Polish mayor dies after being stabbed in heart at age 53
By VANESSA GERA and MONIKA SCISLOWSKA
Monday, January 14
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The popular liberal mayor of the Polish port city of Gdansk died on Monday after he was stabbed during a charity event the evening before by an ex-convict who stormed onstage and said it was revenge against a political party the politician once belonged to.
Pawel Adamowicz, 53, died as a result of wounds to the heart and abdomen in spite of efforts to save him that involved a five-hour operation and blood transfusions, Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski said.
“The fight for his life has been lost,” Szumowski said.
The assassination of Adamowicz, a six-term mayor who often mingled freely with citizens of his city, sent Poland into shock.
Even before his death was announced, rallies against violence were being planned to take place across Poland in the evening. In Gdansk, the city flag was lowered to half-staff and a Mass was planned for later in the day.
The right-wing ruling Law and Justice party faced accusations from its critics that an atmosphere of hatred against Adamowicz and other liberal political opponents helped instigate the attack.
Government officials appeared to be pushing back against that accusation, strongly denouncing the attack and stressing that the 27-year-old perpetrator had a history of violent bank robberies and possible mental illness.
The ex-convict who rushed onto the stage with a knife Sunday and stabbed Adamowicz shouted that it was revenge against Civic Platform, which Adamowicz belonged to for many years.
The assailant shouted from the stage that he had been wrongly imprisoned under a previous government led by Civic Platform. He said his name was Stefan and that “I was jailed but innocent. … Civic Platform tortured me. That’s why Adamowicz just died.”
Deputy Chief Prosecutor Krzysztof Sierak said there are “doubts” as to the mental state of the attacker, who used a 14.5-centimeter (5.5-inch) knife on Adamowicz, and that two psychiatrists will examine him. He had served 5 ½ years in prison and was released toward the end of last year.
Adamowicz, who has been the city’s mayor for more than 20 years, grabbed his belly and collapsed in front of the audience during the “Lights to Heaven” fundraiser organized by the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity.
The attack triggered an outpouring of solidarity, with many people donating blood in Gdansk on Monday. Some said they were given time off work to help save Adamowicz.
The spokeswoman for the ruling Law and Justice party Beata Mazurek said the attack should be “absolutely condemned by all, regardless of what side of the political spectrum they are on.”
She insisted politicians in Poland need “greater responsibility for words, for deeds” because “there is no shortage of madmen on both sides” of the political scale.
Ruling authorities also sent a government plane to transport the mayor’s wife, who had been traveling, from London back to Gdansk.
The government’s critics, however, said that they believed that animosity voiced against Adamowicz by ruling party officials, sometimes carried on state television, as well as by extremists, played a role.
Adamowicz was part of the democratic opposition formed in Gdansk under the leadership of Lech Walesa during the 1980s. After leaving Civic Platform, he was re-elected to a sixth term as an independent candidate in the fall.
As mayor, he was a progressive voice, supporting sex education in schools, LGBT rights and tolerance for minorities. He showed solidarity with the Jewish community when Gdansk synagogue had its windows broken last year, strongly denouncing the vandalism.
Adamowicz also advocated bringing wounded Syrian children to Gdansk for medical treatment, a plan, however, blocked by the Law and Justice government. After he took that stand, a far-right group, the All-Polish Youth, issued what they called a “political death notice” for Adamowicz.
The last politically motivated attack in Poland was in 2010 in Lodz when a man shouting that he wanted to kill Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski fatally shot an aide to one of the party’s European Parliament lawmakers.
Kaczynski, at the time an opposition leader, blamed the attack on an “atmosphere of hate” under Civic Platform.
Center where comatose woman had baby faced criminal probe
Monday, January 14
PHOENIX (AP) — Regulators wanted to remove developmentally disabled patients from a Phoenix long-term care facility years before a woman in a vegetative state gave birth, Arizona’s largest newspaper reported Sunday.
The Arizona Republic reported Hacienda HealthCare faced a 2016 criminal investigation for allegedly billing the state more than $4 million for bogus 2014 charges for wages, transportation, housekeeping, maintenance and supplies.
The criminal case was dropped in 2017 and no charges were filed, the Republic said, but a court battle is continuing in an effort to force Hacienda to turn over financial records.
Phoenix police have said the 29-year-old woman incapacitated since age 3 was sexually assaulted and gave birth last month.
Investigators are collecting DNA from Hacienda’s male employees and others who may have had contact with the woman in an effort to identify a suspect.
The woman’s family has said in a statement through their attorney that they will care for the infant boy and have asked for privacy.
The revelation that a woman in a vegetative state was raped inside a care facility has horrified advocates for people with disabilities and the community at large.
Hacienda HealthCare’s CEO William Timmons resigned on Dec. 31 as the provider announced new safety measures, including more than one staff member being present during patient interactions and more scrutiny of visitors.
Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, said his office is considering bringing in a third party to assume responsibility for the ongoing management of Hacienda.
The nonprofit facility gets more than $20 million annually in taxpayer funds for taking care of extremely ill people, many of whom are incapacitated and on ventilators, the Republic reported.
Hacienda’s annual average cost of care was $386,000 per client in 2012 compared with $134,000 per client in similar U.S. facilities, Arizona Department of Economic Security auditors said.
The Republic said former economic security director Timothy Jeffries and the agency’s chief law enforcement officer, Charles Loftus have both filed lawsuits against the state, claiming they were forced out of their jobs over their probe of Hacienda.
Jeffries was forced to resign in 2016 after a series of controversies, including a finding by the Arizona Department of Public Safety that the department kept shoddy record-keeping, had insecure storage of guns and ammunition and that it had violated state procurement policies in buying some 60,000 rounds of ammunition.
Jeffries filed suit against the state in 2017 over what he claims is libel in a police report that detailed a stash of weapons and ammunition kept in the agency offices. He claims statements in the DPS audit were false and that there were malicious motives involved in the report.
The Republic quoted Jeffries as saying Timmons was obstinate during the investigation of Hacienda and bragged of tight ties to Ducey.
Ducey spokeswoman Elizabeth Berry said the governor was horrified by accounts of the rape and denied that the state failed to act on concerns raised by the economic security department.
She also said Hacienda played no part in the forced resignations of Jeffries and Loftus after their two-year tenure.
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com
US tells Saudis to hold Khashoggi’s murderers accountable
By MATTHEW LEE
AP Diplomatic Writer
Monday, January 14
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The Trump administration expects Saudi Arabia to hold “every single person” responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi accountable, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday after talks with senior Saudi officials that also focused on Mideast crises and countering threats from Iran.
Pompeo also said that President Donald Trump’s threat to devastate NATO ally Turkey’s economy if it attacks U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria underscored America’s commitment to its Kurd partners. He said he assumed Trump was referring to sanctions that could be imposed if Turkey takes military action against the Kurds but referred questions to the White House.
At the end of a trip to Riyadh, Pompeo said he had raised the Khashoggi case in his meetings with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as well as other human rights concerns, and the fate of women’s rights activists who have been detained in the kingdom.
“We spoke about human rights issues here in Saudi Arabia, women activists,” he said. “We spoke about the accountability and the expectations that we have. The Saudis are friends and when friends have conversations you tell them what your expectations are.”
“Our expectations have been clear from early on: every single person who has responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi needs to be held accountable,” Pompeo said. He said the Saudis understood and had reiterated pledges to pursue the case wherever it leads. He would not comment on U.S. intelligence suggesting the crown prince may have ordered the killing.
The relationship between Riyadh and Washington remains tense following Khashoggi’s brutal slaying and dismemberment at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October. Members of Prince Mohammed’s entourage have been implicated in the killing and U.S. lawmakers have demanded America pull back its support of the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
On the detained women rights activists, Pompeo said the Saudis had committed that the “lawful judicial process would take place and they would do so quickly and that they would continue down that path.”
“They understand the concerns that some have and they are going to do their best to communicate as appropriate,” he said.
Pompeo traveled to Saudi Arabia as part of a broader Middle East tour that has already taken him to Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. He was to depart from the kingdom for Oman shortly after his meetings in Riyadh but canceled plans to wrap up the trip in Kuwait on Tuesday, due to a death in his family.
At each stop, Pompeo has sought to reassure Arab leaders that President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria does not mean Washington is abandoning the Middle East or the fight against the Islamic State group.
Pompeo said he believed he had been successful in explaining Trump’s position despite a lack of detail on exactly how and when the withdrawal will take place and differences with Turkey over the fate of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters after American forces leave.
Trump tweeted late Sunday that the U.S. will “attack again from existing nearby base if it (IS) reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds.” Trump’s decision to leave Syria, which he initially said would be rapid but later slowed down, shocked U.S. allies and angered the Syrian Kurds.
But Pompeo said the U.S. message on the Kurds has been straightforward and unchanged since Trump made the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria last month.
“The administration has been very consistent with respect to our requirement that the Turks not go after the Kurds in ways that are inappropriate,” Pompeo said. “If they are terrorists, we’re all about taking down extremists wherever we find them. I think the president’s comments this morning are consistent with that.”
Asked specifically about what Trump meant by devastating Turkey’s economy, Pompeo replied: “We apply sanctions in many places around the world. I assume he’s speaking about those kinds of things but you would have to ask him.”
In Riyadh, he also tried to impress upon leaders the importance of a political solution to the conflict in Yemen, the Arab world’s most impoverished country, and the need to step up efforts to counter Iran’s increasing assertiveness in the region, manifested by its support for Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah movement, Syria’s government of President Bashar Assad, Shiite militias in Iraq and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
He lamented that the Houthis were not living up to pledges they made at U.N.-brokered peace talks in Sweden. “We need both sides to honor those commitments and to date the Iranian-backed Houthis have chosen not to do that,” he said.
Pompeo also pressed the Saudis on bringing an end to the near two-year-old dispute with its Gulf neighbor Qatar, which has badly hindered U.S. efforts to create a united Arab military alliance to counter Iran.
“It diminishes our ability to all work together,” he said of the spat that began in June 2017 with Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates boycotting of Qatar, alleging it funds extremist groups and has too-cozy ties to Iran.
In Doha on Sunday, Pompeo made similar remarks, but he said that while the United States could try to play peacemaker, it is ultimately up to the countries involved to resolve the situation.
Cargo plane crash in Iran kills 15, leaves 1 survivor
By NASSER KARIMI and JON GAMBRELL
Monday, January 14
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A decades-old Iranian Boeing 707 military cargo plane reportedly carrying meat from Kyrgyzstan crashed on Monday while trying to land west of Iran’s capital, killing 15 people on board and leaving a sole survivor, authorities said.
The crash of the jetliner marked just the latest aviation disaster for Iran, which hoped to replace its aging fleet under terms of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
But instead, President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the accord in May scuttled billions of dollars in planned sales by Airbus and Boeing Co. to the Islamic Republic, only increasing the danger for passengers in Iran planes.
The aircraft, which bore the paint scheme of the Iranian air force’s civilian Saha Airlines, was an making emergency landing around 8:30 a.m. Monday at Fath Airport, an airfield controlled by Iran’s powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. The plane skidded off the runway, crashed through a perimeter fence and into a residential neighborhood.
Iranian state television aired images of smoke-charred homes and the fuselage of the aircraft lying on the ground in the neighborhood. Nearby was one of its landing gears, torn away. Small fires burned around it.
The plane was meant to land at the nearby Payam International Airport, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Tehran, the Iranian capital.
Authorities did not immediately offer a reason for the crew’s decision to land instead at Fath Airport. That airport is some 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) southwest of Payam. Its runway is some 1,100-meters (3,600-feet) long, compared to Payam’s 3,600 meters (11,800 feet). In November, a commercial airline reportedly mistook Fath for Payam, but was able to abort its landing.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency later quoted an anonymous aviation official saying Monday’s doomed flight likewise mistook Fath for Payam.
Pirhossein Koulivand, the head of the country’s emergency medical services, said that of the 16 people on board the plane, only the flight engineer was known to have survived. IRNA reported all 15 bodies of the crew who died had been recovered by Monday afternoon.
Iran’s air force said in a statement that the fate of the crew, including their possible “martyrdom,” is under investigation. It wasn’t immediately clear who owns the plane, though Gen. Shahin Taghikhani, an army spokesman, told state TV that the plane and its crew were Iranian.
Iranians often use the word “martyrdom” for those who die in war or national service.
The plane reportedly was carrying a cargo of meat from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital, to Iran. Since 2016, Iran has been importing meat from Kyrgyzstan, usually via Saha. It imported 150 tons in 2016 and 350 tons in 2017.
Saha Airlines operated one of the world’s last commercial flights of the Boeing 707, which was first manufactured in 1958 and helped usher in the jet age. The four-engine, narrow-body aircraft were built until 1979.
Maintenance information regarding the Boeing 707 that crashed Monday was not immediately available. However, Iran has struggled to obtain parts for its aging fleet of airlines, nearly all purchased during the time of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Saha Airlines’ Boeing 707s suffered a previous fatal crash in April 2005, when a flight coming from the Kish island crash-landed at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, killing three passengers.
Iran has suffered a series of major aviation disasters in recent decades. Its last major crash happened in February 2018, when an Aseman Airlines ATR-72 brought back into service only months earlier after being grounded for seven years crashed in a foggy, mountainous region of southern Iran, killing all 65 people aboard.
In January 2011, when an Iran Air Boeing 727 broke to pieces on impact while trying an emergency landing in a snowstorm in northwestern Iran, killing at least 77 people.
In July 2009, a Russian-made jetliner crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran, killing all 168 on board. A Russian-made Ilyushin 76 carrying members of the Revolutionary Guard crashed in southeastern Iran in February 2003, killing 302 people.
In February 1993, an Iranian airliner with 132 people aboard collided with an air force jet after takeoff from Tehran’s main airport, killing everyone on the two aircraft. And in July 1988, the USS Vincennes in the Strait of Hormuz mistook an Iran Air flight heading to Dubai for an attacking fighter jet, shooting down the plane and killing all 290 people aboard.
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.