In Syria, Reports Of 19 Medical Facilities Bombed Since April 28

On May 6, an air strike destroyed Nabd Al-Hayat hospital in Syria’s Idlib province.

ARAB24/Reuters TV


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On May 15, government forces bombed the Tarmala Maternity and Children’s Hospital in South Idlib, Syria.

“The air strikes completely destroyed the facility, which had served about 6,000 people a month,” says Dr. Khaula Sawah, vice president of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations-USA.

The information on the incident comes from doctors on the ground in Syria.

According to the union, it was the 19th health-care facility bombed in Syria since April 28.

The official Syrian news agency says the government only targets “terrorist” positions.

Because the Tarmala Maternity and Children’s Hospital had been evacuated in the wake of this recent spate of attacks on other regional medical facilities, no one died in this particular strike, says Sawah.

But in the course of the government’s latest offensive on rebel-held territory in Idlib, which began in late April, at least 160 people have died and more than 600 have been wounded.

This spike in attacks on medical facilities is not a new tactic but represents a continuation of an ongoing strategy pursued by the Syrian government and its affiliates, says Rayan Koteiche, the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) researcher for the Middle East and North Africa. “The Syrian government and its allies are well aware of the value of medical services to populations in need and of the impact of denying these services,” he says.

In a statement published online, Koteiche says: “PHR’s medical partners in Syria report that coordinates for at least three of the attacked facilities were shared through the UN’s deconfliction mechanism but were targeted anyway …. Many of the impacted facilities have been forced to go out of service, depriving the vulnerable civilian population of life-saving care.”

PHR has documented and mapped such incidents from the beginning of the conflict in March 2011.

As of May 14, not accounting for the latest attack, he says, in the years of the civil war “we are up to 566 individual attacks on about 350 separate [health-care] facilities.”

In addition, 890 medical personnel have been killed, some in attacks on the medical facilities where they worked.

“The main conclusion we can draw from nearly eight years of research,” Koteiche says, is that “these attacks are not unfortunate side effects of the war but have become crucial parts of the Syrian military’s strategy. In our assessment, over 90% of these incidents are attributable to the Syrian government and its affiliates, including militia and Russian allies.”

The deliberate destruction of such facilities goes against international humanitarian law, says Koteiche. He believes that keeping detailed records of each attack is critical: “This is the hope of the work that we’ve engaged in, that it will culminate in accountability.”

As a result of the intensified air and land strikes, 30 other health-care facilities in northern Syria have partially or completely suspended their activities.

“There are still hospitals in the north part of Idlib that are still functional,” Sawah says. “I can’t specify [a number] not only for security conditions but it changes by the hour due to heavy air strikes.” Ambulances and emergency personnel are also being targeted, she says, pointing to the bombing of an ambulance on May 8 in which the driver was killed.

“We have deployed five more mobile medical clinics on the ground,” she says. “But this is still not nearly enough.”

The targeting of medical facilities comes at a time when the need for care for wounded and traumatized residents is increasingly urgent. Currently, some 3 million people in the targeted region are at risk of being attacked — not just Syrians from the northern region but those who had fled north from other parts of the country in hopes of escaping the conflict.

Meanwhile, medical resources “are spread so thin” because of the attacks, says Dr. Ahmad Tarakji, head of the Syrian American Medical Society. “Physicians have been dispersed everywhere and it is almost impossible to provide services” to displaced populations.

To try to avoid or minimize damage from attacks, physicians have spread care units over several buildings, created back-up facilities and re-located clinics in caves or underground. “And the forces are still able to find and damage them,” Tarakji says. “Since hospitals serve the whole community, they know where the hospital is, it’s not secret.”

It is not likely that humanitarian groups will fill the void. Quoted in a U.N. news release on May 16, Najat Rochdi, senior humanitarian adviser to the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, states: “The insecurity [in Idlib] and the continuing airstrikes is not something that is conducive really to deliver humanitarian assistance. And as you know, some NGOs, about 12, have suspended temporarily their assistance.”

Tarakji would like to see a resolution that will mandate a U.N. investigation of the targeting of medical facilities.

In this war-ravaged country, Tarakji says, “It’s easier to get a gun on the street than to find an antibiotic.”

Diane Cole writes for many publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Jewish Week, and is book columnist for The Psychotherapy Networker. She is the author of the memoir After Great Pain: A New Life Emerges. Her website is dianejcole.com.

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Ohio State Doctor Sexually Abused At Least 177 Male Students, Investigation Finds

Richard Strauss was employed as a doctor at Ohio State University from 1978 until he retired in 1998.

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For nearly two decades, a doctor at The Ohio State University sexually abused at least 177 male students, according to an exhaustive independent investigation commissioned by the university. Most of the doctor’s abuse happened under the auspices of providing the students with medical treatment.

Richard Strauss worked at OSU from September 1978 through March 1998, primarily as a doctor with the Athletic Department and the Student Health Center. The investigation found that university personnel became aware of Strauss’ abuse as early as 1979.

However, “despite the persistence, seriousness, and regularity of such complaints, no meaningful action was taken by the University to investigate such concerns until January 1996,” when they were first elevated to officials beyond Student Health or the Athletics Department, the report reads.

As a result, Strauss was suspended from working as a treating physician at OSU. The school eventually removed him from his departments, but it kept him on as a tenured faculty member. He voluntarily retired in 1998 with “emeritus” status from the university. Strauss took his own life in 2005.

“The findings are shocking and painful to comprehend,” current OSU President Michael Drake said in a message emailed to the OSU community.

“On behalf of the university, we offer our profound regret and sincere apologies to each person who endured Strauss’ abuse,” said Drake, who became the school’s president in 2014. “Our institution’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent this abuse was unacceptable — as were the inadequate efforts to thoroughly investigate complaints raised by students and staff members.”

Drake added that the university has started the process of revoking Strauss’ emeritus status and “will take additional action as appropriate.”

“Dreams were broken, relationships with loved ones were damaged, and the harm now carries over to our children as many of us have become so overprotective that it strains the relationship with our kids,” Kent Kilgore, a survivor of Strauss’ abuse, said in a statement to The Associated Press.

OSU said it launched the independent investigation last April, after a former student came forward with allegations of abuse and “indicated … that there may have been others who experienced sexual misconduct by Strauss.”

The investigation carried out by the law firm Perkins Coie was led by a former federal prosecutor and a former federal government ethics attorney. Both had experience in investigations involving male sexual abuse survivors.

They interviewed 520 people, among them the 177 men who said they had been abused by Strauss.

The report, which runs more than 230 pages, contains a litany of painful stories of abuse from former students who went to Strauss for medical care.

The instances of abuse often involved inappropriate touching of a students’ genitals during exams in ways that weren’t medically useful. A number of students said Strauss “would routinely touch their genitals at every visit, regardless of the medical ailment presented, including for a sore throat,” the report states.

The report also states that members of 15 university athletic teams were abused. Strauss most frequently targeted wrestlers — 48 of them, according to the report. And the abuse often became more explicit over multiple visits.

“We observed that, in many cases, a student’s most egregious experience of abuse did not occur during the student’s first encounter with Strauss; rather, the abuse escalated over time, in a series of examinations with the student,” the report states.

Other students reported that Strauss would frequently shower with teams, appearing to loiter and gawp at students as they were naked in locker rooms and making them uncomfortable.

A former soccer player told investigators that Strauss would sometimes run a single lap just as the team was finishing up practice. “The student noted that it was a commonly-held perception among the players that Strauss was exercising as a pretext to shower with the team, and the student-athletes would try to shower as quickly as possible,” the report reads.

Dozens of people who worked as coaches or athletic trainers told investigators that they had been aware of rumors and complaints against Strauss. The abuse was so widely known that it left some students with the idea that it was simply accepted by other university personnel.

“Many of the students felt that Strauss’ behavior was an ‘open secret,’ as it appeared to them that their coaches, trainers, and other team physicians were fully aware of Strauss’ activities, and yet few seemed inclined to do anything to stop it,” the report states. Students, it adds, said they had the impression the abuse was a form of hazing or a rite of passage.

The university took disciplinary action against Strauss only after a series of student complaints in the mid-1990s. Even after that, he opened an off-campus private men’s health clinic near the university — where he continued to abuse patients — and kept his title as a tenured faculty professor.

As Gabe Rosenberg and Adora Namigadde of member station WOSU reported:

“At least 50 students have filed lawsuits against Ohio State, arguing the university knew about and declined to act in response to complaints about Strauss. Their case is headed to mediation.

” ‘It’s what we’ve been saying—they’ve failed to act—investigate or act, and now we have validation,’ said Brian Garrett, one of the lead plaintiffs, in an interview Friday.

“The university has referred the report to Columbus Police, the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.”

The investigators and the university’s president thanked the survivors for coming forward to share their stories.

“This independent investigation was completed because of the strength and courage of survivors,” Drake said.

Read the investigative report here:

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Suicide Rate For Girls Has Been Rising Faster Than For Boys, Study Finds

The increase in suicide rates was highest for girls ages 10 to 14, rising by nearly 13% since 2007. While for boys of the same age, it rose by 7%.

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The number of people dying by suicide in the U.S. has been rising, and a new study shows that the suicide rate among young teenage girls has been increasing faster than it has for boys of the same age.

Boys are still more likely to take their own lives. But the study published Friday in JAMA Network Open finds that girls are steadily narrowing that gap.

Researchers examined more than 85,000 youth suicides that occurred between 1975 and 2016. Donna Ruch, a researcher at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who worked on the study, tells NPR that a major shift occurred after 2007.

Researchers found the increase was highest for girls ages 10 to 14, rising by nearly 13% since 2007. While for boys of the same age, it rose by 7%.

“That’s where we saw the most significant narrowing of the gender gap,” Ruch says.

There was also evidence of racial and ethnic disparities in the study. The differences in suicide rates between boys and girls were greatest among non-Hispanic black youth.

The study did not explore why more girls are killing themselves.

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A combination of different factors influence the risk of suicide, including family history, local epidemics of suicide, barriers to accessing mental health care and feelings of hopelessness or isolation.

Among people in the U.S. ages 10 to 19, suicide has become a leading cause of death.

Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, tells NPR that while multiple factors are likely driving the increase, social media might be playing a major role.

That’s because, she says the vast majority of children and adolescents are spending a lot of time plugged into their devices. And while social media can make them feel more connected to people in their lives, Moutier says, recent studies show it can hurt their mental health.

“Heavy screen time, night-time utilization [of social media on devices] that affects sleep, people who have anxiety, depression or psychological vulnerabilities may have a more negative experience,” Moutier says.

And some recent studies show that girls may be more vulnerable to the dark side of social media, says Joan Luby, a psychiatrist at Washington University School of Medicine who wrote a commentary that accompanied the new study.

“Girls are more often … cyberbullied [than boys] on social media. They tend to have much more negative psychological effects to that cyberbullying,” she tells NPR.

Social media has also changed how kids interact with one another, she says, noting that adolescents aren’t having as many in-person interactions, which are vital to protecting against mental health issues.

Luby says she wasn’t surprised by the study’s findings, especially after a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that suicide rates for girls ages 10 to 14 tripled between 1999 to 2014.

She stresses the need to learn more about what’s driving the trend.

“If we had data like this that pertained to a medical illness,” Luby says, “we would be seeing very, very rapid action from public health sectors.”

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U.S. To Lift Tariffs On Steel And Aluminum From Canada

The U.S. is lifting tariffs on Canada’s steel imports, nearly a year after imposing the duties. Here, a worker is seen at Bri-Steel Manufacturing, which makes seamless steel pipes, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

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The Trump administration has reached a deal to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, in a move that could put the two nations a step closer to ratifying the USMCA — the trade deal that would update the NAFTA agreement.

The tariffs will fall within two days, according to a joint U.S.-Canada statement posted by Canada’s foreign ministry.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce the breakthrough Friday afternoon, his office said. Cameron spoke to President Trump about a deal to end the tariffs around midday, according to Cameron Ahmad, Trudeau’s director of communications.

The U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico have now been in effect for nearly a year, subjecting steel imports to a 25% tariff and aluminum to a 10% hike. Retaliatory tariffs from both countries have been in place for nearly as long.

Friday’s joint statement does not mention the status of the tariffs between the U.S. and Mexico.

News of the deal comes two days after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said a deal on the tariffs was looming, during his testimony to a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

Trump’s original tariff order metals targeted the EU, exempting the U.S. neighbors. But after extended talks on a revised NAFTA deal took longer than the U.S. administration had hoped, the two countries were included in the tariffs. The leaders of the three countries signed the new U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement in late November. It won’t take effect until all three legislatures have voted to ratify the trade pact.

In late April, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, warned Trump that the USMCA deal would be “dead” unless the steel and aluminum tariffs were lifted.

Earlier this week, Mexico’s Economy Secretary Graciela Marquez said she believed a solution to the tariff standoff could be imminent, as she held meetings in Toronto with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

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