navy Hospital Corpsman and two Marines near the accident had minor injuries, officials said.

   The bomb disposal community is a small, tight-knit one like no other within the Marine Corps. They are bonded by their fearlessness, mental strength and deep ties from losing so many members over the years, say former bomb technicians.

   The Corps currently has 715 explosive ordnance disposal technicians. During the Iraq war, Marines lost 20 bomb technicians, and another 24 have been killed in Afghanistan.

   The last fatal accident for a Marine bomb technician in the United States was about two decades ago, when one was killed while doing a range sweep at Twenty-Nine Palms Marine Corps base in Southern California, according to the Marine Corps.

   Retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brian Meyer said he was drawn to what is considered to be one of the Marine Corps' most dangerous jobs because of the challenge. Bomb technicians work in a team but are often entrusted to make decisions in the field on their own, such as whether it is safe enough to move unexploded ordnance or defuse a roadside bomb.

   Meyer was injured while trying to dispose of an IED in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on March 14, 2011. The homemade bomb blew off his right hand, right leg and three fingers on his left hand. He's lost more than a dozen fellow bomb technicians and knows about 15 others who have suffered injuries, like himself.

   "It's hard to pick out one specific reason why I wanted to do this job," he said, adding that he would do it all again. "It's not a job in which you call your supervisor to make a decision. You're often the expert. You make the calls and work independently. There's a lot of trust placed in you. You're part of an elite group."

   Those who become bomb technicians generally have already served four years in the Marine Corps. They undergo vigorous mental and physical screenings. The military scrutinizes their personal lives, checking to make sure they do not have any legal issues or other problems that could affect their job performance, said Capt. Maureen Krebs, a Marine Corps spokeswoman.

   "They really only take the most highly qualified Marine since they will be keeping their fellow Marines safe," she said. "If at any time there's an issue, like someone has (post-traumatic stress disorder), or is going through a divorce, they can ask to be removed because obviously safety is huge for this community."

   The Marine Corps does not have a shortage of candidates to fill the slots, Krebs said.

   Meyer said the job is "exhilarating." It requires math, problem-solving, and quick thinking. Some use bomb suits to protect themselves, but the suits can also pose more of a risk because they are cumbersome and easy to trip in, Meyer said. And, he added, they cannot protect against being hit by a direct explosion.

   It is not known whether the four Marines were in bomb suits or what equipment they were using.

   The team usually decides those details depending on the situation, said Meyer, who cleared a range at Pendleton in 2010.

   Explosives on artillery ranges on bases can vary in size, and clearing ranges can be as dangerous as diffusing bombs on the battlefield, Meyer said. Usually, the team marks a point from A to B, deciding what's movable and what's not. The team will group together the movable explosives, and then detonate them.

   "With unexploded ordnance, you can do everything right and stuff can still go sideways only because it's all so unpredictable," he said.

Friday, 15 November 2013 02:46
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   ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Twelve migrants were found dead Friday and 15 were rescued after a boat capsized in western Greece, authorities said, while a coast guard search continued for more possible victims and survivors.

   The Merchant Marine Ministry said the incident occurred early Friday, off the coast of Lefkada, an island in the Ionian Sea and the migrants were presumed to have been headed to nearby Italy. There was no immediate indication of where the voyage originated.

   Ministry officials said the migrants were using a plastic boat that was 7-8 meters (23-26 feet) in length. The survivors were being taken to a hospital on the island for observation.

   Greece is the European Union's busiest transit point for illegal immigration.

   

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NEW YORK (AP) -- All those who marvel at Miguel Cabrera can only wonder what he might've done this year if completely healthy.

Even so, Cabrera was a huge hit in Motown.

Despite being hobbled by all sorts of ailments, the Detroit Tigers slugger won his second straight American League Most Valuable Player award Thursday, once again beating Angels outfielder Mike Trout by a comfortable margin.

A season after winning baseball's first Triple Crown in 45 years, Cabrera came back to lead the majors in hitting at .348 and finish second with 44 home runs and 137 RBIs.

"I think this year was tougher because of the injuries," he said on a conference call from the Miami area.

"It was the last two months. It was tough to play through it," he said.

The eight-time All-Star missed several games after the break because of a bad back, a sore left hip flexor, a strained lower abdomen, shin trouble and a groin tear. He recently had surgery to fix the tear and said he'll be ready for spring training.

Still, Cabrera got 23 of 30 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He became the first player to win consecutive AL MVPs since Frank Thomas for the Chicago White Sox in 1993 and 1994.

Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen took the NL MVP by a surprisingly wide margin after leading a baseball revival in Pittsburgh.

McCutchen drew 28 of the 30 first-place votes to finish far ahead of Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina.

"I'm floating right now," McCutchen said in Pittsburgh. "But I definitely didn't expect it to be a landslide with those other guys - Goldschmidt and Molina. They were great candidates and I didn't know what to expect."

McCutchen ranked among the NL leaders by hitting .317 with 21 home runs and 84 RBIs. He also scored 97 runs, stole 27 bases and had a .404 on-base percentage.

The 27-year-old with the long, flowing dreadlocks helped the Pirates stop a record streak of 20 losing seasons and make the playoffs for the first time since 1992.

Cabrera finished with 385 points, while Trout got five first-place votes and 282 points. The difference was 81 points last season, when Trout was AL Rookie of the Year.

Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis, who led the majors with 53 homers and 138 RBIs, was third.

"I think all three guys deserve this trophy," Cabrera said.

Davis and Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson each received a first-place vote.

Cabrera took his third AL batting title in a row. He also drew a $1 million bonus for winning a second MVP during his current contract with the Tigers.

No AL player has won three straight MVPs. Albert Pujols was the last repeat NL MVP winner in 2008 and 2009; Barry Bonds took four straight from 2001-04.

The Tigers have virtually owned the major postseason awards during a three-year run of success. Justin Verlander was the MVP and Cy Young winner in 2011, Cabrera took the MVP last season and Detroit ace Max Scherzer won this year's Cy Young Award on Wednesday.

"I'm on the right team," Cabrera said.

The 30-year-old third baseman from Venezuela also captured the AL MVP last year when he hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBIs. Cabrera topped Trout 22-6 in first-place votes in that balloting.

Trout hit .323 with 27 homers and 97 RBIs this year, stole 33 bases and led the AL in runs and walks.

Cabrera clearly was baseball's most dominant hitter for most of the season as the Tigers won their third straight AL Central crown.

Voting for the BBWAA awards was done before the playoffs. Cabrera hit .262 with two homers and seven RBIs in 11 postseason games, and made a couple of key outs in Detroit's six-game loss to Boston in the AL championship series.

Cabrera was in contention for a second straight Triple Crown for much of the year, and was hitting .359 with 43 homers and 130 RBIs through Aug. 26. But he managed only two extra-base hits in his next 25 games through the end of the regular season.

Cabrera said he didn't think rest would have helped heal his injuries near the end.

Instead, he took a different approach: "OK, let's play through it and see what happens," he said.

Cabrera still became the first right-handed hitter to win three straight batting titles in either league since Rogers Hornsby in 1920-25.

Cabrera also kept amazing his teammates with his prowess at the plate.

In mid-August, he homered in all three games of a series at Yankee Stadium, twice connecting off career saves leader Mariano Rivera.

His shot in the opener was the most impressive, even though Detroit eventually lost. After fouling two balls off his left shin, Cabrera was having trouble standing in the batter's box when he tagged Rivera for a tying, two-run drive with two outs in the ninth inning.

Cabrera had bedeviled the Yankees before. As a 20-year-old rookie, he helped the Marlins beat New York in the 2003 World Series.

McCutchen, third in MVP balloting last season, got 409 points. Goldschmidt finished second with 242, while Molina received the other two first-place votes and came in third.

McCutchen's win came two days after Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was picked as the NL Manager of the Year. McCutchen was the first Pittsburgh player to win the MVP since Bonds in 1992.

The Pirates went 94-68 this year, a season after going 79-83. Along the way, McCutchen became the face of the franchise and heard loud "MVP!" chants when he would step to the plate at PNC Park this summer.

"I'd lie to you if I said it didn't enter my mind ever," he said. "It's awesome to hear something like that."

Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati in the NL wild-card game, then lost to St. Louis in a division series that went the full five games.

Thursday, 14 November 2013 23:21
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Alexander Steen scored his league-leading 15th and 16th goals and the St. Louis Blues' slumping power play woke up with three goals in a 7-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.

St. Louis has won seven of nine and is off to the fastest start in franchise history with 12 wins in its first 17 games.

Colorado lost back-to-back contests for the first time this season.

Derek Roy, David Backes, Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Stewart and Jay Bouwmeester also scored for the Blues, who have won their last five home meetings with the Avalanche.

T.J. Oshie added four assists for the first four-point game of his career.

The Blues were 3 for 4 on the power play, breaking out of a 1-for-15 skid that spanned the previous five-plus games.

Steen, who pushed the lead to 3-1 with his first goal at 7:16 of the second period, has a point in 12 successive games, a career high.

St. Louis goalie Jaroslav Halak improved to 10-2-2.

Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly scored for Colorado, which lost 2-1 at Carolina on Tuesday.

Avalanche goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere lost for the first time this season after winning his first five starts. He was pulled in the second period after allowing three goals on 14 shots, but re-entered at the start of the third. Giguere, who gave up five goals on 165 shots in his first five games, was looking to become the first Colorado goalie to begin the season 6-0.

The Blues scored four times in a span of 11:50 in the second period to break open a 1-1 game.

Backes put his team ahead to stay 2-1 with a power play goal 2:49 in the second period. He jumped on a rebound at the side of the net off a shot from Roy.

Roy, who added two assists, got the St. Louis attack started with a power play goal just 1:54 into the game. It was the first man-advantage goal given up by Colorado on the road this season. The Avalanche were 20 for 20 on kills over their first seven road games.

The Blues have scored first in their last nine games.

NOTES: The Blues signed D Carlo Colaiacovo to a one year free-agent contract. He was not in uniform on Thursday. ... The Avalanche had given up two goals or less in nine of their previous 10 games. ... The Blues had 10 shots or more in their last eight periods. ... The game featured three fights in the second period after the Blues took control.

Thursday, 14 November 2013 23:19
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