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Is Baghdad safer? Yes and no.

Although sections of the city remain war zones – and attacks are up outside Baghdad – there are pockets of relative calm emerging.

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On Thursday, the Sarafiya bridge, one the couple sometimes use to cross over from their home on Palestine Street to their offices, collapsed after it was hit by a truck bomb killing at least 10 and wounding 29, according to a Ministry of Interior source.

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The bridge and parliament bombings "are very calculated political messages that are meant to affect the morale of the government and its [international] backers. The claim that the security plan has sent insurgents scattering into the provinces has proven to be false," says Mustafa al-Ani, director of the Security and Terrorism Studies program at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.

Earlier this week, the International Committee of the Red Cross, one of the few international aid groups operating in Iraq, issued a report that said "The humanitarian situation in Iraq is steadily worsening." Red Cross director Pierre Kraehenbuehl told the Associated Press that there has been no improvement in the security situation in Baghdad.

New doctors plan to leave

Out on the restaurant's terrace, a smiling Mateen Yashar in suit and tie with an Iraqi flag pin stuck to his lapel sits among two dozen of his classmates celebrating their graduation from Baghdad University's medical school.

Everyone is dressed to the nines. Female graduates are wearing wreaths of flowers on their heads and clutch elaborate bouquets.

The day before, Mr. Yashar says, some of them were at their school adjacent to Al-Kindi hospital near Al-Fadhil when a student was hit and injured by a stray bullet from the fighting.

"You ask me to worry about what happened yesterday or this morning when we live our lives from minute to minute," he scoffs.

He says nearly a quarter of the 106 new doctors in the class of 2007 are already leaving Iraq, with the remainder working hard to do the same.

Someone in his group calls for the check. No lingering here because everyone must be home by 6 p.m., four hours before the start of the nightly curfew. Checkpoints or fighting could delay them by hours.

Out on Al-Rubaie Street, a stretch of shops, cafes, and restaurants on the capital's east side barricaded on both ends by Iraqi Army checkpoints, the owner of the Lailan hookah lounge says he reopened 10 days ago after being closed for months.

"People are really fed up so they come here and puff away for a bit," says the owner Muwaffaq Kamel when asked if business was improving because of the security plan.

New posters are starting to appear on the concrete blast walls protecting government buildings. "Iraq's light will never go out," declare the signs, part of a new government PR campaign. They show smiling actors posing as a doctor, mother, teacher, day laborer, and taxi driver. All urge Iraqis to go on with their lives despite the challenges.

In Mansour, at the Mishmisha juice shop, newlyweds Nabhan Ghazi and Alia Safir treat themselves to fruit cocktails topped with fresh cream.

He's unemployed and she's a schoolteacher and they live with Mr. Ghazi's parents in Saidiyah, a violence-wracked area south of Mansour.

"We have no prospects, but we decided to take the plunge and get married because we are not getting any younger," she says wearing a white veil matching her trendy outfit.

"We are suffocating in Saidiyah so we came here today for a breather."

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