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Number of Soldiers to Be Left In Iraq Remains Unclear

Though President Bush said he would withdraw five Army combat brigades and several Marine units from Iraq by next summer, as the top commander in Iraq had recommended, the White House was careful Thursday not to be pinned down on just how many soldiers would remain.

There are about 169,000 American troops in Iraq — that includes 20 combat brigades, a number that is to drop to 15 under the new plan — as well as a roughly equivalent number of support forces.

The announced withdrawals would remove the same number of combat units sent to Iraq as part of the increase in forces ordered by President Bush this year. But the White House said troop totals may not return to exactly 133,000, the number deployed before the so-called surge began early this year, because of the need to keep in place specialized units, like military police and helicopter squadrons.

“It’s not a fixed number, because things change over time,” said a senior administration official, briefing reporters before the speech on the condition of anonymity.

San Francisco Will Guarantee Health Care to All the Uninsured

An initiative here known as Healthy San Francisco is the first effort by a locality to guarantee care to all of its uninsured, and it represents the latest attempt by state and local governments to patch a inadequate federal system.

The new program offers free or subsidized health care to all 82,000 San Francisco adults who lack insurance. It is financed mostly by the city, which is gambling that it can provide universal and sensibly managed care to the uninsured for about the amount being spent on their treatment now, often in emergency rooms.

After a two-month trial at two clinics in Chinatown, the program is scheduled to expand citywide to 20 more locations on Sept. 17.

Whether such a program might be replicated elsewhere is difficult to assess. In addition to its unique political culture, San Francisco, with a population of about 750,000, has the advantages of compact geography, a unified city-county government, an extensive network of public and community clinics and a relatively small number of uninsured adults. Virtually all the city’s children are covered by private insurance or government plans.

Abe Hospitalized; Election of Successor Postponed

A day after abruptly announcing his resignation, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was hospitalized with gastrointestinal problems Thursday morning, and the governing Liberal Democratic Party pushed back the date to choose his successor.

Abe is expected to stay in the hospital at least three days because he is suffering from digestive problems and a lack of appetite brought on by fatigue and stress, according to his doctor at Keio University Hospital here. Party officials had cited Abe’s poor health as one reason behind his resignation.

Worsening the political vacuum, party officials announced that they would hold an election to choose a new leader Sept. 23, not Sept. 19, as they had said Wednesday.

Apparently worried about giving the impression that the next prime minister would emerge from backroom deals, the officials said the extra time would allow more candidates to campaign before the general public.