World and Nation

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Obama’s Speech Is Seen as Unifying To Democrats

President Barack Obama’s speech on health care failed to bridge the gulf with Republicans, but Democrats said on Thursday that the president had largely succeeded in unifying his own party by making a cogent, persuasive pitch to the American public, and by casting his plan to overhaul the health care system as a political and moral imperative.

The day after the nationally televised address, in which Obama signaled that he could accept an alternative to a government-run insurance plan, influential Democrats who previously seemed wedded to the public insurance option hinted that they, too, might be flexible.

Democrats sought to use momentum from the speech to reshape the national political debate after more than a month of playing defense. Obama wasted no time in pursuing the support of lawmakers who seem to be on the fence by inviting a group of 17 Senate Democrats, mostly centrists, to meet with him at the White House on Thursday afternoon — a session that participants described as positive.

In the Senate, the architects of a bipartisan health care proposal said Obama’s speech had given them a lift by endorsing much of what they have proposed, especially a plan to pay a chunk of the bill’s cost with new fees on high-end health insurance plans. Both Democrats and Republicans believe such a tax can help tamp down long-term health care spending.

Blast Near Mosul Kills At Least 25

A huge explosion in a small Kurdish village in northern Iraq on Thursday left scores dead and wounded and raised renewed concern that insurgents are exploiting ethnic tensions and political wrangling to establish new bases for strikes across the country.

The blast, in Wardak, outside the divided and violent city of Mosul, killed 25 people, according to Kurdish officials, and was so powerful that it flattened a dozen houses. Residents worked through the night to pull victims from the rubble and treat the 43 wounded.

The death toll from the blast might have been worse, officials said, had they not stopped a second truck packed with explosives before the vehicle’s driver could detonate them. The driver was killed by the Kurdish pesh merga forces that provide security for the area, the officials said.

Wardak is a tiny village, with only about 300 houses, made mostly of mud with wood ceilings. Three sides of the village are protected by sand berms, with a shallow river providing a fourth barrier. Nevertheless, two suicide bombers drove through the river under the cover of night, arriving shortly after midnight, local officials said.

While the pesh merga fired at the first driver, he still managed to reach the town and detonate his bomb, officials said.