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Scott Mayle 2021-07-13
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One in four women who experience a severe injury during birth regret having their child. It’s taboo to admit, but with more than 600,000 women giving birth in England and Wales alone each year, we need to talk about this. 

A new survey of mothers affected by birth injuries lays bare the physical and psychological impact on women, which can last years into their child’s life.

The overwhelming majority (85%) of mothers who suffered severe injuries say their experience damaged their relationship with their child, with 14% saying this harm was permanent. One in three (34%) said they saw their child as the cause of the injury while, heartbreakingly, three in 10 (31%) thought their child would be better off without them.

The research, from birth injury charity The MASIC Foundation, surveyed 325 women who self-identified as having suffered severe perineal trauma when giving birth. The sample size may be small, but the research adds to growing concern about women’s health outcomes after giving birth in the UK.

While it’s important to acknowledge that millions of women around the world give birth each year without problems, it’s equally important to say this isn’t always the case – and women are increasingly talking about their negative experiences and demanding better care.

HuffPost UK has previously reported on the gaps in NHS postpartum care that widened during the pandemic. In a separate survey of mums, the majority (91%) said they were not given enough advice during pregnancy about postpartum recovery.

We also know that Black women are five times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. A controversial proposal to tackle this – inducing labour at 39 weeks for pregnant black, Asian and minority ethnic women as a matter of course – has been called “racist” by some doctors and midwives. 

In the latest research, 78% of women surveyed said they have traumatic memories of birth and 52% said they face embarrassment due to symptoms of their injury.

This rings true for Catherine*, who had a prolonged labour following induction with her son, which then required an episiotomy and ventouse (vacuum delivery).

She had a third-degree tear (defined as a tear that extends into the anal sphincter), but it was initially misdiagnosed as a second-degree tear, meaning she wasn’t offered the correct treatment. Her undiagnosed injury left her in too much pain to sit down or attend mother and baby groups, leaving her “essentially house-bound” for her maternity leave. After a year – and hitting a brick wall with the NHS – she accessed help at a private clinic. 

The damage has been permanent, though, and she’s still prone to toilet urgency and accidents. Catherine now carries pads, wipes, Imodium and spare underwear everywhere she goes. She quit a job she loved as she was struggling to manage her condition, and has been diagnosed with PTSD. 

“My confidence, my me-ness, the essence of who I am, has been destroyed.Catherine, 44, Bristol

“My confidence, my me-ness, the essence of who I am, has been destroyed,” says the 44-year-old, from Bristol. “My relationships with my child and my partner have suffered.”

Catherine has struggled to talk to friends about her experience – or even watch programmes when childbirth is mentioned – and has counselling each year in the run-up to her son’s birthday. 

“With my son, I love him dearly, he is the best thing in my life, but his birth caused the injury and it is difficult to square the two,” she says.

“Every year I dread his birthday and the reminders of my traumatic experience. It is not fair on him or on me – his birthdays are not a happy occasion, but every year I have to pretend it is.”

While her partner has been understanding, Catherine says “he also carries his own guilt about what happened”. Their physical relationship has also been impacted hugely. “I feel like a shell of my former self at times,” she adds. 

Like Catherine, 69% of mothers surveyed said the impact of a birth injury was both physical and emotional. Almost half (45%) said they have had postnatal depression as a result and 29% said it has affected their ability to breastfeed their baby, with 18% stopping earlier than planned.

Elizabeth*, who now has a 10-year-old daughter, describes the period after birth as the “worst time of [her] entire life” and is still impacted by her birth injury a decade later. 

Aged 30, she had a fourth-degree tear (a tear that extends further into the lining of the anus). Six days after delivery, she passed faeces vaginally and was in extreme pain. She was then readmitted to hospital and found to have a recto-vaginal fistula, causing an infection in her vagina and bowel.

“I am ashamed to say that at times I wished I had never become a mother and I grieved for the life I had before."Elizabeth, 40, Hampshire

 

Although she’s had further treatment, she still experiences rectal incontinence, which has affected her ability to socialise and work. “I often avoid eating out as this stimulates my bowel,” says the now 40-year-old, from Hampshire. “I always need to know where the toilets are.”

Her birth injury meant Elizabeth was forced to give up her beloved hobbies of horse riding and swimming. For a long time, she was in too much pain to even walk her dog. “I am ashamed to say that at times I wished I had never become a mother and I grieved for the life I had before,” she says. “I paid such a high price to have a baby.” 

Jen Hall, a MASIC spokesperson, is sadly unsurprised by Catherine and Elizabeth’s stories, after having a “brutal forceps delivery” that left her with physical and psychological damage herself. 

“Nobody warns you that having a child can leave you with life-changing injuries and no woman should have to go through this without support and proper medical care,” she says.

Most of these injuries are “entirely preventable”, she adds – the result of something going wrong during birth or a failure to identify risk factors beforehand, according to MASIC. The charity is calling on the government and the NHS to roll out a programme of training for medical professionals. 

The Obstetric Anal Sphincter Injury (OASI) care bundle – a package of training which has been praised by the Royal College of Midwives – has been trialled in 16 maternity units across the NHS and is being extended to a further 20, but this still leaves three in four (76%) maternity units yet to be reached.

The charity is calling for it to be rolled out nationwide. They’ve also set out a seven-point plan for better care, calling for: 

  1. Improved identification, diagnosis and treatment of birth injuries in the NHS.

  2. An education programme for obstetricians and midwives so that severe injuries are recognised at birth and treated in line with best evidence.

  3. A primary care education programme so that all women are asked at contacts following birth about signs and symptoms of OASI/incontinence, with appropriate referral pathways for those with symptoms in line with the NHS long-term plan.

  4. Information about the risks of OASI given to all women antenatally.

  5. Women’s concerns to be listened to and not dismissed as “normal” postnatal experiences.

  6. Specialised psychological treatment and support for women after OASI injury and an end to the stigma and taboo of talking about these injuries.

  7. Dedicated OASI clinics nationwide.

HuffPost UK has contacted NHS England and the Department for Health and Social Care for a response. We’ll update this article if they provide a statement. 

Without change, women like Catherine do not feel like they can have a second child. “I feel like I was someone the birth just happened to,” she says. “At the time I was happy to place my faith in the medical professionals dealing with me; I had no reason not to. Whilst birth is normal, natural and inevitable, and women’s bodies are designed to do it, unfortunately as we all know it isn’t always that simple. The people who were meant to help me through it let me down.”

• Surnames have been omitted to offer anonymity to interviewees.

Useful websites and helplines

Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.

Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).

CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.

The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email [email protected]

Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org.

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Scott Mayle 2021-04-20
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Bad news: Trees emit methane, a greenhouse gas. Good news: Some are home to bacteria that can't get enough of it.
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Scott Mayle 2020-10-02
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These Xbox One games are absolutely essential for your collection.
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Scott Mayle 2020-08-03
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Deutsche Bank is investigating the longtime personal banker of Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner over her purchase of a flat in New York from a company partly owned by Kushner, according to two news reports.

The connection emerged in personal financial disclosures filed recently by Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, who hold jobs as White House senior advisers.

Banker Rosemary Vrablic and two colleagues bought a flat in Park Avenue, Manhattan, for about $1.5m (about £1.27m in 2020 terms) in 2013 from Bergel 715 Associates, The New York Times first reported on Sunday. It was sold two years later for $1.85m (about £1.54m in 2020 terms).

Trump’s daughter and her husband received $1m to $5m from Bergel 715 in 2019, according to the couple’s required financial disclosures, which they filed on Friday. It was the first time Bergel 715 had appeared in their filings.

A source familiar with the business arrangement told the New York Times that Kushner owns a stake in Bergel 715, and did so when Vrablic bought the flat. But the income reported from Bergel 715 was not linked to the banker’s purchase, according to the source.

The Deutsche Bank investigation will determine if Vrablic acted improperly by buying the property, according to The Hill. It’s typically against policy at banks for employees to do business – other than banking – with clients to avoid conflicts of interest, the Times noted.

“The bank will closely examine the information that came to light on Friday and the [facts] from 2013,” bank spokesperson Daniel Hunter said in a statement.

Kushner and Donald Trump were Vrablic’s clients when the banker bought the flat. Kushner introduced Vrablic to the future US president in 2011 when Trump was having a hard time finding a bank that would loan him money after his repeated bankruptcies and loan defaults, including one to Deutsche Bank, the New York Times noted.

By 2013, the men had received about $190m (about £161m in 2020 terms) in Deutsche Bank loans with Vrablic’s help – and hundreds of millions after that, according to the New York Times.

Trump borrowed $175m (£151m in 2020) for his Trump National Doral golf resort in Florida, and for the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago in 2012. The bank later financed the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the New York Times reported. 

Deutsche Bank is Trump’s biggest creditor. It has loaned the Trump Organisation some $2bn (£1.54m) since 1998, and there are currently an estimated $350m (£269m) in loans outstanding, according to the New York Times. The loans are reportedly backed by a personal guarantee from Trump himself.

Christopher Smith, the general counsel for Kushner’s family firm Kushner Companies, told The Hill in a statement: “Kushner is not the managing partner of that entity and has no involvement with the sales of the apartments.”

It’s not clear how large a stake Kushner holds in the company.

Vrablic could not be reached for comment.

Deutsche Bank was fined a total of $630m in 2017 in the US and Britain over a $10bn Russian money-laundering scheme. It was recently hit with a $150m penalty for the bank’s lack of oversight in dealings with the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The US Department of Justice last year launched another probe into Deutsche Bank’s compliance with regulations to prevent money laundering. The investigation included a review of suspicious activity, including some linked to Kushner, sources told the New York Times. Amid the probe, the president’s Trump Organisation was reportedly pressing to postpone its bank loan payments.

The sticky situation underscored the unique power of Trump as president to manoeuvre a deal for his business, particularly with a bank under investigation by his own administration.

David Enrich, a New York Times business reporter who recently wrote a book on Deutsche Bank, Dark Towers, told NPR the bank has been “worried” about a situation like this.

Bank officials are now “forced to choose between doing what seems like it’s financially right for the bank and for its regulators, versus doing what’s right to protect the relationship with someone who has the ability to inflict enormous damage on the institution if he is so inclined,” Enrich explained.

The scenario is the “absolute nightmare that someone (ahem) warned about” when Trump took office, Walter Shaub, the former head of the US Office of Government Ethics under both Barack Obama and Trump, tweeted.

Trump did not divest from his businesses when he moved into the White House as other presidents have done to avoid conflicts of interest.

Also on HuffPost
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Scott Mayle 2021-07-06
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With dedicated rear drivers and a wireless subwoofer, the $500 Atmos system provides theater-like listening on the cheap.
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Scott Mayle 2021-04-01
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Hopefully folks looking for a wallet-friendly laptop with an entry-level RTX 3000 series GPU won’t have long to wait now.
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Scott Mayle 2020-09-18
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My view of therapy used to come from TV. Shows we all loved to watch from Gossip Girl to How I Met Your Mother tended to depict anyone in therapy as dealing with serious issues – or a joke. When characters told friends they were “seeing someone”, the response was rarely positive. So when I thought of therapy, I associated it with anyone who was strange or “crazy”. 

Therapy typically isn’t spoken about in African households like mine. Though the stigma is slowly changing in our communities, seeking therapy still isn’t seen as a norm. It’s telling that I only started seeing a therapist in my last year of university, while I was away from home. I was suffering with anxiety and depression. I found that it helped, but I didn’t tell many people about it.

After taking a break for a few years, this spring I decided I’d like to go back. I’m not alone – the uptake in therapy in the past few months has been noticeable. The Office for National Statistics found that the rates of depression nearly doubled during the pandemic.Mind also reported an increase in demand for services.With the world going through a global pandemic and a huge anti-racist movement, more people are starting to see therapy not just as viable, but vital.

But when I started up again, this time via Zoom, I noticed myself wanting to talk about my sessions online, too.

Plenty of people I follow on Twitter and Instagram discuss their therapy on social media – but a part of me was hesitant. Therapy is personal. I was wary of what people might think of me – fearful of oversharing and discussing details of events I still haven’t healed from. 

But far from receiving negative feedback, many people tell me they find a supportive audience when they share about their therapy online.

Zuva Seven, 24, a student from Leeds, started seeing a therapist when she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. ”I decided I wanted to make a real and long-lasting change to my life,” she says. “I went through a lot of pain, trauma and abuse growing up; however, I had control over what my adult life would look like, and I wanted it to be good.” 

She tweets because she wants others to know therapy is an option, Zuva says. “Therapy is great; however, due to the cost (and waiting lists in the UK), it can be pretty inaccessible. When I tweet about my sessions, I think about how I used to look up free therapy content or how I’d watch my TV show a little more intently when therapy was shown. I would try to pick up whatever I could. So I tweet just in case someone finds it in the future when they really need it.”  

Similarly, Tony, a radio producer from London, advocates for men who are dealing with accumulated trauma via therapy. “From speaking about it online, I’ve seen more men either say they’re interested or saying they’ve done sessions already,” says Tony, 30, who started therapy last October after losing five people in his life in the space of six months.

“I rarely tweet about the content of my sessions, but I do think about how much I want people to undergo therapy, just because of how much it’s helped me.” 

After tweeting, Tony’s often messaged by followers and friends. “I get a lot of private messages and support from people who ask me questions about therapy and my experience with it. I posted my therapist’s information and she got a lot more interest and clients from that. She now has a waiting list!”  

Jeannelle, 24, remains super conscious of what people think of her when she tweets about therapy, but believes it’s worth it. “I’ve found through direct messages to my tweets that they’re helpful and needed,” says the marketing assistant from London. “Someone even re-started their therapy journey because of me being open about mine. I’ve also realised that a lot of my problems aren’t just mine but other people can relate to them too,” she says.

Counsellor and psychotherapist Saffya Fatima says that posting about your therapy session can positively echo somebody’s else’s feelings or emotions. “Sometimes, if we tweet or share something that has happened to us, the insight we’ve gained about that through therapy, can help others,” she says.

But posting depends on the person, she stresses – and it’s worth considering your motivations. “What is the unconscious desire behind it? Is it to feel connected? Is sharing going to resolve that and will it expand with a new issue? These are perhaps some of the questions one has to ask himself when sharing online. If it leaves one feeling expanded and intuitively feels right, I think that is okay. If something doesn’t feel quite right, it’s important to listen to that.”

Psychotherapist and author Dr Aaron Balick agrees that people should be cautious when posting details about a therapy session online. “Therapy is a highly private situation. I wouldn’t say that one shouldn’t tweet about it, but one should be circumspect about how much of that therapeutic process they choose to share because it’s such a personal experience,” he tells me.

There are risks when sharing specific details about our sessions, he adds. “You’re giving people detailed information about your inner life, you’re giving access to your psychology that in many cases you don’t even know. Also, we change over the course of life. So you might be happy to share at this point in your life but you may be less happy that you share, 18 months down the line.”

Jeannelle sees it as generational. “The stigma is changing with people around our age, due to social media. More people are sharing and being vulnerable, for sure. People take the bold journey to discover things about themselves, to develop healthy habits and to perhaps unlearn things that have been passed down to them. I think it’s harder to be completely open about mental health and therapy with the older generation.”

Fatima agrees there has been progress and credits it to a wider cultural conversation. “In the past five to 10 years, there are a number of therapists in the public sphere who have reached millions of people worldwide through their articles, their books, podcasts, TED talks,” she says.

Ester Perel’s Where Shall We Begin has a global following – and I follow several therapists on Instagram such as silvykhoucasian, themindgeek and Lindsaybraman. ”I think the internet and social media has been a real catalyst for this,” says Fatima.

In a time when our mental health is being tested, normalising therapy can only be a good thing. Since starting up again, I’m already noticing a difference in myself – in the way I react to specific situations and I’m more intentional with the decisions I make. 

If you’d rather keep your sessions private, that’s totally valid. I still don’t share much about mine. But after speaking to peers and asking myself Fatima’s questions, I know that when I do it’s because I feel empowered to do so. 

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Scott Mayle 2020-07-20
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Coronavirus in China. Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), people in white medical face mask. Concept of coronavirus quarantine vector illustration. Seamless pattern.

When my ex-husband’s torture got worse and worse until it was too much to bear, I took our daughters and fled. He would drink and hit me and he try to rape my daughter. My husband had money and social clout, and because he was so powerful, the authorities would not help us.  

We fled with only one bag, telling him we were going out for the day. When we arrived in Britain in December 2017, it was freezing and we had nothing warm. We didn’t know what to do when we got here. We found out how to claim asylum and the Home Office started to give me £5 support a day. It was very difficult to begin with because we needed to buy warm jackets with this money, as well as food. 

We thing we did arrive with was a lot of trauma. I suffered from high blood pressure, as well as depression, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder. My children have struggled in the same way. If the mailman so much as dropped a letter through the door, they would panic thinking it was their father coming for them. My youngest daughter was so afraid that she would pile things in front of the door to block it and rather sleep there than on the bed.  

I never had a chance to use my voice and skills before, but here in the UK through my voluntary work with these groups I feel valued and can make a difference to other women. I have joined women’s groups who have helped me to come to terms with what happened and to understand that his violence was not my fault.

We do not have internet so she cannot keep up with her studies, and we do not have enough food to eat.

My eldest daughter was really starting to flourish before this year. She was studying at university and living in student halls, just like anyone else. But lockdown has taken everything away from her. We do not have internet so she cannot keep up with her studies, and we do not have enough food to eat. It feels like her second chance at life has been torn apart. 

You feel helpless when you don’t have money or food and can’t give your children what they need. It’s a struggle. We can’t afford to buy fruit, vegetables or meat. We are living off rice and supplementing it with whatever we can get from the foodbank. 

Lockdown has hit women like us so hard. I have been volunteering with WAST Manchester to provide food parcels to other women in my local area and connect them to sources of community support, like Safety for Sisters and The River Manchester. I have also worked with eight organisations led by asylum-seeking women across the UK to produce a report on our experiences during the pandemic. 

Our voices have not been heard – until now. Organisations that have supported women who have been trapped in violent relationships during lockdown, made homeless during the pandemic and left unable to feed their children.  The supportive communities we have built have been a lifeline, while the Home Office has turned its back on us. 

When I finally get leave to remain, I will work to ensure that other women who have survived violence are not left feeling isolated and hopeless.

It is not easy for us as small groups to provide the mutual aid that the women in our networks need. Women like us are dying. We see in the news how Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are more vulnerable to the virus, but the Home Office has made no effort to help us stay safe. We are cut off from help, and they don’t treat us like human beings. 

I want the government to see us as human beings and give us a chance. I have been waiting for my refugee status for years so I am trapped in hardship. Each day I try to move forward, but my immigration status is holding me back, stopping me from living my life. 

When I finally get leave to remain, I will work to ensure that other women who have survived violence are not left feeling isolated and hopeless. The UK has a chance now to build a more equal society as we emerge from this crisis. Women who are seeking asylum must be part of this conversation. 

Nirbhaya is an asylum seeker and domestic abuse survivor, writing under a pseudonym

Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on [email protected]

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Scott Mayle 2021-06-21
(RedHill Biopharma) RedHill Biopharma Ltd. (Nasdaq: RDHL), a specialty biopharmaceutical company, today announced presentation of the positive Phase 2 safety and efficacy data for oral opaganib (Yeliva®, ABC294640) in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 pneumonia at the World Microbe Forum (WMF) 2021 (poster #: 5574).
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Scott Mayle 2021-03-11
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The former Congresswoman says her ex-husband gave nude photos to The Daily Mail and RedState. She says they violate California's "revenge porn" laws.
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Scott Mayle 2020-09-07
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It’s another morning in our studio apartment, and my six-year-old son and I fight for my laptop. He has a drawing class ― the only online class I could find where he can talk to other kids ― and I annoy the teacher by banging pans as I try to cook something we are not sick of eating. (I fail.)

I am antsy to finish writing an article for a client, so as I wash the dreaded dishes, I scribble an outline. I finally get the computer back, and my son tries to squeeze in next to me on my chair and nags me to draw a cobra. I snap at him, which I’ve been doing a lot more in the recent months, and he patiently goes on to draw the battle of Titanoboa and Tyrannosaurus Rex while blasting Animal I Have Become by Three Days Grace.

I try to work some more. We eat, he begs to go outside ― which we do, but we alternate days ― one for errands like doctors and food shopping, and one to do something he wants. We come home; I teach English online. The day is suddenly over, and at midnight, he will fall asleep, and I will debate whether to watch an Amazon show or to catch up on sleep. (I will never catch up on sleep.)

Then we get up the next day and do it all over again. I rise at 6 a.m. for a part-time job interview. My son gets up too, and accidentally drops the monster truck next to me right in the middle of a question. Fuck! The interviewer now knows I am a mom. I never get a callback. I cry, because I spent three days, unpaid, preparing for that interview.

If that weren’t enough, my head is exploding with decisions I must make on my own: Do we move, and can I afford it? When can I work full-time again? Will schools ever be safe? How will I take care of my child if I get sick? I cry some more. My son hugs me. I feel even guiltier, so I get my act together.

I cannot afford to not work. Because it’s just the two of us, I also cannot afford to get sick, and much less, die. I cry often, mostly because I feel guilty: I am either working or looking for work most days, and my son has been left to his other parent ― my cell phone. I check my history and see videos about the observable universe, the tallest skyscrapers in the world, a documentary on baby harp seals (watched 117 times) and the fights of Indominus Rex with other dinosaurs. Not the worst of the internet, I figure. Then again, yesterday I found my kid watching “how to survive a grenade blast.”

I cannot afford to not work. Because it’s just the two of us, I also cannot afford to get sick, and much less, die. I cry often, mostly because I feel guilty: I am either working or looking for work most days, and my son has been left to his other parent ― my cell phone.

Every other week, I pay a psychologist to listen to me. He’s not particularly good, but he’s cheap. I think of him as my only friend to whom I can honestly say: I am not okay. I am far from okay.

“I’m so glad the pandemic is basically over,” a single friend says to me. Like other friends without kids, he has found a way to go back to almost-normal, with the mask and gel. These friends are taking holidays, having caught up on their reading list, mastered another language or a musical instrument during confinement. I sigh as he says this. My own pandemic experience began in March and is still going full-force and won’t come to an end in the coming months. I haven’t even mastered survival.

So I google. The one article I can find for single parents suggests I focus on “finding time for yourself” (when?) and allowing more screen time (as if I ever had the luxury of banning it). I’m not convinced it was written by a single parent.

The pandemic has been a different experience for those with kids. For most (myself included), our kids are still at home, testing our sanity day in and day out. Many parents have found a way to manage this new normality ― couples describe having to work in shifts as the other parent watches the kids. Many are still having a hard time ― another friend complains about her lack of alone time: just an hour a day, she says, while her husband takes their child for a walk in their suburbia. (It’s an ugly truth to admit, but I’ll say it ― I envy her.) I see articles about this generation of parents worrying about falling behind in their careers and listicles of how to manage psychologically. They make my right eye tick, as does the question, “What do you do in your free time?”

Day after day, I see news stories and features about moms doing a disproportionate share of the housework and childcare. In reading this conversation ― whether among friends on Facebook or in the media ― a Norman Rockwell-esque picture of a family emerges. Just as I thought we’ve taken a step forward as a society, finally starting to include in our conversation parents who are multiracial or LGTBQ+, parents who fare differently economically, parents who are ... different from the “norm” ― we seem to be doing a lot of backtracking during the pandemic. Coronavirus has put the spotlight back on the struggles of a white family of cisgender parents and their 2.4 children.

Somehow, the stories that acknowledge the fact that different families both exist and may have other challenges in coping are few and far between.

So what about the other families? What about those who are standing in line at the food bank, risking exposure? Those who have been or still are sick and therefore unable to work? Those who are being evicted or fired from their jobs? And, forgive me for being selfish ― but what about me?

I am invisible in this pandemic. As a solo parent ― one is solely responsible for the well-being of a child, one who carries the full burden of the financial, custodial and emotional responsibility ― I feel as if I am excluded for the solutions our governments give us.

For example, on March 14, the Spanish government confined us to our tiny apartments, fully and completely, without the ability to go for walks or to exercise outside. Kids were not allowed to be outside at all. But then, as a solo parent, how was I to do the shopping? Somehow, society did not figure me into their equation.

I solved that problem by staying up until midnight to get a delivery slot from Amazon, then getting up at 5 am to get a slot from another supermarket. Deliveries often took two weeks and came only partially filled. We had to make do without flour and pasta and some basic goods. Leaving him alone to go to a physical store seemed too dangerous ― and potentially illegal. 

I dipped into my savings (and I do recognise the privilege of even having a savings) and I paid double to get the food we need. Others had it worse: A friend I met later had to rely on a local church for food, and as a condition of receiving aid, you had to send it a photo of your family, standing over the food, smiling, as if everything is OK when it’s not.

A group of married women I’m in touch with share in our Whatsapp group chat that they are planning to take the kids to the countryside as their husbands work in the city. They ask, 'Do you want to come?' 'Let the husbands work in peace,' one laughs. 'Can’t, sorry.' I type. 'I am the husband.'

At some point during our quarantine, the one-kilometer rule came into effect in Spain: Children could go for walks within 1one kilometer of their house. Adults, on the other hand, could go anywhere. That day, quarantine ended for couples: One parent would stay with the kids as the other would travel wherever they pleased. We, a family of two, one of whom is a child, stayed on a leash. Again, we felt invisible, outside the norm and outside the rules.

I snooze friends on Facebook who post the projects they are doing with their kids as their partner works. A group of married women I’m in touch with share in our WhatsApp group chat that they are planning to take the kids to the countryside as their husbands work in the city. They ask, “Do you want to come?” “Let the husbands work in peace,” one laughs. “Can’t, sorry.” I type. “I am the husband.” The conversation ends there.

We were all wrong, expecting this pandemic to end a lot sooner. I now have to stretch the little money I make to cover all the illnesses and school closures that will come ― if the schools open at all, that is. I joke that the day my son goes to school, I will sit in silence and stare at the wall. In truth, I probably won’t know what to do with the silence. 

I do exist, whether society recognises it or not. So I am raising my hand to say, hello, I’m here. We are here. My six-year understands that families are different ― when it comes to size, sex, gender, race, economic status, etc. Why don’t grown-ups? Why can’t society recognise that families like mine ― and families like many others that do not fit the round hole of this square peg of a conversation ― still do exist and are struggling? And that we wouldn’t mind a little help, even if it comes in the form of acknowledgment. That would be the first step to having a conversation that is inclusive, and therefore, one worth having.

Kat Rossi is a writer living in Barcelona. This article first appeared on HuffPost Personal.

Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on [email protected]

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Scott Mayle 2020-07-14
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Huxley's classic 1932 dystopia now a must-watch TV show. Here's how to watch Brave New World online and stream the series on new service Peacock from anywhere.
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Scott Mayle 2021-05-24
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Roman Protasevich, 26, was arrested after his Ryanair flight was forced to land in Belarus, where he was arrested and accused of terrorism.
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Scott Mayle 2020-10-28
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Power banks may be unsexy, but they still get me all stirred up in the loins. What? No, I don’t want to see therapist again. Stop saying that. Anyway, it’s tough to make external battery packs stand out, so I always appreciate it when I see someone putting in a little bit of effort — and this is where the Buffalito from BuffaloGrid bursts into the room. This power bank has two stand-out features beyond just, you know, charging your phone. The first is that it’s also a flashlight. And the second is that for every two sold, the company…

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Scott Mayle 2020-09-01

Coronavirus in Context is a weekly newsletter where we bring you facts that matter about the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology trying to stop its spread. You can subscribe here. Hola pandemic pals, When flu season hits this year, are we going to update the novel coronavirus to COVID-20? I’m only asking because I’ve been reading a lot of research papers and press releases from epidemiology reviews and it appears as though we’re headed for a second wave pandemic.  But nobody wants to hear that. Science schmience, amirite? The politicization of COVID-19 has resulted in a complete side-lining of science and technology. Because, here’s…

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Scott Mayle 2019-10-15
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The Made by Google event is set for later today, and alongside the Pixel 4, Google's new smart speaker has just had its own substantial leak.

Poor old Google is going to be hard pushed to surprise anyone today, especially after the star of the show - the upcoming Pixel 4 series - has had so many details leaked ahead of its launch that it's chilling at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean next to the bones of the Titanic.

Today's titbit sees the Nest Hub Mini well on its way to joining it, with leaked images and a few morsels about the smart speaker surfacing about the refreshed Home Mini.

The images come courtesy of WinFuture, and show off four colourways; Anthracite, Rock Candy, Coral and Sky Blue.

Anthracite and Rock Candy are reportedly codenames for Charcoal and Chalk - the two colours that the current Home Mini is available in.

Unlike the Home Mini, the new Nest Hub will see the underbelly of the device colour matched to the rest of the body, rather than sporting the random splash of Coral.

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Scott Mayle 2021-07-13
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One in four women who experience a severe injury during birth regret having their child. It’s taboo to admit, but with more than 600,000 women giving birth in England and Wales alone each year, we need to talk about this. 

A new survey of mothers affected by birth injuries lays bare the physical and psychological impact on women, which can last years into their child’s life.

The overwhelming majority (85%) of mothers who suffered severe injuries say their experience damaged their relationship with their child, with 14% saying this harm was permanent. One in three (34%) said they saw their child as the cause of the injury while, heartbreakingly, three in 10 (31%) thought their child would be better off without them.

The research, from birth injury charity The MASIC Foundation, surveyed 325 women who self-identified as having suffered severe perineal trauma when giving birth. The sample size may be small, but the research adds to growing concern about women’s health outcomes after giving birth in the UK.

While it’s important to acknowledge that millions of women around the world give birth each year without problems, it’s equally important to say this isn’t always the case – and women are increasingly talking about their negative experiences and demanding better care.

HuffPost UK has previously reported on the gaps in NHS postpartum care that widened during the pandemic. In a separate survey of mums, the majority (91%) said they were not given enough advice during pregnancy about postpartum recovery.

We also know that Black women are five times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. A controversial proposal to tackle this – inducing labour at 39 weeks for pregnant black, Asian and minority ethnic women as a matter of course – has been called “racist” by some doctors and midwives. 

In the latest research, 78% of women surveyed said they have traumatic memories of birth and 52% said they face embarrassment due to symptoms of their injury.

This rings true for Catherine*, who had a prolonged labour following induction with her son, which then required an episiotomy and ventouse (vacuum delivery).

She had a third-degree tear (defined as a tear that extends into the anal sphincter), but it was initially misdiagnosed as a second-degree tear, meaning she wasn’t offered the correct treatment. Her undiagnosed injury left her in too much pain to sit down or attend mother and baby groups, leaving her “essentially house-bound” for her maternity leave. After a year – and hitting a brick wall with the NHS – she accessed help at a private clinic. 

The damage has been permanent, though, and she’s still prone to toilet urgency and accidents. Catherine now carries pads, wipes, Imodium and spare underwear everywhere she goes. She quit a job she loved as she was struggling to manage her condition, and has been diagnosed with PTSD. 

“My confidence, my me-ness, the essence of who I am, has been destroyed.Catherine, 44, Bristol

“My confidence, my me-ness, the essence of who I am, has been destroyed,” says the 44-year-old, from Bristol. “My relationships with my child and my partner have suffered.”

Catherine has struggled to talk to friends about her experience – or even watch programmes when childbirth is mentioned – and has counselling each year in the run-up to her son’s birthday. 

“With my son, I love him dearly, he is the best thing in my life, but his birth caused the injury and it is difficult to square the two,” she says.

“Every year I dread his birthday and the reminders of my traumatic experience. It is not fair on him or on me – his birthdays are not a happy occasion, but every year I have to pretend it is.”

While her partner has been understanding, Catherine says “he also carries his own guilt about what happened”. Their physical relationship has also been impacted hugely. “I feel like a shell of my former self at times,” she adds. 

Like Catherine, 69% of mothers surveyed said the impact of a birth injury was both physical and emotional. Almost half (45%) said they have had postnatal depression as a result and 29% said it has affected their ability to breastfeed their baby, with 18% stopping earlier than planned.

Elizabeth*, who now has a 10-year-old daughter, describes the period after birth as the “worst time of [her] entire life” and is still impacted by her birth injury a decade later. 

Aged 30, she had a fourth-degree tear (a tear that extends further into the lining of the anus). Six days after delivery, she passed faeces vaginally and was in extreme pain. She was then readmitted to hospital and found to have a recto-vaginal fistula, causing an infection in her vagina and bowel.

“I am ashamed to say that at times I wished I had never become a mother and I grieved for the life I had before."Elizabeth, 40, Hampshire

 

Although she’s had further treatment, she still experiences rectal incontinence, which has affected her ability to socialise and work. “I often avoid eating out as this stimulates my bowel,” says the now 40-year-old, from Hampshire. “I always need to know where the toilets are.”

Her birth injury meant Elizabeth was forced to give up her beloved hobbies of horse riding and swimming. For a long time, she was in too much pain to even walk her dog. “I am ashamed to say that at times I wished I had never become a mother and I grieved for the life I had before,” she says. “I paid such a high price to have a baby.” 

Jen Hall, a MASIC spokesperson, is sadly unsurprised by Catherine and Elizabeth’s stories, after having a “brutal forceps delivery” that left her with physical and psychological damage herself. 

“Nobody warns you that having a child can leave you with life-changing injuries and no woman should have to go through this without support and proper medical care,” she says.

Most of these injuries are “entirely preventable”, she adds – the result of something going wrong during birth or a failure to identify risk factors beforehand, according to MASIC. The charity is calling on the government and the NHS to roll out a programme of training for medical professionals. 

The Obstetric Anal Sphincter Injury (OASI) care bundle – a package of training which has been praised by the Royal College of Midwives – has been trialled in 16 maternity units across the NHS and is being extended to a further 20, but this still leaves three in four (76%) maternity units yet to be reached.

The charity is calling for it to be rolled out nationwide. They’ve also set out a seven-point plan for better care, calling for: 

  1. Improved identification, diagnosis and treatment of birth injuries in the NHS.

  2. An education programme for obstetricians and midwives so that severe injuries are recognised at birth and treated in line with best evidence.

  3. A primary care education programme so that all women are asked at contacts following birth about signs and symptoms of OASI/incontinence, with appropriate referral pathways for those with symptoms in line with the NHS long-term plan.

  4. Information about the risks of OASI given to all women antenatally.

  5. Women’s concerns to be listened to and not dismissed as “normal” postnatal experiences.

  6. Specialised psychological treatment and support for women after OASI injury and an end to the stigma and taboo of talking about these injuries.

  7. Dedicated OASI clinics nationwide.

HuffPost UK has contacted NHS England and the Department for Health and Social Care for a response. We’ll update this article if they provide a statement. 

Without change, women like Catherine do not feel like they can have a second child. “I feel like I was someone the birth just happened to,” she says. “At the time I was happy to place my faith in the medical professionals dealing with me; I had no reason not to. Whilst birth is normal, natural and inevitable, and women’s bodies are designed to do it, unfortunately as we all know it isn’t always that simple. The people who were meant to help me through it let me down.”

• Surnames have been omitted to offer anonymity to interviewees.

Useful websites and helplines

Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.

Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).

CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.

The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email [email protected]

Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org.

Scott Mayle 2021-06-21
(RedHill Biopharma) RedHill Biopharma Ltd. (Nasdaq: RDHL), a specialty biopharmaceutical company, today announced presentation of the positive Phase 2 safety and efficacy data for oral opaganib (Yeliva®, ABC294640) in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 pneumonia at the World Microbe Forum (WMF) 2021 (poster #: 5574).
Scott Mayle 2021-04-20
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Scott Mayle 2020-09-07
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It’s another morning in our studio apartment, and my six-year-old son and I fight for my laptop. He has a drawing class ― the only online class I could find where he can talk to other kids ― and I annoy the teacher by banging pans as I try to cook something we are not sick of eating. (I fail.)

I am antsy to finish writing an article for a client, so as I wash the dreaded dishes, I scribble an outline. I finally get the computer back, and my son tries to squeeze in next to me on my chair and nags me to draw a cobra. I snap at him, which I’ve been doing a lot more in the recent months, and he patiently goes on to draw the battle of Titanoboa and Tyrannosaurus Rex while blasting Animal I Have Become by Three Days Grace.

I try to work some more. We eat, he begs to go outside ― which we do, but we alternate days ― one for errands like doctors and food shopping, and one to do something he wants. We come home; I teach English online. The day is suddenly over, and at midnight, he will fall asleep, and I will debate whether to watch an Amazon show or to catch up on sleep. (I will never catch up on sleep.)

Then we get up the next day and do it all over again. I rise at 6 a.m. for a part-time job interview. My son gets up too, and accidentally drops the monster truck next to me right in the middle of a question. Fuck! The interviewer now knows I am a mom. I never get a callback. I cry, because I spent three days, unpaid, preparing for that interview.

If that weren’t enough, my head is exploding with decisions I must make on my own: Do we move, and can I afford it? When can I work full-time again? Will schools ever be safe? How will I take care of my child if I get sick? I cry some more. My son hugs me. I feel even guiltier, so I get my act together.

I cannot afford to not work. Because it’s just the two of us, I also cannot afford to get sick, and much less, die. I cry often, mostly because I feel guilty: I am either working or looking for work most days, and my son has been left to his other parent ― my cell phone. I check my history and see videos about the observable universe, the tallest skyscrapers in the world, a documentary on baby harp seals (watched 117 times) and the fights of Indominus Rex with other dinosaurs. Not the worst of the internet, I figure. Then again, yesterday I found my kid watching “how to survive a grenade blast.”

I cannot afford to not work. Because it’s just the two of us, I also cannot afford to get sick, and much less, die. I cry often, mostly because I feel guilty: I am either working or looking for work most days, and my son has been left to his other parent ― my cell phone.

Every other week, I pay a psychologist to listen to me. He’s not particularly good, but he’s cheap. I think of him as my only friend to whom I can honestly say: I am not okay. I am far from okay.

“I’m so glad the pandemic is basically over,” a single friend says to me. Like other friends without kids, he has found a way to go back to almost-normal, with the mask and gel. These friends are taking holidays, having caught up on their reading list, mastered another language or a musical instrument during confinement. I sigh as he says this. My own pandemic experience began in March and is still going full-force and won’t come to an end in the coming months. I haven’t even mastered survival.

So I google. The one article I can find for single parents suggests I focus on “finding time for yourself” (when?) and allowing more screen time (as if I ever had the luxury of banning it). I’m not convinced it was written by a single parent.

The pandemic has been a different experience for those with kids. For most (myself included), our kids are still at home, testing our sanity day in and day out. Many parents have found a way to manage this new normality ― couples describe having to work in shifts as the other parent watches the kids. Many are still having a hard time ― another friend complains about her lack of alone time: just an hour a day, she says, while her husband takes their child for a walk in their suburbia. (It’s an ugly truth to admit, but I’ll say it ― I envy her.) I see articles about this generation of parents worrying about falling behind in their careers and listicles of how to manage psychologically. They make my right eye tick, as does the question, “What do you do in your free time?”

Day after day, I see news stories and features about moms doing a disproportionate share of the housework and childcare. In reading this conversation ― whether among friends on Facebook or in the media ― a Norman Rockwell-esque picture of a family emerges. Just as I thought we’ve taken a step forward as a society, finally starting to include in our conversation parents who are multiracial or LGTBQ+, parents who fare differently economically, parents who are ... different from the “norm” ― we seem to be doing a lot of backtracking during the pandemic. Coronavirus has put the spotlight back on the struggles of a white family of cisgender parents and their 2.4 children.

Somehow, the stories that acknowledge the fact that different families both exist and may have other challenges in coping are few and far between.

So what about the other families? What about those who are standing in line at the food bank, risking exposure? Those who have been or still are sick and therefore unable to work? Those who are being evicted or fired from their jobs? And, forgive me for being selfish ― but what about me?

I am invisible in this pandemic. As a solo parent ― one is solely responsible for the well-being of a child, one who carries the full burden of the financial, custodial and emotional responsibility ― I feel as if I am excluded for the solutions our governments give us.

For example, on March 14, the Spanish government confined us to our tiny apartments, fully and completely, without the ability to go for walks or to exercise outside. Kids were not allowed to be outside at all. But then, as a solo parent, how was I to do the shopping? Somehow, society did not figure me into their equation.

I solved that problem by staying up until midnight to get a delivery slot from Amazon, then getting up at 5 am to get a slot from another supermarket. Deliveries often took two weeks and came only partially filled. We had to make do without flour and pasta and some basic goods. Leaving him alone to go to a physical store seemed too dangerous ― and potentially illegal. 

I dipped into my savings (and I do recognise the privilege of even having a savings) and I paid double to get the food we need. Others had it worse: A friend I met later had to rely on a local church for food, and as a condition of receiving aid, you had to send it a photo of your family, standing over the food, smiling, as if everything is OK when it’s not.

A group of married women I’m in touch with share in our Whatsapp group chat that they are planning to take the kids to the countryside as their husbands work in the city. They ask, 'Do you want to come?' 'Let the husbands work in peace,' one laughs. 'Can’t, sorry.' I type. 'I am the husband.'

At some point during our quarantine, the one-kilometer rule came into effect in Spain: Children could go for walks within 1one kilometer of their house. Adults, on the other hand, could go anywhere. That day, quarantine ended for couples: One parent would stay with the kids as the other would travel wherever they pleased. We, a family of two, one of whom is a child, stayed on a leash. Again, we felt invisible, outside the norm and outside the rules.

I snooze friends on Facebook who post the projects they are doing with their kids as their partner works. A group of married women I’m in touch with share in our WhatsApp group chat that they are planning to take the kids to the countryside as their husbands work in the city. They ask, “Do you want to come?” “Let the husbands work in peace,” one laughs. “Can’t, sorry.” I type. “I am the husband.” The conversation ends there.

We were all wrong, expecting this pandemic to end a lot sooner. I now have to stretch the little money I make to cover all the illnesses and school closures that will come ― if the schools open at all, that is. I joke that the day my son goes to school, I will sit in silence and stare at the wall. In truth, I probably won’t know what to do with the silence. 

I do exist, whether society recognises it or not. So I am raising my hand to say, hello, I’m here. We are here. My six-year understands that families are different ― when it comes to size, sex, gender, race, economic status, etc. Why don’t grown-ups? Why can’t society recognise that families like mine ― and families like many others that do not fit the round hole of this square peg of a conversation ― still do exist and are struggling? And that we wouldn’t mind a little help, even if it comes in the form of acknowledgment. That would be the first step to having a conversation that is inclusive, and therefore, one worth having.

Kat Rossi is a writer living in Barcelona. This article first appeared on HuffPost Personal.

Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on [email protected]

Scott Mayle 2020-08-03
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Deutsche Bank is investigating the longtime personal banker of Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner over her purchase of a flat in New York from a company partly owned by Kushner, according to two news reports.

The connection emerged in personal financial disclosures filed recently by Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, who hold jobs as White House senior advisers.

Banker Rosemary Vrablic and two colleagues bought a flat in Park Avenue, Manhattan, for about $1.5m (about £1.27m in 2020 terms) in 2013 from Bergel 715 Associates, The New York Times first reported on Sunday. It was sold two years later for $1.85m (about £1.54m in 2020 terms).

Trump’s daughter and her husband received $1m to $5m from Bergel 715 in 2019, according to the couple’s required financial disclosures, which they filed on Friday. It was the first time Bergel 715 had appeared in their filings.

A source familiar with the business arrangement told the New York Times that Kushner owns a stake in Bergel 715, and did so when Vrablic bought the flat. But the income reported from Bergel 715 was not linked to the banker’s purchase, according to the source.

The Deutsche Bank investigation will determine if Vrablic acted improperly by buying the property, according to The Hill. It’s typically against policy at banks for employees to do business – other than banking – with clients to avoid conflicts of interest, the Times noted.

“The bank will closely examine the information that came to light on Friday and the [facts] from 2013,” bank spokesperson Daniel Hunter said in a statement.

Kushner and Donald Trump were Vrablic’s clients when the banker bought the flat. Kushner introduced Vrablic to the future US president in 2011 when Trump was having a hard time finding a bank that would loan him money after his repeated bankruptcies and loan defaults, including one to Deutsche Bank, the New York Times noted.

By 2013, the men had received about $190m (about £161m in 2020 terms) in Deutsche Bank loans with Vrablic’s help – and hundreds of millions after that, according to the New York Times.

Trump borrowed $175m (£151m in 2020) for his Trump National Doral golf resort in Florida, and for the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago in 2012. The bank later financed the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the New York Times reported. 

Deutsche Bank is Trump’s biggest creditor. It has loaned the Trump Organisation some $2bn (£1.54m) since 1998, and there are currently an estimated $350m (£269m) in loans outstanding, according to the New York Times. The loans are reportedly backed by a personal guarantee from Trump himself.

Christopher Smith, the general counsel for Kushner’s family firm Kushner Companies, told The Hill in a statement: “Kushner is not the managing partner of that entity and has no involvement with the sales of the apartments.”

It’s not clear how large a stake Kushner holds in the company.

Vrablic could not be reached for comment.

Deutsche Bank was fined a total of $630m in 2017 in the US and Britain over a $10bn Russian money-laundering scheme. It was recently hit with a $150m penalty for the bank’s lack of oversight in dealings with the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The US Department of Justice last year launched another probe into Deutsche Bank’s compliance with regulations to prevent money laundering. The investigation included a review of suspicious activity, including some linked to Kushner, sources told the New York Times. Amid the probe, the president’s Trump Organisation was reportedly pressing to postpone its bank loan payments.

The sticky situation underscored the unique power of Trump as president to manoeuvre a deal for his business, particularly with a bank under investigation by his own administration.

David Enrich, a New York Times business reporter who recently wrote a book on Deutsche Bank, Dark Towers, told NPR the bank has been “worried” about a situation like this.

Bank officials are now “forced to choose between doing what seems like it’s financially right for the bank and for its regulators, versus doing what’s right to protect the relationship with someone who has the ability to inflict enormous damage on the institution if he is so inclined,” Enrich explained.

The scenario is the “absolute nightmare that someone (ahem) warned about” when Trump took office, Walter Shaub, the former head of the US Office of Government Ethics under both Barack Obama and Trump, tweeted.

Trump did not divest from his businesses when he moved into the White House as other presidents have done to avoid conflicts of interest.

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Power banks may be unsexy, but they still get me all stirred up in the loins. What? No, I don’t want to see therapist again. Stop saying that. Anyway, it’s tough to make external battery packs stand out, so I always appreciate it when I see someone putting in a little bit of effort — and this is where the Buffalito from BuffaloGrid bursts into the room. This power bank has two stand-out features beyond just, you know, charging your phone. The first is that it’s also a flashlight. And the second is that for every two sold, the company…

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Scott Mayle 2020-09-18
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My view of therapy used to come from TV. Shows we all loved to watch from Gossip Girl to How I Met Your Mother tended to depict anyone in therapy as dealing with serious issues – or a joke. When characters told friends they were “seeing someone”, the response was rarely positive. So when I thought of therapy, I associated it with anyone who was strange or “crazy”. 

Therapy typically isn’t spoken about in African households like mine. Though the stigma is slowly changing in our communities, seeking therapy still isn’t seen as a norm. It’s telling that I only started seeing a therapist in my last year of university, while I was away from home. I was suffering with anxiety and depression. I found that it helped, but I didn’t tell many people about it.

After taking a break for a few years, this spring I decided I’d like to go back. I’m not alone – the uptake in therapy in the past few months has been noticeable. The Office for National Statistics found that the rates of depression nearly doubled during the pandemic.Mind also reported an increase in demand for services.With the world going through a global pandemic and a huge anti-racist movement, more people are starting to see therapy not just as viable, but vital.

But when I started up again, this time via Zoom, I noticed myself wanting to talk about my sessions online, too.

Plenty of people I follow on Twitter and Instagram discuss their therapy on social media – but a part of me was hesitant. Therapy is personal. I was wary of what people might think of me – fearful of oversharing and discussing details of events I still haven’t healed from. 

But far from receiving negative feedback, many people tell me they find a supportive audience when they share about their therapy online.

Zuva Seven, 24, a student from Leeds, started seeing a therapist when she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. ”I decided I wanted to make a real and long-lasting change to my life,” she says. “I went through a lot of pain, trauma and abuse growing up; however, I had control over what my adult life would look like, and I wanted it to be good.” 

She tweets because she wants others to know therapy is an option, Zuva says. “Therapy is great; however, due to the cost (and waiting lists in the UK), it can be pretty inaccessible. When I tweet about my sessions, I think about how I used to look up free therapy content or how I’d watch my TV show a little more intently when therapy was shown. I would try to pick up whatever I could. So I tweet just in case someone finds it in the future when they really need it.”  

Similarly, Tony, a radio producer from London, advocates for men who are dealing with accumulated trauma via therapy. “From speaking about it online, I’ve seen more men either say they’re interested or saying they’ve done sessions already,” says Tony, 30, who started therapy last October after losing five people in his life in the space of six months.

“I rarely tweet about the content of my sessions, but I do think about how much I want people to undergo therapy, just because of how much it’s helped me.” 

After tweeting, Tony’s often messaged by followers and friends. “I get a lot of private messages and support from people who ask me questions about therapy and my experience with it. I posted my therapist’s information and she got a lot more interest and clients from that. She now has a waiting list!”  

Jeannelle, 24, remains super conscious of what people think of her when she tweets about therapy, but believes it’s worth it. “I’ve found through direct messages to my tweets that they’re helpful and needed,” says the marketing assistant from London. “Someone even re-started their therapy journey because of me being open about mine. I’ve also realised that a lot of my problems aren’t just mine but other people can relate to them too,” she says.

Counsellor and psychotherapist Saffya Fatima says that posting about your therapy session can positively echo somebody’s else’s feelings or emotions. “Sometimes, if we tweet or share something that has happened to us, the insight we’ve gained about that through therapy, can help others,” she says.

But posting depends on the person, she stresses – and it’s worth considering your motivations. “What is the unconscious desire behind it? Is it to feel connected? Is sharing going to resolve that and will it expand with a new issue? These are perhaps some of the questions one has to ask himself when sharing online. If it leaves one feeling expanded and intuitively feels right, I think that is okay. If something doesn’t feel quite right, it’s important to listen to that.”

Psychotherapist and author Dr Aaron Balick agrees that people should be cautious when posting details about a therapy session online. “Therapy is a highly private situation. I wouldn’t say that one shouldn’t tweet about it, but one should be circumspect about how much of that therapeutic process they choose to share because it’s such a personal experience,” he tells me.

There are risks when sharing specific details about our sessions, he adds. “You’re giving people detailed information about your inner life, you’re giving access to your psychology that in many cases you don’t even know. Also, we change over the course of life. So you might be happy to share at this point in your life but you may be less happy that you share, 18 months down the line.”

Jeannelle sees it as generational. “The stigma is changing with people around our age, due to social media. More people are sharing and being vulnerable, for sure. People take the bold journey to discover things about themselves, to develop healthy habits and to perhaps unlearn things that have been passed down to them. I think it’s harder to be completely open about mental health and therapy with the older generation.”

Fatima agrees there has been progress and credits it to a wider cultural conversation. “In the past five to 10 years, there are a number of therapists in the public sphere who have reached millions of people worldwide through their articles, their books, podcasts, TED talks,” she says.

Ester Perel’s Where Shall We Begin has a global following – and I follow several therapists on Instagram such as silvykhoucasian, themindgeek and Lindsaybraman. ”I think the internet and social media has been a real catalyst for this,” says Fatima.

In a time when our mental health is being tested, normalising therapy can only be a good thing. Since starting up again, I’m already noticing a difference in myself – in the way I react to specific situations and I’m more intentional with the decisions I make. 

If you’d rather keep your sessions private, that’s totally valid. I still don’t share much about mine. But after speaking to peers and asking myself Fatima’s questions, I know that when I do it’s because I feel empowered to do so. 

Scott Mayle 2020-09-01

Coronavirus in Context is a weekly newsletter where we bring you facts that matter about the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology trying to stop its spread. You can subscribe here. Hola pandemic pals, When flu season hits this year, are we going to update the novel coronavirus to COVID-20? I’m only asking because I’ve been reading a lot of research papers and press releases from epidemiology reviews and it appears as though we’re headed for a second wave pandemic.  But nobody wants to hear that. Science schmience, amirite? The politicization of COVID-19 has resulted in a complete side-lining of science and technology. Because, here’s…

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Scott Mayle 2020-07-20
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Coronavirus in China. Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), people in white medical face mask. Concept of coronavirus quarantine vector illustration. Seamless pattern.

When my ex-husband’s torture got worse and worse until it was too much to bear, I took our daughters and fled. He would drink and hit me and he try to rape my daughter. My husband had money and social clout, and because he was so powerful, the authorities would not help us.  

We fled with only one bag, telling him we were going out for the day. When we arrived in Britain in December 2017, it was freezing and we had nothing warm. We didn’t know what to do when we got here. We found out how to claim asylum and the Home Office started to give me £5 support a day. It was very difficult to begin with because we needed to buy warm jackets with this money, as well as food. 

We thing we did arrive with was a lot of trauma. I suffered from high blood pressure, as well as depression, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder. My children have struggled in the same way. If the mailman so much as dropped a letter through the door, they would panic thinking it was their father coming for them. My youngest daughter was so afraid that she would pile things in front of the door to block it and rather sleep there than on the bed.  

I never had a chance to use my voice and skills before, but here in the UK through my voluntary work with these groups I feel valued and can make a difference to other women. I have joined women’s groups who have helped me to come to terms with what happened and to understand that his violence was not my fault.

We do not have internet so she cannot keep up with her studies, and we do not have enough food to eat.

My eldest daughter was really starting to flourish before this year. She was studying at university and living in student halls, just like anyone else. But lockdown has taken everything away from her. We do not have internet so she cannot keep up with her studies, and we do not have enough food to eat. It feels like her second chance at life has been torn apart. 

You feel helpless when you don’t have money or food and can’t give your children what they need. It’s a struggle. We can’t afford to buy fruit, vegetables or meat. We are living off rice and supplementing it with whatever we can get from the foodbank. 

Lockdown has hit women like us so hard. I have been volunteering with WAST Manchester to provide food parcels to other women in my local area and connect them to sources of community support, like Safety for Sisters and The River Manchester. I have also worked with eight organisations led by asylum-seeking women across the UK to produce a report on our experiences during the pandemic. 

Our voices have not been heard – until now. Organisations that have supported women who have been trapped in violent relationships during lockdown, made homeless during the pandemic and left unable to feed their children.  The supportive communities we have built have been a lifeline, while the Home Office has turned its back on us. 

When I finally get leave to remain, I will work to ensure that other women who have survived violence are not left feeling isolated and hopeless.

It is not easy for us as small groups to provide the mutual aid that the women in our networks need. Women like us are dying. We see in the news how Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are more vulnerable to the virus, but the Home Office has made no effort to help us stay safe. We are cut off from help, and they don’t treat us like human beings. 

I want the government to see us as human beings and give us a chance. I have been waiting for my refugee status for years so I am trapped in hardship. Each day I try to move forward, but my immigration status is holding me back, stopping me from living my life. 

When I finally get leave to remain, I will work to ensure that other women who have survived violence are not left feeling isolated and hopeless. The UK has a chance now to build a more equal society as we emerge from this crisis. Women who are seeking asylum must be part of this conversation. 

Nirbhaya is an asylum seeker and domestic abuse survivor, writing under a pseudonym

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Scott Mayle 2019-10-15
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The Made by Google event is set for later today, and alongside the Pixel 4, Google's new smart speaker has just had its own substantial leak.

Poor old Google is going to be hard pushed to surprise anyone today, especially after the star of the show - the upcoming Pixel 4 series - has had so many details leaked ahead of its launch that it's chilling at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean next to the bones of the Titanic.

Today's titbit sees the Nest Hub Mini well on its way to joining it, with leaked images and a few morsels about the smart speaker surfacing about the refreshed Home Mini.

The images come courtesy of WinFuture, and show off four colourways; Anthracite, Rock Candy, Coral and Sky Blue.

Anthracite and Rock Candy are reportedly codenames for Charcoal and Chalk - the two colours that the current Home Mini is available in.

Unlike the Home Mini, the new Nest Hub will see the underbelly of the device colour matched to the rest of the body, rather than sporting the random splash of Coral.