World and Nation

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President Signals Compromise On Health Care

President Barack Obama vowed Thursday to end a decades-long stalemate on overhauling the health care system, and he indicated for the first time that he was open to compromise on details of the proposal he put forth in the campaign.

Obama spoke at a White House forum on health care, where he bluntly warned lobbyists and “special interests” not to stand in the way of efforts to rein in costs and guarantee coverage for all Americans. He said he intended to achieve those goals by the end of this year.

“During the campaign,” Obama said, “I put forward a plan for health care reform. I thought it was an excellent plan. But I don’t presume that it was a perfect plan or that it was the best possible plan.”

As a candidate, Obama said he would establish a new public insurance program to compete with private insurers, and would require employers to contribute to the cost of coverage for their employees or to the cost of the public plan. Insurers strenuously oppose the idea of a new public plan.

CNN Medical Reporter Ends Surgeon General Candidacy

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent and a practicing neurosurgeon, has withdrawn from being considered for surgeon-general, CNN reported on Thursday.

Several other candidates are now under serious consideration, including Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, according to people who have been briefed on the situation.

Gupta had been approached by the Obama transition team and discussed the job with President Barack Obama late last year in Chicago. An administration official said in an e-mail message to reporters that Gupta had been under “serious consideration” and added, “We know he will continue to serve and educate the public.”

Gupta’s wife, Rebecca Olson Gupta, is expecting a child, and Gupta wants to spend more time with his family and continue practicing medicine and serving as a CNN correspondent, the CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer said on Thursday.

Bank of America Looks Into How Merrill Lost Money So Quickly

One Merrill Lynch trader apparently gambled away more than $120 million in the currency markets. Others seemingly lost hundreds of millions of dollars on tricky credit derivatives.

But somehow all this red ink did not spill into plain view until after Merrill earmarked billions of dollars for bonuses and staggered into the arms of Bank of America.

Inside Bank of America headquarters here, executives are asking why. The bank is investigating how Merrill accounted for wayward trades in the final, frantic months of 2008 — and why at least one big loss was slow to appear on Merrill’s books.

Of particular concern are the activities of a Merrill currency trader in London, Alexis Stenfors, whose trading has come under scrutiny by British regulators, according to people briefed on the investigation. The loss Stenfors is believed to have incurred so alarmed Bank of America that this week the bank examined the books of other traders who were on vacation.