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Kimberly's Lars Christiansen dives to keep the ball in the infield during a game against Filer Tuesday, March 28, 2017, in Kimberly.

This new St. Luke’s initiative provides care for pets while their owners are hospitalized

TWIN FALLS — Recently, a man went to the emergency room in Twin Falls, but refused to be admitted to the hospital because he worried no one would be home to feed and walk his dog.

Employees at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center bounced around ideas, including asking the Twin Falls Animal Shelter to temporarily watch the patient’s dog. But that idea didn’t sit well with the man. He left the ER and ended up coming back a second time that same day.

Trish Heath, the hospital’s emergency management coordinator, heard the story from administrative supervisors. The topic of pet care had come up before, such as with visitors traveling through town who were in a car accident and had pets with them.

In some cases, hospital employees were offering to take care of patients’ dogs, cats and other animal companions, but there wasn’t any organized program in place.

Heath recently decided to create a new initiative to address the need: short-term pet fostering for hospitalized patients

She describes it as a grassroots effort, not necessarily a formal program. It’s used for emergency situations as a last resort when the patient who’s admitted to the hospital has no other option for pet care.

“We want to be able to give them that peace of mind,” St. Luke’s medical records employee Brittany Triner said, adding it’s a small gesture.

A couple of weeks ago, Triner, who has been a dog trainer for nine years, took in the program’s first short-term foster pet. She was excited to volunteer because taking care of dogs is her passion.

The dog’s owner was admitted to the Twin Falls hospital on a Friday and released a few days later on a Monday afternoon. She lives in an assisted living center and wasn’t allowed to leave her dog Jerry — a Heeler mix she adopted from an animal shelter — in her room unattended.

Once the patient found out about the offering and knew her dog would be taken care of, she could focus on her health.

“The stress level of the patient just went down quite a bit,” Heath said, adding she feels strongly the woman healed more quickly as a result.

Since then, the hospital has received another referral for short-term pet fostering, but the patient found a family member to step in to help.

After coming up with the idea for the initiative, Heath sent out an email to St. Luke’s employees explaining the project and asking for volunteers. Now, she has a list of 37 employees — mostly in Twin Falls, but also a few in Jerome — who are willing to help.

Some included specific details in their email response, as having a fenced backyard or a retired husband who could help out. Some said they could take in certain types of pets and one even volunteered to help feed cattle.

Heath asked Triner to take care of the first short-term foster pet. Triner already has kennels at her house and experience with fostering.

“We chose her to be the first one because she was the easiest with access,” Heath said.

As it turns out, Triner already knew the patient’s dog, too: She had trained Jerry at PetSmart. Heath picked up the dog from the patient’s home and dropped him off at Triner’s house.

That weekend, Jerry played with Triner’s two dogs. She also frequently has other dogs at her house she’s training and fostering. Triner took photos to share with the patient.

For the woman who was hospitalized, it was a relief knowing her dog was taken care of and that he enjoyed himself. Triner said: “She was so thankful.”

Giuliani's defense: Confounds and contradict

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is delivering confounding and at times contradictory statements as he tries to lessen the legal burdens on his client from an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and a $130,000 hush payment to a porn actress.

The former New York City mayor is embracing his client’s preferred approach to challenges as he mounts Trump’s defense through the media. But it’s proving to be a bewildering display.

In an interview Sunday with ABC’s “This Week,” Giuliani dismissed as rumor his own statements about Trump’s payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, said he can’t speak to whether the president lied to the American people when he denied knowledge of the silencing agreement and wouldn’t rule out the president asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the Russia investigation. Giuliani also couldn’t say whether Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had made similar payments to other women on the president’s behalf.

Giuliani said despite Trump’s openness to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation, he would strongly advise Trump against it.

Giuliani also wouldn’t speculate whether Trump would end up asserting his constitutional right to refuse to answer any questions that might incriminate him.

“How could I ever be confident of that?” Giuliani said.

During a 2016 campaign rally, Trump disparaged staffers of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, for taking the Fifth during a congressional investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state.

“The mob takes the Fifth,” Trump said. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”

Giuliani also suggested that Trump wouldn’t necessarily comply with a subpoena from Mueller, whose investigation Trump has repeatedly labeled a “witch hunt.”

A subpoena fight would likely find its way to the Supreme Court, which has never firmly decided whether presidents can be compelled to speak under oath.

Giuliani’s aggressive defense of the president in recent weeks has pleased Trump but exasperated White House aides and attorneys and left even supporters questioning his tactics.

“It seems to me that the approach last week of the Trump team plays into the hands of Mueller’s tactic to try, at any cost, to try to find technical violations against lower-ranking people so that they can be squeezed,” Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor who has informally counseled the president, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Giuliani, who was hired by Trump last month, said he’s still learning the facts of the Mueller case and the details of Trump’s knowledge of the payment to Daniels, who has alleged a sexual tryst with Trump in 2006. The $130,000 payment was made by Cohen days before the 2016 election, raising questions of compliance with campaign finance and ethics laws.

When Trump was asked last month aboard Air Force One if he knew about the payment to Daniels, he said no. Trump also said he didn’t know why Cohen had made the payment or where he got the money.

Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump meant that he didn’t know about the payment at the time it was made, not at the time the question was asked.

Giuliani said last week that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for that payment and other unspecified items.

Giuliani said then that he first made Trump aware of the payment shortly after joining the case but now says he doesn’t know when Trump found out about it. Giuliani told BuzzFeed last week that Cohen had complained after the election about not being paid by Trump for his work in silencing Daniels and that Cohen and Trump then met to work out a $35,000 monthly retainer.

Trump said Friday that Giuliani needed to “get his facts straight” but insisted they weren’t changing their story. He has called Daniels’ allegations of an affair “false and extortionist.”

When asked Sunday whether Trump knew about the payment to Daniels after the campaign, Giuliani demurred.

“I can’t prove that. I can just say it’s rumor,” Giuliani said.

Giuliani also said he wasn’t sure whether Cohen had paid off any other women for Trump but indicated it was possible.

“I have no knowledge of that, but I would think if it was necessary, yes,” Giuliani said.

Cohen no longer represents Trump, Giuliani said, adding that it would “be a conflict right now.” Cohen faces a criminal investigation in New York, where FBI agents raided his home and office several weeks ago seeking records about the Daniels nondisclosure agreement and other matters.

Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ attorney, said Sunday on “This Week” that he thinks it’s “obvious ... to the American people that this is a cover-up, that they are making it up as they go along.”

Legal experts have said the revelation that Trump reimbursed Cohen raises new questions, including whether the money represented repayment of an undisclosed loan or could be seen as reimbursement for a campaign expenditure. Either could be legally problematic.

Both Giuliani and Trump have insisted the payment to Daniels was not a campaign expense.

Giuliani maintained Sunday that the payment can’t be considered an in-kind campaign contribution because there was another explanation for it.

“This was for another purpose, to protect him, to protect his family,” he said. “It may have involved the campaign. Doesn’t matter.”

Giuliani said the financial arrangement with Cohen wasn’t revealed on Trump’s 2017 personal financial disclosure because “it isn’t a liability, it’s an expense.”

U.S. Geological Survey 

A new fissure erupts in Leilani Estates in Pahoa, Hawai, Saturday.

Idaho officials negotiating on 'state-based' insurance plan

BOISE — Idaho officials say they may add more requirements from former President Barack Obama’s health care law to their proposal to let health insurance companies sell so-called state-based policies that skirt some “Obamacare” rules.

Idaho Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron says he and other officials have been negotiating with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to come up with a modified approach to the state-based plans that will pass federal muster while still ditching some Affordable Care Act provisions.

“You will probably see us acquiescing on annual limits and essential health benefits,” Cameron said. Potential changes to the state’s proposal include requiring maternity coverage, he said.

Meanwhile, Idaho officials are proposing a slightly different approach to determining premium costs and some other regulations, Cameron said, though the details are still under discussion.

Cameron says the state-based plans are needed to save Idaho’s insurance exchange as premiums continue to rise and some healthy residents opt to go uninsured.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little announced in January that they would allow insurance companies to sell cheaper policies that don’t fully comply with “Obamacare,” despite not yet having any federal approval for what critics called a legally dubious plan. Idaho was believed to be the first state to do so. Several weeks later, however, Seema Verma with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent the state a letter warning that the proposal was illegal under the Affordable Care Act, and reminding Idaho that officials that her agency had a duty to uphold the health care law.

Still, Verma indicated her agency was sympathetic to Idaho officials’ concerns, and the state has been deep in negotiations over the past few weeks. The agency also extended the 30-day deadline that Idaho had to respond, with a new deadline set for May 5.

It wasn’t immediately clear if that deadline would be extended again, though emails and other documents obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request indicated both entities were working toward a solution.

Randy Pate, director of insurance oversight with the federal agency, noted in an email to Cameron last month that Idaho and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “are engaged in productive conversations regarding the sale of State-based plans.”

Pate also asked Cameron to keep communications between the two confidential to maintain the integrity of the process. Some of the records obtained by the AP were redacted under federal Freedom of Information Act rules exempting certain “deliberative materials” from release.

“They’ve pushed us and challenged us in some ways, and we’ve pushed back and challenged in some ways, and it’s been a helpful discussion,” Cameron said.

Otto Kitsinger 


Twin Falls Council to decide on $110,000 in grants

TWIN FALLS — The City Council will hear requests Monday from 14 local groups for funds from the Municipal Powers Outsource Grant program. A total of $110,000 will be distributed. Each group will give a 5-minute presentation on their request and answer questions from council members.

The 14 applicants are

  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Magic Valley requesting $17,900
  • Fifth Judicial District Court Appointed Special Advocates Program requesting $6,452
  • Interlink Volunteer Caregivers requesting $13,500
  • Jubilee House requesting $10,000
  • Living Independence Network Corporation requesting $7,500
  • Magic Valley Arts Council requesting $15,000
  • Magic Valley Symphony requesting $3,083.50
  • Orton Botanical Garden requesting $6,000
  • Safe House requesting $5,000
  • Salvation Army of Twin Falls requesting $20,000
  • Trans IV Buses requesting $45,000
  • Twin Falls Senior Citizen’s Federation requesting $1,600 (for bathroom project)
  • Twin Falls Senior Citizen’s Federation requesting $2,200 (for kitchen project)
  • Voices Against Violence requesting $15,000
  • Wellness Tree Community Clinic requesting $17,077