World and Nation

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Buoyant Democrats Unveil Health Care Legislation

House Democrats on Thursday unveiled their bill to remake the health care system and said they had the votes to pass it. But Republicans said gimmicks had been used to hide the measure’s long-term costs.

The bill is similar in size and scope to one taking shape in the Senate, where Democrats’ control is more tenuous and the outcome less certain.

With introduction of the bill, both houses of Congress are now poised for a floor debate on the legislation.

“We are about to deliver on the promise of making affordable, quality health care available for all Americans,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared at an outdoor rally on the west side of the Capitol.

The Congressional Budget Office said the House bill would provide coverage to 36 million people.

By the most commonly used yardstick, the bill would cost $1.05 trillion over 10 years, roughly $150 billion more than President Barack Obama had said he wanted to spend on the legislation.

Oil Giants’ Earnings Reflect Decline in Energy Prices

After posting record profits last year, major oil companies have struggled to adapt to a world of lower prices and slower economic growth. They have slashed costs, shed employees and pared high-cost investments made when prices were rising.

As oil prices have fallen, so have corporate earnings. Exxon Mobil, the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company, and Royal Dutch Shell, the top European company, both reported sharp declines in third-quarter earnings on Thursday.

The plunge in profits occurred amid a recovery in oil prices, which had fallen as low as $34 a barrel in December from their peak of $147 a barrel last summer. On Thursday, oil closed at $79.87 a barrel in New York trading, up $2.41.

In Galleon Case, Questions Over a Nonpursuit

The first tip from inside intel reached Raj Rajaratnam more than a decade ago from the same source who has now turned against him in the biggest insider-trading case in a generation.

As far back as 1998, before he rose to prominence in the rarefied world of hedge funds, Rajaratnam was passed confidential information from an Intel employee who, the authorities now say, went on to play a crucial role in a vast insider-trading scheme involving some of the nation’s largest technology companies. That source, Roomy Khan, is a central government witness in the case against Rajaratnam, who maintains his innocence.

Rajaratnam has been charged with running the insider trading scheme involving Galleon. He and five others are accused by the Justice Department and the SEC of relying on a vast network of company insiders and consultants to make more than $20 million in profit from 2006 to 2009. In the government’s recently filed insider trading charges against Rajaratnam, prosecutors identify Khan as “Tipper A” and say they had exchanged insider information on Google, Polycom and Hilton.

College Enrollment Sets Record, Study Says

Almost 40 percent of the nation’s 18- to 24-year-olds in 2008 were enrolled in college, a record number, according to a Pew Research Center report released on Thursday. The rise was driven almost entirely by a surge in students attending community colleges.

“We have anecdotally got this sense that there’s been this college enrollment boom,” said Richard Fry, a senior research associate at the Pew center who wrote the report, “but now we’ve got confirmation, and we know that at least among young adults, the increase seems to be a two-year college phenomenon.”

The previous record for college enrollment among 18- to 24-year-olds was 38.9 percent in 2005.

Many Schools Take the Fright Out of Halloween Costumes

Guns, daggers and other toy weapons have long been excised from costumes at many school celebrations on Halloween. But in some classrooms across the country, the interpretation of what is too scary — or offensive, gross or saddening — is also leading to an abundance of caution and some prohibitions.

In a school district in Illinois, students are being encouraged to dress up as historical characters or delicious food items rather than vampires or zombies. In Texas, a school has issued suggestions for “positive costumes” for the annual Halloween dance. At Riverside Drive, a Los Angeles public school in the San Fernando Valley, the Halloween parade is being defanged right down to its jagged fingertips.

A memo about costume appropriateness sent home recently by Riverside Drive’s principal made the following points:

— They should not depict gangs or horror characters, or be scary.

— Masks are allowed only during the parade.

— Costumes may not demean any race, religion, nationality, handicapped condition or gender.

— No fake fingernails.

— No weapons, even fake ones.

— Shoes must be worn.