Nation briefs 9/7/04

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

American Muslims urge community to vote

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- American Muslim leaders ended their largest annual meeting with a rousing plea to thousands of community members that they vote in the presidential election. Muslims urgently want to register their political presence in this country as a step toward ending what many believe are excesses in the war on terror. "We have to demand justice," said Mahdi Bray, head of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, as the convention wound down Sunday night. "We have to stand up to this government and say, 'What you're doing is wrong."'

Hot, dry winds fan blazes in California wine country

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hot dry winds hampered the efforts of firefighters battling a 10,000-acre wildfire near California wine country and the gusts promised no respite for the next two days. The fire in Sonoma County began Friday and was fed by tinder-dry vegetation and strong winds over the weekend. It destroyed a handful of modest vacation homes and threatened 125 more as well as a geothermal energy plant near Geyserville.

Houston tackles school dropouts with home visits

HOUSTON -- Officials at Texas' largest school district, which once miscounted nearly 3,000 dropouts, hope that by taking a personal interest in at-risk students and dividing them into smaller classes, they will stay in school. With the school year underway, Houston Independent School District educators are knocking on the doors of students who failed to return to class to encourage them to re-enroll. The district's 24 comprehensive high schools also have been divided into "learning communities" to enhance relationships among students and teachers.

Chickenpox shots lead to drop in hospital costs

CHICAGO -- Vaccinating children against chickenpox saves the U.S. health-care system nearly $100 million a year in reduced hospitalizations for severe cases of the itchy disease, a study found. Though most people who get the usually mild disease can be treated at home, chickenpox can be serious, and complications requiring hospitalization can include severe skin infections, encephalitis and pneumonia. Routine vaccination has reduced cases in young children and helped keep the disease from spreading to unvaccinated older children and adults.

Study: Adding to PE helps curb obesity in girls

Just an extra hour of exercise a week could significantly cut obesity among young overweight girls, according to a study that researchers say could lead to major changes in the way schools fight obesity. The study -- the largest look yet at obesity among young children -- did not show the same results for boys, possibly because they generally get more exercise than girls.

Poll: Majority say work is important part of identity

WASHINGTON -- A majority of Americans say they find satisfaction in their jobs, according to an Associated Press poll, though many express concerns about job stress, health care and retirement benefits. About half of the population who says they are "very satisfied" with their job. Seven in 10 surveyed said they are paid fairly. Men were more likely than women to feel this way. For six in 10 workers, their job is also an important part of who they are.

-- From wire reports

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