Ms. Kong said a local official responsible for carrying out coronavirus policies had told her that she should not “buy unnecessary food.” She said she asked the official what standards the government used to determine what kind of food was necessary.

“Who are you to decide the ‘necessity’ for others?” she said. “It’s totally absurd and nonsense.”

On state television, Beijing’s “nine storm fortification actions” around the pandemic are frequently repeated to keep people in line with Covid policies. The nine actions are: neighborhood lockdowns, mass testing, contact tracing, disinfection, quarantine centers, increased health care capacity, traditional Chinese medicine, screening of neighborhoods and prevention of local transmission.

Yang Xiao, a 33-year-old cinematographer in Shanghai who was confined to his apartment for two months during a lockdown this year, had grown tired of them all.

“With the Covid control, propaganda and state power expanded and occupied all aspects of our life,” he said in a phone interview. Day after day, Mr. Yang heard loudspeakers in his neighborhood repeatedly broadcasting a notice for P.C.R. testing. He said the announcements had disturbed his sleep at night and woke him up at dawn.

“Our life was dictated and disciplined by propaganda and state power,” he said.

To communicate his frustrations, Mr. Yang selected 600 common Chinese propaganda phrases, such as “core awareness,” “obey the overall situation” and “the supremacy of nationhood.” He gave each phrase a number and then put the numbers into Google’s Random Generator, a program that scrambles data.

He ended up with senseless phrases such as “detect citizens’ life and death line,” “strictly implement functions” and “specialize overall plans without slack.” Then he used a voice program to read the phrases aloud and played the audio on a loudspeaker in his neighborhood.

No one seemed to notice the five minutes of computer-generated nonsense.

When Mr. Yang uploaded a video of the scene online, however, more than 1.3 million people viewed it. Many praised the way he used government language as satire. Chinese propaganda was “too absurd to be criticized using logic,” Mr. Yang said. “I simulated the discourse like a mirror, reflecting its own absurdity.”

His video was taken down by censors.

Mr. Yang added that he hoped to inspire others to speak out against China’s Covid policies and its use of propaganda in the pandemic. He wasn’t the only Shanghai resident to rebel when the city was locked down.

In June, dozens of residents protested against the police and Covid control workers who installed chain-link fences around neighborhood apartments. When a protester was shoved into a police car and taken away, one man shouted: “Freedom! Equality! Justice! Rule of law!” Those words would be familiar to most Chinese citizens: They are commonly cited by state media as core socialist values under Mr. Xi.

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Russian Separatists Release 10 Prisoners, Including 2 U.S. Veterans

40-year-old Alex Drueke and 27-year-old Andy Huynh were among the among the 10 prisoners released after they each went missing three months ago.

Two U.S. military veterans who disappeared three months ago while fighting Russia with Ukrainian forces were among 10 prisoners, including five British nationals, released by Russian-backed separatists as part of a prisoner exchange mediated by Saudi Arabia, officials said Wednesday.

Alex Drueke, 40, and Andy Huynh, 27, went missing in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine near the Russian border June 9. They had traveled to Ukraine on their own and became friends because both are from Alabama.

Their families announced their release in a joint statement from Dianna Shaw, an aunt of Drueke.

“They are safely in the custody of the U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia and after medical checks and debriefing they will return to the states,” the statement said.

Shaw said both men have spoken with relatives and are in “pretty good shape,” according to an official with the U.S. embassy.

President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan welcomed the releases and thanked the governments of Ukraine and Saudi Arabia for their work to secure the detainees‘ freedom. “We look forward to our citizens being reunited with their families,” he said in a tweet.

In a later statement, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States “is appreciative of Ukraine including all prisoners of war, regardless of nationality, in its negotiations” and thanked Saudi government partners for securing the release of the 10 prisoners, including the two Americans.

The Saudi embassy released a statement saying it helped secure the release of 10 prisoners from Morocco, the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Croatia. Shaw confirmed that Drueke and Huynh were part of the group.

The United Kingdom said five British nationals had been released, and lawmaker Robert Jenrick said one of them was Aiden Aslin, 28, who had been sentenced to death after he was captured in eastern Ukraine.

“Aiden’s return brings to an end months of agonising uncertainty for Aiden’s loving family in Newark who suffered every day of Aiden’s sham trial but never lost hope. As they are united as a family once more, they can finally be at peace,” Jenrick tweeted.

British Prime Minister Liz Truss heralded the news on social media.

“Hugely welcome news that five British nationals held by Russian-backed proxies in eastern Ukraine are being safely returned, ending months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families,” she tweeted.

Moroccan media reported that the released prisoners included Brahim Saadoun, 21, who was sentenced to death in June after being accused of terrorism and trying to overturn the constitutional order. Captured by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, the court claimed he was a mercenary, while Saadoun’s father said he had enlisted in Ukraine’s regular army.

Russian state television had previously said Drueke and Huynh were being held by Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. The U.S. does not recognize the sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and has no diplomatic relations with them, making it necessary for others to lead efforts to get the men released.

Drueke joined the Army at age 19 after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and he believed he could help Ukrainian fighters because of his training and experience with weapons, Shaw said previously. Drueke left in mid-April.

Drueke’s mother received a call from Saudi Arabia on Wednesday morning and an embassy worker handed the phone to the man, Shaw said.

“He got on the phone and said, ‘Hi mom, it’s your favorite child,’” she said.

Huynh moved to north Alabama two years ago from his native California and lives about 120 miles from Drueke. Before leaving for Europe, Huynh told his local newspaper, The Decatur Daily, he couldn’t stop thinking about Russia’s invasion.

“I know it wasn’t my problem, but there was that gut feeling that I felt I had to do something,” Huynh told the paper. “Two weeks after the war began, it kept eating me up inside and it just felt wrong. I was losing sleep. … All I could think about was the situation in Ukraine.”

Huynh told his fiance he wants a meal from McDonald’s and a Pepsi-Cola when he returns home, Shaw said.

The two men bonded over their home state and were together when their unit came under heavy fire. Relatives spoke with Drueke several times by phone while the two were being held.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Doctors Are Still Hunting For The Cause Of Long COVID Brain Fog

Studies show 30% of COVID patients report brain fog a few months after they’re sick. It’s 65 to 85% for long-haulers sick beyond that.

COVID-related brain fog is a condition that can feel very defeating and overwhelming. 

Newsy’s Lindsey Theis has COVID-related brain fog herself. And it’s a topic she’s covered since 2020. She says each person she’s spoken with tells her it’s a dramatic change that impacts how they think and move throughout their lives. For this story, Theis met a family dealing with what she says is one of the worst cases she’s ever seen. 

On a bright, sunny day in rural Rensselaer, Indiana, 45-year-old Kari Lentino’s mind is a slow-moving storm. 

“I feel like a brain blizzard half the time,” she said. 

Lentino is immunocompromised. She’s had COVID twice. Since June 2021, it’s left her with several neurological setbacks. She says her brain fog is among the worst of it. 

“I couldn’t remember passwords to get into certain systems. I worked at the library and I would forget what I was doing while I was doing it,” Lentino said. 

Her conversations now go at a snail’s pace as she searches for words. 

The mother of four and grandmother of two had to quit work and file for disability. 

She can’t watch her grandkids. She won’t run errands or drive. Now, her time is spent mothering her brain. 

Dr. Igor Koralnik is chief of neuro-infectious diseases and co-director of the Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive COVID-19 Center, where he also runs a lab. 

He says 70% of his COVID brain fog patients are like Lentino — women in their early 40s. 

“We see that attention is their main cognitive problem,” he said. “Problem with attention, problem with memory, problem with multitasking and briefly, problems getting through their daily life and working in their current job capacity. …  We have people who have been infected back in March 2020 and still have decreased quality of life because of those symptoms and decreased cognitive function.”

Scientists think COVID cognitive dysfunction is from brain inflammation — but what causes it is still itself foggy.

One leading theory is that long COVID is an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body, including the brain. 

“We find that the virus has confused the immune system, and we think that it’s driving the immune system towards autoimmunity,” Koralnik explained.

Studies show 30% of COVID patients report brain fog a few months after they’re sick. It’s 65 to 85% for long-haulers sick beyond that.  

Researchers haven’t found brain fog treatments yet, so they tackle someone’s symptoms. 

But even diagnosing brain fog is tricky. It’s invisible. There’s no set case definition but it can include trouble focusing, struggling to remember names, places, or words, reacting slowly, confused judgment, losing a train of thought often and fatigue or exhaustion from concentrating.  

Back in Rensselaer, Lentino’s husband helps her prepare her pills. She takes eight medications and two vitamins daily, plus a handful more as needed. That’s in addition to her therapies and memory aids like calendars and post it notes. Those cues share spots in the Lentino home near the signs of her former creative and vibrant self. Prescription bottles near her paintings. Reminders near her Star Wars string art. 

“It’s frustrating and depressing. It takes so long to do anything,” she said. 

In the spot where she used to stand to paint, brushes and acrylics wait patiently. 

Lentino is waiting too, like so many brain fog sufferers. It’s a long, draining wait and the ultimate test of patience.  

On a hopeful note, research shows many brain fog patients recover memory and attention near the 6-to-9-month mark. For treatment, some doctors prescribe medicine, like steroids or antihistamines, plus therapies like speech or cognitive rehabilitation therapy. If you have brain fog yourself, experts say you can try memory games and puzzles, and focus on quality sleep and healthy eating. 

Source: newsy.com

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Call Center Technology Could Remove Accents From Customer Service

By Newsy Staff
September 14, 2022

New AI technology for call centers can essentially remove foreign accents on phone calls, but does this perpetuate discrimination issues?

When calling customer service and actually reaching a real human, it’s likely people end up speaking to someone outside of the U.S. about a domestic issue.

It’s no secret many companies outsource their customer service to call centers around the globe. Sometimes, it’s the representative’s accent that lets the customer know they aren’t stateside.

But one startup has plans to hide foreign accent completely.

It’s a controversial idea, creating a new debate around accents: On the one hand, this could help protect workers from discrimination. On the other hand, skeptics argue it could actually exacerbate existing problems with discrimination.

Accent training for call centers is already standard procedure. Workers are usually trained in a number of different English-speaking accents. The BBC reported on one company that trained workers both in their speaking accents and in understanding accents, like New Yorker, Jamaican and even Medieval English accents.

One of the apparent benefits of using tech that neutralizes accents means it could save companies from a rigorous training process. The other major goal is protecting workers from discrimination. 

One of the founders of Sanas, who is a former call center worker, told the Guardian, “I built this technology for the agents, because I don’t want him or her to go through what I went through.”

Unsurprisingly, call centers are magnets for all kinds of accent discrimination from callers. Accents are a huge factor in how we perceive identity and form prejudices. They can be associated with cultural background, nationality or even class and education.

Some research has shown accents can play an even more important role in how humans judge based on looks and how humans respond to non-native accents differently: In one study, native English speakers rated recordings of different accents saying statements like “Ants don’t sleep,” but the results showed the English speakers rated the statements said with the heaviest accents as the least true. In other words, they trusted them less.

It might be easy to point to studies like this as evidence that accent bias is just unavoidable, but experts say it seems more like the other way around: Stereotypes are what shape how we respond to certain accents in the first place.

Some studies show that native U.S. English speakers trust British accents more than Indian accents, regardless of how strong it is, or that Mexican and Greek accents were seen as “less intelligent or professional” than people using standard U.S. English. 

This isn’t just the U.S. Many countries in Europe, like Sweden or Denmark, have dialects referred to as “street language” or “street dialects.” But these are often used by immigrant communities and are seen as “less refined.”

Some language experts suggest exposure to more accents can actually help combat harmful stereotypes, which circles back to why some critics have raised eyebrows at the call center technology.

It can seem like erasing accents and identity might be a step backwards to some, but not for others like call center workers, who might find some relief in technology like this.

Source: newsy.com

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Why Is It So Difficult To Tackle Homelessness?

How to resolve homelessness is a long-running topic of conversation, with few easy answers.

The U.S. is struggling to solve its homelessness crisis.  

The number of Americans living on the streets and in shelters is growing. 

“This is home. Housing is so expensive, and you can’t afford. I would be killing myself to pay rent,” said Knoye Brown, who lives in a tent. 

Those rent prices are only increasing.  

And that means even more Americans will have a difficult time affording housing.  

When you add in record high inflation, that leaves America’s homeless even more vulnerable.  

In 2020 nearly 600,000 Americans were left without a home, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  

Data from the non-profit organization shows overall homelessness has improved by 10% since 2007. 

But in 2020, the U.S. saw a 30% increase in unsheltered homelessness.  

And in recent months homelessness has reached crisis levels in major cities across the country. 

This year Knoxville saw a 50% increase in its homeless population, Long Beach, California saw a 62% increase since 2020 and

Phoenix saw a 33% spike.  

Homelessness can come in many forms and can impact all ages.  

In January 2020 70% of the homeless were individuals and 30% belonged to families with children.  

“I wasn’t able to finish school because I didn’t know where I would sleep after school. So I would stay where I was at, so I had a spot,” said Conner Showen, a former young homeless person.  

States and cities have set aside more funding to try to curb the issue. 

New York has more than doubled its spending to over $3 billion since 2014. 

Colorado’s governor approved $45 million to convert a youth corrections facility into a homeless recovery campus.  

And in New Mexico, $10 million is going to communities to buy old motels and hotels and transform them into transitional housing. 

These are just a string of new methods in an attempt to tackle a problem that goes back decades. 

According to Bloomberg, homelessness first peaked after the Civil War when veterans without jobs struggled to find housing and freed slaves struggled to find affordable homes or jobs.   

From then on affordable homes were demolished in many minority neighborhoods as part of urban renewal. 

In the 1970s investment in public housing started to decline when President Richard Nixon imposed a moratorium on new public housing after he declared them a failure, and instead pivoted to housing subsidies. 

And in the 80s welfare programs to support those in need were cut under President Ronald Reagan’s economic plans to lower taxes for businesses.  

Bloomberg adds the AIDS crisis that hit the LGBTQ+ community, a drug epidemic and mass incarceration of people, specifically Black or Hispanic people, also fueled the problem.  

This was further exacerbated by policies that favor single family housing zones.  

According to the New York Times, most land plots are designed for a single-family house. Many state laws and zoning rules limit the land that can be used to build multi-unit buildings, like apartment buildings that can house multiple families.   

“Really it’s a blend of a trifecta of affordable housing, mental illness and substance abuse. When you add those three at various levels for each person, this is what we’re facing,” said Jeff Hicks, the executive director of Hope Rescue Mission.   

Other states like California and Oregon have taken other approaches and passed laws in recent years to end single-family zoning so more affordable housing can be built.  

Some cities, like Missoula, Montana have moved toward sanction camps, known as temporary safe outdoor spaces.  

“49% of the people that have gone through here are now permanently in housing, recovery, or in areas where we mended some family situations, but they have not turned back to the system,” said April Seat, the director of outreach at Hope Rescue Mission. 

In the last year a number of state legislatures introduced bills that some say criminalize homelessness.  

In Tennessee, it’s now a felony for homeless people to camp in parks or other public property. Some argue this is not the solution. 

“I believe it’s only a misdemeanor but with a small misdemeanor and a failure to appear, now you have warrants. You can be jailed at any time, it’s difficult to walk into a state building or federally funded building because you’re worried instead of getting help or resources, you’re scared you’re going to get indebted to a lack of it all,” said Seat. 

Others, like Judge Glock with the Cicero Institute, believe camping bans are the right path to helping the homeless long-term. 

And record-high inflation is adding another hurdle for Americans struggling to keep up with rising rent prices. 

For some those rent price increases are simply unaffordable.  

“We do see people falling into homelessness because they can’t afford rent. It’s not like it’s being raised $30 to $60 and some areas are raising $200,” said Seat. 

According to government data reviewed by the LA Times, new rent leases have increased by more than 11% year-over-year. 

And polling from Freddie Mac found a majority of renters saw a rent price hike in the last year. 

One in five say they’re “extremely likely” to miss a payment. 

The severity of America’s homeless problem ranges depending on the city and state, but cities across the country are taking action to address the problem. 

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness says the solution is to tackle the housing issue, integrate healthcare, strengthen crisis response systems and build career pathways. But this can’t be done without building and fostering partnerships to address the root causes of homelessness.  

Source: newsy.com

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Uvalde Teacher Shot Says She’s Not Returning To The Classroom

A teacher injured in the Robb Elementary School shooting will not be returning to a classroom this year, while she recovers from being shot.

Decorations that once brought life to Elsa Avila’s fourth grade classroom at Robb Elementary School now sit in brown boxes. 

“Every year, you know, I was there,” said Avila. 

She would be in class preparing for the school year, just like her siblings — a family of educators.  

“She teaches first grade at UDLA and this is my other sister that she teaches fifth grade at Florence Elementary,” she said.  

But after a 30-year teaching career, this year Avila is focused on recovering physically, mentally and emotionally from a mass shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead at her school, and paralyzed her passion.     

“It’s different this year. I sleep with my light on. You know, I can’t handle the dark because we were in the dark for an hour,” said Avila.  

On May 24, after an award ceremony, Avila and her students headed back to room 109. 

“They were all just so happy, laughing and smiling,” she said.  

That excitement quickly vanished when students heard screams coming from the hallway. 

“I heard a teacher yelling. ‘Get in your rooms. Get in your rooms.’ We heard the gunshots. I stood for my crouched position to motion to them to come come nearer to me. And as I stood is when I felt the impact on my lower abdomen. I felt the gunshot.” she said. 

She texted her family and the school vice principal.  

“I told her, I’m shot. The two little girls that were closest to me would come and they would tap on my shoulder, you know, they would try to move me and they would say, you’re going to be okay, miss. It’s okay. We love you. We love you,” said Avila. 

Help finally arrived an hour after she was shot.  

“My biggest fear was like, I’m going to die in front of my students. You know, I don’t want them to see me, to see me die. I was there to protect them but they ended up having to protect themselves, trying to help me,” she continued. 

She’s still haunted by the terror that swept across campus. 

Avila was flown to a hospital in San Antonio and  later found out one of her students was injured by shrapnel. 

It was a heartwrenching reality and trauma that’s now holding her back from teaching.   

“My biggest fear is that I won’t be able to handle it, that I won’t, you know, have a meltdown or an anxiety attack or panic attack,” said Avila. 

NEWSY’S ADI GUAJARDO: What message do you have for kids going back to school this week? 

ELSA AVILA: That they can move forward. They are strong. They’re brave. They’ve already been through the hardest thing that anyone can go through.  

Avila tells Newsy she’s considering returning to teaching in the spring, but says it’s just too early to make that decision. 

Source: newsy.com

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The Struggle And Rising Need For Veterans To Get Mental Health Care

Research shows nearly half of American veterans who need mental health care don’t get it.

The guilt felt by Connor McDaniel’s father, David, is overwhelming.  

“He had more personality than a whole bunch of people put together. I miss him terribly. I miss him every day,” David said. “I’m his father. I’m supposed to protect him, even from himself, and I failed. It’s very, very hard to deal with.”

Last year, the 26-year-old veteran sent his last email to his loved ones. 

“He felt like his entire life would’ve been a series of bad experiences.”

His family tried to stop him. His father called law enforcement for help.  

El Paso County sheriff’s deputies found McDaniel first, where he provoked them to shoot and kill him. 

The district attorney’s office ruled the shooting was justified.  

David is now fulfilling a promise to his son — that he would never be just another number.

“My son made it very clear in his note to us that he didn’t want to be a gun violence statistic, a veteran suicide statistic,” he said. 

David wants to ensure every veteran receives access to mental health care after they return home. And data shows the need is rising. 

 The Department of Veterans Affairs projects a 32% spike in outpatient mental health care over the next 10 years. And one-third of veterans who received care from the VA were diagnosed with at least one mental health condition.

But there are barriers to treatment. Stigma and shame are two of them, according to Bob McLaughlin with the Mount Carmel Veterans Service Center. 

“It’s about resiliency, right, and when that breaks — when people feel that they’re weak — that’s against the culture,” he said.

In a 2018 study from the peer-reviewed BMC Health Service Journal, researchers found a majority of veterans were worried about what others would think if they sought treatment.  

University of Memphis President Michael Rudd also says troops on active duty can face consequences for reaching out for help.  

“Ultimately, the concern is about the impact on career progression, the impact on your deployability, the impact on all sorts of things in terms of advancement,” he said. “That’s how stigma is maintained.”

Some veterans told the BMC that fear lingers long into retirement. 

In an effort to erase stigma, the VA created a national campaign called “The Veterans Know,” where former service members encourage each other to take charge of their mental health. 

“It really is quite empowering to hear veterans talk about their struggle, how they became aware of the struggle and then all the different kinds of ways that they got help,” Department of Defense Mental Health National Director for VA Christopher Loftis said.

Even when veterans look for treatment, the BMC study found that many had little confidence in the VA health care system. 

Veterans who were interviewed pointed to “appointment problems, staffing issues” and “limited follow-up” from providers and staff.  

“It’s just starting to build back up into another waitlist scandal,” Concerned Veterans of America Coalitions Director Joshua Stanwitz said. 

Before the problem hits a crisis point, like the waitlist scandal in 2014, Navy veteran Paula Pedene accused VA officials in Phoenix of lying to the federal government about shorter appointment wait times.

An audit from the VA Inspector General found systemic problems throughout the VA, discovering the average wait was really 115 days and at least 40 veterans died without the chance to see a doctor. 

“There was 111 VA facilities that were using the same methodology and manipulating the wait time data to make them look good,” Pedene said.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki stepped down in the wake of the scandal and then-president Barack Obama signed 19 executive orders to improve VA hospitals.  

On its website, the VA says it implemented new methods of calculating average wait times to be more accurate so patients can check how long it will take to see a provider. 

The wait times change daily, but when we last checked within 50 miles of Chicago, the wait was anywhere from 9 to 13 days. 

Under the VA Mission Act of 2018, which aims to provide broader access to health care, veterans should only wait a standard of 20 days after requesting a mental health appointment. 

Rural areas also face unique geographical hurdles, like in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

When we last checked, there is one treatment facility in the area with a 15-day wait.  

The center with the second-earliest availability is 95 miles away. 

If veterans can’t get the help they need, the VA Mission Act says the VA is supposed to pay other health care systems to take over, like community care.  

But an investigation from USA Today last year found in some cases, administrators overrule doctor recommendations to send vets outside the VA in order to retain patients. And once people are sent to community care, the average wait time is about 42 days.  

The VA told USA Today it’s following Mission Act requirements. And some doctors say expanded telehealth is easing struggles. 

“The way that psychiatrists and psychologists can work with someone in a rural area is very effective as well,” Zablocki VA Hospital Mental Health Division Manager Dr. Bert Berger said.

VA data shows the pandemic drove telehealth appointments to unprecedented heights, jumping nearly 2,000% between January 2020 and 2021. 

Officials told Congress last year about spending government funds to expand care and improve reach.  

Veterans Health Administration Acting Deputy Under Secretary Dr. Steven Lieberman said the VA distributed over 84,000 iPads and 20,000 cell phones. “It helped us accelerate the modernization of bandwith to reach over 2,100 locations with increased bandwith on modernized platforms.”

Today, the system is supporting over 100,000 remote users. 

Still, some veterans expressed distrust over using online services, telling BMC researchers they think the system will share private information.  

One Vietnam veteran confessed he was afraid that sharing about his time overseas would land him in jail.  

Other vets said they simply didn’t know anything about VA benefits before leaving the military. They struggled to understand how to find or use mental health services as veterans, instead of as active-duty members. 

The VA built Make the Connection, a website to link up veterans with resources and solutions for their mental health needs. 

There are also free, online tools for veterans to deal with sleep issues or anger management, plus a crisis line with 24/7 support for vets and their families. 

But Berger says it’s important for veterans to take the difficult first step and seek the support they need.  

“Veterans are proud,” he said. “They served their country. They don’t want to admit they have a problem or admit defeat in any way, so admitting that they have a mental health problem is really difficult.”

As for David McDaniel, he just wants to make sure troops know they aren’t alone when they come back from deployment, while keeping his son’s memory alive along the way.  

“I really do strongly feel like if we can make the ‘D’ disappear from PTSD, and it’s not such a stigma, and everybody who’s been in combat goes for some mental health, I think it will change things a lot.”

Source: newsy.com

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Liz Truss Becomes Britain’s New Prime Minister

By Associated Press
September 6, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II formally asked her to form a new government in a traditional ceremony at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Liz Truss became U.K. prime minister on Tuesday and immediately confronted the enormous task ahead of her amid increasing pressure to curb soaring prices, ease labor unrest and fix a health care system burdened by long waiting lists and staff shortages.

At the top of her inbox is the energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which threatens to push energy bills to unaffordable levels, shuttering businesses and leaving the nation’s poorest people shivering in icy homes this winter.

Truss, who refused to spell out her energy strategy during the two-month campaign to succeed Boris Johnson, now plans to cap energy bills at a cost to taxpayers of as much as $116 billion, British news media reported Tuesday. She is expected to unveil her plan on Thursday.

“You must know about the cost of living crisis in England, which is really quite bad at the moment,” Rebecca Macdougal, 55, who works in law enforcement, said outside the Houses of Parliament.

“She’s making promises for that, as she says she’s going to deliver, deliver, deliver,” she said. “But we will see in, hopefully, the next few weeks there’ll be some announcements which will help the normal working person.”

Truss took office Tuesday afternoon at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, when Queen Elizabeth II formally asked her to form a new government in a carefully choreographed ceremony dictated by centuries of tradition. Johnson, who announced his intention to step down two months ago, formally resigned during his own audience with the queen a short time earlier.

It was the first time in the queen’s 70-year reign that the handover of power took place at Balmoral, rather than at Buckingham Palace in London. The ceremony was moved to Scotland to provide certainty about the schedule because the 96-year-old queen has experienced problems getting around that have forced palace officials to make decisions about her travel on a day-to-day basis.

Truss, 47, took office a day after the ruling Conservative Party chose her as its leader in an election where the party’s 172,000 dues-paying members were the only voters. As party leader, Truss automatically became prime minister without the need for a general election because the Conservatives still have a majority in the House of Commons.

But as a prime minister selected by less than 0.5% of British adults, Truss is under pressure to show quick results.

Ed Davey, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, on Tuesday called for an early election in October.

“I’ve listened to Liz Truss during the Tory leadership (campaign) and I was looking for a plan to help people with their skyrocketing energy bills, with the NHS crisis and so on, and I heard no plan at all,” he told the BBC.

“Given people are really worried, given people are losing sleep over their energy bills, businesses aren’t investing because of the crisis, I think that’s really wrong,” Davey said.

Johnson took note of the strains facing Britain as he left the prime minister’s official residence at No. 10 Downing Street for the last time, saying his policies had left the government with the economic strength to help people weather the energy crisis.

While many observers expect Johnson to attempt a political comeback, he backed Truss and compared himself to Cincinnatus, the Roman dictator who relinquished power and returned to his farm to live in peace.

“Like Cincinnatus, I am returning to my plow,” he said. “And I will be offering this government nothing but the most fervent support.”

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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