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Two Marines disciplined after deadly blast at Camp Pendleton

LOS ANGELES — An explosion during a training exercise that killed four Marines at Camp Pendleton last year was most likely caused by a dropped or kicked grenade, and two Marines have been relieved of duty as a result, military officials announced Thursday.

The accident occurred while Marines were removing unexploded ordnance from an artillery range Nov. 13.

Jeffrey Nyhart, a spokesman for Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, outside San Diego, said ordnance collection had finished for the day, and Marines were preparing to safely explode the rounds they had collected when the accident happened.

An investigation concluded that a grenade was most likely dropped or kicked. About 350 nearby rounds, which the Marines were preparing to safely explode, blew up.

The captain and master sergeant who were in charge of the ordnance disposal training were relieved of their duties Tuesday, because of a “loss of confidence in their ability,” and a “lack of adherence to established norms,” Nyhart said.

“The exact cause is indeterminate, because the deceased Marines were really the only individuals who were directly observing what’s going on in that area,” Nyhart said.

The blast killed Staff Sgt. Mathew R. Marsh, 28, of Long Beach, Calif.; Gunnery Sgt. Gregory J. Mullins, 31, of Bayou L’Ourse, La.; Sgt. Miguel Ortiz, 27, of Vista, Calif.; and Staff Sgt. Eric W. Summers, 32, of Poplar Bluff, Mo. All four were ordnance disposal specialists who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

In the wake of the accident, Brig. Gen. John W. Bullard, commanding general at Camp Pendleton, ordered a review of explosive ordnance disposal training at Camp Pendleton and other Marine bases.

The Marines are required to conduct proficiency training on ordnance disposal at least once a year. The base’s Zulu Impact Area, where the accident occurred, had not been cleared of unexploded ordnance since 2007, Nyhart said. More than 3,000 rounds of unexploded ordnance were collected from the range before the explosion.

“Many of the training evolutions we conduct are inherently dangerous, especially when dealing with explosives and munitions,” Bullard said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of four Marines.”

—Ian Lovett, The New York Times

Two senior Citigroup executives are retiring

Two senior executives are retiring from Citigroup, the company said Thursday, leading to changes at the top of the bank’s international and consumer banking operations.

Gene McQuade will retire next month as chief executive of Citibank, the entity that holds 70 percent of the company’s assets and runs its vast international businesses. McQuade, who took over the helm of Citibank during the financial crisis, was a crucial link to regulators, the bank said.

Citibank’s chief operating officer, Barbara Desoer, will succeed McQuade. Desoer joined Citigroup last year, after retiring as head of Bank of America’s home loans division.

In a memo to employees Thursday, Citigroup’s chief executive, Michael L. Corbat, said McQuade had been working with the bank over the past year to come up with a successor. McQuade has also been nominated to Citigroup’s board.

The other big departure is Cece Stewart, who runs Citigroup’s consumer and commercial banking operations in the United States. Stewart, who came to Citigroup from Morgan Stanley in 2011, is retiring at the end of next month “to focus her energy on her personal passions and service on several boards,’’ Corbat said in the memo.

Stewart will be replaced Jane Fraser, the head of the bank’s mortgage unit. Fraser will have responsibility for retail banking, small business, wealth management and commercial banking.

—Michael Corkery, The New York Times

Chinese workers at IBM factory on strike amid company sale

HONG KONG — More than 1,000 workers have gone on strike this week at an IBM factory in southeastern China in the latest sign of labor activism as companies’ acute shortage of blue-collar workers makes employees increasingly willing to take to the streets.

IBM is selling Lenovo its x86 computer server business, which includes the factory in the southeastern city of Shenzhen, where the strike is unfolding. Lenovo agreed in January to pay $2.3 billion for the business in a transaction that is still subject to regulatory approval.

A video posted on Chinese social media shows hundreds of workers in blue factory smocks standing Tuesday in front of an IBM building in Shenzhen, a sprawling electronics industry hub adjacent to Hong Kong with more than 10 million permanent residents and migrant workers.

“Workers are not a commodity,” read one homemade banner; another said, “Give us back our respect.”

IBM said in a news release that it hoped workers for the wholly owned subsidiary being sold, International Systems Technology Co. in Shenzhen, would be willing to continue working for Lenovo but that it would offer them compensation if they did not accept the new employer.

“Employees currently involved in x86 operations in Shenzhen have a personal choice of remaining with I.S.T.C. under terms and conditions comparable in aggregate to what they currently are receiving, or they can voluntarily choose what we believe is an equitable severance package and resign from I.S.T.C.,” the IBM statement said.

Strikes are especially common in China when factories are sold to new owners, a result of fears of layoffs among workers.

Geoffrey Crothall, the communications director at the China Labor Bulletin, a nonprofit group in Hong Kong that advocates for independent collective bargaining and other legal protections for workers in mainland China, said that the latest strike was reminiscent of one by thousands of Nokia workers in November in Dongguan, next to Shenzhen. In that case, Nokia shareholders had approved the sale of their employer, Nokia’s handset division, to Microsoft.

—Keith Bradsher, The New York Times