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Israeli Soldier and Palestinian Are Killed at Gaza Border

An explosive device killed an Israeli soldier just outside Gaza on Tuesday, and Israel retaliated with incursions that killed one Palestinian and wounded another, in the first serious confrontations between Hamas and Israel since each declared a tentative cease-fire 10 days ago. With the new American envoy to the region, George J. Mitchell, set to arrive in Jerusalem on Wednesday, the fighting here underlined the urgency of his mission.

Hamas seemed eager to play down what had happened, saying it was not clear who was responsible for the explosive device, which had been planted inside Israel, apparently under cover of fog in the early morning, and set off by remote control when an Israeli military vehicle was nearby. But Israeli officials interpreted the attack, which also wounded three other soldiers, as an ominous sign that Hamas was testing them after the recent three-week war.

“This is a harsh attack and we cannot accept it,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said as he called a meeting of top defense officials. “And we will respond.”

Later, a Hamas militant on a motorcycle in the town of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, was hit by a missile from an Israeli drone but was not killed, witnesses said. Palestinian witnesses said that Israeli military vehicles had entered Khan Younis, but that they had left within hours.

The Palestinian who was killed on Tuesday was identified by family members as Anwar Zaid Sammor, a farmer. He was killed during a limited Israeli incursion into the town of Dier al-Balah, near the site of the explosion directed at the Israeli military. The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the Palestinian’s death, which witnesses said occurred during heavy gunfire.

Israel also closed the crossings into Gaza where some 185 trucks with humanitarian goods were to enter, to help Palestinians here resume their lives after the war, which Israeli leaders said was aimed at stopping rocket fire into Israel and at weakening Hamas.

Coffee Linked To Lower Dementia Risk

Drinking coffee may do more than just keep you awake. A new study suggests an intriguing potential link to mental health later in life, as well.

A team of Swedish and Danish researchers tracked coffee consumption in a group of 1,409 middle-age men and women for an average of 21 years. During that time, 61 participants developed dementia, 48 with Alzheimer’s disease.

After controlling for numerous socioeconomic and health factors, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure, the scientists found that the subjects who had reported drinking three to five cups of coffee daily were 65 percent less likely to have developed dementia, compared with those who drank two cups or less. People who drank more than five cups a day also were at reduced risk of dementia, the researchers said, but there were not enough people in this group to draw statistically significant conclusions.

Dr. Miia Kivipelto, an associate professor of neurology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and lead author of the study, does not as yet advocate drinking coffee as a preventive health measure. “This is an observational study,” she said. “We have no evidence that for people who are not drinking coffee, taking up drinking will have a protective effect.”

Kivipelto and her colleagues suggest several possibilities for why coffee might reduce the risk of dementia later in life. First, earlier studies have linked coffee consumption with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, which in turn has been associated with a greater risk of dementia. In animal studies, caffeine has been shown to reduce the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, coffee may have an antioxidant effect in the bloodstream, reducing vascular risk factors for dementia.

Tensions Flare as Russian Soldier Seeks Asylum in Georgia

A 21-year-old Russian soldier, sitting down with a Big Mac at a McDonald’s here in the Georgian capital, said on Tuesday that he had changed into civilian clothes and walked across the South Ossetian border into Georgia because he was fed up with his military service there.

The soldier, Junior Sgt. Alexander Glukhov, a computer buff from Udmurtia, a central Russian republic, seemed unaware of the clamor he had prompted at home. As information about his action filtered out from Tbilisi, Russia’s Defense Ministry contended that he had been abducted by Georgian forces and was being forced to discredit the army as “information provocation.”

“Glukhov could say anything when subjected to psychological pressure or threats,” said Col. Alexander Drobyshevsky, a Defense Ministry spokesman, who demanded his immediate return to Russia.

Glukhov, a gangly man, told reporters that he had left because he had been verbally abused by his commander, who he said drank excessively and “nagged at me all the time.” Glukhov said he departed without telling anyone.

On Monday, he crossed into Georgian-held territory, flagged down a police car and asked for a ride to Tbilisi, he said. He was handed over to officials from the Georgian Interior Ministry, who recorded on video his appeal for political asylum to the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili. Asked about his plans in Tbilisi, Glukhov looked blank.

“At first I didn’t think about being punished,” he said. “Maybe I will start thinking about it now.”

Russian and Georgian television reported Glukhov’s story very differently. A prime-time news report on Rustavi 2, the Georgian news channel, described him as starving and said he had confirmed the longstanding Georgian conviction that Russia spent the summer preparing to invade. In his televised statement, he said he could no longer tolerate the sight of tanks, armor and rockets “aimed at the Georgian villages.”