Sunday, May 31, 2009
Pakistani forces battled militants in South Waziristan on the Afghan border on Sunday and a government official said an offensive in the Swat valley could be over in two or three days. Pakistan has been carrying out its most concerted offensive against an expanding Taliban insurgency, which has raised fears for the stability of the nuclear-armed U.S. ally and the safety of its nuclear arsenal.
The focus of the fighting has been the former tourist destination of Swat, 120 km (80 miles) northwest of Islamabad, which the Taliban virtually took as the government alternated between inconclusive military action and peace pacts.
But tension has also been rising in South Waziristan, an al Qaeda and Taliban stronghold, with military officials saying an offensive was likely there after Swat was secured. The United States and the Afghan government have long been pressing Pakistan to root militants out of South Waziristan and other enclaves on the Afghan border, from where the Taliban direct their Afghan war. Militants attacked a paramilitary force camp near the town of Jandola, 80 km (50 miles) east of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, late on Saturday, security officials said. “They carried out a very serious attack on our positions at around midnight. It was repulsed after a heavy exchange of fire,” said military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas.
Up to 15 militants and three soldiers were killed, he said, although an intelligence official in the region said earlier at least 40 militants and four soldiers were killed. There was no independent confirmation of the casualty estimates. Militant violence has surged in Pakistan since mid-2007,
with attacks on the security forces, as well as on government and Western targets. There have been eight bomb attacks in various towns and
cities since the offensive in Swat and neighbouring districts began in late April and the Taliban have threatened more.The offensive in Swat has sparked an exodus of about 2.4 million people, according to government figures, and the country faces a long-term humanitarian crisis. The United Nations has pleaded for contributions for a $543 million fund to help. Bomb attacks in cities and the plight of the displaced could undermine public support for the offensive but for now, analysts say, the authorities are determined to defeat the Taliban in Swat.
The army said on Saturday it had regained full control of Mingora, the main town in Swat, and a top Defence Ministry official said on Sunday the military operation could be over in two or three days. “Only five to 10 percent of the job is remaining and hopefully within two to three days, the pockets of resistance will be cleared,” Syed Athar Ali, secretary of defence for Pakistan, said at a regional defence meeting in Singapore.
Military spokesmen have been cautious about predicting how long the offensive would last, saying there was still resistance. “It's very difficult to give a timeline,” said Abbas. “It's a very big area so nobody's in a position to give any timeline for the operation.” The military says 1,217 militants have been killed since late April, while 81 soldiers have been killed and 250 wounded. There are no independent casualty estimates available. On Sunday, the military urged civilians to leave the town of Charbagh, about 15 km (10 miles) north of Mingora, and lifted a curfew there and in Mingora and thousands of people left the two towns. “We have to flee. I don't know what will happen tomorrow,”
Mingora resident Mohammad Nisar told. Pakistan is vital for U.S. plans to defeat al Qaeda and cut support for the Afghan Taliban. The United States, which is sending thousands of reinforcements into Afghanistan, has been heartened by the offensive in Swat.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Health regulators have long been trying to horrify smokers and encourage them to quit by putting different types of warnings on the cigarette packs. Next in the warning series are “graphical warnings” which the experts hope would be effective in preventing tobacco use.
WHO’s call for pictorial warnings
Following the saying “a picture is worth more than words can say”, the World Health Organization (WHO) has urged the governments to put gruesome picture warnings on the cigarette packs to highlight the hazards of tobacco intake.
It is believed that the horrible pictures of rotting lungs, miscarried fetuses and bleeding brains would motivate the smokers to quit and also prevent others from picking up the habit."Today, WHO urged governments to require that all tobacco packages include pictorial warnings to show the sickness and suffering caused by tobacco use," said the Geneva-based health agency in a statement.
The mandatory graphical warnings conveying the disastrous consequences related to tobacco use to the general public will be placed on "all main faces of the pack so that the warnings will be visible no matter which side of the pack is displayed at retail."
The UN health agency asked the worldwide governments to put as shocking images on the packs as they can. "More graphic images are considered to have a greater impact and to be more likely to lead to behavioural change," it said.
Proved: Graphical warnings are effective
"Effective health warnings, especially those that include pictures, have been proven to motivate users to quit and to reduce the appeal of tobacco for those who are not yet addicted," said the agency.
Countries like Brazil, Canada, Singapore and Thailand have already been plastering picture warnings showing illnesses caused by tobacco on cigarette packs. And WHO says studies in these countries have proved that putting gruesome picture warnings on tobacco product packages significantly helps in reducing its use.
The WHO has launched its own explicit poster campaign for World No Tobacco Day on Sunday, May 31, 2009. The poster campaign combined the picture of bleeding brains with the text warning "smoking causes brain strokes" and the other picture of rotting gums comes with the warning "tobacco causes mouth diseases".
Dr. Ala Alwan, WHO’s assistant director general, said: “Health warnings on tobacco packages are a simple, cheap and effective strategy that can vastly reduce tobacco use and save lives. But they only work if they communicate the risk.
“Warnings that include images of the harm that tobacco causes are particularly effective at communicating risk and motivating behavioral changes.”However, WHO complained that nine out of 10 people in the world have no access to such warnings. It added that even among people who are aware of tobacco’s harmful consequences, few understand its specific health risks. This is why the agency’s campaign this year focuses on decreasing tobacco use by increasing public awareness of its dangers.
The level of cardiovascular fitness among cancer survivors remains unaffected by therapies, say researchers."We know physical activity is a critical component of cancer survivorship, both during and after cancer treatment," says Jennifer LeMoine, a post-doctoral research fellow at Georgetown University (GU). In order to prescribe an exercise programme, it's critical that we understand our patient's fitness level and whether or not treatment has had an impact on their cardiovascular health," she said.
Researchers conducted a chart review of 49 women who attended a physician-directed fitness clinic for cancer survivors, founded and run by Priscilla Furth, the study's co-author.The data included demographics, physical activity levels and cancer treatment type, duration and time since their treatment.
Fitness assessments were conducted using a three-minute step test during a clinic visit. The purpose of the study was to access the step test as a way of determining a patient's current cardiovascular fitness level.Overall, 33 per cent of the survivors were sedentary and 67 per cent reported being physically active. Thirty-five or 71 per cent of the participants completed the step-test. Test completion and heart rate recovery were not affected by treatment or age.The findings were presented at the American College of Sports Medicine in Seattle.
Just the ring of a cell phone can pose a dangerous distraction for drivers, especially when it comes in a classroom setting or includes a familiar song as a ringtone, says a new study."In any setting where people are trying to acquire knowledge and trying to retain that information in some way, a distraction that may just seem like a common annoyance to people may have a really disruptive effect on their later retention of that information," said the study's lead author, Jill Shelton, a postdoctoral psychology fellow in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.
The study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology includes an experiment in which Shelton poses as a student seated in the middle of a crowded undergraduate psychology lecture and allows a cell phone in her handbag to continue ringing loudly for about 30 seconds.
Students exposed to a briefly ringing cell phone scored 25 percent worse on a test of material presented before the distraction.
Volunteers tested later scored about 25 percent worse for recall of course content presented during the distraction, even though the same information was covered by the professor just prior to the phone ring and projected as text in a slide show shown throughout the distraction. Students scored even worse when Shelton added to the disturbance by frantically searching her handbag as if attempting to find and silence her ringing phone.
"Many of us consider a cell phone ringing in a public place to be an annoying disruption, but this study confirms that these nuisance noises also have real-life impacts," Shelton said.
"These seemingly innocuous events are not only a distraction, but they have a real influence on learning," the expert added. Titled "The distracting effects of a ringing cell phone: An investigation of the laboratory and the classroom setting," the study was conducted at Louisiana State University.The study found that unexpected exposure to snippets of a popular song, such as those often used as ringtones, can have an even-longer-lasting negative impact on attention.Thus, people who use popular songs as a personal ringtone may be increasing the odds their cell phone rings will be more distracting.