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Two Sides Push Smooth Process On Naming Attorney General

White House officials said Wednesday that the search for a successor to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales would probably last at least several days. The officials said they were trying to strike a conciliatory tone with Senate Democratic leaders who will control the confirmation.

The officials said a nominee might not be announced until after President Bush had returned on Sept. 9 from Australia. He is scheduled to leave this weekend for a meeting there of Asia and Pacific leaders.

Gonzales announced his resignation on Monday, appearing to catch top aides and others in the administration off guard.

In hopes of smoothing the nominee’s way, senior White House officials have contacted congressional leaders to sound them out about candidates.

The contacts are routine for all Cabinet nominations , although Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was struck by the cooperative tone he had heard in a conversation about nominees with the White House counsel, Fred F. Fielding, who is overseeing the search.

Marine Corps Tries Again For Murder Conviction in Haditha

Last December, when the Marine Corps charged four infantrymen with killing Iraqi civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005, the allegation was as dark as it was devastating: After a roadside bomb had killed their buddy, a group of anguished Marines rampaged through several nearby homes, massacring 24 innocent people.

In Iraq and in the United States, the killings were viewed as cold-blooded vengeance. After a perfunctory military investigation, the events at Haditha were brushed aside, but once the details were disclosed, the killings became an ugly symbol of a difficult, demoralizing war. After a new, fuller investigation, the Marines promised to punish anyone found guilty of wrongdoing.

But now, after months of courtroom examinations of the evidence, the prosecutions have faltered. Since May, charges against two infantrymen and one Marine officer have been dismissed, and dismissal has been recommended for murder charges against a third infantryman.

In those cases, prosecutors were not able to prove even that the killings were a crime under the U.S. military code of justice.

More Lures to Entice Health Care Loans

Zero-interest financing, a familiar sales incentive at car dealerships and furniture stores, has found its way to another big-ticket consumer market: doctors’ and dentists’ offices.

For $3,500 laser eye surgery, $6,000 ceramic tooth implants or other procedures not typically covered by insurance, millions of consumers have arranged financing through more than 100,000 doctors and dentists who offer a year or more of interest-free monthly payments.

Of course, going into debt to pay for medical procedures is nothing new for many people. And this type of financing is still only a fraction of the nation’s $900 billion market for consumer revolving credit.

But as the price of health care continues to rise and big lenders pursue new areas for growth, this type of medical financing has become one of the fastest-growing parts of consumer credit, led by lending giants like Capital One and Citigroup and the CareCredit unit of General Electric.