Phoenix, Jan 09 (AP/UNB) - Police served a search warrant Tuesday to get DNA from all male employees at a long-term care facility in Phoenix where a patient who had been in a vegetative state for years gave birth, triggering reviews by state agencies and putting a spotlight on safety concerns for patients who are severely disabled or incapacitated.
Hacienda HealthCare said it welcomed the DNA testing of employees.
"We will continue to cooperate with Phoenix Police and all other investigative agencies to uncover the facts in this deeply disturbing, but unprecedented situation," the company said in a statement.
Local news website Azfamily.com first reported the woman, who had been in a vegetative state for more than 10 years after a near-drowning, delivered a baby on Dec. 29.
San Carlos Apache officials announced Tuesday night that the 29-year-old woman was an enrolled member of the tribe, whose reservation is in southeastern Arizona about 134 miles (215 kilometers) east of Phoenix.
In a statement, tribal officials said the woman was still in a coma when she gave birth.
The woman's name was redacted from the tribal statement, and there was no information about the gender or status of the baby. It's not known if the woman has a family or a guardian. It's also unclear if staff members at the facility were aware of her pregnancy until the birth.
"On behalf of the tribe, I am deeply shocked and horrified at the treatment of one of our members," tribal chairman Terry Rambler said. "When you have a loved one committed to palliative care, when they are most vulnerable and dependent upon others, you trust their caretakers. Sadly, one of her caretakers was not to be trusted and took advantage of her. It is my hope that justice will be served."
San Carlos Apache Police Chief Alejandro Benally said Phoenix police "will do all they can to find the perpetrator" and his department will assist "in any way possible."
A spokesman for Hacienda HealthCare said investigators served a search warrant Tuesday to obtain DNA samples from all male staffers.
In a statement, board member Gary Orman said the facility "will accept nothing less than a full accounting of this absolutely horrifying situation."
"We will do everything in our power to ensure the safety of every single one of our patients and our employees," Orman said.
Hacienda CEO Bill Timmons stepped down Monday, spokesman David Leibowitz said. The decision was unanimously accepted by the provider's board of directors.
Gov. Doug Ducey's office has called the situation "deeply troubling."
Phoenix police so far have declined comment.
The Hacienda facility serves infants, children and young adults who are "medically fragile" or have developmental disabilities, according to the website. In the wake of the reports, the Arizona Department of Health Services said new safety measures have been implemented. They include increased staff presence during any patient interaction, more monitoring of patient care areas and additional security measures involving visitors.
The state's online complaint database for care facilities shows multiple complaints about Hacienda de Los Angeles going back to 2013. Most of them involve fire drill and evacuation preparation or Medicaid eligibility. But one complaint from December 2013 outlines an allegation that a staff member made inappropriate sexual comments about four patients two months earlier. Nobody relayed the incidents to an administrator. That employee was later fired.
Martin Solomon, a personal injury attorney in Phoenix whose clients are mostly vulnerable adult victims of abuse and neglect, said a lawyer representing this woman should call for all pertinent medical records, a list of current and ex-employees and any past litigation involving Hacienda. It would be the police who would lead DNA testing to figure out who fathered the baby, Solomon said.
It would be hard for Hacienda to escape any kind of liability in court.
"There's a lot of information we do not have. But things like this don't happen without someone either knowing about it or should have known about it," Solomon said. "Whether it's an employee or someone from the outside, the facility has an obligation to protect residents."
Advocates for the disabled say Arizona needs to find a way to monitor allegations of sexual abuse and sexual violence in group settings. Doing background checks isn't enough, said Erica McFadden, executive director of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.
"I think when you've had somebody who's had multiple allegations from different parties, there has to be some way to track that," McFadden said. "If it's the same story from different people, then there's something wrong."
The council recently formed a task force to look at how to improve training for health care workers when it comes to identifying and reporting sexual abuse.
"We don't have a systematic way to train people what's a good touch or a bad touch. We also don't have required training for providers," McFadden said. "We really need a lot of work in this area."
Jon Meyers, executive director of The Arc of Arizona, an advocacy group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, called the allegations "disturbing, to put it mildly."
"I wasn't there. I clearly don't have firsthand knowledge of what happened," Meyers said. "But I can't believe someone receiving that level of constant care wasn't recognized as being pregnant prior to the time she delivered."
Washington, Jan 9 (AP/UNB) — What to do with hundreds of foreign Islamic State fighters captured in Syria has become a critical and growing problem for the Trump administration as it prepares to pull troops out of the country.
A senior administration official said Tuesday that resolving the fate of these prisoners is a top priority as the government lays the groundwork with allies to comply with President Donald Trump's Dec. 19 order to withdraw the 2,000 American troops from Syria, where they have been working alongside the U.S.-backed Syrian Defense Forces to fight the Islamic State group since 2015.
But there are no easy answers. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said releasing the fighters, among them Europeans and some U.S. citizens, would be "unacceptable" since they could simply rejoin the remnants of Islamic State fighters in Syria or elsewhere.
"This matters because SDF holds hundreds of IS fighters, including many European citizens, and they might go free if no solution is found," said Bobby Chesney, a national security law expert at the University of Texas.
European nations have been reluctant to take back citizens with ties to the Islamic State, not wanting the legal challenge of prosecuting them or the potential security risk if they are released.
And moving former fighters to the United States poses some of the same challenges the U.S. has faced with men detained at the military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, including whether it's feasible to prosecute militants captured on the battlefields of northern Syria, according to experts.
"It's one thing for the government to be very confident that an individual joined or tried to join ISIS. And sometimes it's still another thing for the government to be able to mount confidently a criminal prosecution against that individual," said Joshua Geltzer, a senior counterterrorism official under President Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, the prisoner problem is only growing worse.
On Sunday, the Syrian Defense Forces announced the capture of five fighters, including two U.S. citizens, one of whom has been identified as a former school teacher from Houston.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just began a tour of eight Middle Eastern nations to discuss the withdrawal of the American troops. National security adviser John Bolton returned Tuesday from a meeting in Turkey, where he was seeking a guarantee of safety for the Kurdish fighters who have fought alongside U.S. troops against the Islamic State.
There are fears that the U.S. withdrawal will leave a door open for Turkey to assault the U.S.-allied SDF fighters. Turkey views them as part of a terrorist group linked to an insurgency within its own borders. SDF commanders have warned that they will be unable to hold the 700 prisoners if Turkish forces invade Syria following a U.S. withdrawal.
Administration officials so far do not have a plan for what to do with the prisoners, according to a separate U.S. official, who said that few countries have been willing to accept any of their captured citizens. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to disclose the information publicly.
In a recent case of an American suspected of IS membership, U.S. officials wrestled for more than a year, never charged him and then ultimately released him in Bahrain.
The problem has been further complicated by conflicting reports of Trump's timeline for recalling the 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. When he made his surprise announcement of the withdrawal three weeks ago, Trump said he wanted to complete it quickly. His abrupt decision led to the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat IS.
More recently, Trump and other administration officials have insisted they favor an orderly pullout. The senior administration official said the U.S. will defeat remaining IS fighters on the way out to prevent a resurgence and that the U.S. will oppose any mistreatment of opposition forces, such as the SDF, that fought with the United States against IS.
"These questions are hard enough, if you know the timeline on which you're making them — if you know what the U.S. involvement will or won't be over that timeline," Geltzer said.
One of the foreign fighters recently captured is Warren Christopher Clark, a former substitute schoolteacher from Houston, Texas, who was first identified by George Washington University's Program on Extremism. Researchers spent months investigating to confirm his identity through multiple sources. The program has identified more than 73 Americans, by their legal names, who are known to have joined jihadist groups.
"Clark is one of several dozen Americans to join the Islamic State out of the around 295 whom intelligence officials claim have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria and Iraq to join the terrorist group," according to Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism.
Clark was captured along with four other foreign jihadists — two from Pakistan, one from Ireland and a fourth man, Zaid Abed al-Hamid, who also is believed to be from the United States, although that has not been confirmed.
In a letter to IS that was obtained by the researchers, Clark submitted a resume noting that he had a bachelor's degree from the University of Houston, had worked as a substitute teacher at the Fort Bend Independent School District in Sugar Land, Texas, and had done teaching stints in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
"Dear Director, I am looking to get a position teaching English to students in the Islamic State," he wrote to the group in an accompanying cover letter. "Teaching has given me the opportunity to work with people from diverse cultural backgrounds and learning capabilities."
Saskatchewan, Jan 9 (AP/UNB) — The driver whose transport truck crashed into a hockey team bus in Canada, killing 16 people, pleaded guilty Tuesday to all charges against him.
Thirteen others were injured when Jaskirat Singh Sidhu's truck loaded with peat moss collided with the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus in rural Saskatchewan in April.
The 30-year-old Sidhu pleaded guilty to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 charges of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
The Broncos were on their way to a playoff game in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
The case was adjourned until Jan. 28 for sentencing.
"His position to me was, 'I just want to plead guilty. I don't want you to plea bargain. I don't want a trial,'" Sidhu's lawyer, Mark Brayford, said outside court, his client beside him with his head down.
"Mr. Sidhu advised me: 'I don't want to make things any worse. I can't make things any better, but I certainly don't want to make them worse by having a trial.'"
Brayford said more evidence is still to be handed over to the defense, but his client wanted to plead guilty to avoid further delay.
"He wanted the families to know he is devastated by the grief he has caused them," Brayford said. "He is overwhelmed by the expressions of sympathy and kindness that some of the families and players have expressed to him in spite of the fact that their grief is entirely his fault."
The bus was travelling north on Highway 35 and the semi was westbound on Highway 335, which has a stop sign.
The maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death is 14 years. It's 10 years for dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Scott Thomas, whose 18-year-old son Evan died in the crash, sat near Sidhu in court and said the guilty plea meant a lot to him.
"All I've ever told my kids is speaking about accountability and responsibility and to hear him use his own words to plead guilty, it's powerful," Thomas said, fighting his emotions outside court
"Now we can move forward with the next part of this."
Tom Straschnitzki, whose 19-year-old son Ryan was one of two survivors who were paralyzed, said he wants more answers about what happened and what the trucker was thinking.
"You're taught when you're young: red light, green light, and look both ways," he said. "Why didn't he do that? Was he just in a hurry? Did he have to get a load in right away? Was he pressured by his bosses?"
Michelle Straschnitzki, Ryan's mother, said she is worried the guilty plea will mean a lighter sentence.
"I'm glad he won't be putting everyone through a lengthy, exhaustive and heartbreaking trial," she said. "However, I also hope that by doing so, he doesn't get an absurdly reduced sentence as per our justice system."
Thomas said he's not worried about the time Sidhu could serve.
"When he said, 'Guilty,' to me, I have my closure," he said. "If he spends a day, if he spends 10 years, time is irrelevant. He was guilty. He acknowledged that. That's all I needed to hear. The rest of the sentence doesn't matter to me. It really doesn't. It is not going to bring Evan back. I've got to spend the rest of my life with it. He's got to spend the rest of his life with it."
The owner of the Calgary trucking company that hired Singh, Sukhmander Singh of Adesh Deol Trucking, also faces eight charges relating to non-compliance with federal and provincial safety regulations.
Washington, Jan 9 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump made a somber televised plea for border wall funding Tuesday night, seeking an edge in his shutdown battle with congressional Democrats as he declared there is "a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul."
Addressing the nation from the Oval Office for the first time, Trump argued for funding on security and humanitarian grounds as he sought to put pressure on newly empowered Democrats amid an extended partial government shutdown.
Trump called on Democrats to return to the White House to meet with him, saying it was "immoral" for "politicians to do nothing." Previous meetings have led to no agreement.
Responding in their own televised remarks, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of misrepresenting the situation on the border as they urged him to reopen closed government departments and turn loose paychecks for hundreds of thousands of workers.
Schumer said Trump "just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration."
Trump, who has long railed against illegal immigration at the border, has recently seized on humanitarian concerns to argue there is a broader crisis that can only be solved with a wall. But critics say the security risks are overblown and the administration is at least partly to blame for the humanitarian situation.
Trump used emotional language, referring to Americans who were killed by people in the country illegally, saying: "I've met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration. I've held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief-stricken fathers. So sad. So terrible."
The president often highlights such incidents, though studies over several years have found immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States.
Trump has been discussing the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow him to move forward with the wall without getting congressional approval for the $5.7 billion he's requested. But he did not mention that Tuesday night.
With his use of a formal White House speech instead of his favored Twitter blasts, Trump embraced the ceremonial trappings of his office as he tries to exit a political quagmire of his own making. For weeks he has dug in on a signature campaign promise to his base voters, the pledge to build an impregnable "beautiful" wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The partial government shutdown reached its 18th day, making the closure the second-longest in history. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are going without pay, and government disruptions are hitting home with everyday Americans.
Gauhati, Jan 8 (AP/UNB) — India's lower house of Parliament approved a bill Tuesday that would grant residency and citizenship rights to non-Muslims who entered India illegally, allegedly after fleeing persecution in several neighboring nations, despite protests against the legislation in the populous northeast that brought the region to a near standstill.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh of the ruling Bharitiya Janata Party denied that the Citizenship Amendment bill which he introduced was discriminatory. It would grant rights to Hindus, Jains, Parsi and several other non-Muslim religious groups who migrated illegally from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The bill would provide an exemption to these groups from an Indian law which prohibits naturalization for illegal immigrants.
The initiative is the latest in a BJP campaign led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of general elections set to take place early this year promoting India as a sanctuary for persecuted Hindus globally.
Protesters in Assam set up blockades with burning tires and vandalized two BJP offices, disrupting traffic and business from early in the morning to late afternoon.
Assam police spokesman Mukesh Agarwal said more than 700 demonstrators were arrested. Police used tear gas to disperse crowds.
Protest organizer Samujjal Bhattacharya, a leader of the All Assam Students Union, said the legislation would confer citizenship on the basis of religion, violating India's secular constitution. He also said that providing residency and citizenship rights to migrants from Bangladesh, with which Assam state shares a long open border, would threaten indigenous communities.
"Already, we have a whole lot of Muslim migrants from Bangladesh who entered Assam illegally over the years. Now, the government is trying to make a law seeking to confer citizenship to Hindus from Bangladesh. We want all illegal migrants to be detected and deported, irrespective of their religion," Bhattacharya said.
The issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh has spurred periodic public uprisings in Assam since the Indian government granted rights to Bangladeshis who entered the country after winning independence from Pakistan in a 1971 war.
The bill is unlikely to pass the upper house of Parliament, which isn't controlled by the ruling party. However, if it isn't passed, the government could pass an ordinance that wouldn't require lawmakers' approval.
BJP's alliance partner in Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad or Assam People's Party, quit the coalition government on Tuesday to protest the bill.
"We have always opposed the entry and presence of illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Our party was formed in 1985 with this promise of freeing Assam from illegal migrants from Bangladesh. We therefore cannot remain an ally of the BJP after this move by the Modi government," AGP president Atul Bora said.