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  • Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Following Wednesday's shooting rampage at a South Florida high school by a 19-year-old suspect that left 17 dead -- the deadliest school shooting in five years -- Americans are scrambling for answers to make sense of the tragedy.Interviews after the massacre cast alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz as a troubled loner who made disturbing comments on social media. He told investigators that he heard voices in his head, giving him instructions on what to do to conduct the attack, law enforcement sources told ABC News. The voices were described as "demons" by law enforcement sources. And an attorney for the family who had taken Cruz in after his adoptive mother died said he was "depressed" following her death but had been going to therapy.Though there may be red flags that predict violence, many are zeroing in on what is assumed to be mental illness. But it's not unusual for a newly orphaned young man to have depressive symptoms. In this situation, seeking mental health care is not only appropriate, but responsible. And though he was expelled from school, thousands of students are asked to leave school each year. It does not mean they return with a gun.Nevertheless, while tweeting his thoughts and prayers, President Donald Trump wrote, "So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!"Florida Governor Rick Scott vowed to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental illness. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions committed to “study the intersection of mental health and criminality and identify how we can stop people capable of such heinous crimes.”Dr. Liza Gold, a forensic psychiatrist and clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine, disagrees with the snap diagnosis that many have made."It's not a mental health problem," Gold said. "It’s a disgrace that our leaders don’t take corrective action and their knee jerk reaction is to go to mental health."It’s a reaction, Gold believes, that means that fewer people seek help. "They’re a disenfranchised population that is very easy to go after. The stigma attached to mental illness increases so the people who do need help are less forthcoming."Public opinion and medical research are far apart when it comes to the intersection of mental illness and criminality. A 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association highlighted the discrepancy: 75 percent of people view those with mental illness as dangerous, and 60 percent believe that those with schizophrenia are more likely to commit violent acts. But those numbers have nothing to do with real-world statistics.The study showed that severe mental illness is quite common, with almost 11 percent of study participants diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depressive disorder. These people are not at increased risk of committing violent acts (though the mentally ill who also abuse substances are).But the numbers have told us, for years, that mental illness is not generally linked to violence against others, but to self-harm. "Although it is not uncommon that the perpetrator of a mass shooting has a mental illness, it is uncommon for persons with a mental illness to engage in violent behaviors,” Dr. Jeffrey Metzner, clinical professor of psychiatry at University of Colorado School of Medicine and court-appointed forensic psychiatrist in the Aurora theater shooting case, told ABC News. "Further studies are not needed -– adequate funding is needed."“The mental health system is under-resourced and over-burdened," said Jeffrey Swanson, PhD, sociologist and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine. "It’s held together by duct tape."Even a rise in funding for
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  • iStock/Thinkstock (NEW YORK) -- Puerto Rico could recover nearly all of the power it lost after Hurricane Maria by the end of next month, according to the governor and the Army Corps of Engineers.Gov. Rosello said 90 percent of the customers with electricity should have their power back by March."My expectation is within the next month...we should get to 90 percent," Rosello told ABC News. "Hopefully, again, that is based on estimates that we are working with the Corps of Engineers, PREPA, other contractors that we can move as quickly as possible."For its part, the Army Corps of Engineers, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Puerto Rico's utility, said up to 95 percent of customers across the island could have electricity by March 31.Meanwhile, areas with rougher terrain, like Arecibo and Caguas, will likely go without power until mid-April and late-May, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.The island’s 3.5 million residents were plunged into complete darkness as Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 20. Rosello said in the weeks that followed that 95 percent of the customers would have seen electricity by December 15 –- a benchmark that was never met."I assumed ownership from that expectation. This is something that we have difficulty in controlling, particularly when you see the two-thirds of the island’s recovery on that front is in the Corps of Engineers’ hands," Rosello said. "I have seen a lack of urgency on that, whether it be on the contracting side or the bringing materials side, which is a current problem."The Army Corps of Engineers defended its work in a statement. It said it has received 31,682 poles and 2,628 miles of conductor wirte to date, with more to come in the coming weeks."Our priority is to safely and urgently restore reliable power to the people of Puerto Rico, as quickly as possible," it said. It said it will "continue to work in a unified effort with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, FEMA and industry partners to help people recover from this disaster."Aides to Governor Rossello declined to take journalists' questions regarding the ongoing investigation into death toll after Hurricane Maria. Yennifer Alvarez, the governor’s press secretary, told ABC News a press conference will be held next week to discuss it and how it will continue.Earlier this year, Rossello signed an executive order announcing a review of thousands of deaths following Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico's official death toll from Maria is 64, according to the island's Department of Public Safety.But some independent analyses found it was likely significantly higher. The New York Times published a review it conducted of daily mortality data from Puerto Rico’s vital statistics bureau; it discovered that 1,052 more people than usual died on the island after Maria’s landfall.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(HAVANA) -- U.S. personnel at the embassy in Havana who've experienced a rash of symptoms from mysterious "health attacks" appear to have suffered "widespread brain network dysfunction," but there's still no answer about the cause, according to a new peer-reviewed medical report.The report, published Wednesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association, is the first of its kind on the question that has vexed U.S. officials for over a year now, with 24 Americans suffering from medically-confirmed symptoms, according to the State Department - or what the new report's authors call "neurotrauma from a nonnatural source."Despite a lack of answers, the report provides some of the clearest details yet of what these Americans experienced in Havana - a buzzing or piercing noise, a pressure sensation, and an array of neurological symptoms that have lasted for months.The State Department gave the doctors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine access to 21 individuals -- 11 women and 10 men - with a mean age of 43 years old.Of the 21, 18 reported hearing a noise - a "novel, localized sound at the onset of symptoms in their homes and hotel rooms," described as "directional, intensely loud, and with pure and sustained tonality." They used terms like "buzzing," "grinding metal," "piercing squeals," and "humming," and while the majority said it was high-pitched, two described it as low-pitched.Twelve of the 18 said it was associated with a "pressure-like" or "vibratory" sensation, and two of the three who didn't hear a sound also experienced that. All 20 of those experienced an "immediate onset of neurological symptoms" after experiencing some phenomena, and the one other individual awoke with immediate symptoms, but experienced no phenomena - noise or sensation.But what seems key is that first term - directional - a "distinct direction from which the sensation emanated." In fact, 12 said that "after changing location, the sensation disappeared and the associated symptoms reduced." The most commonly-reported symptoms, in order, were persistent trouble sleeping; visual problems like eye movement abnormalities; cognitive difficulty like memory loss or inability to concentrate; headaches; balance problems; and auditory symptoms like tinnitus and hearing loss.At the time of evaluation, 14 had not returned to work full-time - although "everyone has shown improvement," according to Dr. Douglas Smith, a neurology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and director of its Center for Brain Injury and Repair.Cuba has denied responsibility and has cast doubt on whether the American personnel have suffered the reported symptoms, while the State Department says Cuba must know who is responsible.Some individuals developed symptoms within 24 hours of arriving in Havana, according to the report, and virtually all of them reported persistent symptoms lasting more than three months - with 18 exhibiting "objective clinical manifestations" when they were examined. On average, examinations took place 203 days after exposure, because the State Department didn't convene an expert medical panel until July 2017.Three individuals suffered hearing loss and were fitted with hearing aids, but for two of them, only on one side. In fact, having "unilateral" symptoms - where only one side is affected - was common in a couple cases, the report said.But the doctors cannot determine if anything, including the hearing loss, is due to the reported noise."It is currently unclear if or how the noise is related to the reported symptoms," they write. "In particular, sound in the audible range is not known to cause persistent injury to the central nervous system and therefore the described sounds may have been associated with another form of exposure."Dr. Smith went further: "We actually don’t think it was the audible sound that was the problem," he told the medical journal. "We think the audible sound was a consequen
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  • Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- The morning after Israeli police recommended charging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in two corruption cases, he was on the defense. Speaking at a local governance conference in Tel Aviv, the embattled prime minister kept his fight in the public eye, continuing an onslaught on the police and their integrity."After I read the recommendations report. I can say it is biased, extreme, full of holes, like Swiss cheese, it doesn't hold water," he said Wednesday morning. "I am confident, as I have always been confident and nothing here has changed -- that the truth will come to light and nothing will come of this."Tuesday night, Israeli police announced that they had "sufficient evidence" against the prime minister in two cases "for the offense of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust."The first case alleges that Netanyahu accepted gifts from wealthy patrons in return for advancing their interests. In the second, Netanyahu is accused of striking a deal with Israel's second largest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, to provide him with positive coverage in return for damaging the reputation of rival paper, Israel Hayom.The first case names two wealthy businessmen, including big time Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and an Australian businessman. Police said they found sufficient evidence to charge Milchan, who is behind films including "Fight Club" and "The Revenant," for accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust. With respect to the businessman, the police only named fraud and breach of trust.Milchan did not respond to ABC News' requests for comment. His lawyer told an Israeli TV station that the relationship between the two was a longstanding friendship between the two families.The police now pass all of the evidence to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, a former Netanyahu aide, and appointed by the prime minister. The Attorney General will then spend weeks, possibly months, sifting through evidence before he alone decides whether to indict Netanyahu.During this process, the prime minister has no legal obligation to step down; his more pressing problem is a political one."I want to reassure you," he told Wednesday's audience in Tel Aviv. "The coalition is stable, no one, not myself, not anyone else, plans to hold elections, we will continue to work together with you for the people of Israel until the end of the term."An indictment would bring serious political pressure on Netanyahu to step down. But today, key players in his coalition government said they wouldn't make any decisions based on the police recommendations alone.Early Wednesday, Netanyahu's arch rival, Education Minister Naftali Bennett came out offering his support. Bennett is the leader of the far right Jewish Home Party, and a member of Netanyahu's coalition government.Bennett urged all parties "to act in a restrained, responsible and civil manner.""We are a state of law, and Prime Minister Netanyahu is still presumed innocent," Bennett said. "I believe that all of us share this hope for the Prime Minister and for all of us that he will come up clean at the end of process."However, he added: "A prime minister doesn't have to be perfect or be ascetic. But his behavior does have to set an example. Unfortunately, accepting gifts in large sums over a long period of time is not living up to this standard."Netanyahu's Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon also indicated he wouldn't rush to dissolve the coalition until after the attorney general had made a decision.Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, said that he should stay in office if not convicted. “Truly, right now we are operating in a very synchronized way,” he said.For the moment, that leaves Netanyahu, who served as prime minister from 1996 to 1999 and from 2009 through the pesent, on solid political footing.If Netanyahu remains in power until July, 2019, he will become Israel's longest serving prime mi
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(KUWAIT CITY) -- It will take a staggering $88.2 billion to rebuild parts of Iraq devastated by the war against ISIS, according to the country's minister of planning.During an international donors conference in Kuwait regarding Iraq reconstruction, Salman Al-Jameeli said in a statement Tuesday that "$22.9 billion [is] needed for Iraq in the short term, [and] $65.4 billion over the medium term."The funds would go to the vast swaths of Iraqi territories seized by ISIS during the jihadist group's brutal conquest that started in June 2014, the minister said.Seven governorates across Iraq -- including Ninawa, which encompasses the county's second-largest city of Mosul -- suffered about $46 billion in total damages. In addition, Iraq's security sector sustained $14 billion in total damages, while Iraqi banks lost $10 billion in cash assets, according to the minister.U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who attended the donors conference, did not offer any new direct aid pledges to Iraq. But, he announced a $3 billion financial package from the Export–Import Bank of the United States, which includes loan guarantees and insurance to spur American investment in Iraq.Tillerson also urged members of the international coalition battling ISIS to help rebuild Iraq."As we celebrate these victories over extremism and hatred, we know they were hard-won, and they came at a very high price. Much work remains to rebuild Iraq and modernize its economy," Tillerson said in remarks made at the conference Tuesday. "Everyone in this room has an opportunity to help set Iraq on a new course and contribute to its long-term development success."An official with the U.S. Department of State told ABC News the conference was "never intended to be a pledging conference, but rather the initial roll-out on behalf of the Iraqi government."In October 2016, Iraqi forces as well as Kurdish forces, known as peshmerga, launched a massive operation to liberate Mosul from ISIS control. The fight affected densely populated neighborhoods within the war-torn city and had displaced nearly 192,000 people by March 2017, according to the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS in December 2017. By the end of the year, while 3.2 million people had returned to their homes, another 2.6 million remained displaced in Iraq, according to the United Nations migration agency.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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