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News Briefs

Rumsfeld Praises Croatia As Ally And Aspiring Nato Member

The New York Times -- ZAGREB, Croatia

Wrapping up a four-day European trip, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld stopped here on Sunday to promote this Balkan nation’s efforts to join NATO, and to pay tribute to Croatia’s security forces, which are fighting terrorism in Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld, the first U.S. Cabinet officer to visit Croatia since Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright came in 1999, met with Croatian officials, including President Stjepan Mesic and Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, during a nearly four-hour stop on his way back to Washington.

“I look forward to the day when Croatia becomes a part” of NATO, Rumsfeld said at a news conference with Sanader after the meetings.

Croatia has sent 50 military police officers to help the NATO-led security operation in and around the Afghan capital, Kabul, and has donated rifles and ammunition to the new Afghan army. U.S. officials are also exploring whether Croatia might send troops to Iraq. The Croatian military is open to the prospect, but so far such a mission has been politically unpopular here.

Back Pain Costs On The Rise, Causes of Pain Still Mostly Unknown

The New York Times -- Treating back pain costs Americans $26 billion a year, or 2.5 percent of the total health care bill, according to a new study from Duke University, and far more if disability payments, workers’ compensation and lost wages are taken into account. The costs are continuing to rise, researchers say, as patients get ever more aggressive forms of treatment.

Back problems are the leading reason for visits to neurologists and orthopedists, and the eighth leading reason for visits to doctors overall -- ahead of fever, knee pain, rashes, headaches and checkups for healthy babies. More than 70 percent of adults suffer back pain at some time in their lives, studies show. A third have had it in the past 30 days.

Yet for all the costs, for all the hours spent in doctors’ offices and operating suites, for all the massage therapy and acupuncture and spinal manipulations, study after study is leading medical experts to ask what, if anything, is doing any good.

A variety of studies have suggested that in 85 percent of cases it is impossible to say why a person’s back hurts, said Dr. Richard Deyo, a professor of medicine and health services at the University of Washington. And most of the time, the pain goes away with or without medical treatment.