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News Briefs

States Resist Bush’s Appeal For Fast Medicaid Deal


President Bush told governors Monday that he wanted to work with them to rein in the soaring cost of Medicaid, the health insurance program for more than 50 million low-income people. But governors said they were far from reaching an agreement with the White House.

“We want Medicaid to work,” Bush told the governors, who were visiting the White House as part of their winter conference. “We also recognize that the system needs to be reformed, and we want to work with you to do so.”

Administration officials said they had hoped for an agreement this week, to provide guidance to Congress as it drafts a blueprint for federal spending.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, chairman of the Democratic Governors’ Association, said “The administration was anxious for an agreement by Tuesday. But we are not near agreement. We are not ready by any means to reach an agreement.”

Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia, a Democrat who is chairman of the National Governors Association, said state officials believed Medicaid was unsustainable in its current form.

Indonesia Welcomes U.S. Plan To Resume Training Its Military


Indonesia welcomed a plan by the Bush administration to restore a military training program that was canceled 13 years ago, saying on Monday that it opened the door to a new era between the two nations.

“Because of the very fundamental nature of the changes in Indonesia, this should be the best of times in U.S.-Indonesian relations,” said Marty Natalegawa, the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry. “It would be ironic if we were to look back and see happier times with the United States when Indonesia was run by an autocrat.”

Natalegawa was referring to the three decades of authoritarian rule by Gen. Suharto, which ended in 1998.

The State Department announced over the weekend that the Indonesian government’s cooperation with an FBI investigation into the deaths of two American teachers in Papua Province in 2002 had been great enough to warrant the resumption of military ties.

Under the new administration policy, Indonesia will be reinstated in the Pentagon’s international military education and training program, which allows for combat training of selected officers in the United States. Congressional approval, which is required, is considered a formality, officials said.

Ebbers’ Worldcom Defense: I Knew Nothing


Bernard J. Ebbers, the former WorldCom chief executive once hailed as one of the most brilliant telecommunications entrepreneurs ever, told a packed courtroom on Monday, “I don’t know about technology and I don’t know about finance and accounting.”

In taking the stand in his own defense, Ebbers displayed a folksy innocence that was part of the defense’s effort to cast him as someone who relied on others with greater expertise to handle the details of running WorldCom as it grew from a small regional reseller of phone services to one of the largest companies in American industry.

Under questioning by his lawyer, Reid Weingarten, Ebbers also disputed the prosecution’s star witness, Scott D. Sullivan, WorldCom’s former chief financial officer, who testified that Ebbers directed the fraud.