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Fire at hospital in Brazil kills 11 people, many elderly
By ANNA JEAN KAISER and CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA 04:36 EDT
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A fire raced through a hospital in Rio de Janeiro, forcing staff to wheel patients into the streets on stretchers or in wheelchairs and killing at least 11 people, many of them elderly.
Four firefighters were hospitalized after battling the overnight blaze at Badim Hospital and about 90 patients were transferred to other hospitals, the fire department said. A rope made from bedsheets and used in an attempt to escape the fire still hung from an upper floor window of the hospital Friday.
Most victims died of asphyxiation as smoke filled the wards, and some died when life support equipment stopped working in the fire, said Gabriela Graça, director of the state Institute of Forensic Medicine.
Carlos Outerelo was visiting his sick mother when the fire started Thursday night. The 90-year-old woman, Berta Gonçalves Berreiros Sousa, was among the dead.
“They said to stay closed off in the rooms so the smoke couldn’t get in, and that it was under control. But in reality, it wasn’t under control,” Outerelo said outside the morgue where his mother’s body was taken.
“The smoke started coming from the air conditioning ducts and it turned black and became hard to see,” he said. “It was horrible.”
Daniel Freitas de Brito said his 83-year-old mother, Irene Freitas, also died in the fire.
“I lost my mom, which is awful,” de Brito said at the morgue. “It*s tragic. … I wish she had had a natural death, not to die in this way.”
When firefighters arrived, they evacuated people but it was more difficult to move patients who were hooked up to medical equipment, according to reports.
Camila Donato, a police spokeswoman, said police were cleared by firefighters to enter the hospital Friday morning and had begun investigating the case.
As the fire burned, medical workers in surgical masks rolled equipment in the road as smoke billowed from the building. Television images showed staff tending to patients sitting in wheelchairs with IV poles beside them in the street, some on sheets and mattresses.
A woman carried an oxygen tank. One patient was moved into the street in a regular hospital bed.
Intensive care patients were among those rescued.
In the chaos, distraught relatives tried to track down patients, unsure of whether they had perished in the fire or had been transferred to another medical facility.
Authorities released a list of names of 10 of the dead, some in their 80s and 90s.
Marcelo Crivella, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, said a total of 11 people died. He declared an official mourning period of three days.
A social worker and other Badim Hospital staff are assisting relatives of patients, the hospital said Friday.
The hospital is in a middle-income neighborhood and a short walk from Maracana stadium, which was used for World Cup soccer matches, the 2016 Rio Olympics and also Copa America soccer fixtures this year.
Badim Hospital is part of a chain of private hospitals in Brazil operated by the D*Or São Luiz network. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is currently in the care of the same group at another of its hospitals in Sao Paulo, where he is recovering from a surgery related to a stabbing last year.
The website of the Badim Hospital says its 2018 renovation includes “state-of-the-art infrastructure” and is geared to provide “luxury” treatment. The hospital “aims to guarantee the comfort and hospitality necessary in this delicate moment of the patient’s life,” the website says.
EarthLink – News
Health experts back treatment for kids with peanut allergy
By MATTHEW PERRONE | Fri, September 13, 2019 04:19 EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) — Government health experts are urging approval of a treatment for children with life-threatening peanut allergies.
The daily medication is designed to build up children’s tolerance to peanuts and reduce dangerous allergic reactions. Currently there are no medical treatments for the condition.
The panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted overwhelmingly in favor of the treatment from Aimmune Therapeutics. The FDA will make its own decision in coming months.
Peanut allergy is the most common food allergy in the country. Currently the standard treatment involves strictly limiting children’s diet. That approach doesn’t always work, and many children face trips to the emergency room after accidental exposure.
The proposed treatment involves small, daily doses of peanut powder to build up patients’ immunity to the ingredient.
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Boat fire wreckage taken to navy base for investigation
By STEFANIE DAZIO and BRIAN MELLEY | Fri, September 13, 2019 03:39 EDT
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal investigators identified a violation of Coast Guard regulations that could trigger criminal charges in the California dive boat disaster that killed 34 people.
The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that all crew members on the boat Conception were asleep when the pre-dawn fire broke out Sept. 2 off the coast of Santa Barbara. The boat was required to have a crew member on lookout duty, according to Coast Guard rules.
“A member of the vessel’s crew shall be designated by the master as a roving patrol at all times, whether or not the vessel is underway, when the passenger’s bunks are occupied,” the boat’s inspection certificate said as a condition of operation.
The Conception’s burned-out wreckage was in Port Hueneme Friday morning, according to ship-tracking website marinetraffic.com , a naval base more than 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.
Federal investigators are searching for the cause of fire and looking into possible criminal charges that would likely focus on an obscure federal law known as the seaman’s manslaughter statute.
Under the pre-Civil War law that can bring penalties up to 10 years in prison, prosecutors only need to show negligence or that the captain or crew committed misconduct or neglected their duties.
Defense lawyers and law professors said that failure to appoint a night watchman or falling asleep on the job could be enough to bring charges.
“No watch? A boat that far offshore?” attorney Michael Turndorf said. “I think that fits the statute. I would be surprised, if those are the real circumstances, that somebody doesn’t get charged.”
The law was put in place to punish captains, engineers and pilots responsible for deadly steamboat accidents that killed thousands in the 19th century.
A lawyer for Conception captain Jerry Boylan said he didn’t believe his client had spoken with the NTSB yet and declined to answer questions about what his client did the night of the tragedy.
“I would say that he’s emotionally devastated,” attorney Michael Lipman said.
Attorney James Mercante, who handles maritime law, said seaman’s manslaughter law is dangerous for boat owners and officers, and it’s often in their interest not to talk with investigators.
“You want to cooperate with authorities when there’s a casualty. But you have to draw that fine line,” Mercante said. “It comes down to a decision between cooperation and incrimination.”
The captain and four crew members were asleep on the vessel’s upper deck and survived. The sixth, a 26-year-old deckhand named Allie Kurtz, was sleeping below deck and perished with the boat’s 33 passengers.
Kurtz’s grandmother, Doris Lapporte, said she was too distraught to comment on the NTSB findings, issued days before the family planned to scatter her granddaughter’s ashes at sea.
“I have nightmares every day about her going up in flames,” Lapporte said, crying. “This isn’t the time to talk about how angry I am or how I feel.”
The victims on the Conception were a diverse collection, including a girl celebrating her 17th birthday with her parents and a friend, a marine biologist who was leading the three-day scuba diving excursion, an Indian-born dentist and her husband from Connecticut, an environmental scientist, and a professional photographer.
Douglas Schwartz, an attorney for the Conception’s owner, Truth Aquatics Inc., attempted to cast doubt on the NTSB’s conclusion that the crew was sleeping, saying in a released statement that a witness “seems to contradict” that notion.
A crew member was awake shortly before the fire started and checked the galley and surrounding area around 2:30 a.m., Schwartz said. The first mayday call from the captain was transmitted at 3:14 a.m.
Schwartz refused to answer follow-up questions, including whether that crew member was assigned to night watch and went back to sleep after inspecting the galley.
The parents of Charles McIlvain, 44, a visual effects designer who was onboard with his neighbor, said they were greatly disturbed to hear there was no roving watchman.
“Early detection may have made an incredible difference in outcome,” Clark and Kathleen McIlvain said in a statement.
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Missouri investigation: 12 ex-clergy could face prosecution
By JIM SALTER | Fri, September 13, 2019 04:11 EDT
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Friday referred 12 former priests for potential criminal prosecution but stopped short of recommending charges against any top church leaders, despite concluding the Roman Catholic Church was involved in “long, sustained and far-reaching cover-up.”
Schmitt released details of a 13-month investigation of religious leaders within the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the dioceses of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Springfield-Cape Girardeau and Jefferson City.
Missouri is among several states that launched investigations last year after a Pennsylvania report cited abuse of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of priests there since the 1940s, and efforts by church leaders to hide it.
The Missouri investigation began in August 2018 under then-Attorney General Josh Hawley. Hawley was elected to the U.S. Senate in November, and Schmitt, a fellow Republican, took over the investigation after he was appointed to replace him.
Schmitt said the 12 referrals are the most by any state attorney general since the Pennsylvania report.
“The betrayal of trust and of innocence is devastating and in many instances incomprehensible,” Schmitt, himself a Catholic, said at a news conference in St. Louis.
The investigation reviewed personnel records for every priest serving in Missouri dating to 1945 — more than 2,000 priests and 300 deacons, seminarians and religious women, Schmitt said. Investigators also spoke to abuse survivors and their relatives who contacted the attorney general’s office.
Investigators found 163 priests or clergy members accused of sexual abuse or misconduct against minors. Eighty-three have died. Of the 80 still alive, the statute of limitations has run out on 46 of the crimes, Schmitt said.
One case is still under open investigation by the Catholic Church. Schmitt said 16 cases have been previously referred for local prosecution and five cases have been or are being investigated by prosecutors, leaving the 12 potential cases Schmitt is referring for prosecution.
Schmitt said his office didn’t consider recommending charges against anyone in the church hierarchy because the focus was on the “perpetrators of the crimes.” David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called that decision “tragic.”
Clohessy, of St. Louis, also said Schmitt should have released more details about the alleged crimes and where they occurred.
“Even without naming individual names, he could still provide much more helpful information than he has,” Clohessy said.
Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph spokesman Jack Smith said officials believe one of the 12 priests is from that diocese, and they’ve already contacted the Jackson County prosecutor to offer any assistance. He said the diocese hopes the investigation helps “lift some of the darkness in our past” and brings a sense of justice and healing to victims.
Jefferson City Bishop Shawn McKnight of the Diocese of Jefferson City said in a statement he hopes the report helps achieve greater accountability and transparency, and helps restore trust in the church.
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau said officials had not seen the report and declined comment.
St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson said the archdiocese would continue to cooperate with authorities.
“In August of 2018, when I invited the Attorney General’s office to investigate all allegations of sexual abuse of minors, we promised full cooperation and unfettered access to the archdiocese’s records. Following that investigation, and today’s report, the Archdiocese of St. Louis remains committed to working with authorities, to bringing healing to victims and their families, and to ensuring a safe environment for all of our children,” Carlson said in a statement.
Schmitt’s office also provided recommendations to the Catholic Church. They included assuming greater responsibility and oversight of religious order priests and those visiting from other dioceses; developing independent review boards composed entirely of lay people; and being more open when a priest is removed from the ministry.
Schmitt said the clergy abuse hotline will remain open and he encouraged any additional abuse victims to come forward.
Each of the state’s Roman Catholic jurisdictions conducted its own internal investigation , too. The state investigation found more alleged crimes than the internal investigations uncovered.
The St. Louis investigation released in July found 61 clergy with what the archdiocese called “substantiated” allegations of sexual abuse of children. Thirty-four of the priests are deceased. The archdiocese said all of the living priests have been removed from the ministry. The list separately named three additional priests accused of possessing child pornography.
The Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese released its report last week, citing 19 clerics, none of them currently serving. Thirteen have died, two have been removed from ministry, and four have been laicized, or removed from the clerical state. One of the laicized clerics, Shawn Ratigan, is serving 50 years in federal prison on a 2013 conviction for producing or attempting to produce child pornography.
The other two dioceses released similar lists of accused religious leaders last year. The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau identified 16 priests with credible accusations of sexual abuse of children. The Diocese of Jefferson City listed 35 credibly accused church officials, including 30 priests and five members of a religious order.
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Zimbabwe’s Mugabe to be honored at state funeral
By ANDREW MELDRUM | Sat, September 14, 2019 03:23 EDT
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — African heads of state and envoys are gathering to attend a state funeral for Zimbabwe’s founding president, Robert Mugabe , whose burial has been delayed for at least a month until a special mausoleum can be built for his remains.
The service and viewing of the body of Mugabe, who died last week in Singapore at 95, will be at the National Sports Stadium in the capital, Harare, and comes following the announcement by the Mugabe family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa that his burial will be postponed until a new resting place for his body can be constructed at the national Heroes’ Acre monument.
The announcement Friday evening is the latest turn in a dramatic wrangle between his family and Mnangagwa, a once-trusted deputy who helped oust Mugabe from power.
More than 10 African leaders and several former presidents are expected to attend Saturday’s ceremony at the 60,000-capacity stadium, which is across the road from Heroes’ Acre, a national burial site for top officials of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party who contributed to ending white colonial rule.
Mugabe oversaw its construction with North Korean architects atop a prominent hill, featuring a towering sculpture of guerrilla fighters. There are about 130 people declared national heroes who are buried there, each on a flat surface marked by simple black marble slabs. Mugabe’s first wife, Sally, is buried there and a space next to her had been reserved for Mugabe.
But now a new mausoleum will be built for Mugabe at an elevated site above the other graves, according to Mnangagwa and a Mugabe family spokesman.
The announcement followed days of controversy over where he should be laid to rest, with Mugabe’s widow, Grace, insisting on a private burial rather than the state funeral and burial in a simple plot alongside other national heroes planned by the government.
“The construction will take about 30 days to complete,” family spokesman Leo Mugabe said. “The burial will not take place until it is finished.” He said Mugabe’s body would be preserved until then.
Mnangagwa confirmed the plans for a grand edifice as Mugabe’s final resting place.
“We are building a mausoleum for our founding father at the top of the hill at Heroes’ Acre,” Mnangagwa said on state television Friday night. “It won’t be finished, so we will only bury him after we have completed construction of the mausoleum.”
The protracted dispute over the burial highlighted the lasting acrimony between Mnangagwa, who helped oust Mugabe in 2017, and Grace Mugabe and other family members. Mnangagwa met with them to try to resolve the burial dispute and later said his government would respect the family’s wishes, adding they have “the full support of the government.”
Zimbabwe’s lively press has highlighted the dispute. “Betrayed Mugabe fights Mnangagwa from coffin,” declared the Zimbabwe Independent in a banner headline on its front page.
Mugabe’s body was on view at Rufaro Stadium in the capital for two days. A stampede on Thursday injured several people trying to view it.
Mugabe was a former guerrilla leader who fought to end white minority rule. He led Zimbabwe for 37 years, from independence in 1980 until he was deposed.
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