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Mexican authorities said on Friday they are in a position to enter the flooded coal mine where 10 workers have been trapped for more than a week.
"We have all the conditions to go down there today... to search for and rescue" the miners, said Laura Velazquez, the civil defense national coordinator, during President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's morning press conference.
Velazquez said the rescue operation will become possible once "97 percent of the water" has been extracted from the 50-meter deep mine in the town of Agujita in the northern Coahuila state.
"The necessary resources for the search and rescue have been prepared," she added.
The water level in one of the three wells in which rescuers will try to enter has been brought down to just 70 centimeters (27 inches), from a high of 30 meters (98 feet) the day after the accident that flooded the mine, Defense Minister Luis Cresensio Sandoval said.
The other two wells still have 3.9 and 4.7 meters of water.
Authorities consider 1.5 meters to be an acceptable water level to gain access to the crudely constructed El Pinabete mine.
"In any case, we're going to continue pumping.... The process is slow but we don't want to take any risks," added Velazquez.
Since the August 3 accident, there have been no signs of life from the 10 miners trapped inside.
Five miners managed to escape following the initial accident, in which workers carrying out excavation activities hit an adjoining area full of water.
Several hundred rescuers, including soldiers and military scuba divers, are taking part in efforts to save the miners, whose relatives held a vigil Thursday night for those trapped underground.
© 2022 AFP
Judge denies motion to dismiss: Trump org and ex-CFO Weisselberg criminal fraud and tax evasion case will proceed
Former Trump Organization longtime Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg‘s request to dismiss his case on charges that include conspiracy, grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, and falsifying business records has been denied by a New York State judge. The Judge ruled Friday morning the criminal fraud and tax evasion case against Weisselberg and The Trump Organization will proceed.
“Weisselberg and the company asked a judge in February to dismiss all 15 counts charged against them. Judge Juan Merchan dismissed one of several tax fraud counts against the Trump Organization, but allowed all others to remain,” CBS News reports. “The Trump Organization and Weisselberg accused prosecutors of targeting them ‘based on political animus’ toward former President Donald Trump.”
“Prosecutors accuse Weisselberg of a 15-year scheme to defraud federal, New York State, and New York City tax authorities of $1.76 million in ‘off-the-books’ compensation. These included $359,058 in tuition expenses for multiple family members, $196,245 for leases on his Mercedes Benz automobiles, $29,400 in unreported cash, and an unspecified amount in ad hoc personal expenses, according to his indictment,” Law & Crime adds.
Weisselberg, who was Trump’s top accountant, handled a large portion of his business interests, and was co-trustee of the trust set up when Trump became president, will have his next hearing September 12. Jury selection will begin October 24.
Weisselberg began working for Trump’s father, Fred Trump, in 1973.
In a column for the conservative Bulwark, attorney Philip Rotner claimed that Donald Trump is trying out what he calls the "O.J. Simpson defense" of alleging a massive law enforcement conspiracy to frame him because he knows the Department of Justice is closing in.
Coming on the heels of an FBI appearance at Mar-a-Lago with a warrant seeking classified information, the former president added his voice on Friday morning to the chorus of his defenders suggesting FBI agents were planting evidence during their visit.
According to Rotner, Trump's protestations are not surprising when one considers the mounting evidence piling up against him. To make his point, he cited the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
"The case against him looked airtight. A mountain of forensic evidence—including blood and hair and fibers, bloody shoe prints, and a glove found at the scene matching one of Simpson’s—pointed to his guilt. And as if the forensic evidence weren’t enough, prosecutors presented evidence of Simpson’s pathological jealousy, his history of domestic violence and threats, and the lack of an alibi or any witnesses to his whereabouts at the time of the murders," he wrote. "Yet Simpson was acquitted. His defense team turned the tables to portray law enforcement as the culprit and Simpson as the victim. They argued, without a shred of direct evidence, that all of the incriminating forensic evidence was either planted by police officers who were out to get Simpson or mishandled by bumbling investigators."
Pointing out that Trump appears to be using the Simpson playbook, Rotner claimed that only a guilty person would resort to grabbing at law enforcement conspiracy straws.
"You don’t claim, without a shred of evidence, that law enforcement planted documents during a search and seizure unless you believe that they found something incriminating," he explained. "If you believe that the evidence seized was exculpatory or merely innocuous, you don’t cast doubt on it. Just the opposite. You use the evidence to your advantage."
According to the attorney, for the moment it seems to be working for the former president -- at least with his rabid followers.
"Whatever the evidence, if Team Trump can convince people that it was planted, it’s toothless as far as the public is concerned," he explained. "So it is incumbent on the government to get this right. We can only hope that the FBI agents who conducted the search created a meticulous record of what they found at Mar-a-Lago and where they found it. Without a bulletproof chain of custody, Trump’s O.J. Defense could work, just like it worked for O.J., no matter what they actually found."
He then warned, "If Trump were indicted and tried for crimes based on anything found at Mar-a-Lago, the O.J. Defense could work. Maybe it wouldn’t get him acquitted, but it would only take a single Trump die-hard to hang the jury. In the end, that may be Trump’s best—and perhaps only—defense."