USA

Soaring healthcare costs were in the spotlight Wednesday, as Americans began digesting figures in President Bush's proposed 2006 federal budget. According to a new estimate released the previous day, the Medicare prescription drug package, passed in 2003, will cost taxpayers $720 billion over its first 10 years, far more than earlier estimates. The costs go up when "you add in more years at the end and more people are on Medicare," said Gary Karr, a spokesman for the national medical insurance program for senior citizens. In a report scheduled for release by the Boston University School of Public Health, researchers indicate that healthcare spending, will reach $1.9 trillion this year, more than three times the defense budget and double education spending, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Karl Rove, Bush's trusted campaign strategist, assumes formal policy-shaping responsibilities after being named the new White House deputy chief of staff Tuesday. As such, he will be an official player in crafting foreign and domestic policy.

Carly Fiorina, often considered the most powerful woman in corporate America, announced her resignation as chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co., the computer giant. According to CNET News, Fiorina's departure after six years in the post is the result of a disagreement with the board of directors over the company's direction. Robert Wayman, the company's chief financial officer, was named her interim successor.

For the first time since 1983, the Army is introducing new fatigue uniforms with a redesigned camouflage pattern and Velcro fastenings. The $3.4 billion makeover, announced Tuesday, will replace the standard forest camouflage and desert camouflage with a pattern that helps to conceal wearers in forest, desert, or urban battlegrounds.

Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn (D) demanded that the city's police department revise its policies involving the use of force while pursuing moving vehicles, after the 13-year-old driver of a stolen car was shot to death Sunday. Hahn also called for an investigation of the incident in which Devin Brown reportedly backed the car he was driving into a police cruiser at the end of a chase, whereupon one officer fired 10 shots.

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