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  Nation World  


 

Pakistan suicide attack hits Shiites, kills 12

(AFP) A suicide bomber rammed a car full of explosives into a convoy of Shiites in a Peshawar market on Friday, killing 12 people including women and children in Pakistan’s latest sectarian attack.
The bomb sparked a large fire in the town of Tul, part of the northwestern district of Hangu, which is known for sectarian violence and lies near the lawless tribal belt, dubbed a “headquarters” for Al-Qaeda by Washington.
Over two dozen other people were wounded in the blast, which occurred near a petrol station in the market, the senior administrator in the wider area of Kohat told AFP.
The convoy was under security escort as the Pakistani army has started protecting Shiite vehicles following sectarian tensions.

Kohat commissioner Khalid Khan told AFP the 12 dead included four women and two children. Police said 31 people were wounded.
“The target was a Shiite convoy. This is sectarian violence,” he said. Police said a curfew had been slapped on the market area.

“The dead include seven Shiite community members who were travelling in the convoy,” said police officer Abdul Rashid Khan.
Local lawmaker Mufti Janan Ahmed said the bomber ploughed his vehicle into the centre of the 20-vehicle convoy, which was carrying Shiite travellers coming from the northwestern towns of Parachinar to Kohat.
Police official Islamuddin Khattak said the blast destroyed five vehicles and police were battling to extinguish the resulting blaze.

Sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims has killed more than 4,000 people in Pakistan since the late 1980s. Shiites account for about 20 percent of the country’s 167 million people.
More than 3,000 people have been killed in suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan since July 2007, a campaign blamed on Islamist militants opposed to the government’s alliance with the United States.

But after a significant rise in bloodshed in late 2009, there has been a marked decline in attacks so far this year.
Pakistani officials have linked the reduction to the suspected death -- still not confirmed -- of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud and military offensives that have disrupted militant networks.
There have been no mass civilian losses or bombings in major cities since a bombing at a volleyball match killed 101 people on New Year’s Day. That was around two weeks before the US drone attack that may have killed Mehsud.

Attacks targeting Shiite Muslims killed 76 people in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, in late December and early February.
Pakistan is under huge US pressure to eliminate Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants who pose a domestic threat and who infiltrate Afghanistan to attack Western forces.

Pakistan’s military claims to have made big gains against Taliban and Al-Qaeda strongholds over the past year, launching major offensives in the northwestern district of Swat and the tribal region of South Waziristan. Washington says militants use Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt to plot and stage attacks in Afghanistan, where more than 120,000 NATO and US troops are helping Afghan forces battle the Taliban militia.

 

Iraqis go for crucial polls

By Thanapathi
Iraqis today vote at a historical election to elect its next government making it the third time since they go to polls since the American lead invasion in 2003. With US President Barack Obama announcing his expected date of withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq as July 2011 much is riding on this election not only for the Iraqis but the coalition lead by the US that is currently occupying the country. Many European nations have shown reluctance to extend their operations beyond 2010 making it crucial for the United States to ensure that a stable government that is capable of handling its own security is in place by the time western forces leave next year. Internal strife and sectarian struggles between the majority Shia and minority Sunni communities have marred a peaceful transition since the disposal of its former dictator Saddam Hussein. The Kurdish areas in the north have also been asserting its new found freedoms since the disposal of Hussein which has lead to tensions in the distribution of resources. A greater autonomy for the Kurds in Iraq is also looked upon with suspicion by its neighbours, Turkey Syria and to a certain degree Iran which themselves have sizable Kurdish populations which for years have been clamouring for greater self determination.

An early round of voting last Thursday was marred by three explosions that killed more than a dozen people, even as Iraqi security forces were out in full force trying to protect polling stations. Though the levels of violence that hampered the last general election in 2005 has receded it is by no measure a peaceful country.
While political alliances continue to shift, several coalitions are vying for support from the 19 million registered voters. Among them the leading contender is the current ruling coalition which is dominated by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law party. This is mainly a Shiite fraction lead coalition, with some Sunni and Christian groups. This coalition won many provincial elections in 2009 but is now considered weaker since it has failed in delivery on many promises.

The main rival to the ruling party is the Iraqi National Alliance, a largely Shia group with deep theological roots. Its links with Iran has disturbed the US in the past. This coalition which is gaining momentum in this year’s general election also consist of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), as well as Sadrists, a group that has actively engaged the US troops during the 2005-2007 period. One of America’s former allies, who is now considered a pariah by Washington, Ahmed Chalabi is also part of this group. In a majority Shia country the INA has been gaining ground against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition. .
The third formidable force in today’s elections is a coalition called Iraqiya, a secular group headed by former prime minister and British ally Iyad Allawi and serving Vice-President Tareq al-Hashimi. This group is hoping to garner more support from the populace that is fed up with sectarian violence that has been ripping the country apart for years.

Of the Kurdish parties the Kurdish Democratic Party led by the President of the Kurdish autonomous region, Massoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a key rival of Barzani for decades dominate the race. The Kurds may end up becoming the king makers in a new Iraqi parliament which is most likely not to have a clear majority for either coalition. Greater powers for the Kurds at the centre is no doubt going to give them a bigger role in deciding on the oil resources which are concentrated in the Kurdish regions in the north of the country. A recent issue that tested Iraq’s fragile democracy was January’s decision of the Justice and Accountability Commission to ban about 500 candidates with past associations with former President Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. An appeals panel reinstated 36 of them.
The Commission is chaired by Ahmad Chalabi who has close ties with Iran which prompted the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, and the commander of coalition forces there, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, to criticize the de-Baathification decision as having been made at the behest of Tehran. In recent years the Shia dominated government of Iraq along with its main rival the Iraqi National Alliance have been increasing ties with their Iranian neighbours. The Shia which make-up a majority in Iraq have greater cultural and religious affinity to Iran rather than the Sunni Arabic nations. The Bath party of Saddam Hussein which was a Sunni dominated regime was a foe to Iran. The increasing influence of the Iranians in Iraqi internal affairs has irritated the Americans for many years. However, they have not yet been successful in convincing the Shia parties to sever ties with their neighbour.

Observers of Iraqi politics say they have no idea who will win the elections and what kind of government will emerge from the results. The only certainty, they say, is that the voting will be highly contested, with about 6,200 candidates running for 325 seats in parliament. This is no doubt a crucial election for Iraq and its numerous partners. Whatever government emerges from the poll will determine Iraq’s future beyond the scheduled final departure of U.S. troops in 2011 -- and should the election not go well, there is a chance the U.S. military will seek to delay the withdrawal of combat troops A rise of a coalition that is not as accommodating as the Maliki government to the US will also compound the process of withdrawal. The last thing the US would wish to see is a government that is more aligned to Iran by the time coalition troops move out by mid 2011. Though the US has for many years have stopped using the word ‘victory’ when defining its objectives in Iraq they have maintained that an acceptable exit strategy would entail leaving behind a functional government that is not antagonistic towards the US with a reasonable degree of democracy for the people of Iraq. All this might be at stake at today’s elections.
 

 

Aftershocks shake Chilean city

(Al-jazeera) Powerful aftershocks have rattled buildings and sent terrified residents fleeing into the streets in the Chilean city of Concepcion.
Fears of of additional damage in the tremors before dawn on Friday led officials to evacuate some patients from the regional hospital.
Patricia Correa, who was overseeing the hospital’s emergency ward, said her part of the five-story building was “on the point of collapsing. The walls cracked”.

The strongest of the aftershocks was a magnitude 6.6.
“Some chunks of buildings that were already in bad condition fell, but nothing significant,” a senior government official in quake-hit Bio Bio region told local radio.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, arrived in the capital, Santiago, on Friday, promising support for Chile.

“The Chilean government is asking for international aid and we will give it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Michelle Bachelet, the outgoing Chilean president, met with Sebastian Pinera, her successor, and they promised to try to avoid letting the March 11 hand-over of power interrupt aid efforts.
“The new government will have an immense challenge,” Bachelet said.
Pinera has even before his inauguration named new governors for the six hardest-hit regions and told them to get to work.

Officials were still struggling to determine the death toll of the magnitude-8.8 quake, as well as the damage to roads, ports and hospitals.
Disaster officials announced they had double-counted at least 271 missing as dead in the hardest-hit part of the country - an error that would drop the official death toll to about 540 if there were no other mistakes.
But interior department officials said that from now on, they would release only the number of dead who had been identified: 279 as of Friday.
Doubts over the death toll are likely to persist, partly because an undetermined number of victims were washed out to sea in the ensuing tsunamis and some bodies may never be recovered.

 

Iraq set for parliamentary election

(Al-jazeera) Iraqi politicians have made their final appeal to voters as their country heads into parliamentary election.
Polls on Sunday will determine the shape of the Iraqi government over the next four years and will play an important role in Washington’s policy in the country.
Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and police have been deployed across the country to protect voters on election day.

Religious leaders used Friday prayers to encourage Iraqis to vote. Mike Hanna, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Baghdad, said: “At Friday prayers, although no campaigning, there were some sermons that could probably be classified as political.”
He said the situation in the capital was calm and that a high turnout was expected for the vote, but added,”Events over the past few days have have indicated that despite the heightened security arrangements, the potential for violence remains.”
A string of deadly blasts shattered an early round of voting on Thursday, killing 14 people and injuring 57 others.

“Terrorists wanted to hamper the elections, thus they started to blow themselves up in the streets,” Ayden Khalid Qader, the deputy interior minister responsible for election-related security, said.
Strict security measures are coming into force - beginning with a curfew on Friday evening in the Iraqi city of Ramadi and other restrictions lasting three days around Sunday’s election.
These include the banning of civilian vehicles on election day.
Sunday’s vote will be supervised by as many as 120 international monitors, with a number of foreign embassies providing staff to act as monitors too.

However, officials expect to see more violence in the run-up to Sunday’s poll, and on election day.
Iraqis living abroad are voting in their country’s general election, two days before the poll in Iraq itself.
Hundreds lined up at polling stations in Syria, home to the largest Iraqi expatriate community, most driven from their homeland by the violence and instability.
In addition to Syria, Iraqi nationals are also voting in Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, the United States, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Austria, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.
The expatriate vote is running from Friday to Sunday.

 

NEWS IN BRIEF

Egypt president to undergo surgery

(Al-jazeera) Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, will undergo a gall bladder operation in Germany on Saturday, Egyptian state television has announced.
It reported on Thursday that the ageing president had complained of gall bladder pain while in Germany for talks with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.
“Mubarak is undergoing surgery on his gall bladder because he has been suffering severe inflammation of his gall bladder,” state television reported.
The operation would take place in Heidelberg, where he had gall bladder tests, it said, adding that his wife and two sons including Gamal, as well as Hatem el-Gabali, the health minister, were with him.
Mubarak temporarily delegated presidential power to Ahmed Nazif, the country’s prime minister, the television said.
“He has issued a presidential decree delegating Ahmed Nazif presidential powers until he returns,” it said.
The health of Mubarak, who turns 82 this year, is usually a taboo subject in the country he has ruled since 1981, fuelling regular rumours on the subject.

Opposition claims Togo poll victory

(Al-jazeera) The main opposition candidate in Togo’s presidential election has claimed an early victory in the poll a day after the vote.
Jean-Pierre Fabre, a 57-year-old deputy in Togo’s parliament and the candidate of the largest opposition party, said on Friday that early results indicate his party has a “comfortable lead”.
“On the basis of the counts from certain prefectures, the UFC [Union of Forces of Change] candidate has won an average of 75 to 80 per cent of the votes,” he said in an address to party supporters.
“We conclude that we have won the presidential election of March 4, 2010.”
But Gnassingbe’s People’s Rally (RPT), Togo’s ruling party, dismissed the claim as “unacceptable”, the AFP news agency reported.
“We demand that this candidate exercise control to preserve the serenity that has been prevailing till now,” Solitoki Esso, the secretary general of the ruling party, said.

Clashes erupt in debt-ridden Greece

(Al-jazeera) Greek police and protesters have clashed in Athens as anger over government spending cuts in the debt-ridden nation continues to fester.
Officers fired tear gas after a group of several hundred demonstrators rallying against the austerity measures threw stones at riot police.
However, police said the majority of the estimated 12,000 protesters marching on parliament in the capital were behaving peacefully.
Their action came after unions called impromptu strikes on Friday in protest at the $6.5bn package, which will see tax rises, public salaries frozen and the retirement age raised, in an effort to curb the nation’s debt crisis.
Barnaby Phillips, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Athens, said a number of high profile injuries in the protests sparked “mayhem” in the capital.

 

Honouring opportunity, acknowledging reality

International Women’s Day (IWD) is an annual celebration around the world. It began in the early 1900s with a focus on ending discrimination against women: defending their right to enter the paid work force, vote, be educated, own property and run for public office. Now IWD has become a global day to mark the economic, social and political achievements of women. While almost everyone celebrates the numerous achievements in women’s well-being and progress, we must acknowledge the reality: Those achievements had an unexpected and very costly price tag.

Women in the 20th century have enjoyed rapidly increasing opportunities and improved conditions from across the span of social indicators, including health, family, education, economics, attitudes and religion.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the median age of women was slightly higher than 22; now it is almost 37 - the highest level in history as deaths in childbirth have plummeted. Women have dramatically increased their high school graduation rates from a low of 26 percent in 1940 to nearly 87 percent in 2008. By 2007, women were earning 50 percent of doctoral degrees, nearly 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees and nearly 61 percent of master’s degrees. In 1973, women who worked year-round full time earned 57 percent of what men working year-round and full time earned. By 2007, the ratio was up to 77 percent.
With these advances, however, have come some major setbacks. In the United States, two major areas that present roadblocks to women’s advancement are single motherhood and sexual promiscuity - cultural trends devastating to children’s well-being that hit women hard, too.

While women in general have made economic progress, single mothers live in poverty at a far higher rate than married couples - five times higher. In 2007, the poverty rate for female householders with children under 18 and no husband present was 37 percent. Taking a closer look at the rates reveals that single mothers with children under the age of six have a poverty rate of 49.9 percent, and the rate for single mothers with two or more children under the age of 6 is an astounding 63.8 percent. The deterioration of marriages and families has produced significant disparities in how well women fare.

Amazingly, the promotion of sexual promiscuity often goes hand in hand with messages about empowering women. Some feminists argue that women “have a right” to be sexual “just like men” and, even, that being a “slut” is positive proof of women’s power. However, the evidence shows that so-called sexual freedom has hidden costs; along with a loss of “power,” women have paid other hefty prices. Women still bear the responsibilities and consequences of casual sex, with the difference between now and 50 to 100 years ago being that men are not pressured to marry their “baby mamas.” Too often, the woman is left with only regrettable “choices” - too many choose abortion, many living with guilt and regret, while others choose single motherhood with its substantial risk factors for children and unrelenting stresses on the mother. Too few choose adoption.

Casual sex also leads to sexually transmitted diseases. Though modern medicine has made these less disastrous, most are incurable and highly contagious; they can leave women with a lifelong disease, many of which can make them sterile. Sadly, STDs are rampant among young adults and increasingly so among teens. So, while many celebrity feminists and the entertainment industry promote recreational sex as empowering for women, nothing could be further from the truth.

Today’s young women are encouraged to go to school and have a career. They are often told that they don’t need marriage to be fulfilled. As a result, marriage rates are less than half what they were before the sexual revolution in the 1960s. Young women, who still want to “have it all” and dream about settling down with “Mr. Right,” postpone marriage and childbearing until later in life. The National Marriage Project reports that women married at about age 20 in 1960, but now the average age is 26. In the meantime, far too many of those young women, according to the Census Bureau, have casual sex with a median of 3.3 partners, or they cohabit, a practice that has dramatically increased over the past 30 years, significantly impairing their ability to bond.
So, while the 20th century provided many new opportunities for women, especially in the United States, those benefits had negative impacts on women’s chances for marriage and a family. There is much to celebrate on International Women’s Day - it has indeed been a century of progress - but that progress came at a very high price. Most of today’s promiscuous young women have no idea that they are running up a bill that eventually will have to be paid, with exorbitant interest fees attached. - (Washington Times)

Iraqi media faces serious hurdles

Iraqi media has in recent days been airing back-to-back political advertisements, breaking news and all the latest updates and interviews from the campaign trail as nearly 19 million Iraqis prepare to vote on March 7.
It is a flood of information that would have likely remained suppressed just seven years ago under Saddam Hussein’s government, when harsh rules and fear of official reprimand determined what went to print or on air.
Now, that they have been guaranteed the rights to freedom of expression and press by the constitution, the Iraqi media market has arguably become unrivalled elsewhere in the region. 

“The past ten years in Iraq have been marked by drastic changes in the press,” Rawnaq Qassim, a reporter for the Arabic-language Free Iraq radio station, says on the sidelines of a major media event.
“We have witnessed radical, distinct changes and developments,” she says. “Now we are running electronic newspapers, huge satellite TV channels, and news agencies which have an enormous influence on Iraqi public opinion.”
Before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, local media coverage was “directed toward one party and for one leader,” Ahmed Rushdi, another Iraqi journalist, says.
Dozens of TV and radio stations now grace the Iraqi airwaves, and many more print publications pepper Iraqi news stands. 

Some are commercially-backed, like al-Sharqiyah - launched in 2004 as “Iraq’s first privately-owned satellite channel” - and al-Sumaria TV. 
Others, like Al-Baghdadiya, Forat and Afaq, are backed by major political blocs. And then there’s Al-Iraqiya, and its sister newspaper Al-Sabah, which are said to be state-run media. 
“We expected so many things to be more open after 2003, and [it] has happened,” Rushdi, who is also head of the Iraqi Experts House, a media consultancy group, says.
“But now we have a serious problem - that the Iraqi media doesn’t engage, really, at the humanitarian, popular levels.”

“It is always [only] concerned with the political process,” he says.
As a result of the prominent political and government funding lavished on Iraqi media outlets, the industry here has produced mixed standards of journalism at best, and sometimes, even flagrant bias.
“If we are talking about bias, definitely you have a biased media,” Rushdi says, “because you already have a media directed, financed by [political] parties and maybe by the government. 
“You know Iraqiya [for example,] is financed by the government, so it always [sides] with [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki and so on.”
Rawnaq agrees, saying mainstream Iraqi voters have not seen their concerns highlighted in day-to-day coverage.

But she does not fault journalists for their reluctance to cover a certain type of story; she says Iraqi media tend to come under intimidation from all sides.
“Journalists, voters and most entities are facing huge pressure ... we have politically powerful and influential parties, we have parties which oppose the political process, the rival political entities and even the election candidates,” she says.
In the run-up to the March 7 parliamentary vote, the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission (CMC) attempted to impose new restrictions on media outlets to minimise what it considered calls to sectarianism by some broadcasters. 

Included in the new rules, announced last February, were requirements that all media members register with the CMC, and pledge not to incite violence or sectarianism.
However, the CMC’s stipulations backfired as many prominent journalists accused the official body of seeking to control - and suppress - free speech. What actions the CMC takes against broadcasters for their coverage on the eve of elections is difficult to determine at this point. 

Nevertheless, Iraqis remain hopeful for the future of their media, Rushdi says.
“The Iraqis have a characteristic feature – they are always looking for success, success ... [through] competition,” he says. And that competition, he hopes, will help the average citizen approach “a good media – a good, accessible media for normal Iraqis”. - (BBC News)

 

Husain: Pride and prejudice

(Al-Jazeera) India is a country of more than one billion people, but surprisingly it is losing sleep over the loss of just one citizen.
Ever since it became known last week that M. F. Husain, one of the country’s most celebrated painters, had renounced his Indian citizenship and become a Qatari national, Indians have both been shocked and dismayed.
The story has dominated the news headlines and the country’s ‘chattering classes’ have not stopped debating why Husain chose that course of action, and how badly India’s image as a liberal democracy had been dented.
Though Indians are used to a steady exodus of its most accomplished citizens for a livelihood abroad – many leave never to return – the loss of Husain has left a void.
Husain after all was India’s best known contemporary painter commanding unparallelled acclaim and the highest price at the marketplace.
But what is hurting more is the circumstances that led to the 95-year-old painter to dump India and seek ‘greener pastures’ in the Middle Eastern deserts in the twilight years of his life.
Husain evidently had grown tired of being targetted by some hard-line Hindu groups who found some of his paintings objectionable.

The paintings – thought to be of nude Hindu gods and goddesses – date back to the 1970s. But they spelt no trouble for him until 1996, when inexplicably a Hindi newspaper chose to write an article condemning the paintings. Soon, criminal complaints were filed and the painter’s house was attacked.
Husain’s protestations of innocence – that hurting religious sentiments were not his intention - cut no ice. His exhibitions were cancelled and the painter suddenly found himself a pariah in his own country.
His ‘fall from grace’ took place in full public glare – the media reported his plight and the artistic community voiced outrage – but little changed. Husain’s patience ran out and he slipped out of the country into exile, finally to settle down in Qatar.

His troubles mirror those confronting Indian society. Indians have not grown less tolerant, but its leaders have. Competitive politics are driving them to orchestrate campaigns, however divisive, and grab eyeballs.
Husain has not been alone in falling prey to scheming politicians out to whip up support on religious lines.
Others too have found themselves in the line of fire in recent times.
Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan faced the ire of some groups after he spoke out in favour of Pakistani cricketers left out of the lucrative IPL cricket tournament. His posters were set alight and his ‘Indianness’ questioned. They even tried changing the title of his latest release ‘My Name is Khan’ to ‘My Name is Terrorist’.

These groups do not necessarily have the social sanction, but they obviously have enough muscle to terrorise the majority into silence.
So you have young couples being chased and beaten by thuggish activists on Valentine’s Day. Public display of love, they say, is a Western import.
Also unwelcome is Taslima Nasreen, the Bangladeshi writer, already on the run from her country following her so-called controversial writings. She is seeking exile in India but several Muslim groups are opposed to her.
When a newspaper in south India allegedly republished one of her articles earlier this week, it triggered a riot in a provincial town.
Priding itself as the world’s biggest democracy, freedom of expression is suddenly under siege in India.
In newspaper editorial columns and TV talk-shows, there is indignation and outrage. But the authorities seem incapable of stopping the hot-heads from running amok. Perhaps, the ruling coalition is not willing to intervene and risk a religious backlash. 
 That India has been taken hostage by self-seeking politicians is the lesson to be learned from Husain’s departure.

 

HEALTH WATCH

Years of exposure to traffic pollution raises blood pressure

(HealthDay News) -- Long-term exposure to the air pollution particles caused by traffic has been linked to an increase in blood pressure, U.S. researchers say.
In the new report, researchers analysed data from 939 participants in the Normative Aging Study, who were assessed every four years between 1995 and 2006. A computer model was used to estimate each participant’s exposure to traffic air pollution particles during the entire study period and for the year preceding each four-year assessment.

Increased exposure to traffic pollution particles was associated with higher blood pressure, especially when the exposure occurred in the year preceding a four-year assessment (3.02 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure, 1.96 mm Hg increase in diastolic pressure, and 2.30 mm Hg increase in mean arterial pressure), the study authors reported in a news release from the American Heart Association.
This link between long-term exposure to traffic air pollution particles and higher blood pressure readings may help explain the association between traffic pollution and heart attacks and cardiovascular deaths reported in previous studies, study author Joel Schwartz, of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues noted in the news release.

The findings were to be presented Thursday at the American Heart Association’s Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention annual conference in San Francisco.

Grinding teeth at night may be a sign of daytime stress

(HealthDay News) -- People who grind their teeth at night appear to be more likely to suffer from stress and also likely to use escapism to cope when things become difficult, new research out of Germany suggests.
Researchers led by Maria Giraki, of Heinrich-Heine-University in Dusseldorf, studied 48 people who were known to grind their teeth at night, a condition called ‘sleep bruxism,’ and reported their findings online March 5 in the journal Head & Face Medicine.

Teeth grinding “can lead to abrasive tooth wear, looseness and sensitivity of teeth, and growth and pain in the muscles responsible for chewing,” Giraki said in a news release from the journal’s publisher. “Its causes are still relatively unknown, but stress has been implicated. We aimed to investigate whether different stress-factors, and different coping strategies, were more or less associated with these bruxism symptoms.”
The researchers measured the overnight grinding by placing thin plates in the mouths of the study participants. No particular age range, gender or education levels appeared to be at higher risk of teeth grinding, but those who did it reported more daily stress and stress at work.

“Our data support the assumption that people with the most problematic grinding do not seem to be able to deal with stress in an adequate way. They seem to prefer negative coping strategies like ‘escape,’ “ Giraki said. “This, in general, increases the feeling of stress, instead of looking at the stressor in a positive way.”

85 mn African children to be immunised against polio

(AFP) – A campaign to immunise over 85 million children under five against polio will kick off Saturday in west and central Africain a bid to halt a year-long epidemic, health bodies said in a joint communique.
According to a statement issued Thursday by the Joint Global Polio Eradication Initiative and International Federation of the Red Cross, nine countries in the region had active outbreaks of polio, a virus eliminated in most of the world.

“With better coverage that leaves no child unvaccinated, these campaigns can succeed in making west and central Africa polio-free,” said the United Nations Children’s Fund’s regional director, Gianfranco Rotigliano.
Over 400,000 volunteers and health workers will participate in the immunisation campaign in 19 countries, a30 million dollar (21 million euro) operation funded by Rotary International.
UNICEF regional spokeswoman Gaelle Bausson told AFP there had been 1,469 cases in the 19 countries since February 2008.

Nigeria, one of only four polio-endemic hotspots left in the world, was the origin of the outbreak in 2008 which spread to neighbouring countries that had been declared polio-free and lacked the necessary skills to respond.
“A dedicated army of volunteers and health workers will work up to 12 hours per day, travelling on foot or bicycles, in cars and boats and on motorcycles, in often trying conditions,” read the statement.
Children will receive two drops of oral polio vaccine (OPV) to immunise them against the highly infectious virus which has no cure and can result in total paralysis.